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3 Crisis Survival Strategies For Addicts

One of the biggest struggles as a recovering addict is finding a way to survive a crisis. For so long, we have been turning to substances when confronted by difficult emotions. While you can avoid certain triggers, others are regular parts of life. You will have to deal with sadness, anxiety, rage, shame, and other intense emotions at some point.

Survival Strategies for Addicts

Ideally, we would all be able to weather these emotions by choosing to be present through them – finding a perfect Zen balance. However, while it is important to start learning to weather emotions organically, no one can survive every crisis this way. Especially at the beginning of your recovery, you need strategies to get through these difficult moments.

The good news is that there are some effective crisis survival strategies addicts can use in place of substances. These skills can be used to excess, and it is best to use a variety of these strategies. Furthermore, while they will help you get through crises, you will also need to learn effective emotion regulation in treatment.

Here are 3 crisis survival strategies every addict can use (drawn from DBT training).

1. Distracting

Distracting is one of the most commonly used crisis survival strategies by all kinds of people. However, many people distract themselves without thinking about it. Choosing to distract in order to get through a crisis is very different. With your intentionality, you are acknowledging the difficult emotions, even as you are turning away from them.

Distract yourself with some of the following non-addictive, non-destructive activities:

  • Call a friend to chat
  • Exercise
  • Spend time gardening
  • Read light-hearted books, watch comedies, listen to upbeat music
  • Indulge in a fantasy you have always enjoyed

2. Self-Soothing

Self-soothing takes a more direct approach to crisis survival. Instead of simply distracting yourself, you take action to soothe yourself. It is important to remember that this is not about trying to downplay the emotion or talk yourself out of it. Rather, you are engaging your senses in different ways.

For example:

  • Vision: spend some time watching a scene in nature; follow the flame of a candle
  • Hearing: listen to sounds from outside; sing; listen to soothing music
  • Smell: flowers or perfume; aromatherapy; baking
  • Taste: notice the flavors as you eat something you enjoy; eat slowly with intention and focus rather than bingeing
  • Touch: shower or bath; pet your dog; soak your feet

3. Improving The Moment

With the strategy of improving the moment, you focus on feeling better in relation to what is going on.

For example:

  • Find meaning in the situation (even if you do not approve of what is happening)
  • If you believe in a Higher Power, pray to them
  • Relax by focusing on your breathing and loosening muscles
  • Scream into a pillow
  • Take a “vacation” by pulling the covers over your head for ten minutes
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