Because sobriety is a continual journey and recovery has no end, learning and using new skills along the way increases long-term successes. Addiction recovery is a process of learning and building recovery skills that support a healthy life. Recovery isn’t about one big change, or one moment of deciding not to drink or use substances. It’s about lots of little changes that come with healing the underlying drives to use and creating a life you can be proud of. Making these changes and being able to stick to them requires building recovery skills. You don’t have to change everything in your life, but there are probably a few specific things and behaviors that have been getting you into trouble. They will continue to get you into trouble until you make the changes.
Important Recovery Skills to Develop:
- Increase Your Awareness of:
- Strengthen Your Support Team
- Increase Your Stress Management Skills
- Develop Healthy Habits
- Prioritize Honesty and Open Communication
Building recovery skills is something that someone in recovery will benefit from at the start of their journey. Avoiding relapse and walking the path of sobriety will take coordinated effort across all areas of life. The first step of learning recovery skills is the easy part; using them and making them a habit will be the real challenge.
How to build recovery skills:
- Learn new habits
- Practice recovery skills
- Practice again
- Use them in real-life situations
- Build on skills you’re mastering
Retrain the brain.
The first step in successful relapse prevention involves retraining the brain to override it’s current programming that is set to turn to alcohol or substances in moments of stress or high emotion. We need to establish our recovery skills as the brain’s newly programmed response. This is essential to maintain sobriety rather than fall back on old habits.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Retraining the brain isn’t easy and only comes with a commitment to put the skills into practice. Roleplaying with your support group is a great place to start. You’ll get plenty of opportunities in simulated real-life situations to use the skills . The most important part is having skills and habits on deck so when you’re put in a high-risk situation, you’re prepared.
Practicing recovery skills with your support team is essential in retraining the brain and increasing preparedness. While it may feel silly acting out scenarios, it is beyond helpful for the mind. Using your support teams, group therapies, and meetings as safe places to practice will increase success. Often opportunities to role-play trigger situations and emotions are widely available in these settings. As goofy as it may feel, taking part in these activities can make all the difference when the real situation presents itself.
Use them for real.
Learning to relax in healthy ways will add to the emotional coping skills needed for long-term abstinence. But the fact remains that in recovering from addiction, triggers come in all shapes and sizes. Being able to recall and use the recovery skills you learned can literally change the course of your life. All those silly role-playing activities won’t be so meaningless when you are presented with a high-risk situation.
Every time you use a recovery skill, you’re building new habits and continue to retrain your brain. The more these skills become part of the new sober you, the more they will come naturally. Once they become habitual responses, your path forward will have more solid footing.
Build on skills you’ve learned.
The more opportunities you have to practice and use recovery skills, the more you can incorporate these skills into the life you’re creating for yourself. Knowing that you shouldn’t go out to social gatherings where substances may be present, especially when you’re feeling emotional, is a skill. Remembering to engage in self-care and connecting with others in meaningful ways are recovery skills. Staying mindful and developing increased awareness are equally important. The more you use those skills, the more they become second nature, which means the more you can add to them.
Remember it’s a continual process.
Building recovery skills, like recovery itself, is a never-ending process and completely individualized. Working with your support team and using the foundational skills they have been teaching you is the only way you can make progress forward. Building recovery skills can seem easy enough, and it may feel that way, but it’s putting them into use that may prove more difficult. The more chance you have to use them in real-life situations, the more you will build on them.
The Haven at Pismo is a private treatment center for those needing a safe and serene setting to renew to their best. If you or someone you know needs support in their recovery, The Haven at Pismo is currently the only detox and residential treatment on the Central Coast of California.