Active Coping

Information on active coping

Active Coping

Recovery has ups and downs, just like life. No thought or feeling lasts forever -- rather, each has a
beginning, a middle, and an end, just like a wave. Urges and cravings to drink or use work the same
way. Distraction will focus your attention away, allowing the wave to peak and diminish to nothing.

Actively doing any positive activity can help you "ride out" your urges to use.
The following are suggestions for riding out your urges to drink or use. Add your own tried and true
ways of coping to this list, and keep them near you to use when you are in trouble.
• Urge Surfing: Ride out or go with the urge to drink or use and let it run its course.
• Turtle Technique: Go into your shell to regroup, think over the choices available to you and
their consequences, and decide the best course of action for yourself.
• Relaxation Techniques: To reduce stress on the spot. This will help you think more clearly and
• Be aware of your personal relapse traps, triggers, or hot spots that you recognize as being
potential people, events, or settings in which it would be easy to resume drinking.
• Examine your thoughts for thinking errors. These patterns of thinking effect what you feel and
ultimately what you do.

The Active Coping List is a list of suggestions to help you get busy! When you have an urge to drink or
use, start at the top of the list and keep going until it has passed. Remember, urges to drink or use are
time limited. Add your ideas to this list, pencil in a star by your favorites, ask others what works for them.
Like all good habits, they must be practiced in order to work when you call on them!!!

Active Coping List
• Do laundry
• Clean something
• Take a shower
• Do a relaxation exercise (breathing meditation, progressive or imagery relaxation, tai chi, yoga,
• Read a magazine, book, newspaper, etc.
• Take a walk
• Exercise
• Pick an object -- count it
• Write a poem, story, doodle, etc.
• Draw
• Write a plan of action to problem-solve what is worrying you.

[Identify the problem area and what your expectation was about the situation, identify your
feeling, break the problem into workable units (small and manageable), get support, make a
decision -- ask yourself if it is a healthy plan for you -- and then ACT on it!]
• Write thoughts in your journal
• Write emotional feelings in your journal
• Write physical feelings in your journal
• Check your journal for patterns to explore for change
• Make a list of your support system (From/to whom do you get advice? Talk about your feelings?
Brainstorm and try out new ideas? Ask for help? Get honest feedback?)
• Practice a skill that you learned from self-help groups (AA, DMDA, Smart Recovery, NA, etc.
Copyright © 2005 Clinical Tools, Inc.
Active Coping List (continued)
• Begin a plan to deal with behavior resulting from anger, fear, or sadness.

[Pay attention to what your thought(s) were before you became angry. Try out some relaxation
exercises and choose your favorite and practice it often. Write in your journal. Count to ten
before speaking/acting. Write a letter -- don't send it but re-read it later and keep revising it;
repeat this process as many times as you need to. Exercise. Call someone for support. Practice
your problem-solving skills -- how do you want to do deal with this feeling, etc.]
• Write down issues/situations that are troubling you and write a more positive* message to
yourself. Keep a record of these messages in your journal.
• Explore beliefs or values that are troubling you and write a more positive* message to yourself.
Keep a record of these messages in your journal.
Positive statements to substitute

"I will survive." "I did the best I could." "My feelings will change depending what
happens inside and outside of me -- that is part of being human." "I cannot
control other people -- only my own thoughts and behaviors." "What is the worst
that can happen?" "I don't have to be perfect at everything." "I will make mistakes
and I can learn from them." "I'm not always going to be in a good mood." "Saying
what is on my mind is important regardless of the outcome." "Life isn't always
fair." "I won't always get what I want." "Others are not always considerate." "I will
sometimes see things differently from other people -- we can agree to disagree if
we can't come to a compromise." "I won't always get my way."
(Add your own positive statements.)

My personal Active Coping List additions:
Developed by Kathy F. Grace, MA, LPC
Addictions Therapist
Reproduced with permission