Negative Coping Mechanisms to Avoid in Your Recovery




When it comes to facing life’s challenges, you can either go the negative route or the positive route. Here we identify the negative coping mechanisms, which in turn can lead you back towards the dangerous path of relapse and addiction.

We all have different coping mechanisms when faced with different situations. How we handle things in life that come at us determine our maturity, strength, and capabilities. From being children to now being adults, our coping mechanisms are different and they are shaped by many factors.

Our coping mechanisms may start to be shaped during our childhood years, and without us knowing, these little quirks in the way we handle things determine how we handle life in general as adults.


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For someone in recovery, positive coping mechanisms are important for you to adapt to whatever situation you face without feeling the need or the urge to go back to your old ways, which is to turn to your addictions in order to cope. It is important to identify negative coping mechanisms or maladaptive behaviors so that you can avoid them, or better yet replace them with new, positive, and healthy ones.

Here are the negative coping mechanisms to avoid in your recovery:

  • Denial. This is a very common coping mechanism for those who are still struggling in addiction and those who are already in recovery. While you have already admitted that you have a problem with substance abuse or addiction, which led you to seek treatment in the first place, you may still be in denial in many aspects of your life now in recovery.
  • Displacement. When you redirect negative feelings about someone or a situation towards someone or something else, then this is an unhealthy way of coping. You have to deal with the negative feelings without taking it out on other things.
  • Procrastination. Procrastination can be a problem for many people, even those who are not into addiction or recovery. However, it can become harmful as procrastination most often doesn’t end well as you are just delaying or avoiding taking action on something.
  • Avoidance. This is also one common coping mechanism for addicts, as they try to avoid coping with the situation and instead resort to way of escaping, which brought them to substance use and then abuse in the first place. However, by avoiding a situation, you are actually not solving anything.
  • Passive aggression. Many addicts tend to be passive aggressive, showing hostility, anger, hurt, in the most subtle yet equally damaging ways. For example, you didn’t get what you want so you sulk, or accidentally made a mistake. This does not solve anything, and it can also make people around you feel uncomfortable and alienated.
  • Rationalization. When you think you are using logic to make sense out of your shortcomings or faults, you are just using an excuse. This minimizes your errors so it doesn’t get addressed, therefore tending to tolerate irresponsible or negative behavior.
  • Intellectualization. You try to attach statistics, facts, and real-life examples to what is happening around you, instead of actually dealing with it. This distracts you from acting on the here-and-now and is also an unhealthy way of avoiding or shutting out negative issues or situations.
  • Compartmentalization. Compartmentalization often happens when you put your emotions and thoughts into “compartments.” For example, you act differently when you are with your family and then act differently when you are with your support group. While this can serve a purpose, the compartments don’t last long and often eventually just leak into each other.
  • Trivialization. When you are faced with a different situation or you are called out for unbecoming behavior, you may often minimize or downplay it as being trivial. This keeps you blinded from acting up on things that needed to be resolved, especially if these are actually “big,” important things.
  • Trying to be extremely busy. One other common way of avoiding people, emotions, or situations is by making yourself busy. You may be taking up a lot of work or involving yourself in many activities. While having something productive to do can be good for your recovery, when you do these things instead of dealing with things, then it becomes a negative coping mechanism.

Life isn’t all peaches. In fact, it’s sugar and spice. After all, you will not appreciate the good without experiencing some of the bad. Therefore, it’s normal to experience challenges, conflicts, dilemmas, loss, pain, and stress. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, male or female, young or old, life comes at you and you have to experience the full spectrum of it. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to learn, manage, deal, and make the most out of what life has to offer.

While we all have different coping mechanisms to handle the situations we’re in, we have to always keep things in check to see if we’re actually coping positively. This is important especially for people in recovery, so they will not fall back into the trap of addiction through relapse.


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