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Coping Skills in Early Recovery
One of the most important things I learned in my journey on the road to recovery was how to discover healthy coping skills to replace the harmful and habits that I had developed when I was deep into my addiction.
I remember the first time I really rediscovered my passion for art and fashion. I was at Inspire Recovery, at the time I was in the Intensive Outpatient program (or IOP for short), sitting down and doing art therapy.
Drawing pictures of women in beautiful dresses made me remember the days when I was growing up. As a child, I had such a deep adoration for my mother. In those days, she was a model for one of the top agencies in the area I lived in. Drawing and reconnecting to a healthy version of myself was a high that felt better than any drug or self-harm cut could ever give me.
When you have a passion for something, you just know in your bones that you need to do it more. It fills you with this sense of nostalgia and energy that gives a real reason to live. Learning new coping skills in early recovery is so important for this very reason. As addicts, we were passionate about using, to get clean we have to get passionate about something else—or your mind can easily wander back to what destroys you.
Find a Hobby, Find Yourself
As a transgender woman, I was lucky to find Inspire Recovery, a rehab for LGBTQIA+ people. It’s not easy for someone like me to get help from people who genuinely treat me like someone who matters. My experience at Inspire was different from all the other treatment centers I have been to. People don’t fully understand how important it is to affirm someone’s gender. At Inspire Recovery, this is something the staff truly understand.
Additionally, the art therapy groups at Inspire reconnected me to the creative part of my mind that was numbed by using drugs and alcohol. This was a game changer for me. Having a way to process what I was going through without having to talk about it in every group was really helpful. I wouldn’t have thought of it like this at first, but being creative was healing and became a coping skill while I was in rehab.
In My Addiction, Without My Identity
Thinking back to my time in early recovery, I barely knew who I was at all. I only knew a few things about myself. I knew that my name is Jocelyn, I’m a woman and I like makeup. That was it. That was literally all I knew about myself at the time because of years and years of drinking, drugging, and self-harm.
As you can imagine, and as you might know from experience, deep in addiction there is not much opportunity for healthy outlets. Our coping skills are usually all tied to our addiction. There’s not very much going on besides figuring out how to get high. The process of figuring out my likes and dislikes was a major, long-term process.
Healthy Outlets to Fill the Void
One of the things I rediscovered about myself was my love for anime. I had loved anime since I was a little girl. I had just completely forgotten about it when I was out on the streets. This lead me to start drawing anime characters, which helped me discover my passion for art.
Pretty soon I was drawing anime in fancy outfits and ballgown dresses. This helped me rediscover my passion for fashion. Before you knew it, I was designing and drawing dresses on paper and buying a sewing machine to make them off the paper and create them in real life.
That is how it happens—rediscovering yourself is a process that creates a domino effect. As you practice your coping skills through creative or productive outlets, those skills become serious hobbies. It could even lead you to a job or career that you love.
It can be that simple. One interest you have can connect you to discover the next interest, and so on and so forth, like stepping stones. It’s an amazing process.
For instance, if I had not rediscovered my passion for reading and literature while I was living in a halfway house, I wouldn’t have started reading the Grapevine magazines, which would mean that I would have no inspiration to write—like I do today!
If I had not taken the time to get to know my likes and dislikes in early recovery then you would not be reading this article right now, and I would probably be out on the street right now drinking and trying to score my next fix.
Loving Advice from a Fellow Addict
I highly suggest that everyone in early recovery try different things till you find an outlet that you would enjoy exploring more. Take time to learn what you love to do. Even those coloring books that are so popular now can become an outlet for you. It might feel silly at first, but the meditative state you go to while coloring is a powerful coping skill you can use anytime the world feels too heavy and intense.
For me, I connected with drawing, and this became incredibly healing while I was at Inspire Recovery. It continues to help me cope while living clean and sober.
I want you to know that if I can make it to this point, where I am getting paid to do something that I love, like write articles and design dresses at my house and sell them on etsy—then you can, too.
If you’re living a life of recovery, there is a whole entire world of opportunity out there for you, if you just take the time to learn things about yourself. Give yourself a chance to discover what you love doing, and then take your passion and use it to process and release your past and traumas—this is what it means to use your interests as a coping skill. Use your hobbies as a distraction and as a form of therapy.
I Believe in You
Find what you are passionate about, consider how you can pursue it as a career, and never give up on yourself. I believe in you even if you currently don’t believe in yourself. Take it from this girl who’s had some time to figure at least a few key things out about herself.
Take that painting class, go to that free yoga class, join a gym, go running in the park, visit the beach with the friends you have made in the rooms.
What starts today as a healthy coping skill can snowball into a full-blown lifestyle that secures your happy, addiction-free reality. How does that make you feel?
Now is the time for you to shine and find yourself, and if you don’t the only person your cheating is yourself.
– Inspire Recovery Alumni