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One of the most common triggers of substance use is stress. Many people may not associate stress with their drinking or drug use right away. Instead, they might notice how they felt good when they were high. They might notice that it gave them a break from their usual thoughts and feelings. They might notice how drinking freed them of the social anxieties they tend to feel. What most people notice with substance use is that it gives them an experience they haven’t had before – something different from the usual uncomfortable circumstances in life. And that’s what keeps them coming back for more.

However, often, it is the stressful circumstances in life that will trigger the need to return to substance use. People can feel stressed for many reasons, including work, a long to-do list, the demands placed upon us, high expectations of oneself or from others, or from mental illness. Stress can also arise from being raised in emotionally volatile, abusive, or violent families. When a person was raised under circumstances that frequently felt life- threatening, high levels of stress can feel like an everyday experience.

Common Signs of StressSubstance Use | Westwind Recovery

Whether stress is a daily experience or whether it comes and goes, it can force a person to want to find a way to manage it. This is especially true when stress begins to affect the body and one’s health. Some common reactions to stress include:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • Moodiness
  • Depression and isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach problems
  • Dissatisfaction with life
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor attitude

With these symptoms, a person might turn to substance use as a way to manage their physical, emotional, and psychological experiences. Furthermore, when a person is stressed, they may tend to gravitate toward what has worked for them in the past, such as drinking, without really giving it much thought. However, during drug addiction treatment, it’s common for a recovering addict to learn healthy coping tools in order to avoid the use of drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. Treatment also teaches recovering addicts how to implement those coping tools, especially when feeling triggered. In fact, treatment might also include an exploration of one’s triggers so that a person can feel more empowered to make a healthy choice right in that moment. It’s common for many addicts to feel victimized by life’s experiences. Yet, treatment can empower people by teaching them they have a choice in the moment.

Stress Management in Sober Living

When a person feels stress in life, they might eventually take some time to think about the healthy way to respond – versus making the same habitual choice they have in the past. In fact, this is one of the primary goals of addiction treatment – to help a person make healthier and healthier choices for oneself regardless of their circumstances. In fact, a person has many options to replace substance use when stress feels high in sober living.

  • meditation
  • yoga
  • reading
  • walking
  • showering
  • talking to a friend
  • journaling
  • exercising

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, contact a mental health professional for support.