Alcoholism has been called a “disease of perception,” in that we alcoholics tend to see the world in a skewed fashion: it’s us against them, life is an adversarial event, and our self-centeredness makes us vulnerable to frustration, self-pity, anger, and fear. The actions that we take as a result usually yield consequences that confirm our skewed view—that the world is not our friend—and our feelings intensify in a mounting vicious circle. Since occasional adversity is a part of the natural order of things, healthy coping skills in recovery are of vital importance.
Many recovering alcoholics find prayer to be especially useful. Even if you can’t identify with a traditional sense of a deity, you can explore the possibility of a dialogue with your own better nature—what the book Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as “an unsuspected inner resource” and “something at work in the human heart.” A simple appeal for serenity in the face of adversity can make the difference between successfully handling a situation or disastrously mishandling it. A simple appeal for guidance may not get us the outcome we desire, but will guarantee the least harmful outcome.
Pausing when negative feelings are aroused can help create an opening for creative, solution-oriented responses. Reacting to people and events out of anger, fear, or frustration usually escalates a problem. An honest self-appraisal of fears, beliefs, and shortcomings—whether in therapy/treatment or through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—should be the foundation for continuing mindfulness about our motives and potential knee-jerk responses.
Finally, a crucial coping skill in recovery involves reaching out to others in the recovery community. Many who have gone before us have experienced our challenges; those who have remained cheerfully sober are tremendous resources for practical wisdom in how do deal with life on life’s terms.