The Importance of Developing Life Skills in Addiction Recovery

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The overuse of alcohol and drugs can affect people in many different ways. There are those that may have led a life consumed with the use of substances hazardous to health.

Their lifestyle was created around those moments when the chosen substance such as alcohol could be taken.

Life was all about purchasing, drinking, purchasing, drinking and so on. During this addictive cycle the previous meaning of life was lost.

Things that once held interest no longer seemed important. As the use of alcohol and drugs became more time consuming and the pull of addiction deeper.

During these times which in some instances went on for decades. Life skills are pushed further away as the main aim in life is to feed a need, a need for alcohol or drugs that can never be satisfied.

The acquisition or reinstatement of Life Skills is an important part of recovery from the destructive nature of substance use once alcohol and drugs have been removed.

Life Skills – How to Live Without Alcohol or Drugs

This is a Life Skill particularly important for those who have completed a detox and rehab with Abbeycare. (see Alcohol Rehab and Drug Rehab)

In this supportive environment programme participants are removed from their home environments and the ability to purchase alcohol and/or drugs.

In the rehab environment the desire to use alcohol and drugs is diminished as the participant knows he/she can’t access them.

Once outside rehab this changes. Here is a list of some of the life Skills required to stay sober or drug free.

  • Create an Aftercare Plan in rehab follow it Post-Rehab 
  • Make recovery friends & connect with them daily
  • Attend recovery groups in the local community such as SMART, AA, CA, NA or a Recovery Drop In/Café (3 per week minimum)
  • Have an action plan if thoughts of using return i.e. phone Abbeycare Team, recovery friends or recovery sponsor immediately
  • Seek out a recovery sponsor to guide you through a self-help programme such as SMART or 12 Steps.
  • Continue 121 Counselling after leaving rehab if suffering from unresolved trauma
  • Connect with a mental health specialist or GP to provide regular update on mental health.

The acquisition of the above skills will reduce the risk of relapse this list is not exhaustive and other items can be added or removed. As everybody’s journey is personal and exclusive.

Edwards Deming


Learning is not compulsory; it’s voluntary… but to survive we must learn.” 

Edwards Deming

Life Skills to Promote Long Term Recovery

The skills required to promote long term recovery are known as life skills. The acquisition of any skill that improves the quality of life can be seen to be of benefit regardless of the current life situation. These skills can enhance the life of those learning how to live without alcohol and/or drugs.

Here are some useful life skills to learn post substance use:

  • Plan your day ahead
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Connect with a recovery asset daily
  • Develop a healthy sleeping plan
  • Implement daily self-care
  • How to handle stress
  • How to communicate effectively – interpersonal skills
  • Relationship building
  • How to say ‘No’
  • Building resilience
  • Finding fulfilment

Planning your day ahead

Planning your day ahead – the ability to plan the day ahead will help those in early recovery build a new structure into the day. 5 o’clock – Beer o’clock is no more.

5 o’clock is a meal time. At 5 o’clock a family may sit down to dinner. When work finishes the drinking no longer begins. A productive way forward is to prepare a meal at this time.

If it’s looking for a job, caring for family or going to work a structure can be built into the day.

An example:

Morning – wake up early so as not to rush, complete 5 minutes of meditation, eat a healthy breakfast, prepare lunch to take to work (inclusive of fruit and water), arrive at work early.

Mid Afternoon – eat lunch connect with people in recovery.

Late afternoon – come home prepare the evening meal, go for a brisk walk or other form of exercise, take part in a recovery meeting such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous.

Evening – mid week go to bed early.

Eat a balanced diet

Eat a balanced diet – a common saying in recovery is H.A.L.T this acronym means Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. The reason behind this is if any of these are active people are prone to become reactive, emotional and aggressive.

Considering Hungry. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are an important part of daily living the human body needs food (fuel) to operate productively.

Connect with a Recovery Asset Daily

Connect with a Recovery Asset Daily – when in recovery a good rule of thumb is to connect with another person in recovery daily. This could be a friend in recovery, a Sponsor, a therapist or an Aftercare Facilitator.

An important part of early recovery is to live in the day. Thinking too far ahead may become overwhelming and staying trapped in the past may bring up feelings of anger, depression or inadequacy.

Develop a Healthy Sleeping Plan 

Develop a Healthy Sleeping Plan – when considering H.A.L.T the T means Tired.

When over-tired the sense of perception can be out of balance, thinking can be negative and reactions can be aggressive.

When over-slept the behaviour can be groggy and de-motivated.

Each individual requires a different optimal amount of sleep however 6-8 hours per night will usually suffice.

Implement Daily Self Care

Implement Daily Self Care – self-care for those early recovery is an important life skill to master. When the concept of daily self-care is introduced most will scoff, “I take care of myself – I don’t need taught!”

Taking a deeper look at self-care will outline the importance:

  • Bathing each day
  • Taking interest in hair and clothing
  • Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner (balanced diet)
  • Light exercise – walking etc
  • Meditation or time to oneself
  • Attending a recovery meeting or talking to sponsor/recovery friend
  • Going to bed early

When using alcohol or drugs life may appear haphazard a daily routine will build structure back into the day.

How to Handle Stress

How to Handle Stress – so just what is stress. It’s good to know before trying to handle it!

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain placed upon a person during a period of difficult life circumstances. And every human will encounter stress in their life time.

Stress is a contributor to relapse.

Coping strategies:

  • Implement the components of daily self-care into life
  • Work to improve chaotic relationships or leave them
  • Work to improve the atmosphere at work or get a new job
  • Create a financial plan to pay off debt and get professional financial support
  • Learn how to communicate with children or get professional family support
  • Stop harmful behaviours or access support to stop these i.e. alcohol, drugs, gambling
  • Avoid confrontations
  • Learn meditation or mindfulness

How to Communicate Effectively 

How to Communicate Effectively – communication is the key to sustaining early recovery. A highly functioning Alcoholic may scoff at the notion of learning how to communicate effectively. This may be how they earn a living.

However effective communication is not a series of instructions it is more emotive.

Emotive communication is effective for those is recovery as learning to express feelings is almost impossible for some.

A high flying businessman or woman may not start their day by telling their clients how they feel.

However suppressed and untreated feelings and emotions are triggers to relapse. Rehab at Abbeycare introduces the concept of daily feelings checks to encourage programme participants to talk about how they feel.

Offloading feelings in a productive manner and to an appropriate person can relieve any ‘stress’ or ‘tension’ reducing the rate of relapse.

Relationship Building 

Relationship Building – when creating an honest inventory of life and the relationships in that life many will indicate the break-down of relationships.

From family, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc the use of alcohol and drugs can interfere with relationships.

The Family Support Group at Abbeycare can bridge the gap and help relationships heal and repair. (see Family Support article).

How to say ‘no’

How to say ‘no’ – in order to describe this Life Skill the term People Pleaser can be observed.

Some of the components of a People Pleaser involve:

  • Wanting to make people happy
  • Wanting to make people like them
  • Trying to fix people’s problems to achieve the above two points

Reasons People Pleasers exist:

  • Self-loathing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling judged for their actions
  • Feeling guilty about their actions or secrets
  • Feeling ashamed about their actions or secrets
  • Childhood issues such as trying to please a parent who is unhappy or angry

Those with substance use disorders can be embarrassed, ashamed and guilty about their addiction to alcohol and drugs and try to over compensate.

In short saying ‘No’ becomes a problem and can create stress. If overwhelmed by responsibilities relapse rates increase.

Learning to say ‘no’ with your therapist or recovery sponsor may stop relapse from occurring.

Building Resilience 

Building Resilience – it can be argued problematic alcohol and drug users are incredibly resilient. Due to the daily life struggles they may encounter when serving their addiction.

However resilient under the influence, now in recovery, resilience has to be built whilst sober i.e. finding other ways to deal with stress that don’t involve alcohol.

If a difficult life situation occurs ‘talking’ therapies are encouraged.

Finding Fulfilment 

Finding Fulfilment – live to drink, drink to live! No more.

Live a fulfilling life can reduce the desire to start drinking again.

Exercise, the arts, music and outdoor pursuits layered on top of life can provide that fulfilment required.

Some may choose to add a spiritual element and help others less fortunate in order to create balance in an un-balanced world this may be through voluntary or sponsorship, for example.

Employment after Rehab – A skill required for life

There are a few areas regarding employment:

  • Already have a job
  • Looking for a job
  • Want to volunteer
  • Unemployed due to ill health
  • Unemployed caring or childcare responsibilities
  • Retired

If looking for a job, retired or wanting to volunteer the skill of job searching is an effective tool to be learned. Job searching can be used to find paid employment or a voluntary position.

Job coaches teach how to: fill in an effective application, create a stand out CV, search for appropriate jobs, dress to impress and participate in mock interviews. All these skills are designed to prepare you for employment.

A lot of job coaches now offer in work support as the first month at work can take time to get used to and this support helps with job retention. Job Coaches can be found locally ask your job centre for more information or privately, usually found on the Web.

As a carer working in the home to look after children or loved ones it may seem lonely. A skill required is to ask for support and connect with recovery or support groups in the area.

Connecting with others will combat the loneliness and identification with people in similar circumstances can be empowering. This also applies if retired or at home with a disability.

When thinking of life skills the mind may spring to ideas such as learning how to drive a car, perfecting a specific vocation or learning an instrument, to name but a few.

And that is correct these are life skills which enrich and enhance a humans life.

However after a period of dependence on alcohol and/or drugs which may span decades. The Life Skills requiring to be developed are taken from the grass roots up. In essence the participant of rehab is learning how to live again.

This sentence may appear strange as the participant has ‘surely’ been living prior to entering rehab?

Although some may argue they have been mere surviving rather than living!

It is in this vain that the re-acquisition of or learning of life skills becomes of vital importance early recovery. Shedding the old coat and putting on a new one enriched with skills for a harmonious and productive life will not be easy. But will be of utmost importance.

At Abbeycare participants are shown the basic tools for living and encouraged through attendance at Aftercare and under taking a 12 Step Programme to continue life-long learning.

Finding the right rehab

Frequently Asked Questions

“Are there skills coaches at Abbeycare?”

Abbeycare does not have specific skills coaches. The therapists are trained to up skill their clients and can identify the areas that need addressed, through group work therapy and 121 sessions.

Also upon arrival at Abbeycare you will be allocated a Case Manager, they will create a Recovery Plan with you. Looking at all the major areas of your life such as: relapse prevention, health and wellbeing, financial and employment, social circumstances and relationships (plutonic and intimate).

“Will Abbeycare help me find employment or voluntary work?”

Due to the duration of stay i.e. 14 to 28 days in most cases there is not enough time to deliver effective 121 sessions and group therapy as well as look for meaningful employment.

However if this is identified in you Recovery Plan mentioned above then the Case Manager can identify possible routes to follow to make this happen.

“Do I need a Job Coach to find employment?”

No, a Job Coach isn’t required to find employment this is an example of someone who may be able to assist in finding and keeping employment if you are struggling in this area.

“I don’t have time to implement some of these life skills in my life are they necessary?”

The above lists of Life Skills have been included to illustrate the type of lifestyle that will encourage long term recovery from alcohol and drugs.

This list is not for all and items may be added or removed to suit your lifestyle. However, some are quite practical in human terms such as three meals per day and adequate amounts of sleep etc. and your stay at Abbeycare will encourage these into the daily routine.

Recovery is possible for anybody from any background or walk or life.

If you visualise yourself free from alcohol and drugs living a happy and productive life?

And wish to learn more about our Addiction Treatment or Life Skills Development Programme call our free 24/7 Helpline on 01603 513 091 or fill out the form below to speak to a trained addiction counsellor.


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