Coping with Stress to Avoid Alcohol Relapse

Get the facts about effective relapse prevention, including alternative stress relief techniques and effective coping mechanisms.

Alcohol is a common way for some people relieve stress; however, for a recovering alcoholic, drinking alcohol isn’t a suitable way to cope with stress. During treatment plans for alcohol abuse, you learned appropriate methods for coping with stress. Letting stress get to you can lead to an alcohol relapse, so keeping it in check is a necessity if you want to stay sober.

Coping Mechanisms For Stress | Healthy and Unhealthy

A coping mechanism is an action you take, sometimes subconsciously, to reduce stress and uncomfortable emotions. Coping mechanisms can be healthy or unhealthy. Unhealthy coping mechanisms feel good in the moment but often backfire in the long run. Healthy coping mechanisms often lack the same level of instant gratification as unhealthy coping mechanisms but produce lasting positive results. Drinking alcohol is obviously an unhealthy coping mechanism, but it’s important to replace it with healthy coping mechanisms rather than other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as junk food, oversleeping, minimal sleep, shopping, and self-punishment.

Free and low-cost alcoholism treatment is available.


This quiet time enables you to regain your focus and remember the reasons why you should stay away from alcohol. If this doesn’t work, move on to another method of stress relief that usually works for you.


Choose your favorite place, thing or person in the world to visualize. Create a relaxing scenario and relax your muscles as you venture through the scenario. If you are stressed out because of a situation that seems overwhelming, visualize yourself completing the task or making though the situation.


Stress for a recovering alcoholic can sometimes be caused by trying to take on too much responsibility. Take a few minutes to set your priorities. Activities like parenting, mandatory work duties and other vital activities should be at the top of the list since they have to be completed. Activities that are optional should go toward the bottom of the list. If you get to the optional items without stressing out, that is wonderful. If you don’t ever get around to the optional items, just let them go.


There are some stressful situations that you may want to try to work through on your own. If this is the case now, write out your feelings. Once you have written about your feelings and the situation that is causing you to stress out, try to think of solutions and possible outcomes. Go through the possible solutions and outcomes and decide what option is best for you. Sometimes, just writing things down gives you a chance to calm down. Once you calm down, it isn’t likely that you want to turn to alcohol anymore.


During your alcohol treatment program, you found out who you could call for support. Now is one of those times. Call a member of your support team and talk though the situation. Give yourself a chance to work through the situation without turning to alcohol. If you can’t get in touch with anyone or if you have already turned to alcohol, call us to find out where you can turn for help.


Take a walk, go lift weights or find a game of pickup basketball. It really doesn’t matter what exercise you do as long as you are doing it safely. As you exercise, you will be able to get out some of the negative energy that may cause you to pick up the bottle. If you have a stressful job or if you are going through a stressful time at home, daily exercise can help to minimize the stress you feel.

Deep Breathing

If you don’t have a lot of time to decompress, try taking a few deep breaths and then slowly exhaling. While this may not relieve all the stress you are feeling, it can calm you down enough to get through until you can do another stress relieving activity that can help you avoid drinking your way to a relapse.

Support Groups

Support groups that offer help from your peers are a good place to get rid of stress. Many of your peers have gone through stressful situations. Some of them may have relapsed and others may have made it through stress without turning to alcohol. Hearing stories from your peers in either of those groups may help you to decompress and stay sober.

If none of these methods work, contact a toll-free national hotline for help coping with stress without using alcohol.