Coping with Traumatic Events without Turning to Alcohol or Drugs

The world is in a state of chaos. Whether it’s mass-shootings, terrorist activities, social injustice, or natural disaster, those who have substance abuse problems can find plenty of reasons to increase their use and those who have not had issues yet, may start using. How does one cope with traumatic events without turning to drugs or alcohol? Here are a few actions you can take to help yourself make healthier choices:

Give yourself time.  Whether or not you were directly impacted by the traumatic event, it is normal to feel anxious, scared, and uncertain about what may happen in the future. It will take time, perhaps weeks or months, to accept what has happened, learn to live with it and go through the healing process. Usually, unsettling thoughts and feelings fade as life starts to return to normal. A professional therapist can help give you guidance if feelings and emotions do not start improving after a reasonable period of time.

Get back to a normal routine.  After you experience a tragedy, it is best to try to get back into a normal daily routine as soon as you are able. Even if you are not hungry, try to have regular meals and to eat a balanced diet. Go to bed and get up on schedule. Plan your days and try to stay active to keep your mind focused on positive things. Stay away from alcohol and drugs because abuse can only make things worse. Instead, consider daily exercise, yoga, or meditation as a healthy alternative.

Talk about it.  Soon rather than later, let yourself think about the trauma and talk about it with others. Talking about what you feel may be difficult, but it will help you heal. Take things at a pace that you feel comfortable with, but do not wait long and let emotions build up inside you. Expressing your feelings through journaling, art, and other creative outlets can also help. Seek professional care if you feel like your friends or family can’t support you.

Be tolerant.  People react in different ways to disasters and traumatic events. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond. Be tolerant of your own reactions and feelings, as well as the reactions and feelings of others. Do not make the mistake of using a tragedy as an excuse to drink or get high; it is just that, an excuse. You deserve to get your life back, not be trapped in an ongoing horror.