Stress in today's chaotic and combative world is nearly unavoidable. Sources of it are everywhere and it's tough to escape it. While we can turn off the TV and stop reading the news, pressures in our daily life are a different matter. In some cases, a little tension may even be beneficial if it helps us complete a task on time or motivates us to perform better. But stress can quickly become toxic when life starts spinning out of control and the demands on us exceed our ability to cope with them. High stress levels create an imbalance in the dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain's pleasure center. It is the longing for relief that creates a craving for any substance or behavior that will raise dopamine levels and increase feelings of comfort or well being.

Why are we so stressed? Everyone has people and situations that set them off from time to time, but most stressors fit more or less into one of four basic categories.


From the moment we wake up, the fast pace of life we are accustomed to living puts our body into a state of stress. Our day begins with the grating sound of the alarm clock, followed by the pressure of getting everybody out the door on time. Then we are forced to cope with careless, angry, distracted and daredevil drivers during the morning commute. In the meantime, we may have added coffee, a diet soda and/or a sugar-filled breakfast to the mix. Our body is already beginning to be hit hard…and all this is happening before the work day has even begun!

There are also the countless chores, obligations and activities that have become such a necessary part of life today. These seem to multiply by the day and are unceasing. We eat on the fly, snatch unhealthy snacks from vending machines, and jolt ourselves with caffeine whenever we start to crash. At night we sleep poorly because we are wired from consuming too much caffeine during the day, or are too tense from the day’s events to relax. As a result we have difficulty turning off our minds long enough to allow us to get the rest we need. Is it then that the lure of alcohol or drugs seems most appealing?

Problems in the Workplace

Perhaps you need a job but have been unable to find one. If you have a job, you might be having trouble with your boss or a co-worker. Perhaps you are worrying about getting fired or laid off. Maybe your hours are too long, you have more work than you can handle, and your responsibilities too great. Maybe you just feel bored and unchallenged. What work issues are you coping with that trigger a need for alcohol or drugs?

Financial Difficulties

Work issues are often related to financial difficulties. Your monthly compensation may be inadequate to cover your bills. Perhaps each month ends in a deficit, and you are relying on credit cards to make up the difference. Maybe you are overdrawn at the bank or bill collectors are hounding you. Any of these are enough to make you reach for a bottle or a pill.

Family Situations and Pressures

Financial difficulties often relate directly to family problems, but it is not just lack of money that that causes dysfunctional or unhappy families. Life today is far more complicated than it was for previous generations, and people are facing situations now that were virtually unheard of even ten or twenty years ago. While some problems have been around from the beginning of time, today’s families are coping with a whole new set of stressors that are unique to modern living. A sampling of these include:

• Drug or alcohol addiction in the immediate family (parents, children or both)
• Teenagers committing suicide, running away, breaking the law or becoming pregnant
• Entitled adult children still living at home sponging off their parents and contributing nothing to their own upkeep or welfare
• Adult children who live at home because they can't find a job or don't make enough money to support themselves
• Financial hardship due to illness, disability, job loss or inability to find a job
• Grandparents raising grandchildren
• Adults caught between the needs of children still at home and elderly parents who need care and supervision (the sandwich generation)
• Separated parents who are struggling through an acrimonious divorce
• Bitter custody battles over children who end up shuffling between homes

Other issues families commonly wrestle with include homosexuality, racism, religious differences and conflicts, generational conflicts, political divisiveness and abusive relationships. Even a few of these are a recipe for major stress!

The question is, what can you do about it? How can you keep your life under enough control to maintain sobriety without a constant struggle? While you may not be able to eliminate all the sources of stress in your life, what you can do is change your reaction to them. Learning to use Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is one of the best ways to head off meltdowns and keep yourself in control. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure that involves gentle tapping with the fingers to stimulate acupuncture points on the face and upper body. It is easy to learn and can be used anywhere and anytime.

How does it work? Anyone familiar with a pressure cooker knows how the little valve on the top lets off steam gradually as the heat builds up in the pot. But, when the valve becomes stopped up or stuck, there is no way to release the built up pressure and the lid blows off. Just like the valve on the cooker, EFT acts as a safety valve that provides a safe and drug free way to cope with the pressures of daily living and release cumulative stress in the mind and body.

There are many practitioners throughout the country who can help you learn to use this highly effective tool to soothe emotional distress and reduce temptations and cravings. Do yourself a favor and find one. Maintaining sobriety will become a little easier.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Albright, MA, is a stress management specialist in Ft. Collins, CO who uses EFT (tapping) and other energy healing techniques to help people offload unresolved emotional issues, control stress, and change underlying beliefs that are sabotaging their lives. Recently she published The Next Step, a workbook to support people in addiction recovery. A free sample chapter is available at