Boredom: The Biggest Trigger Sober Recovery
How many people do you know who say they drink/use because they’re bored? Maybe you feel the same. As someone who works in the field of substance misuse, boredom is quite often a main reason given for relapse.
As the statement goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” This is true for both the “healthy” individual and the alcoholic/addict, but boredom can be a major contributing factor in addiction and relapse.
Many people find themselves eating too much, gambling, shopping to excess or indulging in other vices out of boredom. If they get bored of being bored, drugs or alcohol are an easy (not much effort required) place to go for relief. They need to snap themselves out of boredom, and this takes effort and commitment.
Therefore, routine and concrete scheduling can be a lifesaver for the alcoholic/addict. A schedule, coupled with passion for a new hobby or sporting activity, allows the alcoholic/addict to successfully and happily break the cycle of boredom. Though you don’t want to have to cajole them out of boredom and then babysit your efforts, you can entertain some options toward a common hobby or event.
Other Release Triggers
Something important that people learn when they’re in treatment for alcohol addiction is what triggers are so that they can avoid them. Some triggers aren’t avoidable, but even so, identifying them before they become a problem can be a helpful way to avoid a relapse.
- Problems in relationships tend to be one of the top relapse triggers people face when they’re a recovering alcoholic. Relationships can include marriages or romantic relationships, friendships or relationships with family members.
- While we often think of stressful or sad times as being relapse triggers, happy or celebratory times can also create a trigger. For example, if you’re at a party or you’re celebrating something good that’s happened, it can be tempting to want to drink at that time.
- Of course, stressful situations are also relapse triggers, but during treatment, alcoholics can learn how they can deal with these problems before it becomes a relapse.
Ways To Avoid Boredom And Relapse
Learn how to engage your mind in a more satisfying way — When you’re bored, you aren’t able to focus your mind on something that interests you, and that leaves you feeling dissatisfied.
- Practice mindfulness. In a nutshell, mindfulness involves being fully aware of your moment-to-moment experience. You notice sensations, thoughts and feelings without judging or resisting them, and then you let them go as your focus moves on to the next moment. With this mindset, you’ll feel more engaged in whatever you’re doing — even a mundane chore such as folding laundry — and less preoccupied with wishing you were doing something else.
- Turn off the screens. Your smartphone, tablet, computer and TV provide nonstop access to texts, tweets, shows, news and games, not to mention hilarious cat videos. So why are you still getting bored? Being bombarded with rapid-fire images and information can overload your capacity to pay attention, and constantly switching from one app or screen to another just magnifies the problem. Soon, your ability to focus on anything for long is shot. To prevent this, try to do just one e-task, such as answering emails or searching the Web, at a time. At home, spend at least an hour every day unplugged from your devices.
- Make it meaningful. Remind yourself of the value in what you’re doing. For example, if you’re raking and weeding in your backyard, remember the fun times you’ve spent there in the past, or imagine the good times to come in the future.
- Call it an opportunity. Rather than describing a less-than-thrilling activity as “monotonous,” tell yourself it is “meditative.” Think of it as your chance to take a mental break — a welcome respite from any pressure to make tough decisions or come up with clever ideas. (Ironically, I find that some of my most creative ideas bubble up unbidden at times such as these.)
- Go for a quick walk or climb a flight of stairs
- Call a friend who’s a good conversationalist
- Listen to a song that makes you feel energized
- Make a list of fun things to do this weekend
Watch out for the urge to reach for a beer, cigarette or candy bar when you’re bored. Dulling the pain of dullness never works for long, and it can set back your recovery from addiction or your progress toward healthy goals. Instead, be ready with strategies for managing boredom effectively and constructively.
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