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Mitigating Boredom to Prevent Relapse

Most humans feel uncomfortable with boredom. A recent experiment showed that most people chose to be lightly electrocuted rather than sit still for more than 15 minutes without their cell phones. If this seems shocking, try sitting still for 15 minutes and see how it feels. We have a deep-seated desire to escape our anxieties, thoughts, and boredom. It’s easy to see how many people would rather mindlessly scroll through another depressing feed on Facebook than try and sit still with their thoughts for a few minutes.

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For those struggling with addiction, boredom can be particularly dangerous. Many addicted individuals use alcohol and drugs to avoid boredom and any associated painful emotions. Some recovering addicts throw themselves into countless activities to avoid relapse. While it’s great to try and stay busy, it isn’t healthy to stuff emotions. Eventually, they always surface. Boredom is something that recovering addicts must get used to and learn to appreciate.


Understanding the 5 Types of Boredom in Addiction

To understand how those in recovery approach addiction and boredom, it helps to understand the different kinds of boredom. These include –


· Apathetic Boredom – Associated with helplessness and an inability to become aroused by any type of activity. Apathetic boredom is linked to depression and is highly dangerous to those in early recovery.

· Reactant Boredom – An unpleasant type of boredom that typically leads to a response. Typical symptoms include restlessness and wanting to leave a social situation.

· Searching Boredom – A negative emotion that comes with restlessness and a search to find anything to get outside of that mindset. This type of boredom may be productive, but only if the search is for healthy activity.

· Calibrating Boredom – Feeling as though there is nothing to do, experiencing wandering thoughts, and being open to new experiences and activities. While helpful for meeting new friends and experiences, calibrating boredom can be dangerous if the individual seeks drugs or alcohol.

· Indifferent Boredom – Occurs when an individual is bored but o.k. with the boredom. Experiences cheerful fatigue and a sense of relaxation, despite boredom. This is considered a positive type of boredom that does not frequently lead to relapse.


Tips to Mitigate Boredom

We should also note that boredom is not always a bad thing; it’s what a person does with boredom that defines him/her. Boredom has led to creative thoughts, strategy sessions, spiritual development, and greater emotional muscle. However, if boredom is searching, apathetic, or reactant, the recovering addict should be cautious. While there are no sure-fire ways to eliminate boredom, there are some best practices to help alleviate it.


· Work Towards a Goal – Recovery is not just about staying away from drugs and alcohol. It is a lifestyle that requires one to learn life without negative substances entirely. Working towards a specific goal can help alleviate boredom and provide a sense of purpose.

· Turn off Social Media – Social media is not a healthy replacement for those struggling in early recovery. Social media can increase boredom, depression, and serve as a negative replacement. It also increases isolation. Instead, call a friend or meet someone for coffee.

· Get Active – Exercise is great for mental and physical health. Start some type of physical exercise routine – preferably one that gets you outdoors and with other people. This will help build discipline and alleviate boredom as it arises.

· Journaling – Journaling is a great way to let go of unpleasant thoughts and express them on paper. It is also a great way to alleviate boredom. Commit to journaling once per day, particularly in early sobriety.

· Meditate and Improve Spirituality – Meditation and church-related activities have been known to decrease depression and improve a sense of well-being. Meditation also helps bored individuals sit with their unpleasant feelings and learn how to improve thinking patterns. It can also help induce relaxation and eliminate feelings of anxiety.

· Reading – Reading is a great way to alleviate boredom. Find a great book series, get a cup of tea, and get cozy on the couch.

· Therapy – Therapy can help you eliminate uncomfortable feelings and decrease anxiety. Seek a therapist who is experienced in addiction and recovery.

· Meeting – Find a support group or AA meeting. Go to 2-3 meetings per day if you have to. Do whatever you need to do in those early days to avoid excessive boredom, as we know where that leads.

· Find a More Stimulating Job/Ask for Additional Tasks – If employed, ask your employer if there are additional projects you can work on. However, be careful not to overwhelm yourself. Only do this if you have the mental energy and willingness to take on additional work. Furthermore, don’t forget to ask for more pay. If your job is unstimulating in and of itself, then it may be time to seek employment elsewhere. Just be sure that you are comfortable enough in your sobriety that a big change will not impact your stress levels. This can lead to relapse.


Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, or boredom? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.