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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Coping With Addiction: Boredom as a Relapse Trigger

As a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and certified Substance Abuse Professional in NYC, one of my specialities is working with people who have problems with addictions and codependency. Over the years, I've found that one of the most challenging aspects of overcoming addictive and codependent behavior is overcoming boredom as a relapse trigger.

Overcoming Addiction: Boredom as a Relapse Trigger

What is Boredom?
For most people, feeling bored means that they're doing the same things over and over again and not feeling fulfilled. Life feels dull and monotonous. They feel like they're in a rut and can't get out. Life and relationships might not feel as meaningful when someone is bored.

Why Does Boredom Often Lead to Relapse?
For someone who is accustomed to feeling "high" from drinking, drugging, overspending, overeating, bingeing and purging food, gambling, engaging in sexual addiction, cutting, or getting overly involved in someone else's life drama, trying to live a clean, sober and healthy life might feel unexciting and dull.

When you're used to dealing with your problems by looking for stimulation in unhealthy habits, you might feel a void in your life as you let go of these habits, people you used to engage in these habits with, and former places where you used to go.

At that point, if you haven't developed other healthy habits to take the place of addictive behavior, you are at risk for relapse as you begin to think about stimulative and thrill seeking behavior. It's very tempting to revert back to old habits as you bargain with yourself: "I'll just do this one more time, and then I'll stop" or "I can have one drink. I can control it" or other self deceptive thoughts.

How to Overcome Boredom to Avoid Relapse:
First: Realize that you're not alone. Many people who are struggling with addictions and codependence have faced the same challenge as you have and they have successfully overcome having boredom lead to relapse.

Second: It's important to get out, talk to people who have overcome these problems, and get support. Self help groups like A.A., N.A., Debtors Anon, Al-Anon, Sexual Compulsives Anon, Gamblers Anon, Overeaters Anon and other self help groups are often an excellent source of support (see resource list below at the end of this post).

When you listen to other people talk about how they struggled and overcame boredom as a relapse trigger, you'll often hear aspects of their stories that will resonate with you and help you develop your own ideas about overcoming boredom. Get a sponsor to help you work the Steps and navigate through your difficulties with relapse.

Third: Think about activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy that you might have given up after you began engaging in the addiction of your choice. Maybe you used to like to listen to music before. Or, maybe you liked a particular sport, hobby, or other healthy recreational activity. Often, when people get immersed in addictive behavior, they let go of and forget about activities that they used to enjoy. You can recapture the enjoyment that you used to get from these activities.

Overcoming Boredom to Avoid Relapse

Fourth: Be willing to try new and healthy activities to get out of the rut that you're in. If you're out of shape, consult with your doctor and find out if you're up to exercising at the gym, or taking a yoga or dance class. For most people, walking, at a pace that is healthy and right for you, is often a safe form of exercise. Join a book club where you can clear out the cobwebs from your mind, meet new people, and find other ways to stimulate your mind through new ideas.

Fifth: Get involved by volunteering. There are so many organizations that desperately need help: from soup kitchens for the hungry and homeless to reading and mentoring programs in schools. When you help someone else or make a positive contribution to a worthwhile organization, you feel good about yourself and it helps to build your self-esteem. Even if you have a tendency towards codependence, you can learn to help others in a healthy way.

If you find that you're still struggling with boredom as a relapse trigger, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has an expertise in helping people overcome addictive and codependent behavior.

I am a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and certified Substance Abuse Professional in NYC. I have helped many clients overcome addictive and codependent behavior.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.


Resources:
Alcoholics Anonymous of NY: http://www.nyintergroup.org
Al-Anon in NYC: http://www.nycalanon.org
Cocaine Anonymous in NYC: http://www.canewyork.org
Debtors Anonymous of NYC: http://www.danyc.org
Gamblers Anonymous of NYC: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org
Narcotics Anonymous of NYC: http://www.newyorkna.org
Nicotine Anonymous: http://www.nicotine-anonymous.org
Overeaters Anonymous of NYC: http://www.oanyc.org
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous: http://www.sca-recovery.org
Smart Recovery: http://www.smartrecovery.org/

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