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The Link Between Boredom and Substance Abuse

Boredom and substance abuse often go together. People who experience an environment without energy, excitement, or purpose find themselves bored. This can negatively impact their recovery if they do not address it. Boredom can add a level of helplessness or emptiness that makes drinking or using drugs appealing. It can be what pushes a person into relapsing. For this reason, learning to avoid boredom proves important.

What Is Boredom?

People often find themselves experiencing the same routine day in and day out. They don’t have changes or variations in their schedules that make life more interesting. Before they know it, boredom sets in. Waking up, going to work or school, coming home, eating dinner and going to bed over and over again can feel tiresome. A person longs to feel joy and entertainment again. When boredom strikes, it is easy to reach out for something to make the time pass more quickly. For some in recovery from addiction, this can mean breaking their sobriety. They may reach for a few drinks or using drugs to feel good and change their routine. When boredom and substance abuse occur together, it can mean the end of staying sober.  

The Link Between Boredom and Substance Abuse

Boredom and substance abuse can be a dangerous combination, beginning with experimentation to initiate a change in routine. Substance or alcohol usage can increase over a short amount of time and become an addiction very easily. Not everyone chooses a healthy activity to escape boredom. They may return to using substances. Sadly, they may even increase their old dosage in an effort to feel excitement. Dependence on the substance to bring some kind of pleasure to life is dangerous. It can cause a full-blown relapse if positive and healthy coping mechanisms are not discovered and practiced. 

Dangers of Boredom

Dangers of boredom are addiction and the development of mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and even phobias. Boredom can be a normal part of life, but when boredom becomes habitual, the emotional state of mind can be heavy and gloomy. The experience of loss of hope for a happier future becomes overwhelming. Boredom and substance abuse are a dangerous combination when continually experienced over a long period of time. 

Individuals suffering from chronic boredom are found to have a higher rate of:

  • Eating disorders
  • Alcoholism
  • Substance abuse
  • Irritability and extreme anger
  • Problems in employment
  • Difficulties in relationships or social interactions
  • Gambling addiction
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Isolation from friends and family

Boredom and Relapse

For those who have recovered from addiction or have achieved successful treatment of a mental illness that is co-occurring with a substance abuse disorder, boredom needs to be monitored and addressed. Otherwise, there is a danger of relapse for the person. Boredom often causes a person’s initial interest in getting high or drunk. Because of this, education about combatting boredom needs to be part of the treatment. Developing an awareness of how boredom develops and what to do if it sets in becomes paramount. Knowing the tie between boredom and relapse can help a person avoid relapse. Triggers to boredom should be recognized. From there, positive, healthy coping mechanisms can be put into place in order to alleviate boredom’s lure of using again.

Tips for Managing Boredom in Recovery

It can be hard to adjust to early recovery. Prior to getting sober, boredom was often solved by drinking or using drugs. Learning how to avoid boredom can keep relapse from happening. Initially, it may seem difficult to do. However, it’s important to learn that boredom can be a trigger that may result in relapse. Boredom and substance abuse can occur very easily. For this reason, mindfulness and awareness are key. Many things can trigger a feeling of boredom. These include an unfulfilling job or financial problems. Additionally, isolation becomes a habit during addiction. Finding new hobbies and friends can help prevent boredom.  

The following factors can help discourage boredom from interfering with sobriety:

  • Developing a hobby: A new hobby takes up time. It also opens the door for meeting new people with similar interests.
  • Having a plan: Make a list of activities to do if boredom sets in.
  • Find a volunteer opportunity: Volunteering provides a positive, healthy way to spend time. It builds confidence and creates a positive sense of self.
  • Exercise: Take a class or join a gym. Even working out alone can help pass the time in a healthy way.
  • New experiences: A change of pace cures boredom. Explore new locations or try a new restaurant or shop.

Treatment For Those Suffering From Boredom and Substance Abuse

Do you find that boredom often makes you want to abuse drugs or alcohol? If so, Riviera Recovery can help. We develop a treatment plan that fits your needs. Our mental health professionals and physicians work together as a team. They help teach you healthy coping skills that address boredom. If you need help dealing with boredom and substance abuse, we’ve got the answers. Additionally, we treat mental health issues you may also have. Visit our admissions page and find out how we can help. We are happy to answer any questions you have.