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Addiction and rebelliousness: How to keep your inner rebel happy

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A common problem in recovery it that it's sometimes difficult to live one's life by other people's rules after years of operating on one's own choices, breaking the rules as one sees fit, and enjoying it. An individual can begin to feel as if his or her very identity feels threatened.

Americans have long held the individual and his or her choices are of paramount importance. We expect to be able to choose our paths as we wish and to be left alone. We honor free will and self-reliance, and when people infringe upon us, it can feel very wrong. Sometimes the urge to rebel can be mighty powerful under those circumstances, and rebelling can easily mean returning to a drug-using life. Finding another way to satisfy that desire to break certain rules or norms can really reduce that tension.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) proposes a method for dealing with that mad desire to break rules and reestablish that part of one's identity; it's called Alternate Rebellion. The individual can make a list of things he or she might enjoy doing just for the fun and stir-up of breaking a rule. Once the list is completed, he or she may choose one and try it on for size. If it satisfies the urge to be naughty and doesn't harm him or her, it's an effective diversion.

A list might include shaving one's head or getting a mohawk, getting a piercing or a tattoo, or dyeing one's hair an unusual color. There are other, less glaring ways to do it; it's not all about the shock value of one's appearance. A person might try a different religious faith, join an activist group, or date someone quite different from us in age, ethnicity, etc. You can see quite a long list of ideas at these websites: DBT Self-Help and DBT Diallectical Behavior Therapy Blog.

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