We Can Still Be Rebellious
Alternate Rebellion can help satisfy our urge to rebel
It’s not a universal truth that people who struggle with addiction are somewhat rebellious. But it’s pretty darn close.
For many of us, early forays into substance use were motivated by a desire to rebel against the powers that seemed in control of our lives. Many of us secretly (or even overtly) reveled in a sense of defying the norms and snubbing the status quo with our drug and alcohol use. Though, bafflingly, it was often true too that our using was closeted in secrecy and shame. We’re human: We’re capable of a mind-boggling assortment of contradictions.
Later in our using - once we reached physical dependence on a substance - our behavior was the opposite of rebellion, responding like chained dogs to the urges of addiction. However, while our cravings for substances have very likely subsided with an increasing length of time in recovery, our cravings to rebel have very likely not disappeared. In fact, for those of us who equate a sober lifestyle with “boredom,” the desire to rebel may even increase during recovery.
Rebels in search of a fix
While there is no safe way to satisfy a craving to use while in recovery, there may be safe ways to satisfy an urge to rebel. In fact, finding appropriate ways to rebel may very well make recovery more satisfying for some people.
“When addictive behaviors are a way to rebel against authority, conventions, and the boredom of not breaking rules or laws, try alternate rebellion.” - DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan (Dialectal Behavior Therapy)
Some DBT examples of Alternate Rebellion include:
Shave your head
Wear crazy underwear
Wear unmatched shoes or socks
Have secret thoughts (as long as you don’t run the risk of acting on them)
Express unpopular views
Do random - ideally secret - acts of kindness
Vacation with your family at a nudist colony
Write a letter saying exactly what you want to
Dye your hair a wild color
Get a tattoo or body piercing
Wear clothes inside out
Shun beauty expectations for a period of time (whether that means not wearing makeup, not shaving your whiskers, shaving your chest hair or giving up shaving your legs)
Print a personal slogan on a t-shirt
Paint your face
Dress up or dress down where doing so is unexpected
Of course, you’ll have to use personal discernment and discretion to find something that both satisfies the desire to rebel (by feeling daring to you) yet doesn’t carry significant risk (such as being fired for not following company dress code.)
The rule to keep in mind: “Alternate Rebellion replaces destructive rebellion and keeps you on a path toward your goals.”
Have you had any experiences using Alternate Rebellion to satisfy your urge to rebel during your recovery? Share them with us!