When an addict first begins sobriety he finds a sense of ennui set in fairly quickly, which feels overwhelmingly empty. For many drug addicts and alcoholics in early sobriety everything comes to a standstill. No longer are they chasing a high, strategizing a hustle, living in chronic chaos and drama, or experiencing the familiar euphoria created by both the behaviors and the drugs themselves.
The boredom that sets in for the addict is actually an essential part of the recovery process and is a necessary stage in healing from addiction. The person who has been used to anesthetizing feelings and creating synthetic excitement is not accustomed to sitting still or experiencing emotions. One’s entire identity has been wrapped around drugs and/or alcohol and all that’s associated with an addict’s lifestyle, including the mental obsessions. Once the addict or alcoholic begins the journey of sobriety he loses his main source of identity and purpose.
Addicts believe that there is no possible way that life can be fun without drugs. This is dysfunctional and irrational thinking and is part of the process of denial. If you are newly in recovery, please be patient with yourself and realize that this stage will pass.
Once a person quits using drugs he realizes that he has a lot of spare time on his hands that he needs to fill. Because of denial, unhealthy thinking, and a strong habit of feeding immediate gratification, individuals in early recovery do not know how to tolerate the emptiness. It is very easy to relapse at this stage. Following is a list of strategies to help people in this predicament:
- Learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings (like boredom) and do nothing to make them go away. This will help you learn to live without having immediate dissipation of uncomfortable feelings and will build your “sobriety” muscle. Remind yourself that you are learning to feel unpleasant feelings and give yourself credit for the accomplishment.
- Tell yourself positive and encouraging statements, such as, “This too shall pass.” “You can do this.” “It will get better.”
- Remember, you are creating a new life. Start visualizing the type of sober life you want to live. Think of “bucket list” items, or things you want to accomplish with all the time you have left with your life.
- Take baby steps. Allow yourself time. Set a goal to begin one small new discipline each day. For instance, here are some simple steps you can begin to take to start building a new identity:
- Take a walk
- Join a gym
- Sign up for a class
- Write a daily schedule
- Write a list of hobbies you are interested in
- Begin a journal
- Plan meals and begin cooking
- If you like sports, start playing or coaching
- Write your own list of things to begin doing
As you can see, there are many different things you can think of to begin doing. Never forget that a journey starts with a single step. Just begin.
- As most people have heard over and over, but it really helps – Go to a meeting, find a sponsor, work the steps.
- Get involved with life. Participate. Don’t wait for life to come to you, start going to life. Be present. Just remember one rule – do not put yourself in “slippery” places while doing this. Stay away from temptations.
- Think of getting a pet or pets. Even setting up an aquarium can be very satisfying and can bring a lot of personal satisfaction and requires a fair amount of research and energy. While animals with fur can be very comforting, even birds can be very sociable and affectionate. Taking care of animals can bring a whole new world of satisfaction to the bored individual.
- Participate in regular and intense exercise, including aerobics exercises. This releases endorphins, builds strength, and helps with a feeling of general well-being.
This list is not exhaustive, but rather is a starting point for attacking feelings of boredom. Little by little, as you build your new sober life, you will develop a personalized action plan, one day at a time, for addressing all of life’s challenges.