There aren’t many life experiences comparable to getting sober. When you decide to quit drugs or alcohol for good, you’re giving yourself a new lease on life that can be challenging, fulfilling, and even boring. So much of an addict’s life is spent thinking about, obtaining, or using drugs, but when that’s taken away when you go to inpatient treatment, you’re left with a lot of free time.
Free time leads to boredom and boredom can lead you back to drinking or drug use. Boredom is an enemy in sobriety but there are several ways you can fill your time with healthy, productive activities. Let’s learn why boredom is the enemy and what you can do to squash it.
Why Boredom is the Enemy
The old saying goes ‘an idle mind is the devil’s playground’ and that’s absolutely true in sobriety. It’s hard to be bored when you’re stoned out of your head or drunk as a skunk but take those away and you’re left with a racing mind looking for any excitement.
The bored mind of an addict is a funny thing. Despite all the pain or suffering addiction has caused, when you’re bored your brain will make you rehash all the ‘good’ times you had while using or will draw up painful and dark memories. The longer your thoughts go untethered, the more likely they’ll venture to a dangerous place. To stay sober, you must keep yourself and your thoughts occupied.
Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones
There’s no doubt that addictions mess with our brain and how it sends and receives signals but many problems with addiction also stem from rituals and habits. To stay sober, you must break your nasty habits or once-comforting rituals by replacing those bad habits with good ones. Instead of driving to your favorite convenience store for a 12-pack after work, drive to a gym for a quick run. Instead of smoking a joint, have a cup of green tea. It can take days or weeks to replace your bad habits with good ones but filling that void will keep your thoughts occupied.
In active addiction addicts spend the bulk of their time obsessing over their habit, worrying about where they’re going to find their next fix, and using. Once all those are taken away addicts are left with plenty of spare time. As mentioned early spare time is usually bad for recovery but you can re-devote yourself to your hobbies to fill the void.
Activities that use both your hands and brain like crosswords, cross-stitching, and jigsaw puzzles can keep you occupied and your mind off any pain or negative feelings. You can take part in the same hobbies you enjoyed before addiction or learn something new. Fishing, quilting, gardening, and even video games are much more productive than using drugs or drinking. Fill your idle time with hobbies and activities to keep your brain from drifting to dark places.
Occupy your time and get healthy social interaction by taking part in group meetings and sober-related activities. Group meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery allow you to share your story with others, get feedback, and enjoy the friendliness and fellowship that’s crucial to discovery. Many groups hang out before or after the meeting so join up for a great time and less boredom.
If you’re feeling a bit agoraphobic or shy when first getting sober you should still reach out to online support groups. Any outreach and connection will help you get outside of yourself and will dash away boredom. SMART and AA offer both meetings along with 24/7 recovery chat and message boards.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
It’s okay to take risks in recovery if those risks don’t involve drugs or alcohols, even encouraged. The best way to stop boredom is to step out of your comfort zone and do something you never could have done while drinking or using. You could swim with sharks, or try mountain biking, or try new food. Participating in new and thrilling experiences will show you there’s more to life than addiction that you can take advantage of in sobriety. Don’t get your thrills from booze or heroin, get them directly from your own brain by trying new and exciting things.
The best way to get outside of your own head and boredom is by helping someone else which is why we recommend volunteering. Volunteering could be spending your whole weekend assisting low-income campers or it could simply be stacking chairs at your favorite 12-step meeting. Volunteering helps fill in stretches of boredom, helps you think about others, and can help you get a great night’s sleep.
Before you had rituals and obsessions but in sobriety you can fill those with times with daily tasks and readings. It’s tough in early sobriety but force yourself to do daily self-help tasks like making gratitude lists, reviewing daily readings on recovery, or calling your sponsor. These may take up only a few minutes but will cut down on boredom and help you keep focused on why you’ve quit.
Appreciate Your Boredom
Boredom doesn’t always have to be an enemy. It’s important to fight long periods of boredom to keep yourself sane but you can also embrace the peace of boredom. Being bored means you’re not in trouble, you’re not in withdrawal, you’re not worried about what you said, and you don’t have to apologize for your actions. After weeks of years of that mindset being bored can be welcoming. If you’re going to be bored – embrace the peace of it.
Enjoy More Time
Addiction leaves a big hole to fill and if you don’t keep yourself occupied that hole will fill with negative thoughts and actions. The more you’re bored, the better your chances your mind has to drift to dark places so take care of that boredom with healthy activities including meetings, hobbies, volunteering, and more. Before long you’ll happily accept the newfound peace that boredom can bring.