When we first decide to get sober, many of us are overcome with an initial sense of euphoria. Finally, after years of living a disorganized, miserable, destructive existence, we feel as though we are finally taking charge of our lives. Imagine having papers stacked in your house for years that you know are useless, but it just seems to stressful to go through them and figure out which ones to throw away, which to keep, and where to put them. One day you decide to fix the problem and you begin looking through the papers. Although you may feel anxious, you feel a sense of relief. Finally, something is being done to fix a problem that has been plaguing your mind for months.
Organizing papers, like getting sober, requires one to deal with a lot of mixed emotions. The pink cloud phase, as some call it, refers to “undoubtedly enjoyable, but it can also be risky. Some will come back down to reality with a bang, and that can be painful. It can lead to overconfidence, which can lead to a risk of relapse. The individual is feeling so good that they fail to do what they need to do to stay on track.” In other words, to go back to the organizing paper analogy, we feel great that we are finally going to reorganize everything that’s been messy and irritating for years. But we feel so good about the prospect of doing it that we actually forget what we need to do in order to accomplish it. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of qualities that addicts often don’t possess; one of them being patience.
Suddenly, a depression begins to set in. Often it happens without us even realizing it. We go through the motions of getting sober, working our steps, making amends, getting a job, trying to socialize, but something seems amiss. One problem that recovering addicts face during early sobriety is boredom. An addict explained, “Addictions use up a lot of time so that once people enter recovery, they find they have a lot of spare time on their hands. If they do not find ways to fill this time, then it can mean that they end up feeing bored a lot of the time.”
There’s more to this than that, though. Addicts often pursued drugs and alcohol because they were bored in the first place. Many addicts had jobs and busy social lives, many were functioning. Yet too many of them have trouble sitting still and being at ease doing nothing, relaxing, or accomplishing menial tasks. Addicts tend to think too much about that which they cannot control. Their creativity, as explained in a previous Footprints post, gets the best of them.
So how do addicts avoid becoming bored, depressed, and losing sight of what’s truly important in long-term recovery? Here are 3 tips for the recovering addict to stay focused.
1. Get comfortable sitting still. Yes, it is important for you to join clubs, go to meetings, work out, and do everything else you can do to keep yourself occupied. However, it’s also important for recovering addicts to be comfortable doing nothing. If addicts can become comfortable sitting still and relaxing, or simply meditating, then boredom won’t be a trigger towards relapse. In fact, there have been scientific studies that demonstrate how practicing mindful meditation may prevent future relapse for the recovering addict.
2.Don’t quit when things get stressful. Addicts tend to throw their hands in the air and give in with things get hard. Think about organizing your papers again. You just found a stack a mile high and it makes you want to run far away and go to your room to read a good book. In fact, you would rather burn that stack than go through it and sort it. Take one step at a time. Don’t think about everything that needs to be fixed in your life. Just start working one step at a time, taking one day at a time, and living one moment at a time. Soon, time will pass and the hardest part will be over.
3.Understand that life is not always exciting, for anyone. Life can be boring and mundane. That’s why we take vacations. If everyday were like a day on the beach, there would be nothing to look forward to. Many people get bored and anxious with their lives, including their marriages, relationships, friendships, jobs, and kids. That doesn’t mean that they go out and get drunk or high over it. Instead, find little things that make you happy on a daily basis, and save up money for something really fun to look forward to. Read a good book, take a great exercise class, and try a new restaurant. Start a new side business! And then, once you’ve gotten your life in order, start saving up for a short getaway or vacation where you can truly live a week or so free of boredom.
Boredom and depression are states of mind that can be altered. Of course, there is a huge difference between mind depression and severe depression that needs medical treatment. If you feel severely depressed and anxious, please do not hesitate to contact a specialist right away. However, we are discussing mild depression and anxiety that stems from boredom in early sobriety. This is a temporary state of mind that is really something that can be self-induced. Telling a recovering addict to “stay positive” can sound so clichéd, but it really is true. In fact, a better way to put it is to “stay realistic.” The pink cloud will lift, reality will set in, but reality can be enjoyable too. And much more productive and healthier than a life filled with drugs and alcohol.
Are you struggling with a drug or alcohol problem? Contact Linda Rose at Footprints Recovery Today. Call (949) 558-4723 and start your roadmap towards recovery. Don’t let alcohol and drugs control your life!