One of the biggest obstacles addicts face in recovery is learning how to be content with a simpler life. One recovering addict stated at an Orange County AA meeting, “I don’t know how to stay still in sobriety. I am happy and grateful to be sober, but I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I don’t know how to be ok just sitting at home after work and relaxing. Boredom is my biggest fear.”
Boredom is usually the result of an overactive, over stimulated mind having unreasonable expectations about how life should be. Many addicts struggle with boredom in early recovery because they expect life to be exciting and dramatic. After all, we used to spend a lot of time drinking, doing drugs, and getting into trouble. Though the drama of our past lives caused enormous damage, it fulfilled a need within us. It allowed us to have a purpose, even though that purpose was harmful to us and to others around us. It served as a distraction from our own emotional pain; it allowed us to escape.
Discoveryplace.org explains the phenomenon of boredom in early sobriety as such: “We are easily distracted from productive tasks. I visualize this as having the electrifying vigor of recovery diminish to a small spark. Nothing excites us anymore. The pink cloud is over. Our initial euphoria is replaced with disillusionment.” In other words, initial sobriety gave us euphoria almost similar to a drug high. Finally, we were doing something to solve our addiction problem. We became excited; we furiously read the Big Book, we attended daily meetings. Then reality set in, along with a creeping sense of fear and restlessness. What now? How do we handle these feelings of boredom in sobriety, and will they ever subside? Here are some tips moving forward.
1.Lower your expectations about how life “should” be. Alcoholics and addicts struggle with the often-tedious nature of every day life. Most non-addicts are able to find contentment in family, friends, work, school, reading a good book, working out, and watching a favorite television series. The addict is a different species, so to speak. We want things to be exciting, all of the time. We expect things to be exciting, all of the time. We are constantly looking for more and more stimulation. Because exciting, amazing things don’t happen everyday, we develop resentments towards life, which leads us to the bottle or drug of choice.
The addict must learn how to lower his or her expectations about life and find pleasure in smaller, simpler things. Of course, there are many activities in sobriety that will give the recovering addict/alcoholic the “rush” they are looking for, but this can’t happen everyday. Many alcoholics “fail to realize that recovery is a process and not an event.” In order to remember that lowering expectations of life is essential for recovery, it is important to keep a gratitude journal, meditation, talking to a sponsor or counselor, and practicing mindfulness.
2.Let go of resentments. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks frequently about resentments and how detrimental they are towards our recovery process. In fact, resentments are one of the biggest causes of relapses. Alcoholics and addicts are full of resentments. We are angry at the way other people treat us, we are angry that we have a disease, we are angry with God, we are angry with our family, we are angry at the world. We also tend to either be passive aggressive or overtly aggressive. We don’t feel comfortable standing up for ourselves in an assertive, mature manner, or we become overly agitated and aggressive to those who hurt us.
Being resentful is a defense mechanism that shields us from being hurt. Our anger allows us to avoid feeling pain and prevents us from confronting those who have hurt us in a mature, assertive manner. It also gives us a good excuse to drink and use drugs. And the more we drink and do drugs, the more resentful we become. It’s a vicious cycle.
In order to move past resentments, it is vital to “recognize that your resentment only gives you the illusion of strength. Instead, highlight and validate your real strength and power. Acknowledge your part in allowing the abuse or pain to occur, forgive yourself for that, and make a decision to not let it occur again. “ Similarly, continue working with a sponsor on the 12 steps, in particular Step 4, Step 8, and Step 9. Continue making amends as new resentments creep up, as they always do.
3.Find ways to stay stimulated. Though it’s important for addicts to become comfortable relaxing, it’s also important that addicts channel their restlessness towards something positive and productive. There are many ways to enhance one’s life that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. Get involved in your local AA chapter; pick up a commitment at a meeting that you enjoy. Start a new side business at home; find a new hobby; take a new exercise class. Socialize even when you don’t feel like it; read a new book; go hiking; skydiving; wakeboarding-whatever it takes to release some of that inner stress.
Of course life can’t always be exciting and fun, but if you find things that stimulate you on a daily basis; those feelings of restlessness and irritability will diminish. Furthermore, you will learn that sobriety is in fact, fun, and can be rewarding in and of itself. Sobriety is something that must be practiced, and recovery is a process that never ends. However, those uncomfortable feelings will dissipate over time, with practice, and with the use of these tips.
Do you struggle with resentment, anger, boredom, and frustration in sobriety? Are you still using drugs and drinking, but are afraid to stop because of facing uncomfortable emotions? If so, contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health today. Call 949-558-4723 and start your roadmap towards recovery from drugs and alcohol.