As you progress on your road to recovery, you may find yourself…bored. As you adjust to the major life-changes that accompany early addiction recovery, and as your level of stress decreases, you may find the chunks of stress-free time boring. But although you may call this boredom now, many recovering addicts eventually describe it as serenity. The storm has passed, and they (and not their cravings) can decide what to do with the newfound free time.
Instead of viewing boredom as something negative, be grateful that you are living a healthy, stable life that allows you to complete a to-do list. When you’re ready, you can easily replace boredom with a wide variety of activities. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to adjust to being bored.
When you think about how far you've come, you should be so grateful and proud of what you've achieved. Whenever you feel as though you're bored, remember the drama and unhealthy choices that once occupied your time and that you are now rid of.
You need to stop and think about how different your life is now in comparison to when you used. You may feel periods of boredom, but they pale in comparison to a world spiraling out of control. Boredom is healthy. Boredom is life.
2. Redefine Fun
If you are feeling constantly bored, then you may need to redefine the meaning of fun. You may have been using for years, which is what you did for 'fun.' Now, that part of your life no longer exists. Although those years will always be a part of you, you've made the choice to move towards a more positive future.
You may need to make changes to your personal definition of fun. Instead of focusing on drugs and alcohol, think about sober hobbies or activities to do instead. Have you always loved painting? Perhaps this hobby was put on hold after you started using. Now, artistic activities will strengthen your recovery, and you have the free time to explore them and any other things you don’t need to be under an influence to find fun.
So stop interpreting boredom as a punishment, and start interpreting it as a sign to try a new activity. Take a class or join a club. You never know, newly developed skills may lead you to a new passion and productive career.
With all the extra time you have on your hands, you could even start a small business. Recovering addicts have found success in starting businesses, which allows them to use their time wisely. A small business is not only a source of income, but it is extremely rewarding.
3. Build Your Support System
We always say: if you feel like using when you’re bored, call a friend. A simple phone call can be enough to distract you. They will remind you how hard you have worked.
During recovery, having a sober support network is important. But you should not only reach out to your support system when you need them. You should reach out to your friends and loved ones when you’re bored because that’s a normal thing to do. Talk about your day, and ask them about theirs. These people have supported you when all you could think about were cravings. Now, you have the time and serenity to learn about and support them as well.
So even if you’re not in danger of relapse, boredom is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the ones who have been there for you, and maybe you can be there for them as well.
Of course, make sure that you're not exposing yourself to people who are using or will encourage you to join. When you are with friends who love and support you, you can engage in conversation and fun activities without substances.
If you find you like constant companionship, you can also get a pet. Taking care of a pet can relieve loneliness and offer a buddy to try new activities with, like dog-friendly hikes, or making home videos of your cat, lizard or gerbil.
4. Find New Thoughts to Occupy Your Mind
When you're using, drugs or alcohol infect every conscious (and even unconscious) thought. Now, you can tap into all that unused brain-power and focus on something healthy and productive, like nutrition. Food is fuel and medicine. Even if you’re new to the kitchen, looking up recipes and creating something tasty is something anyone can do and enjoy.
You also now have the time and energy to practice mindfulness, to be aware of the present. While focusing on your senses, you can feel and think without resistance. Take a walk outside, truly appreciating the world around you. Mindfulness is like a muscle, build it in your free time, and it will strong enough to engage when you need it later -- like when you focus on a task, or when you get cravings.
If you’ve never tried mindful meditation and don’t know if you can sit still, yoga is an option to add to your weekly routine. The active movement of sun salutations and warrior poses will get your blood flowing, your body tired and your mind actively focused on breathing. By the end of a class, you can relax with guided meditation from your instructor or just breathe and relax in a corpse pose (lying comfortably flat on your back). And if you go with a friend, or make friends in your class, you get the added bonus of social interaction.
5. Plan Ahead
Boredom is not something to be dreaded but celebrated. It is a sign of growth and a signal to try new activities and reconnect (or connect more deeply) with your support system. That being said, you don’t have to stay bored. Let the boredom guide you through your week and show you where you’re lacking activities and social interaction, and then fill those times.
Once you know there’s a period in your schedule where you'll have nothing to do, make plans. When you plan ahead, you can fill time gaps with productive, fun activities.
Even when you do have regularly scheduled plans, you can switch up your routine. If you walk one way to work each day, choose another route to keep things fresh. You can also plan an event or activity. Many recovering addicts like to have a sober gathering, where they thank friends and family for their support. Planning a get together can be highly rewarding for many.
So, while it takes time to adjust to feeling and responding to boredom, many recovering addicts report that boredom becomes the least of their worries. They have time to learn so many new things and talk to so many people that they couldn't due to their addiction. Put forth the effort, and you will soon see that boredom replaced by hope, gratitude, and excitement.