Recovery can be such a transformative experience, but nobody would ever consider this journey to be an easy one. Emotions often run high, cravings sometimes run even higher, and the longing for your old life may reopen wounds you didn't even know existed.
Many people feel scared of boredom in sobriety. The idea of managing life without drugs or alcohol can seem daunting. And when you've spent significant time in active addiction, even the thought of things slowing down or being calm, may seem downright foreign to you.
Learning how to cope with feeling bored is essential for your emotional well-being and physical health. Here are some important tips to keep in mind.
Acknowledge Your Boredom In Recovery
First things first, there's nothing wrong with feeling bored. It's not unique to people recovering from substance use disorders- it's a natural emotion that all people experience. You can't necessarily prevent or avoid a feeling. But validating it for what it is can be helpful for understanding.
Sometimes the goal isn't about overcoming boredom and stuffing the day with various activities. It's about accepting it as a valid emotion that has a necessary place in your life. You might even find that genuinely allowing yourself to feel bored opens more space for creativity and imagination.
Allowing yourself to be with the feeling- without trying to fight boredom- unlocks a level of acceptance for who you are and your current circumstances in life. The more you can do this in your recovery, the more peace you will experience.
Seek Different Forms of Novelty
The newly-sober person often feels worried that they won't "feel" anything again. This fear is legitimate, and it speaks to how substance abuse hijacks how the brain experiences pleasure.
Drugs and alcohol overload your brain's receptors. Over time, it certainly can feel like only those substances trigger excitement, joy, pleasure, and meaning. So, once you quit drinking or using drugs, it can take time to rewire these neural pathways. From this framework, addiction recovery boredom can sometimes be a result of just feeling numb or apathetic.
Healthy distractions can be helpful here. Consider trying a new hobby, engaging in fun, sober activities, or pursuing new interests in your spare time. Not everything will stick, but committing to trying new things can help you feel a surge of excitement and motivation.
Prioritize Strengthening Relationships
Boredom can feed into loneliness (and vice versa), and experiencing both emotions simultaneously may feel intensely triggering. Try to focus your energy on staying connected to others, whether that's through family members, support groups, your therapist, and other like-minded friends in recovery.
Relationships can be one of the best ways to alleviate boredom. When you feel connected to others, your brain releases feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These are essential for your self-esteem and overall well-being, especially when you're newly sober.
Remember to spend time with people who honor your addiction recovery. You know which friends potentially trigger you- either set boundaries with them or limit your contact as much as possible. If someone's in active addiction, you may be putting your own recovery at risk.
Be Mindful of Euphoric Recall
Euphoric recall refers to remembering past experiences in a more positive light, which often disregards the dysfunction and chaos that also existed. It's a common experience in addiction recovery, and it can quickly lead to a relapse.
Boredom in recovery can certainly be an emotional response that occurs when your mind starts glamorizing the past. You might worry that you won't ever have fun again without being under the influence. Or, if you're experiencing post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), the depression and numbness can literally blunt everyday life.
These moments will pass. The longer you stay sober, the more opportunity you have to enjoy healthy activities that bring you joy and meaning. This is so much bigger than what you had when you were in your addiction.
Mindfulness refers to being present in the current moment. The practice of mindfulness can be challenging, especially if the prospect of idle time feels uncomfortable. Most of us rush to "fill the space" with various distractions to avoid sitting with our own feelings.
Remember that mindfulness isn't the absence of negative thoughts or distractions. It's normal to feel distracted. The key is gaining awareness of what's happening in your head and bringing it back to your breath or the present moment.
Stick to A Recovery Routine
Most people find that, in the first stage of early recovery, they need a plan to cope with their free time. They depend on this structure to hold them accountable.
Your routine should entail enough consistency that you aren't "guessing" what you will be doing at a given moment. This doesn't necessarily prevent you from feeling bored, but it does keep you on track and focused on what's happening next.
The best routine is one that balances a level of responsibility without feeling so jam-packed or overwhelmed. Try to balance keeping yourself grounded while occasionally pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
How Treatment Can Help You Combat Boredom and Achieve Long-Lasting Recovery
Early sobriety is full of new experiences, but this time can be so tender for the recovering individual. Many people find themselves struggling with low self-esteem, shame, anxiety, and difficult consequences due to their substance use.
Feeling bored is normal, but it's important to learn how to get out of your own head and look after your mental health.
At Resurface Group, we help people with all stages of recovery from drug abuse. We are here for you and your loved ones, and we believe recovery can be the best decision you ever make for yourself.
Contact us today to learn more!