Early sobriety is ripe with physical and emotional challenges. The initial shift from using drugs and alcohol to experiencing life without it can be difficult to manage. For many, one of the toughest challenges to address is the experience of boredom. Without the routine substance abuse creates, many people struggle with the amount of time they have. No longer using their time to find, use, and experience highs, a spotlight is created on how much of their day was dedicated to substance abuse and it can be difficult to know what to do with it.
Boredom in an inevitable, vital part of the recovery process. Substances are used to escape difficult emotions and often become part of a person’s identity. When drugs and alcohol are removed from the equation, it is not uncommon to find that many people struggle with the idea of loss. Recovery means cutting off ties with enabling peers and changing behaviors that allow substance abuse to thrive. For many, it can feel like a loss of identity and purpose that is difficult to cope with.
Learning to Cope with Boredom
Without the use of drugs or alcohol to fill the day, many people in recovery struggle with restlessness and idle hands. This makes early recovery a time when the risk for relapse is especially high. When they are not accustomed to dealing with daily experiences without the aid of substances and it can feel impossible to imagine life is enjoyable when sober. Life can feel empty and it is a painful feeling to process. Although these are difficult thoughts and feelings to cope with, they eventually pass with time as a person adjusts to sobriety.
There are a number of strategies a person can use in recovery to cope with boredom and prevent relapse from occurring. The journey in recovery is long and lifestyle changes must be implemented in order to support sobriety in the future. Everyone progresses at their own pace and it is a highly individualized process. In order to best support your recovery, consider using the following strategies to protect your sobriety:
- Make small changes: Getting sober means completely uprooting your lifestyle and changing it to support recovery. It takes time to adjust to these changes and it can feel overwhelming. Rather than trying to change everything overnight, make small changes in your everyday life as you adjust. There is a plethora of things you can explore and beginning the process of developing your new identity is powerful. Try new things like art, joining a gym, or start a journal. Building new habits and behaviors is key to supporting sobriety.
- Accept uncomfortable feelings: In recovery, there will be ups and downs. Facing uncomfortable and difficult feelings is part of the process. Substance abuse is often a means of escaping these feelings, but without them, you must learn new ways to cope. Facing difficult feelings head-on will allow you to work through them in a healthy way. Give yourself time to explore why you are experiencing certain feelings and unpack them so they do not drive your behaviors. Learning to cope with them early in recovery will help you manage them later in life more effectively.
- Connect with others: Developing new, healthy relationships and repairing those that have been damaged as a result of substance abuse is critical in recovery. Getting involved in activities, volunteering, and joining clubs can help you form meaningful relationships that are not rooted in substance abuse. This can also give you the opportunity to discover new interests and passion in life which can further discourage you from turning back to substances.
- Try new hobbies: Since substance abuse can form so much of a person’s identity, finding new interests can help you build a new one. With more free time on your hands, now is the time to explore other activities. Art, music, cooking, and getting outdoors can be positive outlets for your thoughts and feelings. They are also an effective way to build new connections with others and can make you feel more fulfilled.
- Exercise: Exercising is natural mood-booster and can help you build self-confidence. Any form of exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health. Playing sports, lifting weights, and doing yoga are just some of the many options you can try. There is something for everyone regardless of fitness level. Not only does it help you feel better about yourself, but it improves your strength, your mood, and can help you connect with others.
Boredom is inevitable, but there are countless ways you can stay active and engaged to combat it. Maintaining sobriety is a life-long commitment that requires work, but as you work through challenges, you can find fulfillment in sober living. Take recovery day-by-day and accept that obstacles will be present throughout life, but with the right tools, you can overcome them.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.