Battling Boredom During Recovery

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For those of us who associated “fun” with substance use for many years, boredom can be a leading cause of relapse, struggles, and anxiety. In order to cope with this, it is imperative that we restructure our idea of “fun” by building new hobbies and spending time with ourselves without drugs and alcohol.

Sober Stimulation 

When we leave the structured life of a treatment program and return home with a commitment to sobriety, we are suddenly forced to deal with the monotony of day-to-day life with a clear mind. This can be especially difficult when we are dealing with “boredom” while in recovery. This is why so many programs and addiction experts recommend finding hobbies and activities that we can invest our time and effort in. During active addiction, we try to control our emotions with substances. We avoid discomfort by using. Boredom can be a very uncomfortable emotion, and for many of us, the easiest way to alleviate that boredom is substance use.

Old Cliches, Old Truths

Have you ever heard the phrase “Idle time is the devil’s playground”? For addicts, this isn’t just an old-timey phrase; it can be very true when we are first trying to get on a path to long-lasting recovery. When we first start this journey, we often find that we have a lot of free time. To put it bluntly, addiction is a very expensive and time-consuming hobby. The time spent acquiring, using, and abusing substances adds up, and now that we are sober, all that time is now free to spend how we see fit.

Many of us are not only addicted to the rush of using drugs, but also to the thrill of seeking them out and acquiring them, which can be engrossing, chaotic, and unpredictable. When we enter recovery, we are now dealing with life at a more predictable, stable pace. This is, in the big picture view of recovery, a very good thing. However, especially in early recovery, this predictability can be a precarious aspect of our lives.

Reinventing Revelry and Release

During active addiction, we psychologically associate fun, celebration, and relaxation with use and abuse. Physiologically, we hijacked our dopamine reward pathways through drinking or drug use, and now we have to find those rewards in healthier and more practical ways.

In order to maintain long-term recovery, we must learn to break these associations and build new ones that are not centered on substances. To avoid relapse, we must build a routine and keep our minds occupied with new hobbies and habits. Breaking these psychological and physiological attachments to substance use allows us to find love, appreciate simple things, and enjoy the stable, predictable life that comes with sobriety.

Finding a New Community 

When we are in active addiction, our friend groups and networks take up a big chunk of our free time. Leaving that community behind is difficult at first because now, not only are we bored, but we may feel a little more lonely. This is why community is integral to long-lasting recovery. When we are in a program, be it, inpatient or outpatient, community is an important part of our early recovery.

When we leave these programs, it is on us to maintain that level of community-driven recovery by keeping up with our meetings and building new friend groups. “Sober hangouts” can be difficult to navigate at first. It may feel as though you are an adult setting up a playdate with another adult. Learning to relax and have fun while sober is something that may initially feel unnatural, but over time will become much easier.

Rediscovering Old Hobbies and Finding New Ones

For many people who are entering recovery, a good first step to maintaining their sobriety is to rediscover hobbies that may have fallen by the wayside as their addiction took over their free time. Now that you are working on your recovery try spending your newfound time working yourself, staying involved with your community, and engaging with hobbies.

This is not to say that we can never have idle downtime. However, the first few months of recovery after leaving a program are especially precarious. Adjusting to the world outside of treatment is a step in and of itself. People who struggle to build long-lasting sobriety often find that having an open schedule and experiencing the monotony of daily life are sometimes difficult to manage. Hobbies, keeping up with our routine, and working to redefine our definition of fun are all things that we must learn on our path to recovery.

Boredom can be an unforeseen battle on everyone’s road to recovery. With sobriety comes newfound downtime, and for many people that struggle with addiction, downtime can be difficult to manage. Keeping a routine, maintaining a connection to our community and friends, and taking up hobbies are all things we can do to prevent succumbing to the initial “boredom” that comes with sobriety. At Jaywalker Lodge, we specialize in creating individually tailored recovery plans for men who have struggled in the past to maintain their sobriety. Our combination of 12-Step philosophy, sober living facilities, and aftercare services are designed to provide men with the tools they need to build long-lasting recovery after years of struggling to stay sober. We want to help give you the tools you need to handle day-to-day life as a sober person, free from the burdens of alcohol and or drug use. If you are struggling, reach out to us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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