Dealing With Boredom in Recovery

Overheard at meetings and treatment rooms are stories of how clients report that there’s nothing to do now that they’re sober or how they feel like they won’t have any friends once they get sober. While I can certainly understand the concern, there are a lot of people engaged in a full life who are either sober or who don’t drink but have a life committed to health. It makes a lot of sense to me that finding something to do would be difficult as the focus of the using person has been primarily on using chemicals to affect their reality and change the way they feel. If you want to find new friends, try doing something new. It is likely you’ll find sober people who like to do what you like to do.

More than filling time with “things to do” perhaps it’s likely that other issues can manifest as boredom and that ‘boredom’ is used as the newly sober person is unfamiliar with the dearth of emotions they’re experiencing?

Perhaps you’re not feeling bored, but you’re feeling stuck? I know many people who like to write and often they’ll discuss writer’s block. There are many ways to address writer’s block but it has been my experience that the person experiencing the ‘block’ isn’t feeling inspired. While it’s a novel idea to suggest that you need to write when you’re not feeling inspired, it takes a lot of effort, especially if you have nothing to say. Look online and you’ll see a wealth of resources for writers that speak to writing prompts or story ideas. These are in place because people know that sometimes folks feel empty and have nothing to say.

Remember, if you are bored on a constant basis it is likely that you are boring to other people. What do you think of that?

I will give you a few suggestions and then list ideas for things to try:

Escape the desire to engage in the same behavior: Habits are likely a part of your life, but they don’t serve you if you’re not getting what you need. Find a way to break out of old patterns.

Ask a trusted friend for feedback. Tell someone you’re feeling stuck and ask them what they would do. When you get feedback, DO WHAT THEY SUGGEST!

As Stephen Covey has said, begin with the end in mind. Focus on what you want to change and work backwards to get the result you want. Do not forget to include your support group, even if you’re asking for feedback on completing a small goal. Everyone needs to be reminded.

Let go of old patterns. Stress generally happens because you believe you have to do something or you have power or control in a situation. Examine the nature of your patterns and find a way to change them. If you want to change how you feel and what you do, you can start by changing how you think.

Are you bored or are you feeling lazy? It is my experience that people generally do not follow-through because they have impotent goals. Are you doing what gives you juice or serves your higher purpose?

Are you doing something that you have done before? It can be helpful to try something different, take a different route to work, ask different questions, focus on a different solution

I would like to list a bunch of things I have tried since I got sober over 32 years ago. Very often after I got sober I would mention how I was bored. I think it’s not that I was bored, but that I needed to do something new. Perhaps you’ll find something in this list that might engage you? I hope that is true.

– Metal detecting

– Volunteering: with older adults, with a Hospice program, in a soup kitchen, at a food bank, at a library reading stories to kids or homebound seniors. Have you considered teaching someone how to read or perhaps you have skills that could support a non-profit to build their business. Ever thought of contacting your local animal shelter or the Humane Society to let them know you would like to exercise their dogs? Perhaps you know people well and would be helpful as an adoption counselor matching animals to prospective owners. If animals aren’t your thing, you could volunteer at the burn ward at the local children’s hospital. I volunteered the Seattle Children’s Hospital in the burn unit and came away with a different perspective and a sense of gratitude. In Seattle I volunteered for a program entitled ‘Books to Prisoners. This program finds you opening letters from people who are incarcerated and then filling the orders the best you can based on what is available on the shelves. I found that I would often take notes about what I wanted to add to my reading list when I paged through the books. Very recently I began volunteering as a Community Manager – that is, I am responsible for the social media campaigns of a large non-profit. This has been rewarding to me as I have found a way to channel a skill-set that I have developed over the last 10 years. If you’re stuck for ideas I would like to direct you to two websites: I am quite fond of Volunteermatch.com and Serviceleader.org. Serviceleader has a place on the site where you can search for virtual volunteer positions.

– Horseback riding

– Writing: perhaps you could keep an online journal, or break out a pad of paper to jot down your thoughts. You don’t need to write a tome of information, you can simply write for five minutes, include how you feel, note the high and low point of the day, and write what you plan to do tomorrow. My grandparents would tell you that if your life is worth living it’s worth recording. You can always write to people who are incarcerated or homebound. United Way generally maintains a list of people who are unable to leave their home. An occasional letter is always appreciated. I am also fond of writing letters to soldiers deployed in another country.

– Cooking. My grandmother was a wonderful cook. I often found that if I cooked what she cooked, what she made was vastly better. Perhaps love was the missing ingredient? My grandmother cooked as that is the way she took care of other people. She also cooked as it was self-care for her. You could always volunteer to cook for a senior center, nursing home, or homeless shelter.

– Completing small repairs for older adults. One of my best friends can fix anything. I recall a group of people gathering around a broken riding lawnmower offering their opinion of what was wrong. My friend patiently listened to everyone, but after the crowd dispersed he went to work fixing the mower. He gleans a great amount of pride from fixing items that would usually be seen as trash, and other people seem to benefit as well.

– Movie therapy. I love watching films, and I tend to be a horror fanatic. It’s likely that I have seen 80% of all horror films produced, past and present. When I don’t watch horror films I like to watch other movies which engage me. I have found that if I am stuck at a certain place in my life I can find a film that will speak to the issue where I’m stuck.
You can check out http://www.cinematherapy.com for some ideas for films that might engage you.

– Bibliotherapy. This generally refers to reading material to address you want to address in your personal growth or material that helps you resolve issues that are distressing to you. There is a treasure trove of material available that can assist you in moving forward and resolving what tends to bother you. I would invite you to do a search for ‘Bibliotherapy’ to get started.

– Therapy. I think everyone can benefit from seeing a counselor or a therapist. If you are newly sober it is likely that you have “stuff” that is unresolved. Having an objective opinion can be a great way of getting insight and objective feedback. Additionally, you could ask your therapist to help you resolve any issues that might be bringing up feelings of boredom for you.

– Owning a fish tank. We own two and I am always pleased to see the results of the work we put in to better the environment for the fish.

– Making digital music. I own a Mac and I am quite fond of Garageband. While I have yet to create anything which would be considered ‘music’ I have found enjoyment playing with the program to try and make music. I tend not to get frustrated as I focus on the experience versus the outcome.

– Perhaps you enjoy the library? I like to get lost in the library and wind up with many books when I walk through my front door. You could always ask the librarian if they have a program which would allow you to read to other kids.

– I have, in some capacity, taught ESL (English as a Second Language) for the last 30 years. There are many orgs which can help you get started. Most times you’ll need to complete an orientation. Check out http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/index.jsp?l=seattle&k=esl for opportunities in Seattle or connect with The Literacy Council @ (206) 233-9720.

– Exercise. How about speed walking, weight training, martial arts, swimming, or rock climbing??

– Could you contribute your expertise on a blog or another online forum? How about podcasting?

I suspect this is enough for now. If you have any ideas for ways to challenge and defeat boredom, send them my way.

I wish you well..

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