It is easy to confuse chaos with excitement. Active addiction is full of sheer pandemonium and insanity – we never know what is going to happen next, simply because we have become completely powerless over our own actions and behaviors. We might feel as if our lives were nothing short of stimulating when we look back at them, but when we are honest with ourselves, we can see that what we mistook as nights of thrilling, drunken misadventure were simply nights of muddled, frenzied, blacked-out bedlam. Our lives were not exciting; they were literally out of control. Many addicts and alcoholics in early recovery engage in a behavior that is called ‘glamorizing’ – reminiscing on old times in a favorable light; focusing on all of the fun that was had while intoxicated and failing to acknowledge just how bad things got.
And eventually, things get really, really bad. If things stayed good then we would not be where we are right now – in recovery, or seriously considering seeking help. The chaos becomes utterly overwhelming, and we find ourselves living on the streets, in debt, lying to and manipulating our friends and family members, and going days without sleep, food, or both. Even if the external things do not get this out of whack, the internal turmoil is likely so unbearable that we are left with two options – kill ourselves, or seek outside help. Hopefully we choose the latter, and end up in inpatient treatment somewhere. And we undergo intensive therapeutic care and begin to accept that we are sick and need to heal, and so we start to heal. We transition from inpatient treatment to a halfway house, where we are required to begin working a low-key job and moving through the 12 steps with a sponsor. We go to a meeting every day, and begin building our shattered lives back up around us.
Overcoming Boredom in Early Recovery
All is well for awhile. We explore new hobbies and find out what it is we like to do – perhaps we take up yoga or scuba diving, or join a chess team. Perhaps we go back to school, or sign up for an 8-week juggling workshop. Whatever it is, we likely nestle comfortably into routine. We are unused to stability, and it is not uncommon for a manageable schedule to throw us off of our game – we have spent years living in utter chaos, of course routine makes us somewhat uneasy. We confuse this uneasiness and unfamiliarity with boredom, and boy oh boy, does the disease of addiction love that word! To those of us in early recovery, boredom is an often unaddressed reservation that will swiftly bring us back out. After all, if a life of recovery is not as fun as we were promised it would be, we will probably throw in the towel before we give ourselves a chance to experience just how amazing sobriety can be. Why? Because we are still stubborn little babies, and because the disease of addiction softly whispers, “This is lame, recovery is lame. Go get high. Go get drunk. It will be so much more fun than this. Ew, you have to go to work again? Ew gross, you have to pay your bills and be a responsible adult? Lame. Boring and lame.” Our still-sick minds will tell us anything in the world to get us back to using. Anything at all. You have the power to say to that insidious little voice, “This life is not boring, this life is stable, and this stability will eventually allow me to do anything I choose.”
It is not all that difficult to confuse increased stability with drab monotony, though it is important that we work hard to differentiate the two. And listen closely, because many people have undergone the same exact experience and made it through to the other side. Boredom is nothing more than a phase, and it is one that can be easily combatted with a little gratitude coupled with some creativity. Rather than sit inside and stew and say, “I’m bored, I’m bored,” try going on a little adventure. Go to the zoo. Go skydiving. Take advantage of your clear mind and able body.
Having Fun in Sobriety
Here is what you need to bear in mind, and here is what is really true: Early recovery may feel a bit boring, but only because you are so used to chaos and constant commotion. But what is really boring – what is really drab and dull and monotonous and heartbreaking – is living every day to get drunk or high, and doing it all again tomorrow. The thing about recovery is that once you set a solid foundation, you are free to do absolutely anything. Do you have two, three, five years of recovery and feel stuck in the same routine; dissatisfied with your current circumstances and perhaps your life in general? Stop blaming your recovery – stop blaming a life of stability and sobriety. It is you! It is up to you! Recognize each period of growth for what it is, and try to remember that every stage of early recovery is temporary. Once your foundation is solid and stable – once you have worked the steps and started helping others and truly come to rely upon a power greater than yourself – then you can truly go anywhere and do anything (within reason, of course). The time will come. Don’t quit before the miracle happens!