Coping with Boredom in Recovery

If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

One of our greatest challenges in recovery is figuring out how to find fulfillment and cope with the boredom that has been a huge factor in the development our addictions. Many of us find that it is our boredom we’re trying to escape when we use our drugs of choice. We’re not always trying to escape mental and emotional pain, sometimes we’re simply bored and unfulfilled. We may have given up on our dreams at an early age or begun to sacrifice them for our drugs of choice once we started using. We may never have had the opportunity to discover what talents we had to offer and what gifts we could use to express ourselves creatively. We may have struggled with feeling a lack of purpose for much of our lives, never knowing what it was we loved to do or wanted to create a life around. When we’re bored, we also tend to feel empty and hopeless. We can struggle with feeling as though life is meaningless and our struggles pointless. We don’t have a clear sense of direction. We’re consumed by confusion, overwhelm and fear. We’re afraid of what the future will hold for us. We question our place in the world and our purpose in life. We’re confused about the deeper meaning behind why we’re dealing with so much hardship. We struggle with suicidal thoughts, in part because we want to end the deep sadness, hopelessness and emptiness we feel. When we’re in this difficult mental and emotional place, we can feel as though we’re having an identity crisis or breakdown. We struggle to figure out just how to get through the day, let alone how to find our sense of purpose and fulfillment. 

Learning how to cope with boredom when in recovery is one of the most important things we can do for our sobriety because when we’re not occupying our time in healthy, productive ways, we’re much more likely to return to our drugs of choice and unhealthy relationships to fill the voids we feel. When we feel empty and lost internally, we look for things outside of ourselves to make us feel complete. Our drugs of choice provide us with the distraction we’re looking for from our difficult feelings. We receive external validation, attention and comfort. We self-medicate our pain and numb ourselves to it. We want to learn how to fill our time and expend our energy with things that are good for us, that support us in our recovery, and that keep us in alignment with our goals for sobriety. Boredom can send us straight back to our drugs of choice especially when we grew accustomed to turning to them whenever we felt bored in the past.

How are you spending your time? What is getting your attention? What are you giving your energy to? In recovery, many of us find ourselves feeling confused as to what direction we should take, what goals to set for ourselves, and how to spend our time. We find ourselves with all of this time on our hands that used to go to using our drugs of choice and dealing with all of the issues around our addictions. We were so caught up in our addictive patterns and toxic relationships that we didn’t make time for ourselves and our hobbies and interests. Now that we’re sober, we suddenly have this open time but little concept as to how to use that time. We can find this particularly stressful and overwhelming. We feel as though we should be making the most of our time. We feel like we’re wasting our lives. We think there are things we should be doing, and we can have a hard time giving ourselves the space and time to figure it all out. Our sobriety, however, is an invitation to take some time to ponder our direction, rather than feeling bad that we don’t already have a clear sense of what it is. We’re being called to explore our inner selves, to explore our interests, to find what we love to do and what we might be able to build our lives around. We now have the time, and the clarity that comes with sobriety, to really look at ourselves openly and honestly without all of the turmoil and confusion that accompanied our addictive patterns. We have the opportunity to find ourselves and our fulfillment, for many of us often for the first time.

Boredom creates space for temptation to get the better of us. It leaves room for us to fall prey to the addictive urges that can be all-consuming. We want to get to the point where we feel so fulfilled, so happy with the things we’re doing, and so busy doing things that we find meaningful that we no longer feel tempted by things that are destructive for us. We want to occupy not only our time and energy but also our minds and hearts with things we’re passionate about, that energize and motivate us, that make us feel inspired and driven in life. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be? What talents did you begin to explore earlier in life? What gifts have you suppressed and neglected over the years? Envision yourself as the happiest, most authentic version of yourself. What are you doing? What do you love about life? What are you grateful for? Use this vision as inspiration to find your passions and creative outlets, the things that can help you stay sober, to give yourself an even greater advantage in your recovery.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you get back the life you love. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.