Boredom is one of the biggest enemies of your recovery efforts. While it can affect you in different stages of the recovery process, this article focuses on early recovery. “Early recovery” is the time after you have detoxed from your primary drug of abuse and have started a treatment program to learn how to manage your addiction.
What is Boredom?
Boredom is a psychological state experienced when you:
- Lack interest in anything for periods of time
- Find yourself unable to rest or relax
- Find it difficult to become or stay motivated
- Feel little or no excitement about what is happening around you
- Have little interest in something that would normally be important to you
Boredom in Early Recovery
People addicted to drugs and alcohol commonly go through an array of emotions after starting an addiction treatment program. Most people inevitably have a period of boredom during their newfound sobriety, which may increase the likelihood you will relapse.
Early in recovery, you may try to rationalize drug or alcohol abuse as a valid way to stave off boredom. This is a dangerous way of thinking that can prevent you from completely integrating into a treatment program. If you are in the early stages of recovery and are beginning to be affected by feelings of boredom, you should be open and honest with your therapist so they can give you the guidance you need to maintain your sobriety and stay in the program. Boredom that can jeopardize early recovery typically arises after the time you start recovery, and before you have the tool, strength, and understanding of your addiction needed to maintain lasting sobriety.
Identifying the Five Types of Boredom
Recent studies of boredom have found there are five different types, all with their own characteristics. Each one can have a different effect on your mood in early recovery.
This type of boredom is associated with both helplessness and low arousal, which means people feeling it aren’t inspired to act. This type of boredom has been linked to depression and should be taken seriously. This type of boredom can be dangerous to people in the early stages of recovery. If you are in treatment and find yourself experiencing this type of boredom, you should talk to your therapist about it in therapy.
Reactant Boredom is an unpleasant feeling, but often inspires action or a reaction. This type of boredom is characterized by restlessness, but it’s marked by extreme feelings of wanting to leave a situation and can be experienced as aggressiveness. Typically, people in reactant boredom think about “better things they could be doing”. Try to identify a “go to” recovery-friendly activity that interests you. You can turn to this activity when this type of boredom creeps in.
This type of boredom is a negative feeling that incorporates feelings of restlessness and a search for anything to do in order to get out of the bored mindset. People who feel searching boredom tend to look for extra work, hobbies, and activities to do. This type of boredom can be productive when you are in recovery, but only if you search for a healthy experience, and not revert to drug or alcohol abuse.
Calibrating boredom is an emotional state characterized by not knowing what to do, wandering thoughts, and being open to doing activities that have nothing to do with what the person is doing now. If you can control your thoughts enough to rule out using drugs and alcohol, this type of boredom shouldn’t become a negative experience in your recovery.
This is when a person is withdrawn but calm from their reality. Synonyms can include “cheerful fatigue” and “relaxation”. It is described as tired but in a pleasant mood. This type of boredom is challenging but not considered a high risk to cause relapse.
Focus Your Mind to Avoid Boredom
The key to avoiding boredom in early recovery is to achieve a state of mindfulness with your surroundings. The act of practicing meditation, yoga, and other mindful activities will help you focus and calm your mind, allowing you live in the present and listen more closely to your thoughts. Understanding your thoughts is an important aspect of self-control. Better self-control inevitably leads to a decrease in the odds you will relapse. Staying calm and rational in any situation is beneficial to decision making, especially addiction treatment.
Work Towards a Goal to Avoid Boredom
Addiction recovery is more than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol, it is also learning how to live without them. People who are goal-oriented have a purpose for their lives. Living a full and complete life free from substance abuse involves identifying interests and activities that keep your mind and body active throughout your life. Most people with an addiction don’t truly realize how much time, effort, and energy goes into feeding the addiction until that addiction is broken. Filling your time working towards a measurable goal will help stop boredom while helping your self-esteem.
Disconnect from Social Media to Avoid Boredom
During this phase of recovery, it is best to avoid stimuli that can distract you from the goal of calm and rational thoughts of the present. Social media is a good example of something to avoid. Time spent on your phone scrolling through other people’s lives is not the best way to spend your time in recovery. Screen time may seem like a good way to occupy your time, but this is known to cause sensory overload. This reduces your ability to focus on anything for any length of time. To help prevent feelings of fatigue and boredom from screen time, invest your time in something active. See Other Ways to Avoid Boredom During Recovery below. Disconnecting from social media will improve your ability to focus and allow you to think clearly about the goals you have for your life.
How Pride Recovery Center Can Help You Fight Boredom
The best way to avoid boredom in recovery is to remain active. At Pride, our Intensive Outpatient Program will engage your mind in the therapy process, giving you the tools needed to stay sober while keeping boredom at bay. Our therapists strive to make each session both enlightening and fun.
Other Ways to Avoid Boredom During Recovery
Here is a list of other ways you can fight boredom while in a recovery program:
Start A New Hobby
Hobbies like drawing, sculpting, painting, sewing, fishing, and coin collecting can provide you with an infinite amount t of ways to avoid boredom. A hobby even has the potential to turn into a career as well. A hobby serves you best when it is something you look forward to doing and it engages your mind and your body.
Writing about your feelings, emotions, and experiences can be a rewarding pastime. Journaling allows free expression of your soul in a book that, over time, will be a thorough picture of your progress in recovery. Taking time to document your recovery process each day will give you something to look forward to and pass the time in meaningful way.
Reading a good book is one of the top ways to avoid boredom. Reading has a myriad of benefits. Fictional books can transport you to a new world with stories of love, intrigue, mystery, or science fiction. Nonfiction books can teach you about history, science, technology, health and wellness, or any subject you are interested in. You can open your mind to new things while you shut out thoughts of the past and your addiction.
For some people, a step in their recovery will be getting more education. Oftentimes, people quit their education endeavors as addiction takes over their lives, so one way to continue to beat addiction is to get a GED or finish a higher degree. Others may have discovered a new interest in education while in treatment and want to begin a new career that will require some education. Either way, education teaches you to work toward a goal over time.
Volunteer in The Community
Volunteer for a local charity, homeless shelter, women’s shelter, or pet shelter in your community. You will find the work to be engaging and will gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others when they need it the most. Aside form the benefit of relieving boredom, you will help to create a better community for everyone.
Can Boredom Cause Depression?
While boredom can motivate you to take up a hobby or explore a new interest, for those who are clinically depressed, boredom can be a pit of despair. Boredom it gives your brain an excuse to drift toward negative thoughts, making the depression worse. These negative thoughts can impact your recovery, and even lead to relapse.
Over time, if not proactively addressed, boredom can become destructive and lead to high-risk behaviors. Increased substance abuse, sexual activity and/or sexual partners, and addictive behaviors such as gambling, eating, and shopping can manifest from excessive boredom.
Existential Boredom and Depression
Existential boredom, also known as apathetic boredom, is a type of boredom that can cause depression. This is typically defined as the inability to find interest in anything. Having depression can cause existential boredom just as existential boredom can cause depression. People who can’t find anything interesting generally conclude that life is meaningless, and then they become depressed. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders co-occurring with substance abuse disorder. Services offered by Pride Recovery Center such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can reduce depression in patients also suffering with substance abuse disorder.
Dealing with Boredom in Recovery One Day at A Time
In early recovery, it takes some time to find your balance between having free time to enjoy life and having too much time, allowing your mind to guide you back to old habits. The boredom in recovery is based around predictability, the new lack of an old habit which brought you to recovery in the first place. However, predictable events can produce emotions sought after in recovery such as peace, stability and comfort.
A merger of predictably and excitement can be created by maintaining your sobriety, working your program, attending meetings, planning your future, learning how to stay calm and make rational decisions, and always occupying your body and your mind. Allow yourself to embrace new experiences to prevent boredom from seeping. If you engage in days full of activity and fulfillment in sobriety, you will be blessed with satisfying experiences that will comprise a happy and meaningful life.