Dealing with Being Bored in Recovery

People will often tell you while attending inpatient treatment not to take on too much too fast in your early recovery. I tend to disagree with that. What I will say, is in the beginning, take on and take in ALL of the areas of the program that you can. Take on those service commitments, take on your step work, take on the coffee dates and the hangouts. Say yes to things. 

Once you feel solid in your recovery and your life, take on the rest of the world. Here is why:

There is nothing more dangerous to your program, other than just not working one, than becoming bored in recovery. 

In line with HALT

Have you heard about the acronym “HALT”? It stands for:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

It is often thrown around in rehab and in the early days, but the idea behind it is that when you are feeling squirrelly or irritable, check those areas first. If you are like me, you will consider picking fights with police when you are hangry. Low blood sugar? Beats me, but you can bet your bottom dollar that my fiance carries around snacks with him to protect himself against my hanger fits. 

The other ones all make just as much sense, and can easily be resolved. But what about the silent assassin? The one that got most of us in trouble even before we started drinking and getting high? That assassin is boredom. 

The Different Types of Boredom

When I speak of boredom in recovery, I want to make it very clear that there are multiple layers of boredom here. There is :

  • Short Term
  • Existential long term

Let’s begin!

So, we all have experience with both of these types of boredom, and most people think first of the day in, day out type of short term boredom in recovery. The first time I experienced this was in halfway. I didn’t have a job yet, but I had restrictions on what I could do during my day if I wasn’t working. For example, we weren’t allowed to leave the house unless we were job hunting, going to a meeting, or meeting with a sponsor. 

So, before I had any motivation to work a program, I was very bored. A lot. This boredom led to all sorts of troublesome ideas and behaviors. Long story short, I relapsed. In all of my free time that I chose not to spend wisely, I found myself in a deep state of restlessness, irritability, and discontentment. 

Luckily, I came back and meant business. I got a sponsor, worked my steps, and have managed to stay sober now for a few years. I work full time, have two dogs, have gone back to school, am working towards a Doctorate degree, have discovered that I’m a badass rock climber, yadda yadda yadda. 

bored in recovery

However, This time, I have discovered the existential boredom. 

The only good thing about this type of boredom is that it often motivates us to make a change. Let me explain. I got sober in South Florida. I got a job in rehab, went to the same meetings, always saw the same people, never did anything to follow the dreams I had, I just kinda did enough to get by. On a very unspecial day, I thought I was going to die from the boredom in my recovery and the stagnation of my life. I had dreams and goals, but I had no idea what to do to achieve them. 

So, at a year and a half sober, after I had worked through my own steps twice, and had been actively sponsoring others in the rooms, I made the decision to finally shake things up. I moved halfway across the country, enrolled in school, and was put in a position where I was literally forced to rely on the program and meeting new people in order to maintain my sobriety. I’ve been here for over two years now, and all of those things I mentioned earlier have manifested since I’ve done this. 

I’m not saying that everyone should just up and move when they are bored, but what I am saying, is that for us, boredom in recovery leads to stagnation, leads to isolation, leads to relapse. 

How to NOT be Bored in Recovery

Whether you need to fill time better in your day, or if you feel that existential stagnation creeping in, here are some ways to prevent boredom from taking you out. 

Find A Hobby – I cannot stress this point enough. We are naturally gifted and creative people. When we are using, we tend to use our talents to continue our using. When we get sober, we have to find an outlet for all of that genius! Whether it’s creative, physical, or social, having a healthy hobby gives us something to feel passionately about. 

Switch up your Meetings – It can be so easy to fall into the same exact meetings every week, with the same exact people, sharing more or less the same things. While it is crucial to have a steady homegroup and core meeting schedule, a good way to break the cycle of boredom in recovery is by switching up your meetings every now and then. 

Say Yes to Things – I know where your mind probably just went. DON’T say yes to THAT. Say yes to getting coffee with people in the rooms, say yes to doing a book study, say yes to going to a conference, and say yes to commitments. Also, say yes to helping others and being of service. Doing this allows you to find yourself in positions you otherwise wouldn’t, hence, not being bored in recovery. 

When it comes to keeping your recovery interesting remember, we didn’t get sober to be boring and alone. Say yes to your life, turn off Netflix, and try something new.