One of the greatest risk factors for relapse when initially recovering is boredom.
Without the internal fun of intoxication, it can be tough to know quite what to do with yourself. A recovering addict needs to plan for these leisure times, and have activities set up to stave of the boredom that can increase the cravings to use. It’s pretty tough at first, but like everything else, it get’s easier. The secret is to force yourself to do it, and even though the club may sound like more fun, bowling it shall be!
When you’re abusing, boredom isn’t much of an issue. Sure some days are more fun than others, and while high, you can sometimes have some great times, other times not; but basically the answer to fun comes in a bottle, or in a pipe or in a vial…and you don’t have to put much though into how to entertain yourself. With drugs and alcohol, all of the entertainment is internal, and although when people start using, the environment and situation is important, the farther use progresses, the less important the environment, and the more important the drug. Most people don’t start using cocaine in a crack house, but for a real junky with a bit of money, that’s a pretty good place to be.
So once you get sober, you’re left with a bit of a problem, and Friday night’s fun can’t simply be bought in a bag any longer. Boredom sounds like a trivial problem, but the boredom experienced when newly sober is a big issue, and greatly increases the risk of relapse. When you’re bored out of your mind, it’s easy to convince yourself that you can go to the party, you just won’t use, and from there…well it’s a slippery slope to say the least.
The boredom as experienced is partially real, and occurs as a result of having forgotten how to have fun without intoxication, and is also partially a result of your brain’s recovery from the damage of addiction. A lot of drugs can leave the brain a bit subdued, and while it’s not getting the regular doses of fun chemicals it’s accustomed to, it not yet making quite enough of its own. This will change in time, and the brain is remarkably able to recover from abuse, but during the initial period of sobriety, this can make things a bit tough.
So what can be done?
Sitting at home alone pacing is not a healthy response to boredom, and recovering addicts are trained that they need to make a plan for their leisure time, and fill it with rewarding, low risk activities. It can be difficult to stick to your plan once home and Friday night mini put starts feeling a little bit ridiculous, but it’s necessary to get out of the house, into the company of good and sober friends and family, and keep yourself busy, and while you’re at it, keep yourself sober.
The surprising thing is that what happens pretty quickly is that you start to really enjoy these hokey activities, and realize that it’s not what you do, but who you do it with and how you do it that’s important. You’ll start to look forward to Tuesday’s at the movies with Mom and that weekend walk in the woods with your best friend, and with time, you’ll realize that you are no longer doing these activities to keep yourself from using, but for the pure enjoyment of being sober and being in the company of people you love.
With time, it gets easier. You find some things you really enjoy doing, and your brain starts to recover from the effects of addiction. Make a plan and stick to it. Keep busy, and try to enjoy the company of friends and family. It gets easier, and it’s worth it.