Today, there are millions of people living with alcohol and substance use disorders. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are more than 20 million Americans with some type of addiction issue. And while much attention is given to how many people have substance use disorders (SUD) and die from overdoses, not much attention is given to those who have overcome their AUD and SUD and are in recovery.
According to research by the Recovery Research Institute, there are more than 20.5 million American adults in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. The report revealed that about 75% of those individuals who reported having a drug or alcohol problem in their lives are now in recovery from it.
As mentioned, there’s a lot of focus on people who are currently living with drug and alcohol issues, and not so much on those who have recovered and continue to live in recovery. It’s very important to help those still abusing alcohol and drugs to get help, however, it’s equally important to support those in recovery so they can achieve long-lasting recovery from alcohol or drugs–or both!
With more than 20 million people in recovery, the need for resources for this group has never been greater.
The Early Recovery Journey
When an individual has an issue with alcohol or drugs and decides (or is forced) to get help, much attention is focused on this phase of recovery. And it should be. After all, you can’t achieve long-term sobriety if you can’t stop drinking or using drugs. This stage of recovery is crucial and the enormous amount of focus on it is understandable.
However, what happens after someone successfully completes clinical treatment and goes out into the ‘real world’? The ‘excitement’ of getting sober has often faded and as they become used to going to certain support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery, or whatever their choices are, the boredom may set in–sometimes faster than others.
Early sobriety can be somewhat active. If you are attending support groups, meeting people, and getting involved in whatever sober community you’ve connected with for support. There can be meetings, events, opportunities for service, and much more to keep engaged and busy. However, as days become weeks, and weeks become months, boredom may set in–this is very common.
What’s important to realize is that boredom is one of the biggest triggers for relapse. And, according to research, about one third of those in their first year of recovery will relapse. What’s more the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism reports that about 90% of those individuals who were in treatment for alcoholism relapse within four years. These statistics are somewhat discouraging but it’s important to realize that relapse doesn’t have to be a part of recovery. With a solid support group, an understanding of one’s own personal triggers, and plans to counteract temptations, you can enter recovery once–and remain there.
Once the fun and novelty of being in recovery wears off, you can be left feeling bored. After all, much of the entertainment and socializing you did was centered around alcohol and drugs. Now that this is gone it can feel like you are living a quite boring life. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Finding Fun in Long-term Recovery
Getting involved in support groups in both early and long-term recovery can be key to not only staying sober but also feeling connected and having fun in sobriety. Oftentimes, these groups have social events and activities ongoing for you to participate in, meet new friends, and relieve boredom. But what happens when you grow weary of these routines? Often, as mentioned, this can lead to relapse. It’s vital to be aware of this sometimes overlooked trigger. With awareness, comes prevention.
So if you’ve been in recovery for a bit, have maybe or maybe not established new friends and social circles, and are feeling bored, what can you do?
First and foremost, it’s important to keep sober friends in your life. Some you may be very close with and clicked with right away, others you may consider acquaintances. It’s important to remember that friendships take time and effort to form and grow. But no matter what, you can still have friends who are sober and be bored. As time goes on, friends get into relationships, move away, and you are left feeling bored and alone.
One of the most important things you can do is learn to do things by yourself and work on enjoying spending time with yourself. Yes, this can seem a bit daunting and lonely at first, but as you get used to it, you’ll see that it can really help to alleviate boredom in sobriety.
Take time to rediscover who you are, what you like, what you want to try, what you want to accomplish, and remember to dream big! When you are in recovery from alcohol or drugs, your life becomes a blank canvas and you can paint whatever picture you want. After all, if you’ve been able to overcome an AUD or SUD, you can really accomplish whatever you choose.
When you are in recovery, you’ll hear many of the same tips for relieving boredom; find a hobby, join groups, take up an old, forgotten talent or hobby, go to support groups, etc. And while these are great tips, when you’re in recovery for a longer period of time, these may become boring to you too.
So what do you do?
You keep going. You stay active in your support groups–and–branch out to find new ones. Step outside of your comfort zone and go to meetings in an area you haven’t explored before, even if it means driving further or going alone.
Really take time to think about what your dreams are; where do you want to be in one year? Five year? Do you want to change into a new career? Do you want to buy or sell your home and move? Do you want to make updates to your home? Do you want to travel? Spend more time with kids? Or do you want to find a relationship with a significant other?
It’s important to remember to dream and dream big. This is your life and, if you’re in recovery this is your second shot at making it the life of your dreams.
Once you take some time to imagine what you really want your life to look like, maybe create a vision board. For a vision board, you can use images or even words that illustrate your dreams. For example, if you want to travel to a certain area of the world, put pictures of that place on your vision board. If you want to spend more time with family, put pictures of your own family and also families engaged in fun activities on your board.
When you have a full vision board, begin taking active steps to make these dreams come true. For example, if you want to travel abroad in the next year maybe get a second job to start saving for that trip, begin looking at flights, hotels, attractions in that area, and plan. This will not only help keep you from being bored now, but also in the future as you plan fun things to do like a trip.
In addition to these types of activities, engaging in creative activities is helpful to relieve being sober and bored. From painting to coloring and DIY home decorating and gardens, being creative can do a lot to relieve boredom. It may take some time and effort to find out what you really enjoy doing, but it’s worth it.
Take the time to explore your world and your likes and dislikes. Find the courage to take chances, try new things, and dare to live your best life. Anyone who has been in the grips of addiction knows firsthand how difficult it can be to break free. Once you’ve broken free, make the effort to create the life of your dreams to further ensure your recovery.
It’s important to remember how many people, upwards of 20 million in the United States alone, are in recovery and have found better, more fulfilling lives. In fact, according to research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), not only are there millions in long-term recovery, but these individuals have also reported significant life improvements in recovery.
Research from NIH showed that over a 40 year period there were dramatic increases in well-being with sharp decreases in distress during the first six years of recovery. This same study also revealed that during the first year of recovery there were decreases in happiness and self-esteem, these rebounded significantly over the next few years. Additionally, data showed that 80% of those individuals in long-term recovery accomplished at least one major goal during this time. From graduating from college to buying a house and volunteering, these individuals reported not only accomplishing a significant goal but also increases in feelings of happiness and wellbeing as a result.
So while you may be sober and bored, it’s important to remember that there are millions upon millions of others also sober who choose to stay sober despite being bored in recovery. This consistent dedication to making staying sober their number one priority has led to significant life improvements and accomplishments.
If you’re bored in recovery try some of these tips and remember, it’s not uncommon to get bored in life whether you’re sober or not. And, more than anything else, keep staying sober as your number one goal and you’ll not only accomplish that but so much more.
If you or a loved one are in need of treatment for alcohol or substance abuse issues, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you. Not only does Futures offer specialized addiction treatment led by some of the best recovery professionals in the nation, but Futures also has a vibrant and active alumni group so you can stay engaged with others who are sober long past clinical treatment. Learn more about our programs online or call us at 866-804-2098.