This article was written by James Malervy and published by RCA.
Boredom can be a scary concept for anyone, but it’s even scarier for those in recovery. They may worry that without drugs or alcohol to keep them entertained; they will have nothing to fill their free time. However, finding constructive and fun activities in sobriety is essential for maintaining long-term recovery.
This article will explore the link between boredom and relapse and provide tips for curing boredom in recovery.
Understanding Boredom and Relapse
Boredom can be a common relapse trigger for those in recovery, especially in the earliest stages. That’s because drugs and alcohol change how the brain works. The human brain releases dopamine to reward behavior and encourage one to reinforce it.
For example, exercising or enjoying a nice meal will release dopamine to reinforce the action. The same applies to drugs or alcohol. But the problem with the latter is they are unnatural. They flood the brain with dopamine and produce strong feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and pleasure. Over time, the brain gets used to the artificially high dopamine level, and you must keep using more to achieve the desired feeling.
This is what makes early recovery tough. Lower dopamine levels may make your day-to-day actions less exciting or rewarding. Lower rewards make normal behaviors less appealing, leading to boredom. When you are feeling bored, you may start to reminisce about your good times with drugs or alcohol.
These thoughts can lead to cravings, which can quickly escalate into relapse. Boredom can also lead to complacency, as you may begin to take your sobriety for granted and believe that you are no longer at risk of relapse.
Being bored can lead to other regretful decisions, which can impact physical health, mental health, and recovery. These decisions include:
- Overspending money trying to chase the excitement, fun, or connection
- Taking part in risky or illegal behavior like theft or even gambling
- Spending time with negative influences
- Having risky sexual encounters with others
- Relapse and overdose, especially since the brain loses its tolerance to the substance after a period of quitting
How to Overcome Boredom in Addiction Recovery
After months or years of engaging in addictive behaviors, finding purpose and excitement in everyday life can be difficult. Here are some smart recovery tips to help you cultivate a fulfilling and meaningful life in sobriety while avoiding the pitfalls of boredom and relapse.
Find a New Hobby or Passion
Explore sober activities that interest you and give you a sense of fulfillment. It could be anything from painting or playing a musical instrument to cooking or gardening. The key is to find something that brings you joy and allows you to express your creativity – and in some cases, forces you out of your comfort zone. By engaging in a new hobby or passion, you not only fill your spare time with meaningful activity but also boost your self-esteem and gain a sense of accomplishment.
Volunteer in the Community
Another great way to overcome boredom in addiction recovery is to volunteer in your community. Not only does volunteering give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment, but it also helps you connect with others and positively impact your community. You can volunteer at a local shelter, food bank, or community center or get involved with an important cause. Giving back to others gives you a sense of perspective and gratitude, which can help maintain a positive outlook on life.
Engage in Physical Exercise and Outdoor Activities:
Exercise is widely recognized as a natural mood booster and can help combat boredom or depression. Outdoor sports activities such as hiking, biking, and swimming can also provide an opportunity to connect with nature and experience new challenges.
Connect with Others in Recovery
Connecting with others in recovery can provide you with a sense of camaraderie, understanding, and accountability. Consider attending group meetings offered by support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, where you can describe your experiences and receive support from others experiencing similar struggles. In addition, you can also connect with others in recovery through online communities or social media groups. When you surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your goals, you can feel less alone and more motivated to stay sober.
Learn a New Skill or Take a Class
Learning a new skill keeps your mind active and engaged, providing a sense of purpose and accomplishment. You can learn a new language, take a cooking class, or enroll in a course at a local community college. When you challenge yourself to learn something new, you build your confidence and expand your knowledge base, which can help create a fulfilling life in sobriety. It also provides a great opportunity to connect with others with similar interests.
Travel and Explore New Places
Taking the opportunity to travel and discover new places can be a great way to break out of your routine and discover new experiences. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; can provide a change of scenery and stimulate your senses.
Traveling can also help you gain a new perspective and appreciate the world. It’s important to remember that traveling in recovery may come with its own set of challenges, such as navigating triggers or finding supportive resources in unfamiliar locations. Planning and staying connected with your support network can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
The practice of mindfulness involves being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can help you stay focused on the present and appreciate the small moments in life. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few deep breaths and centering yourself when you feel overwhelmed or bored.
You can also incorporate mindfulness into everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, or walking. When you’re present in these activities, you can find peace and fulfillment in the present moment. Mindfulness also helps you recognize triggers that may lead to relapse, such as stress, anxiety, or negative emotions. This way, you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and learn to manage them healthily, reducing the risk of relapse.
It’s important to recognize that recovery is a lifelong journey. Even after the initial stages of recovery, you must continue to grow and change to maintain your sobriety. Boredom can signify that it’s time to shake things up and try something new. When you push yourself to explore new opportunities, you can continue to grow and stay engaged in your recovery. But if you’re having difficulty keeping up, it can be a good idea to seek professional help.
At Recovery Centers of America, we offer a range of programs for substance use disorders and mental health conditions. We also have programs for those in recovery. From addiction treatment to aftercare and alums programs to weekly events and meetings, we are committed to helping you every step of the way.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help and support! Our team of professionals is dedicated to providing personalized and evidence-based care to meet your unique needs and support your long-term recovery goals. We understand that the journey to recovery can be challenging, but we are here to guide and support you every step of the way.