Today, there are millions of people living with alcohol and substance use disorders. And while much attention is given to how many people have substance use disorders (SUD), not much attention is given to those who have overcome their alcohol use disorder and SUD and are in recovery. With more than 20 million people in recovery, the need for resources for this group has never been greater. 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 boring life. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are beginning to feel sober and bored in recovery, consider these ideas to keep your recovery journey on track!
Redefining Fun in Long-Term Recovery
When you think of your days in active addiction as “fun” and sobriety as a “drag,” you downplay the negative consequences of your substance abuse and disqualify the positive results of quitting, and you may begin to show the signs of early relapse. Sober and bored is nothing more than a mentality.
Research shows that when people expect to have fun, they usually have fun, and when they expect not to, they usually don’t. Cognitive-behavioral therapy during treatment and through your recovery program helps you learn to redefine fun and dash your misconceptions that using is “fun” and not using is not fun. Learn to think about fun and pleasure in a whole new way, and this will go a long way toward preventing a relapse.
Dangers of Sober and Bored Spare Time
Boredom and spare time are not beneficial to those in recovery and can lead to relapse. Boredom is considered the most common relapse trigger. It can lead to depression, irritability, anger, and isolation which can lead to an increase in cravings and thoughts of reusing.
The better way to look at boredom is that it is not a problem, it is, in fact, an opportunity. A chance to rediscover who you are and adjust to your changed circumstances.
Healing Power of Hobbies
Studies have shown that participating in hobbies and other fun leisure pastimes is associated with better health. The health benefits of having a hobby include:
- Enhanced sense of well-being
- Less depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased body fat
- Reduced risk for dementia in later life
When you’re recovering from an addiction, there may be other benefits as well. Hobbies help fend off stress and boredom, and they can give you a sense of purpose. As a result, they may reduce your risk of relapse. A word to the wise: It’s possible to go overboard, becoming so obsessed with a hobby that it starts interfering with the rest of your life. For example, you might spend so much time on a hobby that you slack off at work or neglect your family and friends. Or you might spend so much money on your hobby that you get into a financial bind. As with so many things in life, moderation is important.
Sober and Bored – Where to Find Enjoyment
Having fun in recovery may not come naturally right at first, but it won’t take long before you begin enjoying yourself, finding pleasure and fun in a variety of places. If you’re not sure how to go about having fun in recovery, consider the ways you used to have fun before you began using drugs or alcohol. Those activities may be worth a revisit.
Finding new hobbies is another way to ensure you’re having fun in recovery. What kinds of activities have you always thought you might enjoy? Now is the time to give them a try. You can also find out what your sober friends are into, and join them in their hobbies. Maybe you’ll discover a love for kayaking, or photography, or baking or sports.
Hobbies to Strengthen Your Sobriety
The reality is there are plenty of exciting things you can do with this newly available free time. Here are helpful hobbies that are not only fun, but that can also strengthen your sobriety and help you fight sober and bored as well.
The great thing about hobbies that involve physical activity is that they improve your level of fitness and general health – they also help to keep your weight under control. If you are not active in recovery, it can soon lead to symptoms of depression, low energy levels, obesity, illness, and a reduced life expectancy. Here are some of the active hobbies you might want to try now that you are sober:
- Walking is suitable for almost everyone and can improve your mood while reducing your risk of asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – it is recommended that you walk 10,000 steps a day to enjoy these benefits.
- Running is an easy activity to take up because all you really need is a decent pair of trainers.
- Swimming is an excellent form of exercise because it involves so many muscles while not putting pressure on the joints.
- Cycling is a nice way to explore the surroundings while keeping fit.
- Joining a gym offers an opportunity to socialize as well as improve fitness.
The inability to manage stress can be a real problem for those in early recovery. Relaxation hobbies offer a great way to unwind and improve your ability to deal with stress in the future. Some of the most popular activities in this category include:
- Mindfulness meditation does not only improve the ability to handle stress, but it has also been shown to be a powerful tool for dealing with addiction cravings
- Tai chi is a type of moving meditation as well as a martial art – it is perfect for those who do not like the idea of sitting down to meditate
- Yoga involves graceful stretches that improve health and help combat stress
- Minimalism is a way of life as well as a hobby. The idea is that reducing possessions simplifies life, thus reducing stress.
- Journal writing is an excellent way to let off some steam and feel more in control of life.
- Do volunteer work. There are many organizations that can use a helping hand. Visit VolunteerMatch.org to find organizations seeking volunteers. Type in a few words in the search box about your interests or choose from the categories listed on the website (Animals, Arts and Culture, Computers and Technology, Education and Literacy, Environment, Faith-based, Sports, etc.) You have the option of choosing between volunteering at a local organization or virtually.
Mentally Stimulating Hobbies
- Solve a puzzle. Mentally stimulating hobbies — such as solving crossword or Sudoku puzzles, playing chess or cards, reading or writing — help keep your mind sharp at any age. As you get older, research suggests that such hobbies may help protect your brain against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Open a sketchbook. Drawing, painting, sculpting and other visual arts offer a way to express feelings that might be difficult to put into words. Having an outlet for self-expression may ease stress and anxiety.
- Study a new language. Pick up language-training CDs at the local library or look for free websites and apps that can help you learn a foreign language. If you have already had some language training, you may want to start with something you are familiar with and build on it. Once you have gained some skill with a second (or subsequent) language, you can look at adding another one.
- Skill classes. Many people don’t realize they have untapped creativity waiting to be released, and art isn’t limited to paint and canvas. Cooking, crafting, woodworking, leather making, pottery, car restoration – the options are limitless!
Brainstorming Ideas and Questions To Ask
- What did you enjoy before your addiction?
- Are there any activities you abandoned that could bring you joy?
- Are there any activities you always wanted to try?
- What were your childhood interests? What made you stop?
- Do you have any role models? Why do you look up to that person?
- Use the internet to research new hobbies
- Ask friends and families what their hobbies are.
- Are there any local classes you are interested in?
- Could you volunteer your time for a good cause
Forget Sober and Bored – Have Fun and Enjoy Your Long Term Recovery!
Having fun in recovery reduces your risk of relapse. With these helpful tips you can beat sober and bored. The important thing is to stay open-minded and maintain a positive attitude. Give activities a chance, and give yourself a chance to have fun doing them. Eventually, you won’t feel that you need to drink or use drugs in order to have fun or enhance your fun. You may even begin to wonder if the “fun” you had while you were under the influence was really fun at all.