Restlessness and boredom are my two top reasons to drink, but I don’t drink or use drugs anymore, so how do I manage these daunting experiences? I remember my first month in sobriety; how miserable I felt. Everyday seemed eternal; each minute like a piece of sand pushing through a clogged hourglass. It was fricken brutal, but I knew it was going to pass because all the laid back AA people with smiles on their faces told me that they’d been through the same thing, and now they were all out flying kites and singing Mary Poppins songs together… or something. They were happy, so I was pretty certain that I’d be happy too if I could just get through the beginner’s monotony.
I got through it alright, and I felt pretty amazing after it passed; relieved and excited that there was life beyond my foggy brain. It’s been two and a half years and I certainly do not feel boredom like I used to. I’ve come to a better place where I am really comfortable with myself, but this took a lot of time and patience. I found myself bored a lot in the beginning, and my first impulse was to go out and have some fun. I had a lot of sober friends at the time, so this is what we did. We did karaoke, built campfires, went dancing, and watched movies together. I even casually dated, not trying to get involved seriously, but just to fill the void of being alone. This was all ok in the beginning, but there was a lot of discomfort with being sober while trying to have fun. Dancing sober the first few times was nerve racking. Sex was no better, and sometimes no matter what I was doing, I still felt like there was a piece of dingy glass between me and the rest of the world. For the longest time, I couldn’t shake it, yet I trusted that there would come a time when I felt comfortable and connected. I simply trusted this, because there was no way I was going to drink again. I just had to plug through it no matter what.
I decided to sit with the boredom, and write a few books. I found a lot of peace in going to meetings, hiking, writing, and just slowing down to figure out who I was in my sobriety. I was certainly not the same high strung person with a need to party all the time. Perhaps I just needed time to myself, to get to know this person who I ran away from many years prior. After all, being bored was better than being hung over and full of shame.
As far as restlessness goes, it does pass. In the beginning, I wanted to cause havoc just to rid myself of the restlessness, but I was luckily in treatment, so I had immediate consequences to face when I screwed with the rules. After treatment, however, I found myself restless at times, and manic. I made all these plans to run off to Hawaii with a guy I didn’t know, then talked it through with some of my peers and felt pretty embarrassed afterward. I realized then, that anytime I made plans, I should always tell someone about them to see if they were a little strange, or self-destructive. I was one of the ones in the group who took longer to “get a clue.” I was still determined to self-destruct without a drink or a drug. It was simply my habit. It took a while to break, but after a few minor consequences, I finally “got a clue,” and stopped acting out whenever I felt restless.
Here it is a couple years later, and I rarely feel restless, but it does overcome me at times. My addict mind still wants me to pour a drink in my body, or ease myself with drugs, but I tell it to shut the f*ck up. I don’t buy into the lies anymore. Like every other emotion, this too shall pass. We aren’t stuck in any emotion, eternally. Sometimes it takes a day, or two… maybe even three, but I hang in there. Meetings help. Talking to someone about it helps. Being of service definitely helps. Usually when the restlessness passes, I feel incredible; like the sun is shining on me after a long winter. It is SO worth sitting still; even welcoming it into my experience so that it has no space to take over. Resistance of these experiences only prolongs them.
People always ask me how long they should expect to feel this way, or how long did it take me to feel “normal?” My answer is this… “How long are you going to resist your experiences in sobriety?” Just be present and aware of what is taking place emotionally, and simply do not buy into it. Don’t act on it. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t listen to it. Hang out with people in the rooms who have a few years or more in sobriety, and know that one day you will be out flying kites and singing Mary Poppins songs too (figuratively speaking of course)!
The other thing I highly recommend, is to ask your higher power for HELP. It used to take me until I was at the brinks of despair to ask for help from the universe, but now I find myself asking all of the time, because it works; often immediately. Don’t be afraid or too prideful to ask for help. And while you’re sitting with yourself in your boredom and restlessness, it’s a great time to reflect and get to know yourself a little better. Observe where your old behaviors would take you, or where your mind travels when you become restless, but do not act on it. The more you practice this, the stronger your habit will become to remain sober, no matter what!