I’ve been sober for four years, and for someone who’s just out of college, that makes me somewhat of a black sheep among my 20-something-year-old peers. One of my least favorite things to hear is: “I can’t imagine not drinking. I would just be so bored.”
Part of the reason this statement bothers me is because I used to think this way too. When I was actively drinking, and using other drugs, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to spend an evening alone with my thoughts or attend a social setting unable to dull my senses and feelings.
But I’m here to tell you two things:
- If you believe you might have a substance use issue of any type, do not ignore it.
- Being sober does not mean you are “boring.”
What you’ll find out early on in sobriety is not so much that it’s “boring,” but that you have a ton of additional free time on your hands. These periods of extra time can become dangerous and leave you prone to relapse if you don’t have other outlets to occupy yourself with. So, view these rediscovered, clearheaded moments as opportunities to explore old hobbies, find new interests and improve your wellbeing.
I’ve been finding healthy coping strategies to replace old patterns of behavior that led to excessive drug use. As someone who lives not only with addiction, but bipolar disorder and other comorbid conditions, it takes a lot of effort to find the right combination of strategies that leaves me feeling fulfilled.
Personally, I find creative output to be extremely rewarding. Activities like writing music, playing instruments and photography help keep my mind occupied and satisfied. Other people find hobbies such as knitting, gardening or painting to be equally worthwhile.
It’s also important to take care of your body. When I was using drugs, I developed unhealthy patterns of eating and exercising — or lack thereof — that caused my weight to change dramatically, leaving me feeling constantly fatigued and lethargic. These habits have been particularly challenging to overcome, especially since the psychiatric medications I take have side effects that impact energy, appetite and motivation. During difficult times I always remind myself: “baby steps.” It really helps keep things in perspective.
Start small, like going for a walk around the neighborhood, with the plan to one day try jogging. Set challenging, but obtainable, goals for yourself and stick to them. If you have the drive to push yourself a little bit harder (even if it’s just running an extra block or eating a protein bar instead of skipping breakfast), you’ll find that your stress, anxiety and physical fatigue will diminish.
Regardless of your past, you are in charge of your life, and you have the ability to make positive choices. Don’t let uninformed or misguided statements like “sobriety is boring” discourage you from pursuing a healthier, happier life. Be your own support system, find healthy things that make you happy, and if you do need extra help getting on the right track, there are many free community resources available throughout the country to help you.
Hunter Keegan is a musician and author with a day job. He holds a B.S. in psychology from Penn State and has previously worked in social services, nonprofit mentoring programs for at-risk youth and life coaching programs for adults with serious mental illness. He recently completed a book about bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction recovery to be published in Spring 2020. Find his full works at http://hhkeegan.com/ or connect with him @hhkeegan.
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