“I love being bored,” said no one ever. Boredom can be dangerous in recovery. The reasons people start drinking alcohol is very different than the reasons they continue to drink alcohol. Boredom and isolation are known relapse triggers for people with substance use disorders. An important way to safeguard your sobriety is to be aware of this and take steps to mitigate it.
It doesn’t help that although alcohol may be the world’s most commonly accepted drug, it’s also regularly left off the list of drugs that negatively impact people’s lives. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death behind tobacco and obesity, yet its impact is often minimized by those directly affected by it, and it continues to be widely accepted in our culture. When you’re triggered by experiences like boredom or isolation, the accessibility of alcohol makes it that much harder to refrain from drinking to cope with these difficult feelings.
The average individual tends to rate/categorize substances based on their effects and the way they are ingested. Alcohol tends to operate beneath the threshold due to its wide cultural acceptance and its central focus in celebrations. The message communicated within our society to people from a young age is “drinking is fun and makes everything better.”
Anyone who has experience with someone with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) understands the grip it can have over all areas of an individual’s life. Despite knowing their drinking behavior is causing problems, they cannot fathom managing life without it. Many people with AUDs dismiss negative experiences as “bad luck,” or, “It was a one-time thing; I know what to do next time.” As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it: “Insanity is not doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results; insanity is doing the same thing over and over again knowing full well what the results will be.”
There is a strong relationship between boredom, stress, and drug or alcohol use. It’s therefore no surprise that during the pandemic, the rate of alcohol consumption increased among people that reported COVID-19 related stress. The pandemic has been here and, at the time of this writing, is continuing to keep our world in a state of flux. This puts those who have formed an attachment to alcohol in a very vulnerable position.
We often hear in our program that people’s relationship with alcohol became increasingly problematic, or they gained awareness into just how much they were drinking when COVID-19 shifted their day-to-day lives. Alcohol can be in a unique position of being both the solution to and the cause of pain. Yet, no matter how much pain it causes to the individual or family, alcohol is one of the most difficult substances to remove.
5 Ways to Stop Drinking Out of Boredom
It can be hard to quit drinking or remove alcohol from your life when you think about your everyday stresses and pressures. Boredom and stress are two large triggers that can be challenging to navigate in recovery. To set yourself up for success, here are some steps you can take that support your recovery when you feel bored – and overall:
#1 Remove Alcohol and Substances From Your Home
When you eliminate all alcohol and addictive substances from your living space, you give yourself the opportunity to experience the thoughts and emotions associated with substance use without acting on them in a way that harms your recovery. This is one of the easiest ways to stop drinking out of boredom
#2 Keep a List of Supportive Contacts
Always have a list of people that support your recovery available. This provides quick access to those who empower you on your recovery journey. Surrounding yourself with people that support you can help alleviate possible remnants of guilt and shame from past behaviors.
#3 Make a Schedule to Structure Your Days
Predictable plans lead to predictable behavior. Unstructured time leads to unpredictable behaviors, which are problematic in recovery.
#4 Connect With a Support Group Regularly
Find a support group and make contact with them regularly. This consistent connection will help foster healthy relationships in recovery with people who can support you and what you’re going through in the present moment. Losing relationships to the substance can be challenging but anchoring to others in recovery can be the very thing you need to feel worthy of recovery.
#5 Stay Physically Active
Take care of your body by staying active. Exercise is a powerful way to rebuild your body in recovery and a healthy coping skill. It’s a way to care for yourself by committing to a practice that releases positive, mood-enhancing endorphins and alleviates stress. Finding a new activity and hobby such as working out can provide something to look forward to each day.
Boredom and stress are two emotions that can feel as if they are never going to leave. However, as the saying goes, this too shall pass. Valuing and prioritizing yourself in recovery can be a powerful way to remove the hold alcohol has on you.
– Justin Wolfe, LCPC, CADC, CRC, PCGC
Looking for Help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use, we can help. Footprints to Recovery offers alcohol addiction treatment that’s evidence-based and personalized to your clinical needs, preferences, and life situation. We don’t just treat the symptoms of addiction; we address underlying issues like co-occurring mental health conditions and trauma that perpetuate substance use. We’ll also teach you healthy coping skills that support long-term abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Recovery is hard work, but we think you’ll find it’s well worth it. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.