Life Is Boring When Sober – or is it?
The monks of old called it the noon-day devil.
It’s simultaneously breathtaking and soul-crushing.
It’s breathtaking because as a society we have so many resources that overwhelmingly meet our basic needs, that most of us pop beach chairs on this plateau and call it a day.
It’s soul-crushing because not only does it oppress potential but it’s likely one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare famously wrote “Life is neither good nor bad but your thoughts make it so.”
But man, wait until you hear his thoughts about life:
Life just feels too long, slow, dull, tiresome and monotonous.
What could wet the alcohol appetite more than that shit storm?
Truthfully, all forms of evolution follow what John Dupuy calls “the plateaus then progress phenomenon.”
I’d argue that if you are bored and at the same time aware of it, you’re on your way to a burst of newness and a momentous leap forward.
Sober And Bored: The Power Of Vulnerability
To be honest about your boredom, particularly in recovery can be teeth on wool, at least the anticipation that the collective response will be unfavorable.
But everyone gets bored.
It’s either because you’re overstimulated and restless because your brain and body are uneasy, dissatisfied, and uncomfortable with doing nothing.
Equivalent to transitioning a child from kids youtube to a classroom. That’s a setup for failure – it’s not ADHD, it’s overstimulation and they’re bored as all hell.
Or…it’s because you live in such an advanced society that all of your needs are met to such an extent that you literally can sit, ponder, and conceptualize.
Unproductive conceptualization is just anxiety clashing with ambition…ladies and gentlemen, welcome boredom!
Tack on years of using a substance to chase this feeling away and you have defcon 1 level stress.
If you don’t get honest about this lingering phantom and continuously call yourself out on it, then you’re setting yourself up – just like the youtube to classroom conundrum.
You might be thinking to yourself that my ideas are gibberish, that truthfully it’s just not natural for you to be calm and serene.
Like some athletes or musicians are naturals, in like manner, you ain’t one.
I don’t think anyone is really a natural, but that’s another discussion.
The truth of the matter is that equanimity will likely be out of reach while your attention is consumed with bending the world to your will.
You need to exert your will to practice.
Mozart wasn’t born a musical whiz kid. His father militantly instructed him and he practiced endlessly.
Tiger Woods wasn’t a natural golfer. His father groomed him into a professional golfer from a young age and the boy’s relentless practice made it a reality.
Boredom is two parts unrealized potential and one part a disidentification with oneself.
It’s combatted, therefore, by exercising potential and getting to know yourself.
Below are the 5 precise means I accomplish this end.
Sobriety Boredom Clobbering Club #1 – Learn Something New
This is obvious.
I think most of us struggle with motivation.
We just don’t desire to learn new things.
Experience always precedes interest.
Hence the modern truism “don’t knock it before ye try it!”
All kidding aside.
There are a host of things you’ve never done (healthier things!).
Go do them.
You’ll never know the endless rewards this life has to offer if you idly stand by and wait for it.
For example, I’ve always enjoyed writing. So, I started to pick up freelance writing jobs on the side – it kept me busy, I enjoyed myself, and earned some dough!
Not too shabby.
This however led to learning how to design websites, copywriting, advertising, and networking.
The domino effect!
One thing naturally leads to another.
Not only am I having fun but I’m never bored and I’m making a living.
Can I get an amen?
Sobriety Boredom Clobbering Club #2 – Go Exploring
This is a big one in my household.
Yet, society as a whole has curbed this type of behavior.
Most exploration now is down YouTube rabbit holes and informational overloads via Wikipedia.
The dirt seems void of our boot prints.
What a scandal!
One practice we use is to google search “unusual and fun things to do in small town USA.”
It actually shocked us to discover all the adventure’s in our little town we didn’t even know existed!
We do this now wherever we go. It’s a blast.
Sobriety Boredom Clobbering Club #3 – Meetings
People often rag on meetings (AA, NA, CA, whatever), but don’t let pride do a number on you.
We are social beings from top to bottom.
You can try to deny it but you’ll end up using language to do it and what principle could language serve if it weren’t for the sophisticated nuances of living in a group?
It’s self-defeating to refute it!
I only make this remark because it helped me realize how desperately I need others.
I not only needed to learn to communicate better but that I needed to stop isolating!
Personally, I meet this demand by going to church, getting involved in community outreach (soup kitchens, homeless shelters, clothing pantries), and going to tons of meetings.
It has enabled me to forge genuine and healthy relationships. The feeling to have individuals count on me and to have people I can’t count on is euphoric.
Plus, I get to meet new folks and can help them get over their struggles.
There is no better feeling in the world.
Sobriety Boredom Clobbering Club #4 – Service Work
I alluded to this in the paragraphs above, but service work is the ultimate boredom buster.
I had a teacher that used to comment, “Boredom is the inability to see past yourself, there is a world in need!”
There is an endless amount of service work that you can dig your hands into.
Just Google your local town with the keyword “volunteer work.”
Then, most importantly, go do it!
Sobriety Boredom Clobbering Club #5 – Journaling
Journaling is a fan favorite in my household.
All of my kids have individual journals that have a variety of prompts to assist them.
The journal helps me monitor my goals and my progress.
I also frequently write poetry that helps me express myself more fully and, of consequence, better understand myself.
People always remark that they “stuff their feelings” and “put them on the back burner.”
The truth is that’s impossible. Feelings always express themselves. The only caveat is that you determine their expression or they express themselves at the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong people, and in the wrong way.
You can either express from a resourceful or unresourceful state. The choice is yours. I choose a resourceful one, so I journal.
Sobriety Boredom Clobbering Club (THE ULTIMATE!) – Deep Breaths
This one isn’t just a boredom buster, it’s the key to transition from “surviving mode” to “thriving mode.”
Dr. Daniel Siegel, the author of Mindsight, thinks of life as a river. To safely and optimally navigate the waters one must avoid the shores of rigidity on one side and chaos on the other.
Ridgid is very cognitive and rational. It’s dogmatic and all about the “rules.” It’s ridden with guilt, inferiority, and incompetence to perform well enough to meet expectations (Siegel says this represents the left hemisphere of the brain).
Chaos is very emotional and instinctual. It’s based upon whim and feeling; being largely impulsive and erratic. On these shores there is no peace, just chasing after the next thing that might deliver it. And guess what? It never delivers. (Siegel notes that this represents the right hemisphere of the brain).
To optimize and integrate your brain, with both hemispheres operating in balance, one must float downstream bouncing between the two shores.
One of the best ways to begin this process is to reset your nervous system (it gets your raft off whatever shire you’ve been stranded on).
The breath is the best entry point to this factory reset (rest and digest mode or the healing function of the autonomic nervous system). Additionally, you cannot just practice it when you’re panicking or when shit hits the fan and expect it to work. In order for it to achieve real results, it needs to be practiced daily.
I use 5-7 breathing and box breathing.
5-7 breathing is to breathe in for 5 seconds and exhale for 7. It’s vital the exhales be longer than the inhales; the other way around will send you into fight or flight, which is incredibly unhelpful.
Box breathing is breathing around the 4 sides of a box. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds, then continue the process of going around the box.
Alternate between 5-7 breathing and box breathing. It will help you gain mastery over your nervous system.
Not only will it subdue boredom, but it will subdue addiction and anything else life throws your way.
The daily grind of just surviving ends today. It’s time to thrive!
That’s all she wrote folks. Having over a decade sober has taught me to explore endlessly.
I get to explore myself, my body, my people, and my world. No longer am I imprisoned. The keys of exploration and boredom busting are endless. I hope you enjoyed my 5.