Boredom & Relapse Triggers
Have you ever heard the phrase “Idle hands are the devil’s tools”?
It has a sort of old-timey feel, doesn’t it? You don’t hear too many people dropping that sort of wisdom into casual conversation these days. Nevertheless, the old saying has a direct present-day application for people who are in recovery from a substance use disorder.
A more modern way to express the sentiment might be: “When you don’t have anything to keep you occupied and engaged, you are at risk of making bad decisions.”
Or to put it more succinctly: “Boredom is a threat to your sobriety.”
There Is Boredom…and Then There Is Boredom
We all get bored from time to time. Maybe the book you are reading or the show you are watching fails to hold your attention. Maybe the project you have to get done at work or at school is a slog. Maybe your friend is telling you the same story for the umpteenth time.
As a rule, this sort of everyday boredom is no big deal. You can put down the book, shut off the television, finish the project, and politely steer the conversation in a new, less tiresome direction. No big deal.
But sometimes boredom goes beyond momentary annoyance and starts to permeate your life. At this point, your hard-won sobriety may be at risk. How would this pervasive boredom make its way into your daily experience?
Let’s consider one possible scenario.
When the Dream Job Becomes More of a Snooze
Imagine you have just landed what you think is your dream job. You believe in the mission of the business, you are confident you can contribute to the work in a positive manner, and you are sure that the company’s culture will be a good fit for you. For quite some time—could even be for a number of years—you remain enthusiastic about the company and the work.
But over time, things might start to feel different to you. Maybe you think the company is mired in old ways of doing business. Or maybe you feel like you have accomplished all you can in your current position, but there is no clear path for advancement. Or maybe your coworkers—heck, maybe you yourself—are starting to have a more negative attitude around the office.
Long and short: The job you once found so exciting and rewarding has become boring and stifling.
And the thing about a job is that you spend a lot of time doing it.
So if that job is no longer fulfilling or challenging—that is, if the job has become boring—you might find that you are experiencing boredom much of the time. That feeling can be hard to deal with when it is unrelenting.
That is the point when the “idle hands”—that is, your sense of boredom—threaten to become the “devil’s tools.” And those tools can be the undoing of your sobriety.
Beating Boredom the Wrong Way
At some point, you might find that you would do just about anything to keep the doldrums of boredom at bay. If you’re in recovery, that might include turning back to drugs or alcohol as a way to overcome the negative emotions.
Now, of course, you have a problem bigger than boredom because you are headed toward a relapse. Fortunately, there is a better option for beating boredom.
Beating Boredom the Right Way
So, what can you do when you find yourself in the sort of situation we have described here? The key to beating boredom is to find a way to reignite your passions.
To stick with the work-related example we have been using here, reigniting your passion might mean looking for a new and engaging project, looking for reminders of what originally excited you about the job, or possibly even looking for a new job.
None of those things is necessarily easy or immediate, but they are important for your ongoing recovery. Truly feeling that your work is meaningful is a good antidote for beating boredom.
We Love Our Work Because We Love to Help
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we never tire of helping individuals regain and maintain their sobriety. We are devoted to personalized, compassionate, evidence-based care that provides resources, strategies, and support that can underpin your recovery. If you are ready to change the direction of your life, we are prepared to provide a roadmap—and we are committed to being an ongoing part of your journey.