Yawn…Or Boring A Hole Through Dullsville


Even these guys are bored of your sobriety

Even these guys are bored of your sobriety

“Boredom is rage spread thin” – Paul Tillich

I have sometimes heard of people early in their sobriety talk about the boredom that they encounter in their new sobriety. I recall hearing a man joke at a meeting about going back to drinking because there wasn’t anything exciting going on in his life.  I got the impression he was half-serious.   I also read it from newcomers on recover sites and other online forums, about this underwhelming feature in their lives, this prevailing feeling that life is no longer a made-for-TV movie, no longer fodder for rapid-fire water cooler exchanges and has come down to a level that makes Laura Ingalls seem like Lara Croft in comparison.

I do recall having that same feeling early on in my recovery.  I was still reeling from a detox and 21-day treatment, the separation from my family and a difficult transition to a (temporary) life on my own.  I also had no job to speak of, or even job prospects.  I was stuck with me all day, and I didn’t like my travel partner much.  So there wasn’t a lot going on – no projects to tackle, no familial obligations to schedule, no work overtime to keep my hours accounted for.  Just me and my recovery.

One initial problem most alcoholics have when they sober up is the dreaded “What now?”  Deprived (or at least at first it seems like deprivation) of our pastime, our constant companion, our way of life, we seek to build a life unanchored to the thing that once centered us, or that we centered around.  We measured out our lives in shots and pints, but then our meter stick had been removed.   The very fabric of our emotional state, even thought it was threadbare and in tatters, was still our tatters.  And we were asked to start clean.  Not easy.

You didn't get one of these either when you got sober?

You didn’t get one of these either when you got sober?

Alcoholics tend to look at things through filters.  And the biggest filter we viewed our drinking through was that alcohol was fun.  F-U-N.  And it almost always starts that way.  Hanging out with friends, parties, drinks on the patio, a fine Sauvignon with dinner, champagne on New Year’s Eve, etc. were ways we associated joviality with booze.  And sure, many of us conquered certain fears, felt comfortable in our bodies, saw ourselves connected to others and were able to be ourselves while hoisting our beverages.  But it lasted only a short time, and as we continued into our descent in alcoholism, those fun times got shorter, and the problems started.  As the fun times shrunk, the damage in our lives swelled exponentially.  But contrary to the the evidence, we still looked at alcohol as a gateway to those good times.  And even in early sobriety, many of us found ourselves gazing past the hospital visits, the jail cells, the divorces, the bankruptcies, the legal troubles, the broken bodies, the crushed spirits and the muddled minds to that focal point of  “Remember when we could come out and play.”  The fun times.  No boredom then, right?

It reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer decides that he will no longer involve himself in hijinks – the very essence of the show.  He starts to live a normal, decent life.  Marge, the ultimate co-dependent and co-enabler of all time, finds her life boring now that Homer is on the straight.  This prompts her to find her own level of craziness and eventually, Homer “relapses” and jumps back on the insanity train with her.  Of course, that’s a sitcom, but it made me think of how it is when we cease and desist our drinking ways.   There is that initial let down of insane thinking, followed by relief.  But then a sense of ennui sets in, as nothing happens.  Or nothing seems to happen.  Just being happens.  And being frightens alcoholics, as that is where the initial problem stems from.  We never liked being with ourselves.

be_yourself_by_xerces-225x300

So what do we do?  How do we deal with this restlessness, this listlessness, this tedium?  What do we do for fun now?  This is where we swing in different directions.  Some dive, unknowingly,  into other addictions – food, exercise, sex, gambling, etc.  Others slowly find their way back to old hobbies or explore new ones.  But most suffer because there is this still this lingering notion that alcohol was, and still could be, fun.  And we know that is not the case.  But we look outside and see others in that same place we used to be oh so long ago – reaping the rewards we now have burned to the ground. That elusive state of pleasure seeming to be inexorably linked to drinking. And we fear making the leap of faith that all will work out, that we won’t crumple up because our friends are having cocktails at the beach as we swirl the straw in our Diet Shasta.

So we just tell ourselves that life will be boring, that we will no longer experience joy or explosive moments of elation or quiet contentment.  We will be spinsters and chambermaids and Amish farmers.  We will be resigned to collecting kitten-themed socks as a thrilling hobby and discuss the latest potato prices with the widowers down at the Legion Hall.

We are not a glum lot.

We look at firefighters as living exciting, productive lives, worthy of hunk-a-month calendar status, and yet we put ourselves down because we aren’t dashing around like we’re in an Errol Flynn movie.  For the longest time, I did nothing but just do recovery work.  I didn’t look to anything pleasurable, as part of me didn’t feel I was worthy of having an enjoyable life, considering the pain and suffering I brought on.  Guilt guarded the gateway to joy.  It was through working the steps and getting through self-forgiveness and gaining self-worth that I was able to see that I was allowed happiness.  I was allowed to enjoy what life had to offer.  I could contribute and find fun in the things that others do, and have peace about it.  I cannot lash myself for life.  It’s wasted time and energy.

My life is rich with the rewards that come from being recovered.  Try talking to any alcoholic with some time behind them, but you will need to book an appointment first.  They’re busy people.  We have learned to enjoy life again, slowly but surely.  We make the transition in increments.  We feel our way through the dark to a place of light, of sharpness to softness, of pain to serenity.  But it takes time and effort.  But we get there.  There is hope.

The way I see it, we don’t have to be roaring around on fire engines to have an exciting life, saving lives.  We do it ourselves all the time. We do it in helping other alcoholics.  We do it by reaching out and lending a hand to someone who is suffering.  We do it by going to meetings, or sharing our experiences, or talking to newcomers.  We do it by writing on our blogs or responding to emails from someone who is hurting and doesn’t know where to turn.  We do it by extending ourselves, our love, our compassion, our ability to identify with someone who is still vibrating and shaking from detox.  We do it by buying a drunk a coffee.  We do it by telling our story.  We do it by helping someone through the work.  We save lives.  Every single day.  We save lives…we are life savers.

How boring is that?

lifesaver

16 responses to “Yawn…Or Boring A Hole Through Dullsville

  1. I was reading some bios of some famous, brilliant people today.

    Musical geniuses.

    Alcoholics.

    Genius and alcoholism seem to go hand in hand in some cases. I wondered if we would have ever heard their music, or if it would ever have existed, if they hadn’t been alcoholics.

    The suffering. The genius.

    The artist.

    The alcoholic.

    • Hi Teresa – very groovy look at the connection between art and suffering. I am certainly no expert in this area, but I am sure we would hear more music and read more literature if our artists also didn’t die from this horrible disease, long before their time.

      Sobering thoughts indeed.

      Thanks for swinging by – hope to see you again 🙂

      Paul

  2. There is so much truth in the fear that many alcoholics have about giving up drinking – that life will be dull. I was very fortunate to go through a brilliant rehab that smashed the rose-tinted glasses of the drinking past and helped me to adjust to living life without alcohol.

    For me the biggest fear came from having used alcohol as a confidence booster. I assumed that once I gave up drink I would have no social life or friends because they wouldn’t want to know the real me. But what I found in sobriety was new friends, new interests and more importantly a new me!

    And it sounds ridiculous now but I did assume that everyone drank to have a good time. It was such a revelation to me to realise that many people don’t have to drink every day or every weekend. I love how you demonstrate the freedom that there is to be had in long term sobriety. It shows that by giving up drinking you have nothing lose but so much to gain.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Carolyn, I apologize to all in general for the lateness in getting back to these awesome replies. Anyway, what you said about you not having a social life after stopping drinking is something I certainly identified with. I too assumed everyone who drank were having way more fun than I was. And it certainly can happen, but it’s not part and parcel. Drinking was no fun for me any more, that’s for sure. Fear drove me then, and it can still drive me now. But at least I can recognize them, and use the spiritual toolkit to counteract what my ego and my illness want to do or think.

      Love having you here…thank you.

      Paul

  3. I help in a small way by running my local area AA website – it lists about 40 local meetings in my county. I’ve just run off some google analytics reports – about 20 people a day, most first time visitors, most searching for a meeting, most hit page the meetings list.

    I often consider my life very humdrum and boring – however who knows if just one of those people has been saved from a drink through my service how brilliant is that – I’m grateful to use my skills to carry the message

    • I think what you do Graham is the furthest thing from boring. Doing service in your area and helping others is far from dullard’s work. Your music is fantastic, so that certainly isn’t drab. I’ve heard it. Carrying the message is so important to me (hence my moniker), and sometimes just doing that saves me from what I call a boring day. I am not Mr. Excitement, but if I can help someone, like you help others, then it’s been a good day.

      Thanks for your comments – lifted my spirits. Like your songs.

      Paul

  4. Oh Paul this is so awesome I’m about to go back and read it again. No, really, I am. You nailed it. This is really helpful to me with my issues around drinking and “fun”.

    Recovery CAN be a lot more fun than drinking ever was, clearly, and there is nothing more boring than a repetitive drunk or suffering from a hangover – yet again. We just have to rethink our idea of what “fun” actually is.

    Thank you for your great insight as always.

    Lilly xo

    • I thank you for what you said about rethinking our idea of what “fun” is – I think we get caught up in our old ideas of what fun is supposed to be, rather than redefining it. For some ,it’s just not having that hangover or feeling of remorse the next day. For others, it’s learning new skills or meeting new people, trying new things out.

      Very cool comments, as usual, Lilly.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  5. For me, when I first started coming around, when people in the rooms would talk along the lines of “we aren’t a glum lot,” I would mentally (hopefully) roll my eyes and have some very caustic mental retorts. Probably some person new to sobriety did the exact same thing as they read this beautiful post. It’s just so difficult to imagine a free-spirited life without spirits when we are new to recovery!

    Here’s an addendum I would add: for me, it’s not necessarily that life all of a sudden became filled with exciting new adventures. Excluding recovery activities, if you look at my life now, and compare it with my life in active addiction, the activities are remarkably similar: kid functions, TV watching, making meals, housework, and so on. In the beginning, it was abhorrent for me to consider doing these activities without the companion of a mind-altering substance.

    But here’s the deal: work through the pain, and on the other side? All of those seemingly mundane activites actually become gifts from God! Sounds hokey, but it’s true… when I sit down with my husband at the end of a productive day to watch a show we recorded, I am so filled with elation, it is almost ridiuculous to admit. It’s not that life changes, it’s your attitude towards your life.

    And that is a bona fide miracle!

    • I wish I had written that…lol. But I do…because it’s so very true. My life was in many ways similar – chores, work, kids, etc. I wasn’t hand gliding over the Great Wall of China every day nor was I solving mysteries from a van. But I had the alcohol somewhere in the mix, and that made things chaotic. But it’s not hokey what you say. I too was watching TV tonight with my family (a rare thing for me to watch TV) and I was full of gratitude as well. I really enjoyed it. Cue the rolling eyes. Amazing what recovery brings us.

      And it brought YOU here. Thank you.
      Paul

  6. Fabulous…just fabulous! YEP – it is really hard to get past the sober = boring phase. Alcohol is everywhere. We see our friends having cocktails in their beach pictures on Facebook, and we hear folks at work saying they “can’t wait until 5 o’clock”. My favorite phrase in your post – the last sentence. “It’s not that life changes, it’s your attitude towards life.” What a great reminder!!! Virtual cheers with Diet Shastas 🙂

    • Do they even make Diet Shasta any more? I’ve actually never had one before. Any good? But yeah, it’s hard at first with the no booze = no fun kind of equation floating in our head, but then I found that shifting my perspective of what boring actually entails, then I found that I didn’t have to be bored or have a boring life, because *I* am not boring. I was a boring guy and that meant my life was boring…with the drink. I have the ability to change that now. And change it i will 🙂

      Thanks and cheers with the Diet Shastas!

      Paul

    • Ha ha…you made me laugh for real when I read your reply. It’s funny how you’ll have something on the brain and then poof! it’s on someone’s blog? I love when that happens to me. You made my day when I read your comments…thanks for them. 🙂

      Paul

  7. AWESOME post, Paul. Like Lilly said, redefining fun is key. I mean, literally re-programming your brain, at least for me. I have trouble finding real joy in things, not simply telling myself they’re fun. I have trouble wanting, truly, to do anything; it’s like, I don’t see any reward worth having aside from wine. I know this is my alcoholism talking, and I hope that my brain can recover, but it’s a long, hard road, for me anyway. I can tell myself over and over again that this is fun, or that is fun; and, YES, I will and do go through the motions, but deep down, nothing yet motivates me like the “reward” of wine. I see it changing, but not fast enough. Thanks for this post; golden! xx

    • I wish I could tell you otherwise to what you wrote. It really does take time. I am still getting through that at times too. Sometimes I really had to fake it until I made it. But the thing I realize is that joy doesn’t have to be a burst of fireworks. That is how I thought it needed to be when I drank. Go big or go home. But joy is something that is not always going to be HUGE stuff. I find joy in small things and joy is sometimes small and fits in the palm of my hand. but it’s still joy, isn’t it? One day you are going to be doing something you think sucks or you don’t want to do perhaps and then poof! you are going to catch yourself smiling and realizing “shit, this IS fun!” and then that will be a breakthrough. That happened to me many times, and still does. And of course, not everything is going to be a joy, period. Speaking of, I have to make a dentist appt…lol. But then again, I can be grateful for having dental insurance, etc. We can always flip things, can’t we??

      Thanks DDG – love seeing ya here.

      Paul

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