For many people in recovery, there comes a time when it all becomes so… boring. Yup. The meetings, the retreats, the group sessions, the therapy, the talking about it, the reading about it—the thrill…is gone. And with some time under your belt, the urgency to do whatever it takes to stay sober doesn’t seem as strong. Many people find that they no longer struggle with trying to stay clean, that it’s not even an issue, and that their old diligence starts to build resentment instead of satisfaction. I mean, think about all the hours devoted to sitting and talking about it all, think about all the hours meditating (or trying to), how much time it takes to drive or commute to and from meetings, how much money is spent on it all.
Wouldn’t you rather spend all that time and money on something more interesting like dining out or learning photography or a learning how to ski or going to France? I’m being glib, but you get the point. Sometimes recovery just seems so lifeless, so useless even. And when it does, it’s okay to take a step – or a few – back and reassess it all. Why is it useless? What is it not feeding? Why is it making you frustrated? What do you really need for it to work?
For some of us those questions become reasons to leave and leave in anger. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t leave in anger. Leave smartly. Or just open another door and find something that will make you feel excited again.
Maybe you’re bored with it because you outgrew it, because you just can’t take listening to the same readings and the same kinds of stories in meetings. That’s totally normal. We are creatures of routine but at the same time, routine can kill joy—and if there’s no joy in recovery, well, what is the point of it? you might start to think.
The point of it is that it is what you make it. It is actually your responsibility to not get complacent and bored. Think of marriage – you often hear about couples going through periods of dissatisfaction, even separation, after years of being together. The same couple who couldn’t stand not to be around each other suddenly can’t even sit in the same room. But if you listen to those who have been married for a long time, you’ll often hear that it’s getting through those periods and knowing that they will pass that makes long-term marriages successful. Or another alternative is to divorce and just start anew. Recovery is marriage. Stay in it and work at what used to work or leave it and find something new. Stagnation might lead to depression and who knows, maybe even a relapse…
Whatever works for you and whatever makes your sober life worth living is how your recovery needs to go. You’re not a child, so you know that there will be low points and boring points and there will be joy – nothing in life stays the same, stands still. The concept of Erosion and Renewal is familiar to some of you who study Eastern teachings. You cannot have one without the other. There is no summer without winter. And so on.
I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to leave the places that no longer serve you – even those 12-step meetings that still tend to stick to the message that leaving equals relapse (oh please). If you can’t commit to leaving, just take a sabbatical if you feel strong enough and have good support network. Do change it up. Maybe go to France. Learn photography. Get season tickets to the opera. And then, eventually, you’ll find yourself missing whatever you’ve found so boring and redundant just a few months ago. Or you’ll find yourself not missing it at all, at which point the world of new opportunities – finding recovery where it works for you – opens up. Talk to people who have left, join groups where you can talk about this stuff (Reddit is a good place to find topics that might be of interest), read stories online, ask me some questions, and don’t believe the hype (about the invetable relapse).
Your recovery is your recovery. We cannot all fit into the same box because, as much as we might have in common, we are also unique in our paths to sobriety. We are not all textbook cases, and you know as well as I do that life is way less boring than that.
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