I remember thinking at the age of 23, “If I stop drinking, what the hell am I supposed to do with my life?”. Well, I quickly learned that there is plenty to do while in recovery. A friend asked me the other day to write about what happens when we are bored, the risk of relapse. Another mentioned writing about the things we can do in recovery that are exciting or fun. So, here goes.
Life is all about the ebbs and flows. When I was brand new to the idea recovery and unable (or unwilling) to stay clean and sober, I was told something that I repeat to many people today, “Recovery is like a roller coaster. By the time you realize you want to get off the ride, you’re strapped in and ready to fly. All you can do is enjoy the ride.” This statement was true then and it’s true now. I want to step away all the time, but I’ve already made the commitment when my feet hit the floor this morning that I will stay clean and sober to the best of my ability with the help of a power greater than myself. So, for today, I enjoy the ride. The ups. The downs. Every thing in between.
So, let’s talk a little bit about being bored. When I first started going to 12 step meetings, I found myself bored quite a bit. I had recently moved back to my home town after being gone for about four years. I didn’t connect with any old friends when I came back because by this time, most of the people I “used to know” I had pushed away. I knew just enough about surviving addiction to know that a lot of the people and places that were a part of my life prior to those geographical changes were not going to be able to be a staple in my new world.
My day to day activities were average at best. I went to work, sometimes a meeting and I went home. I spent a lot of time at Tallgrass because I knew it was a safe place I could go visit and connect with some sort of peace that I had while I was there for treatment. I made a few new friends, but I never felt a part of anything. Keep in mind, during the first couple of years I was on the relapse merry go round. I could not grasp the idea that I had to change everything about my life in order to maintain spiritual health and sobriety.
Idle time allowed for the thoughts of addiction to rear its ugly head. With boredom came a lot of remorseful thinking. I would think about my past, become overwhelmed by my present and simply give up on any idea of hope to remain well. Once I began to understand the fellowship that accompanies 12 step meetings, my life began to change. I was invited to go to breakfast after Sunday morning meetings. Instead of saying, “No, thank you, I have plans (plans to go home and do nothing)”, I went. I made connections with people.
For me, it started out very, very simple. I made friends with a few more people and I would hang out with them individually. I had such a fear of being in a group setting that the anxiety riddled me with nausea and panic attacks. Slowly but surely, I began to open up and come out of my shell. Big crowds still aren’t my favorite, but I’m not afraid anymore. I have to step out of my comfort zone to experience the magic of life. It became clear to me that in order to remain well, not only did I have to attend meetings, but I had to plant myself into the fellowship. I started to have dinner, go on trips and simply just explore the life that was placed before me.
So, what do we do for fun? The list is endless, but the last year of my life has proved to me that we can make fun out of any situation. Last weekend, a couple of friends and I went to a benefit for Feeding South Dakota. A simple dinner that brings awareness and raises money for a great cause. I also attended a Volunteer Banquet, went to live local music at a small bar in town and spent time with friends. I bought a box of clay so I can play. I love art. I’m not good at it, but I practice. So, I do that a lot. We go running, for walks, participate in local events around town. A few weeks ago we went to bingo and bowling is on our list. I spent time reading again. Watching my nieces’ and nephew’s sporting events are huge.
All of these things are pretty low in cost and I can guarantee if I want to attend and do not have the funds, someone is there to help me participate. That’s what we do for each other. We all know that sometimes, especially in early recovery, we can’t afford to do everything we want to, but we also need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I remember when a friend paid for my breakfast one Sunday. I had been so withdrawn, so isolated, but she offered to buy me breakfast. I don’t like to owe anyone anything and I had a hard time accepting, but it was what I needed. The thing with our group of people, and I’m sure many others, is that we do the next right thing. Pay it forward is something I always take into account. I will help you out, if I can, and I don’t expect anything in return. Just pay it forward some day.
There are so many other things that we do, that we can fill our lives with. I am in school again. College is not for the weak when you are a non-traditional, thirty-something woman. It’s hard, but it keeps me busy. I get to balance homework, a full time job, and recovery. I am able to set goals and achieve them. I have experienced more in the last few years that I ever imagined possible. Every day is filled with an adventure and the ones that are not are filled with much needed down time. I have a list of things I want to do before my time here is up. Most of these experiences would have never crossed my mind in active addiction. We are given this one life, we are given an opportunity to experience the world around us in a whole new light. I always remind myself with a simple question I heard a long time ago… “Are you living, or do you simply exist?”