HOW TO MANAGE FREE TIME AND BOREDOM IN EARLY RECOVERY
Having just finished an internship in a very busy detox center, I feel the need to share some of the information I have learned throughout my two semesters there. The detox center I was at served clients who were detoxing from opiates or alcohol. I worked in the male unit and it was a very intense an interesting learning experience.
I met individually with clients and ran several groups during the day once I got my feet wet. I also interacted often with the clients during their free time and smoke breaks. These informal times are great ways to learn more about the people that you are working with.
Group time was fairly difficult with these clients. The clients I worked with often were homeless had very bad home situations, or had numerous run ins with the law. At this level, where I was at, clients did not have to go to group. The clients were also allowed to leave the room if they felt they could not sit there quietly. Thus, it was hard to have a really good group at times because the participation and attention of the audience varied widely. I had one group that I did every week that dealt with "having to much free time and boredom." This was the most successful group I ran and I usually got the guys to talk a lot about the subject.
TOO MUCH FREE TIME
Having to much free time and boredom is often cited by addicts as one of the reasons that they begin to relapse. The process of relapsing usually starts when the thought to use is constantly on the mind of the person who is in recovery. Clients who go to detox centers have serious addiction issues and often their whole life revolves around the drug lifestyle. I cannot tell you how many clients would tell me this. Their whole day would revolve around either hustling for the drugs, doing the drug, or recovering from the drug. This "cycle" goes on day after day.
Being addicted to a substance is like a full time job. Thus, when the substance user tries to quit, they can feel like they are in a unfamiliar or strange place. This is very normal. Normal to most of these clients would be deemed chaotic to a lot of other people. Stopping the drug cycle is like geting laid off from a job that you know and are comfortable with. It is like you say to yourself--"Now what?" Change is hard and we often fear the unknown or unfamiliar.
Why is having to much free time bad? Clients who have had some clean time would often cite that when they had to much free time they started to "get into their head" to much. Resentment, guilt of what they have done to themselves and family, shame and fear are some of the negative thoughts that would go through some of my client's minds. when a client would start to dwell on some of these thoughts the need to use would come into their mind. Thus, the possibility of going bavck to the way they were.
WHAT TO DO
Everybody is different so we all have to remember that. Everybody is going to maintain their sobriety in different ways.
Some people will go home after treatment and go back to full time jobs. Some people will go back to part-time jibs. While others, will have a huge amount of time on their hands. Either way, the need to fill up the free time and to not allow yourself to get into your head is there. So...What should we do?
Participate in mental and physically engaging activities!!! When we are participate in physical and mind engaging activities , our brains start releasing chemicals called endorphins. This "natural high" allows us to balanceoff the stress and anxiety we may be having in life. How do I knoiw what activities are good for me?
Revisit some of the activities that you used to like to do!!! Did you like to work out at some point in your life? Did you like to draw? What kind of hobbies did you used to have? These are some of the questions clients have to ask themselves to identify physical or mind enriching activities that they can start up again. What is a good way to remember some of the things I used to like to do?
Write a list!! I think it is good for the clients to write a list of some of the activities that they used to like to do. Thus, when a large period of time comes up with nothing to do they can remind themselves of some of the things that they used to like to do. Clients can also write a list about activities that they would like to try.
ACTIVITY BARRIERS AND SOURCES TO HAVE FUN
There are some barriers or conflicts of interest that could evolve when a person revisits an activity that they liked to do. could this activity in any way associate itself with your addiction? In other words--Did you like to play softball and then knock down a bunch of beers afterwards? Thus, in this situation, findiong a sober softball league would be the solution.
Finding sober activities- Going to AA or NA has worked for a lot of people to keep their sobriety. Among the many things these groups do is to develop friendships between its members. These groups are excellent sources of sober activities. Whether it be sober soft ball, sober dancing or any other kind of adventure their is always something for everyone.
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