‘Boredom’ – what is it exactly….?

I’m interested in the concept of boredom … particularly how it relates to boozing & sobriety. I always used to say that I drank because I was bored. And without a doubt one of the most difficult things for me in getting sober has been learning how to just ‘be’ with a wide-open brain.

Is this me learning how to combat boredom or is it something deeper? Is it a problem I have being alone with my thoughts and at peace with myself?  I’ve been pondering this for a while.. since early sobriety actually.. here’s an excerpt from my book when I was at sober day #76 ..

“I now know for certain that I do not like to be overly emotional and that drinking helped me to avoid that. It’s good to have that basic knowledge about myself. But I’ve still got a lot to learn. Starting with, how to just be around at home without my beloved wine.

Why did I do so much drinking at home? I used to say quite a lot that I was ‘bored’, and that drinking wine helped with the ‘boredom that comes from being at home with kids all the time’. In a twisted way I thought wine was a clever solution to stop me from getting bored at home ‘like all housewives do’. But now I’m wondering if there was more to it than that.

Once again a TV guru helps me, although this time it’s not Oprah but the rather slick addiction-specialist Dr Drew. I’m watching Celebrity Rehab one afternoon when one of the addicts on the show, in a counselling session, tells Dr Drew that he uses drugs ‘cos I’m bored all the time’. Dr Drew quickly interjects with, ‘You know boredom is just another word for depression, don’t you?’

At the time Dr Drew really got me thinking, and realizing that I had to learn how to be still. I am certainly much better at it now than I was nearly 3 years ago. There is definitely a quietening down/slowing down that you have to accept if you want to stay sober.

Is this getting used to boredom or is it something else? I’ve noticed others talking about boredom in the Members Feed recently.

“Today is Monday and I have work today … so pleased I have work .. that means I won’t want to sit around feeling bored and drink”

“Boredom is the alcoholics thing of wanting more”

“Boredom to me is a pure of lack of motivation and negative self talk.”

“I have been thinking that I am mistaking my boredom for a new calmness. Very interesting”

I’ve heard it said ‘only boring people get bored’. But maybe Dr Drew is right and only depressed people get bored. Or are people who say they’re bored just not content within themselves (like I wasn’t)? Is the boredom that comes from having no booze in the brain calmness or depression? Is getting sober all about figuring out the answers to these questions..?

What do you think?

22 Comments
  1. Jimdigriz 3 years ago

    Thank you for expressing this analysis of the wash of subtle emotions. You have elucidated something pretty elusive and that’s a great comfort

  2. Anonymous 3 years ago

    Hi, I can’t seem to log in. I did a couple of months ago and haven’t posted

    • Val 3 years ago

      Would love to join the community

  3. Sobriusmaximus 3 years ago

    This is the most important thing I learnt in rehab as it gave me so much hope. It is the idea that the brain will forge new neural pathways given time and with different associations and behaviours:

    “We used to think that the brain, once damaged, could not repair itself. Breakthroughs in neuroscience have shown that this is not true. Though individual neurons might be damaged beyond repair, the brain attempts to heal itself when damaged by making new connections or new neural pathways as work-arounds for the damage. This is called neuroplasticity, neuro (brain/nerve/neuron) and plasticity (moldability).

    What does neuroplasticity mean for addiction treatment?

    When we develop a habit, the brain creates a path in itself in support of that habit. As we engage in the habit over and over again, the pathway becomes well-worn or stronger. This is similar to lifting a weight. If you lift a weight over and over, the muscle will get stronger. In many ways, addiction can be explained as a neuroplastic event. The brain gets trained to do a particular behavior – use drugs or alcohol or gambling – eventually to the exclusion of all else. BUT, in treatment, we can retrain the brain, that is develop a new pathway that supports recovery. With intensive psychotherapy and other holistic interventions, we strengthen the new “recovery” loop within the brain. The brain then learns to enjoy recovery, those things that give us pleasure in our sober lives – family, work, interpersonal interactions. We retrain the brain and thus change our lives.”

  4. Freebe 5 years ago

    My Mum has an interesting perspective about boredom which reframes in a really helpful way. She says ‘it’s important to be bored sometimes’. So sometimes, when I get that ‘don’t feel right in my own skin, restless, need to be achieving something’ kinda feeling, I try to think of that – that boredom is good for the soul. Another way to think of boredom is in the being vs doing framework. I think often boozers are ‘doers’, right? That in order to get approval from others and/or have self-esteem, we need to be achieving. And we don’t know how to just ‘be”. I learnt that in 360 feedback at work, however it’s definitely a journey for me. Still not totally sure how to even do that – however they say self-awareness is the first step!

    • Bettermum 5 years ago

      Hi Freebe.
      Very well put by your Mum. I am trying to figure out if being a doer is a learn’t behaviour or in our genes. My sister can watch a movie in the middle of the day without hesitation or guilt. If I sit down for longer than a quick cup of tea ( when not at work) I am wracked with guilt, get restless and feel lazy and have to get up and push on with tending to my “nags”. I drank to stop me doing that. A wine would force me to stop and sit. Unfortunately we here know what that would more often than not lead to. I imagine meditation could help with this?? Good luck on your journey to learn to “be”.

    • Freebe 5 years ago

      Oh oh and I just remembered something else that always reminds me about how to think of the being vs doing thing, I think I got it from a TED video. It’s that the stuff you achieve or do goes on your CV/resume, whereas the stuff you ‘be’ goes in your eulogy. Cool huh?

  5. Nancy 5 years ago

    I could be way off the mark here with the boredom thing – I think as women (mainly – sorry guys) we have kind of been taught from an early age that women DO STUFF – I only have to look back at my mother as an example, clean, work, cook, manage, nurse etc etc – it was hard for her just to BE – i am sure that a lot of us still had the voice in the head ‘I should be doing something’ this in built guilt thing or the omg i better do such and such , it was easy to drink cos at least I was ‘doing something’ and it was the perfect excuse – I’m kind of waffling but that’s how I see it – incidentally since I stopped wineing and hiding behind it my life is better, my topsy turvy home is just the same lol I do not feel compelled to pick up a vacuum every 5 minutes or do some pissy chore that can wait till another day i am just finding the real ME for the first time in decades – no excuses needed

  6. konniejo 5 years ago

    I used to say I am so bored, stuck at home do to a family situation so might as well drink. I struggle with negative self talk and comparing my life to others. Finally got tired of living life this way. Today I am at 2 weeks & 2 days sober…made it thru 2 weekends sober which were always party time for so long. I am focusing & working hard on changing my negative self talk. I have this need to be “perfect” and control everything…so exhausting! Learning to put myself first and guess what? Life didn’t end! Work in progress for sure…

    • Bettermum 5 years ago

      You have done really REALLY well getting through two weekends! Oh and I have finally accepted that there is no such thing as perfection and the more we strive for it the more fault we see in ourselves and others. And who wants to be that person. 🙂

  7. Anonymous 5 years ago

    I think that boredom for me is always combined with that uncomfortable- in- my- own- skin feeling. When I contemplate the remainder of a day spent solely in my own head, I reach for the booze. Anything to blunt the intensity of feeling. I have been experimenting with finding other avenues for this negative energy and have been pleasantly surprised to find that alcohol is not the only way out of the mental cage. I mowed the lawn the other day when I wanted to reach for the vino and managed to feel happier just an hour later (plus my lawn looked great). Other days, the lure of the bottle has proved to be too great. Definitely a work in progress.

  8. Seizetheday 5 years ago

    Boredom =fear of confronting how I really am feeling, fear that makes life stop. Not an outward panic, just bleak fear of reality in that moment.

  9. Leonie 5 years ago

    I didn’t drink much in my 20’s/30’s – smoked a heap of dope, though … and ate an inordinate number of Mars Bars (used to buy them in bulk from the cash&carry)! Stopped the dope in the early 90’s, and started to drink a bit more … but for the same reason – I liked the ‘hit” – that floaty feeling – I certainly wasn’t bored – far from it, never had enough hours in the day. When my boys were young, it was like being on permanent holiday – we went to all sorts of places, and did all sorts of things, but I was a young mother (couldn’t drink at my 21st, because I was breast feeding) and maybe I was very much a child still (loved climbing trees, etc). Now in my 60’s, I have stopped drinking because (probably only over the last 5 years), it had taken hold of me – it was no longer a choice. But sobriety has given me back my energy and zest for life and, most importantly, time – boredom has never, ever, crossed my mind. If I could have a 48 hour day, I would still be able to fill the hours with all the things I want to do.

  10. Jules 5 years ago

    I drank because I was bored. I drank because I was restless. I drank because I was angry. I drank because I was happy. Yes when my children were little I used to say “I’d never be able to cope without my wine to get me through”!!! I wasn’t alone in this thinking either. But when my children got older and flew the coup the drinking still was “needed”. – for all kinds of emotions boredom included. Somehow giving it a legitimate reason made it ok – wtf????? (the addictive voice in my head).

    • outofthetrap 5 years ago

      Yep. Im hearing ya !!

  11. inthegarage66 5 years ago

    Sober = boring? No way! Sober = fun, freedom, empowerment, enjoyment, satisfaction, LIFE!! OK, after 1 or 2 or maybe 3 drinks, some folk might be happier than they were before. But for how many does that last? I suggest that many drinkers go way beyond that. And you don’t need to go much beyond 3 or 4 drinks before negativity sets in = for some, sadness, depression, unhappiness, wooziness, sleepiness (how much fun is someone when they are asleep?!) And or others anger, aggression, and abuse. The opposite of sober is drunk. How much fun is a drunk?!

    • outofthetrap 5 years ago

      totally agree.

    • Leonie 5 years ago

      I’m with you @inthegarage66 – no way is sober boring!!

  12. Stacey 5 years ago

    Like you I did a lot of my drinking because I was bored, bored of the mundane chores when my boys were younger. As they got older drinking was something to do in the bored moments because God forbid I should sit and do nothing, at least when I was drinking I was doing something what twisted kind of logic is that. I found that when I gave up drinking I had to learn to be at peace with the boredom and what really helped for me was attending a mindfulness workshop in Wellington called Mindfulnessworks. Practicing mindfulness involves bringing non-judgmental awareness to the external and internal experiences occurring in the present moment, so now I have learnt to just sit and be with my bored thoughts in a nonjudgemental manner. It may all sound a bit hippyish but it works and allows me to accept my ‘bored’ thoughts in a calm manner, acknowledge them and let them go.

    • Presentnow 5 years ago

      Thank you for this post. I am newly sober (about 2+ weeks) and I have had some very dear friends staying. At dinner when I would normally be sharing a bottle of wine I had my strongest-to -date wish to have a drink. I became conscious of that feeling and realized that I wanted a drink not because I was nervous or relaxed or happy or sad, but because I was bored and maybe a bit tired ( having cooked and made beds and cleaned the house etc). Which was a surprise because I really love my friends and usually don’t find them boring. But your post helps to remind me to just ‘be’ with that feeling and not judge it… and this too will pass – and it did (-:

  13. ahamoments 5 years ago

    I was thinking about this very same topic just today. Am visiting family, as I do a couple times a year. In the past, when I was drinking with abandon, I would often itch for a drink around 3pm (and most of the time have one), telling myself that I was a bit bored just hanging out and visiting all day. But as that familiar feeling came over me today, I sensed that a more precise word for what I was feeling was restless. And even under the “restless,” was, more specifically discomfort at simply being with the feelings that being in my childhood home evoke — memories, nostalgia, loss, the history of having been alive for four decades, not to mention “visiting” with my beloved but complicated parents and siblings, aunts and uncles. It’s A LOT to be with. Quite the opposite of boring. More, in fact, like emotionally overwhelmed, but in a very quiet, no-drama way.

  14. janabel 5 years ago

    I think i am mistaking my slowing down and calmness for boredom. Because i know i am not bored. My husband calls me the ‘janado’ because i used to be always running here and there making sure everything got done straight away. Now i am more relaxed. More of an attitude of ‘it can wait’. No more hyperactive, false adrenaline. It was way to exhausting.

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