Overcoming Boredom and Fear in Sobriety

I spent most of my nights in the pub. Duped by some ludicrous delusion. The promise of greater things lead me to the trap. Every night I would fall for it. The next day I would vow not to fall for it again. Yet with symptoms similar to amnesia I would stagger back, thinking this all feels familiar. Days blended into weeks and then into years. My life spiralled out of control. I said “Never again…” but it always happened again. The allure pulling me back. That intoxicating brew. Devastation masquerading as a solution.

Until one day, it all got too much. Betrayal. The beer siren had lied to me. Cheated me out of so much. Like a jilted lover I was hurt. My heart was broken. I had nothing left. Alcohol had taken it all.

Broken and battered like the survivor of a shipwreck. I wretched and vomited. I shivered and cried. Happy to be alive. Frustrated at having nothing. Lost and scared. I had washed up on a beach. The island of sobriety. My clothes were torn and tattered. My mind scattered and fragmented.

In the early days of sobriety, I went to work during the day and sat at home at night. Constantly thinking “I want a drink.” followed by “I can’t have a drink.” It wasn’t fun. It was hard.

After six weeks it stopped. Well, it calmed down and the new thought “I am bored,” plagued me. Boredom was a trigger for me to drink so this is when I reached out for help but I think it was a turning point. It was the point that allowed me to stay sober. To use the Island analogy; I could sit on the beach waiting to starve or I could take action to try and make life resemble something close to normality.

When I got bored, I got busy.

I started new hobbies. I am not a huge people person so I chose things that kept me engaged and challenged. I read a shit ton of books. I learned musical instruments. I wrote. I made plans. I dreamed. I travelled. I meditated. I exercised. I loved and I lived. Eventually, I forgot about those beer sirens.

It is often said that a day sober is a successful day. In the early days, it was because I couldn’t comprehend doing anything else. But eventually I needed to do something with my sobriety.

We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough.

Big Book of AA

Boredom is our bodies way of telling us that it needs stimulation. Like a rumbling tummy when we’re hungry. So listen to the boredom and start living, learning, loving, growing, reaching out, meditating and exercising.

Sobriety gave me the time to do all the things I wanted to do when I was younger but was too scared to do. It took time though. To overcome the boredom I had to try new things. In order to try new things I had to overcome the fear of failure that held me back.

Often said as “False Evidence Appearing Real,” fear was the warden in the prison of my misery for many years. So strong was the psychological manipulation of the fear, I believed I was worthless and every attempt to break free of this misery, would fail. Slowly fear crushed my spirit. Inebriation was my only escape. It remained this way for a long time.

For me, the fear worked in a way that would stop me from attempting… anything. I became so terrorised by the fear that at the mention of trying something new my brain would go into overdrive. It would produce all the possible negative outcomes. Everything that could go wrong. It would paint me a picture of how people would laugh when I failed. How I would feel embarrassed. So I would decline, politely and return to the bar, my prison. The warden’s arm around me and his poisonous words in my ear.

The first goal I set was don’t drink. This is when I began to realise that I was the creator of the fear. I began to feel cheated. Cheated out of years of life. Years that I hadn’t lived because of a fucking illusion. An illusion that I was worthless and would never succeed. I had spent nearly twenty years of my life believing a story that wasn’t true. I HAD to prove it wrong.

In early sobriety, the fear was in full force, whispering in my ear; “You’ll be alone,” “You’ll have no friends,” “You’ll do nothing,” “A pariah,” “People will laugh,” “What are you going to say when people ask you why you don’t drink?” “Just do what you always do and give in before you try.” But I had a point to prove. I wanted to see what I was made of. Fuck it. I’d failed at life by not trying. I literally had nothing to lose.

After a stretch of not drinking, I felt stronger. Initially, I didn’t believe that I could do it but I just kept going. I was so proud of myself. Then, when I felt strong enough, I started building an escape plan.

A step at a time. A week at a time. A year at a time. A bill at a time. Life became manageable and I became unmanageable to the fear. It lost its power over me.

I’ve since learned, there are two types of fear; rational and irrational. Rational fear is the belief that there is a tiger in the grass and it is going to eat you. If you are in an area where you have seen a tiger there before then this makes sense. If you are walking through Oxford Street then it doesn’t. It is irrational. The latter is what held me captive for so long.

In a few months, I am going to embark on a journey of a lifetime. It would not have been possible if I was still held captive by fear. I would have talked myself out of it but thankfully I no longer waste my time with “False Evidence Appearing Real.” I much prefer the Ian Brown acronyms from the song F.E.A.R; “Fantastic Expectations, Amazing Revelations,” & “Free Expression As Revolution,” because that’s what life has become; a revolution of free expression and amazing revelations. 

Don’t listen to fear. It’s a liar.  

Too scared – A poem

Too scared of freedom 
Too scared to be free from
All the chaos and drama that comes with drinking
The toxic, self-annihilating, masochistic thinking

Too scared to fail
Too scared to set sail
Tightly bound by ropes of the harbour
Yearning to cast off but leaving gets harder

Too scared to try
Too scared to ask why
Why not? Why not give it a shot.
Before we lose everything we’ve got.

Too scared to face the mess
Too scared to worry less
And venture into the fear
Only to find it was never truly there.

Too scared to leave the warmth of hell
Too scared to see what’s outside the cell
Don’t be scared of escaping
Because the universe is waiting

Thanks for reading,

Charlie

1 thought on “Overcoming Boredom and Fear in Sobriety

  1. I love that poem. I can really relate to all you have said. Fear is a liar! Never listen.
    I really enjoyed reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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