Photo by Camila Quintero Franco on Unsplash
Here's something I realized when I went from drinking every day to not drinking at all—Sobriety was boring. Life was...boring.
I was no longer dramatically flying from one extreme emotion to another. Drinking also made the time after work pass by much faster. I felt like a time traveler...I could speed up the work day and fast-forward late into the night with some liquid courage.
I knew drinking daily was unhealthy, and I heard about all the health benefits of being sober. Decreased anxiety, better sleep, and weight loss were a few I was curious about.
But what I didn't expect was to be bored.
Moods are more even (and don't seem as extreme).
My anxiety did begin to decrease, and for some reason, this actually made me uncomfortable. Why? I was used to high highs and low lows. There was no dramatic escape. When I felt extreme anxiety, and then the anxiety was quelled, then I felt amazing. I felt productive. I felt like I had accomplished something by overcoming that feeling.
However, without the stress and the anxiety, there was no drama. I was just fine. I was just me. And the boredom of it felt like an itch that I needed to scratch.
Was this life? What about passion? What about love? Wasn't life supposed to be dramatic and a bit out of control?
For people who are addicted to drama and attention-seeking, this could be a sign of childhood trauma. People can become addicted to drama in the same way they're addicted to other substances.
Instead of fixing problems using patience and steady hard work, a person addicted to drama might want an escape, a quick fix, or to be saved. One may be looking for attention. This kind of thing can even be romanticized in popular culture...like in Twilight when Bella puts herself in dangerous situations to attract the attention of a boyfriend who broke up with her.
In real life, we may dismiss "attention-seeking" behavior, but an addiction to drama is serious and harmful to people who can't seem to deal with just...being bored.
Riding the roller coaster of extreme emotions means one might always be looking for a situation that is a crisis, whether it's at work, an instance of self-harm, or unhealthy relationships. It's a tendency that can coincide with substance abuse, and should not be dismissed as mere attention-seeking.
Sobriety calls attention to this boredom, because being drunk or high is often an excuse to allow for dramatic behavior.
You're more aware of what you're doing.
I used to drink to sell more sunglasses. My boss encouraged me to drink because of the idea that it made me more "fun."
I definitely made more recommendations and was more chatty. But I'm not sure if those were good recommendations. When I was sober, I made recommendations based on the style of the person. I was more aware of what I was recommending. When I was drinking, I was definitely more social, but I don't think my suggestions were more helpful.
I've noticed this about my art as well. I used to think that drinking would make my writing improve, but when I'm sober, I am better at crafting plots and storylines when I'm sober.
I learned that part of working is the inspiration...being social, or being creative. But another part of accomplishing something is being aware and focused, which alcohol does not permit. When I was drinking, I was less capable of focusing, following directions, and paying attention to my surroundings.
In order to sell sunglasses or write a book, one needs to be able to put themselves in the shoes of another person, which is a skill alcohol also severely limits.
So then how come we commonly think we are doing a good job when drunk? Alcohol may release our inhibitions, but it also impairs our judgment.
Steadily working? How boring could that be? The answer is...very.
Problems become apparent instead of hidden.
Being regularly intoxicated means problems are always pushed back until later...until there's an absolute emergency. This feeds into the drama cycle.
However, if one is consistently sober, then problems don't creep up on you in the same way. Being more rational and logical and having the time and freedom to plan means fewer things will catch you by surprise. I noticed that the less I drank, the more organized I became. I started creating calendars. I stopped feeling panic whenever a bill was due, because I was anticipating it.
Sobriety and more even moods mean that we have the capacity to pay more attention to our mundane, regular problems. Bills. Education. Career. Maintaining relationships. It means instead of putting out fires, we make sure they never begin.
We start instead to plan activities and plan what we want to do. We start to see beyond the immediate future. I often write about how I suffer from a sense of foreshortened future and thought I was going to die by the time I was 30.
Therapy and sobriety helped me start to think that maybe I could do things like have a career and family. What would that look like? What would I have to do today to have that kind of future? Did I want to do that?
For the first time in my life, I'm considering making plans that require work in the present. I'm considering that I might actually be alive for another 10, 15, 20, 40 years. What do I want to do with my life? How can I accomplish these tasks?
I was also masking my anxiety with alcohol. Without alcohol, I just have to feel what I'm feeling and try to understand why. Drinking was definitely more fun than confronting why I have a panic attack when my phone rings.
Now that I'm no longer masking the present or future with drama and neglect, I can think about the kind of person I want to be.
That's also super boring.
Boring does not mean bad.
I hope some of the sarcasm in this article helps to convey an important point—Boredom is not always bad. Sometimes, we need to be bored in order to accomplish something. We need a sense of safety and security. We need to stop flying from one dramatic moment to another.
Life can be boring. But boring...can be good. If we are lucky, our days are predictable, and we can make plans and create goals around schedules.
Life can be boring, and sobriety can be boring, and boredom can bring its own freedom.