Chemical Joy

An interesting viewpoint, regarding addition, pleasure, and life.

Quora: Why is sobriety so extremely boring?

Ke’Aun Charles, African-American Cosmopolitan

(Personal experience)

Sobriety is boring. I won’t lie to you. Won’t tell you that you can get a natural high on a nature trail as good as any drug. Won’t tell you that you can have just as much fun reading a good book. Nope. Sobriety is boring.

God I’d rather be doing a line.

I have partied fairly hard for 3 years, and been sober for 6. My activity of choice was getting very, very drunk in nightclubs -though parties were a close second. I. LOVED. Clubbing. Far and away my favorite activity.

Let me tell you, I did not stop drinking because it was boring. I stopped because it was destroying my relationships.

This distinction is significant. I did not stop drinking because I stopped enjoying it. Quite the opposite: by that point in my life, drinking and clubbing (together) was one of the few activities I actually enjoyed. I stopped because the effects that drinking had on other parts of my life outweighed the fun I was having. You probably quit your drug for the same reasons -you almost certainly weren’t bored with it.

You know that feeling of walking out of a club to a quiet street? The contrast, and how weird it is? From lights and noise and energy, to silence?

Quitting is sort of like that. You are walking out of the most fun activity you’ve ever done, probably the only activity that is fun to you, and you’re walking out to this:

It is a shock to the system.

It’s like jumping into an ice-cold lake.

And absolutely nothing seems to measure up. No activity can get you the same feeling of your drug of choice. Literally everything else seems boring, useless, mundane. Things start to veer from “ugh another Saturday night in” to “life is meaningless” territory real quick.

Existential boredom.

But you probably know all of this.

I remember speaking with a coworker once, she was my manager, around my age. We were making small talk. I asked her what her plans were for that weekend, hoping that she would say something interesting that would inspire me to follow her lead. I was maybe 2 years in to my sobriety and starting to lose my mind.

She told me “well, me and some friends are getting together for a dinner party.”

You know, a dinner party. You get together with some good friends, have some good food. You talk, you laugh, you reminisce, you bond. It’s a good time.

She might as well have told me she was going to stare at a wall for 72 hours.

Dinner parties?!?!

I thought back to the ”real parties” I’ve been to, where I’ve gotten so drunk that I actually lost time and did “hilarious” and “amazing” things that my friends had to remind me of the next day.

I thought back to the nightclubs, where I spent the entire night intoxicated, dancing and, uh, dancing+ with guys, twirling under strobe lights like in some sort of neon wonderland.

And then I thought of a dinner party. Sitting around a table with a bunch of stuffy boring people, talking about work, or shopping, or politics, or their pet, or god-forbid their kids.

(One dinner party I went to some time later, they spent several minutes talking about the deals they get at Costco. Several. Minutes.)

Not only did I think that her weekend plan was stupid, boring, and basic, it actually sparked a crisis in me. I thought “is this all I have to look forward to now? Working here in this department store, going home, and throwing fucking dinner parties? This is the reward of sobriety?”

It’s difficult for “regular people” to understand just how soul-crushingly boring sobriety is to an addict. So to some extent you’re kind of forced to deal with it alone, unless you can find a community to help out. And even then, you still have to deal with it alone at the end of the day.

How to deal with it?

First, you have to really accept the fact that there is no activity you can find that is going to be as fun as your drug of choice. Cold, right? But true. No natural high is going to match a chemical one. The longer you compare “everything” to “my favorite drug,” the longer you’ll be catastrophically bored, because nothing will measure up.

Second, you have to stop judging activities by how fun they are. Fun cannot be the Alpha and Omega of your life. You need to find other worthwhile rewards for things. Like money. Or looking good. Or having great friendships. Or learning cool things. Or gaining political power. Or learning how to astral project. Or whatever.

Try to become the next American Ninja Warrior, or something. Not “fun,” but it would be cool!

Third: Be patient! These things will take time to bear fruit. Not everything acts as quickly as your drug of choice does. If you start working on something, don’t expect it to pay off in a few days. Gotta learn to control your dopamine cravings. 😉

Fourth: remember why you quit in the first place. Like I said before, I did not quit because I was bored. I didn’t quit my fun party life to have even more fun being sober. My fun was beginning to ruin other parts of my life. I had to scale it back. You probably have to scale it back. Accept that by scaling back fun, you’re going to have less fun as a natural consequence. That sucks, but think about what you’ve gained in return.

Fifth: You can still have fun. Just be realistic about it. “No, watching this movie with my friend probably won’t be as fun as getting wasted and grinding with random guys all night, but it will still be pretty fun.” But replace the wasted and grinding part with your own drug. You get it.

Sixth: My mom has recently suggested becoming an adrenaline junkie.

I’ve never done anything like that, but I’d give it a shot.

I am going indoor skydiving in a few days for the first time with my S.O. I have no doubt that it will be less fun than my drug of choice… but it should at least be better than a dinner party. =)

“People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shite, which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. After all, we’re not fucking stupid. At least, we’re not that fucking stupid.”

― Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting

The writer thinks differently about pleasure and fun than I do. But I am very confident that a far larger percentage of humanity see things his way than my way.

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