It’s another one of those stormy gray days that I used to spend out in my office in the backyard, drinking warm drinks and playing around with words. Or at least pretending to get some work done. I’ve recreated that feeling as closely as possible, today, and am feeling a bit less deprived then I thought I would be. Today is day 16, so I’m on the far side of the every-two-week binge schedule I’ve been keeping this year, and today would be a perfect excuse.
I’ve been struggling a lot with boredom, and not just today. My counselor says that that’s the number one reason she hears, among problem drinkers, which surprised me. Just another way I’m not quite as “special” a case as I like to think I am, I suppose. It’s difficult for me to suss out boredom from a craving, since I’ve spent so long easing boredom with a drink, but she says that cravings only last 15 minutes, and I’m guessing true boredom lasts…longer than that? I don’t know.
Anyway, to keep myself busy this morning I’ve compiled 15 ways to wait out a 15 minute craving, (or just kill the boredom) when nothing sounds like fun.
- Color a picture. This is especially useful as a parent, since so many things that one could do are child-prohibitive. There have been a multitude of studies on the meditative benefits of coloring, for adults and children alike, over the past few years, and meditation is always high on the list of things recovering alcoholics should figure out how to do. Sounds like a win-win to me.
- Call up a friend. This one is tricky, since often so many of our friends are drinking buddies, but I’ll bet if we think really hard we’ve all got at least one person we could call up just to shoot the shit for a minute or two. For me it’s my mom. I think this one is important because so many of us tend to isolate ourselves in these early days, just when we need the support the most.
- Put something on the T.V. As a parent I’m well aware that screen time is a hot-button issue, and my friends without kids even express a little regret at the number of hours spent bingeing the latest Netflix original. Sometimes, though, we just need to veg out. There’s always tomorrow to save the world, earn that parent of the year award, or clean the bathroom.
- Eat something! There’s areason thatsober circlestalk about H.A.L.T.-ing a craving. This is a good time to ask yourself, am I hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Of course we don’t want to start an unhealthy cycle of eating when we’re bored, but it is good to acknowledge that we’re not super-in-tune with our bodily functions and needs, in early recovery. I was one of those people who just wouldn’t eat, if I were going to be drinking, because who needs the calories and full belly on top of a bottle of wine? I find that keeping plenty of fresh-cut fruit, medium-boiled eggs, and sliced cheese on hand keeps the snacking healthier and more accessible. Of course, H.A.L.T. also leads us to:
- Taking a mini-nap, if you’re actually sleepy. And who isn’t? Some of our biggest minds extol the virtues of daily naptimes for increased productivity and contentment. If you’ve got nap-time aged kids, like I do, piling everyone in bed together with a quick book and shut-eye cuts down immensely on afternoon meltdown from toddler and parent alike.
- Try H.I.I.T.-ing a workout I’ve read that short bursts of high-intensity exercise can reap the same, if not better, bodily rewards than long periods of lower-intensity working out. There are tons of quick and dirty workouts on YouTube that won’t cost a penny towards a gym membership or equipment. Bonus points if you get that sweet, sweet, dopamine hit from the exertion.
- Clean something. I’m not talking about starting a huge project, here. The unique satisfaction that comes from completing a task is what we’re going for, here, so pick one thing and do it well. For me this is often a bathroom vanity, the kitchen sink, or my kid’s play area. Work hard and fast, and then stand back with a cold sparkling water to survey your progress. Trust me, it works.
- Make a mocktail. Part of the fun in drinking, for me, was trying new things, sampling local favorites while travelling, and perfecting homemade drinks for guests. That itch can be scratched—and the feeling of deprivation annulled—by throwing together fun drinks that you can imbibe in. Zest limes, make simple sugars, throw yourself all-in for a sensory experience that can’t be beat.
- Journal. Obviously I’m a fan of writing one’s way out of this mess, but you don’t have to spill all to the world to take advantage of the benefits it can reap. It can also be useful to have a record of your feelings for later on, when the days start to feel longer, or your reasons for quitting more remote. And hey, if you do decide to blog about it, be sure to shoot me a link! I’m always looking for good reading.
- Get out of the house. Even a fifteen minute walk around the block can do wonders for your mindset. I personally like to walk around big box stores and just people-watch, though I know that would be a stressor for some people. Maybe run to the corner café and grab a coffee, or take your car to the car wash. This is especially important for people who, like me, work from home, or stay home with the kids. A trip to the park is never a bad idea.
- Read something fun. It can be easy to equate reading with work, after all most of us spent at least 12 years of our lives being assigned books to report on in one way or another. Easy reading can be such an escape, though. Pick up an old favorite, or stop by the recommended reading shelves at your local library or used bookstore. Don’t worry about whether it’s “good” literature, or anything “smart.” There are great things happening in children’s and Y.A. lit. Audio-books can be a great resource to those of us who have trouble sitting and concentrating long enough to get into a book, and with the Kindle app you can switch back and forth between an Audible purchase and a Kindle book, depending on your mood. Many libraries have e- or audio- books for loan, now, too. I personally use audio-books to calm my mind at bedtime, and it’s helped me kick a lifelong insomnia habit. This month in particular I dove into the genre of “quit lit,” and it’s helped make the journey seem a little less lonely.
- Lose yourself in a videogame. Whether it means pulling out an old game console or just downloading the latest flappy bird knockoff on your phone, videogames can be great short-term time-killers. Remember, we’re just trying to get past that 15 minute craving.
- Make a list. Maybe you tried journaling, but longform writing just isn’t for you. That’s okay. There’s a reason that “listicles” have become so popular in cyber-news. Sometimes we just want the highlights. Pick a topic and try for a list of five things, to start out with. Maybe, five things I want to see before I die, or five things I can do next time the crushing boredom assaults. Maybe move up to ten meals I’d like to make this month, or ten non-alcoholic drinks I want to try. Even something like fifteen herbs I’d include in a window garden, or fifteen animals I wouldn’t want to have as a pet can get you outside your own head just long enough to move past the craving. Don’t be afraid of doing a little research.
- Sample a hobby. Have you ever gotten really excited about trying something new, gone out and bought all of the accoutrements, and then felt like shit for weeks afterwards, every time you walk past the mess of workbooks, half-strung guitars, or knitting needles? Yeah, me too. If you’re anything like me then you’ve got years’ worth of hobbies you could spend 15 minutes trying out again. And even if you’re not—we live in the internet era! There are how-to videos, apps, and fan-sites over pretty much anything you could ever want to learn. Remember beer flights? This is that, without the hangover. Breaking learning up into 15 minute segments, telling yourself that if you hate it then you don’t ever have to go back, can be strangely liberating. You may find yourself learning something, or even—god-forbid—having fun, before you know it.
- Just sit and enjoy the silence. This is probably the most difficult of them all, because so many of us got used to drinking in order to avoid being alone with ourselves, but there’s something to be said for cultivating the ability. Many call this urge-surfing, and suggest just allowing yourself to feel all of the feelings that come up without passing judgement on them or yourself, in order to come to know yourself and your addiction better. Just breathe in, want a drink, breathe out, it’s okay I can handle this. If you’ve got small kids, or rowdy dogs, like I do, then lock yourself in the bathroom and turn on the shower to drown them out—it’s a spa day! And know that if you start getting itchy or weird then you can always abort the mission and try something else.
So that’s what I’ve got for today. Guess it’s time to go clean something. Tell me, what do you do, when cravings surface?