By: Donnie Huffman
“That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.” ― Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette
New Felt Sooo Good
In my first year of sobriety, my sponsor would tell me, ‘Donnie, enjoy this time in early sobriety. This is going to be the best time of your life, and remember that when it gets rough because it will get rough.’
I heard an old-timer at a meeting once say, ‘You know, the first few years of sobriety were a blast because the changes were so drastic and everything was so new. Now it’s…’ and then he talked about mowing his lawn. I had read the writing on the walls – sobriety becomes boring.
The feeling of boredom stems from this false idea that things do not change. Nothing is new. No revelations or epiphanies. Status quo.
Enter the Old
Clinical depression has this sort of mental sluggishness as one of its many symptoms. This often-unchecked belief that life stays stagnant and that our current circumstances are the same now as they are always going to be seemed to be a pervading quirk of the human mind. It would be like looking at a sapling sprouting out of the ground or a cloud in the sky and imagining the two will always look as they do.
There’s a special kind of suffering that goes along with this belief. We can function with this low-boil inside of us because it doesn’t hurt that bad. We can laugh with it in the background. Many times our distractions are too many for us to consciously realize it. We can feel it on our shoulders or neck or wherever we carry the tension in our body. We might get recurring headaches or have habits like smoking or video games that keep it at bay. Life goes on and we can live side by side with our pressure-causing delusions.
Old Pain – New Solutions
Then, however, something glorious happens. The suffering builds up and turns into pain and we must address it. Sobriety, recovery fellowship, my therapist, supportive loved ones, and a new life of semi-frequent prayer and meditation have thankfully given me the tools to heal in ways that benefits me.
I’ll use a recent example in my life to illustrate this point. I have clinical depression and throughout the last couple of months I had known that fact intimately. I started telling myself some pretty nasty things about myself and magnifying the ordinary problems of life into a prosecutorial case against myself. I’m not writing as prolifically as I once was, I haven’t started moving my stuff out of my old place to my new home, I have bills I’ve put off paying for weeks now. I couldn’t seem to get organized and it seemed that I was a failure. As mean as my thoughts were, it was nothing that doing yoga, hanging out with my girlfriend, watching TV, and playing the zombie game on my phone couldn’t take care of.
New and Old: The Vicious Cycle
It started building, though. I was now displeased with my life. This is how the rest of my life goes, I told myself. Same job, no more career in writing, no dreams about to come true on the horizon. Just the zombie game and yoga to carry me through a miserable life. I was in the swamp of my making, imprisoned in this skin, and flesh, and bone called a body. I called myself an ingrate for having such a good life with amazing people in it yet still without an ounce of joy to taste.
I did what I needed to. I stayed in the depression. I survived work and I did next to nothing when I clocked out. After several days of (perhaps much-needed) lethargy, I felt it was time to get back at it. Back to writing, back to being the self-motivated Type A mile-a-minute nutcase I have prided myself on being since I sobered up.
Long story short, my return to manic business had been less than complete. I wasn’t exactly doing well with the book editing and my content-creating for the blog was now a mere trickle. I had tried to raise myself from my depression and I had come up short. The phoenix never left the ashes.
I entered despair.
Life is New and Fresh Again
Then I prayed. I hadn’t prayed in a good deal of time. I poured my heart out to my Higher Power on my bedroom floor. I admitted certain things that I had tried to hide from myself and I acknowledged a mountain of fear and pain that I had thought of as barely a road block the day before. I had forgotten how good the dignity of a broken spirit feels. After that impromptu prayer session, I told my girlfriend how sick and tired I was about beating myself up, how miserable I’d been, how I didn’t want to subject myself to psychological torture any longer.
That night was a good night. I had stopped fighting myself and I shared myself openly with my God and with another human being. I wanted to keep that beautiful brokenness and open communication. When I prayed the next night, I had tried to recreate the gut-level rawness that I had pulled up from all that despair the previous night. What I managed to bring to my Higher Power felt contrived and dry. When I shared the details of my day and my emotions with my girlfriend, it didn’t seem like I had much to report. I was simply okay and I didn’t much care for it. I was back into the mundane.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned before. I may finally get the relief of allowing myself to spill my guts and to experience the agony. Everything becomes fresh again. I can see the heaven-sent qualities of my loved ones and I know that what I am perceiving is real. The wicked ordinariness of life always comes back, however. The taking for granted returns, the awareness fades, the material realm takes precedent over the spirit, and the TV goes back on.
Embracing the New, Again
It’s a lesson in letting go. We cannot live entirely in the positive or the negative, the spiritual or the mundane. We are spiritual beings having a human experience and the human part cannot be skipped. We benefit from cultivating kindness, wisdom, charity, and humor, but we will never completely break free from the shadows our light casts. Our shadow-sides are big or small, be they deep-seated hatred and rage or simple boredom and anxiety.
I am still in this strange depression. I don’t know if it’s caused by something I am doing or not doing, or if it is something physical and unavoidable in the synapses of my brain. I hope; however, I have already learned a lesson from this.
I think the lesson is to appreciate the glorious moments. The moments where I haven’t had a thought pester me in hours because I’ve been too busy making the nieces and nephews laugh at my antics or the moments where I stop trying to be such a stoic tough guy and admit when I’m hurting. I hope I’ve also learned to have some perspective when life is gray and vaguely threatening. I hope I’ve learned that the rough patches of life are temporary, so I might as well have a sense of playfulness and curiosity about the thing.
I decided I was going to switch up my routine just a bit for one day. Instead of listening to the news on my way to work I would listen to something light and uplifting. I didn’t manage to pull it off, or so I had thought. When I turned the dial over to National Public Radio for my daily dose of world politics, they were interviewing a Buddhist monk instead. He spoke about joy and humor. It seemed on that day that the Universe wanted to help me find some balance in my life.
Can You Make Your Life New Again?
I’d invite you to do the same. Switch up the routine if you are growing bored and restless. Listen to new music or experiment with different habits or hobbies. Make yourself do one thing a week that you are afraid of doing. Boredom, depression, anxiety. It all stems from narrow views. It’s a big world out there. Go see some of it. My thoughts and feelings are going to do what my thoughts and feelings are going to do regardless. They come and go with the breeze, so I might as well play around with this life and see what I can get myself into.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart