Don't Let Silence Settle In
Lauren Peffley, MSW
The transition to a sober life can be a difficult one, and it is not something that a person should have to do alone. Moving from utter chaos into silence can be an incredibly boring, painful process. In addition to ushering a flood of boredom into someone’s life, it can also call attention to the pain that might have been completely numbed while using. It is quite common for someone newly sober to experience excruciating boredom and to finally feel the full effects of trauma that were previously being driven out of sight/out of mind with substances. The combination of those things can push a person back into using substances.
If chaos is your baseline or something you’ve grown incredibly accustomed to, then the absence of chaos can bring a silence that is deafening and terrifying. Even if you are not recovering from substance use, silence and stillness can still be quite frightening. I actually find myself avoiding solitary silence – sometimes at all costs. When things slow to a stop and stand still, I tend to get stuck in my own head and under my own skin. Then I usually begin to doubt myself, question my truths, sink, and shrink. Maybe this happens because I am an extrovert who rapidly loses energy when I am by myself. Maybe it’s because I am too relational to fully believe in my worth in isolation. Maybe it is because my OCD starts to tear away at me when I’m alone for a while. Maybe it is all of these reasons combined that make boredom and solitary silence so scary to me. Even though I am not recovering from substance use, I am on my own unique recovery journey and I do not like who I become when silence and sadness settle in.
At Healing Action, we acknowledge that each person is on their own unique journey, whether they apply the term “recovery” to it or not. We do not want anyone to get stuck in the sad silence I was describing above. We want to rally around people – to create a healthy and safe community and provide healthy and safe activities. We are in the midst of planning a calendar of monthly activities that promote recovery, healthy living, and fun fellowship! While reading up on creating a thriving social life in recovery, I found a helpful article called, “How to Have a Sober Social Life.” It detailed helpful and healthy ways to create fun in sobriety from alcohol – whether for yourself or for a friend in recovery. The list was developed by individuals in recovery and the first suggestion is talk to trusted friends about your own recovery. It’s okay to let people know that this means you might turn down certain invites because of the location or the activity itself, and a trusted friend should support that. The second suggestion is to schedule non-alcoholic fun. This is precisely what we are aiming to do with our monthly calendar of community events, and it is important to keep this in mind if you are in recovery or if you know anyone who is. The third suggestion is to serve tasty non-alcoholic drinks at social functions. Just because someone is choosing not to drink alcohol doesn’t mean that they should be deprived of a creative, delicious beverage! Next time you throw a party, I encourage you to incorporate these into your beverage menu. The fourth suggestion is don’t treat your sober friend with “kid gloves.” This means that you do not have to tiptoe around things, exclude them from your social life out of fear or ignorance, and you should never talk to them in a patronizing manner. Be honest with them and be willing to ask questions and respectfully, empathically listen to their answers. Invite them to events, but don’t give them a hard time if they choose not to attend. The fifth suggestion is if you are going on dates or planning social events, try going to a coffee shop, a coffee/bar or a café/bar. Choosing this type of venue means that each person can make their own choice about what to drink and not have to feel isolated ordering a non-alcoholic beverage. It is a great method for socializing without stigmatizing. The sixth and final piece of advice is don’t feel like you need to explain yourself to others if you are not drinking. If you are spending time with a new potential partner or a new friend, you should not feel obligated to jump into your recovery story if you don’t want to. It is your story and it is entirely up to you when/with whom you share it.
We believe that every individual deserves to experience healthy relationships, be a part of a safe community, and to participate in exciting activities. Having a vibrant social life is something that everyone should have access to no matter what their story is. Perhaps, having access to a healthy and vibrant community could keep a person from going back to the life, returning to substances, dwelling too deeply on a painful past, focusing too hard on mental health concerns, or doubting one’s worth. Regardless, we believe that everyone deserves to have fun, to laugh, to enjoy recreation, and to be enriched by fellowship. Everyone deserves be exactly who they are and to be loved exactly as they come.
Looking forward to our fun fellowship in the future!!
Recommended Read: “How to Have a Sober Social Life” http://jezebel.com/5853940/how-to-have-fun-when-youre-the-sober-one