What Do You Do With Time on Your Hands in Recovery?

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What Do You Do With Time On Your Hands In Recovery?

What Do You Do With Time On Your Hands In Recovery?

Once you begin recovery, you may find that you have a lot of free time on your hands. This is normal for a lot of people. Consider that you spent months or years in drug-seeking behavior. You had to secure financial resources in which to purchase drugs or alcohol, you had to make time to buy the drugs or alcohol, and you spent a great deal of time using drugs and alcohol. Your life was centered around drugs and alcohol. Once you stop using drugs and alcohol, all of this free time kind of just sits there and can sometimes feel like empty or wasted space.

Many addicts state that they do “anything but” engage in using drugs or alcohol. What does this “anything but” look like and how can you fill your time with meaningful activities to prevent relapse? How can you ensure that boredom will not set in and set you on a path to relapse? Boredom is often a topic at 12-step meetings due to the importance of its relationship to relapse. The important thing to remember is that even non-recovering addicts get bored. Everyone has experienced boredom at one time or another.

Most in the early stages of recovery spend time attending meetings and working their program of sobriety. This is an efficient and resourceful use of your time. Through sharing your emotions, thoughts, frustrations, and concerns is not only beneficial to your recovery but is also a great way to spend your time. There is a good chance that you will meet others who are also new to recovery and need that added support. After a period of abstinence, you can sponsor others in recovery. Sponsorship is a great way to fill time but it also allows you the opportunity to share your stories of recovery and hope with others. Helping others also builds your self-confidence.

With some time under your belt, you might start to feel like you can do more. If you are not working, try taking a class or two at a local community college or even online. Maybe there is something that you have always wanted to study but did not due to your addiction. Taking courses also serves the dual purpose of connecting with other non-recovering individuals and expanding your social network.

If you work and have family responsibilities, you may find that you have little time outside of group work or meetings for other activities. This is okay. What you want to avoid is “empty” time where you are left alone thinking about other things you would rather be doing. This can set up a relapse situation because in most cases, thoughts might turn to engaging in negative drug behaviors again. Keep your mind occupied through reading books, doing a crossword puzzle, or watching a good movie. In a sense, these activities are the “anything but” that many in recovery refer to.


Settled remotely in the Arizona desert, the healing landscape of Cottonwood Tucson, a residential treatment center for co-occurring disorders, is the perfect environment for transformation. Our integrative approach to treatment heals the mind, body, and spirit, for total recovery and lifelong abstinence.
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