Day 26: Time-A Blessing and A Curse

Time: A blessing and a curse

I’ve often said that the main thing that led me to Moderation Management was that I came to resent the time I was spending drinking or recovering from drinking.  I’ve always seen time as the most precious of commodities and frequently chided myself for how casually I allowed myself to fritter it away on such pursuits.  As Seneca wrote:

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.  Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.” – Seneca

Investing the whole of our time in the accomplishment of the very greatest things may be beyond the will of most of us – moderation in all things, right? – but I’m sure we all recognize the feeling that time is somehow slipping away from us and we’re not making the best use of that which we have available.  I know from talking to others in the recovery community that I’m not alone in seeking to curb my drinking in order to free up time and energy to pursue more worthwhile activities.  Indeed, many of us find it helpful to use the vision of that time better spent as motivation to address our issues and move forward.

But there’s a downside.  It’s not uncommon when newly abstaining from alcohol for people to feel that they suddenly have a surfeit of time and difficulty filling it at all, let alone productively.  This feeling can be particularly pronounced after the first few days, once the initial enthusiasm for such a new endeavor begins to wane and we find the very habits we’re trying to take a break from are trying to elbow their way back to prominence.  Too much free time at this point can feel like a curse, not the blessing that we hoped it would be.  That phenomenon is likely to be felt even more keenly this year when most of us are operating under some degree of confinement.

For many people Dryuary may be a one-off event but many others see it as a steppingstone to a healthier and more fulfilling life.  If you’re in that latter camp, then you probably already have an idea of how you want to put that extra time that you’re gaining to good use.  If not, then you might want to give it some thought.  Dryuary presents participants with a perfect opportunity to carve out some time for themselves to embark on those projects which we all harbor hopes of one day realizing.  Could this be the time to finally start writing that novel you’ve always felt you had in you?  Maybe you’ve dreamed of playing a musical instrument or learning a foreign language.  Well now could be the time to turn those dreams into reality.  Often during an extended period of abstinence the attention is drawn to what one is giving up but if one can redirect one’s energies into an undertaking of personal significance then one’s chances of success are greatly increased and the whole experience becomes more rewarding.

In the medium to long term, with or without such a project, I can vouch for the fact that life is perfectly capable of expanding to fill any increased space made available to it.  I appreciate, however, that’s not much comfort in the short term if one feels one is climbing the walls and waiting until a socially acceptable time to go to bed.  To head off those situations many people find it helpful to compile a list of go-to activities that one can use to distract oneself.  They don’t have to meet Seneca’s benchmark of “great things”, in fact it’s going to help you in the moment if there’s a liberal spattering of pampering and indulgence in there.  They don’t have to fill the entire evening either, often all it takes is half an hour or so to let the feeling pass and to regain our composure.  Here are some items from my list – feel free to make suggestions of your own in the comments:

  • Go for a walk
  • Listen to music
  • Watch a film
  • Take a relaxing bath
  • Write a letter or email to a friend
  • Work out

OK, I made that last one up.  That’s never been on any list I’ve ever made in my life before today.  I have succeeded in incorporating a morning yoga and afternoon Pilates practice into my schedule, though, which has resulted in demonstrable benefits to my health and general wellbeing.

Regardless of whether you feel like embarking on a parallel self-improvement project or are content to focus on the good work you’re doing within the scope of Dryuary itself, it can still be helpful to put in a little thought up front as to how you’re going to occupy yourself during the free time you may now find you have, time that can be a blessing or a curse depending on how well we manage it.

Post Submitted By: Nils, Moderation Management Member
Suggested NA beverage: Sparkling Mint Limeade