Emotional immaturity is common is early recovery and for some folks, even with long-term sobriety. Growing up remains optional. I’m not talking about being a “grown-up” or even “adulting.” Emotional maturity is about becoming the person you most want to be – a person who can manage responsibilities, maintain a healthy perspective, and who understands that how other people act toward us is not about our worth but rather, a reflection of their character.
Going From Immaturity to Maturity
This is no small undertaking. To develop an identity requires unlearning everything we were taught by sick and selfish people. It requires self-acceptance and a willingness to incrementally embrace change. It entails setting goals and seeking both support and accountability in pursuing them.
We get to choose to remain child-like in the very best of ways. Unfortunately, we are people who have child-ish habits that sobriety alone does not take away:
and avoidant tendencies
…are all toward the top of that list. When I hear folks in recovery describe being bored, I remember when my kids were in their early teens on summer vacation.
Investing in Self and Others
One of the very best additions counselors I know refers to ideas like boredom as, “Beautiful lies I tell myself.” I’ve come to see boredom as a lack of imagination and an avoidance of responsibility. It’s often a product of procrastination and/or insufficient investment in self and others. Worst of all, boredom is complacency. Left unchecked, boredom becomes emptiness, which becomes depression, which opens the doors to a whole lot of bad ideas.
The best way to guard against complacency and regression is to be of service to others and to allow ourselves a balance in life that affords us ample opportunities to rest. Many of us find it difficult to relax because it increases our awareness of self. It creates space for emotions and memories to surface. We tend to flood our lives with other people’s needs, wants, and feelings. Then when we tire of it, we proclaim it all “drama” and withdraw.
Balance remains elusive to us. If we are willing to seek it, we can consider that there are three main areas in our lives: what we do for work, what we do with/for family and friends, and what we do for ourselves and our recovery. We know that failing to make our recovery a priority will result in losing everything and so ideally, we place this first. Everything else that we do for self is likely a low priority. Learning how to relax and be in the moment frees us to imagine opportunities I have found that the more I stay in good company, the more I am free to enjoy time alone.
Recovery affords us the opportunity to come to know our true selves and to know what we love. If I am bored, it is not because I lack great books, music or hobbies. Boredom is a red flag that there is an emptiness. I need to be still and simply ask myself what I need to fill that emptiness with.