School’s Out for Summer – Overcoming Addiction

After a successful return to college, Midwestern Mama’s son is taking a break from classes this summer with plans to return in the fall. Without the structure and routine of classes, homework and studying, how will he spend his time this summer?

School's Out for Summer

Three things have undermined my son’s experience with overcoming addiction: time on his hands, boredom and money. When one or more of these has been present, his drug use would take control. Now, 10 months sober he is learning to work through these- even though summer without college classes could present a challenge.

During Addiction:

Time: When very little interests you, even amid commitments like school, sports and a part-time job, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. When you no longer have to go to school and you don’t have sports or a job, then you sit around a lot. Sitting around leads to boredom.

Boredom: More than anything, my son has been living with boredom most of his life. Before drugs, he would easily get bored even with seemingly exciting things to engage his interest. No matter what, I can’t solve this for him. Even in his sobriety, not much interests him. He craves excitement, yet nothing ever seems to capture his attention for long.

He cites boredom as one of the main reasons he was curious to try marijuana as a teenager. It wasn’t peer pressure or wanting to fit it; it was curiosity. For a while, it certainly seemed that marijuana was his interest, his obsession really. Until, it wasn’t and then he was on to other drugs like opiates. Until, it was addiction and consequences, which controlled his ability or ambition to stop.

Money: From the time he was a little kid, money burned a hole in his pocket. At first, it was altruistically – putting all his birthday money in the donation jar at the zoo. Later, it was impulsively for instant gratification – buying a game or toy immediately and discovering it wasn’t as much fun as he thought it was going to be.

During addiction, having money from a part-time job meant he could fund his habit instead of saving for college (even though that wasn’t the agreement). Getting a tax refund meant, spending it on drugs. Getting gift cards meant selling these for drugs.

During Sobriety & Recovery:

Since going through treatment last summer and committing to sobriety and recovery during the past 10 months, he’s successfully addressed two out of three of these items – time on his hands and money.

Time: The treatment program plus part-time college classes and part-time job have filled his time while still allowing him the downtime that he needs to get through each day. However, with school out, he now has four days a week where he doesn’t have a time commitment. He’d like to increase his work schedule to cover the available hours and to earn more money for things like tuition in the fall and buying a car.

Money: The part-time job has helped him pay off debts incurred during addiction and has given him spending cash to buy some new clothes, get presents for family members on their birthdays, go to a movie, etc. Because he has set some goals such as school in the fall and getting a car, he seems more committed to saving money instead of spending it as impulsively as in the past.

Boredom: This remains the kicker. He still goes through the motions without a lot of zest or interest – save for the family dog. He doesn’t have much of a social life. This is the piece that’s been on my mind. At least with school schedule over the past semester, he had built in commitment and now he’s just got the part-time job …which means could have time on this hands and money … which means????

Time will tell. We’ve had a few conversations about the new routine. In the past, these conversations would have gone nowhere, and although I don’t have a sense what what’s going to happen I am more confident than ever before that he’s aware of the triggers and will come through with a plan that works for him. Silly me, I just wish I knew what it was! #SoberSummer

Midwestern Mama

P.S. Just as we headed into the Memorial Day weekend, my son completed an application to transfer from community college to a bachelor’s degree program at a local university. In doing so, he had to secure a transcript (albeit a blank one) from the college he briefly attended after high school; there was a hold on his account due to a fine for underage drinking and for possession of marijuana in the dorms – one of the pivotal lows of his addiction and the one that got him kicked out. Now four and a half years later, he paid this and signed up for extra hours at work to cover the expense. How far he’s come this year!