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How often are you hanging out?

According to a new book by Sheila Liming titled Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time, most of us are not hanging out with friends or family nearly enough. 

In a feature in the online publication Slate, Dan Kois writes of the book:

Hanging Out is meant to be not only diagnostic but instructive. Liming offers some practical tips to encourage readers to hang out more: separating from devices, and carving out time in your life that is unscheduled and unproductive. Most of all, she writes, it’s important to “take heart”—to remember that we are always building a better future, even when things are hard. “Hanging out requires the repeated exertion and application of one’s social capacities,” she writes. “That can feel exhausting.” But for the future we all want—we all need—it is crucial to use the energy we’ve drawn from all our previous hangings-out, the memories of those good times, to push ourselves to commit, and recommit, to lives of sociability and mutual affection.

We think Liming is onto something—something that it is important for people in recovery to remember.

We Want to Start with a Couple Quick Disclaimers

Before we talk about the ideas in Liming’s book that seem applicable to those in recovery from a substance use disorder, we want to make two quick disclaimers:

  • Much of the hanging out described in the book—and in Kois’ article about the book—involves drinking. It perhaps goes without saying that we are decidedly not recommending that here.
  • The book makes a case for building more unstructured time into our schedules because that is, arguably, what it means to hang out. You get together with friends or family (or even strangers) with no specific plans in mind. We want to note, however, that some individuals in recovery may struggle with unstructured time—particularly if it reminds them of times spent drinking or using drugs. If this is the case for you, more structured hang outs are certainly an option.

‘Lives of Sociability and Mutual Affection’

The final phrase of the quote from Kois’ article gets to the heart of the ways in which hanging out supports sobriety.

Loneliness, as a rule, is the enemy of sobriety. When a person in recovery finds themselves feeling lonely much of the time, problems can crop up fairly quickly. It can be harder to overcome cravings, for example. Loneliness can lead to worsening symptoms of mental health disorders, which in turn can lead to a temptation to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol. And it can be tempting, if a person is feeling isolated, to reconnect with people who were a negative part of their life before they got sober.

Given those sorts of potential outcomes, it is clearly important to build a healthy social life. Strengthening relationships with folks who will always support you in your efforts to stay sober is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself in recovery.

‘Remember that We are Always Building a Better Future’

Returning to the quote from Kois’ piece, we want to emphasize another point: 

Most of all, [Liming] writes, it’s important to “take heart”—to remember that we are always building a better future, even when things are hard.

Liming is making a convincing case that hanging out is a key aspect of building that better future in the face of challenges. Recovery can be hard. Hanging out can help.

Ironically, ensuring that you can take advantage of “unscheduled and unproductive” time can take effort—especially in the early going. But once you and your friends and family get in the habit of hanging out, you may find that it gets easier. Unlearning the common idea that every moment of our lives must be productive is probably the first step to successfully creating space for hanging out. For a person in recovery, that is a first step well worth taking if it helps build relationships that enrich your life and support your ongoing sobriety.

To Reclaim Your Sobriety, Come Hang Out with Us

Okay, we admit that going through treatment for a substance use disorder is not exactly “hanging out.” 

Nevertheless, spending some time with us at French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, PA, is an excellent idea if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol. In addition to helping you regain your sobriety, we can address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be contributing to (or maybe worsened by) a substance use disorder.

In just the same way you do not want to spend too much time alone in recovery, you do not want to try to get sober on your own. When you are ready to reclaim your sobriety, we are ready to help.