By: Lisa Blomgren, Alumni Coordinator

The term “FOMO” (fear of missing out) has gained a lot of attention in the last few years with the rise in social media usage. Still, it is something that I experienced myself long before the term was coined in 2004 and even longer before Myspace hit the scene some years later (yes, I am getting old).

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined FOMO as a fear of missing out and not being included in something, such as an enjoyable activity that others enjoy.

I remember feeling that I needed to attend every birthday party or sleepover I was invited to as a kid. If I could not make it, I would become anxious, wonder what fun I was missing out on, and hope that I would not be left out of all my friend’s new inside jokes come Monday on the bus. This feeling progressed into my teenage years, and I would find myself out every weekend, even if I had homework to do or was not feeling up to it, because I so desperately wanted to be part of it. My strong desire to be a part of and stay connected with others often landed me in situations I should not have been in, and I had little time for self-reflection and care. I also found myself spending more time than I should have, scrolling aimlessly on social media, comparing my weekends and life to those around me.

I remember being astonished to learn how many others experienced this desperate desire to be part of, especially folks in recovery for mental health and substance use disorders. Wanting meaningful connections is part of human nature, but many struggle to be alone with their thoughts. The behaviors tied to one’s FOMO can lead to compulsive behaviors to maintain the human attachment they crave.

For those of us in recovery from substance use, we may remove the substances from our bodies, but old behaviors and low self-worth may remain, and it takes some digging, self-reflection, and hard work to tweak things that are no longer serving us. Being part of the recovery community is a great way to develop stronger interpersonal relationships and satisfy that need, but it is also important to work towards being okay with taking a step back from stuff when needed and setting boundaries.

There are many ways to combat FOMO. The biggest one for me has been limiting time spent on social media. I remind myself daily that people only showcase the most glamorous parts of their lives on their socials. Like me, they also probably have a job they go to Monday through Friday, have chores to do, doctor’s appointments, and have real-life struggles. The fun I see them have on Instagram does not accurately represent their daily lives. When I find myself going down the rabbit hole and getting sucked into the “their life looks way more interesting than mine” trap, it is usually time to put the phone down for a bit.

Another helpful technique to combat FOMO is to practice gratitude daily. It is helpful to consider all the good things that we have going on in our lives and even to consider all of the fun experiences we have had. Just because we need to sit out on activities this coming weekend does not mean we will never have fun again.

It is also helpful to analyze the relationships that we have. Are the people that we want to surround ourselves with people that are there for the long haul? I have realized that the best type of friendships are ones where I can take some time to myself and pick up where we left off, as no time has passed. If the people we surround ourselves with will dismiss us or no longer be our friends because we missed out on a couple of events, they are likely not in your best interest. It is okay to step back from friendships if they no longer serve us in a healthy way.

Lastly, it is easy to glamorize partying and past experiences when things were “still fun.” I must frequently remind myself that it is okay that those memories are in the past. Using substances was only fun for so long, and it got ugly quickly. If I am being honest with myself, I know that I can never go back to those early days of using without things becoming disastrous very quickly. Instead, I can make an effort to create new fun memories in recovery that don’t involve partying and that fit into my life in a more balanced way. It is okay that others without substance use disorders still drink on the weekends, but that does not need to be my reality and what defines my worth and relationships.

As always, if you are struggling with FOMO, substance use, or mental health, please reach out to the alumni team. We are here to support you through every step of your recovery journey!