The Life Challenge
How Recovery is Like the Movie Groundhog Day

How Recovery is Like the Movie Groundhog Day

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?”

How’s that for an encouraging article opener?

We snagged a line from the hilarious Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day. You know the one: where Phil Connors, a self-centered jerk, gets stuck repeating the same monotonous day over and over and over again.

Only that quote isn’t so hilarious. It’s kind of a bummer. Which might be how you feel sometimes as you walk the road from addiction to recovery. Like Phil, maybe you find yourself stuck in a time loop of sorts – bored, hopeless and ready to give in, as though your current situation may just last forever.

Let’s take a look at what Groundhog Day – a truly funny movie – can teach us about the more serious issues of life. After all, as Phil Connors discovers, feeling stuck offers one glimmer of promise: opportunity.

3 Groundhog Day Tips for People in Recovery

Struggling to make the connection here? I got you, babe. Er, Phil Connors does anyway.

At 6:00 am, his clock turns and a Sonny and Cher song jars him awake on February 2nd. Always February 2nd. Over the course of the movie, and with the help of his love interest, Rita, Phil begins to view the repetition as a gift instead of a curse.

Of course, the perspective shift is a process. Here’s how he got there (and how you can too):

1. Be bored. If Phil Connors dreaded his Groundhog Day assignment the first time around, we can only imagine how he must have felt sharing the not-so-breaking news for days, weeks, months – years? – on end.

Talk about a drag. For many people in recovery, sobriety feels much the same way.1 Maybe you’re bored with the routine of daily life. Especially a life lacking the thrill of seeking out a new high or letting loose with friends over a round of drinks.

Know that you’re not alone. Embracing boredom is normal and, according to experts, “an essential part of the recovery process.”1 So go ahead and be bored. Sit with that feeling. Learn to be okay in those uncomfortable moments.

2. Face your demons daily. Phil Connors is, well, not the nicest guy. He’s sarcastic and anti-social, concerned only with climbing the ladder in his career – and certainly not with the goings-on of the people in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

At the start of the film, we can guess that Phil is either OK with these traits or even unaware of them. But there’s something about being in a time loop that makes you see yourself – and your flaws – for what they really are.

As you walk the road to recovery, you might be tempted to shy away from the realities of your life today. Can we encourage you to, instead, acknowledge your shortcomings as they present themselves? After all, that’s where real change begins.

3. Do something with your time. More than 25 years have passed since Groundhog Day first released in 1993. And still, fans of the film debate one key detail: the passage of time. How long was Phil stuck, they wonder?

Arguments span from eight years to 10,000 – yes thousand – years. Director, Harold Ramis, suggests Phil spends between 30 and 40 years repeating February second.2 And in that time, he learns to play the piano, speak French fluently and carefully studies the day’s events to improve the lives of people all over town.

No, you and I won’t get the chance to repeat a day over and over until we get it right. You’re much more likely to have years – decades even – to do something great with your time. Says addiction psychologist Dr. Adi Jaffe, “Sobriety is about abstinence but it’s also supposed to set you up in life to achieve other things.” What do you want to achieve?3

Or, as Mary Oliver asked in her poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

By Stephanie Thomas

1. Shines, Sharie. Battling Boredom in Early Recovery. Psych Central, Accessed December 29, 2018.
2. Video of the Day: How Long Bill Murray Actually Spent in Groundhog Day. All That’s Interesting, February 2, 2018.
3. McGuiness, Kristen. Hitting a Wall in Sobriety. The Fix, April 3, 2012.