Making Early Sobriety Fun
June 21, 2010 by admin
Learning to have fun without drinking or using drugs is one of the most common problems recovering alcoholics and addicts face. There are many reasons people become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but feelings such as depression, boredom and detachment from life are all common factors.
Many people start using drugs because they feel incapable of enjoying life the way that others do. Activities that are supposed to be fun seem hollow and meaningless. Drinking or using drugs becomes a way to feel normal, and over time an alcoholic can forget how to feel good without this crutch.
As a result, many newly sober people view the early weeks and months of recovery with dread. They’ve never felt good without alcohol in the past, so how can they expect to feel good now? But with the help of a recovery program, people can change these patterns and start having fun without using chemicals.
Can Sobriety Be Fun?
While many recovering addicts get tired of everyone telling them to “have a positive attitude” (as if this is easy), the triteness of this advice shouldn’t discount it. For the long-time addict or alcoholic, there’s something inherently noble and adventurous about getting sober, and sobriety can be fun if you think of it as fresh approach to life. Every day is new, and each day that you go without using drugs brings you into undiscovered territory.
Of course, these positive thoughts aren’t going to prevent you from having those moments where thoughts of drinking creep into your mind. At these moments, it’s important to at least go through the motions of having fun. Many recovering alcoholics and addicts find that if they just keep moving forward during these moments, the cravings fade, and a good mood soon catches up.
Being Social Without Using
In recovery, you’re going to hear a lot about the importance of avoiding the friends you used to drink or use drugs with. Sadly, even if you’ve been friends with someone since childhood, if they’re unwilling to go along with you on the path to sobriety, then the friendship has to end here. If they choose to get sober in the future, that may be a different story. But for now, it’s too dangerous to hang out with drinkers and drug users.
Being in recovery may seem like a drag at first, but after a few weeks you’ll find yourself bonding with the people in your group meetings. The common misconception is that AA meetings are dour settings full of tears and sullen self-pity. While these things aren’t bad and certainly have their place, you might be surprised by how fun and lighthearted meetings can be. We deal with the darkness by making jokes and pointing to the lighter side of life.
In the end, your group meetings may not completely replace your old social life, but they will help fill some of the void left by the old friends you can’t see anymore. And if things go well, you may even make a few lasting new friendships at your meetings.
Fun Without Drugs
The most challenging thing about having fun without drugs or alcohol is learning how to get outside of yourself. The feelings associated with early sobriety are often dark and heavy, and it can be difficult to fight through these feelings and lighten up enough to enjoy yourself. In fact, some recovering alcoholics and addicts are so certain they can’t get over their dark feelings that they don’t even try.
But this is the wrong approach. Even if it is difficult to have fun during the early stages, one must trust the recovery program enough to know that it will eventually lead to better feelings. It’s a chicken-egg situation: It’s hard to have fun until you’ve made progress in your recovery, and your recovery will be slow if you don’t learn how to get out and enjoy life on its own terms.
That’s why recovering alcoholics and addicts just have to learn to go through the motions and to get moving even when it seems hard. Even when your mood is dark and cravings keep coming up, you just have to get out there and try. Nine times out of 10, when you force yourself to be active, you’ll be glad you did at the end of the day.
The mood-enhancing properties of physical activity can’t be ignored. Many alcoholics and addicts neglect to take good care of their bodies and don’t exercise as much as they should. Over time, these self-destructive habits only contribute to the downward spiral of addiction.
Now is the time to reverse this downward trajectory, and to get active in a very literal sense. When you make an effort to exercise daily and get fit, you’ll benefit in every conceivable way. The exercise will boost your mood, it will make you feel better about yourself and it will give you a steady increase in confidence over the coming months. With persistence, this will feed your recovery and give you the extra boost of strength you need to keep temptation at bay.
Any activity can be made into a sober one, but the early stages of recovery are a particularly precarious time. Later on, you may be able to be around drinking people – for example, at sporting events or concerts – but it’s best to avoid such events until you’re a little further along. Here are some drug-free activities that you might enjoy:
- Hiking: Getting out in nature produces a natural high and reconnects us with the fundamental beauty of existence.
- Sports: Recreational sports provide valuable exercise, and they’re also a great way to meet new people.
- Watching movies: Movies provide a welcome distraction from ourselves and our problems, and they give us something to think about.
- Creating and enjoying art and literature: Many recovering alcoholics and addicts find that being creative is a helpful way to channel their feelings. If you have a creative talent that you’ve allowed to languish during your addiction, now is a good time to pick it back up. Meanwhile, visiting galleries and attending readings are stimulating in positive ways.
- Taking classes: Recovery is a time to improve ourselves, and there’s no better way to do this than to learn some new things. Think about something you’d like to learn, whether it be cooking, martial arts, a foreign language or anything you’re interested in, and look up classes in your area.
- Volunteering: Giving back to the community through volunteering helps you get out of yourself and provides a nice mood boost. It’s also a great way to meet positive-minded people.