Just because you’ve decided to quit drinking and doing drugs, have completed rehab and are now in what’s termed “recovery,” doesn’t mean that you need to resign yourself to living the rest of your life in a ho-hum, boring existence. While you may think that being clean and sober is just plain dull, the truth is that your life in sobriety can be fulfilling, exciting and extremely rewarding. Some might even call it fun. But that, of course, depends on your point of view. Here we take a look at how newcomers to sobriety can discover healthy ways to have fun in recovery – okay, healthier — without jeopardizing all the gains they’ve made so far. Don’t worry. Nothing here is out of reach of the average individual. All it really takes is a desire to create a new life for yourself, one that maximizes your enjoyment of all that life has to offer while still remaining true to your commitment to sobriety.
Make a List
When you were a little kid, you were quite familiar with making a list of things you wanted Santa Claus to bring, correct? At least, most children growing up in America have done this in their early adolescence. While it’s not Christmas we’re talking about here but something even more important – the rest of your life – making a list, putting that long-ago-used skill to use, is the first step in figuring out healthier ways to have fun in recovery. What should you put on this list? Start with jotting down the things that you enjoy doing, have some skill at and derive some amount of pleasure from, or are interested in pursuing in the future. To qualify, your item doesn’t have to be an activity that you’re already really good at. You may have only rudimentary knowledge or little, if any, experience in this area. In fact, ideally, you’d put in a mix of things you already like to do (but haven’t been doing lately or for some time) as well as new ones you’re eager (or can convince yourself to try) to get involved in. Okay, so you’ve got the idea that putting together a list makes a lot of sense. What next?
Prioritize Each One
It’s one thing to construct a list. It’s another to figure out what to go for first. To that end, the next logical step is to put each item in order, from the most important or appealing to the least. Or, list them in chronological order, as in which ones you’re most likely to be able to devote some time to first. There’s also a prioritization you can do that takes into account the learning curve necessary when you’re tackling something that’s altogether new. These may be further down on your list, but there are interim steps you can take to get you closer to them while you’re still able to have healthy fun doing other things on the top of your list. Whatever rationale you use to prioritize them is purely up to you. After all, it’s your life we’re talking about here. It’s what will make you happy and help you feel productive and at peace at the same time. Keep in mind that to qualify as healthy ways to have fun in recovery means the activity or pastime or pursuit cannot in any way jeopardize your sobriety – not in the people, places or things you involve yourself with. So, keep that in mind as you make your list and prioritize your items.
Get Out and Meet New People
Many activities that you enjoy will be solitary ones that you can do in the privacy of your home, or those that you experience with a few loved ones, family members and/or close friends. But if this is your only social milieu, you’re missing out on some potentially great opportunities for discovering healthier ways to have fun. While getting out and meeting new people may be far from your idea of a good way to have fun – especially if you’re new to recovery and still trying to find your footing in this new life of sobriety that you have chosen, at least consider that this is one strategy that you may wish to pursue in the near term. Each day that you go through your to-do list of recovery work you must do, such as going to 12-step meetings, working on the Twelve Steps, taking any medications as prescribed, seeing your counselor or therapist, and taking proper care of yourself, keep in mind that you also need to cultivate new relationships. This is because your circle of friends may have decreased due to your severing contact with people you formerly associated with during your substance abusing days. Or, you could have cut yourself off from contact with the outside world to a great extent as a result of your addiction. At any rate, it’s time to go out and make some new friends. This is an excellent way of getting involved in healthier ways to have fun. And it doesn’t cost a dime to extend yourself in friendship to another. It does, however, take some amount of courage, especially if you’re coming from a recent history where communication wasn’t your strong suit, or you’ve damaged close relationships beyond repair, or some other reason. You won’t just wake up tomorrow and be ready to rush right into a group of total strangers and feel completely at home. Even if these are like-minded individuals sharing common goals, such as a travel club or weekly ski group, they’re people you don’t know. It may make you queasy just to think about having all those strangers peer at the newcomer in their midst. But if you approach meeting new people with a positive attitude – hey, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain – it may be a little easier to get started. There’s also a great deal to be said about the art of face-to-face communication, as compared with texting or email or chat rooms. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with electronic communication, but it is a more sterile and detached mode of interaction. It’s much better to see someone in person, be able to react and interact via facial expressions, a hearty handshake, and verbal cues, don’t you think?
Try a Hobby
Many people say they don’t have any hobbies, nothing that really interests them. But is this really true? Have you even tried to come up with a hobby that you think you might like to pursue? You don’t know if you don’t check it out. The list of hobbies is quite extensive. So there are a lot of potential choices. Hobbies are great in that they can bring you into contact with others who share the same interest. There are hobbies where contests are held and recognition can be achieved for certain achievements or levels. Clubs spring up all over the country for devotees of stamp collecting, antique toy collecting, classic cars, antique dolls, and so on. There are hobbies where you learn as you go, such as woodworking or cabinetry, or painting or cooking or home decorating or gardening. Keep in mind the learning curve relative to attempting a hobby you’ve never tried before. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it right away. You will, given time and effort and determination – and a little help from your new friends.
Travel: It Can Broaden Your Horizons
Let’s face it. Just about everyone likes to travel. Seeing new places, having the opportunity to meet new people is often exciting, different, unexpected. You never know what or who you’ll encounter, but you know that it will be unlike your everyday routine. This is one very good reason that families and stressed-out individuals anticipate and plan for a yearly vacation. The chance to get away from it all, refresh and renew is an undeniably tantalizing goal. But when you are in recovery, travel takes on even greater meaning. Granted, during the first few weeks and months of recovery you should probably stick close to home. You’re still trying to get accustomed to your routine and stick to the regimen you created for your recovery plan. But when you do get the opportunity, take the time to go on a trip – even a short one. Make it to a nearby town or take a weekend camping trip. Go downhill skiing with some friends or family members or rent a cabin at a lake or someplace you want to visit. Use this trip as an opportunity to see how other people live. Learn something about the city, town, or locale you’re visiting. If you travel to a foreign country, prepare by studying the customs, getting a travel-phrase guidebook and maps. You’ll undoubtedly spend a bit of time planning for your trip. This is a built-in way to discover healthier ways to have fun in recovery. The anticipation of planning for your time away is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Allow Yourself to Laugh…Often
Stop taking yourself so seriously. While recovery is many things, some days that seem to never end and some that you wish would last forever, it’s also often quite amusing. Learning how to laugh at life and yourself is one of the best things you’ll ever do. It’s also free, and how many things can we say that about? But what if you don’t find laughter coming easily? What if you think you don’t have a laugh in you anywhere? The truth is that you do – everyone does. The trick is to find ways to coax it out, and then let it spread. As they say, laughter is contagious. As for how to find your laugh quotient or, more to the point, how to develop the ability to laugh (and then permit yourself to do so), here are a few suggestions. Keep in mind that this list is woefully incomplete. There are dozens more ideas you can probably come up with, so do it. Book a recovery comedy comedian – Yes, there really is such a thing. there are comedians that specialize in performing for recovery groups. Whether it’s a convention or special group meeting, your 12-step group can book one of these recognized comedians. What better way to liven up the group and enjoy a bit of fun and laughter? Clean and sober comics, what a concept!
- One such organization is actually called Recovery Comedy . Their motto is “One laugh at a time.” According to the Recovery Comedy website, comedy is an art form and a connection with audiences. It’s a way for people to relate and be able to say, “Hey, I’ve been there, too.” Recovery Comedy has a roster of professional recovering comedians who not only know what it’s like to recover from addiction but also that there is laughter after the pain. Friends of Recovery Comedy include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon (//www.recoverycomedy.com/links.html).
- See a funny movie – Check the movie listings and you’re likely to find at least a handful of comedies playing at your local Cineplex. The list of contenders includes buddy comedies, slapstick, romantic comedies, parody or spoof, screwball comedies, dramedies, and more. In addition, there hybrid comedy genres (a combination of two different genres), including action comedy, comedy horror, sci-fi comedy, fantasy comedy, and military comedy, among others.
- In addition, there are hybrid comedy genres (a combination of two different genres), including action comedy, comedy horror, sci-fi comedy, fantasy comedy, and military comedy, among others. After about 70 minutes (most comedies are less than two hours in length), you will leave the movie theater feeling lighter. It’s a great way to spend some healthy free time and get something valuable out of it.
- Learn how to laugh at yourself – This may sound zany, but self-laughter may sometimes be the best medicine. Once you start teaching yourself that it’s okay to laugh, you’ll be able to begin seeing the possibilities for laughter right here in your own life. Look at the things you do every day. Have you been rushed for work in the morning and grabbed something to wear from the closet or drawer thinking it would match only to discover later that it’s the wrong or conflicting color or pattern, two different socks, or wasn’t laundered or mended? This has probably happened to many of us at one time or another. Learn to laugh at the situation – and the next time, turn the light on.
Make Celebrations Safe and Fun
How do you celebrate your successes or accomplishments now that you’re sober? Doesn’t celebration bring to mind drinking and other dangerous behaviors? If your family members attended family therapy and were actively involved in group meetings during your treatment, they already know how important it is that they support you in recovery. That means learning how to avoid situations that may increase stress, result in triggers, or prompt a relapse. This also includes finding substitutions for alcohol during any family gatherings. One way to ensure that celebrations are safe, and have the potential to be occasions of healthy fun, is to make sure that there is no alcohol of any kind on the premises. You know from rehab that you simply can’t have alcohol around – especially if you are in recovery for a problem with or addiction to alcohol. If your addiction was to illicit or prescription drugs, or other addictive substances or behaviors, you still can’t have alcohol around. Many recovering addicts have gone through treatment for one type of addiction, cocaine or marijuana, for example, and began to substitute alcohol upon their return home. Many recovering gambling addicts are also addicted to booze and drugs. Better to abide by the recommendations of your counselors and have the house clean of all addictive substances – including alcohol. You may need to have a discussion with your family members about the importance of maintaining a “clean” house. Some people think that, after a few months, they can return to having alcohol in the house, or smoke a joint in your presence without it causing a problem. You need to inform them in a firm but gentle way that this cannot happen. Enlist their support in helping you in your recovery. Non-alcoholic beverages are easy enough to include in family celebrations of your milestones. Once you have your family’s understanding and support, celebrating at home should be safe and problem-free. Since your family is a profoundly important part of your support network, learning how to enjoy safe and healthy celebrations with them will go a long way toward your goal of having good, clean fun in recovery.
Be Willing to Give and Receive Love
Life in recovery is more than just paying attention to goals, learning and practicing coping skills, restructuring your life, making plans, finding the joy in life and having hope. You also need love. In fact, love can make having fun all that more enjoyable – and we’re not merely talking about physical expression of intimacy. But the concept of loving and being loved may be extremely difficult to accept for those in recovery who feel that their past addictive behavior makes them unworthy of love. The reality is that you are not defined by your addiction. Who you are now and who you choose to be from this day forward is all that counts. Granted you will have some amends to make, but that does not mean that you cannot have and give love. You need to learn that you are loveable, and that you can love in return. For some, this will mean the love of family. Others will find platonic love. Many will give and receive love of the more intimate kind with a prospective or existing partner or spouse. To give or receive love means that you have to learn how to love yourself first. Once you love you, then you will be able to give from your heart and love others. It’s as simple and basic as that. Love in recovery is a powerful boost to being able to live a life of sobriety. In fact, love is one of the best-kept secrets to an effective recovery. In the end, love – while it may not be all we need – is certainly one of the most satisfying elements in recovery.
And it is also a source of healthy fun.
Let’s summarize. The process of discovering healthy ways to have fun in recovery entails following a few simple steps. You generally begin my making a list of what’s important and meaningful to you and follow that up by prioritizing each item you’ve jotted down. You then should plan to make meeting new people part of your agenda, for it’s by getting involved in new activities and being around like-minded people that you can expand your circle of friends. Other ways to discover healthy ways to have fun in recovery include hobbies and travel. Don’t forget the importance of allowing yourself to laugh – often and well. In the meantime, make sure that celebrations with family and friends are safe, so they have the potential to be healthy, good fun for all concerned. Finally, be willing to love and be loved. Keep in mind that life is precious and short. You can discover healthy ways to have fun and maintain your sobriety in the process. Think of this as another aspect of an exciting journey you are taking. And, congratulations in advance on what you will learn and come to enjoy.