“We aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 132) Ten steps for making your sober life more fun and rewarding than the drinking days:
- Dive in head first. You can choose to stay aloof, sit on the sidelines and observe the recovery community from afar but you only cheat yourself. Do they seem like a weird group—one with which you may not wish to associate yourself? Guess what, whether you sit out or join in, you are every bit one of them. Join in.
- Work the steps. There is no inherent pleasure in doing step work, but think of it like the primer you use to cover the wall before you paint. The real pizzazz is in that bright raspberry pink you picked out, but first comes the boring primer. Step work is like primer for life. You prep yourself for the joy to come when you invest the time in handling the emotional and spiritual preliminaries.
- Be honest. As cool as you thought your drinking life was, much of the time drinking was a way to escape a life that was disorganized, dismal and depressing. We all used to crave the glory days. But instead of reflecting on early drinking days when partying was still fun, glamorous, and novel, pull up a snapshot in your mind of the final days of addiction when alcohol wasn’t simply part of life, it was life. Remember the hangovers, the embarrassment, and the destructiveness? Is this really what you want you life to look like?
- Find a new gang. Ditching your drinking pals isn’t a requirement, but if you are going to live a sane and sober life, you might want to find some beyond-the-bar sorts of activities and interests and you’ll want some friends who share those interests. Start with your recovery group. Meet someone for coffee and see if you have other things in common. Look for interest groups in your area. There’s more to life than the party scene. Be intentional about getting connected.
- Make real friends. Many of us never understood what it meant to have real relationships and friendships. With the drinking out of the way, we start to learn who we really are, and we even start to like ourselves. When we were drinking we always feared we’d be found out. We imagined that if people really knew us, they wouldn’t like us. In recovery, we begin to put that real self out into the world. The payoff is authentic intimacy in our relationships and joy in human companionship.
- Laugh. Even though alcoholics often seemed like the life of the party, many of us are not as happy-go-lucky as we appeared, and some of us are even quite miserably serious. While laughter and good humor seem like such natural, organic things, some of us need to be quite intentional about bringing them into our lives. The first step to finding the world a little more laughable is to begin taking yourself less seriously. Can you laugh at your foibles or are you still trying to cover them up so no one sees? Watch funny movies and spend time with humorous people. In time, you’ll get your laugh back.
- Play. “Everybody knows that those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not laugh much. So let each family play together or separately, as much as their circumstances warrant.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 132-133) Join a sports team, try yoga classes, sign up for salsa lessons, organize a game night. Get your body and mind in the habit of doing fun things. When was the last time you played
- Get Healthy. Your body is an incredible creation and it’s time to start enjoying it and using it as more than just a trash receptacle. A healthy mind, outlook on life, and recovery practice will involve proper care of the body. How joyous can you feel if you are constantly battling illness or infirmity? Exercise, eat better, and start to care about you.
- Meditate. The physical benefits of increased serenity and decreased stress gained through meditation are immeasurable. “A body badly burned by alcohol does not recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful restorative.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 133)
- Serve. While it’s counterintuitive, the more you give the more you get. In A.A. we learn that the real purpose of our lives in recovery is to be of maximum service to others, primarily alcoholics. While it may seem that these activities would only drain you, when you work the steps and take care of yourself, you’ll find incredible stores of energy at your disposal for the business of being fully engaged in your new amazing life.
In spite of yourself and despite the gloominess you may now feel, you will soon join many other recovering alcoholics in saying, “My worst day sober is better than my best day as an alcoholic.”