Having Fun In Recovery From Addiction
For those who have been reading the experts section of this site, I am taking a break from writing about co-occurring disorders to focus on something more timely, now that summer is finally starting to show its head, and that is: having fun in recovery. “Fun” and “recovery” are usually two words that are not placed in the same sentence together, aside from the occasional, “Recovery is not a fun process.” Honestly, recovery will be one of the hardest things people seeking sobriety actually accomplish in their lives, but one important aspect of self-care and just being human often gets neglected, and that is the importance of having fun in life. Or as another therapist once said to me, “You were put on this planet to have joy.”
Realizing that, finding joy, fun, and passion again are important parts of the recovery process as well. There will be much important work to do and time to heal from the wounds and traumas of life, but it is vital to remember to take time to lift your spirit with fun and joy. Striking a balance between all the work that needs to be done, both in life and in recovery, will be an important skill to learn.
Balance can mean many different things to many different people. In researching for this article I found this quote that I am going to use for a working definition of balance:
“But it includes something else we may not always consider — mental health, just like our physical health, operates on a continuum. You can be completely disabled by problems in your mental health, lead a pretty happy and fulfilling life, or fall somewhere in-between these two extremes at different points in your life.”
Someone who experiences “good” mental health, therefore, has found a balance in his or her social, emotional and psychological areas of life. “Balance” is one of those squishy, new-age-y terms that doesn’t really mean anything, so I’ll try and be more specific. Generally a person with balance is satisfied and happy with how these areas are performing in their lives, even if it appears to someone else they are not in balance. For instance, a hermit might enjoy perfect mental health even though he may have little or no social life. (Grohol, 2008).”
To sum up, someone who has balance in their lives is satisfied and content with how things are going across most or all of the general areas of human functioning, health, emotions, social, financial, spiritual, etc. Finding a balance, a way to be content with areas of life is consistently found to be tied in with good mental health and recovery of all types.
Why I bring this up is because I wanted to present the need for fun in life, even if it is just a five-minute daydream, or full vacation at Disney World, fun is part of the human experience and needs to be recognized. I will talk about fun, but know that part of the truth is that you have to find and do what is fun, and healthy, for you. For folks in recovery, likely you have been told that you need all new friends.
If you have read my articles before, you will have noticed I try to define terms and phrases as much as possible. It can, however, be very easy for me to say one thing, like the word “justice,” without explanation. Its meaning, after all, can be varying for many of us. The same is true of fun. Literally what is fun for me could be some type of trigger for you. Who are the people who bring you joy in life to be around? Who supports you, or are there for you at 3AM when you need someone? It is time to go out with them to the movies. It is time to go mini-golfing with them. It is time for a card game. It is time to go to the beach with them. It is time…to start connecting and having fun with the friends, family, neighbors, etc. who may have been neglected over the years.
While spirituality and morals are often some of the first things to go out the window when people start using, fun and recreation quickly follow. There likely are hobbies and sports that have been abandoned. It may be time to revisit them to see if those are things you still want to do. No shame if your tastes have changed over time, it happens to many, but starting to revisit past activities will help inform you about future things to try.
Which brings us to…try new things. Going back continually to the same routines over and over again can be a way to stay stuck and stagnant in life. Optimal mental health relies on people trying new things and being open to new experiences, or as Dr. Seuss wrote, “Say! I like green eggs and ham! I like them Sam I am!” Recovery may be the time to try something new: dancing, playing softball, neighborhood picnics, or just trying Indian cuisine, the opportunity is here to grow and have fun doing it. It also gives a bonus and helps increase social circles and supports.
Finally, make sure to take a break. I said in the beginning a break is whatever it means to you, be it a five-minute daydream or a Caribbean cruise, the mind needs time away from tasks. I am sure there is a massive amount of personal experience out there that says taking a break and having fresh eyes makes the answer seem obvious to many a problem. Taking a brief respite before continuing strenuous tasks, chopping wood, doing taxes, or talking about childhood trauma, sometimes a break is necessary. It should not be used to continually avoid certain things, as that gets unhealthy, but closing your eyes for five minutes and pretending you are at the beach can bring a lot of focus, clarity and fun back in life.
I have tried to talk about, but mainly encourage, people having fun while in recovery. There are many, many other articles and people who will, and should, talk about serious aspects of recovery and therapy, as it should be. But remember to take that much needed time to give your brain a rest, to relax, and welcome joy back in your life. I know as a person I am on the nerdy side, so most of the examples and things I thought of will fall into the category as well. Do not let my examples limit what you think, and do, that is fun and healthy for you. Your recovery and your life is an individual affair, so try not to limit the joy you seek and find.
Grohol, John. (2008). What Is Good Mental Health. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/06/02/what-is-good-mental-health/.