The myth that sobriety is boring is precisely that: a myth. With time, your very definition of fun changes, with the fleeting, risky highs associated with addiction giving way to deeper and more long-lasting joys.
While the concept of fun may sound like a secondary concern compared to the changes involved with achieving and maintaining sobriety, it is critically important. When a person does not learn how to enjoy life without his or her substance of choice, then the chances of remaining sober long-term are limited. Learning to have fun without the need for addictive behavior should be an important goal if you are newly sober. Here are some thoughts on having fun while remaining sober.
Contemplate How Much “Fun” It Actually Was When You Were Not Sober
You may have some riveting stories that took place when you were not sober. Maybe you have been told stories about things you did that sound impressive or hilarious, but do you even remember them? There is a pervasive cultural fantasy that alcohol (or other substances) make situations enjoyable, and that they are a sure cure for boredom. Much of that, however, is plain marketing and advertising. Once you go through drug and alcohol rehab, chances are that most of the “fun” of substance use has gone away, replaced by regrets, ruptured relationships, and legal problems.
Be Present for Relationships and Activities You Value
Learning to have fun while sober requires essentially the opposite of the escapist behavior of drinking or using drugs. Fun while sober means being fully present for the people and activities that are valuable to you, and this can be scary for you. You can adopt new hobbies in sobriety, sometimes with the help of sober networks. You may return to activities you enjoyed before your substance abuse problem led you to drug and alcohol rehab.
Simply being present may make you feel vulnerable at first, but that is okay. Perhaps you have seen a widely-circulated photo of an older woman simply taking in a movie premiere event while everyone around her records it on their phones. Not looking at the world through a screen, or through the lens of substance use, is a gift to be savored.
Address Medical or Mental Health Issues Proactively
Dual diagnosis, or substance use diagnosed along with other mental health disorders, is not only common, but requires deliberate management of both conditions. Psychiatric disorders can be a major risk factor for development of substance abuse, and substance abuse can trigger psychiatric disorders.
Just as you would plan to take insulin to treat diabetes, so should you plan to medically address mental health disorders if that is what your doctor recommends. It is important that your mental health doctor know your history of addiction, and that he or she be willing to work with you to determine what the right medication is, and what the right dosages is. Taking care of mental health issues proactively can help you avoid addiction relapse and can contribute to your joy in living.
The Joy of the “Aha” Moments
One of the greatest gifts of sobriety is experiencing discoveries about yourself and your values in new contexts. Those “aha” moments where you genuinely relax and enjoy an activity may feel hard-won at first. But once you learn to recognize new things that bring you joy, you have really made a breakthrough in attaining long-term sobriety. You are looking at life through a different pair of glasses, in a way, and they allow you to see beauty and truth where you were unable to do so before. It does not happen overnight, and it is not to be confused with the early “pink cloud” of sobriety. But this ability helps you learn to reach out and develop the sober networks you need in order to let go of resentments and practice living in the moment.
Drug and alcohol rehab is an important step in coping with alcoholism or other addictions. But it is what happens after drug and alcohol rehab that can make the difference between long-term sobriety and relapse.
One of the hardest things recovering addicts must do is to learn how to enjoy life without the false help of substances. When you are able to do that, however, it is another major step toward a happy, joyful, meaningful life of sobriety. If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, or have questions about drug and alcohol rehab, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We want to hear from you.