Recovering from a substance use disorder is a momentous decision and one that requires a tremendous amount of effort and dedication. But, as you recover, it’s important that you do more than focus on plowing through difficult times. Part of recovery involves learning how to have fun again, how to enjoy yourself in the moment, and how to be you, which involves enjoying life.
While the idea of not being able to have fun might seem laughable to someone not accustomed to addiction, it’s a natural and normal part of addiction recovery. In fact, the longer and more heavily you’ve abused alcohol, the worse this will be. Individuals who frequently binge alcohol flood neurotransmitter receptors like GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, and with tolerance, the brain simply starts producing less of these. When you’re not drinking, you’ll simply feel less, because your brain is producing less of the chemicals that cause enjoyment. This side-effect, which is known as emotional blunting, will fade over time. However, you can take steps to mitigate it while helping yourself to have fun in the now.
No matter how bored or dissatisfied you feel now, you can have fun without resorting to drinking. These steps will help you as you begin the process of learning to have fun sober.
Exercise can help in addiction recovery and is now an important component in most treatment programs. Most people wouldn’t see someone running and think “that’s my idea of a good time”, but exercise can help you to have fun in several ways. Regular exercise stimulates blood flow, increasing oxygenation of the body and improving circulation, which boosts energy levels and improves the mood. It also works to produce dopamine and serotonin as part of the brain’s reward circuit. Regular exercise also balances out dopamine and serotonin production, which will have a positive impact on your long-term health and ability to recover.
Here, your focus should be on consistent and regular exercise rather than hard exercise. In fact, focusing on simply moving and enjoying doing so will likely have a significantly higher impact than forcing yourself into a state of exhaustion. Most people should aim for 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day. What counts as exercise? Walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, cleaning your house, sports, or just about anything that gets you up and moving. If you’re not sure what you like, try something accessible and free like walking and build a habit of going for a walk or a light jog every morning. Here, you can overlap benefits, as spending short amounts of time outside will help you to relax and destress.
If you have the time and money to do so, participating in a sport is always a good idea. Why? You get to participate in regular activity with social motivation, social interaction, and will likely work to build new friendships through the sport.
Do Something (With Your Hands)
Most of us spend free time in front of digital devices and computers, but there’s a lot to be said for disconnecting and doing something with your hands. In fact, actively participating in a craft or hobby will help you to trigger your reward circuit, will help you to boost self-esteem, will help you to learn discipline, and will help you improve other skills. These are some of the reasons complementary therapies like art and music therapy are so common in addiction treatment.
If you do choose to start a new hobby or pick up an old one, go slow. Don’t expect too much of yourself at first. Instead, focus on spending consistent amounts of time every day practicing, and keep doing it. Importantly, having hobbies that require physical concentration can be a great outlet when you’re feeling cravings, because you have something to focus on that isn’t entirely mental.
Make an Effort to Connect with People
Humans are social creatures who get and receive much of our value through social interactions. The easiest way to trigger your reward system is to simply interact with people, talk to them, make new friends, and do things together. While you certainly don’t want to go to a bar with friends, you can make an effort to meet people at the gym or a sport, to play games, watch movies, or otherwise enjoy sober activities with them.
Here, you may also benefit a great deal from choosing to volunteer, which will get you out and into situations where you can easily meet new people. Taking courses and classes such as for cooking or dancing will also help. Plus, your sober friends and family will appreciate your company, even if you’re just going out for a walk together, watching TV, or otherwise spending your time in a way that isn’t a party.
Making new friends can be intimidating when you’re sober. Most people use alcohol as a social lubricant to make interaction easier. Without it, you can feel awkward at best. However, social skills are a learned skill, the more you use them, the easier it will be. Talk to new people, make an effort to say hi to people, and specifically work on meeting new people and making new friends.
Ask for Help
Going to an AA meeting or to SMART Recovery or another self-help group might not seem like fun, but it will give you the tools to better enjoy yourself throughout the rest of the day. Sobriety groups can give you a platform in which you can share your addiction, cravings, and feelings about addiction in a group of your peers. They also hold you accountable to staying away from alcohol, which is one of the reasons they’re considered effective at prolonging recovery. Most importantly, going to a group will give you an outlet where you can share, get help when you need it, and have the space to talk about how you are struggling.
Recovering from an alcohol use disorder is a long process and you won’t recover overnight. However, taking the time to enjoy things, having fun in ways that don’t involve alcohol, and retraining yourself to enjoy life without being drunk is a very good follow up step to rehab and therapy.
Contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and find the help you need or help an addicted loved one get the help they need. All calls are confidential and there is no obligation.