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Redefining Fun in Recovery

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January 25, 2021

For many people in early sobriety, the first few days or weeks can feel anything but fun. It’s hard learning how to change old, familiar behaviors and navigate life without alcohol or drugs. While it may not come naturally at first, you will begin to have fun in recovery. As long as you don’t give up. Sometimes, all it takes is a little change in perspective to find happiness and joy in unexpected places.

Reconsidering Your Definition of “Fun”

Many people come into recovery with a skewed idea of what “fun” means to them because  addiction affects brain chemistry. It effectively trains your brain to associate feelings of contentment and happiness with your substance of choice. This is why people with substance use disorders continue to drink or use drugs despite knowing there may be negative consequences. It’s also why, once sober, you may have a tendency to romanticize your past use and associate it with feelings of fun and relaxation. This can also happen when compared to the hard, emotionally-taxing work of recovery.person thinking about redefining fun

One of the ways to combat this type of negative, all-or-nothing thinking is to remind yourself of the things you enjoyed doing before addiction took over your life. What were the activities that used to bring you joy? Revisiting some of these hobbies may reignite your enthusiasm for them—and help retrain your brain’s neural reward circuits to create new, healthier ways of having and thinking about fun.

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

It’s also important to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. You may be surprised to learn that activities that didn’t interest you while you were active in your addiction are actually quite enjoyable to you now.

Before I got sober, for example, I hated yoga. No matter how many times my friends would drag me to classes, I found it extremely hard to focus. I’d often find myself counting the minutes until the class was over. But once I came into recovery (and had to participate in yoga classes while in rehab), I started to enjoy the practice. I found it much easier to concentrate and follow the movements, and now it’s one of my all-time favorite activities. I’m so grateful I decided to give yoga another try, despite the fact that I was positive I wouldn’t enjoy it.

So whenever possible, try to saying “yes” to new activities and opportunities. Even if the activities don’t sound like something you think you’ll like, you may be surprised. Keep yourself busy, establish a strong support network, and surround yourself with other sober people—studies show that fun is enhanced when it’s experienced with others. Remind yourself that your brain needs time to recalibrate and rediscover what brings you joy.

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