This article was written and published by The Fix
Learning to have fun and be active in recovery is a learning process. Finding satisfying activities in sobriety requires the recovering individual to put themselves in situations that might feel uncomfortable or even challenging – at first. Over time, they may find that risking discomfort is worth the effort, especially if the payoff is positive, engaging, and connective fun with other sober individuals.
Five Reasons Why Sober Activities Are Good for Recovery
1. Connection Is Important for Sober Living
The isolation that comes with acting out is the atmosphere that allows addiction and all of its associated emotions – shame, guilt, frustration, despair – to take root and thrive. Connecting with others, whether friends, family, or acquaintances, takes us out of that spiral of negative emotion and into an environment that fosters community, friendship, and support – all of which are at the core of recovery.
2. Activities Reduce Stress
In addiction, stress is the fuel that ignites our desire to act out. Activities reduce stress in two ways: physical activity releases endorphins to the brain and boosts circulation, both of which are major stress reducers for the body. The social aspect of activities also cuts back many of the feelings that come with stress: a sense of being overwhelmed, of futility, and lack of capability. Being with others gives us natural support and makes us feel like we have resources to face challenges.
3. Activities Improve Health
Everyone knows that exercise is one of the keys to good health. But even casual activity can open up a wealth of benefits for us in recovery. Sleep – one of the most consistent casualties during addictions – is improved by physical activity, as is mood thanks to the endorphins released during activity. Your immune system also gets a boost from activity – the Office of Disease Prevention and Health notes that regular activity protects you from many serious health issues, including heart diseases, diabetes, and depression.
4. Activities Boost Mental and Physical Energy
Both active addiction and recovery can sap energy and leave you feeling exhausted and enervated in both body and mind. Activity expends energy, for sure – but those endorphins it releases also give you the strength to go farther, do more, and last longer. It also clears the mind of mental clutter, allowing you to think clearly and see things as they are, not with the fog of emotions associated with addiction.
5. Activities Can Help Prevent Relapse
Most importantly, activity can help prevent relapse. Numerous studies have shown a connection between exercise, abstinence, and substance use, including one from the University of Southern Denmark which asked 38 people with substance abuse issues to participate in group activities three times a week for a period of two to six months. Of the twenty people that completed the program, ten reported decreased substance use and five noted total abstinence one year later.
Seven Sober, Fun Activities
You don’t have to be a hardcore jock to enjoy team sports. There are local leagues for every level of expertise. And if you’d rather watch than play, every city and town offers professional, minor league, and amateur teams.
Addiction cuts off our desire to see and experience new things. Travel opens up the world to us in the most literal of ways. Getting away doesn’t have to mean expensive: day trips open up our worlds to the wonder of places around us that we might have missed during our active addiction.
We may have felt stunted intellectually during addiction – unwilling to expand our horizons, and unsure that we could ever improve our situations. Diving back into education shows us that there’s never an expiration date for self-improvement. Local colleges and universities offer both in-person and online classes, as do community and adult education centers. Strapped for budget? Your local library has material on every subject imaginable, and it’s all free.
4. Get outside
Just as we put up defenses from travel while using, we also kept ourselves from enjoying the world outside our front door. Indulge your curiosity, get exercise, and interact with your environment by going for a walk or hike, exploring your city, town, or neighborhood, or just spend time outside looking at the stars.
Entertaining doesn’t have to mean a lavish dinner party. Get-togethers can be simple events that hinge on a TV watch party or big game, a holiday, or even just a chance to catch up with new and old friends. The point is to underscore the fact that you can have fun with other people and still stay sober.
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Think of what you would add to your own list of sober and fun activities, and then go out and do them!