4 Powerful Reasons You Should Have Fun in Recovery

09-29-2022Recovery Tools

When people first get sober, they often worry about how they will have fun without alcohol or drugs. This is a totally valid concern! After all, drugs and alcohol were the primary source of fun for almost all of us when we were using substances or in active addiction. Anonymous surveys of teens have continually shown the most commonly cited reason for substance abuse among youth is “to have fun” (42% For many of us, our friendships, tastes in music / movies, and social lives revolved around drugs and getting high.

This is why it’s important to stress the importance of fun in recovery, whether you're in your first 30 days of sobriety or you've been around the recovery world for 20 years! In this article, we will discuss five reasons why you should have fun in sobriety.

Recovery must be better than getting high

Nobody gets sober for no reason - it's hard work! It's tough to level our pride, be honest in sobriety, and change some of our most deep-rooted habits.

Many people who quit using drugs and alcohol do so because of a consequence that has caught up with them – they’ve lost a job, their performance has tanked, they’ve gotten in trouble with the law, etc.

However, we often talk in recovery about the fact that we need to stay sober for ourselves, and not for someone else, in order for it to stick. It's likely most of us wouldn't have ever gotten our initial 90-in-90 without some kind of reward along the way.

This is especially true if we’ve left an addiction treatment program and we’re now working on reintegrating into our daily lives.

How do we accomplish this? Discovering that staying sober can be more fun than getting high is one of the most obvious. Regularly making sure we’re having fun doing something we enjoy, connecting with peers who can relate to us, is one of the simplest ways to make sure our recovery is better than getting high.

Fear of not having fun is a commonly cited obstacle to recovery

It’s common to hear from a newly sober person that some of their main fears are:

  • Sober life won’t be fun
  • They will be unable to have fun without drugs
  • They will turn into someone they don’t like after they sober up.

Though interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy can do a wonderful job of challenging these beliefs (false evidence appearing real), we also need to experience fun in sobriety in order to see it for ourselves.

If we allow ourselves to have fun early in the recovery process, we allow ourselves the opportunity to experience the truth – that recovery can and should be fun!

People in recovery need something to look forward to

Once through the initial fog of getting sober (often lasting only a few weeks or a month), the initial sting of shame, embarrassment, and guilt usually starts to fade. In general, this is a good thing! We’re beginning to reclaim our lives, build self-worth, and believe that we may be able to stay sober in the long term. Fantastic!

However, this also brings on some problems: if we’re solely motivated by the fear of consequences, we often lose that motivation as time goes on. We lose our sense of urgency to utilize 12-step principles, and we begin to inch toward a relapse.

If you or someone you know has relapsed one or more times, this story probably sounds all too familiar to you.

The fact is that recovering people need a secondary source of motivation. In our programs we often refer to this as “front wheel drive sobriety.” It means staying sober because we are excited about the future, rather than fearful of the past.

We may have many large things to look forward to, such as an upcoming vacation, the chance to go back to school and obtain a degree, or the chance to discover a functional romantic relationship down the road! However, looking forward to these large events is often not enough: we need to have little things to look forward to as well.

Many experienced recovery sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous (or other 12-step fellowships) talk about the “little moments” they experienced getting sober, when they started to see that they could look forward to the little things.

It’s common to hear sober people talk about late nights playing cards with sober friends, going to movies or other outings on the weekends, or just sitting and laughing with good friends into the night.

The fact remains that for these people, having fun was the thing they looked forward to. In many cases, it keeps us going long enough to rack up the months of sobriety until we’re able to truly get our lives back.

Having fun decreases our odds of relapse

The process of relapse prevention starts the moment we quit using. Most people who seek help internally understand that they should change, but they’ve often tried on their own and failed.

This 2015 paper does an excellent job detailing the finer points of improving a sober person’s odds of avoiding a relapse. One of the primary messages: if we aren’t having fun in recovery, we often begin to fantasize about the “fun” we had while we were using.

Getting caught up in life, stressed out, and forgetting why we quit using drugs and alcohol in the first place is a dangerous place to be with any amount of time sober. Simply refocusing on giving ourselves permission to have fun in sobriety can be a fantastic way to feel better without drugs refocus on enjoying recovery!

Give yourself permission to have fun!

Take a step back and think about all the amazing things you have to look forward to. Sobriety doesn’t mean an end to fun – in fact, it can be just the beginning. You have the opportunity now to create your own version of fun that works for you, without alcohol or drugs getting in the way. Embrace your new sober life with gusto, and watch as the good times start rolling in. What are you waiting for? Start having fun today!