As a clinician who works primarily with clients between the ages of 18 and 26, I see boredom as a core relapse trigger.
Since boredom is such a huge issue for young adults who are trying to stay sober, learning to have sober fun in recovery is imperative to the health and sustenance of a person’s recovery. Many of the clients I work with think I’m crazy when I start to talk about having sober fun. Maybe they’ve become used to drugs and alcohol being their only form of excitement. Maybe all their friends are still in active addiction or simply don’t have addiction issues and can socially drink. Maybe they have been using for so long that they don’t even know what they like to do for fun anymore. Whatever the reason, they just cannot imagine having fun in recovery.
So, how do you get people who don’t believe they can have sober fun to buy into the idea that recovery can be a good time? With baby steps. I give clients a list of different activities that don’t involve drugs or alcohol whatsoever. The list is diverse, and it includes outdoor activities, arts and crafts, sports and social activities, so there is something for everyone. They’re usually able to identify at least one thing they’d like to try.
I also have them reflect on the things they used to like to do before they started using drugs. If they played sports growing up, can they join an adult league now? If they used to go horseback riding, can they get involved at a stable again?
To have fun in recovery, I also encourage them to try something they wouldn’t ordinarily picture themselves doing. Maybe it’s the newly popular escape room challenges or bouncing around at an indoor trampoline park. I have so many clients who have told me they’d love to go sky diving; indoor sky diving can be a great option, too. If they’re going to 12-step meetings, I encourage them to speak with people who have long-term sobriety about what they do for fun. Nine times out of 10, individuals in long-term recovery are able to squash the irrational belief that recovery can’t be fun.
There are so many ways to open someone’s eyes to the fact that it is possible to have sober fun. If you’re struggling to get that message across to someone you know, try some of the suggestions above.
Shaylyn Forte, M.Ed., CAADC