When I was first asked to write about the topic of fun in sobriety, naturally I started scrolling through Google looking for everyone else’s “fun in sobriety” experience. My screen was flooded with “10 Ways to Have Fun in Sobriety,” “20 Fun Activities to Rediscover in Sobriety,” and many similar self-help articles. If I’m being totally transparent, my self-conscious thoughts led me on the search to find the perfect article to write— one that would measure up to everyone else’s journey.
I think it would be fair to say that most of us come into recovery having lost our passion for life and no idea of who we are— absent from drugs and alcohol. Rather than adding another list of “Fun Things to Do in Sobriety,” I thought it would be much more valuable to share my personal experience of what fun looks like in sobriety.
Prior to June 2016, I was thoroughly convinced that a life without drugs and alcohol was a life not worth living. I believed a sober life was one full of half-hearted smiles and total monotony. At first, my drinking/drugging was fun. I was more sociable, less anxious, more motivated, less depressed; but, the insidious nature of addiction appeals to most of us this way. It wasn’t long before the drinks and drugs were no longer enhancing my life, but rather they became my master. Beckoning for my call, upon awakening, I was a slave to chasing my next fix. I would soon find out that my substance induced life was one that was half-lived. Futile and insatiable, I was killing myself, one drink, one pill, and one substance at a time.
I will never forget walking into my first meeting, hearing the speaker share how “fun” sobriety is and how she was living a life she never thought possible. This concept eluded me, but also managed to pique my interest. I was well aware of the outcome of what submitting to my disease looked like, but I was clueless about what a sober life had to offer. Little did I know the Fellowship and sobriety actually gave me a life. The gifts of sobriety, the byproducts of taking a long hard look in the mirror and taking complete responsibility for every action I take today have revolutionized my life.
The gift of normalcy became one of the first things I jotted down on my daily gratitude list. The truth is, I never knew what “normal” looked like. I was a glutton for chaos long before I ever picked up a drink or drug. Getting sober, chaos became more and more uncomfortable as I started to truly appreciate and reap the benefits of normality. I completely forgot how much I enjoyed the simpler things in life: reading a book, going for a walk, star gazing, and everyday mundane responsibilities.
Our addiction overstimulates the pleasure system in our brain. Over time, our brain tries to achieve homeostasis by effectively dulling our ability to receive pleasure from “normal” things — or anything other than drugs and alcohol. At first, I was not motivated to do anything that didn’t provoke an influx of pleasure. In other words, “normal” tasks seemed so boring and I became an adrenaline junkie. I remember feeling like I was grasping at straws, trying to plan an exciting skydiving trip to booking an adventure to swim with sharks. I would take impulsive trips to the mall, and the rush felt great – until the buyer’s guilt kicked in. Eventually, I started to find pleasure in the little things. I remember the first time I truly appreciated normalcy. I woke up, worked out, made a protein shake, and headed to the beach. The smell of salt water, the comforting warmth of the sun, and the soothing crash of the waves provoked full body chills. It was the first time, in a long time, that I was able to just be. It was one of the purest and most simplistic moments of my life.
In between walking away from the despairing wreckage of my past to the beautiful promises of my new founded future was a lot of empty space and time to fill. I always had this innate yearning to read, write, and learn as much as possible. Just as almost everything I loved was lost to my addiction, so was my passion for writing. The only passion most of us have, while drinking/drugging, is our next fix. There seems to be only one purpose: oblivion. As time expanded without my vices, as the world became more vivid and vast, so too did my need to revive things inside of me.
When I walked into treatment, I was asked to start journaling every day. I was challenged to reignite my passion. I remember the instant relief and satisfaction that followed each entry. Slowly but surely, I started looking forward to writing every morning and night. My brain was less foggy, and my heart was full. Today, I write for a living. I don’t actually work, but rather I get paid to do something I love every single day. Today a huge part of my fun comes from creation. I get completely absorbed in my writing and harnessing the research, through my experience and the experience of others, that feeds my work.
What does finding myself have to do with having fun in sobriety? Honestly, being myself has everything to do with me experiencing any sort of fun. For 25 years, I avoided looking at myself, in fear of looking too close and ultimately hating everything I found. I thought my opinions were too strong, my style inappropriate, my head too messy, and my heart too vulnerable. I was a liar, cheat, failure, and a fraud. It was only a matter of time before everyone found me to be the inadequate woman I believed myself to be. Obviously, not one ounce of this insanity was fun.
John Dupuy says it best “The disease of addiction has become the adventure of creating our highest and best selves;” and for me, this is 100% true. The goal of my sobriety is not to simply abstain from drugs and alcohol; it continues to be a beautiful trek through years of self-hate, and the discovery of the authentic version of myself pulsing below. The journey of discovering Tricia. Surprisingly, I love what I have found buried beneath the surface of the addiction fueled persona I constructed. I actually like my strong opinions, quirky style, kind heart, beautiful mind, and all of my other weird antics. I appreciate the music I listen to, my newfound confidence, my sarcasm, my uncanny wit, my maniacal ambition, and my messy little life. Being alone with myself, has become less intolerable and more adventurous. I spend the most time with myself, and I have come to love my number one companion. Beauty for ashes, I love the woman I am becoming.
One of the most beautiful promises of sobriety is the ability to view the world with new eyes — or a new set of lenses. For me, this started with my appreciation for normality. The simple acknowledgment and appreciation for all of the little things. I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded me. Eventually, I was not only appreciating the things right in front of me, but I acquired a zealous lust for the wonder found in the world around me. Hope found me, and my entire perspective has been forever changed.
For me, I began living life as if I was still drinking. This sounds crazy, right? Let me explain. Before I was drinking, I was crippled by my anxiety and I thought the only solution was found at the bottom of a bottle. Once I began to experience the richness of sobriety, I realized I wasn’t experiencing life but rather just going through the motions. Recently, I decided to take a road trip with a friend of mine — four hours away — to see Incubus (which just so happens to be my favorite band). It rained most of the way and of course, this was an outside festival of bands. We reluctantly drove through the rain, only to be greeted by sunny skies. From the energy of the hyped fans to the passion-filled performance — this was one of the most beautiful experiences. I cried happy tears. For the first time, I was present and able to soak up every second of the experience.
We learn that we don’t need alcohol or drugs to have fun. We have fun because of what we are doing and who we are doing those things with. If we need to drink or drug to do something, we probably don’t need to be doing it. I am learning to fill my time with things I want to do, and I don’t force unfulfilling relationships. Today, I fill my time honoring my second chance at life. I spend time doing things that saturate me and with the people that add value to my life. Most importantly, I spend precious time having fun and full of gratitude for the grace of sobriety that has given me a life worth living.