Many people in early recovery wonder if they can still have fun without drugs or alcohol. They feel life might not be as exciting or interesting without some type of social lubricant. But how do we define what’s fun anyway? Let’s find out!
What Is Fun?
Like humor, what you might consider pleasurable, amusing, lighthearted, and enjoyable (all ways to define fun) often differs from what other individuals like. So while some people find a pick-up game of basketball a great time, others prefer going to a movie and dinner to catch-up with friends.
As you might expect, people study the concept of fun. Author Michael Foley, whose book Isn’t This Fun researched the concept, states that while “there is of course no shortage of hedonistic indulgence” the foundation of fun is grounded in “communal oneness”: “The mechanism is now known to be the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters which generate a sense of security and euphoria. Many activities produce an endorphin rush but the effect is intensified by activity in a group, and further intensified if the activity involves physical synchrony.”
So do you have more fun doing, well, whatever, as long as you’re with the right group of people? Probably.
- Research continues to prove that the “feel good” chemical dopamine is released when we form better connections with one another.
- In recovery, strong social networks reinforce a sense of belonging, a like-minded attitude toward life, reduced stress, and an opportunity to form new experiences away from previous negative influences and triggers.
Behavioral scientist Michael Rucker states that “many activities can be analyzed for their ability to induce fun—emphasizing entertainment and enjoyment of the process rather than its practical value.” So your next trip to the grocery store can be as fun as you want it to be! What’s different? Your viewpoint.
“Your perception of whether something is fun depends on your mindset, ability and skills, and the environment, as well as those around you (your relationships),” Rucker says. “For example, taking public transportation can be a tedious, mind-numbing activity if you’re heading to work. If you’re headed to a concert with a group of friends, though, it can be the ride of a lifetime: spending time together, chatting while excitedly anticipating the show—in layman terms, ‘a ton of fun’.”
So how do you create new fun as a sober person?
Why Was It Fun: Because of You…or the Substances?
According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, certain substances play a large part in loosening our social inhibitions. This is the result of chemical interference with normal brain activity. While this might be “fun” at the time, there are, as you know, severe long-term consequences.
But does this mean that your true personality lies beneath the haze of substances? Perhaps. Scientists continue to explore the definitions of extrovert, introvert, and ambivert personality types and their validity in human relationships and socialization:
- Extroverted individuals draw their energy from others and thrive in environments where there are a lot of people to interact with and opportunities to be more open and outgoing.
- Introverted people prefer less stimulating environments, and often won’t be too outgoing in large groups but demonstrative with a small group of people they know and trust.
- Ambiverted individuals are a combination of the two: often outgoing with certain people and situations, but they need quiet time to recharge before doing it again.
More About Personality Types
Keep in mind there’s not a “right” or “wrong” personality. But recognizing who you really are is an indicator of what type of activities you naturally gravitate toward—and which ones simply aren’t for you.
So for example, if you have more of an introverted personality but have to go to a friend’s birthday party, maybe you used to drink in order to feel comfortable mingling with everyone, or you’d avoid going, then stay home, drink, and beat yourself up for not being one of “those” people.
There’s no need to admonish yourself in any way. Here are a few ideas to create new fun in such a situation:
- Going early before the party ramps up so you can have a bit of conversation with your friend, a bite of cake, then leave.
- Choosing to be a helper by assisting the host with a few key tasks but staying out of the general fray.
- Offering to take pictures of the event and putting together a nice collection for your friend.
Or you can send party regrets but offer to take your friend out to dinner to celebrate or do something else you both enjoy together. No admonishment or a return to damaging behaviors: simply recognition of how you operate best while still showing how much you value this important person in your life.
Remember, how you define “fun” is all in the mindset, which will definitely be different in recovery. And that’s a good thing.
Willingway’s Community Can Help
While you’re completely unique, most people in recovery have had similar experiences that they’re willing to share and brainstorm on solutions for you. This collective support is one reason why we’re so proud of our continuing care community groups and alumni events: no expectations of what “fun” should be, but it seems to happen anyway! Click the ‘Resources’ tab above to learn more.