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A Stronger, Longer Recovery: Learning How to Have Fun Again.

September 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Health, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( Perhaps it has been years, decades even, since you last had any real fun without the use of drugs or alcohol. Perhaps, now that you are in recovery, you feel the crushing weight of guilt, sadness, anger, regret, or self-loathing. Perhaps you wonder what the point of it all is, or whether you will ever again be able to enjoy life at its best.

Depression, anxiety, and difficulty enjoying life are extremely common among recovering addicts, especially during the first few months of recovery. However, learning how to have fun again is a vital part of your recovery, and plenty of attention should be given to this key element. As you adjust to new routines, create a long-term relapse prevention plan, and work to get your life back on track, don’t forget to make the time to do something fun. It could mean the difference between staying clean and losing your life to substance abuse again.

Why Do I Feel So Depressed?

There is both a psychological reason for depression in recovery, and a physiological one. When you start using an addictive substance, you begin to rely on that substance to have fun. The more you associate pleasure, or fun, with your drug of choice, the harder it is to enjoy anything without it. As abuse becomes dependence, you find yourself incapable of laughing or enjoying anything on those occasions when you have to be sober.

While this psychological process is going on, your body and brain become physically dependent as well. Many street drugs and prescription pills interfere with the ability of your nervous system to produce endorphins, the hormone-like chemicals in your body that allow you to feel pleasure. The first time you try a drug, it causes your endorphins to spike dramatically. Eventually, however, your body adjusts to having the drug in its system and begins to rely on it

to be able to produce even marginal amounts of endorphins. Over time, your body simply cannot produce endorphins at all without the substance.

After detox, although the drug has left your system, the long-term effects of its use have not. It takes time for potentially damaged

pleasure receptors in your brain to heal, and for your nervous system to start producing more endorphins. It will again, however, and the best ways to aid in this natural process is to start deliberately choosing to have fun in new ways.

How Do I Get Started?

Some recovering addicts can jump back into life quite easily. For many, however, the most effective plan is to start small. Make a list of all the things you have wanted to do, whether that involves bungee jumping, learning a new language, or seeing your favorite band play live. Then pick one to try that is simple to plan, easy to pay for, and doesn’t require much commitment, like trying a new restaurant. As you start finding more fun and simple things to do, you will find it easier and easier to enjoy life again. You can begin working on some of these activities in drug or alcohol rehab centers.

There is a flip side, however. On the other side of your list, write down all the things you can’t do. Any person, place, or thing that you associate with drug use should be on this list, because all of these things could trigger a craving. If anything on your list of things to do involves something on your list of things to avoid, cross it off. For now, it can only hinder you.

What Else Could I Actually Enjoy?

Instead of thinking of your new life as a recovering addict as a responsibility to start again from scratch – or worse, the opportunity to fail again – look at it as the chance to expand your horizons and an opportunity to succeed. There are countless people, places, hobbies, and activities out there that you could enjoy. Ride a bike, paint a picture, go antiquing, design a costume, cook an exotic meal – you don’t have to be good at it, as long as you have fun.

You may have some old hobbies that you have let fall to the wayside. Pick these back up, if you think you will like it. Revive an old healthy friendship or watch a comedy that you haven’t seen in years. Exercise, a healthy diet, and an active dedication to having a positive attitude and an open mind will also help tremendously. Soon, having fun won’t seem like such a daunting prospect, and you will even find yourself ready to have fun spontaneously again.

Staff Writer; David Hall


One Response to “A Stronger, Longer Recovery: Learning How to Have Fun Again.”
  1. A good article. Yes, it’s a difficult transition in recovery to cope with life without substances, and a certain level of depression does occur. Most of this is due to shame and guilt in the early stages but it does dissipate, so everyone in early recovery should hang in there, do what is suggested to stay clean and life does get better!