As someone in long term recovery, I often hear from newcomers, or those who are still active in their addiction, that they think life in sobriety will be boring. I also thought the same thing when I got sober. This is a common misconception that I hope to shed light upon, in this blog. As always, if you don’t read something that helps, just keep coming back and seek other venues for help as well – you will find your way if you try!
I got sober, now what?
Getting clean and sober is most likely the hardest, and most rewarding, thing you will ever do in your life. It will save your life and give you hope as well as options for the future. While a life handcuffed to your addiction has only one true path – jails, institutions or death.
But once you get clean and sober, there is often a feeling of – okay, now what? Newly sober individuals, including myself, are at a loss as to what to do with your new off-time, besides attending meetings and working your chosen program of recovery. One aspect of getting clean and sober is eventually returning to the workforce (if you ever left it). It is that time off from work is what I am directly referring to. That time you used to spend consumed with chasing your addiction. That time you used to fill with alcohol and/or drugs.
After all, many of us revolved our lives, especially our off-time, around the pursuit of getting high or drunk. Everything was masked with the haze of intoxication, if not blacked out entirely. We planned everything we did around having access to our addictive substances of choice. So, how does one have fun now that alcohol, drugs and mostly likely a lot of our old using/drinking friends are no longer a part of our lives?
Options as vast as the sky
This common misguided belief that life will be boring without drugs and/or alcohol is simply not true. You can do ANYTHING in sobriety. You are no longer limited by the handcuffs of addiction and therefore can do whatever your mind thinks up. In sobriety, options for our off-time are truly as vast as the sky.
You can pick up that old hobby that you deserted when your addiction took hold. Finding new hobbies is a very common experience in early recovery. Discover new areas of your hometown. Join, or recommit, to the gym. Go see every movie. Read all the books. Visit the positive influence friends and family that you avoided while in your addiction. If you did not lose your license in pursuit of your addiction, you can now drive anywhere at anytime and not have to account for driving intoxicated. Want to meet one of your new sober buddies for pancakes at 2am? Have fun! Want to road-trip to see that out of state attraction with a sober friend or 3? Let’s go!
In sobriety, you can truly do anything. This is captured perfectly in a quote from Father Martin, which is passed around the rooms of recovery. As Father Martin, renowned in the recovery community, is known to have said:
“The only regret you will have once getting sober is that there is only 24-hours in a day.”
In my experience…
In my experience it can seem daunting, to begin a new life in sobriety. But everything is now new! The sky seems brighter, flowers smell different, and interacting with your fellow humans is more fulfilling. Everything in life is better and this carries over into how we spend our off-time. Rather than focusing on feeding our addiction, we can now focus on the people we are with, the activity we are undergoing, or simply be present in the moment. Life in itself is a miracle, and we can now bask in that.
During my early recovery I quickly re-discovered a love for the outdoors. This love for the outdoors had been replaced by time spent consumed by my alcoholism/addiction. I grew up as a Cub Scout, playing sports and camping with my family. After puberty I started refusing to do all those things, chasing the party life instead. So after getting sober, I went back outside and re-discovered my passion for nature.
I was first introduced to the sport of Disc Golf by my new friend in recovery. It was thrilling! Picture a hike in a beautiful regional park with your buddies, while adding a little fun competition. We NEVER keep score, in order to not discourage new players and to avoid that addictive side of competitiveness. It was just fun to be outside, laughing, joking, and getting exercise. Disc Golf is a low cost sport, so it is perfect for those living on a budget – like many of us in early recovery. Most courses are either free to use or require a $5 park entry fee. The discs are about $15 a piece and you only really need two to be a real player (driver and a putter). I could do a whole blog on how Disc Golf changed my life at exactly the right time, but I digress.
I also rediscovered my love for eating out with friends and socializing in general. My alcoholism/addiction isolated me, but in sobriety I did the opposite and it felt great! That’s just what people in recovery do after meetings, go out to eat as a group. It’s usually at a low-cost, no alcohol served establishment (think Diners). But you sit and laugh, while enjoying comfort food. Then you go home feeling happy and content, without needing alcohol or drugs to achieve that feeling.
Try new things, with an open mind
The key here is to be open to try new adventures, things that you would have scoffed at while in your addiction. You will be amazed at how much fun you have spending a night bowling. Just go after life! Experience it all!
If you want to hike up a mountain, at night, in order to stargaze and watch the sunrise – do it! Just make sure you wear a headlamp and bring a friend or 11. This was my exact experience. A friend and I talked about wanting to watch the sunrise from on top of Old Rag mountain in Shenandoah National Park. So in summer 2014 we planned it, picked a night with a New Moon (darkest sky – more stars are visible) , and were cautious – but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I have never seen so many stars. Also saw countless shooting stars, a couple other planets, and a clear view of the milky way. It was such an experience that after talking about with friends, the next year eleven of my friends in recovery joined me for a repeat night hike.
In September 2015 twelve sober friends in Virginia, hiked up a mountain at night to stargaze and watch the sun rise from the summit. And guess what, as of today (Jan 2019) eleven of us have stayed sober then. The one friend who slipped, is now back in recovery and doing great!
Sober people, who do sober things together, tend to stay sober together. That is my experience, and it can be yours as well.
This blog was written from the experience and perspective of one alcoholic/addict with long term recovery.
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