Recovery isn’t always a piece of cake. Okay, that’s probably the understatement of the century. In the first 12 months after dedicating yourself to sober living, finding ways to have fun can become a separate challenge in its own right. Boredom (the recovering addict’s biggest nemesis) can strike and increase our risk of relapse. Your energy levels may reach an all-time low as your brain’s chemistry resets and adapts to this new normal.
For people who relied on substances to motivate or energize them through the day, even just getting through work or daily tasks can seem daunting. The concept of having “fun” without your drug or behavior of choice might seem as foreign as learning to use chopsticks for the first time, but it is possible!
If you’ve been feeling bleak, restless, and bored with your new sober living lifestyle, it may be time to dial up the notch a bit. Finding new ways to boost adrenaline and endorphins in a way that’s healthy and safe is not only possible but also highly recommended. These adrenaline-boosting activities will have your heart pumping and your excitement level skyrocketing, all without the need for drugs.
Better still, they’ll provide you with valuable insight about your personality along the way.
A great many recovering addicts take up jogging or running after detox, and with good reason: it boosts adrenaline and improves overall health when undertaken correctly. Fitness Magazine states that just five to 10 minutes per day can significantly decrease your risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and stroke, improve joint strength, and even provide you with much-needed meditative alone time. If that’s not enough to convince you, some studies show a distinct link between running, faster physical recovery, and fewer drug cravings over time.
There’s also the “runner’s high” many people experience when they run; this feeling is tied to happiness-boosting brain chemicals, and may help to reduce stress and depression. The term “run it off” is very commonly heard in addictions therapy groups simply because running can let you “burn off” negative emotions like anger, sadness, or despair.
Psychologically, running teaches us to set reasonable goals, how to judge our own capabilities, and how to be confident in our physical and emotional strength, too.
So how can you make running a part of your everyday life? First, understand that it’s not as easy as slapping on the trainers and running for 30 minutes. That’s too much and too fast. First, see your doctor and have a full physical. If he or she approves, start with a 5-minute walk or jog one to two times per day. Then, slowly work towards 30 to 60 total minutes per day.
High-Impact Cardio & Aerobics
Craving company and feeling a bit restless, bored, and lonely? High-impact cardio or aerobics may be just the ticket to kick you out of that funk. Fast-paced routines like spinning, Tae Bo, and aerobic dance get you moving to the tune of fun, energizing music, picking up your heart rate and boosting adrenaline while improving overall health.
Which formats are best? The answer isn’t simple; it can differ from person to person. If you’re new to exercise in general, try starting with water aerobics for low-impact, high-energy fun. If you’re in fairly good physical shape, you have more options. The average, otherwise healthy individual should be fine to take up a basic 20-minute aerobic, spinning, or Pilates routine quite easily.
High-impact cardio is an experience best had in the comfort of others, so hit up your local gym or studio and join a group whenever possible. Excitement is contagious, and you’ll get an adrenaline boost simply from being around others who are having good, clean fun.
Rock or Mountain Climbing
Climbing the walls with boredom in recovery? Put two feet on solid ground again and save your climbing for the real deal – rock climbing. This timeless, ancient sport has been around for centuries, and it often seems that humans just have an innate nature to climb on top of the world around them. As children, we climb rocks, trees, and occasionally, objects we shouldn’t in the living room, much to our parent’s chagrin. I was often labeled a mountain goat for the same reason in childhood; if it was there, I was going to climb on top of it and feel like I owned the world.
There’s just something intrinsically thrilling about climbing. It gets your heart pumping, forces you to think on your feet, and requires you to sharpen your focus and take in the environment around you. Physically, it improves muscle strength and coordination, and may even reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.
Mentally/emotionally, it teaches you how to set and achieve reasonable goals, how to persevere, and how to be confident in your ability to make decisions, even when under pressure. It isn’t difficult to outline exactly how each of those could benefit someone in recovery.
Before you run out and start scaling the nearest cliff, understand that safety is important. Find a local club or organization and have someone teach you how to climb safely and properly. Never, ever climb alone or without equipment – doing so is dangerous and becomes less about enjoying healthy, safe adrenaline-boosting activities and more about putting yourself at risk.
Live near the ocean or maybe a lake? If so, you’re in luck. You’re one of the very fortunate few who probably have access to scuba diving – an activity that gives you a first-hand glimpse into an entire world most of us will never see. Scuba diving isn’t particularly taxing (though better cardiovascular health is possible from proper breath management and swimming), so it’s not the exercise itself that boosts adrenaline here; it’s the wonder of the underwater world.
Discovering fish, coral, plants, and shells up close and first hand induces a feeling that’s seldom found in other activities. You become the Jacques Cousteau of the recovery world, boldly going where no man (well, okay, few men, anyway) have ever gone before. That feeling of childlike wonder and amazement is hard to find in recovery, especially if you relied upon substances for excitement.
If you can afford to do so, breaking free of your everyday experience and heading to Costa Rica or the Pacific Islands will afford you one of the most sensational experiences you’ll ever have. But even just exploring the closest underwater environment? That’s pretty amazing, too.
Skiing, Snowboarding & Tobogganing
Last, but certainly not least, is downhill skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing. All three of these winter sports let you indulge your inner child and fly down the hill super-fast. Get going good enough, or learn to take ramps and jumps, and you may even find that it feels like you’re flying. It’s the sheer speed and joy experienced that’s the ticket to happiness in these three iconic winter sports, so the next time the snow hits, snuggle up in a snowsuit and head out into the frigid cold for some fun.
If you have a local ski hill nearby, take a beginner’s skiing or snowboarding class to help you learn the basics. Most hills will rent you both boots and equipment for the duration of your stay. Set yourself basic, reasonable goals and continue to practice patiently. Even though you start out on the bunny hill, you will eventually make it to the black diamond runs. Good things come with time and proper safety precautions, and you’ll find your confidence growing right along with your skill.
Don’t have a local ski hill? Take a drive around and find a good hill that doesn’t end in a roadway. Break out the equipment and make use of nature’s natural ski hills all around you. Wondering what to do if you don’t get snow? Just switch things up and get out on the water for a bit of wakeboarding or water skiing instead.
It’s easy to get into a rut in recovery. Attend meetings. Go to therapy. Eat. Shower. Rinse, lather repeat. All of these are crucial to your success, but so is having a bit of fun and excitement now and again. Remember, whatever adrenaline-boosting activity you choose, it’s important that you move forward safely and with guidance. It’s not about just jumping into the path of danger without any consideration for your health. It’s about is honing your ability to take positive risks as you develop new and healthy hobbies.