Whether as a distraction, an inspiration, or as a way to experience some form of escapism and cope with some of life’s harsher realities, it’s critical to the survival of our sanity that we have some fun. Fun is highly subjective, differing from person to person. What one person might consider fun can be unbelievably boring and disengaging to someone else. And that’s okay. But the crucial thing is satisfying that need for entertainment, to a healthy degree.
Coming off of an addiction, finding something to match or replace it can be daunting. The biggest challenge when trying to have fun in a post-addiction world is that nothing will ever top a high. At least, not when given the same criteria. Objectively, drugs are as addictive as they are because something about their chemical composition has such a profound effect on the brain that it becomes physically dependent on the drug’s presence over time. Psychologically, this becomes a bond forged by an experience that isn’t possible without substance abuse. Addictive drugs are an injection of euphoria into the brain – and that’s a bad thing.
Everything in comparison dulls as the brain normalizes drug use. This is in part why so many people cannot continue to dedicate themselves to old hobbies and activities after becoming addicted. So, the question becomes: how can someone reverse this? It all starts with expectations.
Know What to Expect
Not everyone experiences a total remission of all cravings and thoughts of drug use. Many recovering addicts continue to think back to their addicted days decades after last using. Over time, these thoughts are weaker, less tempting, and farther apart, but for many they do not ever disappear. And that is okay. You can learn to live with these thoughts, ignore them, and lead an entire life without wasting any time on them.
But in that same vein, this means that viscerally, nothing will ever surpass the sheer effect an addiction has on the brain. And that’s okay. Instead of chasing thrills, looking for ways to get your rocks off, or seeking that emotional high, try to focus instead on hobbies and activities that satisfy your needs in ways drug use never would and never will. Challenge yourself physically and cognitively, expand your knowledge of the world, learn a new skill and set a goal for yourself over the coming weeks to master an aspect of it, or feel what it’s like to build, forge, or create something with your own two hands. Learn to cherish life’s experiences for more than just the instant gratification you receive out of them, but for the overall and lifelong value they impart.
Hobbies, Not Obsessions
One of the problems with addiction is that it is all consuming. A person with an addiction is incapable of properly identifying where their priorities should lie, instead focusing everything on the task of getting high and securing the next high. It’s not a matter of choice for them. It becomes harder and harder to function as an addiction progresses, eating away at a person’s cognitive abilities and leaving them to struggle to provide for their own addictive habits.
A hobby should not become your sole reason for living. Hobbies are meant to be healthy outlets for a person’s inner expressive and creative self, outlets to let loose emotionally and physically, outlets to relieve stress and have fun. But when the hobby becomes more important than family, than work, than eating and sleeping right, then you find yourself in a position where you take a healthy coping mechanism and turn it into something maladaptive. Maladaptive coping mechanisms, rather than helping someone develop the means to overcome a challenge, provide a meaningless and temporary escape from the problem, causing the problem to grow and fester and become more unmanageable and difficult over time.
Prevent your hobbies from consuming you by keeping a strict barrier between your hobbies and your responsibilities.
Relearning How to Spend Your Time
Creating a healthy work-life balance and finding the right way to engage in normal activities and hobbies while still finding the time to dedicate to daily responsibilities are important tasks for any adult. However, many recovering addicts struggle immensely with adjusting to these challenges. Sober living homes are the perfect halfway point between rehab and regular living for most recovering addicts, giving them the structure and direction necessary to become self-disciplined and maintain a healthy work-life balance, while encouraging social interaction, healthy lifestyle choices, and a daily commitment to continued addiction recovery.
It takes time to adjust to sober living in a healthy way, especially if you spent years struggling with addiction and its various consequences. Many recovering addicts have an incredible work ethic but may still find it difficult to manage their time efficiently. Stricter schedules and routines, such as those in sober living communities, can help tremendously in early recovery, giving you the right sense of time to enjoy life and be productive.
Finding and Picking Out New Hobbies
It’s always a good bet to return to old hobbies and try out old activities when first recovering from an addiction, but this isn’t always the best way to find out what it is that you really enjoy. Consider spending some time checking out new hobbies and challenging yourself to do things and try things you’ve never done. While you might find quite quickly that you do not particularly enjoy making pastries or learning to code, you might just discover a passion for training animals, or an interest in foreign languages, a hidden love for poetry, or a knack for writing mysteries. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt in everything you do and try it before you knock it.
Hobbies in The Long-Term
Addiction recovery is a very long-term process, lasting a lifetime in the eyes of many. That’s a lot of time to explore new hobbies and spend time doing the things that you enjoy the most. But it’s important to vary things up and consider spending time doing new things every now and again. Keeping your free time activities fresh and engaging is important, especially in the first few months of recovery, to help stave off cravings and limit the urge to feed old habits.