Recovery is a journey — not a destination. It’s not a place that someone gets to, and then stops, saying they have “beaten” their addiction.
Instead, recovery is a long-term process, and part of it involves finding ways to develop new interests and have a full, rewarding life. Participating in drug-free activities in your community that you find enjoyable and fun is the way to build it.
Why Adding Sober Activities Is Important in Recovery
Undergoing drug treatment for addiction involves making some sweeping life changes. Going to a long-term treatment program for 30, 60 or 90 days is a major commitment. It involves taking time away from family and friends, work or school, and focusing your full attention on getting well.
While treatment takes hard work, it should also include plenty of opportunities for fun. During treatment, you need to learn how to be happy in sobriety. You may have been hesitant about going to treatment because you had the idea that living a drug-free lifestyle meant being bored. You know that using drugs gave you a “rush” or a payoff and you weren’t prepared to give it up.
This thought process is understandable. For many people who are going into treatment, drug use — and alcohol is considered a drug — has been part of their lives for several years. It’s difficult to get them to consider doing something else when they have been relying on drugs for a long time to deal with past traumas or feel more confident.
As you work through your treatment plan, which includes opportunities to try some fun activities before you leave, you start to learn about the benefits of sober activities. You discover new ways to spend your free time or rekindle your interest in hobbies you once enjoyed.
Benefits of Sober Activities
How can sober activities help recovering addicts? By engaging in sober activities, you can:
Improve Your Self-Esteem
One of the casualties of living with a substance abuse issue is your self-esteem. This disease robs you of your self-worth, which only makes you decide to use more to make the bad feelings go away for a time. It turns into a vicious circle of using drugs, feeling bad for using drugs (again), coming into conflict with family members and friends, and then using drugs for feeling bad about having used drugs.
Relationships become strained as trust becomes broken. It’s not uncommon for addicts to steal from loved ones to finance a habit, but that does not mean they feel good about it. The behavior is a symptom of the disease. Family members and friends who have been treated in this manner have every right to feel hurt, angry and betrayed, and the resulting conflict with the addict does nothing to boost what they think about themselves, even as they are unable to stop using on their own.
Getting involved in rehab activities while in treatment is a way to learn new skills. You can try a new sport such as kayaking or standup paddleboarding. You can also rediscover enjoyable pursuits such as bowling, going for a walk or watching a movie. Simply sitting down with a good book may be something you haven’t done for some time.
Whether you’ve tried something new, or you’ve managed to enjoy downtime in a healthy way, you’ll realize you can lead a rewarding life free of drugs. Knowing you have control of your happiness will rebuild your self-esteem.
Learn Healthy Ways to Spend Your Free Time to Prevent Relapse
If you were actively living an addiction lifestyle, feeding your disease was your prime activity. Much of your time and energy was devoted to ensuring you did not go too long between doses of your drug of choice, so you avoided developing withdrawal symptoms. Once the drug was acquired, you would be using it, experiencing the high, coming down from it, recovering from the experience, and then looking for more of the drug if you had run out. All of these activities took a lot of time out of your daily or weekly schedule.
Once drugs are no longer in the picture, you have to fill that time with something else. If the blocks of time that had previously been filled with drug-related activities are not filled, you may start to reflect on the times when you were using. At this point, one of two things may happen:
- You’ll start to experience more intense cravings for the drug.
- You may start to remember what you consider the more “positive” aspects of using. Much as someone who has been through an intense experience (such as a woman who has experienced childbirth) remembers that it was intense, it’s impossible to relive exactly what it felt like. Based on this romanticized version of that time, you’re at risk for starting to use again.
When you keep yourself busy with healthy activities, you’ll be less likely to fall into using again. You’ll also experience a more fulfilling life that brings you true joy. When you don’t have the opportunity to let your mind wander, you’ll be better able to keep any cravings in check.
You’ll also feel stronger in your recovery knowing you actually enjoy it. Comparing the old times to your life today will paint a clear picture: You are better today, without drugs, than you were in the past with them.
Grow Your Support System
When you go to rehab, you need to avoid former friends and associates who are still using drugs. Being around other people who are still using is too tempting — especially when your own recovery may not be strong enough to resist temptation.
There are social activities especially for recovering addicts. They’re the ideal choice when you’re in the early stages of your recovery. You’ll be surrounded by people who empathize with your journey and understand what you’re going through.
Another benefit of getting involved in social activities exclusively for recovering addicts is acceptance. Everyone who is attending events will “get it” if your social skills are a bit rusty, or you feel a bit awkward when interacting with the fellow group members.
Whether you choose an activity that is specifically meant for people in recovery or not, getting out to interact with new people is an important part of recovery. It will help you widen your circle of acquaintances and develop new, healthy relationships with people. These friendships will prove invaluable as you navigate your journey to long-term recovery. You can count on these relationships to lift you up when you need it most. They can remind you of how far you’ve come and how healthy you are today.
Get a New Start in Social Relationships
Engaging in sober activities gives you a chance to make a fresh start in your social life. Your relationships with your family and friends who have known you for years have “baggage” that exists from when you were using drugs. Your new relationships don’t have these issues, and the people you meet now will take you as they find you right now.
Going through rehab and getting sober gives the gift of a fresh start. While you should not hide your status of “being in recovery,” it doesn’t need to be the sole focus of your new interactions.
Learn How to Have Fun Again
Addiction can rob you of the ability to have fun. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals that this chronic brain disease is responsible for contributing to the death of more than 90,000 Americans per year. Drug abuse and addiction — which includes alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs, as well as nicotine — cost the U.S. economy more than $700 billion each year in lost productivity, increased healthcare costs and crime.
How to Find Drug-Free Activities in Your Community
There are many places you can look for drug-free activities near you:
Ask People You Know for Suggestions
Who can you ask about groups or organizations that might be hosting drug-free activities you can join? Start by asking your:
- Addictions counselor
- Social worker
- 12-step group sponsor
You can also bring up the topic of finding groups or going out as a group at a 12-step meeting or with your own aftercare group therapy meeting. Most people are very happy to share resources they have found. Since these groups are made up of people who are at various stages of recovery, you will likely find someone who has been involved with or heard of a local group for people in recovery.
If no one knows of a group that is already active, you can always suggest that the members of your group decide to do something together. You may want to keep it to something simple and casual at first, such as having anyone who is interested go for a cup of coffee and a snack after the meeting. This gesture will “break the ice” and hopefully lead to more enjoyable outings in the future.
Read the Newspaper
If it’s been some time since you read the newspaper, start picking up a copy or reading it online. Make a point of checking out the classified ads section. This is where you will find listings for community events. You’ll be able to find out when community fairs and block parties are taking place. If you have a group of friends who are looking for something to do for a day or an evening, these events promise good times on a budget.
Don’t neglect the smaller community newspapers, since they also advertise local events. You’ll be able to find out when churches are having socials and special suppers, and when various festivals are being held in your area. All of them are fun, sober events that you would be able to participate in on your own, with friends or family members.
Check out the paper’s restaurant review page or the entertainment section where it discusses what’s new and happening in your city. Choose a restaurant that you have never heard of before and visit there for breakfast or lunch. (These meals tend to be less expensive than dinner.) Go with a friend and compare notes afterward, deciding on how many “stars” each of you would give the place. If the restaurant is one that you feel would be a bit too pricey for your budget, stop in for coffee and dessert only.
Visit Your City’s Website
Another option when looking for fun things to do is visit the parks and recreation page on your city’s website. It will have listings for attractions and things to see and do. If you are like many people, you likely have never “played tourist” in your own area.
Make a point of going to places listed on your city’s website. Pack a lunch and spend a pleasant day in the park. Check out the fancy flower beds and really look at the monuments and statues. Read all of the plaques, just as a visitor would.
The website will also list free outdoor events such as concerts or movies in the park. All you would need to bring is a lawn chair and a blanket, along with a snack and a drink, and you are ready to enjoy the event. Be sure to arrive early so you and your party can choose a good spot.
The parks and recreation department should also be able to provide you with information about adult classes you can take. Most townships offer classes on a variety of subjects, including art, cooking, genealogy, drama, knitting, crochet, yoga, team sports, dance, flower arranging, furniture repair, using the Internet and more.
Visit Your Local Library
Along with the city’s website, the library is a great source of information about what is happening in your community. Visit its website to find out about book clubs that are holding meetings there. Book clubs are usually open to new members. All you need to join is a love of reading. The club will provide a list of books it is discussing, and you can get the book from the library or order it used online at a good price. That way, you will be prepared to discuss it with fellow members at the meeting.
The library website will also have information about other groups or clubs that are meeting. You can review the list to see if there is something that interests you and contact the organizer for information about joining.
Look at a Community Bulletin Board
Your library or local shopping mall may have a community bulletin board where local residents can post notices about upcoming events. It’s a good idea to browse through these listing to get ideas about places where you can find drug-free community activities. You’ll find listings from local community groups, churches, schools, etc. You should find events of all kinds to attend as well as organizations looking for volunteers.
Many community events could use some extra help setting up or tearing down for an event. They’re looking for people to help with parking, taking tickets, running games and other duties.
Make sure you check out your local community listings on Facebook and other social media sites as well. You can get alerts about upcoming events and opportunities to get involved.
Look Online for Volunteer Opportunities
If you are interested in doing some volunteer work but aren’t sure exactly what is available in your community, check out opportunities online. Type “become a volunteer” (with quotes) and the name of your city into the search box on Google.
The results will be opportunities available close to you. This is especially helpful if the only thing that comes to mind when you think of volunteering is working in a soup kitchen or something similar. There are many other opportunities available for you to help your community, such as:
- Humane Society
- Animal Rescue
- Make a Wish Foundation
- Blood Bank
- Local Film Festival
- Local Zoo
- Special Olympics
- Local Museum
You will need to investigate each organization’s specific requirements for volunteers to ensure you meet them before applying. For example, you may be required to undergo a criminal record check before you can be accepted as a volunteer. Some organizations will accept volunteers who have a criminal record, as long as the conviction is not for an offense involving children, is not sexually based or is not a major theft.
Examples of Fun, Drug-Free Activities
What can you do in your community to have fun and fill your time? There are many ways to have fun and keep busy.
Choose a Local Sports Team to Follow
Tickets will be less pricey than paying for a major league team, and you will be able to see future stars as they develop their game.
Plant a Garden
It doesn’t matter whether you decide to plant flowers or vegetables — this is an activity that will help you get back to nature. You can decide to plant in containers, a back yard or participate in a community garden. Gardening is great exercise, and nurturing something and watching it grow is an excellent way to boost self-esteem, too.
Visit an Indoor Climbing Gym
Rock climbing isn’t just for people who like going outside. Practice your skills but eliminate the element of falling and getting hurt by taking the sport indoors. If you or someone in your group happens to slip, it’s not a big thing. Either hang with the harness for a minute and then come down or tackle the wall again. Go out for a snack or a meal afterward, since you’ll need to replenish all the energy you burned on the climbing wall.
Pick out a New Recipe, Shop for the Ingredients and Cook It
Whether you are a whiz in the kitchen or a newbie cook, challenge yourself to make something new. Everyone gets tired of eating the same things all the time. Maybe the recipe you choose is something you have “always wanted to try,” or you just open the page of the book at random and pick whatever you happen to land on. Either way, you’ll have a culinary adventure. Make shopping part of your adventure and enlist help from one or more friends or family members with the cooking.
Sip some sparkling water or soda while your culinary delight is cooking and see whether you have made kitchen history or you end up eating sandwiches. Either way, you’ll be making memories, and that’s what you want to be doing when you choose fun activities you can do in your community.
Get Started on Your Journey to Long-Term Recovery Today
If you or a loved one needs help with a substance abuse issue, contact 12 Keys Rehab today. We can help you start on the path to a new, sober life.