This is one of the most common questions I’m asked when I speak to clients in the treatment center. The short answer is, “Yes. If I wasn’t having fun in my sobriety, I would not be sober today. What would be the point?” Enjoying life without drugs or alcohol boggles the addicts mind, but if you’re at the brink of becoming sober, I seriously doubt that your addiction has been a barrel of laughs lately. We don’t decide to get sober because life is so much fun in our addiction. It’s exactly the opposite.
The first few months of recovery, for many of us, are the most difficult, but mostly because your body is still recovering itself, and you are deficient of a natural chemical called, Dopamine. This is the “feel good” fluid that is produced naturally, but has been abused by your drug of choice. When you take your drugs or drink your alcohol, you are inducing the Dopamine effect, and you feel very high. When the high depreciates, your Dopamine levels drop. It takes time to recover physically from abusing your Dopamine release. Once the Dopamine replenishes, you will feel less foggy, and a more chipper. For alcoholics, this takes about a month. For opiate users, it can take three to six months. It is different for everyone, but once you stop using, be patient with your body and accept the consequences of your actions. It will get better, and you will feel “normal” before you know it. Exercising accelerates the process. For me, running helped immensely.
When your body has re-acclimated and the chemicals have rebalanced, you may feel a natural high. AA calls this the “pink cloud” effect. I have my own opinion on this. They say the pink cloud doesn’t last. It’s been two and a half years for me, and I’m still feeling pretty amazing. Don’t buy into a belief that the good feelings don’t last. If you have been high, drunk and hung over for several years, waking up feeling balanced everyday, is a frigging party, if you ask me. I’m human, and I have mood swings, but my lowest days sober are still better than any unpredictable feelings I had while abusing alcohol.
And what about FUN in daily activities? Yes… yes… I’m getting to that. We spend years using to enhance our experiences, but how many of those experiences have we forgotten? How many of them are foggy to remember? How many of them were black outs? My years of drinking are patchy, so when I think back to “having fun,” it’s just me believing that I must have had fun. I don’t remember much of anything, except for the times I embarrassed myself.
In sobriety, most of us learn to be very present in our lives. Being present is kind of a high in itself, like a toddler exploring the world. Do you remember when you were a child, and everything was cool, exciting and simple? You were an explorer of your universe. You used your imagination and created things. You weren’t using drugs or drinking then, but life was pretty easy going. This is the exciting part of getting sober… it’s a lot like becoming a child again. You get to experience life through new eyes, and with a whole new perception. You get to discover who you are, what you enjoy, and finally there is space in your life to do things you never made time for doing while you were using. Your addiction took up most of your time, so here you are now with tons of space to do whatever it is you neglected. Pick up a guitar, go on a bike ride, check out some caves, drive to the mountains, run several miles, join a gym, read classic novels, go back to school, get a degree, jump out of a plane (with a parachute of course), check out the planets through a telescope, play tennis, swim in a lake… THERE ARE NO LIMITS! You are finally in control of your life, and you get to create it however you’d like.
If you don’t feel like doing any of this stuff yet, maybe it’s time to get to know yourself again. Take life slow and dedicate yourself to a new relationship with YOU. Be kind, compassionate and patient with yourself. Buy yourself fresh flowers, or cook yourself a delicious meal. Begin treating yourself like you love YOU. Find out what you like and don’t like. Discover what makes you laugh, and take it really easy. In sobriety, there is so much space to take your time and explore the world; inside and outside. And the best part is, you will remember it!
We all experience life uniquely, so do not judge yourself for feelings of depression, or insecurities that come up the first year or two. Simply accept everything as it comes, and trust that you will discover enjoyment and fulfillment unlike anything you had in your addiction.