Recovery Tips: 10 Board Games to Play During Recovery

Photo of young adults playing a board game
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When you’re in recovery from an alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, especially when you’re early in recovery, it’s important to find fun and interesting ways to spend your free time – like playing wholesome, family-style board games – but what some people in recovery don’t know is that there are several board games designed specifically for people in recovery.

If you or a loved one is in recovery, these games are a great way to:

  • Have fun without drugs or alcohol
  • Learn more about the recovery process – for both people in recovery and family/friends
  • Develop recovery strategies and relapse prevention techniques in a way that doesn’t feel like sitting in group therapy or a support meeting
  • Get to know/bond with/learn from recovery peers.

Let’s take a look at some games that we think are fun, educational, and beneficial to anyone in recovery.

Top 10 Board Games to Play During Recovery

  1. Head Rush

    • This game was initially designed to get teenagers talking about tough topics, such as mental health problems, social challenges, and how to navigate situations involving alcohol and drugs. The game gets players talking, and teaches skills that help communication, teach mindfulness, develop self-awareness, and enhance self-efficacy. Though not designed specifically for recovery, this game helps players develop skills necessary for recovery in a fun, easy, social context.
    • Appropriate for people ages 14 and up.
  1. The Use, Abuse, and Recovery Game

    • This recovery board game is based on a therapeutic technique called rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT), which helps people identify counterproductive patterns of thought and replace them with productive ones. Players move to spots on the boards that prompt them to talk about a recovery-related topic. Cards offer helpful advice and encourage discussion between players.
    • Appropriate for people ages 13 and up.
  1. The Use, Relapse, and Recovery Journey Game

    • This recovery board game is a variation of Use, Abuse, and Recovery Game. It goes deeper into relapse prevention and gets into the real meat and potatoes of recovery.
    • Players choose cards from two decks: one with advice cards on Relapse, Reward, and Recovery, and the other with questions for players to answer. The first deck offers helpful hints, while the second encourages thought and discussion on topics like triggers, relapse, denial, and the negative consequences of relapse.
    • Appropriate for people ages 13 and up.
  1. Blank Slate

    • This fun game is not designed specifically for recovery, but if you play this game in a room full of people in recovery, the chances near 100% that the game will quickly become all about recovery.
    • Players write a word that finished a phrase on a cue card, and get points for matching words with others.
    • Appropriate for ages 8 and up, but if you play with recovery peers, consider keeping it an all-adult thing.
  1. Relapse Prevention Game

    • Berthold Berg, a skilled, experienced therapist specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for addiction treatment, created this recovery board game for people in addiction recovery. The goal: use a game to teach CBT-based relapse prevention techniques.
    • Players roll a die and choose a card based on the spot they land. Each card presents a situation that could lead to relapse, and players choose a coping strategy. Some spots on the board reward players, others create setbacks – like life in recovery. The game helps players solidify their relapse prevention plan with evidence-based techniques.
    • Recommended for ages 13 and up.
  1. The New Beginning Recovery Game

    • Therapists who run group substance use sessions say this is the perfect game for new groups. Questions on cards help participants open up and talk about recovery topics. The game solicits input on all topics: the goal is to use a prompt to get members of the group sharing and talking. Although it’s designed for group therapy, and group of recovery peers could have a great time playing this game.
    • Therapists can also use this for one-on-one sessions.
    • Appropriate for ages 12 and up.
  1. Recovery Bingo

    • This is a perfect game for any group of adults in recovery. It works in group therapy sessions, informal recovery-themed social events, 12-step group events, and in any recovery-friendly situation. The goal of the game is to have fun while building recovery skills, emotional coping skills, and relapse prevention skills.
    • Appropriate for ages 18 and up.
  1. The Game of Real Life

    • This game is similar to the Use, Abuse, and Recovery Game and the Relapse Prevention game in that it’s based in an evidence-based clinical technique. This goal of this game is to develop mindfulness, awareness, and problem-solving/coping skills based in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
    • Cards present various conflicts or challenges, and players respond by playing a DBT skill card to resolve the conflict or manage the scenario in a healthy and productive manner. The player who resolves the most conflicts and manages the most situations in healthy way wins the game.
    • Includes helpful manual with information on key DBT skills.
    • Appropriate for ages 18 and up.
  1. Downward Spiral

    • This is sole survivor style game: the last person alive wins. It’s designed like Monopoly, with each space on the board containing pitfalls and problems created by the disordered use of alcohol and/or substances. On each spot on the board, players can lose:
      • Money
      • Friends
      • Family
      • Self-esteem
    • The purpose is for the players to understand the consequences of relapse – and make it to the end alive.
    • Find the adult version here, for people 18 and up.
    • Find the adolescent version here, for people age 13-18.
  1. Inspirado: The Recovery Board Game

    • In Spanish, the word inspirado means inspired. This game is designed to inspire people to live the life they choose, free from the use of alcohol or drugs. Based on the operant conditioning concepts of B.F. Skinner’s ABC and the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM), this game helps people in recovery make small behavioral changes that, cumulatively, lead to a complete lifestyle change.
    • The game focuses on developing skill related to:
      • Relapse prevention
      • Recovery-promoting habits
      • Recovery planning
      • Identifying and reinforcing inherent strengths
      • Building motivation to stay in recovery
    • Find the game here.
    • Learn to play online here.
    • Appropriate for ages 13 and up.

That’s our list. Remember: you can make any activity fun and recovery friendly. All you need to do is set the parameters, control the guests you invite, and make sure everyone knows the activity is designed for people in recovery. No drugs and no alcohol: the goal is to spend time with friends and remind yourself how to spend hours and hours laughing, talking, and connecting – all without alcohol or drugs.

Resources: Finding Help

If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol or drug use, and you think you – or they – have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), then we encourage you – or them – to arrange a professional evaluation administered by a mental health professional sooner rather than later. Treatment works, and the earlier a person who needs treatment gets the treatment they need, the better the outcome.

Helpful links:

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.