First, recovery. Then, the rest of your life.
At first, being in recovery is all-consuming. A meeting a night, talking with a sponsor, having coffee after a meeting, outpatient counseling, all on top of work and family commitments. Getting sober will take a lot of your time. Though, once you are through the early stage of recovery, it is not unusual to wonder if this is all there is. The good news is no, this isn’t it. There is much, much more to life now that you are in recovery – but it will take effort.
The 12th step talks about “having had a spiritual awakening.” I prefer to think of it as “having had our spirit wake up,” because developing interest, activities and social skills that wake up the spirit is a vital part of recovery. The Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous mentions this on Page 132 “We have been dealing with addiction in its worst aspect. But we aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.”
Life in recovery can be more fun, more enjoyable and absolutely more rewarding than your life before. Finding that joy during early recovery can be a challenge, but it is a necessary one. After all, building a life worth the hard work of recovery is one of the biggest motivations for staying sober.
So how do you build a fulfilling life in recovery? The path to self-discovery is an ever-growing process, but here a few steps you can take.
1. Turn boredom into an opportunity. Boredom in recovery is often defined as self-centeredness. Are you expecting to be entertained? Whose job is it? Be willing to do what it takes to engage in the world.
2. Be careful about resuming old activities. Some of the things you used to do for fun may be triggers. Try them out slowly and cautiously with the help of your recovery support systems. Move on to new things if they no longer fit, or give it more time before trying them again. The good news is there are so many more things you can do now that you are in recovery.
3. Make a list of things you’d like to do. It sounds simple but lists are powerful tools. Then SHARE your list. Ask others to hold you accountable for trying new things or ask them to join you.
4. Use your recovery connections. There are sober vacation clubs, baseball teams, meet-ups at shows, and sponsored events that take place in many communities. Sign up and show up.
5. Talk to your new network. Think of the people you have connected with since you have gotten into recovery. What do they do for fun? See if some of their choices are a fit for you.
6. Balance social time with time for yourself. Remember that it’s important to develop inner resources as well as a new social circle. For instance, join a sports team and learn to draw or knit.
7. Remember to feed your soul. Take a yoga class. Find volunteer work that includes opportunities for fun. Join a spiritual book club or start one if there isn’t one near you.
8. Keep some perspective. Avoid getting burned out or overcommitted by easing into new activities. Don’t start exercising by going to the gym 7 days a week – you get injured or burned out before feeling the benefits. Avoid spending $1000 on photography equipment until you know you have a passion for it. Take a class first. Borrow a camera.
9. Don’t forget the importance of being silly! Find things that just simply tickle you, and play for the sake of play. What about amusement parks, trampolines, fairs or board games? If you can’t think if anything, borrow a kid to bring along. Or recruit people you met in recovery. Never underestimate a group of recovering people’s ability to be absolutely ridiculously fun!
As you move from getting sober to living in recovery, put the emphasis on “living.” And remember Rule 62 in the 12 &12 of AA, which reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. We can be self-critical perfectionists – we want to do it now and we want to do it right, darn it! Now doesn’t that sound fun? As you build your new life, the best way to be successful is to lighten up. Take what fits and build on it. Remember it is a process not an event, so take joy in each step of the journey.