Learning how to have fun without the use of drugs or alcohol strengthens your recovery.
Recovery is all about relapse prevention. According to addiction expert Steven Melemis, one of the basic rules of relapse prevention is that you redefine fun.1 Fun sober activities produce positive emotions and promote relaxation which are essential for reducing stress and keeping away boredom, major triggers for relapse.
For many people, redefining fun is one of the hardest parts of recovery, because previous definitions of fun involved using. But you can learn to have fun without needing drugs or alcohol to do it. According to expectancy theory, when you expect to have fun, you usually do. When you expect to not have fun, you usually don’t. So redefining fun, in part, involves thinking positively about the activities you pursue in sobriety.
Redefining fun also requires keeping an open mind and trying new things. Practice saying “yes” to invitations to go out and do things, even if the activity doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask a new friend to join you for a day or evening of fun. Staying busy and developing a strong support network are important ingredients for success in recovery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.2
On first glance, you may think that there aren’t that many fun things to do in your neighborhood or town. But by digging a little deeper, you’ll see that even a smaller city can be a treasure trove of fun sober activities. Here are some ideas for getting out and about and having a sober good time.
Be a Spectator
Finding time to relax is important in recovery, but relaxing doesn’t have to involve sitting and doing nothing. Whether you do these relaxing activities solo or with friends, they offer an opportunity to sit back, take it easy and reflect.
If you enjoy being behind the wheel, take a leisurely drive through the countryside, maybe find a picnic spot, spread out a blanket, and enjoy the peace and quiet. Head out after the sun goes down, and find a dark place to gaze at the stars–especially during a meteor shower. Have a green thumb? Grow a garden, or if you don’t have a place to grow your own plants, join a community garden. If you like to relax on the couch, host a movie festival, or binge-watch Netflix with some snacks and like-minded people. Or just sit around on the porch or patio and enjoy conversing with good friends. If you find cooking relaxing, whip up a grand feast, or bake up a storm. Head to a sauna or spa, get a massage, or hole up at your favorite coffee house and read a good book.
Spend an afternoon or evening at the local field, arena, event center or theater being a spectator.
If your city doesn’t have a pro or minor sports team, check out college or high school games, or get hooked on the city league scene. Keep an eye out for special events coming to your town, such as the rodeo, circus or monster truck spectacle. Explore the annual boat, bridal, outdoor sport or garden show, or check out a fashion show, beauty pageant, dog show, or skating competition.
Head to the theater for a movie, play, concert, opera or comedy show. Check out the schedule for the local high school, university or community college music or drama department for a whole roster of quality entertainment that’s reasonably priced. Keep an eye out for interesting talks and lectures coming to your town.
Entertain at Home
Have the crew over to your place for some fun sober activities. Invite family or friends over for a cookout, game night, drum circle, dance party, movie festival, sports event, music jam, potluck or porch hang-out. If you’re looking to expand your sober social circle, ask each of your sober friends to invite a friend, and everyone will have the opportunity to meet new people.
Do the Tourist Thing
Tourist attractions provide all kinds of opportunities for fun, especially if you’re experiencing them for the first time. Browse the local museums, and look for little-known museums off the beaten path. Attend a local music, ethnic or renaissance festival, or take in the ambiance of a farmer’s market. Visit the zoo or botanical garden, go on a guided or self-guided public art tour, or visit a local nature or wildlife preserve. Tour a local landmark, attend a parade or celebration, or ride the ferry, tram or trolley. Look closely, and you’re likely to find activities you didn’t even know your town offered.
Join a Club
Whatever your interests, there’s probably a club of people near you also interested. Join a book club or writing club, or commit to volunteer work through a service club. Meet up with a gamer’s club, a hula hooping club, a model railroad club or a live-action role playing (LARPing) club. If you can’t find a club to match your interests, put out the word and start one of your own.
Get Your Game On
If you have a competitive streak, grab some friends and head to the local arcade or family fun center for some video games, mini golf, bowling, bocci, or darts. Start up a game of frisbee golf, hackey sack, tennis, or football at the park. Set up the back yard for horseshoes, badminton, cricket or croquet.
Get Artsy and Crafty
If you like getting artistic and creative, the possibilities for fun sober activities are endless. Collect a mountain of craft supplies, and have a crafting party. Revisit an artistic past by returning to painting, drawing, sculpting, or collage. Make some beautiful jewelry. Join a knitting circle, and knit a sweater or crochet a blanket.
See if your town has a maker’s space, where you can stop in and use equipment that you may not otherwise have access to, such as a 3-D printer, welding equipment or a kiln. Crafting studios are popping up all over the country and offer all kinds of projects and classes. If you’re serious about it, take an art class at the local community college or university. If you prefer looking at art to making it, go on the monthly gallery walk or visit your town’s art museums.
If you enjoy being active, look for fun sober activities that get your blood pumping. Join a sober sports league, or start your own. Head to the park or the Y for a game of basketball or flag football, or visit the local water park, public pool or lake for a swim. Hike a nearby park or preserve, or hit the local trails for a bike ride. Do yoga in the park, or rent a kayak or rowboat at the lake. Run a 5k, rent a scooter and tool around, or go rollerskating or ice skating. If you like your sports extreme, head to the nearest climbing wall, trampoline center, zip line, sledding hill, ropes course, skateboard park or bungee jump.
Volunteer your Time
What are you passionate about? Turning your passion into a volunteer position gives you the opportunity to give back to the community while having fun and meeting new people. Are you into politics? Volunteer for your party or a candidate you like. Nuts about animals? Volunteer at the local shelter or stable. Love sports? Sign up to be a coach or umpire for a local youth league. History buff? Be a volunteer tour guide for a local landmark. According to the Mental Health Foundation, helping people produces feelings of belonging and community and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation, which improves recovery.3
Fun Sober Activities Promote Recovery
A high level of self-care is essential for continued recovery. Relaxing and having a good time is an important and often-overlooked aspect of self-care that shouldn’t be ignored in recovery. Having fun makes it easier to maintain sobriety, and it provides opportunities for socializing, which, according to a Baylor University study, affects us at a cellular level and improves health, healing and wellbeing.4 Make fun sober activities a part of your daily life, and you’ll find purpose and enjoyment in recovery and improve your chances of long-term success.