My Three Varieties of 100% Real Fun

Inspiration for Your Journey

Fun is such an illusion when you're in active addiction.

Don't get me wrong: Fun felt real enough every time I took that first drink. But, invariably, the end result of those first drinks was anything but fun.

In recovery, fun is 100% real.

I didn't arrive at this awareness overnight. In fact, when I was new to recovery, I had serious doubts I'd ever have fun again (sound familiar?). And, truth be told, it was difficult to make it through my first New Year's Eve party, birthday celebration, and friend's wedding without drinking. We live in an alcohol-infused culture where drinking appears inextricably linked to fun. Again, an illusion—but it took me a while to genuinely enjoy life without alcohol.

All these years later, I consider fun to be one of the greatest gifts of recovery—and it comes in so many varieties. Here are three of my favorites:

  • Catching up with old friends. I was able to meet for lunch recently with one of the first friends I ever made in recovery over 25 years ago. We don't get to see each other often, but when we do, it's the best. It's so fun for me to hear about her life, her kids, her work—and to fill her in on my life. And, of course, we had to revisit a few stories from our early day of sobriety, which made us laugh until our stomachs ached.
  • Exploring new territory. I'm not sure why recovery sparked my sense of adventure, but it's been super exciting—and, yes, a little scary—to take on new challenges and discover different interests. Like traveling all over Asia by myself. Or running a marathon. Or finishing my two master's degrees. Never, in active addiction, could I have followed such hopes and dreams. In fact, I don't even remember having hopes and dreams when I was lost to drinking.
  • Honoring this journey. Whenever I get to be part of a special recovery event—an anniversary celebration, or a concert, or a BBQ, or a lecture—I'm just so thankful for the experience. It's unbelievably fun and inspiring to take it all in, to meet fellow travelers, to feel so connected, and to share my experience, strength, and hope.

There's an often-cited Big Book quote (page 132) about fun: "We aren't a glum lot." The passage continues, "If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life."

Early on in my recovery, having fun was more a "fake-it-'til-you-make-it" variety than genuine enjoyment. But today, I hold no illusions about fun. It's real. And I insist on it.

Nell HurleyNell Hurley is the executive director of national alumni relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
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