If you have an addiction, you may have noticed significant alterations in your ability to perceive pleasure. You may feel like you are not able to have fun without using alcohol or other drugs. It is important to understand that alcohol and drug use interferes with your brain’s ability to experience pleasure. These symptoms can last a long time. Rewiring your brain to have fun in sobriety first requires participation in a professional treatment program. From there, you must learn to explore different hobbies, interests, and activities to redefine pleasure and fun in sobriety.
How Has Substance Abuse Affected Your Ability to Have Fun in Sobriety?
Your brain is made up of billions of neurons that work together to carry out specific functions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that “Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters.” Simply put, this interference can lead to lasting brain changes.
Dysfunction in Your Brain’s Reward Circuit
Although all brain areas and circuits are affected by drug use, one of the most vital areas affected is known as the brain’s reward circuit. Changes to this circuit have affected your ability to experience pleasure without the use of alcohol and other drugs.
According to NIDA, “The reward circuit links together a number of brain structures that control and regulate our ability to feel pleasure.” We experience feelings of pleasure as bursts of dopamine are sent throughout this circuit. This neurotransmitter reinforces seemingly pleasurable behaviors. Before your brain was exposed to the effects of alcohol and drugs, dopamine was released during healthy behaviors, such as eating, socializing, and having sex.
Alcohol and other drugs, however, produce abnormal dopamine surges in the reward circuit, putting the system into overdrive. When your brain was exposed to the effects of alcohol and other drugs, it became less sensitive to dopamine levels produced by healthy behaviors. Over time, you may have used drugs more intensely to achieve the same desired high and feelings of pleasure that you felt when you started using substances. This phenomenon is known as drug tolerance.
Substance use became substance abuse when you began to use alcohol and other drugs with the intent to get high. Further, your substance abuse caused brain adaptations that led you to become less sensitive and less able to derive pleasure from healthy activities that you once enjoyed. Learning how to have fun in sobriety requires you to reverse these brain changes.
Rewire Your Brain With Professional Treatment
Although recovery is a challenging process, addiction is treatable. Professional treatment is often required to reverse the brain changes caused by substance use. Additionally, clients can start their long-term recovery.
In treatment, you will likely participate in a wide range of therapeutic interventions and recovery services to establish your sobriety. Oftentimes, treatment facilities encourage participation in both individual and group therapy interventions to facilitate the benefits of both professional and peer support. Your therapist may use several different treatment approaches in therapy to address several elements of your recovery, including:
- The connections between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors: Oftentimes, this involves a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach
- Feelings of ambivalence that you may have about treatment, sobriety, and recovery: Approaches such as motivational interviewing (MI) may be used to address these feelings
- Coping mechanisms for stress management: A variety of relapse prevention tools will be provided to you in treatment
Although treatment is hard work, programs also may incorporate a variety of activities to help improve clients’ focus, engagement, and participation. A balance of hard work and “play” in treatment is necessary to ensure that clients find a deeper motivation for securing lasting sobriety.
Rediscovering Fun in Sobriety
Outside of treatment, there are many things that you can do to rediscover fun in sobriety. First and foremost, you will need to redefine what fun is as well as adjust your expectations when it comes to feeling pleasure. Now that you understand how alcohol and drug use has affected your ability to experience pleasure, you can approach seemingly fun activities without additional pressure and unrealistic expectations.
Explore Your Interests
When you were actively using alcohol and other drugs, you likely planned your days around your substance use. Now that you are in recovery, you can use your newfound time to explore hobbies and interests that you may have always wanted to pursue. Consider exploring some of the following options:
- Participate in club sports
- Volunteer at a local church
- Learn to play an instrument
- Practice mindfulness skills
- Read a self-help book
- Take on gardening
- Cook yourself a meal
- Work on your physical health
- Engage in self-care
Share Fun in Sobriety With Your Loved Ones
Sobriety is a great opportunity to connect with loved ones. Surround yourself with others that are supportive of your sobriety. You may want to regularly schedule check-ins with friends. Also, you can ask loved ones to explore some of your hobbies and interests with you. Use your sobriety to be present and grateful for your loved ones.
Embrace Your Inner Child
Although we all grow up, our inner child will live forever inside of us. Sobriety gives us a chance to embrace our inner child by participating in activities that we did when we were a kid. You can consider embracing your inner child by going to arcades, revisiting your childhood interests, and being spontaneous (while prioritizing your sobriety). Find time for play, whatever play may be for you.
As you rediscover fun in sobriety, remember to be kind to yourself. You must give yourself time for your brain to reverse alterations caused by substance abuse.
Alcohol and drug use have affected your ability to experience pleasure from natural rewards. In recovery, you can rewire your brain to have fun in sobriety by participating in treatment, being patient, exploring your interests, connecting with loved ones, and embracing your inner child. At 12 South Recovery, we understand how challenging it can be for you to experience pleasure after addiction. We offer a wide variety of holistic therapies within our treatment programs that can help you find new sober hobbies. Paired with our traditional therapies, you will find yourself developing long-lasting recovery. If you or a loved one needs support or advice, we can help. Call us today to learn more at 866-839-6876.