What’s the point of getting sober if you aren’t having fun? Many men find themselves asking that exact question in recovery. Sitting in their sober living, going through a particularly difficult group in treatment, they tell themselves “This isn’t very fun”.
Recovery isn’t all about fun. In fact, sometimes recovery isn’t very fun at all because recovery is just a way that we approach living life and there are inevitably times when life isn’t very fun at all either. Life is, among many other things, meant to be enjoyed. However, enjoying life in recovery can feel like a struggle because after living in active addiction for so long, living without drugs and alcohol makes feeling pleasure of any kind difficult.
Our brains become hardwired for pleasure when we abuse drugs and alcohol due to the way these substances affect our brain. Drugs and alcohol first enter our body and then into our bloodstream, cycling through until they cross what is called the brain blood barrier. Once the chemicals enter our brain, they go rushing into different locations, which have different effects due to different brain hormone chemicals they produce. Dopamine is a brain chemical which produces the effects of pleasure throughout the brain. When dopamine reaches the nucleus accumbens, which is the reward center of the brain, the brain stores information that drugs and alcohol create pleasure and pleasure is a great reward. The more that substances are abused, the more ingrained this information becomes. As an increasing amount of drugs and alcohol are used, more pleasure is created and the impact of this information becomes even greater until the brain believes that drugs and alcohol are the only thing which will create pleasure at all. The programming of this information runs deep and is one of the greatest challenges men will face in recovery: learning to create pleasure and have fun without drugs and alcohol.
Fun comes in varying levels but it does come. In the early months, fun is hard to come by as the brain struggles to regain normalcy in how it experiences pleasure. The more fun we can have the better, because just like the substances we abused, the brain learns as we have more fun.