by Shannon J. (Munro 1999)
When first asked to prepare an article about fun in recovery, I remember thinking “What a breeze!!” But for the last several days, sitting down to commence writing, I have drawn a complete blank.
What is fun? What does fun even mean? I had to look at how my ideas around the word fun have changed, and what is fun for me today is radically different from my old ideas of the word.
The Oxford dictionary defines fun as
…enjoyment, amusement or light-hearted pleasure; playfulness or good humour; behaviour or an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having any serious or malicious purpose.
That last part of the definition hit me like a bag of bricks.
Before discovering the 12 Step way of life, fun came in the shape of a Corona bottle (preferably 24), and a baggie of white powder. Then, coming to and trying to remember where I left my car, what WAS his name, where is my wallet?? Ya. Good times. Fun for me was embarrassing my friends publicly, humiliating strangers by engaging in character assassination, stealing Swiffer mops from grocery stores, dining and dashing … if malicious intent could have a poster child, I was your girl.
Entering the rooms five years ago, I was enveloped in fear, the most pressing of which was that I would never have fun again. I wouldn’t ever be able to hang with my “friends,” go to a bar, date … sober sex? ACK! I might as well join a convent and take up needlepoint.
As convinced of this idea as I was, I had one thing going for me: I was willing to learn. Learning for me means making mistakes, and using them as an opportunity to grow. This translates into boundaries.
At first I still wanted to cling to my old ideas of fun. I wanted to spend time with my old associations and hit the bars. Colossal mistake. With the exception of a few friends, my old crew was not supportive of the new and improved Shannon. Hitting the bars wasn’t fun anymore, as I just sat there gnashing my teeth, aching for a drink, and growing resentful at those I saw drinking with impunity.
I changed that behaviour by surrounding myself with people who were supportive to my sobriety. This meant establishing new friendships. It meant working the steps rigorously and taking an honest appraisal of myself, my defects and my old behaviours.
As I engaged in this process, throwing myself into it completely, an amazing thing happened. The authentic Shannon began to emerge, and with that emergence came new discoveries.
I don’t like crowds, and I certainly don’t like being the center of attention anymore. Today, I much prefer getting together with one or two friends, having dinner and listening. I have always loved animals, so today I volunteer with the Toronto Humane Society. There is nothing that brings me more joy than when a neglected or abused animal curls up in my lap, cooing its contentment at feeling safe.
Fun for me is being present for my friends and family. Sitting across from a sponsee reading the Big Book, watching the light come on in her eyes as something she reads clicks in. Driving to Chicago with my father to visit family, singing Englebert Humperdinck songs at the top of our lungs. Fun is knowing my Higher Power and learning His will for me.
But the greatest joy, the thing that has brought the most fun into my life, is rediscovering my laugh. That deep, raucous, contagious belly laugh of my youth. I had lost the ability to laugh for many years, but sobriety has returned that gift to me. Full circle.
The simple things. Therein lies my joy. Being the person my Higher Power intended me to be. Fun in recovery is not only possible, it’s a promise.