One of the most curious barriers to recovery for young people is the misconception that a life without mind or mood altering substances will be boring. Mental health professionals find this thought perplexing (and somewhat entertaining), considering most people who are contemplating sobriety are often experiencing negative consequences from their substance use/drinking. Life with drugs and alcohol is far from fun. Folks in early sobriety are often plagued by the fear that without alcohol and drugs, life will never be exciting, milestones will be less enjoyable, and experiences like live music or barbeques will inevitably feel dull.
Thomas Vale said, “Real fears can be overcome. It’s the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” How true this is in early sobriety! A life without drugs or alcohol can appear daunting, but a life consumed by substances is equally terrifying – we just can’t always see this reality right away. When we hear people in early sobriety tell us that life can’t possibly be fun without alcohol, we know this is a much deeper fear. This is really a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being left out, a fear of not belonging, a fear that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me … the list goes on. Are we really afraid that we won’t enjoy a wedding without alcohol? Or are we actually afraid that someone might think we’re a bad dancer, or that we’ll be too self-conscious to even begin dancing? When we know what the fear is, we can learn how to walk through it.
At Surfside, a structured sober living & life development program for young men in early sobriety, we’ve built a program around introducing people to a full, fun, meaningful life. This means that in order to find fulfilling hobbies, we need to simply start. Our requirement is that guys participate in our activities, setting aside their preconceived notions about whether or not they’ll actually enjoy them, and just show up. We’ve found that a lot of people think CrossFit is lame until they actually do a CrossFit workout with a group of their friends, who all come from different athletic backgrounds/levels of fitness. Some of our guys think they could never make music, until they sit down in the music studio with another resident and start recording something. It’s incredible to watch people go through the motions and find joy on the other side! We watch early sobriety transform from something to be endured to something filled with purpose.
Here’s a quick example. We’re a program built by Phish fans and Dead Heads, who know how to enjoy live music without a mind or mood-altering substance (our Executive Director’s “Summer vacation” is often the Phish summer tour). Many of our residents love these bands, but can’t imagine ever going to a Phish show without using drugs. That’s part of the experience, right?! So we make every effort to show our residents how incredible this experience can be without chasing drugs, dodging security, getting lost or arrested, etc. We embrace the fact that Trey Anastasio of Phish is in long-term recovery, creating incredible music for us without drugs or alcohol in his system. We’ve brought small groups of our residents to see Phish at Madison Square Garden, where they visit the Phellowship table at set break to interact with other folks in recovery who’ve traveled from far and wide to see the same band. We’ve discovered that the energy in our car rides home after the show is palpable, because we’ve all experienced live music in a supportive environment, surrounded by fellows in recovery, and loved it! The more that we lean on our healthy support system, the more that we uncover the joy in walking through those fears in early sobriety.
If you or someone you love needs assistance navigating the path to recovery, give us a call today at 609-709-4205.