Follow the Fun

Categories: Elite Writes

Getting clean around 25 years old, I was holding myself back from enjoying my early recovery. Early on I bought into the belief that my life was “over”. People kept trying to tell me “Actually, your life is just beginning.” I did not believe them. I firmly believed that Recovery is hard work, isn’t fun, and I would just always miss the “fun” of using. It took a lot of conversations, groups, and counseling for me to realize that what I feared Recovery would be like was actually what Addiction had already become for me. It’s hard work to keep straight all the different lies rattling around my social circles. It isn’t fun being in withdrawal or waiting for your dealer to pick up or keeping an eye out for law enforcement. I already felt like I was missing out on something better when I saw “normal” people going about their lives at 7am when I had been strung out all night. I was forced by the uncomfortable kindness of professionals to take a hard look at what I really wanted and what I was willing to do in order to live the life I wanted.

I remember doing a “values exercise” in treatment. Everyone worked through the exercise to arrive at our 3 personal Core Values. The ones I arrived at were Laughter, Learning, and Love. Doing that exercise, in a very personal way, I realized something I had been ignoring for years. Addiction had stolen so much from me, even stealing my own personal values from me. I hadn’t felt a genuine laugh in years. I had stopped actively teaching myself new things. I hated myself and everyone around me. Living half a life in Addiction I had subsisted on a buffet of pain. My reactions were governed by Fear, my thoughts were controlled by Anger, and my Resentments played endlessly in a loop that I was forced to watch. I was seriously concerned that I was broken and beyond repair. I knew there was a lot of work to be done on myself, but mostly I felt scared of what real Recovery would be like. What if I failed? I already felt like a complete failure. What if I was just as miserable as when I was using? I had convinced myself this had to be true. What if I changed into a different person I didn’t like? I already hated myself. Looking back at where I was at emotionally and mentally with a month or three clean, it’s a miracle anything was able to change my mind. So what changed? How did I overcome my fears about Recovery?

Today, I have far more fun in my life than I ever thought I had experienced in Addiction.

Philip Carroll, CPRS

Fun. Having fun clean, without any substances, changed my mind about Recovery. I can recall my feelings and my thoughts about that night. I was at my 5th treatment center, living in inpatient treatment yet again. Bemoaning strict rules and dragging my feet to groups. One night the boys were all gathered together in a common area of one of the residences. We were swapping jokes and engaging in some good-hearted “one-up-manship.” Someone there came out with a golden nugget of a joke from left field. I started laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Tears were rolling down my cheeks while I struggled to breathe. I had received a free rush of camaraderie and empathy. Shortly after the giggles subsided, I realized something important. I was still at my 5th inpatient. I had no idea what my future would look like. I was unemployed, homeless, and on my last straw with my family. Nothing about my life circumstances had changed. But I felt happier than I had felt in a very very long time. I finally felt ok.

They told me early on “Your Recovery is what you make of it.” This last time I was in treatment, there were wonderful days and there were terrible days. Sometimes the day whisked by me, and other times I stared at a clock that refused to budge my boredom forward. Eventually I figured out the difference between these two experiences. When I showed up with an open mind and a willing heart, I allowed myself the luxury of enjoying the little things. I could play and have fun in any situation if I made a game of it or tried to change my perspective. When I was bitterly focused on all the things I lacked or all the things that were “wrong”, I was bored, listless, and miserable. The only thing that was different was me and my perspective and how I responded. Analyzing these experiences I came up with a personal cliche’. You always hear “Time flies when you’re having fun” but I say the opposite is also true “Fun flies when you’re doing time.” If I focus on just “waiting” for the next thing, the next obligation or responsibility, I am constantly bored, annoyed, and making myself miserable. Fixated on a tomorrow that never arrives. Instead, if I focus on what is right in front of me and how I can make my own fun in the situation I am in, everything seems to click and I can enjoy myself in nearly any situation.  

Regardless of what is going on around me or what I may be worried about, if I follow the fun I’m crying from laughter and not pain. I’m excited to go through that open door to see what new joy awaits me. I’m enjoying my life and my recovery. Today, I have far more fun in my life than I ever thought I had experienced in Addiction. If you don’t believe me, do your own research and see what it feels like to follow the fun. What have you got to lose?

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