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Couples in Recovery: Let’s Have Fun!

Issue 25

Many couples we work with who are past the first year of recovery ask, “How do we have fun again as a sober couple?”

For some, anxiety comes up as they contemplate doing things where substances may be used. For others, they’re just looking for alternative ways to have fun or wonder, “Are we a fun couple anymore?”

Talk About Fears, Needs, and Ideas

Communication is key in planning quality time together. Each person in the couple should express their concerns, listen to their partner’s list, and agree on how to proceed. Questions to talk about may include:

• How do we trust each other in social situations that involve alcohol?

• What are we comfortable saying to friends we used to drink/drug with?

• Do we need a Plan B when we’re out and it becomes stressful?

Being open and vulnerable about your needs and ideas for fun will help with moving toward wonderful times together.

Redefine Fun

We know from research that when people in recovery are under stress, they can easily associate their past substance use with having fun, a way to relax, or getting “a rush.”

Remembering drinking or drugging days as fun and associating sobriety with boredom and “no more fun” can be a relapse trigger.

However, research also shows that when people expect to have fun, they usually do. Learn to think and label fun and pleasure in a new way.

Think Positively

As one couple told us, “We didn’t enter recovery just to sit in church basements or work on our insecurities with a therapist. We got sober to enjoy life again!”

The truth is that finding joy and fun again is essential to changing, staying motivated, and not going back to old ways. The gift and challenge of sobriety is newfound free time, energy, and boundless possibilities of a new life together.

Fun is not only possible in recovery; it is probable! The good news is having fun is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Here are some suggestions:

Get Physical

The benefits of exercise in sobriety are many, including releasing endorphins, reducing stress, having a routine, increasing confidence, communing with nature, and having FUN! A few popular options are yoga, hiking, walking, weight training, and dancing.

Find Connection

Try signing up together for a class, volunteer work, or meet-ups. Attend concerts, sports events, or conventions with others in recovery. The key is finding opportunities that help you find a sense of meaning and motivation.

Be Creative

Make a collage, finger-paint, visit an art museum. Learn a new language, cook some different meals, plan a road trip or vacation, or find a new hobby to share. Chase the thrill of riding a rollercoaster, whitewater rafting, taking the motorcycle out for a spin, or parasailing. The sky’s the limit!


Make opportunities to have fun laughing with family and friends. Host a sober game night. Attend an improv show. Use humor in your everyday life as a couple. Develop your own inside jokes and reminisce about funny moments you’ve shared together. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and it’s more fun when shared.

Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos, MPH, has 30 years experience as a public health professional and is the former director of Dartmouth’s Women’s Health Resource Center. Glenn Simpson, LCSW, CADC, has a private practice specializing in substance use disorder, and couples therapy. They are working together on a book for couples in recovery.

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