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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Thomas

50 Fun Things as a Tool for Those in Recovery

Our country faces an unprecedented crisis of addiction, affecting people from all walks of life. Prompted by one chance encounter on Facebook, I considered the possibility that 50 Fun Things could be a useful tool for those facing addiction recovery. Here's my list of 50 Fun (Sober) Things for people who are looking to create a more joyful, healthy, purpose-filled life after addiction.

First, a little backstory: when I started focusing on building 50 Fun Things, one of the tasks on my to-do list was to create a Facebook page. However, when I went to start a page with the name "50 Fun Things," I was momentarily disappointed that the name was already taken. Since the page hadn't been updated recently, I decided to reach out to its owner and see if he might be interested in updating the page. That's how I came into contact with Paul Zwilling.

Paul explained that he, like so many others, was struggling with addiction and created the page after his sober living counselor encouraged him to find things he would look forward to experiencing. His concept for the 50 Fun Things list was very much like mine - an exercise to lift his spirits, add more joy, and renew his sense of hope. Although he hadn't done much with the Facebook page, he liked how it felt when he experienced the things on his list, and had noticed that it helped him rediscover a sense of appreciation for life.

50 Fun Things list created by Paul Zwilling
Part of Paul Zwilling's 50 Fun Things list

When I told him my intention for the page and what I'd been doing with 50 Fun Things, Paul was happy to hear that someone else was thinking along similar lines and in an expansive way. He responded that it could be "a real bridge-builder."

Paul suggested that the 50 Fun Things tool would be useful for those in drug and alcohol recovery, and encouraged me to create a list of 50 Fun (sober) Things for those going through an experience such as his. So, after a bit of research (and borrowing from Paul's own list that he was kind enough to share with me), here's that list.

Things with Loved Ones

Connecting with people gives life meaning. Finding activities that don't include alcohol can be a challenge for those in recovery, with so many family gatherings revolving around holiday meals with beer and wine ever-present. Here are some suggestions to take the lead and create quality time on your terms:

Throw a sober dinner party, with interesting non-alcoholic beverages or fancy "mocktails" standing in for the real thing.

Bring someone to a restaurant with a type of cuisine neither of you has tried before

Write someone a heartfelt letter of appreciation

Reconnect with an old friend or relative you haven't seen in a while

Go on a day-trip to an interesting small town and bring your favorite person

Go to a theme park or fair with a grown-up friend

If you, like many recovering addicts, feel that your old social group is not healthy for you, find a local Meetup for people with similar interests

Creative Things

Making something (or simply appreciating something someone else has made) can generate a sense of peace and productivity, and the feeling of being inspired is a natural high unto itself.

Take an art class: photography, portraiture, painting - whatever inspires you.

Try a new recipe

Make something for someone else. Got a talent for knitting, crocheting, or sewing? There are lots of wonderful organizations looking for donations of hand-made clothing items!

Write a song. Even if it seems daunting, there are great resources available online to help you get started.

Read a classic work of fiction.

Take up a handcraft: cross-stitching, whittling, leather-working, basketweaving, etc.

Identify your favorite director and watch all of their films.

Self-Care Things

Addicts often have a tendency to put their own self-care last on the list. Here's your chance to make loving yourself a priority.

Go to a spa - or at least take a relaxing bath.

Complete a meditation or guided relaxation challenge.

Plan a stay-cation and pretend to be a tourist in your own neighborhood

Take a whole day to get organized - your space, your calendar, your to-do list, whatever needs it most

Create a special place in your home where you can feel safe and serene

Go to dinner and a movie by yourself

Start a journal

Things In Nature

Nature can provide a sense of peace and remind us of our place in the universe. Compared to the expansiveness of nature, life's problems might not seem so big.

Go fishing in a local lake or stream

Go camping

Look at the stars

Rent a canoe or kayak and spend time on the water

Try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing

Visit a national park

Go for a trail-ride on horseback

Healthy Things

Diet and exercise are two of the most widely-researched contributors to a successful recovery. They make you feel good, and when you feel good, you're less tempted to fall back into unhealthy habits. There are lots of ways to get active to suit your ambition and ability-level.

Start a yoga practice. With its combined emphasis on breath, meditation, and movement, yoga is perfect for lessening stress and getting a workout at the same time.

Take a dance class (If you're local to the Twin Cities, I love Nia with Beth Giles and recommend it to everyone!)

Consider what sports or activities you used to enjoy as a kid and look for a way to participate again - by joining a rec league, taking classes, or with a group of friends.

Go swimming! Swimming is great, low-impact exercise, and there are classes for adults that can help you learn the proper form to get the most out of your time in the water.

Go for a bike ride!

Buy a cookbook of healthy meals and challenge yourself to try every recipe. The MediterrAsian Way (a collection of recipes focusing on healthy Mediterranean and Asian cuisine) is a favorite.

Helpful things

Putting others first can help you gain a deepened sense of purpose.

Volunteer! is a great place to find volunteer opportunities that match your interests, skills, and schedule. If you have a family, is a fantastic organization for generating ideas to help as a family.

Start a butterfly or pollinator garden to help declining bee and butterfly populations

Donate unwanted items to those in need

Find a political Meetup and spend time with others that share your views

Consider adopting or fostering a pet. Research has shown that pets can help with recovery, provided you are at a point where you have the stability to care for one.

Go on a walk and give a smile and silent blessing to everyone you pass.

Get to know your neighbors and find a way to help out in your neighborhood. is a great way to meet people close to you.

Grateful things

It's impossible to be anxious and feel gratitude at the same time. Finding things to be grateful for has been proven to be therapeutic, especially when life takes an unexpected turn.

Create a special blessing you say before meals - it doesn't have to be based on any religious tradition, but it can be.

Develop a daily gratitude practice by starting your own Gratitude Jar.

Do a guided gratitude meditation

Host a "Thanksgiving" dinner any time during the year, where each guest takes a moment to discuss what they're grateful for

Find and carry a special gratitude charm (like a rock or coin). Whenever you touch it, think about what you're grateful for in that moment. When you put it away at the end of the day, recall all the things you were grateful for throughout that day.

Start a Naikan practice. Naikan is a form of Japanese psychology based on introspection and gratitude, and it's gaining popularity in Asia and Europe as a way to help those going through recovery. Learn more.

Start a gratitude journal. There's an app for that!

One more thing

Maybe you've noticed that this is only 49 things. When I lead 50 Fun Things workshops, I encourage participants to examine their list for themes and to choose one overarching experience based on this theme. I hope the list above helps you get inspired! To learn more about 50 Fun Things and tools to create your own list and identify your own final experience, click here.

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