Engaging in hobbies and interests can play a significant role in addiction recovery by providing us with a sense of purpose, enjoyment, and fulfilment. Hobbies and interests can also help to fill the time that may have previously been spent using substances and can serve as a healthy coping mechanism to deal with stress or difficult emotions.

For me sport was a big part of my pre-addiction years. I seemed to play football constantly, and growing up in north London I was, and remain an Arsenal fan, although more of an armchair supporter now. Other sports like cricket or tennis occasionally and at school I learned to swing a golf club and fire an arrow from a bow. Beyond sport I never really had any lasting hobbies, I tried collecting stamps and coins but quickly lost interest.

I was however always a problem solver and during my years of addiction my problem solving was devoted to getting money to buy drugs and inevitably that led to crime. I also learnt that I loved networking, and this meant I was soon involved with others solving problems and taking risks which meant even more trouble.

As an aside, in my recovery, old-life skills are still valid if used in a different and more honest context, for instance:

• I’m a freelance consultant now and I get paid to solve problems for organisations.
• Networking, meeting others, and being genuinely interested in them, what they do, and their perspectives is also useful in my new world and helps me to get a clear focus of the people I may be working with and what they need.
• Having the ability to quickly read a room or people in order to judge risk and reward is again something I’ve brought with me from my previous experiences and, like turning swords into plough shears, old-life skills can be adapted.

Back to hobbies and interests, during my addiction treatment I was re-introduced to sport, football of course, but squash and badminton came along too and were a bit of a surprise. I discovered I had a knack for the technical side of the game. I had great eye-hand coordination and despite not being very fit I was good at anticipating where I needed to be to return the ball or shuttlecock, and this made up for my lack of fitness. As a result, I became quite adept and enjoyed playing.

In recovery, my new circle of friends liked sport, and they particularly liked playing squash and badminton in particular, which meant I had something in common and could connect meaningfully with them. So I continued my interest in playing and over time settled into a pattern of squash during weekday evenings and badminton on a Saturday night.

I also like something a bit more sedate and realised I like to read and have the patience to do it now. For some reason I prefer biographies and books about stuff that’s actually happened, or that helps improve my understanding about a subject – I’m currently reading “what happened to you: conversations on trauma, resilience, and healing” and “the life inside: a memoir of prison, family, and philosophy” and I’m enjoying them both immensely.

Participating in activities that are enjoyable and meaningful can increase self-esteem and confidence and provide opportunities for social connection and support. Some examples of hobbies and interests that can be beneficial in addiction recovery include:

1. Exercise and physical activity: Exercise has been shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits and can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Creative pursuits: Engaging in creative activities such as art, music, writing, or dance can provide a sense of self-expression and accomplishment.
3. Outdoor activities: Spending time in nature, such as hiking, camping, or gardening, can promote relaxation and reduce stress.
4. Volunteer work: Giving back to others through volunteer work can provide a sense of purpose and contribute to feelings of connection and community.
5. Learning new skills: Pursuing education or learning a new skill can provide a sense of accomplishment and personal growth.
It’s important to find hobbies and interests that align with personal interests and values, as well as to maintain a balance between leisure activities and responsibilities. Additionally, it’s important to avoid hobbies or activities that may trigger substance use or jeopardise sobriety.

Hope you enjoy today’s article and that it gives you food for thought in your recovery. I hope it also helps you in see the pursuit of hobbies and interest as important to your life in Recovery.v