Reader Mailbag: How do we Motivate Ourselves to Get Sober with the...

Reader Mailbag: How do we Motivate Ourselves to Get Sober with the Idea that We Can Have Fun Again Some Day?

Reader mailbag

An anonymous reader writes in and says:

You say, ” Realize that life will be fun again once you are sober.” But How? This needs an explanation in order to motivate. Remember that we are very weak at the height of alcoholism. Right now, if I had to stop for good, I would rather die. I am currently on meds. The thought that I might be able to drink next month is the one thing I’m looking forward to, even if it’s just for a night.

This is an excellent question and I used to ask it myself before I took the plunge and got clean and sober.

What is the point of life if you are miserable all the time and cannot have fun when you want?

Now when I was in my active addiction I had come to believe that any fun that I had, any enjoyment that I got out of life was all based on using drugs and alcohol.

This was my belief and so when I experienced “good times” while on drugs or alcohol I tended to attribute that fun to the drugs.

- Approved Treatment Center -


This had to do with my self perception. I believed that, not only was I having lots of fun while getting totally wasted, but that I was a really hip and cool dude for doing so.

I thought to myself “these other sober schmucks just think that they are having fun, but I am totally wasted here and this is what it is all about….I am cool and they are not. They can only dream of having real fun like this, while I actually do it.”

So I had grew into my addiction this way, and I had the mindset and the attitude that the only “real” way to have fun in life was to get totally wasted on drugs or booze. I really thought that other people who did not seek out the ultimate buzz were just living out a boring life. I would think “why do they even bother with living, if they are not going to get wasted like I do?” Or I would think “If these sober people knew how much fun it was to get loaded and drunk and high all at the same time, surely they would be chasing this ultimate high just like I do all the time, no?” I could not figure out why other people were content while being completely clean and sober. I actually felt sorry for them on some level, that they were not motivated enough to seek out various altered states of mind like I was.

Thus I believed that the whole point of life was to have a blast and get wasted and seek out these altered states of mind by experimenting with different drug combinations and drinking lots of booze all the time. I felt like this was my God-given right to do this and that it would be a cruel twist of fate if this ability was somehow taken away from a person. If a person was not allowed to pursue a buzz like I was doing every day, how awful would that be, I wondered? It sounded terrible to deny people the ability to get drunk or high all the time.

And so I was essentially asking the question: “What is the point of life if you cannot get drunk and high all the time? What is the point of life if you cannot pursue happiness?” This was my question because I really believed that chasing after that next buzz was the whole key to happiness. I even projected this idea onto other people who were sober and wondered how they could walk around so miserable (or just be content) without trying to get wasted all the time. How can these people be sober all the time and be content? It did not make any sense!

Now that I have been in recovery for over eleven continuous years, I can easily answer the question of “what is the point of life if you cannot have fun and get wasted all the time.” The answer for me today is that I have a lot of fun in my life, much more fun than when I was getting wasted all the time, and the big difference is that now I can actually REMEMBER the fun that I have. But it is much more than that, actually, because now I can look back and clearly see the truth about chasing a buzz all the time and getting wasted as a “peak experience”: it was actually pretty darn lame and pathetic. I thought that I was so cool and I believed that I was better than other people because I was courageous enough to be chasing this ultimate buzz or whatever, and it was actually all very pathetic.

In reality, it was all of the people who were facing life clean and sober and creating their own experiences and being responsible for their own happiness and contentment, without self medicating–it was all of those people who were actually doing the right thing. I thought that I had found a “superior path” to happiness, to enlightenment, to whatever, but really I was just a pathetic drunk and a drug addict who was sitting there getting wasted every day. I was not achieving amazing things by trying different combinations of drugs and I was not having more fun than “regular” people simply by getting tanked on booze all the time. I was delusional in believing that I was having all of this fun because I was hopelessly addicted to the chemicals and I was misled into believing that this was the only way to have fun in life.

The “regular” people that I looked down on because they were not brave enough to chase after a buzz and get wasted all of the time, those “regular” people were actually having real fun in their life and they were able to remember it. I believed that when I was getting wasted that I was actually having way more fun than everyone else, and it was pathetic because not only was I delusional about this “fun” I was supposedly having, but I also could not remember it at all! If I could remember a fun time that I had, then I was not really fully medicated and thus I was not happy. If I was fully happy and fully medicated and pretty much wasted, then I was not going to be able to remember much of the experience at all.

But I could not reconcile this gap in my mind when I was still using drugs and alcohol. I did not see that there was this problem, that if I really enjoyed myself then I was too wasted to remember the experience, and if I was able to remember it then I was not really having fun anyway. I could not understand that because I was still in denial.

My denial lied to me. It told me that I could have the best of both worlds, and that the only real way to have fun was to get totally wasted on drugs and alcohol and then experience this total fun that “normal” people could only dream about. That is what my denial told me. My denial had me convinced that not only could I achieve this level of fun, but that I could certainly remember it, because I could think back and remember the good times that I had in the past when I got messed up on drugs and alcohol.

But therein lies part of the trick:

Our denial will cling to our best memories in the past, when we were able to walk that fine line and be good and buzzed but still lucid enough to enjoy it and remember it. Keep in mind that as your addiction and your disease progresses, the ability to find this “fine line” gradually disappears over time. Near the end of your addiction cycle you will be at a point where you are either stone sober or you are blacked out drunk. There will be no in-between because your tolerance and the progression of your disease will not allow it.

So in other words, early in your addiction when your body is not fully addicted and messed up yet, you can still experience fun while using your drug of choice and you can probably remember that fun that you have, too. This is because you are not yet fully addicted. Your denial will cause you to cling to this memory “when everything was perfect.” These are what we refer to as “the good times” early in your addiction cycle. You can get messed up on drugs and alcohol and there are relatively few consequences and you are still having fun with it, for the most part. Things are good. And, you can remember enough of the experiences because you are probably not yet blacking out entirely.

At the end of your addiction cycle you will have to break through this denial at some point and make a decision. You will have to realize that those good times are long gone. That the fun that you used to have with your drug of choice is no longer something you can count on, because your body has gotten too used to the buzz and so there is nothing left there for you. You have adapted so much to the constant buzz and to increasing amounts of drugs that there is no more “peak experience” left for you to attain. You have done it all and you have been wasted for years now and there is nothing left to explore, no fun left to be had that you have not already experienced.

Picture two people, one is going up on a mountain trip to learn how to fly in a wingsuit so they can jump out of plane and fly down a mountainside. The other is going to sit in the mountain lodge the whole time and get wasted on booze while sneaking in some pills to get them really good and buzzed. The guy who is getting wasted in the lodge hears about the other guy who is going to fly down the mountainside in the wingsuit, and he says “why bother? You can sit right here in the lodge and get completely wasted and have the adventure of a lifetime without even risking your life!”

Of course the guy who is sober and flying along in the wingsuit probably pities the drug addict who is stuck in the lodge getting wasted.

We might ask ourselves:

Which person is more alive?

Which person is having real “fun” in life?

Both of these people wonder about the other, and how they have their fun.

(Special note: You do not have to be extreme in recovery and fly down mountainsides in order to have fun while being sober. You can life a “normal” life and learn how to have again and be content without risking life and limb. This is just an example to show how pathetic it can be to sit there and do drugs and drink, and believe that you are living some kind of adventurous life).

What is the point of life if you cannot have fun and get wasted?

Well, being wasted is a red herring. When the alcoholic or addict discovers their drug of choice, the believe that they have found their purpose, that they have found their calling, that they have found the whole point of life.

But, the buzz is a lie. Addiction is a lie. Our denial does nothing but deceive us and lie to us.

Later we can look back and see just how pointless it is to try to build a life of happiness by getting wasted all the time.

Being sober does not necessarily give you an instant answer to “what is the point of life?” But at least it steers you away from the red herring of addiction. Because getting wasted all time is not the answer for anyone. It’s just pathetic.

I did not want to face life sober, period

When I think back to my aversion to sobriety, it is not really just about the fun. In fact, I was afraid to get clean and sober because I just did not want to face my life sober, period.

This had more to do with my fear of being sober than it had to do with the fact that I might not have any fun in sobriety.

My real fear about sobriety was that I would not be able to self medicate any more, and that I would have to face problems in my life and negative emotions in my life without being able to medicate them away, at will.

What I was telling myself while I was still drinking was that “I don’t want to get sober because I will not have fun any more in life!” The truth is that I did not want to get sober because I was terrified of facing life and dealing with my emotions without the crutch of my drug of choice.

The promise of a good life in recovery will not motivate a hopeless alcoholic

So let us talk about motivation for a moment here.

What will actually motivate the addict or alcoholic to get clean and sober, given that they might believe that they will not be able to have any fun in recovery?

I can tell you from experience what will NOT work:

You cannot tell the alcoholic about how awesome life will be in recovery, about how challenges in life because exciting and how you will learn to have fun based on other things. If you try to motivate an alcoholic or a drug addict like this it will not work.

Think back to the two guys on the mountain. The guy who is sober and out flying around might try to convince the drunk to get sober and learn how to fly around the mountain instead. But of course it is no use, because the guy who is drinking is stuck. He is stuck in denial and he has convinced himself that he cannot possibly have any fun unless he is wasted.

You can go beyond this example and show someone an entire life of success and fun challenges in sobriety, and the addict will still turn their nose up at your example and believe that it does not apply to them. Their denial prevents them from seeing the positive benefits of a life of sobriety.

They exclude themselves entirely from the possibility of a happy life in recovery. Their denial makes them believe that they are completely unique. The addict might say something like:

“OK, so you are an addict too and you were able to get clean and sober and now you have this exciting and happy life in recovery, you have a challenging career and you even play sports or have this cool hobby or you do extreme stuff and you fly down mountainsides or whatever–I get all that and I am happy for you, but none of that will work FOR ME because I am different, I am unique, and for some strange reason I have to have drugs and/or alcohol in order to be happy in my life.”

I experienced this myself when I went to rehab one time. I actually went to 3 treatment centers in my life, and the first two times I had not yet surrendered to my disease and therefore I just was not fully ready to change my life and get sober for good.

While I was at my first rehab some people came in from the outside and put on this AA meeting for us. One of the people was a man who had been sober for several years and when he spoke I really connected with what he was saying. I got hope from what he said. Because he said that life in recovery was amazing and exciting and that it was worth living if you just gave it a chance. But the way that he said it was truly awesome and he mentioned the extreme stuff that he did in his own life and it just really spoke to me. So I went up to him after the meeting and I told him that he blew me away, and that he gave me a ton of hope, and that his message really hit home with me. He obviously appreciated this but the bottom line is that I drank and used drugs for several more years after this.


Because it was not enough. It’s not enough to motivate someone with the promise of this great new life in recovery. It is just not good enough, because the addict or alcoholic is in denial, and they do not BELIEVE that they can have this good life. They do not believe that it is even possible, for THEM. They might believe that other addicts (who are obviously different) were somehow lucky and able to overcome their addiction and experience this good life in sobriety, but for some reason that option is closed off to them.

The promise of a great new life in recovery is NOT what can help motivate the addict or alcoholic. It just doesn’t work that way.

Motivate yourself to get sober by wanting to avoid pain and misery

Instead, the thing that does motivate the addict or the alcoholic to seek sobriety, is that at some point they have had enough pain and misery.

At some point, the addict will have said “this is enough. I am done seeking the buzz, because it only makes me miserable.”

They will say something like:

“I do not know if I can be happy in recovery, but I know for sure that I am miserable in my addiction. There has to be a better way than this.”

Sad as it may be, this is the way to motivate yourself in recovery.

Realize how miserable you are, and make a decision to overcome this pain, chaos, and misery.

If you give recovery a chance, things cannot get much worse. You have nothing to lose by giving sobriety a try. You are already miserable in your addiction, and it stopped being fun a long time ago.

This is how to motivate yourself to take action.

Avoid the misery. Life DOES get better in recovery, even though an addict may not believe it while they are still stuck in addiction.

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