What Is Recreational Therapy?

When you give up drugs or alcohol, you need a healthy substitute to fill that void. I was an opiate addict for years and the only thing that mattered to me was getting high. I was dope sick all the time, in and out of jail, and living an overall hopeless life.

When I got to Pathfinders and was pleasantly surprised to see that they greatly encouraged implementing recreational activities to fill that void. When you are in the middle of your addiction, you don’t think too much about physical activity or exercise. You only think about when you can get the drug next.

Recreational therapy is used for many other things beyond drug addiction. Eating disorders, anger management, PTSD – there are a lot of things that can be helped by recreational activities. The history of recreational therapy is quite intriguing.

Recreational therapy was first implemented in the 1940s to help treat World War II veterans in VA hospitals. It quickly became obvious that recreational activities played a big part in the healing process. Rather than lay in your hospital bed maimed and injured, recreational therapy became a great way to encourage those who were wounded to engage in physical activity.

As the world of recovery advanced over the years, recreational therapy became a great outlet for those struggling to defeat their addiction. As with most programs in treatment centers, recreational therapy should be individualized to meet the specific needs of each addict.

There are specific applications for addiction treatment. Some recreational activities are more engaging than others. It depends on what you’re into. Some people don’t realize how much fun they can have through recreational activities.

We think if we are not athletic that we can’t have fun doing something physical. This is an unfortunate thing that a lot of people assume. You don’t need to be the best at something to enjoy it.

I know that for me personally, basketball played a huge part in my recovery. I played basketball my entire life and was always a big NBA fan. There wasn’t a whole lot of basketball in my life once I became addicted to opiates.

Once I finally got a hold of my addiction and picked up a ball, I fell in love with it all over again. It was like I was a child again working on my jump shot. I used to shoot around in my parent’s driveway late at night for hours. I had forgotten how much that had done for my spirit.

Basketball became the one thing that I knew I could do each day that was fulfilling for me. No matter how much I was struggling during my stay in recovery, I knew that I had a set amount of time to go out on the court and shoot hoops.

This became a crucial aspect of my recovery and definitely played a big part in my staying sober. All of my worries, fears, and anxiety fell away when I was running around on the court doing layups and working on my jump shot. That’s the only thing that mattered at that moment.

All I had to focus on was my love of the game. That made me achieve things I never thought I could achieve through sobriety. It’s weird how getting a hobby can do wonders for you personally.

Brain Chemistry and Recreational Therapy

Brain Chemistry and Recreational Therapy

There are many ways that recreational therapy can benefit you in your recovery. Your brain benefits greatly from physical activity, whether you are doing it as therapy or not. Your brain releases endorphins during physical activity that can greatly benefit your mood and your overall state of mind.

There have been many studies done that show a link between exercise and an improved mindset. Because recovery is an individual struggle, a sample treatment plan based on your needs is important to implement. Again, what works for one person may not work for another. It’s vital to identify your needs and to figure out what type of recreational activity will benefit you.

How effective is recreational therapy? Multiple studies have shown that addicts who engage in physical activity are less likely to relapse. You need to replace your vice with something, and there are so many positive things that you can replace your addiction with.

The list of recreational therapy activities is long and includes a lot of variety. There is sports therapy, art therapy, and even animal therapy. Equine therapy as recreational therapy has proven to be very popular for many addicts.

Any positive interaction you can have with animals is great for your mental health. I took up horseback riding after my recovery and it did a lot of good for me. You may also benefit from painting and artwork as therapy.

I am a big animal lover, and I have a lot of pets. Being able to care for animals gives me a sense of purpose, and makes me feel more connected to other living beings. Engaging with animals gives you a new perspective.

You realize that even though we are at the top of the food chain, we are no more or less important to the planet than these creatures we call pets. They can teach you a lot about love.

I’ve learned more about unconditional love from my pets than I ever could from humans. If an animal loves and trusts you, it will follow you anywhere. They will never judge you. They have a forgiveness that a lot of humans wish they had.

Living in Arizona is great for recreational therapy. The sun is always out. The weather is always nice. There is no shortage of recreational therapies in the desert. It’s been medically proven that a good dose of Vitamin D has a hugely positive effect on your brain and your mood.

I try to get outside every day because of this. I play basketball on an outdoor court. I feel much more connected to the natural world by spending time outdoors. I used to fear the sun. I slept all day and stayed up all night. Not having any interaction with the sun definitely played a part in my sickness.

Aftercare and Recreational Therapies

Aftercare and Recreational Therapies

You will find that aftercare services offer a number of great recreational activities to help you stay on the right track. I have joined a basketball league that is made up entirely of people in recovery.

This has not only helped me stay in good physical and mental shape but it’s given me a whole new community of wonderful people to engage with. Part of recovery is surrounding yourself with like-minded people.

If you continue to engage with people who actively use drugs, it will most likely trigger you to relapse. It’s hard to find new friends, especially as an adult. Being in the world of recovery makes it a lot easier to network with other sober people.

Support from family and friends is a vital part of the process as well. It can be easy to continue engaging in your addiction when everyone in your life is enabling you or making excuses. It’s made even more difficult if there is any level of co-dependency.

If you are lucky enough to have a family who will tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear, that’s a big plus. You need to have people around you who will call you out if you are showing any signs of slipping up.

You should also be that person for someone else. It’s amazing what offering a helping hand can do your you. You’ll learn quickly that it can give you a lot more peace of mind to know that you did something nice for someone else.

A lot of people will be driven to relapse if they don’t have a good enough support system. If you are quick to pass judgment, this can be a huge roadblock toward getting someone the help they need.

Support, compassion, and encouragement go a long way. It’s not up to you whether a person seeks help, but you can certainly make the process easier. I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of family support during my struggle, and it’s definitely helped me get through some of those rough times when I was near a relapse.

What you do has an effect on others. This is no truer than in the world of recovery. You lead by example. When I go to meetings, I take the opportunity whenever possible to offer my advice.

Sometimes I think I am not in a position to offer advice, but I have experienced what it is like to be sick. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless. I know how the process goes.

It may not be the same for everyone, but it’s pretty close. I don’t judge people when I hear their stories, I listen and I try to relay my own experiences. This is what helping other addicts is all about.


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