“Adventure is not outside man, it is within.” – George Eliot, the pseudonym of novelist, translator and religious writer Mary Ann Evans, one of the leading writers of the Victorian era (1819-1880)
Recovery isn’t generally regarded as very adventurous. At least, that may be the prevailing opinion by newcomers to sobriety. But ask any of the old-timers in the rooms of recovery what makes life worth living and they’ll likely tell you that you have to have a real passion for what you do. Beyond that, it always helps to foster a spirit of adventure.
Maybe we think that adventure is out of the question for us now that we’ve embraced sobriety or that adventure is only for others, but not for us. As if we think, somehow, that we’re less deserving of it or wouldn’t know how to handle anything smacking of adventure. How wrong we’d be if we entertain this thought. The truth is that we absolutely owe it to ourselves – and to our recovery – to try to maximize our enjoyment of life. The key is to do so within the framework of a healthy recovery.
And that means a bit of relearning on our part. We may have done some pretty wild things in our addictive past, actions that we remember as adventurous when in reality they were little more than foolhardy and reckless. The thrill of the adrenalin we felt while doing them may have been fueled, in part or mostly, by our use of substances. Reason and good judgment were likely nowhere to be found then. So much for how we used to have fun, but now it’s time to analyze what having adventure really means to us in recovery.
First of all, adventure doesn’t reside out there somewhere. A mountain that we see isn’t adventurous. It’s a landform with a peak that’s steeper than a hill. A whitewater river isn’t adventurous. It’s a wild and rushing force of nature. The Indy 500 raceway isn’t adventurous. It’s a 2-1/2-mile paved oval track in Indianapolis, Indiana, site of the Indy 500 Race, the Brickyard 500, U.S. Grand Prix, and other events.
What makes anything an adventure is how we view and feel it. The adventure, therefore, comes from within us, not outside of us.
Why do we have so much trouble with this? Is it because we’re so used to getting excited only after consuming alcohol or drugs? Do we feel we need some form of stimulant in order to experience adventure, to get our courage up to tackle something that may be extraordinarily difficult or something that is considered by most as dangerous?
We can be risk-takers without being foolish and irresponsible. We can feel excitement and experience adventure without putting our lives and our recovery in jeopardy. We can be adventurous without resorting to false courage boosters.
But it takes practice. We’re not likely to just tell ourselves that today we’re going to be adventurous and it will automatically register as such. So, how do we approach adventure? What do we do first? How do we prepare ourselves to experience adventure from a safe and sane perspective?
There are a few ways to get ready for adventure. Here are some of them.
Be sure that the activity we’re contemplating isn’t reckless and dangerous, either to ourselves or to others.
- Be sure that we have the necessary knowledge, skill, equipment, experience and safety necessities (watchers, spotters, coach, trainers, and so on) in order to go on the adventure safely.
- Mentally prepare ourselves before, during and after going on the adventure.
- Carefully weigh and balance the risks versus the potential benefits. Ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? What do I hope to get out of it?”
- Make sure that the adventurous pursuit doesn’t conflict with any of our recovery duties and obligations. In other words, don’t shirk what needs to be done for the chance to get a thrill.
- Of course, getting ready to go on an adventure, to experience something new and different and exciting, is half the fun of it. The other part is in the actual doing of it. That’s where the rubber meets the road, in a manner of speaking. It’s during the experience that we feel the most alive.
But, following the adventurous experience, there are some other things that we can do to ensure that we’ve gotten everything out of it that we can. Savor the moment. It may be that this adventure is one that we’ll not be able to repeat again. These are called once in a lifetime moments. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience certain adventures, like witnessing the Aurora Borealis or deep sea diving on a submerged wreck.
Wait a minute, you say? How many of us are ever going to get the opportunity, let alone be able to take advantage of it, to do anything remotely similar to the aforementioned adventures? Here’s a little secret. If the activity or pursuit is something that you’ve always wanted to do and you find the prospect of doing it exciting, thrilling, and requiring you to stretch, then it qualifies as an adventure.
Remember, adventure is what you define it as. It requires you to feel like you’re veering into areas where you haven’t been before or, if you’re repeating a certain adventure, to recapture and possibly perfect your knowledge and skill base from what you experienced before.
You can experience adventure by traveling, meeting new people, testing your skills in new activities or pursuits, engaging in recreational activities or team sports. There are thousands of things that you can do that are adventurous to you. Maybe they wouldn’t be an adventure to someone else, but that’s not the point. Again, it’s within you that you experience adventure, not what someone else does.
What about watching someone else experience adventure? Well, if it generates a spirit of adventure within you, you are experiencing adventure vicariously. So, even house-bound or chair-bound individuals can feel some sense of adventure by watching someone else’s adventure. It isn’t quite the same, of course, but it’s there, nonetheless.
Sometimes, we’ll settle for a small portion if we can’t have the whole. Putting everything in perspective, our outlook on life, our willingness to take reasonable and calculated risks, and to stretch our comfort level so that we tackle new activities and pursuits all help us to get ready to experience adventure.