If you’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, then you’ll remember the cabin fever experienced by Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson. This lead to his abandoning the writing of his play in favor of, or more accurately transfixed by, typing this sentence over and over into reams of paper;

“All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy.”

Now, we’ve all felt like this to some extent in our daily lives. But one of the more shocking realizations I had years ago when starting to do this work was that once our clients lives started to become more manageable, with less crisis, need for triage and drama they did not know what to do with their free time. And because of this, or at least due in part, they often tended back in the direction of their old, self-destructive ways.

When they weren’t scavenging or farming for drugs anymore and the drama, chase and withdrawals weren’t occupying as much time and energy they had little-to-no reservoir of healthy downtime activities to fill these gaps. When asked the question what do you do for fun, they drew a blank. Over and over again, they didn’t know how to fill the down time or how to have fun. And their not knowing this seemed like a pretty important thing for us to attend to in order to support fully support them in their recovery, mental health and forward progress.

We started by having them Google lists of fun things to do. Google lists of fun sober activities. They created lists of their own from past experiences and posted them next to their desk, or on their refrigerators, and started to orient to these lists for ideas to fill the space when they were bored. They started to put some of these fun activities on their schedules during our meetings and figured out with whom they can do some of these fun things.  They soon started learning and remembering how to have fun.

As we got further into this work with our clients focusing on fun seemed more and more helpful. It also seemed important to further differentiate between the Type I fun that we have been oriented toward and Type II fun.

Type 1 fun is eating cotton candy, riding a roller coaster, going to a movie, jumping on a trampoline, etc. Anything that is actually fun while you were doing it his Type 1 fun. So making a list of Type I fun activities is key. But also essential, we found, was really understanding and looking into more into Type II fun activities. These are activities like trail running, multi-pitch climbs, long hikes, etc. During a Type II fun activity you will find it challenging mentally and/or physically. It may feel and seem more like suffering, sometimes, than fun but in the end is more likely to approximate adventure and may leave equally positive or even more impactful memories than Type I fun events or activities might.

Type I and Type II fun do more than just fill the void that drugs, alcohol or negative relationships once filled. Adventures planned for the weekend with good friends can be life-affirming and empowering. They can give you hope and inspiration to make it through the sometimes difficult and trying work week, school week or just plane week of adulting that, without the plans on the weekends and relief from the daily grind, might make you feel like you are living less than a life fulfilled – like Jack in The Shining.

Keeping a list of Type I and Type II activities, along with a bucket list, will help you not forget all the fun, challenging, and worthwhile endeavors to be had that can add value and joy to your life. And the key to making it even more enjoyable is to bring your friends into your fun and adventurous plans. If you do this with intention and consistency, you might just find when you look back on your life that you will be help to review a life well-lived.