There is no one cause of addiction—with a lot of factors contributing—and no one quality that all people with addiction have. That said, a trait many in recovery (myself included) share is the desire for novelty.
According to an article in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, “On the behavioral level, both human and rodent studies demonstrate that high novelty seeking can predict the initiation of drug use and a transition to compulsive drug use and create a propensity to relapse…On the molecular level, both novelty seeking and addiction are modulated by the central reward system in the brain.” This may also be why there are links between addiction and ADHD, which is also connected to novelty-seeking.
Novelty is Not the Same As Destructiveness
Active addiction is often associated with chaos and adventure, so getting sober can seem like giving up novelty. But in fact, addiction keeps you stuck repeating the same patterns again and again. In some ways, it’s the opposite of novelty.
Just because you actually brush your teeth and open your mail in recovery doesn’t mean life has to be mundane. I needed a few years of sobriety to set up stability for myself; once I felt secure in that, I was able to build novelty into my life.
A lot of recovery is about finding balance in different areas of life, as many of us with addiction tend to go to extremes. You can have a life with lots of new, exciting experiences that isn’t chaotic or destructive.
Finding Opportunities for New Experiences
Learning new skills and trying out different hobbies is a great way to keep things fresh. Many people in recovery learn what they’re interested in by trying things out for the first time; being sober allows you this ability, as you’re not preoccupied by drugs or alcohol.
You can also hone skills you already have, to the point that doing them puts you in a flow state; this is the scientific term for being “in the zone,” and a ton of changes happen in your brain when you’re in it. Obviously, those of us in recovery liked changing our mental state—this is a healthy way to experience changes in your consciousness. We’ve listed some tips for entering that state here.
Leaving your city or town is a chance to have new experiences, even if it isn’t far. Attending a meetup group about an interest, like hiking, helps you meet new people with whom you might connect. Even reading in a different genre than you normally do (or listening to new kinds of music and other media) can make things feel a little different.
Recovery Allows for Novelty
One predominant myth about sobriety is that it’s a boring, monotonous experience. But I’ve found that recovery provides a great opportunity to try new experiences. The chaos of active addiction just sort of happens to you; in my experience, it’s not fun and sucks up a lot of time and vitality. Recovery has given me back time, energy, and mental clarity to intentionally seek out new experiences.
If you are struggling with a substance use or a mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a great life in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 833.631.0525.