The Journey From Fun to Abuse: Sean


One of the major misconceptions out there about people in recovery is that we hate drinking and drugs. Au contraire! We simply learned that we can’t do it responsibly. The fact of the matter is that we would never have become addicted if it all hadn’t started off being incredibly fun.

If you hang around recovery circles, you’ll hear people say, “First it was fun, then it was fun with problems, then it was just problems.” We like that expression. We get that expression. We wanted to have a column which examines that expression. And so we reached out to the most prominent recovery bloggers, writers and advocates out there to ask them about their trudge down that road.

This week, our focus is on Sean.

What was drinking/using like when it was fun?

If I was to sum up the one moment where I really thought, “Oh hey this whole doing drugs thing is fun” it would have to be on roller skates at a rave on ecstasy at age 20. I wanted my whole life to feel like that, to be like that. Drugs, music, roller skates, no semblance of the outside world every again? Please and thank you. It dawns on me now that most people at that rave probably thought doing it once and moving on was probably okay. But I thought maybe I could feel this unrealistically good all the time and sort of chased that for the next 16 years. 

When and how did it become fun with problems?

Almost immediately. When you get arrested at age 15 for stealing peppermint schnapps from the local Colorado general store (complete with wagon wheels at the entrance) you know your relationship with substances is out of control but the thing is I kind of didn’t give a crap. I had blackouts but they never scared me and I actually liked being able to erase whole evenings from my life. Drugs made me sick and alcohol made me throw up but it didn’t faze me. The high was more important than the consequences and I felt this way from the beginning. 

What was it like when it was just problems? 

The last 10 years were mainly all problems, all the time. I got evicted multiples of times because as it turns out landlords don’t really love when you choose to spend your rent money on getting loaded. Also? I fought with my spouse, my job, my friends constantly. Fightin’ and drinkin’. My life had become the gay country song Merle Haggard never recorded. In addition to fighting and financial hell, my fun had wreaked havoc on my body. My teeth were shot, a boozy afternoon (ironically, again on roller skates) led to a broken wrist and I, unbeknownst to me, had contracted HIV. And yet, despite how screwed up my life had gotten, I really still thought my drinking and using was fun and that I was festive! 

How and when did life become fun again?

The more sober I am, the more I realize what the rest of the planet considers fun is not what I consider fun. Big crowds of drunk people, stirring up drama with friends, any and all sporting events, intense physical activity meant to bond individuals together but really only makes you miserable and sweaty—all not my idea of fun. My life got fun when it got real. Around a year and half sober, I was able to go out and have fun with other sober people. Movies, dancing and even roller skating were all fun. But it wasn’t just events. I was actually able to have fun when I felt okay with myself and this meant I could have fun anywhere, even by myself…no disco music or drugs required.

Sean Paul Mahoney is an In Recovery columnist, blogger and podcaster currently residing in Portland with his husband and two ridiculous cats. He publishes new essays weekly on the

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Anna David is a New York Times-bestselling author of six books who's written for The New York Times, Time, The LA Times, Playboy, Vanity Fair and Women’s Health, among many others. She's appeared repeatedly on The Today Show, Hannity, Attack of the Show, Dr. Drew, Red Eye, The Talk and numerous other programs on Fox News, NBC, CBS, MTV, VH1 and E. She speaks at colleges across the country about relationships, addiction and recovery and is the founder of AfterPartyMagazine and as well as a former editor at The Fix. Her coaching program creates bestselling authors.


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