What’s With The Yellow Balloons?

One question I get often from young adults in early sobriety is: “What do you do for fun?”

This question hints at the overarching fear that many people have when trying to give up their old ways and adopt a sober way of living – the fear of missing out. When I was first introduced to recovery, my main priority was to reduce the consequences of my addiction. However, the idea of giving up drugs and alcohol forever, substances which served as a solution to all of my problems, coupled with the notion that this action would force me to give up all fun and enjoyment, was scary, to say the least. My experience was quite the opposite though – adopting a sober life created the possibility to truly enjoy life and all the opportunities it provided.

In reality, I may have viewed my addiction as exhilarating and fun-filled, but that definitely was not the case in the end. More than that, it was a life filled with pain and sorrow. Despite this reality, sobriety was competing with a delusional fantasy world of fun-filled addiction. I think this is probably the case with a lot of newcomers.
This idea of enjoying life in sobriety is so paramount to early recovery. This is where the yellow balloons come in. Many of the enjoyable things in life, especially for young adults, are in places that would be considered risky for someone in sobriety by traditional standards: concert venues, festivals, college campuses, etc. Some people told me early in my sobriety that I would just have to avoid these events, but I didn’t agree. My life in recovery was not about hiding – it was about trusting in the process and adopting a new perspective on life.

Fellowship had transformed so many aspects of my life already in sobriety, and it was the answer to this issue as well. I was at a point that I had experienced a drastic change in my life through actively working a program of recovery, and I wanted to experience life. After all, I was still a teenager, and I had lost most of my teen years to drug addiction. I began to go to concerts, events, dances, and other places which a person in new sobriety might feel fearful of relapse or isolation – and I took sober people with me. This is not a new idea — groups of sober people have been gathering at events like these for a long time. Yellow balloons are a symbol to represent a sober group of people at these sorts of places. It is borrowed from the Wharf Rats, a group who followed the Grateful Dead and chose to be drug and alcohol-free. Yellow balloons symbolize the thought, “Yes, you can have fun, you can do exciting things, and you can be sober and have friends at the same time.”

I believe strongly in living a life of excitement, freedom, and fulfillment. A life in sobriety rooted in recovery promotes these ideas. We are not in hiding. We are individuals who are proud of our way of life. So, if you are at a concert or event and see yellow balloons, come and join us – we insist on having fun.

By: Wes Ward | Operations Manager

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Sober Fraternity
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