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Can Games Teach Us About Healing in Recovery?

Can Games Teach Us About Healing in Recovery?

Games are a way to connect people together in community. They are sometimes fun, maybe challenging, but always entertaining and engaging. It can even be a tool for learning and healing. Learn about some ways games may be able to teach us about handling ourselves in recovery and how it helps us heal.

Lessons Learned

During a game, there may be directions and instructions to help guide play. This is meant to help people figure out how to play the game right and even offer a way to win, if the cards are right. Some games can reinforce the idea that some people will always skirt the system to get what they want (maybe even cheat) while others may always play by the rules because that’s just what you do. In any case, game playing can teach us about ourselves, others, and how our lives can be turned upside down (in the game) with just one decision. It is not so easy to reconstruct a life as it is a wooden tower, a board game, or stack of dominoes. The true test of what happens in a game is what happens when people return to their lives after the game.

Addiction and Monkeys

A popular game from many people’s childhoods is Barrel of Monkeys. It starts with a plastic container of red, gree, or blue monkeys with arms and tails wanting to grab hold of one another. The gola is to pick up one at a time, with one art latching onto one tail until a chain of two of the critters is extended from your hand. In order to snag one, you start slowly and accumulate them but it becomes more difficult the more monkeys you have. The more you have, the more they let go of their latch and start to fall off the chain. Your arm eventually gets tired and maybe you have to set down your string of monkeys, anyways, and lose the game. This can relate to addiction in the following way:

  • You cannot hold on forever
  • Your monkey mind will clamor for attention
  • It takes time and focus to regain balance
  • Distraction is the enemy of recovery


When you think about the barrel of monkeys or any other game you might play, it takes a lot of focus and determination to play. Our concious and unconcious thoughts make up our well-being and how we move forward in life. The way we live life and make choices matters, as much in a game as it does in the game of life itself. Most people who struggle with addiction are almost in a rat race to keep up with themselves and others but fail because they are not able to sustain their lifestyle and addiction side-by-side. Meditation and mindfulness are key elements in recovery that bring down your ‘monkey mind,’ and remind you that you are here for a reason and need to release the grip off addiction to heal. Keeping mindfulness at the forefront of your recovery will support your healing but also remind you of the need to practice daily if you want to get better. As it is with games, so it is with life. The more you practice, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. So, go after what you want and focus on getting better so you can recover and feel like your life is moving forward.

The healing process of recovery takes time. Like any game you might play, it is best not to play games with your life in addiction recovery. There is hope on the other side of addiction if you are willing to stop playing the wrong game and get skin in the game with sobriety. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401