Purpose: This activity can be used for group members to get to know each other better and also to initiate a conversation of perceived losses due to the amount of time spent in their lives being in legal trouble or focused on their addiction or substance abuse.

Materials: a box of paperclips, rubber bands or any small objects that can serve as tokens for the activity


  1. Facilitator invites group members to pass the box of paperclips around and take 7-10 paperclips each. (The number of paperclips is determined by the facilitator and will depend on how large your group is. The more paperclips each person has, the longer the amount of time will be needed to spend on the activity.) Everyone should have the same number of paperclips.
  2. Next, facilitator instructs the group that each person will take a turn around the circle of completing the sentence “I never…” (For example, “I’ve never been to Mexico” or “I’ve never had a child or been a parent.”) After each person’s turn, group members must throw a paper clip into the middle of the circle if the statement is NOT true for them. For example, if another group member states, “I’ve never been to Mexico” but you have been to Mexico, then you would throw a rubber band into the middle of the circle.
  3. Group members continue answering the “I never” statement one by one around the circle until they have no tokens remaining. Once a member’s tokens are all gone, they are out of the game. The game ends when there is only one person remaining with a token or tokens.
  4. Group members are encouraged to think of “I never” experiences that tend to be generally true for many people meaning the more obscure the I never, the less likely one is to get people to give up a token or get people out of the game.

Talking Points:

  • Many people who have been in an out of legal trouble or have a prolonged history of substance abuse can relate to the sense that they missed out on having a “normal” life.
  • This can include feeling as if one didn’t get to have certain experiences that other people who weren’t caught up in legal troubles or drinking or drugging got to have. These experiences could include developmental milestones or important life events or occurrences that were missed. For example, not completing high school (perhaps due to cutting school a lot to get high with friends). Another example might be, due to being locked up or incarcerated, not getting the chance to say goodbye or go to a funeral of a loved one who has passed away.
  • I Never is generally a light-hearted activity but can be used to explore deeper themes of loss and self-concept as it relates to legal troubles or substance abuse.
  • Potential discussion questions:
  • What do people in the group feel that they have lost due to their addiction(s) or legal troubles? What are other examples of experiences people feel they never had due to their addictions or legal troubles?
  • How have these losses or perceived losses affected your self-esteem or the way you feel about yourself?
  • How does the way you think about these losses caused you to remain stuck or create barriers for you from being able to move forward?
  • What are some ways that you can reframe these losses to support you in moving forward?
  • (From a CBT perspective), how have your thoughts and feelings around these losses currently influence your behaviors?

Tips and Considerations:

  • A follow up session to this topic could include a cognitive mapping activity where the facilitator asks for group member to share a key event in their life, brainstorm current thoughts and feelings about the event, and identify subsequent maladaptive behaviors that have resulted from those thoughts and feelings. For example:

Key event: not graduating from high school

Emotions: sadness, disappointment, shame

Thoughts: I’m a failure; I’ll never amount to much, etc.

Behaviors: continue getting into trouble, keep using substances to numb emotions, etc.

New Thoughts: It’s never too late; I can still be successful in my life, etc.

Starts the learning around: relapse prevention or cognitive mapping

2 thoughts on “ACTIVITY: I’VE NEVER

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