When you first get sober, it can be difficult to know what you’re supposed to do for fun. What sober activities are available beyond binge watching Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix while you determine whether or not this old sweatshirt sparks joy?
(Seriously, if you aren’t watching Marie Kondo you’re missing out on a salve for your soul)
Early in sobriety, there’s a tendency to want to just stay home. This happens for a variety of reasons. Maybe not drinking is causing your body to reboot a bit and you feel tired. Perhaps your social circle has dwindled down to you and your cat. Or maybe you’re confronting a lot of tricky emotions right now and don’t want to be bothered by people.
I get it.
Take as much YOU time as you need. But if you are itching to get out there and aren’t sure where to start, here are some suggestions. I try to take into account the various places and climates you may live in so feel free to bounce around to whichever suggestions best fit where you live.
1. Enjoy the outdoors.
There are well-documented studies that have demonstrated the restorative benefits of spending time outdoors, interacting with nature.
According to Dr Richardson there is already research evidence that exposure to nature can reduce hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental wellbeing such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue. But more than that, feeling a part of nature has been shown to significantly correlate with life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety.
Before the rents went nuclear, I lived a couple blocks from Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York. I cannot tell you the number of times I woke up on a weekend feeling anxious, depressed, or mortified by some terrible behavior from the night before. But sometimes I would force myself to go outside and walk around the park and it was always so calming. It helped me get my mind off things, and even though it didn’t solve any problems per se, it gave me a nice break from them.
If you’re struggling with a bunch of emotional “stuff” right now, enjoying nature is worth a shot. Go for a walk, sit on a park bench and read or people watch (don’t be a creep though), have a run or a bike ride if you can. Get some fresh air and sunshine.
Okay, Alicia, but I live in a place that is freezing cold and gray every day. What sunshine? We don’t see sunshine again until March at the earliest!
Fair enough. You should still try to go outside. Find a time when the wind has died down and you’re not getting pelted with freezing rain, put on your finest coat and hat, and make yourself take a stroll. You will feel better, I promise.
When you’re outside, make an effort to leave your worries at the house. Just enjoy nature and observe where you are. Even icy, leafless trees in winter can be soothing if you slow down enough.
2. Get Physical, Physical
Interpret that however you like (cheeky wink), but I’m obviously talking about exercise in the more, eh hem, traditional sense.
If your fitness level is nonexistent, this might sound about as good an idea as having a root canal. But you’re not the old you anymore. You’re the NEW you and you need to get your ass off the couch.
Not only will it give your brain a much-needed dopamine boost, but you’ll also have reduced stress levels, better sleep, and improved digestion. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise helps repair the damage in the white matter of brain from all your drinking. You’ll also get a fabulous mood and energy boost.
If you’re a smoker, regular exercise also helps reduce nicotine cravings, so you really can’t lose here (even if you feel like you’re coughing up a lung in the effort – you’ll adjust!).
Another great benefit of exercise is that it can be a great social endeavor with friends who already into fitness or an outlet for finding new friends who are on a healthier path in life.
I’ve never done it, but people in recovery often rave about CrossFit. I understand why I think. There’s a really strong camaraderie within the sport, the gyms are known for being intensely supportive spaces, and I think people have exorcized a lot of demons there. If you like to push yourself (or want to), grunt, and lift heavy things, try it out!
If you’re in the States and want to find a gym that caters to people in recovery specifically, check out The Phoenix. There’s a lot of really great things going on with this organization if you’re blessed to live in an area with a program.
If you’re not sure what kind of activities you’d even be interested in, invest in a ClassPass membership. I have no affiliation with ClassPass, but I think it’s a great option if you’re not sure what you want to get into. It allows you to take a variety of different classes at different gyms in your area and throughout the world.
Exercise For Social Purposes
If your goal for exercise is to find a new tribe (which is a GREAT idea by the way), keep that in mind as you explore different options. If you want to try running, join a running club. Same for cycling. If boot camp class is doing it for you, book the same class time slot on a consistent basis so you can form a crew.
Often times different gyms and programs will have special events or team competitions. These are great ways to become a part of a healthy social circle. If you’re introverted or hate the idea of trying to make new friends as an adult, you will obviously have to put yourself out there a little bit.
Start slow. More than likely someone will take the initiative to include you. Give it time and you’ll start to get to know people.
3. Take a class.
Nerd alert! I LOVE to learn. If I could get paid to go to college for the rest of my life, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Signing up to take a class is great for a variety of reasons. You learn a new skill, you potentially meet new people, and you’ve found an activity to take your mind off things. Depending on where you live, there are probably a wide range of subjects to choose from. (It’s also a great way to torture your friends by making them attend with you.)
Be bold in your choice. Do not spend a single brain cell worrying about if it’s cool or not. If you find it interesting, book it. Think you might like to knit? Go. Want to learn how to make your own pasta? Sign up! (And then invite me over when you’ve perfected it).
Sobriety should feel liberating and so should the way you spend your time now that you’re not drinking. What are the things you’ve always wanted to do but never did? Want to learn a new language or how to do African dance? Now is the perfect time to start.
Besides, your brain loves novelty and this will help boost your mood and get your out of the house.
4. Join A Book Club (Or Any Club)
Book clubs can be a LITTLE tricky because they often involve wine. If you’re a big reader and want to find a book club to join, keep that in mind as you make your choice. Find one that doesn’t involve booze or one that is interesting enough that you wouldn’t feel compelled to partake.
It’s a good practice to let the host know ahead of time that you don’t drink so there’s no awkward insisting you have a glass.
Do not feel self-conscious about what you find interesting. This is a horrible trait we pick up in high school. It should never matter if your interest is perceived as “cool” or not. If it brings you joy, participate!
I’m an American expat in the Middle East and have a good friend who is part of a surprisingly large Dungeons and Dragon community where we live. It’s filled with people from all over the globe, from all walks of life, who get together to play some D&D every week. It’s awesome!
Do not limit your joy, my friend.
5. Relive Your Childhood
What are the activities you used to do for fun that you think you’ve outgrown? Did you used to love miniature golf? Paintball? Laser tag? Maybe a little go-kart action?
Early in my sobriety (before I realized I was pregnant, OOPS!), I went to a trampoline park and it was honestly the most fun I had had in years.
In many of our cultures, we’ve learned that having “fun” as an adult is hanging out and drinking or having dinner while also drinking. When you quit drinking, you have to unlearn that to a large extent.
When I was a little girl, I remember being very confused about what teenagers got for Christmas. In my mind, one received toys for Christmas. If you didn’t play with toys, then what would you get? I think I arrived at the conclusion that you can buy teenagers paper and pens for Christmas.
The point is that I had a very narrow view of gift giving at the tender age of four that mirrors a very narrow view of “fun” I developed as an adult.
The best part is, you can force partners, friends, or family members to go do all this stuff with you and then watch as they have a surprisingly fantastic time.
6. Get pampered.
Maybe you’re looking for a more sophisticated, bougie activity to treat yourself. A little escape. Some much needed R&R.
Make. It. Happen.
Whether it’s a new hair cut, a fancy blowout, a nice massage, facial, or mani-pedi, get yourself some pampering. You deserve it.
In a world where Groupon exists, there is no reason you shouldn’t treat yourself every now and again. Men, I’m talking to you, too.
7. Host an event.
One way to ensure a social gathering will not be a temptation pit is to host it yourself! But what to do?
This is not exactly my wheelhouse, but here are some ideas I’ve heard that sounded like a bunch of fun and in no way require alcohol.
A cookbook club is like a book club, except with cookbooks. Everybody buys the same cookbook (I’m sure you could make this work with a food blog) and picks a dish to make from it. Then you get together and eat what everyone made and talk about what you liked or didn’t like about the cookbook.
I love cooking and eating, so this idea spoke to my soul when I first heard about it.
Vision Board/Goal Setting Party
Lots of ladies I know get together and do vision board parties. It’s like arts and crafts but for goals. Someone invites everyone to the house. You decide who is bringing what but generally you bring magazines, scissors, glue, markers, and poster board (whatever decorating accouterments you desire).
Then you sit together and talk about what you want for the future while you put together your boards. Obviously, this involves a close-knit group or one with a shared purpose (let’s say you all listen to the same inspiring podcast).
It’s also not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like stuff like this, why not organize it at your place?
Do not underestimate the power of board or card games. Whether your poison is Monopoly, Risk, Uno, or Spades, getting a group of people together to eat junk food and play games is always a good option. In fact, this has been one of my favorite things to do in sobriety.
One particular gaming activity we’ve grown to love is Jackbox. You play it on your Smart TV (or project it from your computer) using your cell phone. It is So. Much. Fun. I’ve gotten everyone in my social circle and family on the Jackbox train. Most of the games are slightly inappropriate which plays to my sense of humor.
Most people at our game nights have alcohol, my husband included, but I’ve never felt tempted because I’m having so much fun and enjoying all the snacks.
Find YOUR Fun
Sometimes when you quit drinking, you have to get to know yourself all over again. You’ve spent so much time hanging out with people, getting drunk, and going to work, that you’ve lost all insight into what makes you tick.
Be patient with yourself and reframe your thinking. Instead of saying, “I’m bored. I don’t know what to do. Nothing is fun to me,” shift the conversation in your head.
“This is an adventure. I get to try a bunch of stuff until I find what I like. This could be interesting!”
It all goes back to attitude. If you have it in your head that nothing will ever be fun again, you will be 100% correct. If you want to enjoy life without booze, you have to keep an open-mind (notice a trend with this sobriety stuff?).
Not everything will be for you, but something WILL. You just need to find it.
Journal Activity For Today
Take some time today to figure out what kind of activities you want to try now that you’re the new, sober YOU.
- What sort of things do you enjoy doing? List them out. Don’t worry if you have access. It’s just a brainstorm.
- How has your social life been since you stopped drinking?
- What, if anything, would you like to change about your social life right now?
- What type of things did you enjoy doing in the past that didn’t involve alcohol?
- What’s something new you’d like to try this month? Why?
Just For Fun
A humorous take on going out to the bars when you’re sober