Getting and staying sober can be an intense journey as you process new and better ways to live without alcohol. For all your hard work, it’s also important to preserve a support system and a social life when in recovery. So what can a person do for fun that doesn’t involve alcohol? How can you have a fulfilling social calendar, find friends who are supportive of your sobriety, and make your life into something new and better?
As it turns out, a sober life is a life that provides you with more time, energy and finances to focus on the things that make you glow with excitement or giddy with discovery. Giving up alcohol means gaining the space to create the kind of life that you want: one with meaning and purpose and new experiences. You are in charge. You get to orchestrate the activities and interests and hobbies and passions you’ve always wanted to pursue.
My friend Mark, who ditched alcohol after getting two DUIs and being forced to attend expensive group therapy classes, says the key to a successful addiction recovery is finding a new, healthy addiction to replace it. “It’s about accepting the fact that you have to have something to fill that spot in your head,” he says. For Mark, it was the gym.
Find Your New Passion
What activities do you love? What have you always wanted to do? Sit down and make a list of everything you haven’t had time for or that you’ve been meaning to try. Choose two or three. Take the appropriate steps to make them happen. Maybe you want to try a dance class, drag that novel you were writing off the top shelf of your closet, or join the local intramural softball league. Give each new pursuit a little time to see if you find it enjoyable and fulfilling. If not, go back to your list and pick a different one to replace it. Eventually something will spark your passion.
Change Your Habits and Routines
Alcohol is commonly associated with a variety of activities, but it’s necessary to break these connections if you want a healthy recovery. Even something as simple as a different environment can transform your associations. For instance, if your normal routine was to pour some wine every evening as you sat down to watch TV or read a book, instead watch a show while you work out or read your book out on the deck or in the bath. Take it one day at a time—after a while, these new associations and good habits will feel natural.
Don’t Limit Yourself, but Test Your Limits
Just because you have made the choice to give up alcohol doesn’t mean you have to avoid every social event for the rest of your life. But you may need to be careful at first until you can gauge your tolerance for being around people who are drinking. If being around alcohol creates temptation for you, bring along a sober buddy who either doesn’t drink or will abstain for that event and will help keep you accountable. Also, realize that you are absolutely not the only one who isn’t drinking. Someone there has to get up early or is pregnant or just doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. Having fun is not dependent on alcohol consumption.
If the people in your life can’t support you or don’t want to hang out with you because you don’t drink, drop them. They’re not good for you, and they can’t help you create or maintain a sober life.
As you get involved in your new activities, you’re likely to meet new people with whom you share an interest that is not centered on alcohol. Recovery support groups are also great places to make friends, particularly because anyone you meet there will understand what you’re going through.
If you’re feeling tempted to drink, keep in mind why you decided to give up alcohol in the first place. Maybe your personal relationships are more honest without booze, or you know you’re avoiding that killer hangover and the hours of your day lost in bed the next morning. For my buddy Mark, the reward is living in the present. “When I was drunk, I didn’t feel anything. Ever. When I am working out, I feel everything,” he says.
Bottom line: Thanks to your decision to abstain from alcohol, you have more energy, more time and more money to live out your dreams. You control your life, and you develop the fulfilling path ahead of you.
Written by Sarah E. Ludwig.