Fun things to do without alcohol

By the time I quit drinking, having too much time on my hands was definitely not a problem for me – I had so much to do that I was drinking more because I couldn’t cope with it, and the stuff I actually wanted to do got pushed out to fit in the stuff I had to do.

But I do know that, when I was not in the throes of childrendom, I often had no idea what to do with the time I had. That time was frequently filled up with boozing.

Many people are staggered, when they quit drinking, at the amount of time that is suddenly available. Time that previously disappeared into a blurry fug of self-pity, anxiety and exhaustion.

Binge watching Netflix leaves me feeling completely miserable with raging cabin fever, so I do not recommend that!! Instead, here are a few ideas if you are at a loss for alcohol-free things to do with your newfound alcohol-free time.

Indoors

I was much worse indoors than outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I drank in all environments, but I know that being in the house for any length of time, and the accompanying cabin fever, definitely triggered me to crack open the booze.

But there is more to being at home than doing the day to day mundane tasks. Pick a room and slowly decorate it as you would like. Or move the furniture around so that it makes you feel calmer (I have moved my furniture approximately every 6 months – much to My Love’s horror!)

Have a puzzle on the table so that you can add little bits to it each time you go past. Have some magazines that interest you within reach for a quiet moment.

This is the one we have just finished

Bake! Baking helps so many people to feel grounded and safe. That initial effort, followed by the enticing smell as it cooks and then the joys when you finally get to taste it and all your hard work has paid off. This is not me to be honest, my stuff hardly ever goes to plan, but My Love bakes and it relaxes him (and I get the spoils!) 

Outdoors                                                                                                                                          

Getting out into nature is one of the most calming activities. Surrounding ourselves by the incredible world that we live in and the enormous beauty and intelligence of nature can take us out of our own problems for a while.

The breeze in the trees, the swell of the sea, the wind, the pouring rain, the frost, the snow, flowers, streams, rivers, lakes, grass, fields and forests. How can you not be amazed and feel grateful when you see these things?

Any do whatever you want to do in nature – sit, watch, walk, cycle, swim, climb, do yoga, sail, play, eat – just being in it is enough.

Nature is why so many people feel completely at peace while gardening (again not my thing – I have a tendency to kill plants off!) but when we eat what My Love has grown in the garden, the boys and I cannot help but feel grateful as it is so much more delicious than anything you can buy in a shop. The patient daily work of tending and nurturing plants is soothing and healing. Hopefully reminding us to nurture ourselves a little too. 

In winter

Winter does not have to stop the outdoor adventures. There is nothing more beautiful than a walk on a crisp winter morning, or glistening winter evening (just make sure you have sufficient clothes, or it won’t be pleasant!

This coat saved my life in winter!

But when it’s cold and miserable looking outside, there can be nothing nicer than going to the cinema for a good film in some comfortable chairs with popcorn (hey, you can afford that now you are not buying the booze!)

Or go pot painting or climbing!

In summer

Take a trip to the seaside! Nothing soothes my soul like watching the waves crashing against the rocks and listening to swoosh.

If it’s warm enough I’ve even started to brave a dip in the sea (although I still get freaked out by what I can’t see in the water!) There are always places nearby that you can hire wetsuits and bodyboards/surfboards, and open water swimming is blissfully liberating! 

If you can’t make it to the seaside, any water nearby will do. Walking and sitting by the river in the evening is so relaxing. Or nothing is more beautiful than watching an evening sunset in a park while having a picnic with friends or family.

Where I live there are things I am dying to try like paddle boarding and open water swimming at a local park lake. I’m sure if you look near you there will be all sorts of things!

Camping is another wonderful summer activity whether alone, with family or with friends. Although if setting up the tent stresses you out make sure there is someone who is happy to do it for you. Also, check the weather forecast first, although the sound of rain in a tent can be wonderful (as long as there are no leaks)! You can’t be more in nature than basically sleeping, eating and living outside in it!

Also, try a festival. We went to our first family festival last summer and it was better than I could have imagined – see Greenman Festival – Sober!

In the daytime

If you have time in the day then use that time well. Join a gym. Exercise is the thing that keeps most people on the sober path when they first start. But don’t go in all guns blazing thinking you have to immediately transform into some gladiator style fitness fanatic. Just take it at a pace that makes you happy and doesn’t put you off ever coming again. Take a yoga class, go for a gentle swim. If you feel more energetic do more, if you feel less energetic go to the steam room and then read the paper in the cafe! 

There are also loads of courses that run in the daytime and you could try to learn something new. I know near me there are language courses, art courses, cake decorating courses, sewing courses and calligraphy courses – just to name a few.

If that is all too much, there is still nothing I love more than going out for a coffee. I know it sounds silly but it always feels like a real treat and I love the warm cosy communal coffee shop environment.

In the evening

Evenings can be challenging so treat yourself kindly in the evenings. It is also probably where you will notice the most extra time. Much of what I say in this post can be applied to evenings, but some of my favourite evening treats are reading a good book, having a bath with salts or essential oils and a face mask, doing yoga and mediating. I try to always make sure my evenings are relaxing because, quite frankly, I do enough during the day! Also, relaxing evening will tell your body that sleep time is approaching and it will help you develop and natural sleeping rhythm. Insomnia can be a huge problem in early sobriety. Try not to do anything too invigorating or spend to much time around screens. 

With a partner

Other than the obvious enjoyable partner related activity, here are some others that spring to mind!

Dance! I have taken up dancing again with My Love and it is the most wonderful feeling. Find a local Ballroom and Latin class, you’ll feel like you are on Strictly in no time! If that’s too serious for you, try a local Salsa or Modern Jive class – way less footwork and don’t actually need a partner to go to it.

If dancing isn’t your thing try martial arts or climbing.

If you aren’t feeling as active, try going to the theatre. I still feel that going to the theatre is a proper occasion and I see so many people that still dress up and look glamourous when they are off to a performance. Recently we’ve been to musicals, ballets, pantos and my favourite – The Rocky Horror Picture show! Just look up what’s on in your local theatre and get booking (I go for the view restricted cheap seats and it is still fab!)

With friends

One of the most wonderful things about Hygge, the Danish concept or cosiness, is that it involves cosiness with friends. The joy comes from doing things together. So, if you are with friends for dinner, don’t just let one person do the cooking or cleaning up, all pitch in together. Isn’t it nicer to eat something you have all helped to prepare, than just being waited on – and often feeling a bit awkward! The act of doing something together is the thing that creates the cosy comfortable feeling.

For more on this wonderful idea read this book written by a Danish guys who’s job it is to research happiness!

But if having friends in your house freaks you out a bit (maybe I’m just odd like that!) there is plenty to do otherwise.

Go out for a meal, breakfast lunch or dinner – any will do! Try to make sure there is somewhere for the children to play together if you’re bringing them, so you aren’t worrying about them all the time.

Go bowling, play minigolf – or normal golf, take a boat trip if you live near water or go to a concert.

One of my favourite things is walking in the Peak District and then afterwards finding a cosy pub, obviously with a log fire if it is cold outside, and having a full on pub meal with pudding. This is a perfect weekend activity. You will feel so exhausted but also rejuvenated by the walk and the company that you’ll be ready to flop when you get home without the need for alcohol to relax you. (FYI, if you have children in tow, make absolutely sure that before you leave for you walk, the house is tidy and all the jobs are done so that you don’t come home and feel stressed by the chaos of everything. That will completely defeat the point!)

With children

Anything I’ve mentioned can be done with children but make sure that what you do with your children is a joy and not a chore. If you don’t really want to do it then it will be the latter and you will get stressed about it.

Eating together sharing food with your children can be very bonding. Walking, even small walks, as a family garners conversation and memories.

Currently we are starting to watch some comedy together, Michael McIntyre and Miranda, and laughing together is the best feeling in the world.

Alone

It is often the alone time that is hardest to manage. The time with no distractions, when you can get into your own head and talk yourself into thinking a drink would be a good idea to blur or obliterate the edges off your loneliness or whatever might be worrying you. As we know, even if you are still in the midst of your drinking days, it won’t. It will just leave us with more feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and self-loathing than we started out with. So let me help you to see that there are far better ways to spends your precious alone time that drinking.

Do something in which you can express yourself and your creativity. Build something, cook, paint or write. Many people feel writing is very cathartic so crack on with your diary, blog, gratitude journal, autobiography, novel – whatever makes you feel good to write.

Share share share. If you are lonely, get into social media and talk to people in the same boat as you. It can easily relieve the burden of feeling alone if you know there are other people out their going through the things you are going through. Here is a link to my Instagram page to get you started – Happy Sober Yoga Mummy.

Listen to music, do brain puzzles, do crosswords, do a paint by numbers!

Look after yourself – brush your hair, use a facemask, moisturise your legs, paint your nails!

Conclusion

Whatever you choose to do with the time that has been given to you in your new sobriety, see it as a gift to be treasured. There will be so many feelings and emotions that you have to learn to deal with now that you can’t block it all out, and learning takes time – you can’t force it.

So, in the meantime learn to use the time you have to do things that you enjoy and that nurture your soul. Being mindful and present in every moment will help you appreciate the moment and should help you not to dwell on the past or future.

Be brave and try new things, you might be surprised what your sober self actually enjoys!

Happy sober times my friends

How to do Dry January

So, Christmas and New Year are over for 2019. It’s that time of the year when, emerging from the haze of overindulgence – be that cheese, sugar or alcohol – our bodies scream at us to change something and try for a healthier happier lifestyle.

I know that when I started Dry January in 2018, I had reached a breaking point with alcohol, but I also knew that I had reached that point before in my 22 year drinking career, and that despite promises to myself and repeated attempts to quit, I always ended up back where I had been.

Every New Year I thought “this year will be my year” and “by Christmas next year I will have stopped drinking”. Every year, Christmas came around and I was there, drinking away, as I had been every other year.

Yet, incredibly, here in New Year 2020, I have been sober and happy for 20 months. 2 birthdays, 2 Christmases and 2 New Years.

What is Dry January?

Dry January is a campaign run by Alcohol Change UK, a charity that aims to change attitudes to alcohol in order to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

The Dry January campaign started in 2013 and its popularity has skyrocketed. I think statistics regarding alcohol consumption are dodgy as hell because most people either don’t want to admit to drinking too much (in case they are branded an ‘alcoholic’) or they have don’t know how much they are actually drinking. But according to alcohol change, 78% of people in Britain drink more than they want to, whether that is from pressure to drink, social anxiety or the fact that alcohol is used to mark every event from births to funerals.

Stopping drinking for 31 days will definitely help you to reassess your relationship with alcohol and with yourself, and potentially, as for me, change your life forever.

Should I try Dry January?

I think if you are questioning yourself regarding your drinking, then alcohol probably already has more of a hold on you than you would like. In which case, taking a month to reassess your relationship with booze can only be a positive step forward.

In my case, I was not in control of my drinking and especially not in control of the effect alcohol had on my anxiety and emotional state. Many people who drink moderately, still find that alcohol is dreadful for their mental health. If this is the case, why not try a month off to see whether it improves.

Benefits of Dry January

The benefits of not drinking are immense. A quick google search with leave you inundated with reasons why cutting the booze is the best thing ever.

These include:

Better sleep, less illness, less anxiety and depression, more energy, weight loss, better skin, happier, more confidence, more self-respect and more time.

Not to mention reducing those long-term effects such as heart disease, liver failure and cancer.

On a personal level I have been staggered by the effects of quitting alcohol. My anxiety has basically gone, my depression has gone, I have lost 10kg, I have achieved a huge amount, I am kinder to myself and don’t beat myself up constantly, I have a better relationship with my husband and my children know I am there all the time. I am less emotional, less snappy and less rollercoaster. I have a realistic exciting plans for the future, not just escapist pie in the sky plans, but I also love living my day to day (most of the time anyway!).  I am fitter, healthier and happier than I ever though possible.

For more on this see my post How to build a life you don’t want to escape from

How to complete Dry January

It’s all very well saying all this lovely stuff about stopping for a month and all the lovely benefits of this, but what if you don’t think you actually can stop. What if, like me, you’ve been trying to stop drinking for years and years but always end up in the same place? What if, other than pregnancy, you’ve never managed more than a week off, despite desperate efforts?

Here’s my advice on how to successfully manage your first Dry January.

Take it one day at a time

Don’t worry that this will always be the case, I promise you it won’t – I don’t crave alcohol anymore, and although it does cross my mind on occasion, thinking about drinking takes hardly any headspace. 

Don’t say forever. If you launch into your cutting alcohol project saying ‘this is forever’, then you are far more likely to get completely freaked out, and what do we do when we are freaked out? That’s right, we drink to ‘cope’ with it. So, give yourself a break. Each day is a huge achievement to be proud of, you can extend it later if you feel up to it.

Be extra kind to yourself

One of the worst things we do to ourselves is be unkind. Every time I slipped up and started drinking again, I would pour recriminations on my head, cry and tell myself I was pathetic and useless. I would then drink more to ‘cope’ with these feelings and would go back to my normal drinking.

This is the worst thing you can do. And I will admit, in my Dry January I had a night alone, about halfway through, and I had ½ a glass of prosecco. But I realised what I was doing, cried, tipped the rest away and carried on with Dry January.

That is the key. If you slip up, DO NOT just go back to normal. Pick up where you left of and carry on. I promise you that you are not alone. Every person who has succeeded in quitting drinking as slipped up again and again and again. But if you keep picking yourself up and carrying on then you will succeed.

See my post How to stop alcohol cravings to find out more about the incredible workings of our brain in relation to changing habits and breaking cravings.

Also please realise that you will have all sorts of emotions and feelings during this time. You need to treat yourself as you would treat a child or a new plant. Be gentle, kind and nurturing.

Sign up for my free 7 day email course below to find out how to start being kind to yourself. 

Take time for yourself

You are your only priority this month. You need to do exactly what you need to do and put everything else aside.

Have a look at my suggestions below, but also have a think about what you like doing that really nurtures you. Do you love reading but never have time? Do you long for a hot bath with candles? Do you wish you had more time to bake? Whatever it is that you long to do, that is your focus this month.

I promise you, that your home, children, relationship or job will cope with a little neglect, and they will gain hugely from a happy sober you.

Do what you WANT to do

Like my point above, only do what you want to do. You don’t HAVE TO do anything. Most people slip up in Dry January because they go back to their normal drinking haunts with the same people and expect that they will be OK. This is not true. Later on, in your sober career, you will be fine, but in this first month, why put yourself through that? You’ll probably be challenged on why you are not drinking, your automatic brain triggers will want to say yes to alcohol, you’ll crave like mad, you will worry that you will never quit drinking, or that if you do, you’ll always be craving and miserable. The upshot of this is that by the end of the evening you’ll have had a drink to ‘cope’ with your internal battle ground.

So, for this first month, don’t go near your triggers. Do things differently. Plan activities and events away from your usual ones and away from alcohol. Give yourself a proper break. You may also find out that there are things you love to do far more than drinking.

Track your progress

Be accountable to yourself. Alcohol Change UK have a Dry January app that you can use to chart your progress. This should help you to keep a track of where you are and how you are doing, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the whole experience.

Here is the link to the Dry January tracker app.

There are other apps such as Drinkaware tracker, AlcoDroid, SoberTool and Sobriety Counter. They all offer slightly different things so have a play and see what works for you.

If you’re feeling slightly more old school and like a pen and paper, writing a diary of your journey – with thoughts, feelings and achievements is a big help. Try in this diary to think every day about a few things you are truly grateful for. Gratitude, especially in hard times, can have a profound effect on hoe you see things. See my post How to practice gratitude for more on how gratitude works.

Find your community support

Another way you can track your journey is on Social Media. I wish I had known when I first quit about the huge community of people on social media in the same boat I was. Instagram is particularly good as it is easier to find and connect with people who are in the sober world. I have found everyone on Instagram insanely supportive. Just what you need to keep yourself positive and motivated, and most importantly, make you realise you are not alone in your struggle. You are not abnormal! 

Have a start with my Instagram page here.

Being part of a community like this can help you to stay accountable to them and to yourself. I think this is part of why Dry January works so well. You are not just you, struggling with your ‘alcohol problem’. You are part of a huge community all with the same intention. Support is an incredible thing. For more support from Alcohol Change UK you can sign up to Dry January and they will send you motivating emails and messages to help you through.

Another amazing website for community spirit and getting help to cut down is One Year No Beer. It was these guys that helped me through Dry January when I read their book, but they have website dedicated to their One Year No Beer Challenge. Don’t worry, you don’t have to start with a year! Like Dry January, you can start with 28 days.

Telling your friends that you are taking a challenge is so much easier to say than trying to explain why you are not drinking.

This is their book which helped me hugely.

The link to their website is here .

Read Read Read

So many people find that reading can help them through difficult time. I was certainly like this. In the sober world, self-help books are called ‘quit lit’ and here are my top quit lit choices.

If you are an overwhelmed mummy and don’t feel like you can ‘cope’ without the booze or simply don’t have time for a whole book, have a look at my four part post series of mummies and alcohol.

  1. Why do mums drink?
  2. What’s wrong with the mummy wine culture?
  3. Why mums DO NOT need to drink
  4. How to survive and thrive as a sober mum

Find your alcohol alternatives

It is so helpful in the beginning to find your alcohol-free alternatives. Luckily as the sober movement is taking off, more and more places offer alcohol free alternatives.

Find your activity alternatives

Like a said before, find something different to what you normally do this month. You might be surprised by what you actually enjoy more than drinking!

One year no beer and many groups like it, suggest taking an exercise challenge such as Couch to 5K or even training for a half marathon! The effects of exercise are incredible and will help you to complete and maybe even continue Dry January. All those lovely happy hormones released by exercise, not to mention feeling better, healthier and more energetic.

Getting out in nature can also be hugely beneficial. There is something about being at one with the outside world and breathing in that fresh air that can make us feel grounded, connected and supported – just wrap up warm!

Embrace mindfulness

If an exercise challenge is not for you, don’t give up on exercise completely. I didn’t do the couch to 5k, although I did do a 5K park run in January 2018 and ended up with a whopping migraine!

I started with a 30-day yoga challenge. I used Yoga with Adriene on YouTube as it is free, and she is amazingly accessible. After a few days you can start to feel the difference. But like I said before, if you don’t manage to do the challenge every day, don’t feel that you have to give up or start again. Just pick up where you left off and carry on. It is all progress on your journey.

Yoga helps with mindfulness, and mindfulness has been shown to help people to cope with the day to day ups and downs of living.

Mindfulness can come in many forms including yoga, meditation and a walk in nature. Sign up for my free 7 day email series below to find out more.

Mindfulness will help you to learn more about yourself, your real interests and passions and your relationships with others.

My Dry January

While I’m making all this sound easy and positive, it probably won’t be like that to start with. Personally, I hated every second of Dry January. I was miserable, craving and thought that if I quit for good, I’d feel like that forever. But it fundamentally changed something in me and I quit for good, relatively easily, 3 months later. What I am trying to do here is give you the benefit of my experience. I did Dry January all wrong and everything I have written above was learned in the following 3 months – and it worked!

I am sober, happy and more sorted than I have ever been. I understand myself better, and I actually like myself now.

For more on my story see Why I quit drinking

You can do it too.

For more advice on how to quit drinking see my other post How to quit drinking

To read more on what other people have experienced have a look at the blogs for

Alcohol Change UK

One Year No Beer

Join Club Soda

Good Luck! I’ll post daily on Instagram for motivation and support. Let me know how you are getting on!