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.
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!)
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.
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!
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!)
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!)
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.
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!
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