One of the more common concerns about living a sober lifestyle is simply that it’s boring. People tend to link drug and alcohol usage with recreation. They do it for fun, and it’s hard to imagine fun without resorting to those substances.
This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about substance abuse when it comes to having fun. In the very beginning stages of addiction, people convince themselves that they need to drink or do drugs in order to have fun.
What’s actually happening is that drugs and alcohol are taking away the ability to have fun when not under the influence. So newly sober people end up with a strange question: “What do I do with all the time and money I used to spend drinking?
It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. And failing to solve that problem sets people up to fall right back into their addictions, purely out of boredom. A major part of recovery is figuring out what to do with your life after beating addiction. Satisfying that addiction tends to take up a lot of time, and people aren’t sure what to do instead.
There is no single answer to the question of what to do with your life after addiction. But that’s because you have near-limitless opportunities. Here’s where to start enjoying your new, substance-free life.
Connect with New Friends and Organizations
Recovery organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery help people all over the world with their addictions. We generally talk about these organizations in terms of how they help people recover from their addictions.
But what you don’t hear as much about is the connections people make in those organizations. It isn’t just about getting treatment. Many people find lifelong friends in these support groups. Since these friends have gone through what you’re going through, you may find closer connections with them than others.
This is especially important because you’re going to need to reform some habits from your addicted days. You may find that many of your old friends were enablers for your addicted lifestyle. Drinking buddies, friends you used to get high with, it’s very common to have had people in your life who either enabled your lifestyle or were a part of it with you.
Being sober, you’re obviously going to want to avoid those influences as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you have to cut ties entirely, but if your friends insist on continuing to go out to drink, you’ll obviously want to abstain. Connecting with new friends will help replace that time you used to spend drinking – and since you met them specifically in a place to kick your habit, you’ll have a constant pillar of support with you.
So that’s all well and good, but what are you actually supposed to do with them? That brings us to our next point.
Pick up New Hobbies
Many people who try to adjust to a sober lifestyle find themselves with a lot of time to fill. With that new source of time, people end up finding the time to pick up things they’d already dreamed of doing.
Some people get into sports. Some pick up a musical instrument or some other art form. Some learn a new language. Whatever people choose to get into, the activities are time-consuming. Learning guitar takes time. Painting a scene can take a whole day. These are enriching, fulfilling activities that help take your mind off your substance addiction.
But more importantly, this is your opportunity to get yourself a fresh start. It can be a challenge to find yourself activities that keep you occupied, but most people have something buried deep down that they’ve “always wanted to try.”
Substance addiction makes you unable to fulfill most of your life ambitions. Breaking the cycle of that addiction opens up whatever opportunities you may want. Sobriety is a chance for you to start knocking some of those things off your list of life goals.
Don’t have a list of life goals? Well, sobriety is probably a good time to make one! Make some goals for yourself and list some things you’d like to learn or do. When you’re not affected by alcohol, you get your brain function back, you have the money available that you would previously have spent on alcohol, and you have the time you would have spent drinking.
With more money, time, and mental acuity, you can accomplish just about anything you feel like. But what about enjoying the things you used to enjoy while drinking?
Enjoying Your Old Pastimes, Only Sober
It’s well-established that after a sober recovery, it’s important to try keeping yourself away from temptation. As a former alcoholic, you’ll be more susceptible to relapse, even with only a small drink. And being around people who drink is more likely to drive you to falling victim to addiction.
Still, you may have friends you’ll want to spend time with. That’s okay – getting sober doesn’t mean you have to throw your entire life up to that point in the trash. A good friend will recognize that and try not to put you in a situation that puts your sobriety at risk.
On the other hand, you don’t want your friends to have to abstain from drinking if they’re not problem drinkers themselves. So where is the middle ground?
This is something you need to feel out for yourself. In the early stages of sober recovery, you’re most susceptible to relapsing back into your old habits, so at those times it may be best to avoid drinking situations entirely. But before too long, you’ll probably want to be able to socialize with people who are drinking. If you’re a few years into your recovery, you might feel strong enough to withstand temptation in a place where people are drinking.
Here are a few things you can do to still go out and have fun with friends, while maintaining your sobriety.
- Offer to be the designated driver
- Keep a non-alcoholic drink with you – so nobody offers you one
- Get into the music – sing and/or dance
- Be ready to remove yourself if you must
It helps to make sure your friends are on the same page as you before you go. As strong as you may feel, sometimes preparing for temptation and facing it are very different things, with very different results.
Let your friends know that you’re recovering ahead of time. A good friend will be respectful if you need to remove yourself from the festivities because the temptation gets too strong.
Of course, an easier way to have fun with your friends and stay sober is just to host an event yourself. You can plan a sober event on your own terms, and that helps you both maintain your sobriety and plan out activities that you know your guests will enjoy. When you have control over the event, it makes it easier to make it both fun and sobriety-friendly.
Enjoying Your New Sober Lifestyle
The most important thing about your new sober life is to recognize that it truly is new. Addiction is a harsh disease, and you can’t simply expect everything to go back to normal afterwards. Things will absolutely be different after recovery.
It may seem, at first, like these changes are negative, simply because they’re different. But recognize that these changes are part of the best thing that will ever happen to you – as long as you allow it to be. You will need to find some new things to enjoy – and know that you will enjoy them far more than anything you’ve experienced before.
Alcohol may seem like it’s something you need to have fun. The reality is, once you find new interests to fill that void, you’ll find that you’re enjoying yourself more than you ever thought possible.
The sheer joy and happiness you’ll feel from a sober life, even from seemingly small and insignificant things, can’t be explained. It can only be felt and experienced. It’s up to you to reach out and grasp that happiness once you’ve started down the path to sobriety. Your possibilities are endless – it sounds like a cliché, but you can do anything you set your mind to once you’ve beaten alcoholism.
What are some things you’ve always wanted to learn or do? Have you or someone you know taken up new interests after getting sober? Tell us your story in the comments below.