One of the questions I see the most from people who have recently decided to try sobriety is the vague, but pertinent, “what do I do now?”
It’s a good question, because if we really examine the reasons we were drinking to begin with, we’re now forced to address the issues drinking appeared to resolve on our own. Many of us would drink because we were simply bored – whether it was a football game without much going on, a Tuesday night where we didn’t have other plans or we were sitting online in the middle of the day.
Even those of us who didn’t drink in solitude to alleviate boredom often used alcohol as a crutch in situations where we were out and about with other people. There’s a reason alcohol is referred to as a “social lubricant”, and people call it “liquid courage.” Admittedly, yes, it does make the opposite sex easier to talk to – for you – but be aware that it often makes you quite a bit more annoying to them.
It lowers your inhibitions, and everyone else’s, so it’s making things a little more tolerable if you’re standing in a dark room with a hundred other people hoping nobody plays Journey on the jukebox again while you’re telling yourself that skinny jeans are, in fact, still a thing.
Depending on geography, you may find yourself living in what’s referred to as “alcohol culture,” where the primary method of socialization involves getting drunk. Living in New York, every meeting ended at a bar; every party involved massive amounts of liquor; every celebration at the office involved champagne; every night at five, we were off to happy hour. That city is not conducive to sobriety.
Age can also be a factor. At the age of 20, it was rare that I’d be doing anything at night that didn’t involve drinking. We’d even have a few beers before we played tennis, we thought it made the games more interesting. And college, of course, is the source of so many alcohol-related scenarios, scenes, quotes and memories, that it hardly needs to be said that there are definitely issues in remaining social for people in that age bracket.
And what of your existing friends, if geography and age aren’t factors already? A lot of us, before drinking became a problem (or at least a problem we were aware of, as most of our friends were probably well aware before us), would default our Friday nights to “the bar,” whatever that may have been. We’d watch games at each other’s homes, and bringing a six pack was standard etiquette. We didn’t need to drink to be with our friends, but when we were spending time with our friends, we were often drinking.
Obviously I’m not going to present a laundry list of problems related to sobriety without at least including solutions that have worked for me. Though I rarely beg for comments, if you’re reading this and you’ve got fun, sober activities, please chime in below.
The first thing you need to remember is that the things you thought were fun – playing video games, watching sports, bowling, whatever they were – aren’t predicated on the consumption of alcohol to be fun. They’re still enjoyable activities, and you don’t have to drink to follow your hobbies or interests.
Then, try to remember the things that you used to do when you were sober but simply didn’t have the time or interest for when you were drinking. Did you enjoy crafting models, or something that required fine motor control? Did you like going to the batting cages and crushing a few softballs to feel like Hank Aaron? Did you run marathons? Maybe you’re like me and you played competitive laser tag (yes, it’s real)?
Maybe it’s time to try some activities you haven’t given a chance yet. There are some things you either can’t – or really shouldn’t – do while under the influence. Have you ever gone skydiving? Scuba diving? Have you ever bungee jumped, or surfed? Maybe you’ve always wanted to try carpentry or something else creative that you need your wits about you to do well. Get creative with it.
Your friends, if they really are that, will respect your sobriety. As I’d mentioned, they’re probably aware you had a problem with drinking and will often express a sense of relief in knowing that you’ve finally decided to do something about it. I’ve heard from many, many people in my life that “it was just a matter of time” before my drinking killed me. These people, obviously, respect my sobriety – or at least the consequences of its absence.
Your life isn’t over. Alcohol wasn’t essential to the enjoyment of your life; you’re here, aren’t you? Think of how many people around the globe that don’t drink for religious reasons, economic factors, social and cultural norms. There’s a whole world of things to do in sobriety, it’s just a matter of choosing one and doing it.