Someone asked me this question the other day. It’s a good one given alcohol used to fill a lot of my days. Like, a lot.
Let’s think it through. I would start drinking at 5pm on the dot and usually fell into bed at around 10pm … so that makes at least 5 hours out of every 24 I was under the influence of alcohol. At the time, there was never a consideration of what other things I could do instead of drinking at night.
Doing the Math for a Drinking Problem…
Then if you take away the 7-8 hours that I was in bed (sleeping or tossing and turning fitfully) that leaves only 10-11 hours of the day that I was up and moving around and not drinking.
Of course a large chunk of those 10-11 hours was also focused on alcohol. During the days I’d be thinking about drinking – either regretting it and excusing my actions, or having fierce internal battles with myself about whether to drink or not, planning to acquire it, then buying it and being excited about drinking it. My mental health was suffering from the effects of alcohol and my long term substance abuse.
Basically, my alcohol addiction filled up a LOT of my time. Therefore, in terms of how I spent my days, things obviously had to drastically change once I gave up drinking. I had to find new things to do at night instead of drinking. New ways to spend my time.
At first (and this happens for everyone), simply adjusting to being a non-drinker filled in a huge amount of my time. Immediately after I became alcohol-free I thought about being sober constantly, read loads of books and blogs and articles related to sobriety and recovery, listened to loads of podcasts and interviews on the subject, and watched numerous online videos and TV programs.
Actually, this is one of the good things about early recovery – working on getting sober and reshaping your life takes up a lot of mental time and energy this helps mask the fact that you’ve got a with a wide-open (sober) brain to entertain all the time.
But as the weeks and months roll on and sober starts to become ordinary.. it becomes apparent that there are a lot of sober hours that need filling. We start to get a bit bored and restless. Or, hang on, lets look at it in a positive way – we become aware that our intellect and creativity has been freed up and enlivened by taking away that soul sucking, foul tasting, brain numbing liquid.
And so the question is posed – what should I do with all this glorious free time? What does the new strong, stimulated, clear-headed, sober me want to do with my life? What fun things can I do instead of drinking?
I’ve heard what others can get up to – running marathons, crocheting or knitting, gardening up a storm, or throwing themselves into a new job.
I tried running but almost died.
I tried to crochet but couldn’t get my fingers to hold the hook comfortably.
And I tried gardening but just ended up watching my plants either die or go to seed.
Finding a Good Things to Replace Drinking
It was always hard to think about what I would do instead of drinking after work. I have, however, thrown myself into my work and that is a good use of my sober time. Running websites, writing blogs and books is stimulating and rewarding and helps keep me busy. So that’s been good for me.
Other activities to do instead of drinking? I have to be honest I watch a lot of TV in the evenings. I love Reality TV and get really involved following personalities on those shows. Don’t mind a bit of zombie action too…
I find cooking stimulating (good thing given I’m the main food provider for our family of 5) and go through stages of getting cookbooks out of the library and trying new recipes. That’s a fun fallback ‘hobby’ for me.
Right now I’m also back into the habit of reading novels after a big break of not doing it. This is very satisfying. And I’m back at the gym. But don’t think I’m a saint (see earlier about food and TV).
Constantly Shifting and Changing
The main thing I’ve noticed in my nearly 6 years of being sober is that I’m constantly shifting and changing how I spend all the free brain time I have now that I’m free from alcohol. What I’m doing today might be completely different to what I’m doing in six months time. And that’s cool too, I am just happy to have hobbies instead of drinking.
One thing sobriety gives me, is a perpetual sense of forward momentum, the ability to reflect clearly on my life-choices, the strength to keep picking myself up if I falter, and the knowledge to treat myself as a work in progress… not a problem to be fixed.
Whatever it is you choose to do with your non-drinking time, know this.. it’s a damn sight better than dulling your spark and disconnecting yourself from the world around you by regularly drinking alcohol.
Sobriety – it brings only good things. And now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got an episode of ‘Million Dollar Listing New York’ to catch up on. Very fond of Ryan you know….