Discover more from Exploring Sobriety
How to Have Fun Without Alcohol
Sobriety doesn't have to be boring.
One of my fears about getting sober was that life wouldn’t be any fun without alcohol.
When I first quit drinking, I was bored out of my mind. I sat around my apartment for hours doing nothing but thinking about how badly I wanted a drink. I didn’t even have the attention span to sit around and watch TV.
Yet now, over five and a half years later, I’m still sober, and I’ve built a life packed with more fun than I ever had as a drunk. So, how did I do it? How do you escape the boredom and learn to have fun sober?
For me, it started with a key shift in expectations: Instead of looking for ways to enjoy my old interests without booze, I started looking for new interests altogether.
To give a simple, concrete example: I often hear newly sober people say that they like to go out to bars every night and that they’d like advice on how to keep having fun at bars without drinking alcohol.
It might be possible to keep having fun at bars without alcohol, but it sure would be a lot harder. To add to that, it would also create a lot of unnecessary temptation.
Instead, why not come up with a new nighttime activity? You could take up Dungeons and Dragons, join a sober bowling team, or enroll in night classes. When you’re sober, these are going to be more fun than a bar, and they’ll help keep you away from the craving-inducing sight of alcohol.
I have to admit that my life as a drunk wasn’t so fun in the first place, so let me share another example for those of you who don’t have such active night lives: I used to love surfing Netflix for hours on end every night. My basic, daily routine was to get home from work, start drinking beer, and watch Netflix until I was tired enough to go to sleep.
It wasn’t the most exciting life, but in my drunkenness, it was good enough. Binge-watching TV was fun for me.
After I sobered up, I suddenly realized that hours of Netflix just couldn’t hold my interest. It wasn’t fun at all anymore, it just felt like a miserable waste of time.
Once I realized that, I had two options: I could look for a way to make watching television fun again—find better shows, for example—or I could look for entirely new ways to spend my time.
I never had success with the first option. The things that I enjoyed as a drunk just weren’t fun when I was sober. But, I had plenty of success with the latter option. After I quit drinking, I pushed myself to discover all kinds of new hobbies that were plenty of fun.
I focused mostly on activities that would get me outside. Since my drinking had normally taken place in my apartment, it made sense to spend as little time there as possible.
I started running regularly, then joined my local bouldering gym. A couple of years later, I switched out bouldering for cycling. I also started hiking, and for a while got a little too into birding.
At night, I turned to more creative hobbies, like writing and drawing. They were two things that I had always wanted to try but never had the energy for when I was a drinker.
In fact, none of these new hobbies were things that I had enjoyed as a drinker. I learned to have fun again by expanding my life into new areas, not by trying to replicate my pre-sobriety lifestyle.
Sobriety is an Opportunity
I don’t think that I would have been so successful with quitting drinking if I had tried to force myself to keep doing everything else in my life the same way.
Frankly, my life as an alcoholic was pretty pathetic. I don’t think that television and video games are inherently terrible, but when you start spending nearly all your free time in front of a screen, life has a way of feeling all too small.
A lot of things that I enjoyed as an alcoholic just aren’t fun for me anymore now that I’m sober, but I don’t think that’s a real problem. Instead, I see it as an opportunity.
The shift in how I have fun is an opportunity for growth. Over the past five and a half years, I’ve pushed myself into more new experiences than ever before in my life. I’ve learned a ton about myself in the process, and I’ve changed for the better in many ways.
In my early days of sobriety, I was bored out of my mind, but it was a blessing in disguise. It got me to take a scattershot approach to new hobbies. I tried everything I could think of—every random interest that had ever crossed my mind as something that might be fun to try someday.
I tried out new sports. I tried different creative pursuits. I picked up some embarrassingly cheesy hobbies like coin magic and playing the ukulele.
Most of these new hobbies were total flops. I still have the remnants scattered around my room—a plastic recorder in one corner, a stack of half-dollar coins in the other.
However, some hobbies stuck and truly changed my life. Running is probably the single best example of this. Running regularly not only helped me through sobriety but also greatly improved my mental health in general.
Most of all, it’s fun. When I’m running, I’m happy, in a deep, overwhelming way that I rarely experienced back when I was a drinker. Now I get to experience that happiness several times a week.
Another great example is writing. Since quitting drinking, I’ve created a shockingly popular blog, this newsletter, and a handful of other projects. They’re fun, they’ve helped me out financially, and they’ve allowed me to find a creative side to myself that had always been missing.
The truth is that getting sober might ruin some of the old ways you had fun. Whether it’s going out to bars or watching TV every night, not everything is as fun when you remove the alcohol.
But, the flip side is that getting sober also provides you with one of the greatest opportunities of your life. You will finally have the time and energy to pursue all of the interests that you’ve ever wanted. If you push yourself into these new experiences, you’ll be surprised to discover just how fun sobriety can be.
Exploring Sobriety is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.