Many people who quit alcohol soon notice how much free time they have -- which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a gift to get your life back, but the first few months can be stressful as you white-knuckle your way to a semblance of serenity. Here’s how to start creating a sober life that you love.
Find Safe Pastimes
They say that your maturity stops at whichever age you were when you started drinking heavily. For me, that was age 16. So when I put the booze down, I reconnected with the 16-year-old me and made a list of things that I had loved at that age. Going to the gym. Reading gossip magazines. Painting my toenails. The list wasn’t exactly exciting, but it was a start in terms of learning what to do with myself if I wasn’t at a bar.
Find Non-Triggering TV Shows
I watched many, many episodes of Cupcake Wars those first few months, largely because the shows I really liked, such as Scandal, proved too triggering, given how often red wine was in front of the camera. I also watched a lot of comedy shows and HGTV as I knew those shows would be safe.
Write Down Your Goals
As I accrued more days and months sober, I gained more clarity. I started brainstorming what I really wanted in my career and outside of it. I started kayaking more regularly. I wrote a list of places I wanted to travel to and began researching how to make those trips happen.
For many people, journaling in the morning is a great way to get clear on goals. Giving yourself space allows that still, small voice to guide you to what you are meant to do. If you want more guidance on this, check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
When we drink heavily, we tend to think that alcohol alone is the problem. Then when we quit drinking, we expect our problems to disappear. Spoiler alert: They won’t. Alcohol masks pain and traumas. When we quit drinking, thoughts and feelings start to arise that we don’t know what to do with. Therapy is a great place to start working through these issues. However, if you’ve experienced major traumas, talk to your therapist about a timeline. You may want to wait a year before diving into any big healing work. Note, too, that yoga, meditation, art classes, nature walks, and breath work can all help you find your way toward healing in early sobriety.
Find Sober Friends
You don’t have to get rid of your drinking friends, but you may want to change when you hang out with them. It might be easier to meet for lunch on a workday when you know your friend won’t drink.
As for new friends, it never hurts to expand your social circle and connect with others who don’t drink. You can try recovery groups, be it AA or Smart Recovery, to make new connections, or join Meetups centered on daytime activities, from running clubs to coffee groups that talk about investing. If in doubt, ask what they serve at the group, as some get-togethers, such as book clubs, tend to be boozy affairs.
Whether you’re finding early sobriety easy or stressful, it always helps to have support. Plus, if you’re finding the early days to be a breeze, keep in mind that staying off alcohol can be much harder when something truly triggering happens, such as losing your job or saying goodbye to a pet.
Support can be found in a lot of places, be it in-person recovery meetings, online meetings, or groups. Consider that there are many more options available for sober support. Euphoric AF, Club Soda, This Naked Mind, and Women in Sobriety are just a few of the many support groups available to those curious about sobriety.
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