So you stopped drinking and are feeling the pain. Maybe you’re craving a drink, maybe you’re just bored out of your mind now that your main weekend activity is out of the picture.
Well guess what? You’re in luck — being sober opens up a world of possible activities and adventures that were either impossible, not as fun or more difficult to do when you were drinking.
Plus, you probably have a lot more money now that you’re not hitting the bars every weekend.
The Sober Gentleman is on the case to make sure you have more fun than ever without a drink in hand.
1.) Go on a road trip — When you can actually drive back home at night, the world opens up in a big way. Those of us who were big drinkers know that every adventure involving a car either had to include a hotel, some kind of plan to avoid having to drive, or risking (or actually getting) a DUI. I can say that I never used to drive drunk, but I definitely spent hundreds on Ubers. Now that you’ve stopped drinking, you can go on a day trip, have a packed, full day in a nearby city, and drive back the same night. The world just got a little bit smaller.
2.) A cafe crawl — I’m a coffee fiend. And the 21st century is a great time to love coffee, with hip cafes seemingly on every corner. Pick five cafes that are within walking distance to one another and hit them all in a row. Spend an hour at each one and sample a different type of coffee and whatever type of treat they specialize in. Bring a book if you’re by yourself.
3.) Explore a city — One of the best ways to enjoy a new city is by walking the streets, especially early in the morning. Stroll the avenues, take in the sights and sounds. Lounge in a park for a few hours. When I was drinking, doing something like that would mean scoping out a cool bar to spend the afternoon in. While I was on vacation, day-drinking was A-ok and I’d soon have a headache and need a nap. Spend that extra cash and calories by stopping for lunch, ice cream, however you want to indulge.
4.) DD for your friends — Save your buddies a bunch of money on Uber by offering to be the designated driver for a night out. Instead of hitting on girls like a drunk idiot, you can tell them you’re the DD, which makes you look generous and responsible. You can hit up more places in less time, without worrying about if paying for a cab is worth it. And your friends will appreciate it, so it’s like you’re doing a good deed and having fun at the same time.
5.) Make a mocktail — Some people will tell you that they only ever drank for the alcohol. I don’t feel that way. One of the things I missed when I stopped drinking was trying new craft cocktails. The good news is that mocktails are on the rise. You can make your own, or ask the bartender to make you one during a night out. They even make non-alcoholic distilled drinks now that give your drink that “kick” without the actual booze.
6.) Meditate — I know, I know. Meditating is the latest fad, and you might think it’s too hippy-dippy for you to try. But there’s a reason that people have been meditating for thousands of years. It can make you a calmer, less reactive person. Look at it as taking some time to get in touch with yourself, like a mini-vacation from the world. There’s tons of apps that can help you get started, like Headspace or The Mindfulness App. According to J. Cole, meditation is a good alternative to smoking weed also.
7.) Yoga — Kind of goes hand in hand with meditating, but yoga has the added benefit of getting you into good shape.
8.) Boxing or martial arts — This is a great way to get in shape while also finding a new social group that’s centered around fitness, not drinking. It checks so many boxes. It can also motivate you to exercise to be a better fighter. And now that you’ve stopped drinking, you won’t have to worry about getting into a bar fight and killing someone.
9.) Train for a marathon — Another goal-oriented fitness activity. I’m sure some people can train for marathons while drinking, but it certainly doesn’t help. Being sober will improve your time, and make training easier and more fun.
10.) Take cooking classes — I’ve always been a big food guy, but now that I’ve stopped drinking my relationship with food is even deeper. You can afford to eat more with an extra 2,000+ calories each week that you’re not ingesting in the form of beer and whisky (much more if you were into sugary drinks like margaritas). Cooking is a great way to impress a date, and it will save you a ton of money if you cook for yourself instead of ordering take-out.
11.) Volunteer — I’m not a 12-stepper but, let’s face it, if you got drunk a lot you probably did a lot of stupid shit you’re not proud of and may want to make amends. Replace some of that bad karma with good karma by volunteering to help others. Volunteering can also make you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, it looks great on a job application, and is terrific way to make friends. Start with VolunteerMatch to find a cause and organization you’re interested in.
12.) Take dance lessons — Dancing is fun, and way better when you’re good at it. Instead of waiting until you’re drunk enough to not care that you’re embarrassing yourself by stumbling and shuffling around on the dance floor, try learning to actually dance well. This has the added benefit of making going out more fun, so you don’t have to try to cover up the awkwardness and boredom of being in a club without drinking.
13.) Go on a hike — There’s nothing like the great outdoors, especially when you’re not sweating out a hangover. I still remember working at a summer camp in California. On our day off, a bunch of us counselors headed to Yosemite for the night. Instead of getting up early and enjoying a long hike, we got drunk by the side of the road, woke up hungover and headed back to camp. Don’t be like us.
14.) Start a blog — Writing is fun. It’s a great way to express yourself and share your thoughts with the world. Keeping track of your journey to stop drinking in a public way like on a blog can help keep you honest and on track. Plus, by practicing you will continue to improve as a writer, which can provide amazing benefits to your professional life.
15.) Sporting event — I love watching sports, but here’s how most games I’ve seen live have gone down — start drinking on the train on the way to the game, tailgate and drink more, get inside the stadium late, buy a few incredibly overpriced beers, and have a pounding headache by the fourth quarter. I remember very little of most live games I’ve been to. Try going sober and watching and enjoying the entire thing.
16.) Keep a sober journal — If you don’t feel like doing something public like a blog, it’s still beneficial to track your thoughts and challenges in written form. When you feel the urge to drink, write about it for a few minutes and that urge will go away.
17.) Visit a museum — You don’t have to like Modern Art or sculptures of muscular guys with olive leaves covering their junk– there are all kinds of museums, from car museums to the Museum of Sex. Every country in the world has museums for a reason — it’s a fantastic way to learn about a topic, time period or culture. Most cities offer one or two days a week when museums are free or heavily discounted.
18.) Host a game night — There are some pretty awesome board games out there — way more fun and interested than King’s Cup. Check out Amazon and pick up a few interesting looking games then invite your friends over to try them out.
19.) Have a real conversation — Being drunk doesn’t make you more interesting, it just makes stupid people and conversations seem more interesting, because the alcohol slows your brain down and makes you dumber. If you’ve stopped drinking and hung around with drunk people you’ll notice this — it’s annoying. And trust me, you were no different when you were drinking. Being sober puts the pressure on you and other people to think of interesting things to talk about, and you actually have the brain capacity to understand and discuss complex topics and concepts.
20.) Go to a comedy show — See my point about sporting events. I’ve been to a bunch of stand-up shows where I remember the opening acts better than the comic I actually came to see. You will laugh harder when sober and understand the jokes better. If the comic is any good that is. The best audience for a shitty comic is a drunk one, because they’ll laugh at almost anything, no matter how stupid.
21.) Dance at a nightclub — Dancing is fun and great exercise. Maybe you think you dance better when drunk — trust me, you don’t. You just don’t care about embarrassing yourself as much. My mother always said, “embarrassment is a useless emotion”. I’d roll my eyes at her, but she was right. Embarrassment is just the feeling of discomfort you get when you stand out from the crowd. Pressure to conform is strong, but it won’t get you anywhere positive. The sooner you can be unafraid to be yourself and be different, the better you will be. Start by dancing however you want and not worrying about people who you’ll never see again judging you.
22.) Go on a date — When you stop drinking, you’ll be better at conversation, healthier and better looking, and have more money. All things that are incredibly conducive to dating, whether you’re single or already in a relationship. Try that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to — it’s amazing how much smaller the bill will be when it comes without alcohol on it.
23.) Plan a vacation — Everyone needs something to look forward to. Even if you can’t take a vacation for six months, it can be fun to start planning now. When you have a lot of activities planned ahead of time, it takes away from time you’ll spend on vacation surfing the web looking for local things to do. And you always have the option of blowing off what you had planned and wandering around if you so choose once you’re there.
24.) Paint a room — Surrounding yourself with a clean about nice-looking space had an incredible impact on your mind. Experiment with different colors and patterns — let your creativity have an outlet. I found that when I stopped drinking I felt the urge to create like never before. And it makes sense, numbing your senses also numbs that natural urge to leave our mark on the world.
25.) Buy a model kit — Call me a nerd all you want, but it can be fun to put together models and then display them in your house. Whether it’s Warhammer, model cars, model rockets, or legos, this is a great way to pass the time that produces physical evidence of where your efforts went.
26.) Watch the sunrise — The only time I watched the sun come up when I was drinking was when I stayed out all night. And I could barely remember those sunrises. There’s nothing better than getting up early, well rested, clear-headed, making a strong cup of coffee and watching the sun come up. Getting a good start sets the tone for the entire rest of the day. There’s nothing worse than waking up hungover, late for work and having to throw on some wrinkled clothes and run out the door. Or wasting an entire Sunday hiding from the light in bed (not to be confused with sleeping in because you want to, which can be awesome). Robin Williams had a great description for the feeling of being really hungover, “Like a vampire in daylight”.
27.) Go to a concert — There’s nothing worse than trying to fight your way to the bar in a crowded venue, only to fight your way back to your friends, finishing half of your drink on the way and then having to take a piss and miss even more of the show you paid for. Add this to the list of live events I spent a ton of money on and barely remember. Go and enjoy the music. If you don’t like the songs without being drunk or high, then they’re shitty songs (I’m talking to you, Dave Matthews).
28.) Eat ice cream — Maybe it’s just me, but I can eat ice cream during a blizzard. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big proponent of taking advantage of the calorie deficit you now enjoy by stopping to drink thousands of calories a week in the form of booze. Treat yourself to sweets every once and awhile, whether it’s ice cream or some other dessert. Or learn to make ice cream at home, which can be a fun activity in and of itself.
29.) Make a difference in someone’s life — Now that you’ve stopped drinking, you can help someone else quit as well. Being a mentor is a rewarding and life-affirming thing. It’s corny as hell, but I’m convinced that giving for giving’s sake is the key to happiness. I don’t always live up to my own ideals, but there’s a reason why millions of people give their money away to charity — it feels good.
30.) Learn a musical instrument — Take up guitar, oboe, violin, or anything else that you’ve always wanted to learn how to play. I wrote about Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who recently stopped drinking. His bandmates have said it’s made him a better musician. If Keith Richards, one of the greatest, can get better by stopping to drinking, why not you?
31.) Write a novel — Being more clear headed will help you focus and be a better writer, and working on a project is a great way to stay on the right path. Admittedly, there are some great authors who were also drunks. Hemingway and Fitzgerald come to mind. Hemingway killed himself and Fitzgerald’s alcoholism led to his death, so I wouldn’t exactly consider them role models in that sense. If you ever want a reason to stop drinking, read Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Beautiful and Damned, about a young couple’s descent into alcoholism and disaster.
32.) Chat with someone across the world online — The world is smaller than ever, and you can make friends across the globe without ever leaving your house. This is also a great way to learn another language, with inexpensive lessons from native speakers in almost any language available on websites like italki.com. If you make a good enough friend, you might have someone to visit when you plan your next trip.
33.) Work out — There’s no better time to focus on your health and get in shape than after you’ve stopped drinking. For me, health is a chain reaction. When I’m drinking, I’m more likely to eat unhealthy take-out and greasy foods, skip the gym because I’m too hungover, smoke and use other drunks. Once sober, it’s easier for me to focus on improving all aspects of my health. I’m sure you will feel the same, and when you take better care of your body you are much more hesitant to drink poison.
34.) Tell someone you love them — Drinking makes you more careless and give less fucks about your relationships. Are there any people in your life that you’ve neglected? Now is the time to reconnect and invest in the people that matter to you. As guys, we are encouraged not to express emotions. Drinking helps with that, numbing our feelings and then letting us sloppily verbalize them once our inhibitions are lowered. Drunkenly slurring, “I love you man” means a lot less than clearly and coherently telling someone how important they are to you.
35.) Stock up on fun (non alcoholic) drinks — Just last week I had a bunch of friends over to watch football. They drank beers while I crushed a bunch of La Croix. We all ate wings and had a great time. But I was the only one who didn’t feel at all hungover the next day. Sometimes just having something to do with your hands, like hold a beverage, is what you’re missing.
36.) Play paintball — Get a crew together, get up early and spend the day running around and shooting each other. This is yet another activity that is a lot less fun when hungover. It can be good exercise, you get to be outside, and hang out with your best friends.
37.) Get a jump start on the day — I’m most effective in the morning — something I had no idea about until I stopped drinking. Have something you need to get done that’s stressing you out? Get up at 6am and get it done. Then you have the rest of the day to work or play without that thing hanging over your head. I love the feeling of getting everything done by 1pm and then having the rest of the afternoon and evening to take it easy.
38.) Make an elaborate breakfast — You might be sensing a waking up early theme emerging, but I think it’s a way underrated activity that is made so much easier when you didn’t stay up until 4am drinking the night before. There’s nothing like making one of those “well-balanced breakfasts” from TV commercials with pancakes, waffles, cereal, fruit, eggs, etc. Start the day off right!
39.) Make your own pizza — Get a pizza stone and host a pizza night at your house. Everyone can pick their own toppings. I recommend practicing before you have people over to make the pizzas — if you know what you’re doing, it can be much better than the restaurant version.
40.) Read a book — I could never focus on reading when I’d drink at night. A buzz always shortened my attention span, and I’d end up watching TV or listening to the same song for the millionth time. I’ve since reconnected with my love of reading and now I’m an addict, tearing through books like I used to in high school.
41.) Go skiing — Lots of times, ski trips are glorified excuses to get wasted in the lodge. Which you can do just as easily at home. Early morning (again) is the best time to beat the crowds to the slopes. And it’s so much better to ski when you’re fresh and not hungover.
42.) Do community theater or improv — Performing onstage is a great way to express yourself. You’ll find that being clear-headed makes it easier to remember your lines, and if you do improv your wit will be sharper and faster. Plus you’ll be better looking, which is a major plus for any aspiring actors out there.
43.) Ride a bike — Mountain biking, road biking, cruising by the beach, it’s all incredibly fun. And you CAN get a DUI while riding a bike, so this is definitely an activity that much better when sober.
44.) Learn to surf — Surfing takes a ton of upper body strength (to push yourself up) and lower body strength (to kick and catch waves in the first place). Being in the ocean feels so rejuvenating. I find surfing almost meditative – the waiting calmly, catching and riding the wave, repeat. Why not spend some of that extra money from not drinking on surf lessons?
45.) Draw — Like one of your French girls.
46.) Take up photography — This is a pretty awesome hobby that can even turn into some extra revenue on the side. Plus, it can be paired with travel to become an amazing creative outlet that makes your memories permanent. We’ve certainly forgotten enough of our lives blacking out.
47.) Learn a skill, like HTML — Having mental clarity and focus makes it that much easier to learn something new. You can learn something that might help with your job or career prospects, like coding, or something that will just help you live your life, like glass blowing. As I’ve mentioned before, just make sure that you have an outlet for your energy.
48.) Learn a language — Google Translate might be more advanced than ever, but there’s seriously no substitute for learning a language to truly understand and immerse yourself into another culture. Now that you’ve stopped drinking and slowing your brain function down, you have the capacity to learn more things. Why not download a free app like Duolingo and start now?
49.) Go skydiving — Want to experience a far more intense, healthy and memorable high than drinking or drugs has ever brought you? Jump out of a plane with a parachute and the adrenaline rush is absolutely mind boggling. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I can’t recommend enough.
50.) Anything you used to do sober — Here’s the secret: If it was fun while you were drunk, it will be fun while you’re sober. Hanging out at the bar with friends? That wasn’t fun because of drinking, it was fun because of the company you kept. If that’s not your experience, it’s probably because you are obsessing over having a drink and not allowing yourself to have a good time. Try pretending you are drunk — act goofy, loud, crack jokes, and laugh hard. You will loosen up and have a good time. If it’s something that’s only fun while drunk, then it was never fun to begin with. You just needed to dull your mind to bear it. Cut those activities out of your life. If you know someone who is only funny when you’re drunk, guess what? They’re not actually funny.
Trust me, when you stop drinking it opens so many more doors than it closes. It’s time to actually start living your life — enjoy the experiences that are in front of you, live in the moment, and appreciate the people that you love. Life is too short to spend it wasted.