Changing your relationship with alcohol often comes with changing your routine too. If you were spending hours every day or week thinking about alcohol and drinking, you’ll find yourself with more and more time as alcohol becomes less important to you. And that’s a good thing! While newfound time can be overwhelming at first, seeking out things to do besides drinking can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
The early days of changing your relationship with alcohol are filled with self-discovery. As you start to substitute things to do instead of drinking, focus on how each alternative activity makes you feel. The clarity that comes from decreased alcohol consumption allows you to retain memories of things that make you feel good and might want to return to in the future.
Journaling is a helpful tool for identifying what new activities are working for you, and reflecting on how they feed your sense of accomplishment, pleasure, and overall satisfaction. It’s especially productive to find new experiences that replace activities that used to be centered around alcohol. For example, perhaps you used to use alcohol to manage stress and socialize, and are looking for new ways to navigate those needs.
We’ve created a list of things to do instead of drinking in those situations where it once was your instinct to have a drink. Each of these have correlating activities and plans of action that serve as fulfilling, healthy alternatives to drinking. Find inspiration from this list of things to do instead of drinking, and find what drives you toward your personal goals.
Learn Stress Management Tools
For many, drinking alcohol is a way to temporarily suppress feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety, which eventually surface and can become overwhelming. Focusing on how to alleviate these feelings through stress management techniques allows you to acknowledge and work through them in effective ways. Feelings are important to pay attention to but are not the end-all responses that should steer your actions. Feelings are temporary. They can be regulated to generate the best responses to reach your goals as they arise.
Two of the best ways to regulate feelings are by seeking support through therapy and learning how to create healthy boundaries to reduce the feeling of needing to escape.
1. Seek Support Through Therapy
Learning how to regulate your emotions will allow you to feel more at ease without automatically turning to alcohol. Working with a therapist will help you identify areas of high stress in your life and establish techniques for managing them in a healthy way. Techniques in alcohol therapy may include recognizing irrational thoughts and replacing them with rational ones, as well as developing daily routines to keep your mind clear and minimize stress.
The Subjective Units of Distress Scale, better known as SUDS, is commonly used to recognize levels of stress and anxiety. A rating of 0 is equal to peace and complete calm, while a rating of 100 is recognized as a point where you’re unable to function due to stress. When considering significant areas of your life, such as family, friends, work, and relationships, rating each of these areas can give you a better idea where the roots of your stressors come from.
Identifying these areas allows you to recognize emotions, behaviors, and activities you’d like to change in order to live a more fulfilling and balanced life.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
Another stress management technique to consider instead of drinking is setting boundaries. Boundaries allow you to gain self-esteem, conserve your emotional energy, and validate your feelings in a helpful and productive way. Stress comes in many forms, including work, interpersonal relationships, and varying environmental situations. Using boundaries as a framework to set expectations for your mental health can help minimize stress levels and increase feelings of calm.
It may help to start with a list of behaviors you’d like to change and ways you’d like to change them. Writing them down allows you to understand where you may be struggling when enforcing boundaries and how to uphold them in the future. In addition to therapy, group support during online alcohol treatment allows you the opportunity to talk with others who may face similar challenges.
You can listen, learn, and share thoughts and ideas with your peers to help you process your emotions and practice accountability. Showing up for yourself in this way honors your feelings and helps you choose other routes for what to do instead of drinking.
Having Fun and Relax by Practicing Self-Care
As you learn new ways to work through your emotions and alleviate stress, it also opens the door for more relaxation and fun. While discomfort is to-be-expected in the early days of an alcohol recovery timeline, with time you will recognize the gifts of sobriety or moderation, and the positive effects on your confidence, mental wellbeing, and beyond. You’ll see how drinking less can make your world bigger, not smaller.
Create challenges for yourself to make exploring sober activities feel unrestrictive versus task-oriented.
As you find things to do instead of drinking, it’s important to simply make time every day to do something you enjoy. Here are a couple of ideas.
3. Find an Enjoyable Exercise Routine
One of the healthiest things to do instead of drinking is exercise. Often, a craving for an alcoholic drink may stem from feelings of anxiety or stress. If you’re feeling this way, exercise will allow your body to release endorphins and help redirect your mind to focus on movement rather than feeling trapped by emotions. Exercise also allows you to build routines and create a new pattern that doesn’t involve drinking.
Find a balance between establishing a routine that’ll help you feel grounded and seeking out new experiences that you’ll appreciate. Some days, a 30-minute walk will be enough to feel satisfied. Other days, you may want to participate in seasonal activities or explore undiscovered destinations. A good workout often makes us feel accomplished and energized, especially when it’s a physical activity that’s fun and engaging.
Preventing relapse through self-care
4. Pamper Yourself
A day of pampering yourself is also one of the things to do instead of drinking to create authentic joy. This act of self-care can look different for everyone. It might mean spending a day at your favorite spa or spending a night in by yourself.
Create a list of things to do instead of drinking that will make you feel fulfilled. And remember that not all examples of self-care apply equally across the board. Tune into how you’re feeling and what activity can help you move through your emotions with calmness and relaxation. Then, schedule time for enjoyment and positivity every day, even if some days are limited to a short block of time to read a good book or a few minutes to practice meditation. Find the activities that excite and work for you.
Strengthening Social Connections
Alcohol is often involved in social situations, whether it’s an office happy hour or a friend’s birthday. However, as you change your relationship with alcohol, it allows you to strengthen your social connections and expand your social opportunities. Identifying what to do instead of drinking will allow you to connect with others in ways you may not have previously considered.
5. Schedule a Coffee Date with Friends
Everyone has their own idea of what meaningful connection looks like. Scheduling time with friends is one way to strengthen bonds. Meet with friends for a coffee or lunch date. Call a family member to catch up. Join a discussion in Monument’s community forum. Being in the supportive company of others, virtually or in person, can lower your stress levels and help you unwind.
Establishing strong bonds can increase your sense of belonging, boost your happiness, and help you cope through challenging times. Being proactive with your intentions helps to create healthier habits that will support your goals for changing your relationship with alcohol.
6. Volunteer Within the Community
Volunteering is one of the best things to do instead of drinking. It allows you to socialize with others while giving back. Research has shown volunteering has yielded mental health benefits by improving access to social and psychological resources. These benefits counter negative emotions such as anxiety and depression which are often catalysts for alcohol consumption and unhealthy drinking habits.
Another study showed the prevalence of favorable cardiovascular health for those who volunteered at 14.5 percent versus 1.67 percent for those who didn’t. In addition to the health benefits you’ll reap for yourself, it’ll strengthen your ties to your community and allow you to feel a greater sense of purpose and value.
Also, you can support others on their journey to changing their relationship with alcohol. By referring friends to Monument, sharing encouraging comments in the community forum, and lending your support to others in support groups, you both empower them on their journey and solidify your commitment to your own goals.
Reimagining Holidays and Celebrations
As with other standard social activities, many holiday events and celebrations often include alcohol. However, there are plenty of things to do besides drinking alcohol to commemorate special occasions. Instead of holiday drinking, focus on engaging with others, and find things you love to do to create your own traditions and rituals. Consider the moments that bring happy memories to light, and maximize these opportunities whenever you’re feeling celebratory.
7. Plan a Seasonal Get-Together
During the spring and summer months, spending time outside in the sunshine always feels good.
Choose alternative social situations that don’t involve booze, such as a:
- Group hike or bike ride
- Game night in the backyard
Since these get-togethers are activity-based, alcohol doesn’t have to be the main focus.
However, if you’d like to cheers to the occasion, there are numerous alcohol alternatives to enjoy for any social activity. There’s a wide array of non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits to choose from to shake up your favorite cocktails and provide various options centered around making healthy choices.
8. Create Your Own Holiday Traditions Sans Alcohol
Festive traditions often include looking at holiday lights, making cookies, and watching holiday movies that bring back childhood memories. These simple delights embrace the season that has everyone feeling warm and cozy. To feel extra festive, hot apple cider or hot cocoa add to the holiday mood. Furthermore, mixing up a great cocktail made with non-alcoholic spirits lends itself to the celebratory feeling when learning how to drink in moderation or staying sober.
Drinking less during the holidays can bring an abundance of new experiences and discoveries to be celebrated each year.
As you continue to develop new techniques for stress management, self-care, and beyond, you’ll find the number of sober activities to support your goals are endless. When you focus your life on the things that bring you joy and comfort, you’re able to make life choices that feel healthier and aligned with goals. Allow your authentic self to shine through as you progress along your journey. At Monument, we’re here to champion your growth.
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
- VeryWell Mind. “SUDs Rating Scale for Measuring Social Anxiety, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-suds-rating-3024471.” Accessed Mar. 1, 2021.
- National Library of Medicine. “Volunteering and depression: the role of psychological and social resources in different age groups, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12473312/.” Accessed Mar. 1, 2021.
- National Library of Medicine. “Volunteerism and Cardiovascular Health: The HCHS/SOL Sociocultural Ancillary Study, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33575402/.” Accessed Mar. 1, 2021.
- Mayo Clinic. “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860.” Accessed Mar. 1, 2021.