@suek: So what are you going to do with all the time and money you’ve saved by not drinking?
Let’s start with some quick calculations.
First – time. How much time in a typical drinking day got sucked up with the booze?
For me it was 4 hours a day, conservatively. That covered a typical 3-hour evening plus an hour the next morning dealing with the aftermath. Plus 4 extra hours on the weekend, again conservatively allowing for going a bit harder and longer on Saturday and Sunday. That works out to be 32 hours a week I wasted on boozing. 32 hours. (I’m not counting the time I was multi-tasking, like drinking while cooking… this is just time I wasted because I was drinking, and not capable or inclined to do anything other than watch TV or browse aimlessly.)
Next – money. How much money do you save by not buying booze? Check your money saved counter here at Living Sober. I set mine conservatively at $15 a day, $105 a week. That just covers a daily beer and a cheap bottle of wine.
So, what do I get in exchange for quitting drinking? 32 hours and $105 every week to do something different with.
But what? How do we move on from slumping on the sober couch, looking back with longing at our fun, party-animal past? There are plenty of opportunities. Here are a few ideas. Pick a couple and give them a go. Find out what works for you.
Do something different with your body
Get to grips with your physical health and fitness. Your body has been through a lot of abuse, so now’s a great time to get it back to health. There is so much you can do here. You can tackle your diet and start eating some real food. All that money you’re not spending on booze – spend it on food that will nourish your body properly. If you really want a big food challenge and you’ve got a good number of sober days under your belt, try the Whole 30 programme. Or get some books out of the library and learn to cook healthy meals, or new ways to eat better. Move your body more. Lots of people report having major head games going on when they get sober. Get out of your head and into your body for a change. Move it, by walking, running, dancing, riding a bike, ice skating, yoga, pilates… whatever appeals to you. You can join a group if you need help with motivation or commitment, get together with a friend, or just do it yourself. Trade in some of those old drinking hours on looking after your body better.
Do something different with your mind
Learn to meditate, and make meditation part of your daily routine. Warning: this will change your mind and your life. Meditation is not just for yogis and saints. It’s a very basic practice, so simple it might make you laugh, but it’s a game changer. I learned an easy and do-able technique online. It only takes 10 minutes a day. Your mind will love you for it. Visit the Susan Piver Open Heart Project for free instruction and videos. Anyone can do this (yes, even you with the racing mind and endless chatter of thoughts in your head – you especially!!) It will make a huge difference to your head space and thinking patterns if you stick with it.
Do something for someone else
Sometimes the best way to get out of a rut is to reach out and help someone else. This can be really amazing for us sober people because we’ve likely spent many years feeling like the underdog or the one who needed help all the time. Now you’ve got time and money freed up, look around and do something to help someone else. Some really basic ideas for reaching out on a local level:
• Offer to babysit for a couple of hours a week for a neighbour with a baby or small kids so they can have a break.
• Offer to drive an old person to the supermarket to get their groceries.
• Invite someone new in the neighbourhood over for a coffee and make them feel welcome.
• Put out some of your old clutter out on the footpath with a “Free stuff” sign.
Little things like this will get you out of your own blahs and spark some positive energy in your life and someone else’s.
Find your sober happy place and have some fun
Some people know immediately what that their happy thing is, and they jump right on it. But if you’re languishing on the sober couch feeling bored, chances are you’ve lost all sense of what brings you contentment, or sparks your curiosity. If you don’t have a clue, see if any of these questions help you find something to do that will make you feel enthusiastic, more alive. And remember, you don’t have to become a world expert or get a Nobel Prize for this. It’s just a way of getting back in touch with the authentic you. You can be a complete flop, as long as you’re having fun.
• What did you love doing when you were a kid? What were you interested in? Drawing, bugs, outer space, fossils, trampolining, karaoke? Did you love writing poems or making up jokes? Did you like playing in groups or by yourself? Even if you had a totally shite childhood, what did you long for?
• Is there something you used to enjoy doing that fell by the wayside when you got more seriously committed to drinking? Did you play music or sing? Did you sew or knit or crochet? Garden? Experiment with cooking? What did drinking time rob from your life that you really missed?
• Do you admire something that someone else does? Your sister who goes running most mornings? Your friend who does photography as a hobby? The neighbour with the gorgeous flower garden?
• What have you secretly wanted to do all your life but never felt you were able to give it a go? Have a dog? Start a blog?
• What are you curious about?
Now you need to get up off that couch and go do this fun thing! That can be hard if you’ve denied yourself for years, but here are some ways you can get started:
* Get books out of the library to get back in touch with things that interest you: This is a great way to test the waters and find out what does interest you. I have read every crochet book in the land, and now know how to make stuff with a hook and yarn. It was, and is, a big brain challenge, which is very good for sober me.
* Sign up for a class: You’ll learn something in a structured environment, you’ll meet people who are interested in the same things you are. Now you’re sober you’ve got the free time and money to spend on your education. Think evening courses, weekend workshops, online classes, summer schools – the possibilities are vast.
* Volunteer: It’s OK to volunteer to do something you love and want to learn about. I wanted to learn to be a better gardener, so I volunteer at the local botanical gardens. I’ve met a lovely group of gardeners who are so willing to share their knowledge (and their plants.) You can volunteer at art galleries, sporting events, music venues… just find something that gives you a spark of excitement. This isn’t about doing good for others, it’s about doing good for you.
* Join a team or club: Now that you don’t drink, you can trust yourself to commit to a team or group, and show up, able and willing to participate.
* Create yourself a space: Dig up your old art supplies, fabric or yarn stash, and make a space in a corner where you can start making stuff again. Same goes for writing. Set up a small place where you can write, if that’s what you want to do. It can be as humble as setting aside a special chair that’s just for you and your new activity. Make it yours, and remember every time you sit there that this is your new sober space.
The possibilities are endless.
When you’ve done the hard graft of giving up boozing, it seems like a waste to spend your time looking back with nostalgia. Look forward, and give yourself permission (and a good push) to start doing something better and different with the new sober you.
These are just some ideas to help kick-start your lifestyle trade in. Please share your own ideas and success stories in the comments – they’re all valuable and you just might give someone the inspiration they need.