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Removing alcohol from your life, doesn’t have to be a chore. Embrace your new freedom, by re-discovering forgotten enjoyments, meet fellow non-drinkers, and fill everyday with joy so you won’t miss a day of drinking, ever.
Now that I’ve been alcohol-free for over six years, one of the hardest changes at first was figuring out what else to do when meeting frends, besides going out for a drink.
Whatever your reason for going alcohol-free, whether it’s your New Years resolution, or you’re doing it for a charity month like Feb Fast or Dry July; it can seem an insurmountable task to completely change your lifestyle, so here’s a list of fun activities (either solo or with friends) to do instead of going to a bar:
Whatever Your Reason, Keep Busy
Head to the theatre. Most cities have independant and suburban theatres, often putting on their version of famous productions for under $20. These days theatre is less about Shakespeare (though there’s still plenty of that around) and more about modern ideas portrayed with humour.
Go see a movie. Nothing beats the darkness and immersion that comes with seeing a film at the cinema. Every cinema has a cheap day, often with loyalty programs that reward frequent movie goers with free tickets. Many cinemas also have ‘old school’ nights where they play re-runs of classic movies like Jaws, Ferris Bueller’s Day off, and Pretty in Pink. Outdoor cinemas tend to be alcohol focussed, avoid these.
Join a group. Meetup is an app featuring groups organised by interest open to anyone, around the world. I’ve attended cooking classes, language classes, writing groups, and hiking, but whatever interest you can think of from computers to gardening, from dancing to LEGO, there’s a Meetup group for it. If not, you can easily start your own.
Get out of the city, and immerse yourself in nature.
Get out and about or get active. Go for a walk, go for a swim, try indoor rock climbing, exercise not only keeps you busy, it gets the endorphins pumping, making you feel fantastic. Also buying new gear doesn’t have to be expensive, head to Decathlon for cheap sports gear.
Start a new hobby. Doing what you love, brings much fulfillment whether it’s a quiet indoor activity like sewing, a new sport like archery (available from Decathlon), or a new skill like photography; hobbies can lead to new friendships, a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Visit an art gallery. Some independant galleries are open late on Thursday and Friday nights (or visitations can be arranged), many artworks are for sale, and visiting national art institutes often have programs including artist talks, free movie screenings, and guided tours. Surrounding yourself in beauty is bound to bring much happiness. Just avoid opening nights as there is often alcohol freely available.
Tell everyone about your new alcohol-free goals. Vegans do it, cross-fitters do it, funnel-hackers do it, don’t be embarrassed, embrace it.
Head away for the weekend. Changing your routine, helps change your mindset that you don’t need to go to a pub or bar, to relax and enjoy life. Head to the coast, to the bush, to the desert, anywhere different that offers somewhere new to explore. You don’t have to spend a lot to stay somewhere nice, check out Agoda for good deals.
Go shopping and treat yourself. With the money you save from not drinking, you can afford to splurge; new shoes, a new phone or tablet, books, a musical instrument or kitchen appliances. Whatever you want is now within reach.
Change Your Routine and You’ll Change Your Habits
Join a games club. Most board game shops offer games nights where anyone is free to join, trialling different board games such as Ticket to Ride, Escape Room, or The X-Files. If there’s no games shop near you, some libraries offer these or start your own.
Head Out, or Stay In
Go out to dinner. For less temptation, head to a non-licenced restaurant. Cheap Asian food, Middle Eastern food, or pizza are great options.
Enjoy a quiet night in. Stock up on munchies and ginger beer, and binge the latest series like Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, or The Wire. iTunes regularly has deals and bundles and 99c rentals worth checking out. Waking up the next morning, hangover-free, with zero regrets about the night before, and remembering everything.
Let EVERYONE know. It’s easy to give-in to peer pressure when your friends harass you to come out for ‘just one drink’ but make it known to everyone, that you no longer drink; tell work colleagues, friends, and family, to ensure you get the support, everywhere you need it. I started with a convenient ‘detox’ (which no one questions) until I was comfortable enough to make the full announcement.
Most Importantly, Know That You Don’t Have to Drink to Have Fun
Explore festivals, night markets, or live music. Festivals offer plenty to keep you busy, and night markets have more food than booze. Sure if you’re in Australia or New Zealand, then alcohol can be unavoidable at times, but going in, knowing you don’t have to drink, is enough to still make it a fantastic night out, without losing yourself or your dignity.
Attend a sporting match. It’s a totally different experience to be at a football game than to watch it on television. The comraderie, the excitement of goals, the elation at winning. Sure there’s alcohol, but usually the lines are so long, it’s not worth queuing up. Contrary to beliefs, you don’t have to drink, to watch sport.
One more thing. After going alcohol-free, I found more people who also didn’t drink which made socialising easier, along with establishing who your real friends are. The good ones won’t mind, nor judge you for it, the ones that prefer you drunk, will leave. That’s okay too. Sometimes in life, you have to let go of the bad, to allow more room for the good stuff.
But Avoiding Alcohol is Hard, isn’t it?
It may be difficult to avoid alcohol altogether, but finding things to do, that bring you greater joy, whilst meeting new people, outside of the ‘drinking realm’ is key to your new alcohol-free life. You’ll find hundreds of books, groups, and organisations claiming to cleanse you, but ultimately, understanding how the brain‘s reward system works, can provide the science behind you achieving your alcohol-free goals. For more information on this, read my original post about going alcohol-free.
I also recommend the book Evolve Your Brain: The science of changing your mind by Dr Joe Dispenza. By going alcohol-free, and forcing new healthier habits to form, I inadvertently changed the pathways in my brain. It wasn’t till I watched the DVD, Evolve Your Brain by Dr Joe Dispenza (I borrowed a copy from my library, but you may find secondhand copies on Amazon), that it was explained how the brains reward system works, and how I had managed to overcome it. Understanding habits good and bad, is not a matter of will power, it’s a matter of brain power, and understanding how the brain works is key to understanding how to change your brain. This book which is readily available with free shipping and is based on the DVD, explains in more depth, how to do that.
By choosing alcohol-free activities, and beverages like ginger beer, I inadvertently changed my brain’s reward system which was ultimately how I went from a month to a life, of being alcohol-free.
What are your favourite alcohol-free activities?
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