NEWS OPINION

5 Healthier Habits I Picked Up When I Stopped Drinking Alcohol

sober october

Verywell Health / Amelia Manley

This story is part of a Sober October series that explores what sober curiosity means and how you can practice mindful drinking in your personal life. Read the rest of the stories here.

Drinking alcohol after a sobriety stint can feel like dating right after a breakup. It's not cheating. Or is it?

That question sent me into a mental tug-of-war this spring, after ending a six-month sobriety streak. My decision to go sober was personal, as was my decision to reincorporate booze, minimally. Both choices had a purpose, but ending my sobriety commitment felt wrong, as if after six months of cleansing I was dirty again.

I soon realized, however, that many of the benefits of my sobriety stayed, such as the new activities I pursued along the way. 

If you’re taking a break from alcohol, booze-free activities can help you get to know yourself better, brew joy, or even "take the edge off" after a long day. Here are some of the hobbies or activities I picked up while I quit alcohol.

Getting More Active Time in the Mornings

For me, drinking with my friends could mean late nights and even later mornings. So when I pursued sobriety, my daily rhythm changed for the better.

In the mornings, I rose early and filled my first few hours of daylight with physical activity. Sometimes, this meant going for a run outside. Other times, it meant signing up for a 7 a.m. pilates class or simply going for a walk. Some of my friends used their sober mornings for skateboarding lessons or to experiment with a new dance.

My evenings took a less intense approach. I often indulged in a YouTube yoga session or spent time stretching—things I wouldn't have done as much if I was out drinking instead.

Regardless of the exact activity, these routines grounded me. I stayed clear-headed through all of them and they helped me determine what I liked or disliked doing.

Journaling

I spent a lot of time journaling while I was sober. I wrote about what I gained from not drinking, and what I missed. I still journal now, although not just about my drinking habits.

In sobriety, journaling can help set intentions, remind yourself of your goals, and commit to routines. Journals hold space to reflect on how you are feeling about your decision not to drink and if it's serving you.

Reading More Books

Growing up, I loved to read. But as a working adult, I found the process taxing. Why pick up a book if I could watch TV or join office happy hour?

When I stopped drinking, I regained my love for reading. I buried my nose in books before dinner, in bed, or during lunch breaks. Some of my reading time was strategically scheduled during drinking hours (e.g. that happy hour time slot) and some were more spontaneous, just to squeeze some chapters in.

Reading can be a good way to work your mind, escape reality, or learn something new. If you're struggling to keep up with a sobriety goal, reading "Quit Lit" books can serve as a motivator. I was inspired by the book “How to Quit Like A Woman,” which challenged me to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol as well as my larger purpose in life.

Trying Out Alternatives to Alcohol

Part of what I missed about drinking was the luxe of it: Think of images of women in bathtubs, hair wrapped in a towel, swirling a glass of red wine. Alcohol is a big factor that makes people fun and fancy, or so I thought.

Cutting out alcohol doesn't mean you can’t have fun—you just have to be so a little differently.

I still went to bars, often ordering a diet coke, which can look like a rum and coke. I didn't always want to talk about my decision to quit alcohol, and having a drink in hand can help me dodge potential questions. Nowadays, there are more alternatives, such as mocktails and alcohol-free liquors and wine.

Alcohol can make me drowsy or even anxious. Without it, I was alert and able to enjoy my time. Research has shown that alcohol can reduce anxiety while activating stress hormones at the same time.Our body might register alcohol intoxication as a stressful event and cause anxiety, despite the popular belief that alcohol can "take the edge off."

Developing a Green Thumb for House Plants

Going sober forced me to take care of my life. I spent time nourishing myself, listening to my needs, and detoxing from the alcohol-based chemicals I used to put inside me.

There were spillover effects from taking care of my life, like wanting to take care of someone else’s too. I was in no place to have a baby, nor was I ready for a pet, so mothering a couple of plants was the obvious next thing.

Like us, plants need nourishment and care to live. Tending to them with watering and pruning reminded me how I was taking care of myself. Research suggests that gardening, or just being exposed to plants, can benefit mental and physical health. Plants can keep your home fresh, airy, and beautiful, too.

What This Means For You

Whether you're going sober for the long run or testing it out, cutting out alcohol from your life can provide an open space for adding in new activities. Cheers!

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Schuckit MA. Alcohol, anxiety, and depressive disorders. Alcohol Health Res World. 1996;20(2):81-85.

By Claire Wolters
Claire Wolters is a staff reporter covering health news for Verywell. She is most passionate about stories that cover real issues and spark change.