What do I do now that I don't do drugs?
August 15, 2012 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find some alternative activities to drugs and booze - stuff to keep me diverted and entertained during the long nights of insomnia and loneliness I'm looking forward to over the next few months. I'm looking for both general and specific recommendations - books to read, films to watch, games to play, things to cook and activities outside the house I could get involved in.

I'm a 30 year old woman and for the last fifteen years, drugs have been a part of my life. Sometimes a fairly minor part (a joint or two in the evenings, several on weekend days), sometimes a major part (smoking weed all day, every day and not working, or indulging heavily in Class As - coke, pills and speed at the weekends while partying and struggling to get back in shape for Monday). I also enjoy drinking (couple of beers/glasses of wine a night usually), and I do struggle with substituting one vice for another and calling it self-improvement (cutting down on the weed? No problem kiddo, open that bottle of wine!). I call it 'addiction cycling', because to me it feels like this self-sustaining cycle of vice. The monkey might change species, but remains firmly on my back.

I'm a fairly high-functioning drug user, so it's never been a problem for me to work - I used to run my own business, now I work in a fairly decent job for a prestigious employer. I'm not quite management level, but I do have a degree of autonomy and responsibility and I do fairly interesting work. But in light of recent illness, mood swings, depression, memory loss, sketchy junkie behaviours and a burgeoning inability to do the stuff I should be doing in the workplace, I've realised that I need to make a massive change and cut this stuff out of my life. I also wonder what my clever brain could do if I didn't have life set on the highest difficulty setting all the time!

I have a plan for quitting, I'm going against all good advice and quitting everything straight away, cold turkey and that bit isn't my major concern at this stage, so I don't require help or advice on that aspect right now, thanks. My problem is I don't know what I'm going to do now that drugs aren't part of my life. Obtaining them took time, using them took time and a lot of my friends tend to do drugs regularly too, attending events which are basically designed around drug-taking (think psychedelic hippie parties, illegal raves, etc), so there will be a period of not seeing these people while I find my sober feet, which I'm expecting to be a bit lonely. Right now, the thought of not having a bedtime spliff makes me nervy, but the idea of the long nights and longer weekends on my own makes me panic!

I've toyed with the idea of getting a second job to pay off debts, or throwing myself into my day job, so I'm relatively flexible about how traditionally entertaining the activity is considered to be, I just need distractions and lots of them! One thing I don't want to do is add too much additional pressure to my situation - quitting will be a major thing for me, I don't want to 'punish' myself by setting any rigid exercise or eating goals, for example.

I'm in the UK, I'm reasonably clever and I like entertaining stuff that's a bit like this:-

TV - Dexter, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Weeds, Breaking Bad, The Wire
Films - Judd Apatow, quirky indie movies, dark comedies
Games - Fallout 3, GTA 3 onwards, Sims 3, Civilization

I've been told that my tastes and moods will change wildly and unexpectedly over the coming weeks, so I'm not going to be rigid about stuff being in the same vein as stuff I've done before, I honestly have no idea what I'd enjoy doing if I was sober.

I live on my own and have my own transport, so I've got freedom, and enough money that I can spring for a regular class or a meal out or something, although I don't have masses of spare cash lying around.

TL;DR: I'm a single 30 year-old living in a busy city with most amenities. Please help me have the time of my life without drugs and booze!
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you like Fallout 3 try Fallout New Vegas and Skyrim. I got Skyrim about a month ago, and it has eaten up way more time than I would like to admit, and I haven't even really gotten around to the main plotline yet. I keep getting distracted. Good luck with your plan.
posted by dortmunder at 10:56 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing you need to know is that it is going to take *time* until you can get out of "fiend brain." There's no way to speed it up other than to keep yourself occupied. You are going to want to do drugs, and you won't, and things will be boring for a while because you're sober. There's no way to fix that other than giving your head time to realize that "sober" and "fun" can coexist. If you keep busy, that time will come and you'll realize that you haven't had a joint or a line in a while and, yet, there you were, laughing and having a blast. And not just that, but you don't *constantly feel like shit* because now having fun doesn't make you pay the day after. Getting up in the morning without feeling like your teeth are going to fall out and your brain has taken the day off is a great motivator for keeping on keeping on. The extra money you have when you're not scoring every weekend helps too.

Good luck! You can do this. A lot of us have.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 10:56 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not an 'eating goal' per say, but if you're cutting things like this out of your life, you'll probably find you have more of an interest in food than before. Maybe try learning some new fancy cooking skills, or experiment with baking, things like that?

Since you have transport, and you'll likely have more energy, get into some outdoor activities? Change of scenery/getting out of the city is ideal for a going-sober-effort.

Try learning something new, maybe a musical instrument...?
posted by mannequito at 10:58 AM on August 15, 2012


If you're going to be gaming, please don't start playing an MMORPG like World of Warcraft. It hits a *lot* of the same buttons as the substances you have mentioned and will just be a new contender in your addiction-cycle.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 10:58 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Join a gym to take advantage of your new healthy lifestyle. Find some classes to take, or try weightlifting. Don't push yourself, just find some satisfaction in using your body in a new way. Zumba dancing, Pilates, anything either fun or gentle.

This will be great for physically exhausting your body and draining your mind of extra energy.

Find a massage school and get regular massages. Quitting drugs will cause physical discomfort and having a gentle rub will make you feel better.

Instead of a bedtime spliff, have a ritual bath every night. Use yummy smelling salts and soaps, light candles, play music, have a glass of cocoa.


Cook more at home. Find lovely thing to buy and cook. Pamper yourself with salads made with exotic veggies and fruits. Take time to shop in strange and interesting places.

Go to museums that are open in the evenings.

I love Sims 3 and I can get lost in it for hours!

Read all of Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse again.

Pretend that you're on a cruise, you don't have contact with people on land, and everything you need is contained inside your sober bubble. You are pampered and indulged and you love yourself.

Congrats and good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:58 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:00 AM on August 15, 2012


TV - The Larry Sanders Show.
posted by beau jackson at 11:14 AM on August 15, 2012


The massage idea is a good one; schedule them once weekly if you can! Manicures and pedicures are also a good thing to throw money at, these gentle self-care activities are great. You might notice that the sensation of someone touching you is going to be different as you get off drugs. Caring professional hands on you once a week or more will help that transition in a comfy way.

Your tastes (and smell-sense) might be changing too, so now is a great time to sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make fantastic food that you'll enjoy.
posted by juniperesque at 11:17 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I got sober and couldn't sleep I read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest...I'm mainly recommending it because he writes in a unique and readable way about addiction, but it is also a project to read and very entertaining.

If you want to meet other sober people, AA can be a good way to do it, although it sounds like you'd just like to stop on your own.

Good luck, and remember to be kind to yourself!
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:22 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lost may not be masterpiece television, but it's good for some 100 hours and it keeps you distracted / coming back by ending every episode with a major cliffhanger or plot twist.

PopCap games have been known to swiftly delve me deep into time-consuming obsessions for a few weeks, and then release their hold on me just as quickly. Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle.
posted by naju at 11:24 AM on August 15, 2012


Have you thought about taking an art class at a local college, joining a gym and taking a few classes a week (no pressure, just good time killers), or perhaps joining an addiction counseling group? I have a similar issue - but mine is with food. I hope you fair well and find something that occupies your mind as well as your body.
posted by AbsolutelyHonest at 11:25 AM on August 15, 2012


Good luck! From some friends' similar experience, don't forget the social aspect - make sure you have (and/or make new) friends who aren't in a using/enabling circle. Seriously best wishes - a couple of thoughts for filling the time -

Are you crafty at all? If you have a craft/art you have done before or always wanted to try, consider picking it back up/starting. Bonus points if it is something that would let you start up a shop on Etsy. Join a local craft group for your new craft if you can, and take a local class if it is offered.

How about some sort of volunteering on the weekends. Local animal shelter - they always need someone to play with the pooches, or homeless shelter, or whatever.

Consider starting a fitness habit (after any physical withdrawal symptoms fade. If you get them, don't push it). It's a productive-ish habit that should have mental benefits too! And so much easier to force yourself to do it when you have free time. Join a gym/climbing gym/yoga/pilates/martial arts/marathon training group/swim class/raquetball lessons/buy a bike/ whatever. Classes can be good if you like structure and that would help you stick with it, or running/biking/swimming if you don't. Long hikes or city exploration are nice on the weekends.

And, I mean, MMORPGs like World of Warcraft (or others, pick your poison) are pretty much perfect for exactly this. You can do them at any or all hours for literally endless hours and they can provide a needed social outlet or be essentially single player as you choose. On the other hand, they are also thinly veiled skinner boxes and are not necessarily the best if you are worried about substituting vices. Otherwise, yeah, any RPG that you can sink lots of hours to as skyrim/New Vegas/Baldurs Gate have been mentioned.

TV options - have you seen Luther and Sherlock? How about getting Netflix/Amazon Prime/hulu+ and explore the options there. Reading is good too.

And, perhaps, ask yourself if there is some professional development/certification that you can study for/work on to help your 9-5 job. Or if you have future career goals that you can start laying the groundwork for, what you need to accomplish them and start laying that groundwork.
posted by McSwaggers at 11:26 AM on August 15, 2012


AA / Narcotics Anonymous / other support group meetings, whatever, whether you take part in the 12-steps thing or just sit there reading a book and drinking free coffee. Advantages: 1)free coffee!, 2)they take up time not spent in your regular doing-drugs routine, 3)you can pretend you're being social whether you talk to anyone or not, 4)there are meetings for something somewhere every night, 5)at substance abuse meetings you can be pretty blunt about "I am here to be distracted from drugs today, please distract me with shiny things." You may or may not find the community aspect helpful, but the drug-free time-spending is top notch.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2012


A lot of us have gone through this type of thing. A couple of things that helped me.

1) Yeah, boredom is the biggest thing. At first, it seems like everything is just less fun or less interesting. For a while, you just have to get through. Eventually, the evenness and sobriety and the not always experiencing the highs and lows will be really great, but at first it will be boring. At first, it takes sheer will and a certain 'getting through.' I did this with books, TV, ice cream and yoga. I read novels that were engrossing. You don't have to read Ulysses. Pick up some good sci fi if that's your thing, or Wodehouse or whatever you like. I tended to avoid things that were drug heavy, like Wallace et al, or to watch TV shows that were mostly about drugs (though Breaking Bad is amazing and avoiding meth was never a problem). I did not let myself feel guilty about guilty TV shows. I blew through Battlestar Galactica, Trailer Park Boys, even Grey's Anatomy, as embarrassing as that is. I read a lot of Ursula K LeGuin and Steinbeck.

2) Learn to revel in how good you feel. Take this time to throw yourself into your health. Do yoga, eat a great diet, wake up every morning and think to yourself, damn it feels good to be clear and not hungover. Focus on how good this feels, how free you feel. You really have to embrace the good parts of not being high and eschew the focus on 'god, everything sucks when you're sober.' Think about how much good you're doing you lungs and your liver and your brain and your nasal passages.

3) In time, see a therapist. Sometimes drugs are just drugs for the fun of doing drugs. Often drugs are a way to treat something deeper going on. Addressing that may make it easier to not miss the drugs or go back.

4) Treat yourself. You will have so much more money. Buy expensive and fancy tea and get really into it. Buy expensive gelato. Buy expensive chocolate.

Stay with it. Best of luck to you. It's the right thing to do.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:35 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


For me, doing an hour of yoga in the evening has been able to take the place of having a few drinks.
posted by Paquda at 11:40 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rewire your own experience of your hobbies and activities, so that they come closer to approximating the intensity, or degree of mind-shift, you're used to.

If you're into Hobby X (I'll assume it's something artistic, but it could be otherwise), literally change the way you move your body; change your degree and location of muscular tension; talk to yourself in a louder, faster, more excited voice; make your mental pictures bigger and brighter and faster.

In terms of keeping yourself upbeat, the external activities you choose to do will matter much less than the manner in which you internally do them, and the extent to which you can find new ways to make them more amped-up and interesting and stimulating.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:44 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welcome to your new hobby: knitting! Obtaining yarn takes time, takes time and a lot of your new friends will knit regularly too, attending events which are basically designed around knitting.

You can substitute that with yoga or salsa or running or stamp collecting if you like, but knitting is one of those things where there is a vast welcoming community and you can do it at home when you would have been rolling joints. And like weed, it's very tactile, has loads of accessories, and the best stuff requires you to have a good connection.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:45 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


3rding knitting or any kind of craft. When I quit smoking and drinking knitting helped a lot. Learning from scratch via the internet and Ravelry.com and books from the library helped me. Though if you are in a busy city you will find tons of groups to learn with. The community is very welcoming.

It keeps you hands busy when you are feeling anxious and when you can't sleep at 3 a.m. you have something to focus on. When I felt like drinking tackling a knitting project that was complex enough to use my brain helped me get through the craving.
posted by kanata at 12:07 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Light exercise is good for improving your sleep. How about podcasts and long walks? Among my favorites are Marketplace's Planet Money, Coverville, and Filmspotting.
posted by phearlez at 12:08 PM on August 15, 2012


Came here to say knitting, as well as jigsaw puzzles, because it takes a long time to finish a project and that's what you need, something that occupies you for more than just an hour. DarlingBri and kanata are right on.

I read recently that "knitting is the new yoga", which made me laugh because I've been knitting for more than 30 years.
posted by Melismata at 12:11 PM on August 15, 2012


Nthing the exercise suggestion. It gets the endorphins going and is good for withdrawal from any kind of substances.

Also, eating healthy is really important to combat nutritional deficiencies that you likely experienced from the drug use. Additionally, feeding yourself well allows you to develop good self-care skills that are essential for recovery from addiction.

Massage and manis/pedis are great ideas, too. What about a new haircut? Or a new outfit? Anything that you can do to nurture yourself during this process will help immensely.

Good luck to you! Living as a sober addict can be wonderful.
posted by strelitzia at 12:55 PM on August 15, 2012


to really take your mind off things, it's good to occupy both your mind and your hands - work just one and the other will wander. My favourite way to do this is to listen to audiobooks while pracitcing a craft - like knitting, or making beaded jewelry, sewing, drawing. It's great, because you end up with end up with things that you've created, and you get to excercise your mind with good books as well. Find the right books and craft for you, and you'll be aching to get back to it every night. Since you're looking to fill a lot of time, you can totally tackle some long series, like all of the Hitchhiker's Guide books, Dirk Gently, Discworld, all of the classics on Librivox...
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:18 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Learn some magic tricks.

There's some easy to do tricks you can learn linked on my profile and if it seems like something you'd enjoy, look for "The Royal Road to Card Magic" and/or "Modern Coin Magic" either online or in bookstores (or if you happen to live near a magic shop). They're both older books (1920's 1930's-ish) but they're cheap and will keep you busy for ages.

It's a nice cheap hobby: a couple deck of cards, some coins and the like and you can keep yourself busy for hours. And it'll help keep your hands busy if that's an issue.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 1:32 PM on August 15, 2012


Good for you for making a positive change!

Going out to a regularly scheduled class is a great way to not sit around at home and think about what you're not doing. Extra points for taking a class that you have no previous experience with, so you'll be firing on all cylinders learning the new skillset.

For me, a hula dance class would be up my alley, but maybe you're interested in learning a new language? cooking? photography? woodworking? welding? pottery?

Or substitute regularly scheduled volunteer commitment...there's always soup kitchens that serve evening meals, and the cleanup that goes with it.

Alternatively, taking up a meditation practice is beneficial to practically anyone, but can be particularly helpful to a formerly addicted person.

A book that made a huge change in my life as a young adult was _The Artist's Way_ by Julia Cameron, and one thing that has stuck with me in the 13 years since I read the book (and did the exercises) is to make a list of things you loved to do as a child, but don't do as an adult. Then try to come up with a way to incorporate that into your adult life. For me, that was ballet lessons as a girl, and as an adult I took up dance lessons.

Good luck!
posted by Pocahontas at 1:32 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Check with your doctor to see if you need any medical supervision for alcohol withdrawal.

Every day work out for one hour, but not more (don't need to become an exercise addict!)

Get a book of recipes and work through them systematically.

At bedtime, a lovely bath with candlelight and bubbles.

Dexter has always been a friend to me in my dark moments :-D but might be triggering for you... So maybe watch your way through all of Buffy and Angel?

Systematically read all the unread books on your bookshelf and all the unwatched videos and DVDs.

That is, when you're not at AA or NA meetings!

Once you start to improve, check out Meetup.com for non-boozy groups that are activity focused.

The Artist's Way is great because you go through a program to turn you into the artist you always knew you were. This will help you see yourself as becoming something *new* like a beautiful butterfly, rather than becoming just someone who Doesn't Do This List Of Stuff.

Enjoy!
posted by tel3path at 2:24 PM on August 15, 2012


Find a "couch to 5k" running program or join a beginners' running group and sign up for a 5k race in 2 or 3 months' time.

The intensity of running is great for endorphins (I've always found it better than any other form of exercise), having a goal helps you keep to it, being able to tick off each training session from your plan gives you a sense of progress and self-esteem - and the exercise will help you sleep.
posted by penguin pie at 3:35 PM on August 15, 2012


Another vote for long, brisk walks with podcasts in the ear buds. Maybe try something on the comedy podcast side to lighten the mood. Either way, it's not a physically punishing or extreme exercise routine, but it does get the blood flowing and make you feel good. Even when I intend to just take a leisurely stroll, after 20-30 minutes I usually get into it and want to pick up the pace or climb some hills to work up a little sweat.
In addition to staving off boredom, it's helped my insomnia a lot!
posted by FeralHat at 4:13 PM on August 15, 2012


Read a series or two of epic proportions.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.
Don't forget The Wind Through the Keyhole which is technically Book 8 but time-wise set between books 4 and 5. It's long and insane and sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but I think it's a decent read. If you want to afterwards, delve into the rest of King's literary universe....highlights being, of course, IT, The Stand, Dreamcatcher, and so on.

Frank Herbert's Dune saga.
Start with Classic Dune and figure out from there if you want to go into the books his son co-wrote.

Try Janet Evanovich's novels featuring Stephanie Plum, the gung-ho and funny bounty hunter.
The whole series is 18 books so far.

Jump on the Game of Thrones bandwagon and read A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.

Tuck into some apparently hot vampire action with Sookie Stackhouse in Dead Until Dark. Read the whole series....then go watch all of the True Blood shows to date. Same with GoT for that matter.

If you like dryly funny books about murder, perhaps you should try Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. And again, then go watch all seasons of the show.

I've also heard the Outlander series is decent, s'long as you're ready to read about a time-traveling lady who meets some hot Scottish action with a healthy dose of history lesson mixed in there.

On that note, may I highly recommend The Ring of Fire series, starting with 1632.

aaaand I have to go for now. I'll be back :-D
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:05 PM on August 15, 2012


A minor tip but effective: when you go to bed and feel antsy about not being high, lie on your back and take deep, rapid breaths (hyperventilate). Repeat if necessary.

You WILL notice a difference. Not huge, but it can help you maintain resolve.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:09 PM on August 15, 2012


Get out and do things that discourage drink and drugs. If not actual gym time, then hikes, walks, swims, bicycle rides. If those things are boring to you, listen to music or books while you're at it. Spend time in museums and cinemas, trains and trams, coffee shops that don't sell alcohol. Take day trips away to the country. Bring a laptop or pen and paper with you and create something wherever you are. Don't sit home, where it's too easy to have a glass of wine or a quick bowl, and don't spend time with people you'll only end up drunk with.
posted by pracowity at 8:16 AM on August 16, 2012


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