What do sober people do?
April 13, 2008 6:17 PM   Subscribe

What do sober people do?

My sister recently got out of rehab. Drugs and alcohol have been a big part of her day to day activities for a long time. So now that she's clean she's obviously bored, and doesn't need that as an added reason to relapse. She calls me and asks what it is that sober people do, but I go to bars fairly often or do things that she just plain ain't interested in.

Anywho, what can she do to keep herself busy? She goes bowling and sees movies and the like, but you can only do those things so many times. She knits and does bead work also, but right now her nerves are really shot and she can't keep her hands steady. She's in Louisville, Ky (and 29 years old), if locals have any specific recommendations.
posted by Roman Graves to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
gardening doesn't require steady hands
posted by janell at 6:23 PM on April 13, 2008

Before I got wrapped up in family life, video games were always a big time sink. Also reading, when I was lucky enough to find good books that I just couldn't put down. Also renting movies and watching unseen classics as well as current flicks is fun.
posted by crapmatic at 6:23 PM on April 13, 2008

Developing and sticking to a good exercise program would be a great start.
posted by forallmankind at 6:27 PM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

AA or NA meetings. There are sober people there who constantly do an huge list of things without drinking or drugging. Actually drinking/drugging kept me from doing things, all I did was sit around and talk about what I was "going to" do.
some examples of things she can try...
Take classes in subjects that interest her
Take up cooking
posted by robinrs at 6:31 PM on April 13, 2008

Can she volunteer? Maybe someplace like an animal shelter, which provides the bonus of getting outside and getting some exercise (if she walks the dogs.)
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 6:32 PM on April 13, 2008

that's "a" huge list, whoops
posted by robinrs at 6:32 PM on April 13, 2008

Sober people do everything the same as non-sober people do... just, you know, sober. I'm not an addict to anything drug or alcohol related, so I probably don't have the proper view on this, but I've always been able to go to a bar and have fun without having a drink. Video games are great, but it's a very singular way of passing time. I suggest she join some sort of club where she can socialize in an environment where alcohol and drugs aren't front and center. There have been one or two people in my city's Samba group (brazilian percussion) who had been through addiction (rehab or not, i'm not entirely sure). Things like Samba, book groups, maybe a beading group? they probably exist, sports groups (soccer, hockey, etc), where the emphasis is on the group atmosphere, and alcohol is an afterthought, like an optional beer after, might be an idea.

The basic summary of all this is that it might be the worst thing to stay inside and do nothing but knit and play video games. She should get out and socialize, which is fully possible while remaining sober.
posted by Planet F at 6:33 PM on April 13, 2008

Study, reading, gardening, tv, games (don't need good reflexes for solitaire), cooking, photography, nature walks, window shopping (inc EBay), reorganizing house, learning to dance/do tai chi from youtube, camping, chat online.
posted by b33j at 6:37 PM on April 13, 2008

there are probably activity clubs for folks her age. around me there is team green, which sponsors pickup volleyball, hikes, rafting trips, urban hikes, etc.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:40 PM on April 13, 2008

Depending on where she is in her life, if she's able to not only take a class or two but to actually enroll in college full-time (either as an undergrad if she's not yet done so, or in a grad program if she has) that ought to be able to both "keep her busy" and do so in a way that could genuinely improve her life overall. Currently I'm in grad school and between papers for classes, grading the work of the undergrads -I- teach, hanging out with my classmates socially, and attending the regular department events I'm certainly anything but bored most days =)

I know it's not exactly solution for the immediate present, but it might be worth looking into if there's anything she's always wanted to do, maybe it would help make her feel better about herself all around if she had something concrete (like a degree, or even college applications) to work towards ...
posted by zeph at 6:42 PM on April 13, 2008

Seconding gardening. It's early spring and she's in a perfect area of the country to start planting some vegetables and flowers - cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, roses, petunias, marigolds, lavender, whatever she wants! Nurturing plants through a full growing season is both time-consuming and relaxing, and you get to enjoy your hard work by making something beautiful and/or yummy. And I would think that re-connecting with the earth and the natural life cycle of things could be especially healing for someone like her right about now. Go buy her a stack of DIY garden magazines (no Martha Stewart Living! she cheats, she has staff) and a nice set of garden tools (they're not too expensive) to nudge her along.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:45 PM on April 13, 2008

There are at least 3 instructors of middle eastern dance in Louisville. http://www.shira.net/dir-us-g-l.htm#Kentucky

I totally recommend she get involved with middle eastern dance. It is a lot of fun, she will be able to make new friends, plus it is a wonderfully supportive environment in which one can heal. I suggest she find an instructor who teaches Raks Sharqi.
posted by mamaraks at 6:49 PM on April 13, 2008

There are many people out there struggling with drugs and alcohol just like your sister was before she got clean and sober. They need help too. You sister can work with other addicts and alcoholics who want to get straight, but can't. It's called 12th step work and can be extremely rewarding. Local AA or NA chapters are the first places to start to get involved in helping others to be happy, joyous, and free.

Mr Bunnsy above mentioned volunteer work. Hospitals, nursing homes, shelters can always use extra bodies to help with chores and service. Recovery from drugs and alcohol can be a marvelous thing. It really helps us get out of ourselves and into helping others.
posted by netbros at 6:53 PM on April 13, 2008

One of the hardest things to get used to, upon sobering up, is realizing that not having a drink in hand is a normal condition for people, and not the other way around. When you begin to realize that not every occasion deserves a drink or a drug, the possibilities start to surface.

We have an Alano club near my house - it's a sober club. They act as sort of a coffeehouse/substitute bar for people - pool tables, cards, meetings, sports on TV - so a general hangout. That's one thing. The crowds tend to the older side there, though.

I spent my first 5 years sober learning how to play bridge. I found a great AA group, met some hardcore card players there, and there went five years. Now I play a lot of euchre and pinochle. Many times after meetings, we'd go bowling, find a lake and go swimming, cook together, have movie nights, just all kinds of stuff.

And there is 12 step work - helping other addicts/alcoholics stay sober is just a huge part of the program and has led me to some of the best friendships and experiences of my life.

The point is to find people to be social with - getting out of rehab and getting yourself back on track also means finding a way to be with people without a drink or a drug. It takes practice and time. It can start with - if 12 stepping is the path - going to meetings and then going to coffee afterwards, and then learning to hang out with other sober people.
posted by disclaimer at 6:59 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

remote control boats and/or airplanes
posted by ian1977 at 7:04 PM on April 13, 2008

Another vote for dance here. She might like contra dancing--easy, fun, sociable, done in community centers rather than bars. There's an active group in Louisville: http://www.louisvillecontradancers.org/.
posted by PatoPata at 7:08 PM on April 13, 2008

So now that she's clean she's obviously bored,

I think this question is a deeper one, like, what makes life worthwhile kinda thing. I think that sense of ennui is a kind of depression that comes about when you haven't found a reason to live, whether in community / family, or in intellectual / creative pursuits. Being sober is not a different activity, just a different perspective. It wasn't the actual swallowing of liquids she used to enjoy, but the sense of pleasure she used to find in interaction or listening to music or whatever it was she used to do when she was drunk. But that was a short term kind of pleasure that ultimately made the long term less enjoyable. So now she has to think about what will be interesting, fulfilling or pleasing over the long term.

Friends, falling in love, reading good books, going to concerts, painting, carpentry, ceramics, martial arts, writing, going to school, an interesting career, having a family, decorating a house, volunteering for a cause, following a sports team, cooking, hiking, playing an instrument, joining a local sports team, exercising, or any number of other activities have interested human beings over the years. It's up to her to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life, though. Support groups & therapists can be useful assistants in some cases, if she's really struggling.
posted by mdn at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

Is she a creative person at all? If so, encourage her to start on a creative project -- even just writing about how she's doing from day to day is a good way to get stuff onto paper and stop it from circulating endlessly in her head.

Go to art openings with her -- this is a good season because BFA/MFA programs are ending and there are always graduate exhibitions and sales. Craft and small-press sales are good too. I always walk away from these things feeling so inspired to make new things.

Help her take up an instrument, even if neither of you are musical -- get a cheap keyboard or guitar and a used drum kit and fiddle around while she bashes the shit out of the drums. LOTS of bands have started among people who didn't know how to play their instruments.

Also, have a look through the canon of "what to do when you're depressed" threads -- they are always full of productive/positive/uplifting activities to do when you're at loose ends.
posted by loiseau at 7:11 PM on April 13, 2008

To find and connect with people with similar interests, meetup.com is pretty great. There are "meetups" for bookclubs, indie movies, travelers...pretty much anything. And, of course, you can make your own meetup. There is a Louisville section.
posted by hazel at 7:17 PM on April 13, 2008

For one, I started on that writing career I always used to fantasize about on the barstool and during dope nods. It's surprising how much headway I've made in only four years. What is her lifelong dream? Because whatever it is she can probably do that now that she's not handicapping herself in life with substances.
posted by The Straightener at 7:23 PM on April 13, 2008

running! Turn 12 steps into 1,000 steps (and beyond). Many of my accomplished runner friends started running when they became clean and sober. And it's a great sport to channel one's excessive energy into. Run fast, run slow - run short or run long, running groups are a great way to take a solitary activity to a social level.

I started running at 29, and never looked back. It's never too late to start. And a great way to see one's neighborhood, meet new friends and get in shape.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:26 PM on April 13, 2008

She could get a second job of some kind - something she'd enjoy for whatever reason. And, hey, it's automatically rewarding! She might even meet people.
posted by amtho at 7:35 PM on April 13, 2008

Club sports (Think softball league, Frisbee)
Getting involved with a local church
Volunteering (Habitat for humanity builds might be a good option)
Does she like politics? It is super easy to get plugged into your local RNC/DNC and start helping out and meeting new people that way.

[Basically, I would brainstorm activities you could suggest to your sister that would expose her to new friends]
posted by yoyoceramic at 7:49 PM on April 13, 2008

Take a class and pick up a new hobby. Sewing, painting, yoga, hula hooping, cooking, web design, hiking, beach volleyball, DJing. Would she maybe enjoy a pet?
posted by infinityjinx at 7:50 PM on April 13, 2008

Seconding AA or NA meetings, because it will help her meet locals who are trying to stay sober and locals who have successfully stayed sober. Not only can she find out firsthand which local hangouts are trigger-safe but she also might make friends to hang out with at these sobriety-friendly places.

some other ideas:
-instead of hanging out in bars, hanging out in cool and quirky coffee shops, independent bookstores, pottery painting/crafting shops (or classes) etc.
-Yoga, tai chi, and/or meditation for restorative/soothing health benefits (check out YMCA, parks associations, public schools, etc for low cost options)
- light hiking/walking trails
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:04 PM on April 13, 2008

Seconding loiseau - learn an instrument. It'll take up as much time as she wants to throw at it.
posted by kristi at 8:48 PM on April 13, 2008

I'm a non-drinker, and I shoot pool. Yes, in bars. And I don't smoke. And before you ask, yeah. That makes me crazy.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:24 PM on April 13, 2008

What do sober people do?

Read books, do cardiovascular exercise, play golf or tennis or soccer in a local league, drink ginger ale, go to AA meetings, build a model of the Andrea Doria out of balsa wood, volunteer at the local library or auxiliary or hospital, lift weights, read books..

You get used to it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:43 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

rescue a dog. and not just any dog...a dog that needs her just as much as she needs the dog. my neglected and unsocialized pit bull definitely helped at a time that I needed to refocus the priorities in my life.
posted by modernpoverty at 9:49 PM on April 13, 2008

Drink tea, lots of it, it is great and there are millions of types to investigate while you do other things like read, or hang out with friends at coffee shops which are -in their own way- the sober person's bar.
posted by occidental at 10:17 PM on April 13, 2008

What ex-addicts do is not what the chemically naive do. After gaming the pleasure centers of her brain for a decade your sister is not going to get any sense of comfort from beading for a long while. She has to get addicted to new activities that parallel her old habits. Strenuous exercise, meditation, reading, sex, laughter and anything else that boosts endorphin and dopamine production and floods the senses helps the malaise.
posted by bunnytricks at 10:42 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree with bunnytricks. But as for things that people do for fun that don't involve drugs or alcohol, I (an occasional drinker, no drugs):

play on the web
play with my dog
do housekeeping and life maintenance things like pay bills and buy groceries (okay, that's a have-to, not want-to, but it does eat up a few hours of almost every day)
cook, try new recipes, read about cooking/food online
go for walks
take pictures
keep an occasional journal
watch tv a bit
watch a dvd now and then
see concerts
go out to dinner
have sex
listen to music while doing one of the above activities
work on home improvement/decorating projects
posted by Savannah at 11:45 PM on April 13, 2008

Get her a MeFi account, for starters. There's 50% of her waking life just gone, right there.
posted by flabdablet at 5:46 AM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

Before getting hooked on drugs and alcohol what did she do? Now would be the time to go back to those passions.
posted by doorsfan at 6:58 AM on April 14, 2008

exercise, work, laundry, sleep.
posted by thomas144 at 7:28 AM on April 14, 2008

My BF said that when he quit drinking, he spent night after night with two activities that kept his mind occupied - Tetris and crosswords. He also rented a hell of a lot of movies.
posted by Liosliath at 10:41 AM on April 14, 2008

What do sober people do?

Same as non-sober people - do things while they wait to die ;>.

"Value in Life" (tm) usually starts with people, without people that she cares about, and that care for her, it's a miserable world. Priority is to build/rebuild connections to people she can care about. That's what church/aa/dance classes/bridge club/etc is really about.

Free advice on mefi is as useful as your daily horoscope is accurate - take care.
posted by w.fugawe at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2008

jigsaw puzzles
posted by juva at 12:45 PM on April 14, 2008

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