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Hobbies for Recovery From Alcohol Use Disorder

June 17, 2024
23 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 17, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
June 17, 2024
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Self-Discovery Through Hobbies in AUD Recovery

  • After quitting alcohol, much of our time and energy may be freed up and leave us wondering what to do with our time.
  • Hobbies not only serve as healthy distractions but can help us find joy and fulfillment in our lives again.
  • Reframe can help us expand our lives beyond a life of drinking!

The world of drinking, when we’re in it, can seem like that’s all there is to life. The roller coaster of drinking and partying — and the group of people we may be riding it with — can create an illusion of a happy and fulfilled life. 

When we quit drinking, that facade fades away. Recovery can leave us feeling alone and empty. Although it may be uncomfortable and nerve-racking at first, this empty space gives us the opportunity to discover and expand our lives — by exploring our passions and interests. But before we get into some of the ways we can fill up our leisure time, let’s get a better idea of how drinking can rob us of our time and energy.

“Alcohol Is Taking Up My Time” — Recovery and Exploring a Life Beyond Drinking

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Alcohol dependence is characterized by the inability to quit drinking despite negative consequences. It can cause us to prioritize drinking over other vital aspects of our lives, including our work, personal relationships, and health.

When we begin recovery and quit drinking, we might find that much of our time is freed up because we’re no longer spending most of it consuming alcohol, suffering from hangovers, or just thinking about drinking. For those of us who aren’t used to leisure time, we may find ourselves bored, lost, lonely, or all of the above.

And if friends or family recommend we “find a hobby” or “explore our passions,” what do we do? Where do we even begin? What activities could we can try? Let’s see what’s out there.

Hobbies To Try During Recovery From AUD

Different Types of Recovery Activities

Sure, we might get the usual suggestions — “What about reading your way through all of Charles Dickens or Harry Potter (for the third time)? Maybe take up baking?  How about hiking? If those  don’t hold much appeal, there’s a whole lot more to explore.

1. Physical Activities

Enjoyable physical activities are beneficial for our mental as well as physical health — just consider all the possibilities!  

  • Exercise. There are so many different ways we can move our body — high-intensity options like running, kickboxing, and weightlifting, and lower-intensity activities like yoga, Pilates, and swimming. 
  • Sports. Sports are a great way to get in movement without it feeling like “exercise.” Gather a group of friends for a tennis match, a game of soccer, or volleyball at the beach. For something more low-key, how about some hoops, a round of golf, or a few swings in the batting cage. 
  • Outdoor activities. Outdoor fun can do wonders for our health, physical and mental. Enjoy nature on a hike or bike ride. Or, try your hand at gardening.

2. Creative Pursuits

Creative pursuits promote self-discovery, and the options we can pursue are virtually endless.

  • Visual arts. For those of us who’ve never had a paint brush in our hand, this is a good time to get out the watercolors and try a still life or landscape. Afraid to explore the visual arts? Remember, even Rembrandt didn’t start out as a master. Art is just a form of expression: so, grab a friend and sketch each other, get into photography, or create vision boards. In other words, have fun!
  • Writing. Writing is another form of expression that can be therapeutic; it can also help us document how we’re feeling at any given time. And we can try different kinds of writing — fiction, nonfiction, journaling, poetry?
  • Crafting. These hands-on activities can help keep our hands and minds busy. We can take up knitting, weaving, woodworking, pottery, you name it!

3. Mindfulness and Relaxation Practices

Reducing stress is beneficial for all phases of our life but even more so during recovery. Stress can commonly be a trigger for drinking, so mindfulness practices like those noted here can be especially helpful in preventing relapses.

  • Meditation or breathing exercises. Even positive practices such as meditation can be a “hobby.” We can learn new strategies to calm our mind by trying different meditation methods such as tai chi or sound baths. 
  • Yoga or stretching. Gentle movement is a way to stay active and help us relax. Join a studio for guided flows or try some poses at home before bedtime to get a more restful night of sleep. 

4. Learning and Education

We don’t typically think of learning as a hobby, but why not? Learning is best if it’s lifelong — so just think of all the things that have piqued our interest and we now have time for?

  • Learning a language. Try learning the language of a foreign country you’ve always wanted to visit. Or consider tackling one that wasn’t among the limited options in high school. 
  • Playing an instrument. Dust off the keyboard to see if you’ve still got it, or try something completely new. Next time your friends come over, you can have live music to jam to.
  • Cooking or baking. Learn to make your favorite meal from a restaurant at home or bake a cake to celebrate a friend. 

5. Community Engagement

Community activities are a great way to increase our social engagement while doing things we’re interested in. Here’s a list of options to consider for starters.

  • Volunteering. Volunteer work helps us explore our interests while giving back to the community. It can also help us find a sense of purpose.
  • Joining clubs or groups. Local clubs and groups offer a more structured way to meet new people. Join a book club in the neighborhood or start a new group with friends and schedule weekly activities everyone enjoys.
  • Participating in support groups or recovery meetings. Participating in support groups may not seem like a hobby, but it can be a great way to enhance our social life. We can develop skills for our recovery and develop our social support network at the same time.

So, we now have a list of hobbies to choose from — but how important is it, really, to find activities to keep our mind and body busy?

Is Developing Hobbies When Recovering From Addiction Important?

Developing hobbies during recovery from alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder (AUD), also commonly referred to as alcohol “addiction,” goes well beyond just occupying time: hobbies can be  integral aspects of recovery. The benefits are many.

  • Healthy distraction. Hobbies play a major role in recovery by taking our mind off thoughts of drinking. Alcohol affects our emotions, and drinking often becomes the quick and easy go-to solution for distracting ourselves from negative experiences or uncomfortable emotions. Finding healthy distractions can help us develop more positive coping mechanisms and prevent relapses.
  • Stress relief and relaxation. Hobbies are activities that can bring us joy. As we enjoy pursuing them, we can reduce our overall stress levels and decrease our urge to drink. 
  • Learning new skills. Not everything in our life needs to be about learning and growth, but just by participating in things we enjoy, we can develop new skills. They may be physical skills related to a hobby, strategies to navigate challenges, or social skills and teamwork experience.
  • Increasing social interaction. Exploring our interests opens the door to opportunities to interact socially with others. Try a yoga class and invite someone to grab a bite after. Who knows? We may meet our best friend who has the same exercise-to-treat pipeline that we love. The social aspect of participating in hobbies can motivate us to continue delving into our interests and expand our social circle of support. 
  • Boosting self-esteem and confidence. We don’t have to be the best at something, but participating in different activities can still be a boost to our self-esteem and confidence. Whether we completed our 100th spin class, made our first usable ceramic bowl, or won a pickleball game against a friend, these small wins encourage us to continue our recovery, even when things get tough. 

Now that we understand the importance of finding hobbies, and we have many options to choose from, what else should we keep in mind when pursuing a hobby?

What To Consider When Choosing Recovery Activities

When choosing an activity, it’s also important to keep several key considerations in mind.

  • Personal interests. With a rise in interest in long-distance running, all of your friends may suddenly be interested in training for the next marathon. You might be pressured to join in, but if it’s not something that interests you, it may not be enjoyable for you. It’s okay to have hobbies different from our friends’ favorite activities, and it’s also common to meet new people who have interests in common with us.
  • Physical abilities and limitations. It’s important to keep in mind our own physical abilities and limitations. This doesn’t mean we can’t try something outside our comfort zone. But keeping our physical abilities in mind can help us set realistic goals and narrow the options so we can focus on what makes us feel happy and fulfilled.
  • Budget constraints. Some hobbies can get quite expensive, but that doesn’t mean we should write them off. We can find creative ways to do what we love while still staying within our budget. For example, a fees for a weekly Pilates class at a studio can add up fast. Instead, why not gather a group of friends and take an online Pilates class at home?
  • Time and availability. As much as we’d love to do something we love all day, other priorities — like family and work — may come first. Identifying how much leisure time we have without impacting other priorities in our life can help us “schedule in” time for our new activities. Sometimes we can get caught up in our daily routines, so setting aside time for hobbies can help us find a good balance.
  • Accessibility of resources and facilities. We may love surfing, but if we’re in a landlocked area, it may not be an option. Acknowledging our access to resources and facilities can help us make the tweaks necessary so we can participate in the activities we enjoy. For example, if surfing outdoors isn’t an option, we can try swimming, skateboarding, or maybe even find an indoor surfing facility. 

Now that we may have narrowed down our list to an activity we want to try, how can we give it a fair chance?

Strategies for Incorporating Sober Hobbies Into Your Lifestyle

Quitting alcohol is no easy feat. Recovery can come with physical discomfort and emotional distress that can make it hard to feel motivated enough to try new activities. Sure, the one yoga class was fun, but it may have taken a lot for us to get out there. How can we keep going? Some ways we can incorporate hobbies and interests into our recovery lifestyle include the following strategies.

  • Setting realistic goals and expectations. Have you ever set a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym every day just to find yourself canceling your membership after the first two weeks? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Setting realistic goals can help us stay consistent. If we don’t have the mental or physical energy to go to a yoga class every week, start with once every two weeks. 
  • Stay consistent. It’s okay to not love something we try. However, it’s important to give it a fair chance, especially during recovery. It’s not easy to figure out what we may enjoy, especially if we spent most of our time in the past drinking and recovering from drinking. Although we may be occupied with school or work, it’s important to set aside time to engage in our own interests.
  • Find accountability partners. Finding an accountability partner or mentor can motivate us to show up even when things get tough in our recovery.  Sometimes we may need a push to get there, but we may find ourselves feeling much better after the fact.
  • Celebrate progress and milestones. Especially when our social media feeds are flooded with other people’s bigger and better achievements, it can be all too easy to look past our own seemingly small wins. Celebrating our accomplishments, whether mastering a new yoga pose or baking our first cheesecake without the top cracking, can remind us of our good efforts and serve as a well-deserved pat on the back.
  • Adapt hobbies to different stages of recovery. Different stages of recovery come with different challenges. We may not feel quite up to a chosen activity yet, but we can modify our plans and still start to explore our passions. For example, we may be totally committed to learning a new language and want to enroll in a class right away. However, it’s possible we may not have the physical energy during withdrawal or the time to take classes in person. But we can start by downloading an app to get a grasp of the basics, then move on to an online course and eventually to in-person classes. 

We may take all these steps, but obstacles and setbacks can still occur. How can we overcome them?

Overcoming Challenges in Pursuing Hobbies During Recovery From Addiction

Recovery experiences can make even everyday activities challenging at times. Even though hobbies can seem like just an add-on to our life, they can be crucial during recovery. Here are some ways we can stay consistent in pursuing our interests during challenging times.

  • Deal with cravings and triggers. As we sever our dependence on alcohol, cravings and triggers to drink are common occurrences. Understanding what these triggers are can help us better navigate them and allow us to focus our time and energy on more positive activities.
  • Manage time and energy. When we quit alcohol, it’s a big adjustment physically and emotionally. By managing our time and energy, we can set realistic goals for exploring hobbies while we develop a balanced lifestyle.
  • Cope with setbacks and failures. Setbacks are a frequent part of recovery. Understanding that they can be a part of the process and learning from them can help us continue on the path to recovery. It may be difficult to get up and show up to our weekly yoga class after a relapse, but staying consistent with the things we enjoy doing gives us something to look forward to. 
  • Seek professional support. Recovery isn’t an easy process, but we don’t have to go it alone. With professional treatment, we can develop strategies to manage our triggers and emotions as we focus on developing a healthier and more fulfilling life.

As we continue to heal our relationship with alcohol and learn more about ourselves in the process, we’ll be able to enrich our lives through hobbies and passions. 

Starting a New Chapter

You don’t have to wait until you’re fully recovered to start putting your time into things you love doing. In fact, developing hobbies during recovery is beneficial in distracting you from drinking and helping you connect with others. It’s difficult to know where to begin, especially with the fatigue that commonly accompanies recovery. But a hobby can be anything you enjoy, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Self-discovery is a major component of recovery, making it an ideal time to explore your passions! 

Summary FAQs

1. What do sober people do for fun?

Exploring hobbies and interests is a way to spend leisure time that isn’t associated with drinking.

2. Why is it important to develop hobbies during recovery?

Developing hobbies during recovery can serve as a healthy distraction and help you with stress management and connections.

3. What types of recovery activities can I try?

There are endless activities you can try — physical activity, creative pursuits, mindfulness, learning, and community engagement.

4. How do I make time to incorporate hobbies into my recovery lifestyle?

It’s helpful to set realistic goals, establish a schedule that includes time for your activity, have an accountability partner, and celebrate progress.

5. How do I choose a hobby to try during recovery?

Start with personal interests, then take into account availability, budget constraints, and physical limitations. Or, try something completely out of your comfort zone. You never know until you try!

Explore a Life Beyond Drinking With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

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