Alcohol is everywhere at social settings. Many people find it helpful in moderate amounts at parties or other group gatherings. However, to someone who struggles with a drinking problem, socializing without alcohol is like navigating a minefield.

It may seem difficult to find any hobbies that don’t involve drinking, but anyone who isn’t a heavy drinker knows that this is far from the truth. While some social drinkers would benefit from reducing alcohol consumption, for many, abstaining from alcohol entirely is their best choice.

You already know life without alcohol is better, so here are some tips on what to do instead of drinking, and how to navigate social situations without alcohol.

Things to do instead of drinking

Alcohol can be a crutch, both for making friends and as a social activity. Suddenly, drinking is part of every outing: watching sports, golfing — even shopping or getting a massage is punctuated with a drink.

In the early days of recovery, whether you did inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy, or anything in between, you will become intensely aware of your cravings and what triggers them. There are a few different theories on what causes alcohol cravings, but the important thing — early on — is to avoid giving into them.

Here are a few activities you can pursue instead:

  • Consider taking up an exciting new hobby. Physical activities such as running, hiking or joining a sports league are better for your overall health while improving your mindset.
  • If getting physical isn’t your thing, you may enjoy an intellectual activity such as a book club or enjoying the arts. If you’re creatively inclined, make time for writing, painting, playing an instrument or dancing.
  • Spending time outside is another option. When we are consumed by drinking, we often lose sight of the natural beauty of the world around us.
  • Finally, consider journaling or writing a letter to a close friend. Our relationships with others and with ourselves suffer when battling substance abuse or addiction. Taking the time to reflect on our mindset, or tell a friend how much they mean to us, will have huge rewards.
  • If nothing else, volunteering will put your time to good use. Not only are you helping in your community, but volunteering is rewarding, so alcohol will be the last thing on your mind.

If any of these ideas terrifies you, give that one a try for sure. Facing your fears will give you a huge sense of accomplishment, which will carry over to your recovery as well.

Whatever activity you decide to pursue, invite your friends along. They may be unsure how to approach hanging out with you, especially if you used to drink together, so they’ll likely appreciate the initiative.

When avoiding alcohol isn’t possible

As some point, you’ll find yourself around alcohol again. It’s not realistic to expect everyone around you to abstain, and you’ll eventually be in a social setting with someone new who doesn’t know your history with alcohol.

In the early days, when you’re establishing new patterns, try to keep these situations to a minimum and attend only truly important events. Instead of using any social gathering as an excuse to drink, you’ll have to be much more selective, at least for a while. Make sure you’re around people you feel safe and comfortable with.

Finally, always have an escape plan ready if it all becomes too much. One of the perks of being sober – you’ll always be able to drive. Drive yourself if possible, so you have an immediate out if needed. Beating addiction is a long journey, and you’re much more likely to be successful if you seek professional help. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, please contact a qualified United Recovery Project specialist today, to discuss your options.