What Do Sober People Do for Fun?


This is Jim's story about finding fun in sobriety.

To anyone who hasn’t been a partner with alcohol, this question seems very odd. They don’t understand how we link the idea of having a good time with drinking. Every party, every concert, and every family event – all were booze fueled. Without the drinking, what’s the point?

A New Normal

Thinking back, it really was about boredom, at least a bit. The everyday was better, or seemed so, with a buzz on. It was bearable. Normal sucks, at least that's what I used to think.

Wouldn’t it be nice if stopping drinking immediately gave us the mindset all the sober people enjoy? But it’s not like that. There’s a real and very tough road between being a drunk and finally getting to the point where every other thought isn’t about drinking. It is hard. It is painful. And for awhile, we face what seems to be a no-win choice: stick with sobriety and suffer or go back to drinking and suffer.

It’s only after a bit of clear-headed sobriety that the new normal emerges. In my view, you are wasting your time trying to find “fun” before the new, sober you starts to blossom forth. Before that, it doesn’t seem possible to have a good time without alcohol.

My first indication came when I started enjoying comedians again. When I could laugh again without drinking. My tastes changed a bit. I can’t stand some of the over the top comedians I used to like, but I find the more “intellectual” stuff, the comedians I once thought weren’t even funny, now appeal to me.

A New Crowd

I quickly found out that my old drinking chums weren’t much fun if I wasn’t drinking.

Have you ever arrived at a party or a wedding reception after the crowd has already been there some time drinking? For the short period it took me to “catch up,” I was always struck by how loud and obnoxious some of the drinkers were. Now, I get that all the time if I’m with my old drinking buds.

What I found out is they really aren’t entertaining at all. The stories are stupid, the jokes even worse. After being “in their cups” a bit, there’s plenty of passionate argument, but no real substance. I’m glad to have left that behind.

There is another crowd out there: people who actually enjoy each other’s company sober. They don’t have to drink to find common ground and make everyone equally stupid. Instead, they have interesting opinions and meaningful conversations. This “new crowd” is out there, they just don’t hang around with drunks.

A New Idea of Fun

The really fascinating thing for me was how much I was missing. For me, drinking was a sit-down-and-drink activity. I and my pals were working feverishly on our beer bellies and our upcoming liver transplants. When someone puked or passed out or pissed themselves – well, that was “fun.” In hindsight, the stories I can tell (the few I remember clearly) usually ended with either someone acting like an untrained monkey or someone getting arrested.

I don’t tell those stories anymore.

The new “fun” is an active thing. I joined a local bike club to get some exercise. We are all middle-aged and not racers, but we enjoy a few miles cycling in the sunshine and a good lunch. That’s not something I would have considered before sobriety.

Sober people do stuff. They do stuff in the sunshine and they laugh. And you know what? I like getting out there and laughing too. It’s a beautiful world, full of interesting and engaged people.

It makes me sad when I’m driving somewhere and a bar or lounge catches my eye. It makes me sad because I know there are people sitting in the near dark, killing themselves while I’m out doing things. Here are a few of the things I’ve tried just for the hell of it that turned out to be “sober fun.”

Ballroom dancing
Flying model airplanes
Walking my dog in a parade
Manning the kettle at Christmas time
Driving seniors around to appointments
Helping with high school sports teams

Nothing spectacular, I’ll admit. But you know what? There was never a hangover involved in any of them, no guilt, and when I fall asleep at the end of a day or an evening of “fun,” I sleep the sleep of the justly tired and the deeply satisfied.

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