When an alcoholic decides to quit drinking they are faced with the constant dilemma of what to do with their free time. For a person who has spent so much of their past drinking and being intoxicated, the prospect of moving forward in sobriety can be overwhelming.
For those who have do not struggle with addiction, this may seem like a false dilemma. There are clearly countless alternatives to drinking that a person can enjoy. However, a person whose past is characterized by addiction may have difficulty coming to the same conclusion. In this case, creative ideas and a supportive group of non-drinking friends are essential.
Passing in Social Situations
One of the frustrating things for a recovering alcoholic in social situations is the fact that acquaintances and even strangers regularly offer them drinks. Regardless of whether or not having a drink offered to them is a temptation, the simple act of constantly refusing drinks can be tiresome. Furthermore, some people are pushier than others and do not like being turned down.
This can make social events and nights out uncomfortable for an alcoholic in recovery. One way to ease this tension is to see to it that a drink is in hand at all times. A non-alcoholic beverage served in the right glass might as well be a cocktail. Others are less likely to apply too much pressure when the person is already holding on to a drink.
However, this strategy only serves to draw attention away from the recovering alcoholic. It is not a substitute for supportive friends, drink refusal strategies and a commitment to remaining alcohol free.
Replacing Alcoholic Beverages
Humans are creatures of habit. Alcoholics ingest more fluids than the average person, which may result in an oral fixation over time. After giving up alcohol, the impulse to continue drinking some sort of beverage is usually strong.
Coffee seems to be the drink of choice for most recovering alcoholics. A study conducted at Dartmouth College found that nearly 90 percent of recovering alcoholics drink coffee on a regular basis. Compare this to 50 percent of the regular population. One out of three of those in recovery drank more than four cups of coffee every day. This study reveals a correlation, but it is unclear whether caffeine helps or hinders the recovery process. In any event, replacing one addictive substance with another is not an ideal coping mechanism.
Some people who are trying to quit drinking gravitate toward non-alcoholic beers and wines. The assumption is that drinks like this can partially satisfy a craving without leading to full-blown relapse. However, many addiction counselors advise their clients to stay away from drinks that remind them of alcoholic beverages. A study published in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that the mere anticipation could lead to increased dopamine levels. This, in turn, can lead to relapse.
Furthermore, non-alcoholic beers and wines still contain trace amounts of alcohol (about 0.5 percent per volume). Even a dose of alcohol as small as this may still be enough to trigger an uncomfortable reaction for those taking disulfiram-based medication to aid in their recovery.
For anyone who has ever struggled with an addiction to alcohol, simply setting foot in an environment where alcohol is going to be served may be too much to bear. The presence of alcohol might create unwanted temptation, or it may simply evoke painful memories or discomfort.
Recovering alcoholics are emerging from a period of life that revolved around finding and consuming alcohol. In the early stages of recovery, they may have difficulty deciding what to do during their free time, since so much of it was spent drinking in the past. Now that alcohol is no longer the central component of their life, finding alternative activities that do not involve alcohol is essential.
These are a few activities that can be enjoyed without consuming alcohol:
* Physical activity: sports and other physical activities are ideal replacements for drinking alcohol, as physical fitness and alcohol abuse do not go together very well. Better yet, activities like cycling and walking can become a healthy addiction for the right person.
* Watching movies: while going to the cinema may not be a particularly engaging activity, it is something that most people can agree on doing. When going out with groups, heading to the cinema may be a good way to spend a couple of hours.
* Sober parties: some alcoholism recovery support groups sponsor sober parties, where people are encouraged to get together and have fun without drinking. A recovering alcoholic may even consider planning a party like this of their own.
Support Is Essential for Recovering Alcoholics
The single-most important thing for an addicted person in recovery is support. Alternatives to drinking are useful tools, but successful recovery requires a supportive group of friends and family members.
Being surrounded by non-drinkers who are aware of the alcoholic’s past is essential. These people may be close friends or family members. However, some people stepping out of an addiction may find that everyone they know drinks or uses. Support groups are a good place to find likeminded people who are committed to enjoying life without drinking. Addiction counselors at alcohol rehab centers can make recommendations on finding support at home.