Find your new thing.
Hobbies are a crucial sober tool in recovery. They are a way to pour our new found energy and time into things we didn’t take time to do before because, well, let’s be totally honest, when we were actively drinking, that was our hobby. There isn’t time to do anything else when you are thinking about drinking, drinking, trying to stop drinking and recovering from the horrible effects of drinking.
Hobbies serve many purposes. They help us beat the early boredom, boost our self-esteem and, of course, keep us busy so we stay away from booze. When I was drinking, my hobby was managing my alcohol consumption, watching tv and minimally writing-maybe a social media post or two a month. I was losing myself. Now my extra-curricular life is brimming with fun activities that make me look forward to the day, not dread the sludgery of it. Sobriety is an antonym for boring.
But the very important thing about hobbies is that although they start out as fun, fulfilling forms of self-care, they will often transform into something bigger. Having the time and mental ability to discover things that ignite you will very often lead you to your Bigger Yes, or your Purpose.
Stay with me on this whole self-care thing. When this catch phrase caught wind, we understood it to mean taking timeout for bubble baths and mani-pedis. But REAL self-care is so much more than that. It is self-love, sometimes tough love, doing the things that protect us and keep us healthy and sound. It is anything that renews our spirit, and it is protection and accomplishment. Real self-care is not indulgent – it’s imperative.
What is a Hobby, Really?
A hobby can be absolutely anything that you enjoy doing. It can be creative or athletic, academic or crafty. But it should be something you look forward to. It doesn’t have to be slow and relaxing. Hobbies can be challenging for you, particularly if you want to get better at it.
A good hobby is one that lets you feel great doing it and look forward to the next time you get to do it.
Benefits of Having a Hobby
Now that we are committed to reclaiming our health, we need to support all the areas of our well-being: Physical, Mental, Spiritual and Social and Recreational. Hobbies tick all or most of the boxes.
A positive hobby improves your mental and physical health, and provide with all important connection.
Besides writing this blog, my newest obsession is pickleball. I was gifted a shirt with the saying “I have O.P.D. Obsessive Pickleball Disorder” and it’s right on point. The players in our club all joke that we are addicted to it. But I am loud and proud about this addiction. I am on the courts in the middle of summer by 7am to play, and get 5000 steps in by 9. I have made lifelong friends and I feel exhilarated doing it even when I lose every game.
Hobbies keep us occupied. When we are engaged in these activities that we love, this will keep our minds busy and put us in a positive state. Triggers don’t typically activate here.
Hobbies renew our brain activity because we are learning new things. If you are newer along in your sobriety journey, you may still feel a little bit of brain fog, but you will be amazed at how that continues to clear up as you gain more sober days. Engaging in a new activity will help rebuild your mental clarity.
Hobbies can lead to Purpose. Your Purpose is your Bigger Yes. This concept is powerfully illustrated in a quote from Stephen Covey, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage–pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically– to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.” This is IT. This the key to staying sober and creating a life you love so much you odn’t want to escape from it. Hobbies lead to Purpose.
How to Find a New Hobby
Take a few minutes right now to think about things you used to love to do, or a goal that you want to set for yourself that you could never have achieved while you were drinking. I have two for example, to launch this blog and have it be my full time job, and to compete at a 3.5 and above in pickleball tournaments. Both of these will take a lot of work, and neither of them could I have done while alcohol was in my life. When I look at it now, the choice is so easy.
Here are a few ways to figure out something you’d like to try. When you scroll through social media is there something that gives you a little whisper of envy or curiosity? That often signals that it’s something you desire to do.
What is something that fascinates you, that you want to learn more about?
What did you used to love to do and then lost the time and desire to do it while you were drinking?
I have compiled a list of 80 ideas for hobbies at the end of this article. Here are a few great sober activities to try:
Putting paint on stuff is just so calming. And, if you don’t like what you make, you can just cover it up with another coat. You don’t need a ton of supplies either-just a handful of colors and some brushes of different widths. As far as a surface, don’t limit yourself to canvas. You can paint on just about anything-cardboard, pallets, driftwood, old bicycles, terra cotta pots. You can even paint sayings on small rocks to leave in different places for random people to find.
Write! Short stories, morning pages, blog posts, a memoir
Writing your way through the fears and frustrations, progress and epiphanies is very cathartic. If you love giving life to your struggles and your wins, writing may be a hobby for you. And if you dream of being an author, but you’ve always been too busy getting things done to find the time to start writing, now’s your chance!
The easiest way to start is just to journal-in a notebook or on your computer. Write down memories and special experiences, or just ideas that come into your head that would make a good story or article.
You can also start by keeping a blog. It’s easier than ever for people to get their words out there in the blogosphere today (it might not be as lucrative as publishing a book, but sometimes blogging can lead to that!. Blogger.com has been around forever and is a no-frills, get the words onto the page website. I’m a big fan of Wix for a starter blog. The templates are beautiful and it’s crazy easy to use. Whatever your choice, pick something that captures your interest and gives you an outlet for creativity.
Whatever your choice, pick something that captures your interest and gives you an outlet for creativity.
Take Up Yoga or Tai Chi
For a lot of us, fitness is synonymous with hobbies. Once we give up alcohol and start to feel better it becomes natural to want to build on that. One of the top choices for a new hobby at fifty is yoga or tai chi. They help build strength, increase coordination, and improve balance and breathing skills. And you can absolutely sweat doing it.
Check your community center, local yoga studio and gyms for in-person classes. It’s typically not very expensive and can be done on a drop in basis. A savvy yoga instructor will value older students because we tend to have better balance, are more respectful with class etiquette and often inspire younger students to practice more diligently.
There are often low-key classes available like Gentle Yoga and Chair Yoga. Stay away from Flow, Vinyasa and Hot Yoga if you’re a beginner and have no idea what these words mean.
If you are more comfortable in your own home, Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube is one of the best channels/instructors out there.
I stumbled upon pickleball in 2021 and I am addicted. It’s like badminton meets ping-pong with an element of tennis and a dash of wiffleball. I love tennis, but I can’t quite cover the court anymore without needing a full day of ice, rest and ibuprofen after a match.
Pickleball is played inside or out on a badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net using a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. You can play singles (harder) or doubles (more fun and social.) Best of all, it can be enjoyed by all ages and skill levels.
I am one of the youngest players in the club I joined and also one of the least best. This is because Pickleball is clearly the fountain of youth. Competitors are generally nice to each other, too. It’s a lovely phenomenon.
Look it up in your area-it’s all the rage right now. https://www.places2play.org/
Check out my other piece here.
One of the many reasons I continued to drink well past my prime was that I had a degenerative hip that needed to be replaced and my pain level frequently hit an 8. I was terrified to get my first major surgery and of course my labs were horrible so I put it off a couple of extra years.
Swimming saved my sanity. Lap swimming, walking, treading water, pool yoga, water aerobics. I bought a kickboard, ear plugs and a snorkel. It’s low impact, great for your joints and very therapeutic.
So many places depend on volunteers to keep their organization afloat. A few ideas of places that need help are: Animal shelters, food banks, civics clubs like Lions or Kiwanis. Your church needs help for services, events, even small groups. Google “Volunteer Opportunities” in your area.
With the pandemic still afoot, this one may be a little more slow going than the others, but this is a perfect time to do some research and send some emails asking if a place you are interested in needs help and what kind. Websites for non-profits often have a Volunteer tab on them with details.
Pot or Indoor Gardening
If you’ve always wanted to garden but never had the time, now is a good time to get moving. Sure it takes some planning and maintenance, but gardening can be great exercise as well as rewarding. Of course you have to like working with your hands and being outdoors too! You might even want to participate in community supported agriculture (CSA) which connects local consumers directly with farmers-this is a great way for people of all ages to enjoy fresh food from their neighborhood while connecting with nature at the same time.
You can start a pot garden of herbs to get your green thumb wet. The best ones are mint, basil, rosemary and chives.
Take an Online Class
Udemy.com is a great place for online classes. They are all virtual and affordable. The course selection is vast and the categories include Personal Development, Lifestyle Business, Health & Fitness, Food & Beverage. These are broken down into sub categories also. A few examples of some interesting classes are Aromatherapy, Survival Skills, AirBnB hosting, Reiki, Feng Shui, Decluttering, Food Fermenting. Mindfulness and Anxiety Management. They have ratings from people who took the classes, too. It’s absolutely brilliant and can be done in your space on your timeline.
https://www.masterclass.com/ MasterClass classes are taught by respected and renowned experts and celebrity instructors in a series of high-quality video lessons, typically with a supplemental workbook that can easily be downloaded and printed for more information. Membership starts at $15/month billed annually. The $180 per year price point may sound high, but it’s easy to make it worthwhile, by simply watching more courses.
They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can always take a course or two and decide if MasterClass is worth it for you.
https://www.craftsy.com/ You can join Craftsy for $8.99 per month/$89.99 per year or purchase Classes individually for around $40.
A note about the cost of classes. A $10 bottle of wine every day for 30 days is $300/month. Do your own month or check your sober tracking app to see how much money you have saved. You’re worth the investment.
Some places to look for in-person classes in your area: Local craft stores like Joanne’s or Michaels, Local community colleges, and Kitchen Supply Stores for cooking classes.
You Tube Classes
You can learn just about anything on YouTube for free if you search for it. Here’s a few examples.
Bon Appetit Cooking Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/bonappetit/videos
Jewelry Making https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFfDgO2kWcs
Cooking and Baking
If you’ve wanted to learn how to cook, now is the time to do it! As hobbies go, cooking is very versatile and serves so many purposes. Ditching booze and creating the life we want healthy is Part of our strategy to stay
I honestly didn’t give cooking a real go (outside of tacos and meatloaf) until I was 50 and sober.
Cooking can be intimidating and overwhelming to those of us who don’t have a knack for it. But I had come to a crossroads-I was ready to really take control of my health and that meant I needed to prepare food with healthy ingredients that I wanted to eat. When you omit certain oils, sugars, gluten and chemicals, and you want fresh food, you have to roll up your sleeves and get busy in the kitchen.
Cooking is also an important tool to help you heal in recovery. Taking the control to put the right, healthy foods into your body will start to repair the damage from alcohol, empower you to keep going, and help you deal with cravings.
I needed my meals to be healthy, easy, quick, delicious and low carb. (This is what works for me as I am highly insulin resistant. To date, I am down to 35 pounds from eating this way and practicing intermittent fasting.)
Here’s what helped: Following people on Instagram and YouTube that were in line with the way I wanted to eat. My hands down favorites: https://www.youtube.com/c/AllDayIDreamAboutFood Low Carb Yum and Maria Emmerich at https://mariamindbodyhealth.com/
I promise that these foodies are easy to follow because cooking is HARD.
Pick up a few cooking magazines or a new cookbook (flip through it first in the store or virtually on Amazon.) I love the Southern Keto cookbook and most of Maria Emmerich’s. Her ingredients are clean and most of the recipes are easy.
If you can find a local cooking class, do it.
Udemy has many, a few include Absolute Beginner, Crock Pot Meals, Indian Appetizers and Snacks, Cooking for Busy People.
If this will never be your jam, or you’re busy now with all of your other hobbies and sober adventures, try a meal delivery program or visit my Instagram highlight “Heat & Eat” for my healthy list from Trader Joes and Costco. www.instagram.com/midlifesobergirl
Crafts are a large source of hobbies, and so vast you may need to try several different ones to find what you like.
Here are just a few craft hobbies:
1. Macramé. Yes, the rope braiding we used to do at summer camp. It’s totally back/never left and there are so many cool things you can make with it.
2. Jewelry making. Start with earrings and bracelets. Use your local craft store for ideas and supplies.
3. Learn to Crochet, Embroidery, Needlepoint, Knit.
4. Scrapbooking. Craft stores have starter books where you just put the pictures in them and buy some stickers to add. Wait until things are on sale.
5. Stamping & Card making
Encouragement: you can learn how to do almost anything on YouTube. There are private Facebook groups for everything so once you find something you like, search the subject to find a group you can join to find tips and ask questions from others.
Drinking stole our time, our drive, our desire, our money, our peace. Not any more. When you stop letting alcohol control your life, you have more time to use, more money to invest in yourself, and the energy you longed for.
After you get rolling and confident, you might want to share what you are learning with others so they can learn too, maybe even start your own blog about it!
80 Hobby Ideas to Get you Started
Your life will fill up with fun activities that make you look forward to the day, not dread the sludgery of it. Go make a list of hobbies and find your thing! Below is my list of 80 Hobby Ideas to get you rolling:
Painting – Will Kemp Art School
Blogging – www.wix.com
Poetry / Songwrting
Photography – https://www.udemy.com/course/photography-masterclass-complete-guide-to-photography (on sale for $30 at time of this writing.
Graphic design – Canva is a complete game changer. You can use their templates or create your own. There is a free version and a $12.99/month version.
Local theater – Google community and local theater in your area.
Quilting Learn to Quilt Tutorial
Crochet – Learn to Crochet I know someone who uses this as a ministry and makes prayer shawls
Scarf making – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU_sxq6aH44
Braided t-shirt rugs – http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-braided-t-shirt-rug/
Card making – Handmade cards in minutes
Wreath making – How to Make DIY Dollar Tree Wreaths
Pottery – A beginner’s guide to the stages of clay
Mosaics – Beginner Mosaics Tutorial
Soap making – How to make natural melt and pour soaps
Woodworking – Woodworking for Beginners
Flower arranging – Arranging flowers like a pro
Leather working – Start Leather Crafting
Making handmade Christmas gifts – bath salts, soap, jelly, apple butter, or chocolate candy
Baking: Sugar free, macarons, cheesecakes, bread, gluten free All Day I Dream About Food
Cooking: Paleo, crock pot, one pan, smoking and grilling, Low Carb Yum
Gardening – How to start a garden
Landscaping – Landscaping ideas
Indoor herb garden – https://platthillnursery.com/how-to-grow-indoor-herb-garden/
Learn Tik Tok Hacks – Follow DIY Queen @southernescape and @DIYwithEmma for so many ideas and hacks.
Clearing out and consigning or selling on ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, thredUp – Sell your unwanted stuff
Upcycling: Thrifting and reselling
Natural cleaning products – Follow Bren over at What Bren Did to get started
DIY beauty: By watching clips on YouTube, you can learn to do everything from cutting your own hair to sewing your own clothes.
Brain Sharpening Hobbies
Play card games: canasta, rummy, bridge
Walking .Enter you first 5K and walk it
Walking Tours Take a walking tours of nearby areas-a river or water area, an historical area, a special park. Get exercise while you learn about the place where you live.Take photos along the way of plants, birds, and sites.
Pickleball. Compete or become a coach
Weight lifting. Get your certification degree and teach seated fitness to seniors.
Nature walking / hiking
Listening to podcasts and audiobooks – Podcasts are free. Audible.com is $14.99/month
Learning a language
Learning to play a musical instrument
Read the Bible
Investing – How to invest in stocks
Geocaching – https://www.geocaching.com/play
Brain Training Hobbies
Play card games: canasta, rummy, bridge
Self Care & Relaxation Hobbies
Meditation – Use the apps InsightTImer (my favorite) or SimpleHabit
Essential oils www.youngliving.com
Helpful to Others (look these up locally)
Become active in local organizations
Volunteer at church, children’s centers, and senior groups
A local animal rescue center
Homeless shelter to help serve food.
Work to save the environment: Organize a neighborhood clean-up.