It’s Freezing and I’m Sober. What Do I Do All Day?

When you've got the right attitude, activities and friends, sober winters can really heat up

January 12, 2024
Man climbing a mountain in the snow

In the past few years, we’ve all had the pleasure of learning some fun new weather terms to describe whatever the heck is going on outside: “polar vortex,” “bomb cyclone,” “snownado.” Extreme weather and disorienting fluctuations every week — welcome to the new winter!

Whether you’re in recovery or not, this can all be a drag on your mental well-being, just like anything else that saps your mood, from relationship problems to the front-page news. 

You can’t do anything about the weather. And you’re allowed to have rough days in recovery. But it’s tough to internalize cheery sober imperatives like “live life on life’s terms” and “stay in the present” when you’re walled up in your home behind a phalanx of space heaters — in the dark at 4:30 p.m. Being active and social are important to recovery! It’s freezing and you’re sober: What to do?

You’re Sober. Now What?

Before we even get to the wind chill, let’s remember that your sobriety needs a little care and feeding year-round. Some call this “maintenance” or “recovery hygiene.” Meaning, what do you do on a day-to-day basis to protect and strengthen your sobriety?

For many people, this daily maintenance includes some practice of meditation or mindfulness, or a connection to a higher power. It can also include attending daily recovery meetings, in person or online, to help you feel connected and secure in your sobriety. Staying physically active with some form of exercise or low-impact practice like yoga goes a long way too.

If you get in the habit of asking yourself, “I’m sober, now what?” on a regular all-season basis, with a positive outlook, you’ll be in better shape than if you just start letting the question crowd your mind when the mercury dips. Being cold and inside all the time can zap anyone’s energy and resolve, and you’ll need reserves of these to maintain your sobriety.

But! That doesn’t mean winter has to be a complete washout.

It’s Freezing, You’re Sober — Have Some Fun With It

A big part of recovery is staying active. When you slow down and let your recovery stagnate, you run the risk of letting your mind wander into the what-ifs of picking up familiar old addictive behaviors again. In early recovery, that’s normal and understandable when you’re feeling shut-in and uncomfortable.

But remember that even if winter is a nuisance, addiction could outright rob you of the activities you loved, as well as the opportunity to find new ones. Recovery gives you the chance to get that back. Winter’s no problem compared to addiction; there’s really no shortage of things to do this season, indoors or out, now that you’re sober.

Need suggestions? Trying flexing your creativity with something artistic like sculpture or painting. Get into cooking and baking. Crack open your journal or get started on that book you have in you. It’s not too late to learn cross-country skiing, snowboarding or ice fishing. 

You’re also allowed to get out of the cold for a spell! Your mental health <em>can</em> indeed be negatively affected when you don’t get enough sun. There’s a reason South Florida came to be considered the recovery capital of America. Catch a flight to somewhere sunny for a few days, and you might find it’s rejuvenating enough to keep you upbeat till spring arrives.

Stay Connected to Your Recovery Community During the Winter Months

Another game changer during the cold months: staying connected to other people in recovery. Having a healthy sober network you can rely on — when times feel rough and when times feel right — is an essential part of recovery for most people. With a healthy sober network, whenever you’re wondering, “Now what?” the answer can be, “Call someone.”

When you’re plugged into a recovery community, social opportunities come up in fair weather and foul. You’ve got a sober group of friends at the ready for dinner gatherings and late-night hangouts. With a recovery community, you’ve also got friends you can lean on or vent to when you’re feeling down — and an avenue by which to help others who may be struggling right now.

Warm Up to Sobriety

Life keeps coming when you’re sober, and that includes the bad days (or months). But if you stick with sobriety, you’ll see it’s not a complicating or frustrating factor. 

On the contrary, sobriety gives you the bandwidth and balance to navigate challenging periods in a healthy and positive way. That goes for winter doldrums too, whether you’re cold and bored or dealing with more serious seasonal depression.

So strap on your skates, call up an old friend or cozy up to a fire. Let “what do I do all day?” be a question that excites you with possibilities.

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