If I don't have a fulfilling life sober, what's the point? It's a question virtually everyone who's gone sober has asked themselves, whether they're in recovery from addiction or simply giving sobriety a shot to see how it feels.
How you read the question depends a little on your attitude at a given time, but we've found it helpful to look at it this way: When you're sober, you free up time and energy (and money and calories …). Sobriety is opportunity, and you might as well make the most of it.
So, what to do, now that you're sober? We were curious what kinds of activities nine people who live sober have taken up for fun and satisfaction, so we asked, in the latest installment of our Recovery Roundtable series. You may already have your own thing, but maybe you'll get inspired—whether you're in long-term recovery or early recovery; sober curious, sober for Dry January or thinking about keeping it up beyond. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
All Sober: What activities or hobbies have you taken up (or reengaged with) in sobriety that help you stay happy, fulfilled and sober?
So, before my addiction, I was a musician. I loved music, I loved playing, but then when my active using came into play, I put my guitar down and obviously that wasn't my activity anymore; it wasn't my happiness anymore.
When I got into rehab, I found my music again. I started playing guitar again, I started writing music again, and honestly, for those low moments, I just picked my guitar up and I wrote music. And that helped me through all of my lows and my highs.
At one point I deleted all of my contacts out of my phone that had any negative impact on me, all of my old friends that I knew who were still using. And my best friend became music. So music definitely helped me remain sober.
Taylor Stensrud | Marketing and operations manager at Dogs Matter, a Dallas-area nonprofit providing people in addiction treatment foster care and other support services for their dogs
I celebrated five years of sobriety at the end of December. In the beginning, it was tough getting reacclimated to everyday situations, social settings and, eventually, back to work. One of the best things you can do in early recovery is to take on responsibility—and having a pet at home, even if temporary, is a fantastic way to do that. Dogs, specifically, can help to reduce loneliness, create social opportunities, lower blood pressure and provide a sense of purpose.
I'd wait until you have a solid foundation (at least four to six months of sobriety) before adopting or fostering a dog. You can visit your local animal shelter, contact rescue organizations, search different Facebook groups and look for posts on the Nextdoor app. There are thousands of homeless dogs out there looking for someone to give them a second chance.
But even if you can't foster or adopt, there are other ways you can help by volunteering at these organizations. Most will even let you take a dog for the day so they can get some time out of their kennel just to run around and feel alive. Go to the dog park, meet other dog lovers, be social, be outdoors and get involved!
Jessica Mendez | Sobriety and sexual abuse advocate
An activity that helped me get through sobriety—especially in the beginning, the first month and the first few months—was boxing. I love boxing, and I was able to take something that I really like doing, and do it all the time. I worked out very often, and during that time that I was boxing, I wasn't thinking about anything else except boxing.
Then, all of the sudden, I feel stronger, I feel better, I wake up in the morning full of energy because I'm not hungover, and I'm ready to work out.
I've done everything from singing in a barbershop chorus to skating with a roller derby league; from becoming a karaoke star to learning web design. I’ve done adventure mud runs and rocked out at music festivals.
There are so many places I've been and experiences I’ve had in sobriety, namely because I’ve been sober for 15 years, from age 24 onward.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it took me a while to get my sea legs. Baby steps.
Kasim Sulton | Rocker with an all-star résumé, former vocalist and bassist of progressive rock band Utopia, and now a solo artist and radio host
First and foremost, I've learned how to enjoy making music without the use of any mind- or mood-altering substances. It was really a whole new experience, because for so long, I didn't think I could perform well without a drink or a drug. Discovering my God-given talent again after so many years was, and is, wonderful.
Second, I've developed a passion for cooking and baking! I've become somewhat of a "foodie," and being able to create a plate of delicious food for family and friends is truly a satisfying experience. Not only do I have a signature dish, I actually have a signature dessert too! (The dish is penne in olive oil and garlic, with broccoli rabe and hot or sweet Italian sausage.)
Chelsea Dueitt | National partnerships manager at The Phoenix, a sober active community with group events and classes, ranging from yoga to rock climbing, in 36 states
My favorite Phoenix activity is CrossFit! I’ve been doing CrossFit now for five years, and it has completely changed my life and has given me more confidence and courage than I have found anywhere else.
I believe a big part of CrossFit is community, so for The Phoenix to begin hosting CrossFit events was a no-brainer.
I’ll also add that CrossFit may be my activity of choice, but I will participate in any activity that The Phoenix offers if given the opportunity. After a few sessions, it becomes more about the connections built rather than the activity we’re participating in.
Kristen McAvoy | Founder of sober social media community Sober Girl Tribe
Some things that help me stay happy and fulfilled in sobriety are going to church, spending time with my family, and I got a puppy, so I spend a lot of time outside walking her. Exercise has helped me tremendously. And then having my Sober Girl Tribe community that I created where I can connect with other people in recovery, it helps me stay sober.
One thing that I treat myself to in sobriety is once a week my boyfriend and I will go on a date night together and will pick either Mexican or our favorite place, and we'll just splurge and get whatever we want. That's kind of my treat to myself each week.
I played golf as a kid, but during active addiction, it wasn't even close to a priority. In sobriety I got back into it. In fact, my first sponsor was a great golfer; we spent a lot of time on the course talking recovery.
Time in nature on the golf course has been instrumental in my sobriety and sanity. It's a great way to let go for a few hours. I try to play as often as possible, but the number of holes has decreased quite a bit with the birth of my first child.
Ruby was born in August of 2021 and has changed everything, in the best way possible. Time with her has brought me so much joy. I hope to get her out on the golf course with me someday.
David G. | Licensed counselor working in substance use disorder counseling at Connections Wellness Group, headquartered in Denton, Texas
The activities that I was able to fill the copious amount of time I had in early recovery were mainly found in the fellowship of the 12-step program. There was never a weekend that there wasn't some type of function happening: a dance, fish fry, campout, convention, etc. Granted, it was up to me to participate, but this was a boon to my recovery.
Additionally, I was interested in personal growth and took this opportunity to enroll in school and work on an education foundation, not only for a career but also personal enrichment. These were the places that I was finding new people and activities to replace the old people, places and things.
Ultimately though, what begins to fill the time of the recovering person and bring satisfaction and fulfillment is just: successful life. People who recover on a daily basis from the disease of addiction begin to build upon success after success. They become good employees with careers; they become effective, successful spouses and/or parents; and they become active and vital members of either the community at large or subcommunities like churches, civic organizations or recovery organizations.
Life will engage the recovering person whether they want it to or not.
Top photo: Pexels / Harrison Haines. People photos, from top: Courtesy of Mindy Davey, Taylor Stensrud (credit: Jan Osborn with Dallas Doing Good), Laura Silverman (credit: Andrew J. Williams III), Kasim Sulton, Chelsea Dueitt, Beau Malatesta / Ashley Addiction Treatment.