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22 Things to Do Instead of Drink This Year

A woman walking down the street and feeling happy because she is sober in 2022Image via Matthew T Rader/Unsplash

Whenever a new year starts, avoiding all the people who talk about their New Year’s resolutions ad nauseam is nearly impossible. Here at Tempest, though, we’re not really fans of New Year’s resolutions, because there are lots of reasons why they don’t work. And given the past two pandemic-centered years, 2022 might not be the time to set resolutions anyway.

Still, it’s hard to bypass the fact that a new year does symbolize a fresh slate for a lot of people. With that in mind, we wanted to talk about how to invest in yourself in the new year in ways that don’t involve drinking. For many, the month after the holidays is a great time to take a look at your relationship with alcohol. When you do this, though, you might find that you have lots of extra time on your hands, which is why we’re recommending a few things to do instead.

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Basically, instead of promising yourself that you won’t do something (a typical “resolution”), you’re promising yourself to do something this year that involves making your life a little better each day. After all, there’s no point in making resolutions that you won’t end up keeping once February 1st rolls around. You can set goals (and we definitely encourage that) but what we love about investing in yourself in ways that don’t involve drinking is that you are actually doing something that betters you.

There are many things that you can do to promote self-care, of course, but our list of 22 things to do instead of drink is a great place to start. And don’t worry: Even if you’re reading this well beyond January or well beyond 2022, it’s NEVER too late to invest in your future. Start today with some of our ideas below!

1. Get better sleep.

You’ve probably heard over and over that, you should get a full night’s sleep… but I am here to tell you, once more, how important it is. If you don’t believe me, then I suggest you read Matthew Walker’s excellent book, Why We Sleep. He’s a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, and a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard University—meaning he knows what he’s talking about. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night because this is probably THE best form of self-care you can do.

2. Learn something new.

There is always time to learn something new, and the new year is exactly the perfect time to tackle those goals. It doesn’t have to be something for your career, either (though that’s nice, too). If you’re sober, perhaps you can take a refresher course or sign up to work with a recovery coach. The point of learning something new is to invest in yourself to develop a new skill set. But learning something new or refreshing something old is also a nod to better mental and emotional health, especially when it’s centered around self-care. There is no wrong or right way to do this one, as long as you actually DO it.

3. Compliment someone.

It’s a little thing but the truth is that compliments make us ALL feel good, psychologically speaking. You can probably remember a time or two when someone said something positive about your hair or the fact that you turned in that assignment early. Well, pass along the love! Passing along compliments to others can also make YOU feel good in turn, too. So try it today… just make sure it’s a genuine compliment in order to reap the mental health benefits for yourself.

4. Improve or change a habit.

Let’s first take a minute to talk about this term “bad habit,” because that’s something we hear often, and especially at the beginning of the year. Habits are the things we do every day. Habits are benign, really. There are definitely habits that move us in a positive direction, and there are habits that move us in a not-so-great direction, but really, that’s all up to you. If you’ve decided you want life to go in a different direction, evaluating habits is a key factor in making change. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re interested in spending more time offline. That means you might be re-evaluating your tendency to pick up your phone when you have downtime. Maybe you want to drink less or take a break from alcohol. This will likely involve you taking a look at when you drink, why you drink, and where to cut down.

You might notice that I am not saying you have to quit your bad habit, though. I mean, sure, that might be nice but it can also be a lot of pressure for some of us. If you just want to work on changing a habit or simply cutting back slowly until you feel good enough to quit, that’s okay too.

5. Start saving.

Look, I get it: Saving money is HARD. But it’s also one of the best things I did for my mental health in the past year. I did it by hustling on a side gig all year and putting 100% of the money from my side gig into my savings, which has been monumentally helpful as I had a baby in 2020 and thankfully had a legit emergency fund when I needed it this year (and the next). Recently, my home had an issue with wasps and I had to pay extra to sign up for a pest control service. And guess what? Having that savings account really helped! You don’t have to start big, though. Even if it’s just $100 a month or $5 a week… Saving little by little can really add up.

6. Go to your library.

I often see “read more” on people’s goals lists. But you know what’s even better than that? Supporting your local library, which, coincidentally, allows you to read more. I love going to my local library to browse through books I love, discover new ones, or even use their app to download audio or digital versions of books. Your local library is a hub for the community, providing classes, services, and a safe (FREE) space for people.

7. Connect with your community.

Speaking of local: Have you thought about getting more involved with your community? A great way to invest in yourself is by investing in others. If you’re looking for support as you navigate your relationship with alcohol, it might be time to invest more deeply into membership in a sober community like Tempest. You can engage with your local church, food bank, or other volunteer-like activity. You can also network more in your field or attend conferences. The “community” aspect here applies in any way you want. Basically, it’s just about connecting with others—something that always makes you more in tune with yourself and is a great investment in your future.

8. Organize your home.

We’re big fans of Jocellyn Harvey here. She wrote the ultimate guide to decluttering your home in recovery called Recovering the Home. But you don’t have to start with a lengthy project. It can be something as simple as a little bit of decluttering around the house in the new year. A great place to start is with your closet. I’ve always been a fan of Tim Gunn’s rules when going through the closet: Make a pile for things you plan to keep, make a pile for things you can mend, and a pile for things you want to donate. My only rule is that the things you “keep” have to make you feel like a million bucks. Like, literally. If I try something on and I am looking in the mirror and thinking “hmmm, maybe,” then it ultimately goes in the donate pile. Unless something I wear gives me confidence or makes me feel super comfy, I don’t keep it. And yes, that even goes for that one dress you bought that you thought was SO CUTE at the time and then didn’t wear all summer long. (What, that was just me?)

9. Eat something good-for-you.

We’re not talking about dieting here. Diets don’t work and, most of all, they can be triggering for those that are in recovery from an eating disorder. However, what you CAN do is add in more good-for-you foods. You don’t have to take away your much-beloved indulgences (like sugar) but it’s totally okay and even recommended if you eat the occasional green once in a while. Don’t make it a big, stressful goal, though. My general rule is to do the best you can, such as asking for mixed greens instead of roasted potatoes as your side at brunch, but don’t worry too much if you can’t manage to do that with every meal. Enjoy your food and remember that it’s what fuels you.

10. Get on the budget train.

One of the ways I was able to save up to have a pretty decent emergency fund recently is because I got serious about budgeting. I tried a bunch of apps, including the highly-regarded You Need a Budget, and ultimately settled on my own Google spreadsheet which incorporated some of the lessons I had learned about how to budget. My favorite tip from YNAB, in particular, is about how you should calculate all of your expected big expenses throughout the year (think twice-a-year car insurance payments, holiday/birthday presents, vet bills if you have a pet, etc.) and start putting money in a separate savings account for all of that stuff. This helped me see that I didn’t have to freak out when I needed to take my cat to the emergency vet this past July since I already had some money saved in my “vet budget” for the year. Doing something simple like this, along with keeping track of regular monthly expenses, is a great way to start the new year.

11. Move your body.

Whenever someone tells me that I need to exercise, I resist. I know that it’s something I should do but the truth is that I just don’t love going to the gym and being surrounded by my fellow humans who are sweating and grunting away. It’s just not appealing. But you know what I do love? I love dancing and I love taking long walks with friends. That’s why, when I say “move your body,” I mean find ways to exercise without actually exercising. Of course, if you love CrossFit or yoga, definitely keep doing those things. But for many of us, exercising is associated with getting back to the gym on January 1st and it just doesn’t have to be that stressful.

12. Go outside.

Vitamin D is extremely important to our health and happiness, including helping to ward off depression. Guess what most of us don’t get during these cold winter months? Yup, Vitamin D! And that means feeling down might be more prevalent this time of year. No wonder seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect so many this time of year. Just as I am recommending that you engage in some movement, I’m also recommending that you get yourself outside a little bit every week. Perhaps you can even pair the two by inviting your friend to go on a small hike or even explore the local public park together.

13. Use social media smartly.

I’m not a big fan of people who say that we all need to put our phones down and stop our social media obsession. For one, this seems extremely negative. Secondly, it’s kind of shaming. And most of all, it’s just unrealistic. Many of us live part of our lives online and it’s a great place to connect with like-minded folks, like fellow sobriety enthusiasts. What I do recommend, though, is using social media smartly. This means unfollowing people that make you feel bad (whether it’s because you’re comparing yourself to their lives or because they post negative comments) and only engaging when you truly want to. If you need a break, then take a break. But, for me, nothing makes me feel better than when I narrow down my follow list to people I actually am happy to see in my feed daily.

14. Explore your creativity.

In sobriety, many of us get back in touch with our creative younger selves. For me, this meant that I was journaling non-stop as well as indulging in coloring books. It’s become a great activity for when my anxiety peaks and allows me to do something fun and creative. Others I know began writing when they got sober, started podcasts, indulged in photography, and so much more. So, what was the creative thing you loved doing as a kid? Do that again!

15. Drink more water.

Just like sleep, this is something you already know you should be doing but I am here to remind you once more. It’s not as difficult as you think to drink more water and the health benefits are outstanding (they’re even backed by science!). All you really need to do is know where your nearest source of water is and make sure that you always have a device to drink it from nearby. I invested in a Tervis recently and it’s been an absolute life-saver. But you don’t need to buy a fancy new water bottle to do this one. Just make sure that, wherever you are, you are either carrying a water bottle or have a cup of water nearby.

16. Evaluate your friendships.

Just as I recommend that you go through your follow list on social media and unfollow anyone that no longer makes you happy, you should do the same thing in real life with your friends. I often go through my phone at the end of the year and check in on who I am still talking to regularly. Sometimes, I find that I am keeping someone’s number in my phone simply because of an extended history but don’t really see myself talking with them in the future. That’s why the end of the year period and the early new year is a great time to see who you still feel connected to and who you still want in your life. Sometimes, friendships fade or become negative, and you need to let them go. That’s okay. It’s not easy, mind you, but it’s necessary.

17. Go to therapy.

This is not something you will see on any other “invest in yourself” list but you know what? Going to therapy is one of the best things you can do for yourself, wherever you are in the recovery journey. It’s huge to be able to invest in your own mental health and is something that will surely reap great rewards in the near and distant future. For me, going to therapy is an absolutely crucial part of my own recovery and not something that I would ever miss out on. I’m lucky that my therapist is covered by my insurance but, before I got on my current plan, I was seeing a therapist who had me paying on a sliding scale. This worked pretty well, too, and allowed me to deal with a lot of my early anxiety issues just after getting sober so that I didn’t have a relapse (again).

18. Take your PTO.

Another thing you won’t often find on lists that tell you how to invest your time or money is the advice to take all of your vacation time from your employer, but here we are anyway. The very sad truth is that 55% of Americans do not take all of their vacation time and that makes me really sad in a nation of people who are pretty much on the verge of burnout constantly. If you are lucky enough to have an employer who gives you Paid Time Off, do yourself a huge favor and actually take that time to yourself. Don’t just wait until you are sick to have a day off. Instead, invest in yourself and your happiness by planning a few vacations (or staycations, if money is tight) throughout the year. This is a long-term investment that will pay off by not only helping you come back to work refreshed but also will help keep your sanity in the long run.

19. Spend time on your list.

Now that we’ve got this handy dandy list, you know what you need to do? Actually spend TIME on it. This means that whatever is on your 20212goals list (and whether or not you take our advice), you should devote a little bit of time every single week to actually make sure that you are doing the things you want to be doing. Goals are really great to have but they’re not going to accomplish themselves. You need an action plan, even if your only action plan is to take 10 minutes every week to do one of these things.

20. Play a board game.

I often find myself wondering what I should do in the evening now that I no longer drink. One thing I found that keeps me occupied to the point that I don’t even want to check my phone is playing board games with friends. I’ve enjoyed some of the modern classics like Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, Pandemic (terrible name, amazing game), and Ticket to Ride. And I’m eyeing the newly popular Wingspan to try soon. When you don’t have a group, a game like We’re Not Really Strangers, Twilight Struggle, or Disney Villanous can be great options for just. you and one other person. Lately, I have also been exploring solo board games (which often also can be played with a partner or more people) like Cascadia, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, or Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.

21. Set up a de-stressing corner.

2021 was a difficult year, and it’s true that the concept of self-care has become popularized and cheesy. We are headed into another year that comes with hope and uncertainty though, all at the same time, which means taking care of ourselves is still really important. While all of the things on this ling count as self-care, I suggest you make a specific space for your house that’s just for you and has some of your favorite items for self-care and de-stressing. Having a safe space is a great tool in your toolbox if you’re not drinking. For me, that’s a comfy chair with a little table that contains my favorite books, a candle, and a cozy blanket. For others, it may be a meditation corner or a spot on their porch to drink a morning cup of coffee. Whatever helps you de-stress, we will need even more of that in 2022. So, get some rest, and get ready for a new year!

22. Prioritize being present.

This is something that I am personally planning to work on. Not because I think I am using my phone too much (though that’s sometimes true, too) but because I often find my mind wandering to stressful things when I am trying to connect with my partner or with a friend. In order to accomplish this, I am going to start a mindfulness habit by using a meditation app. Another good way to do it is by simply practicing bringing yourself back to the moment. Basically, if you find yourself not present in the moment, start by focusing on your breath and re-engaging with whatever it is you are doing. It’s easier said than done, sure, but you have all year to get it right.

* * *

At the end of the day, there are a LOT of things you can do that don’t involve drinking this year. And honestly, you can make the choice to give up alcohol anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a new year for you to take a step back and figure out what it is that you want, and do it. This list is just a start, but if you have something else in mind, we’re all for it. All that matters is that what you do feels authentic to you!

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