Those first few months of sobriety often stretch your understanding of what it means to put mind over matter. However, it really does get easier to distract yourself from thoughts about drinking as time goes by.
In the meantime, it helps to surround yourself with lots of compassionate support while also developing a few go-to strategies for keeping yourself distracted when the urge to drink strikes.
Use these distraction strategies to jumpstart your plan to avoid drinking while also discovering new interests that make living a sober lifestyle more enjoyable.
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Distraction Strategies to Help You Stay Sober
Hit the Water
There is just something about being around any type of water that generates a soothing effect on your spirit. Hop into the outdoor pool for a relaxing swim, or head to the beach to surf some waves. Even a warm bath will take your mind off of drinking long enough for you to regain your resolve.
Attend a Meeting
Group meetings are a huge part of a sober living environment, and you can always find someone to help take your mind off of your problems. Participating in a group meeting helps you remember why you don’t want to drink, and the other members are always ready to help distract you from your cravings.
Call a Friend or Family Member
Sometimes, talking about drinking makes the cravings worse. When this happens, call up a friend or family member and chat away about everything else under the sun. Alternatively, you could sit with a housemate by the fire pit and discuss the details of your day. Focusing on a different topic of conversation gives you a mood lift while giving you further insights to ponder when thoughts of drinking arise.
The powers of meditation extend far beyond just giving you mental relaxation. As you practice meditating, you also gain more control over your mind. Visit a meditation room or simply set up a comfortable place to sit on your bedroom floor. Then, focus on a positive thought that helps bolster your confidence.
Experiment With a New Recipe
It is common to skip meals or be malnourished when you have struggled with alcohol addiction. Now you can rebuild your health while also taking your mind off of drinking by spending some time in the kitchen. Find a new recipe and give it a try. Then, invite your friends to give you their feedback. You might just discover that you have a hidden talent for cooking.
Watch How-To Videos
It is important to have a few distractions up your sleeve that can be used when you just need a few minutes to get past a craving. How-to videos online can be found on a wide range of topics, and these videos can range from fewer than five minutes to over an hour. Pick one that fits your interests and time available, and learn a cool new life hack or increase your understanding of a newfound hobby.
Dive Into a Novel
Whether you prefer audiobooks or a classic paperback, there is nothing like a good novel to help you stay distracted. Visit the library or check online for low-cost books that will keep you stocked up on reading material for the next several weeks. You can even start a book club to turn this distraction into a long-term interest.
Hone Your Focus
There are times when the urge to drink strikes and you can’t get heavily involved in a different activity such as when you are at the grocery store or sitting in a waiting room. When this happens, try honing in on the details of your environment. Describe to yourself the colors of the paint, the textures of the furniture, or notice the features of the people around you. This strategy is often enough to jolt you back to whatever activity you are engaged in so that you don’t fall prey to temptation.
Host a Video Game Marathon
Getting lost in a video game is easy since the majority of games require intense focus to make progress. Grab a friend or start a single-player game that you know will keep your interest until your craving ends. Whether you play for an hour or half the night doesn’t matter as long as it helps you stay sober.
Go for a Long Bike Ride or Walk
During your treatment, you likely learned that physical activity helps beat cravings while helping your body to heal. Now, use this activity to also distract yourself from thinking about drinking while enjoying some exercise in a natural environment. As you bike or walk, direct your mind toward noticing the things in your environment such as the flowers that are blooming or the vehicles that line the urban path.
Play with a Pet
With their playful, nonjudgmental personalities, pets offer the ultimate distraction. Engage your dog in a game of fetch or spend a few minutes petting your cat. If you don’t have a pet, just ask a friend to let you borrow theirs for a few minutes. It’s a guarantee that any time you spend with an animal will quickly dissipate any ideas you had about drinking.
Keeping a list of distractions in your sober living strategies is essential for overcoming urges. Now that you have a few ideas to get yourself started, keep them updated as you discover new interests that help you stay strong in your determination to live a healthy lifestyle.
This post was written by Kevin Brenden, a graduate of California State University, Channel Islands with a BA in Communication. After dealing with his own demons, it became clear to him that he needed to change the direction in which his life was moving. He has found his passion in helping people become the best versions of themselves.
First published in June 2017; updated December 2021