Novelty. What’s that got to do with quitting drinking?
Our brains want excitement. Life is deemed boring or uninteresting, so we drink to have ‘fun’. It’s like jumping from an airplane without a parachute: fun (perhaps), but dangerous. It’s like gambling: the losing, the waiting to win, then winning but wanting more, not knowing why. The thirst not even quenched by winning. It’s like wanting that one mythical drink, and then drinking more, and more: you’re pouring two bottles of wine on your head and you don’t even know why.
So let’s say you are sensitive, often over-stimulated, a bit ADD. Being sober seems dull. What will I do for fun? How will I unwind (how will I lose track of time and just turn off my brain?).
How do you get novelty when you’re sober? You actively, constructively, with intent. Manufacture it.
Novelty = read, learn, sample, create.
If we need novelty, then we count days. Record our sober momentum. Get high numbers of continuous days sober, don’t break the streak, have a new personal best every day.
If we need novelty, we train for a 5K run. A 10K. A half. A full. Trail runs, triathlons, relays, midnight ‘over the hill and back again with a flashlight’ runs.
If we need novelty, we actively create it. You’ve seen me do this. I’m always experimenting with different ways to build community (what can I learn if I do this? Does this work? Can I apply that technique to this situation?). You’ve seen me create novelty: host a live call on Mixlr, a group conference call with free conference software, send out paper newsletters (with lovely French stamps), write case studies, record one-minute audios, film videos, make longer (ranting) podcasts, conduct interviews, write blog posts, write for Medium, write a book.
I’ve also created a lot of novelty in the catering work that I do: naked wedding cakes, savoury pancakes, can you make a good vegetarian panne cotta, can you use the whey from home ricotta to make bread? (yes)
You say: Being sober is so boring. Without alcohol, my whole life seems dull.
And I say: it’s ok to crave novelty. in sobriety, you CREATE your own novelty. Here are some ideas, you can read them, dismiss them as not applicable, and then pick 5 and do them (ha!).
- Survey: go to all restaurants in the Washington DC area that serve dulce de leche cake for dessert. Or find the best tacos. Or sample all of the food trucks outside your office. Or eat a different sandwich every Friday. Document with photos.
- Go for a long run, and take a new picture of something every 10 minutes.
- You’re a parking lot attendant? Why aren’t you learning Italian on headphones for 8 hours a day?
- Read. There is no frigate like a book. Donna Leon, Susan Hill, Nicci French, Timothy Taylor, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Read all of Dickens in order, sampling one perfect phrase per day and posting to Instragram
- Write. Get an app like Commit, and do 15 minutes a day, every day, of writing or editing. I’m on day 163 of continuous writing.
- Keep an end-of-the-day gratitude diary. It causes you to scan your day while you’re living it, to see if THIS is the best moment of the day.
- Track your weekend cycling logged against a map of the country, and ‘ride cross country’ marking your progress.
You want novelty? The world is an amusement park. Your life is as interesting as you make it.
- Buy dishes at yard sales and resell on eBay. Or silver. Or baseball cards. Or Led Zeppelin memorabilia.
- Use your photography skills to take quirky photos for Airbnb listings in your city (contact the ugly ones, offer to fix for free, create a before and after series on Facebook). do it for free. for fun.
- Collect clothes from co-workers and cut them up to make quilts for the women’s shelter.
- Grow ten different kinds of roses and document their progress.
- Do a daily photo diary of your lunch for a month.
- Learn how to make an alcohol-free version of tiramisu with regular grocery store ingredients.
- Visit 10 small grocery stores until you find one who will save their dead bananas for you so you can make banana bread and donate it to the food bank.
- Watch YouTube videos to learn to make doughnuts, paint leaves, promote your real estate business, or put on makeup.
- Take piano lessons with the sole intent to be to learn how to play the Peanuts theme.
- Watch 2 versions of West Side Story and 3 versions of Romeo and Juliet and compare. Create a version with sock puppets.
- Sample 8 kinds of vanilla ice cream then try to make your own.
- Take the train/bus/car to a new town. Eat in a new place. Walk a new way. Go to the new theatre. Novelty.
(Wake up every day with a hangover, mentally wrestle with your brain, dreading the day ahead; quit drinking every only to buy wine at dinner time and begin again.)
Wake up every day without a hangover, and see the world as an amusement park, where the biggest wrestle of the day is: What should I do first?