20 Ways to Enjoy A (Birth)Day Without Drinking

by Rebecca A. Watson on April 17, 2014

in habits, holidays, Recovery

Yesterday was my birthday, y’all, and I am, as they say, a big fan. I pretty much celebrate it all month long. This year also happens to be the third time in a row (aside from childhood) I’ve celebrated the day without drinking.

While I think you’re pretty much allowed to do whatever you want on your birthday (short of breaking some of those Ten Commandments), I really wanted to celebrate my 30s without the drunken debauchery that marked most of my 20s.

Some of the search results that bring people to my blog are phrases like “things to do without drinking,” and I know plenty of my sober pen pals wondered how the heck you existed during a weekend without the booze to take up your time.

In honor of my birthday, I thought I would share some of the ideas I have for how to spend a day — birthday or otherwise — sans alcohol. I have done pretty much all of these on my birthday in the last three years, and let me tell you, every year just keeps getting better.

1. Go beverage exploring. You know that soft drink aisle? Yes, the one we thought was named “mixers.” There are loads of delicious treats just waiting for you to discover them. Go to the store with only Yummy N/A Beverages on your mind. I did this yesterday and came back with some fizzy lemony drinks I thought could only be found in Italy. Score!


2. Set up an N/A “bar.” Heck, it’s your birthday (or a sunny day, or just a day). You definitely deserve to have all the amazing things in your house to create a variety of delicious concoctions of your own design. And it will cost a fraction of what it would if you were drinking, so happy birthday to you! Need some ideas? There are no shortage of great non-alcoholic drink recipes on the Interwebs.

3. Go out in the morning. Lots of folks set up a birthday dinner for themselves, but for some that might be too tempting. Or maybe you just need a change of pace since you always have done that and need to rewire your brain. Why not meet for breakfast? Before work even. Yeah, like early.

Or do brunch if you can handle skipping the mimosa/bloody mary train. (I can, but I was never into day drinking.) Or how ’bout just skipping food altogether and meet for cake, ice cream and coffee. Now that’s my kinda birthday celebration.

4. Go for a hike. I’m talking a real, bring-a-snack, better-pack-some-water, put-your-big-girl-shoes-on kinda hike. Plan it a day or two in advance so you’ll have time to prepare and go out for a few hours. For me this means six hours, but I know not everyone is that into trekking through the woods.

hannah rebecca hiking

My hiking soulmate: Fourteen miles? I’ll pick you up around 9.

5. Visit a museum. If ever there was a place that doesn’t tolerate drunken behavior, it’s a museum. OK maybe that and the library.

6. Browse the DVDs at the public library. Check out a classic to watch later that night or in the week. Here are some ideas. What? You don’t have a library card? Well, that’s tragic. Since you’re at the library, I’d say it’s a good time to remedy that.

7. Do some quick chores. OK, I know this sounds like something really lame to do on your birthday. I used to be of the belief that you shouldn’t do anything un-fun on your birthday, but there is something strangely satisfying about finally checking a few small things you never seem to have time to do (drop your winter coat at the cleaners), and you did it on your birthday too. Yeah! You’re rocking this day!

8. Keep your PJs on and read. The introvert book worm in me could be talked into this almost any day of the week, but sadly I don’t think I’ve done this since the final Harry Potter book came out. This might be on the list for next year’s birthday.

9. Get a Tarot reading, have your palm read or get your astrological chart done. Unless you’re one of those folks that are superstitious and don’t wanna know your “future,” this is a fun activity that few people rarely allow themselves to do. Even in the smallest of towns there are people offering these services. If you’re far off the beaten path, I would recommend Louise Edington, who does awesome chart readings. If you’re interested in Tarot, you can contact me.

Crystal ball for seeing into the future with miniature bubbles inside

Because you know you want to.

10. Get take away and watch a cheesy movie. That’s what I did last night. Nothing says luxury to me like coconut curry roasted duck, yoga pants and Hellboy. God bless my husband for being such a trooper. He barely talked any smack about the movie either. Not sure about the movie? See No. 6.

11. Learn something new. Lately I’ve been really into learning about astrology, probably because of the madness that is April 2014. There are plenty of things to learn, and thanks to the Internet, so much of the information is free. You can get serious and browse the free online college courses or just check out this list of randomness.

12. Take a nap. How often do we want to sleep and can’t? Today is the perfect time to take a nap. Seriously. Do it. It’s good for you.

There's a reason we worshiped cats for centuries.

There’s a reason we worshiped cats for centuries.

13. Pow-wow with some like-minded folks. Read sober blogs. Go to an AA meeting if that’s your thing. Email, call or text a friend who also doesn’t drink. Remind yourself why you do this awesome not-drinking thing.

14. BYOB Spa Time! Pick your favorite place to get a massage or pedicure (or both!) and book an appointment. Bring your own delicious beverage if they’re more known for serving wine than non-alcoholic delights.

15. Dinner at a restaurant with good N/A cocktails. If you’re a social type who wants to have the dinner out, I get it. Wine bars and breweries are their own special hell for those of us not boozing. So why not choose a place with fun mocktails? Juice bars, vegetarian joints and many random restaurants have quite the selection. Not sure? Call ahead and ask!

16. Pack up a picnic. Nice out? Who doesn’t want to head down to the park and sit in the sunshine? Or shade? Need some help with the menu? God bless Pinterest.

17. Bake yourself a treat. Sharing optional. When I was a kid, baking was an event. Friends would come over and we would go to town. We’d be making marzipan at the age of 11. No joke.

behr thanksgiving

All grown up.

Why not make yourself a great birthday cake? Or pie. Or cookies. You don’t have to be traditional. Feeling social? Do like I did as a kid and invite some friends. Tell them to bring recipes and extra baking paraphernalia — cookie sheets, mixers, ingredients, etc. This way you can cook more and clean at the end.

18. Be a kid again. Remember birthdays as an eight-year-old? You weren’t (most likely) jonesing for booze. You were drawing with sidewalk chalk, breaking pinatas, playing on the swings at the nearby park, playing basketball, eating cake.

This stuff is still fun. I had a friend who set up a full-on baseball game for his 30th birthday. That means 18 people had to play. That took some effort and coordination. And they had a blast. Think back to what you had at your 11th birthday party. Mini-golf? Or better yet, what do kids do now? Laser tag? Bouncy houses? Yes, do this.

19. Play a board game. I love game nights. We used to do them every Friday at my house. Yahtzee. Jenga. Sorry. Clue. Yeah, there are a lot. Maybe get all adult and learn to play chess well. That’s on my (Nothing’s) Impossible List. Or just be plain silly and play dirty word Scrabble.

20. Watch the sunset. When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a sunset? Unless you live on the some western coast next to a body of water, I’m going to guess it’s been awhile. Make some hot tea or cocoa (especially if it cools off where you live), throw it in a to-go mug and head out to your nearest western scenic outlook. Be amazed. Life is beautiful.

This is my friend's photo. You should click it and look at his site.

This is my friend’s photo. You should click it and look at his site.



I grew up in Midwest, where everything is on a grid. Streets ran east and west. Avenues crossed them at a pleasing perpendicular north and south. It was insanely easy to find your way around. I had an excellent internal compass, or so I thought, until I moved into Minneapolis, where the mighty Mississippi worked all sorts of havoc with my inner GPS.

Even after living there for seven years, whenever I headed over to the Riverside area of town, I would still get lost. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that all the bars with good music were over that way, but I digress.

Troublesome or not, I love this city.

Troublesome or not, I love this city.

Since moving out of Minnesota, this phenomenon has only gotten worse. In California, there was an ocean on one side of town — the south side for that matter. The Pacific Ocean had always meant west to me, but not anymore. And on the other side were mountains. The roads rarely ran on true north and south.

And Europe? Forget about it. The buildings and roads were designed before cars really existed. Now, whenever I’m walking or biking around a new place and my directions tell me to continue along a certain road for a few blocks or miles, I’ll usually keep checking the road signs as I go to make sure I’m still going the right way. It just gives me peace of mind.

Recently, I’ve been looking around, trying to figure out what I should be doing. Like, what’s my next big thing? Cause, you know, I’m an Aries and a Type-A personality, so the fact that I’m not even a year into my international move and am writing a book isn’t enough. There’s gotta be something more. Something else.

“What should I be doing?” I ask the Universe.

And guess what the Universe whispers back?

You’re on the right track. Just keep doing what you’re doing. 

This is a most disappointing answer. How boring, I think. But it would seem this is the message I get around this time of the year, at least for the past few. In 2012:

We all have to make a great journey, and of course we all come back to our original starting point, but it looks much different because we’re different. … I feel like I’m on my path now. I didn’t even realize that — holy crap! I was SO effed up for the first few weeks when I decided not to engage anymore [in an old conflict], completely off orbit. I felt so weird. And then lately I’ve felt so on my path, like I know what I’m doing and what I want to do and I’m doing it. It just feels so good, and not necessarily easy, but right and like the Universe is clearing my path in front of me. I didn’t even realize that until right this moment.

And in 2013:

I feel like I am making big steps in the right direction. There’s another thing: Peace. In my mind and in my body.  I do the things I love: garden, cook, grocery shop, clean. Without rush. Without worry. I think I’m pretty well on track. And who knows what will happen with everything? Exactly. You want to leave some room for mystery.

This is my birthday month, so I’m always really doing a lot of personal inventory and reflection as well as goal setting for the next year. A Rebecca New Year, if you will. And for many years, there have been plenty of things to attend to. I mean, seven years ago I didn’t even floss my teeth or work out.

Still, not a bad smile. Maybe the pig helps :)

Still, not a bad smile. Maybe the pig helps :)

But now, I’ve got many things a lot more under control. I’m not saying I’ve got it figured out or that I’m perfect. Nah. What I am saying is that I have a set of goals I’m working on right now and that’s enough. I’m on the road to making those dreams a reality. Let’s not put too much more on my plate. Let’s leave some space for the unknown to come in and visit.

I think it’s important to note that when I wrote this, I was still several weeks from knowing anything about a job offer for Sante in Germany. In fact, we were putting an offer on a house. If I’d added more goals on top of the ones I was already doing, would this opportunity not come along? Who knows?

The point is, in reading this, I figured something out: Listen to the Universe when it says you’re doing well. Believe when it says you’re on the right track. These are the road signs I look for because I just need a little extra encouragement.

After all, although the physical roads were easy to navigate in my childhood, the metaphorical road signs weren’t that obvious; sometimes they were hidden. I had no idea where I was going for a long time. Now that I do, maybe it’s time to trust the signs and continue to let the Universe work its magic.

So this year for my personal resolutions I’m going to keep on writing my book, work on improving my German, continue traveling whenever possible and set a place at my birthday table for the star guest, mystery. Because lord knows, I’m a fan.

Wondering what this Monday Morning Pages thing is all about? Read how it started. Or check out all the archives.

Photo credits: Matthew Paulson


Reminding Myself: 18 Quotes to Encourage Self Care

by Rebecca A. Watson on April 10, 2014

in life, love, priorities

One of my favorite sites, EcoSalon, revived a recurring column I love, which basically aggregates quotes around a particular theme.  They are great and I’ve decided to steal the idea for my post today, partially because it’s way to nice outside to sit on this computer any longer and partially because, well, I need the inspiration.

I don’t know about you but I sometimes forget why the heck it is I practice self-care. I collected some quotes from my meditations, the interwebs and other books I have to remind me. I hope they help you too.

“Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility: For his hand, through heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen.”  – Kahlil Gibran

hand hold

Trust your guidance.

“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”  – Joan Baez

“Bloom where you are planted.”  – Nancy Reader Companion’s Aunt Grace

“Freedom lies in bold action.”  – Robert Frost
(It’s bold to take care of oneself, I think. Some might call us selfish.)

“Love is the most powerful known stimulant to the immune system.”  – Bernie S. Seigel

“One must learn to love oneself … with a wholesome and healthy love, so that one can bear to be with oneself and need not roam.”  – Freidrich Nietzsche

“Living well and beautifully and justly are all one thing.”  – Sophocles

“Be a friend to thyself, and others will be so too.”  – Thomas Fuller

“Living well is the best revenge.”  – George Herbert

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”  – Oscar Wilde

Brought home some lilacs for myself this week :)

Brought home some lilacs for myself this week :)

“To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.”  – Alan Cohen

“Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it.”   — Thaddeus Golas

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”  – Malcolm S. Forbes

“Do something every day that is loving toward your body and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the sensations of your body.”  – Golda Poretsky


Yoga = Luxury

“My willingness to be intimate with my own deep feelings creates the space for intimacy with another.”  –  Shakti Gawain

“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”  – Lucille Ball

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.”  – Buddha

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”  – Jean Shinoda

That last quote really spoke to me. A lot of what this April challenge has been about is finding room in my life for the things that really nourish me. And I know I’m a soul with more time than the average folk.

What I’ve learned, both in the week-and-a-half I’ve been doing this challenge and in the past several years of life, is that if something is important to you, you’ll find time. Or you’ll slow time down so you can fit it in. Self-care and self-love are at the top of my list right now. I hope that you’ll make them a priority too.

Photo Credits: Cayetano, lyn tally


Monday Morning Pages: Rest Thyself

April 7, 2014

Wanna hear something kind of embarrassing? When I first started on this journey of healing and self-improvement around 2007, I didn’t like to hear that others were doing better. Stories about people who had turned their lives around weren’t inspiring to me, like they are to many people. Nope. It was like somehow I was […]

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30 Days Without TV: Everybody needs a vice/vise.

April 4, 2014

Quitting watching TV for 30 days was more difficult than quitting drinking. Period. Full stop. When I decided that March would be a month without TV, I thought it was going to be tough like my Facebook challenge had been. But I figured that after a few days of missing it, I would go along […]

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Monday Morning Pages: Self Care

April 1, 2014

I’m fully aware that yesterday was Monday. I was trying all afternoon to write something yesterday but it came to this: I said goodbye to my friend Amy and crawled into bed and cried. I needed to. There was no way any sort of meaningful post was coming out of my brain. Thankfully I’d made […]

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March 31, 2014

Today I said goodbye to my friend Amy. Monday Morning Pages will be Tuesday Morning Pages this week. For now I just need to cry a little, eat some chocolate and maybe watch a movie because thank GAWD I can watch TV again. (More on that later.) Or maybe I’ll watch some comedy. I’ve been […]

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Expat Loneliness & Making Friends 101

March 27, 2014

Today my friend Amy is going to stop by. I make coffee although she never has any. It’s my excuse to drink the extra cup. We sit in my sunny living room on the couch, knit and talk. Although I’ve only known Amy for about seven months, we got close pretty quickly. Part of that […]

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Monday Morning Pages: Vulnerability & Art

March 24, 2014

Yesterday’s post is by far the most popular thing I’ve written on this blog. I’m both happy about that and completely weirded out. There are a lot of people looking at photos of me with no makeup, taken just a few minutes after I’ve woken up. Last year when I took the series of photos, […]

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Before & After: One Year Without Alcohol

March 23, 2014

  When I went to post this, I was all concerned because I couldn’t take the picture exactly as it had been taken before. We live in a new house. I had to get a new phone (hence, new camera) because our American phones wouldn’t work here. I cut my hair. This wasn’t exactly the […]

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