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!

lemonsoda

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 can’t remember what blogger (or maybe it was a sober penpal) wrote that really, we do all the things we already do without a drink in our hand. And this makes sense to me to a point.

I think that a lot of us stopped having fun when we got to be adults. Fun was something for kids. And the only suitable adult fun was drinking, so we poured ourselves into that.

Without the booze, can there be fun? The answer is a resounding YES! HELLS YEAH!

What am I missing from this list? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you like this article, you might like the one I wrote about enjoying vacations without alcohol or just check out all my posts about not drinking and recovery.

Wondering if you should quit drinking? Check out my audio class here. In the 20 minute class, I’ll walk you through my simple test to tell you if you should take the 100 Day Challenge and tips on how to do it.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Primrose April 18, 2014 at 8:33 am

hey, birthday girl 🙂

hope you had a lovely day! what a great list. and I’ve just very much enjoyed your pronunciation tutorial! and yes, I did know how to pronounce it already, but I wanted to hear how you sounded, and you are lovely! but hey, you already knew that 😉

lots of love, Primrose xxx

Reply

Rebecca A. Watson April 19, 2014 at 11:56 am

You are so sweet 🙂 Thanks lady and happy birthday to you!

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Momma Bee April 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

This is fabulous~ thanks for sharing!!! Happy Birthday Rebecca!

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Rebecca A. Watson April 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

Thank you my dear! 😀

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Victoria April 29, 2014 at 12:24 am

I am on day 20. The longest stretch that I have been sober for 10 years…I just found Kombucha! It is wonderful in so many ways.

I also keep plenty of Yogi Skin Detox Tea around. 🙂 I am looking way better.

Reply

Rebecca A. Watson April 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

Hey Victoria! Congrats on day 20! That’s excellent work 🙂 Be careful with Kombucha…it’s a fermented beverage. I don’t know how much alcohol is in it (I think it’s pretty small amounts), but I know in the U.S. you have to show your ID when you buy it! That tea sounds amazing. And isn’t it nice to look in the mirror and see brighter eyes and smoother skin? Love it! Keep it up lady. You’re making it through the hardest part. It only gets better.

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Brittney October 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm

This a a great list. Sometimes as an adult, we tend to think that having a good time always involves a drink, but that is so not the case. Thanks for sharing!

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Rebecca A. Watson October 21, 2014 at 10:07 am

Thanks for the comment Brittney. Agreed, a good time doesn’t need to involve drinking, even if a lot of what our culture says says otherwise.

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Sunny Ennis December 8, 2014 at 8:57 am

Terrific ideas! Nice to know someone else gets it.

Thank you for this post.

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Jakes V May 23, 2015 at 11:52 am

Came across this article looking for idea for a clean and sober birthday.
My last two birthdays were very low key. but gosh-darn-it, this year I’m 30 and I deserve to be celebrated! You’ve inspired me to do 30 Days Till 30. And I plan to steal all of your ideas. 🙂

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Rebecca A. Watson May 23, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Woooohoooo! That is great to hear 🙂 Keep me posted on your progress and your birthday!

Reply

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