If you’re a teen or young adult, it may seem like a lot of fun to get high or drunk. When you look at your friends who are intoxicated, they don’t seem to have a care in the world. Any problems are buried under the intoxication. You may decide to join in so you can fit in, be cool or forget your problems. Before you make that decision, it would be better if you could take a closer look at those people’s lives and see what kind of damage they might actually be suffering that is not so easy to see from the outside.
Hangovers, getting dangerously close to overdoses, emergency room visits, upset and fights with family, falling grades, lost scholarships or jobs, broken relationships, dulled perceptions, cloudy thinking, poor memory, illness and injury – these are the common results or using drugs or drinking. But nobody warns you about this the first time you reach for a joint, a bottle, syringe or pill. The truth is that there are many, many other activities available to you that are safer and more productive and that can bring about a result you enjoy far more than getting high.
This article says “twenty sober activities” although it could as well say “one thousand.” If you try some of the activities on this list or think up your own, you could just have fun or perhaps you’ll learn something or gain a new skill. Certainly, many of the items on this list may not interest you – everyone is different. Maybe you’ll get ideas from just a few. Some are more oriented to females than males and vice versa. Some require money and some don’t. Take your pick from our list. It’s our hope that you discover (if you’re not sure now) that living sober is a lot more fun than joining those who are drinking or using drugs.
- Do you like team sports? There’s leagues for bowling, softball, touch/flag football, soccer, hockey, basketball and volleyball. But maybe you didn’t know there’s also leagues for water polo, frisbee, broomball, kickball and dodgeball. For an idea of what New York City offers, just to get you thinking, look here.
- Start reading. Go to the library, get reading lists for your grade level or areas of interest.
- Visit a hobby or craft shop in your area. Pick one item. When you finish with it, pick a different one. Keep doing this until you find something you really enjoy and then focus on that.
- Join a gym. Not just any gym, but look around until you find one where the other people look more or less like you do and work out like you want to.
- Take classes at your local YMCA or YWCA. There’s everything from yoga, baby care, belly dancing, aerobics, spinning (the exercise kind of spinning), swimming, weightlifting, you name it. Time it right and your kids (if you have them) may be able to take their own classes at the same time.
- Start an online course. The sky is pretty much the limit here. You can find free classes from Microsoft on how to use their software, tutorials from Adobe on using page layout or photo editing software, photography, animation, music, anything. The website www.lynda.com offers thousands of courses for a modest fee. The website http://www.ehow.com will teach you how to do just about anything, from roasting pumpkin seeds to making a coat out of a blanket.
- Start an offline (that is to say, it happens in the real world) course. What have you wished you knew how to do? Plant a garden? Restore old cars? Cook? There are many ways to start learning at little to no charge. Kitchen stores may offer cooking classes. Community parks or libraries may offer gardening classes. A community college will usually offer automotive classes at little cost.
- Find public gardens in your area, gather up a few friends, and go as a group. Join a tour and learn about the plants. Have lunch under the trees.
- Visit a zoo or aquarium. Some of them have sleepovers for young kids. Take your kids or nieces and nephews. Some also have classes to learn more about wildlife.
- Volunteer. Actually, there’s hundreds of opportunities here. Homeless shelters (some for women and children), hospitals, homes for the elderly, these need help in most towns. Some areas need help removing plants that don’t belong there (called invasive species), parks may need help building trails or maintaining playgrounds. Beach areas are sometimes the focus of cleanup parties. If you have a talent for working with kids, there may be tutoring opportunities or you may be able to help the autistic. If you attend church, the staff are sure to know of people or organizations who need volunteers. Suggestion: If you’re volunteering for the first time, keep your commitment very short so you are free to try different types of volunteering. Then, if you fall in love with one particular method of helping, you can engage in this one more fully.
- Learn how to write songs. There are free online courses or there might be a music store or community college in your area that offers classes. Or learn an instrument you’ve always liked. There are plenty of free videos online to get you started. Sheet music is cheap.
- See what you can pick up from college lectures that are offered online at no cost. Some universities and colleges offer a selection of their lectures on YouTube. For example, the University of California offers all kinds of lectures at no charge. Economics, energy, chemistry, history, business, nutrition, languages, engineering, computer science – the list is too long to list here. No cost, no risk, if you don’t like it, you can quit and try something else. See what you might have a flair for. You might decide to make a career change or continue in or go back to school. You can check out UC’s YouTube channel. And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also offers free courseware. Find their guide here.
- Study a language you’ve always wanted to learn. Every library has language training CDs available.
- Want to travel but don’t have the money? Start with those language lessons and then add travel videos for your favorite countries. Spend your time now figuring out what you’d like to do when you do get to that country.
- Learn a sport you’ve always thought looked like fun. Kayaking, golf, paddle boarding, soccer, sailing, disc golf, handball, scuba diving – it’s such a long list!
- Find a series of podcasts that interest you. Maybe you want to learn more about finances, the music world, your government, your religion, cooking or food in general or technology. There’s so many podcasts available. Here’s one person’s list of the 100 top podcasts to give you some ideas.
- Do you live in an historic area? If so, you can probably find guides to walking tours in your area, complete with descriptions of the significant points along the way. Collect up a few friends and act like tourists.
- Have some friends over for potluck. But instead of having them bring completed dishes, have them bring ingredients and everyone cooks together.
- Have your own film festival. Line up a series of movies in a single genre or featuring a single actor, actress or director. Invite friends over. Everyone should bring food or refreshments. Discuss the merits of each movie before moving on to the next one.
- Plant a garden. Annuals, bulbs, trees, grasses, food-producing plants like tomatoes and zucchini, whatever you choose. You’ll enjoy the result and you’ll feel good about what you’ve produced. Your local garden or hardware store can help you get started, and there’s always books at the library and videos online to help. Some communities give out free trees to their residents. Ask at your City Hall.
There are thousands more ideas like this. Perhaps this list will get you started thinking. Sure, it’s more work to complete an online course or learn a new skill than it is to light a joint. But you will get far more out of it and those good results will last longer than a few hours.
Note: Inclusion in this article does not constitute endorsement of any particular website or service.