10 ways to have a lush sober lockdown

Jardine Libaire | March 2021 | 10 minutes

Jardine Libaire shares her top tips for loving and luxuriating in life - without a drink in your hand.

A note from the team at Alcohol Change UK: As you read this, loving life might feel quite a long way away. At the moment, your goal might be just to feel a bit better - and that's ok. We hope Jardine's blog helps you to feel hopeful, and to start thinking about some of your ways to happiness.

Locating ways to be a lush without the booze, and feeling a little bit rock and roll without a bottle, is central to luxuriating in a sober life. It’s also the reason Amanda Eyre Ward and I wrote The Sober Lush. We’d both been miserable drinking and yet, we were also both unbelievably terrified of sobriety, buying all that BS about sobriety being sombre, humourless, tame. Can you still be raw and wild, can you trip out on life, can you fall in love, holding a ginger ale? Yes, we discovered—by redefining pleasure.

I never want to pitch the idea that sobriety ‘cures’ all difficult emotions. I was born shy and I’ll always be shy. Drinking used to be my way out of self-consciousness. But I do have agency over making my life lush, so now I do things about it, inviting it in, rather than passively waiting for it to happen.

Many traditional sites of pleasure are still inaccessible in locked-down Britain and worldwide, but here are a few you can add to your magnificent experiment of Sober Spring, that you can do at home, without breaking the law, right now.

1. Stay up all night for no reason

I knew a painter who would sometimes wander, sober, ‘til dawn, sketching the moonlit woods. I was inspired since staying up all night, in my mind, used to belong exclusively to party monsters. But he just wanted to upend his consciousness, to rebel against the rules of day and night, to crack open his door to new ideas.

2. Make a ritual of sunset drinks

The ceremony of ‘aperitifs’ doesn’t have to disappear. The non-alcoholic options these days are amazing. You can stock jarred tarragon, smoky bitters, or quince jam, or wildflower honey. Drinking vinegars, orange-flower or hibiscus water. Steep herbal tea then serve it cold. I love poking around in charity shops for super-cheap glassware and pitchers too, since the more over-the-top the whole presentation, the better.

3. Curate a digital rabbit hole

It’s ridiculous to think I’m not going to spend a couple of hours online some days, especially as the real world is still closed. So I might as well be deliberate. I love NASA’s internet library; watching neutron stars tear each other apart to form a black hole. Sites that store the history and sounds of Jamaican reggae. Alison Bechdel’s radical cartoons. BBC clips on YouTube of a young Alexander McQueen designing a leopard-print dress. Sober, I still want to zone out sometimes, but in a beautiful direction.

4. Roller-skate, skateboard or scooter

We become inhibited, afraid of letting go, as we grow up. We almost forget how to play for the joy of playing. We avoid any chance of becoming objects of ridicule. This one is simple: just get back on wheels and fly downhill.

5. Send postcards

Posting postcards to friends, emailing a quote from a favorite novel, texting a photo of my disastrous attempt at soufflé or of a lurid sunrise—it barely costs a penny, and it’s amazing how putting love out there (instead of waiting for it) can jack up a bad mood.

6. Find a nerd group

Now that the world has mastered virtual meetups, it’s easier than ever to get involved in a rainbow of forums, from museums to Reddit to Facebook groups to tiny local organisations. When the person sharing their knowledge is giddy and generous to be discussing it, I feel like good nerd energy can help us combat a cynical world.

7. Read sad poems

Sobriety for me hasn’t been a cure for sadness or grief or loneliness, nor, in my mind, should it be. Just like meditation isn’t supposed to make me happy but rather will help me sit with ANY feeling. When I’m sad, instead of numbing it, it can be liberating to lean into it. The site www.Poets.org allows you to search for poems based on theme, and when I look up loneliness, or anxiety, or jealousy, the poems give me a way to be with that emotion.

8. Do a sound bath

Before I moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, I had no idea what a sound bath was. Turns out to be what you might imagine: you get washed by bells, harps and drums. It’s like an invisible spirit pours music delicately through your mind. Usually it takes place at a yoga studio or meditation center with musicians, but now you can do them online with masters like The Copper Vessel.

9. Write a ‘sensory page’

This is a version of the ‘morning pages’ many people love to do. Just fill one notebook page with a list of things you’ve seen, heard, felt, smelled or tasted in the past 24 hours—good or bad. Your language doesn’t need to be lyrical, your handwriting can be illegible. It’s just the act of remembering and focusing on the sensory plane of life that can massively shift our moods.

10. Take a polar bear plunge

Need a rush? Throw on a bikini or swim trunks under a winter coat and make your way to the local pool or ocean or lake. Look out at the icy water, have second thoughts, and jump – breathless – electrocuted by the cold – laughing - get up and out, shivering, shrieking, and wrap yourself in a blanket and race home. You get that lovely spike in feeling, but instead of being hungover afterwards, you’re not broken at all. You’re stronger and feel very, very alive.