Things to do instead of drinking alcohol

Cutting back on booze can be a real challenge. This is why it’s so hard to quit –  and how to stay ‘dry’ if the going gets tough.

Alcohol is deeply entrenched in Australian culture, with drinking linked to many annual social events.

But the research is clear when it comes to the risks of drinking.

“Consuming alcohol has no health benefits and can increase your risk of many diseases, including cancer,” says Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Dr Erin Lalor.

“Minimising alcohol consumption can reduce a person’s risk of injuries, accidents and developing chronic diseases like cancer. It can also bring a range of other benefits such as improved relationships, fitness and finances.”

Why it can be hard to quit drinking

Monash University associate professor Steven Roberts says drinking is “deeply embedded as a cultural norm”.

“(It is) often felt to be an important social lubricant that helps people to relax and even connect with others, especially on social or celebratory occasions; so going against the intangible pressure of the cultural norm is hard,” Steven says.

Dr Lalor says people trying to reduce alcohol consumption often face stigma and unsupportive responses.

“These may make them feel socially isolated and question their relationships. Unhelpful comments may lead to consuming alcohol when they don’t want to. Other health goals could also be derailed,” Dr Lalor says.

quit alcohol

Things to do instead of drinking alcohol

Health benefits aside, quitting alcohol – either for good, or for a short time like during FebFast – has a couple of big pluses.

You’ll have more quality time on your hands, and more money to enjoy it with.

Here are eight ways to make the most of an alcohol break:

Have some ‘me’ time

Go for a massage, get a haircut or take time out for a beauty treatment you wouldn’t normally get. Or just curl up on the couch with a good book.

Ramp up the exercise

Been meaning to reacquaint yourself with your gym membership? Swap after-work drinks for a workout, or your hangover-induced sleep-in for an early morning fitness session.

Try out a new hobby

Always wanted to take an art class or learn how to sew? Use that new-found spare time (and cash) to finally take the plunge.

Not only will you learn something new, but your mind won’t be so preoccupied with thoughts of sneaking in a cheeky vino. Distraction is your sober friend.

Reframe your catch-ups with friends

If your socialising usually revolves around a shared bottle of wine, it’s time to find some alcohol-free alternatives. Meet for brunch instead of lunch or dinner, see a movie or take a hike or day trip.  


Lend your time and skills to a local charity. Whether it’s an animal shelter, soup kitchen or aged care home, many organisations are crying out for help. Research shows volunteering makes you feel good, too.

Get organised

Whether it’s a Marie Kondo-style closet clean-out or a digital cleanse, there’s no doubt that decluttering is good for your soul (and your surrounds). Use your alcohol break to get yourself on track for the year ahead.

Drink something else

Yes, it can be challenging to be the drink-driver if you’re out for the night.

If you are really missing your favourite tipple, there are a now wide variety of alcohol-free alternatives on the market, from beer to gin and bubbles. And some of them taste so similar that you could easily mistake them for the real deal. Or swap your usual margarita for a mocktail.

Join a supportive community

Online resources such as Hello Sunday Morning can be a great help for the days when you feel your resolve crumbling.

Written by Sally Heppleston.