Kate's Blog

“I’m Bored… And Drinking Gives Me Something To Do.”

Recently I spotted an interesting comment on my blog about feeling bored.

It said: “I’m finding it difficult to quit, because I’m so used to having a glass in my hand in the evening. It feels like it gives me something to do. I’m bored in the evening. Has anyone else experienced this?”
Boredom is a surprisingly common trigger in early sobriety.
Whilst many people love the extra time that sobriety frees up, others feel a bit lost without alcohol to fall back on in the evening. 
Today’s blog isn’t some patronising list of ideas for things you can do in the evening when you’re sober…
Instead I want to talk about what’s really going on for us when we’re bored – and what the real fear is…

Key points:

Feeling bored isn’t actually a bad thing

As humans, we’re meant to experience the full spectrum of positive and negative emotions – that’s how we’re designed. There can be a bit of stigma around boredom, but it can also fuel so much creativity.

Sobriety itself isn’t boring

Let’s get one thing straight: alcohol isn’t magic joy juice. Drinking until you pass out on the sofa at home, alone, isn’t fun or interesting. It just makes you numb enough not to care that you’re bored or unhappy.

You may need to make other changes

Most people drink in order to fill a void of some sort, e.g. an unhappy relationship, an unfulfilling job, loneliness or feeling bored with your daily routine. If you take alcohol away, but do nothing to change those other factors, you’re probably going to feel it. 

What really scares us?

When we feel bored, we notice our own thoughts. If those thoughts are very negative, then hanging out in your own brain isn’t going to be a great experience. This is where the real work of sobriety is – facing up to your own mind.

Choose your discomfort

What would you prefer: the discomfort that comes with drinking and all the negative side effects? Or the discomfort of stepping out of your comfort zone and making changes in your life? 
Alcohol free living is not as simple as just taking the alcohol away. It’s about creating a life you don’t want to escape or numb out from.
If you’d like some help and support to quit drinking – and create an alcohol-free life you love – click here for details of my online course.

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


86 Responses

      1. What if you are bored at home with nothing to do every day for 15 years? I think at that point numbing myself out seems like as good an answer as any other.

    1. When having a glass in my hand and sipping became a habit out of boredom, a first step was to replace what’s in the glass with something nonalcoholic; what worked best for me was something tart rather than sweet. Addressing the boredom came a little later.

    2. I can’t take wearing a mask for a full workday, so I stay home & drink. SO depressed….I looked forward to getting a job again once my kids were in school

  1. Agreed! If you are bored, so what? It’s ok to be uncomfortable, it won’t kill you. Ride it out, and figure out how to make real changes in your life – rather than numbing yourself.

    1. Absolutely! Many of us grow up thinking it’s not ok to be uncomfortable – instead we’re always looking for a way to change or escape our feelings.

    1. Just hitting 6 month’s AF. So starting to plan some boredom buster’s. They just need to open the Spa’s and theatre’s.. Next year I think I am going to study again. Thank you for the inspiration.

    2. Kate,
      I really appreciated your video re boredom. It’s a huge factor for me as to when/why I drink.
      I raised 3 kids teaching them boredom is GOOD and a helpful tool that can lead to creativity. I kept them from being too busy in this insanely scheduled culture in order to leave them SPACE for boredom and quiet alone time.
      I realize that I am no longer heeding my own advice! I functioned very well as a creative kid and young adult. Alcohol didn’t call my name until age 40 after a devastating divorce and the abuse and pain that followed.
      I’m yearning to get back to being who I once was and who I want my children to become!
      I feel lost and lonely and overwhelmed. I need to embrace the boredom and see where it may lead me.

      1. It’s difficult to sit with those feelings, I know. But drinking never makes them truly go away. It temporarily fills the void – whilst stopping us taking action – which then keeps us stuck IN the void.

      2. Hi Kate
        Words so fit with how I feel. It has been so long since I didn’t use drink as a crutch. If I’m happy turn to drink then if I’m stressed or unhappy use drink to cope. Last night drank bottle of wine woke up this morning in despair not only the drink but weight I have put on. Alcohol makes me feel at the time ‘don’t care attitude’ until the following morning. I have no willpower !!

        1. Hi Susan, thanks for sharing what’s happening for you. I wanted to check you’re getting some support with this? If you’re looking for help to quit (and stop it feeling like a constant willpower battle, which it doesn’t need to be) then my online course can help. Here’s some more information about it: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

        2. Thoughts are the problem and alcohol makes you numb enough to not care. Makes you sleep and not give a… but also has an effect of the body and mine so just end up in a spiral. When I stop I just get bored and then thoughts and worries come back up to the surface and as I don’t want to deal with them alcohol seems like a good option at the time anyway not so much the next morning.

  2. I’m nearly 7 months in now and really happy and enjoying it. I go to the gym, walk and cycle. I’m also very much more productive at work and sleep like a baby. The only downfall was my weight shot up hence joining the gym.

      1. Hi
        I’m a mum on my own. Have come out of a DV marriage have somehow got into a routine of 3 wines a night. I say 3 because it’s bloody tough not to have more. 49 have a good job but yes bored for latter part of evening as Tired and dinner and bed routine. Been prob 5 years of heavy drinking but since separated 10 months I drink no where near as much. I’m a runner so I do exercise but can’t seem to let go of the wine routine at night?

        1. Hi Tina, if you’re looking for support to break this wine routine and get to the bottom of what’s really going on there, I’d be happy to help! The best way for us to work together is via my online coaching programme – here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

  3. It’s boredom yes but it’s also a depressing emptiness that gets me wanting to drink something. I guess that’s the low dopamine, don’t know.

    1. Whatever you’re feeling, the key is to realise that alcohol won’t fix things – in fact, as a depressant, it will make those darker feelings worse.

    2. Boredom is an absolute trigger. I will go to movies to kill time,then upon leaving, say now what. So I drink to kill time till day is over. On other ocassions, when I am sober for a few days. Always trying to quit for last 22 years, my drinking will be fought up in a one way arguement. This makes me shake and will drink to escape

  4. Bingo! I was just feeling bored last evening. I have been so used to occupying my evenings with drinking time that I have forgotten what sober people do or even what I did before drinking. Yesterday was day 3 AF, and a Sunday as well, which means a less structured day. I begin cleaning and cooking. Yep! It may sound like a chore to others, but I enjoy both. I cooked my meals for the entire week, so dinners are prepared after my work days. I then began cleaning my garage, an area that has been neglected for some time. Such a feeling of accomplishment followed by a warm bath and a movie on TV. And it was time for bed while I was looking forward to a hangover free morning. I do recognize that I will be facing this boredom monster for a while until I develop alternative behaviors to drinking, so I am so grateful to hear that others are experiencing similar issues.

    1. It sounds to me as if you’re doing all the right things, Tresa. You’re changing a habit and adapting to a new normal. You’ll get into the swing of things soon… and then you’ll be wondering how you ever had time to drink!! 🙂

  5. This is definitely an issue for me. I know that I have to make some changes in my evenings, but especially during COVID, it’s hard! I am not much of a crafty person, and I work out during the day and usually don’t have the energy/motivation later in the day. Suggestions appreciated!

    1. If you google ‘things to do during lockdown’ you will find tons and tons of ideas! There were so many articles written earlier in the year to help people fill time during quarantine. Have fun experimenting!

  6. I went through this at first. My sobriety date is 4/15/18. I just came home, changed and took a walk. I walked anyway, so I just walk during my cravings at first. Those cravings get few and far between as time passes. I haven’t had any in a very long time. Just substitute a positive for a negative addiction. Bonus is, you will tone up and lose some weight!

      1. I haven’t had a problem with boredom so much because I’m keeping busy with a hobby and doing things that I have neglected. I have a huge sense of accomplishment and feel proud of myself. But I actually miss the taste of wine and the mellow feeling I get but I do not want to go back. The AF wine I’ve found is not good but I make mock tails which are good. It’s AF day 67 for me and I’m looking forward to 100 days. Thank you for your very helpful blog.

  7. I always find that reading this blog is so helpful. My prison was my work. I had very high-pressure, high-profile jobs that had consumed me over the years. I felt that my evening routine of the glass of wine or three took me away from the pressure of my job. Gosh, thinking back, I didn’t even like the way it tasted! It was the comforting familiarity of “enjoying” several glasses in the evening. Kate, you have helped me rearrange my thinking about why I felt the need to drink. Wine o’clock isn’t as horrible anymore. On the rare occasion that I think “it sure would be nice to have a glass right about now”, I remember what you said about how no one ever regrets NOT drinking the night before when you wake up! That is so true. Today I am 9 weeks AF. I’m very motivated for health reasons to remain AF. Also, I’m going back to work one day/week starting tomorrow. I haven’t found boredom in the evenings to be a problem because without drinking, the days are soooo much longer now! I’m so thankful for Kate and all the women who share their thoughts. It has been a blessing for me.

    1. This is so good to hear Kay – huge congratulations on your 9 weeks! I’m wishing you many more amazing, alcohol free days ahead 🙂

  8. I’ve been going to sleep so much earlier these days, since becoming AF, because I AM bored! I know I drank because I was bored!
    Since staying home now, for 5 full months, boredom is even more of an issue. I’m trying very hard to fill my hours here at home, but it really is starting to get very old! Not sure if I picked a good time to quit drinking, but I figure if I can get through this pandemic without my wine, I can get through anything!

    1. Barbara, staying at home IS so boring. I’ve never been so bored. I think it’s fine to indulge in more sleep. Sleeping is better than drinking imo. Do you like to read? You could take a book along to bed and read for an hour or so.

    2. Absolutely – you’ll always be able to look back and know that if you could quit during a pandemic… you’re a pretty amazing person!

  9. So today is day 1 of Monday to Thursday no alcohol, baby steps! I have exercised, had dinner & am now searching for the next distraction, but I have made it past 7pm For the first time in far too long

      1. Brilliant video Kate, thankyou. Boredom is such a complicated concept. In my case it was going hand in hand with depression. It is common for people who retire to begin drinking more than normal, because of this boredom. And I am still trying to build structure in my days and a sense of purpose. Going AF is going to be the only way to achieve that.

        1. That is such a good point. I have noticed that a lot of people seek out help with their drinking once they’ve retired – there’s a definite pattern there.

  10. Thank you so much for answering this question about being bored. This is exactly what I needed to hear today.

  11. Some great reminders, Kate – thank you!
    I think the most important thing for me was just going out of my way to find new things to do! Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. And then indulging in the healthy things I already loved to do.
    It definitely is an immensely fun and rewarding process that gets easier the more times you do it!

  12. Thank you, day 7 sober, just finished finished work for the day, done some others stuff at home which had to be done & trying to get motivated to cook my supper. I did drink wine every night to cope with my boredom and loneliness in the evening. Thank you for your video as I have been thinking a lot about my life and where it is going……

  13. Almost 9 months AF. At first, I drank soda and juice in a wine glass, then tried alcohol free beer. Nowadays I generally do neither and instead enjoy herbal tea. In the evenings I now work on mosaic projects, plan outdoor gardening projects, pot up seeds and plants in an indoor gardening area I created in a spare bedroom, or cook enough food to last a few days. I am always amazed at how much I achieve now, compared to when I was drinking all evening. There is so much to enjoy and it’s all thanks to Kate and her inspiring posts that helped me to get started and continue to support me along the way.

    1. Really needed this advice today. I know that being bored is a definite trigger for me for reaching for that first glass of alcohol and the many more that always follow. Today is the day to stop allowing myself to fall into this “Groundhog Day” trap. I deserve more.

    2. Your evenings sound amazing now – so much fun! So much better than numbing out with alcohol. Congratulations on your sobriety Vicki!

    3. Hello, I am going through the alcohol free beer phase, I think it is about the ritual of having a drink. Was thinking about soda in a champagne glass …what do you think about non alcoholic beer? I feel it is like substituting the habit and i wonder if it is healthy. There is no research i could find on non alcoholic beer beeng harmful or healthy. Do you have any info about it?

      1. Hi Nadia
        I don’t think you’d get through enough zero beer for it to be unhealthy for you. Whatever it takes to keep alcohol out of your glass is what matters! I drank one most nights for awhile but now might have one a fortnight. Have you tried kombucha – I love it and you can get it in beer-type bottles. Apparently it’s really healthy! My favourite zero beer was Heineken. I do remember that stage of still wanting to have a drink in my hand but it passes. Finding things to do in the evening was a good distraction too. All the best and I hope you find a nice alcohol free drink. Keep up the good work. It’s all thanks to Kate’s inspiration and ongoing support that I’m able to be 15 months AF now.

  14. Very insightful and really gets me thinking about why I drink wine… Boredom is definitely one of them. But as a parent of 3 boys and a teacher I often tell my children it’s ok to be bored and that’s where some of the most creative thinking happens. Thanks.

  15. Great video Kate.
    It’s important for us to remember that boredom is actually a very important part of the creative process and we should be teaching our kids how to learn to use it rather than constantly offering them something to stimulate them.
    As a kid it was probably boredom that turned me in a veracious reader, my sisters and mother into very adept crafters of knitwear, clothes and quilts. My father spent his evening tinkering in the garage – he’s very creative and imaginative, never much of a TV viewer.
    To think that less 70 years ago, before TV was introduced, our (middle/working class) grandparents would spend their evenings with handcrafts, reading, possibly the radio, then what we consider an ‘early’ night. The women certainly did not nurse a glass of wine all evening.
    It’s the perception of expectations that creates/alleviates boredom, and rewiring our minds to learn to relax without the aid of booze can be a challenge. Some people go on cleaning frenzies (Mrs D is Going Without) to occupy their minds in the first period of cravings, others adopt active relaxing activities like walking or cooking.
    After a year of AF living, I’ve found that my winter routine has reverted to something similar to what it was before, but with a herbal tea rather than booze, and the prospect that when dinner is over I can truly relax either with a book or TV, music or writing (I suffer print deprivation and prefer to relax with some form of mental stimulation). Previously I would pour a glass of wine as soon as I got home and then all bets off as to what was presented for dinner – often nothing if I was home alone.
    Come summer, I will be able to spend my evenings in the garden as I did before booze took its place a few years ago. I forget who said this this but it’s a great quote (for those who can get into a garden): “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.”

    1. Thanks Anna – such great points here about how life has changed over time. And I love the quote about gardening and tomatoes 🙂

  16. This was a great article/video and makes complete sense. It’s especially difficult right now because of the quarantine. Quite honestly, I’m enjoying boredom in my early AF life because it stirs up a lot of ideas, a lot of day dreaming and time to think and plan the coming months.. goals, recreational fun, people to see and visit or working on getting better at a job. When I get up and go on with my day I embrace my new energy and revel in it.
    Going to store to exchange something, doing a few loads of laundry, grocery shopping, walking the dog, listening to a few podcasts about AF living, and making dinner to me is a great guilt free full day.

  17. Yet again you’ve hit the nail on the head. My quantity of alcohol may not be high by some standards but it’s why I drink that bothers me. Boredom, hiding away from my inner thoughts and for the 1sr time you’ve challenged me to find my creativity in whatever guise it manifests itself. Thank you.

  18. Love this Kate, I’m 7 months in after your January 2020 course. I love your videos, my alcohol free life is so much better. I’d never intended to do more than the six weeks sober on your course but I just kept moving the goalpost. It’s still not always easy, I’m on holiday in Crete and holidays are a bummer as you would love a nice cold wine but I just keep keeping on. I would highly recommend Kates course to anyone, there is so much support and information out there if you look instead of burying your head in the sand. I watched your bloggs and emails for two years before I jumped in. Just a note to anyone thinking of doing the course, Kate offers a money back thing if after a week you don’t want to continue. I only did the course on that basis but goodness I was shocked when I didn’t want to stop.

    1. Thanks Lucy, it’s great to hear from you and know that you are doing so well! Your first year AF is full of lots of different sober firsts… and your first holiday abroad is one of those milestones. It’s bound to feel weird at first as you practice making different choices and creating a new normal. Here’s an older blog of mine you might find helpful: https://thesoberschool.com/alcohol-free-holiday-this-year/

      1. Thanks Kate, I have to work at it until it becomes natural. I’m sure when I’m home it will become the norm as it was before I came away. I’m keeping at sober lit and sober blogs, I am a bit blown away by how great I feel whilst I’ve been away. I’m sleeping so much less and I’ve got more energy at last! X

        1. I’m so grateful for your videos Kate Bee! I recently hit 4 months and have never felt better. I’ve started going on long walks to process all my thoughts and biking when I want to clear my head a bit more.
          I’ve slowly realized through this sobriety process that I need to be nicer to my inner self. I would drink so I didn’t need to sit with all the negative thoughts I had about myself.
          I’m excited for the new path I’m gong down, and I look forward to more of your videos as inspiration along the way ❤

          1. Congratulations on your 4 months Sarah! Changing that negative self talk is a process – but one that’s a lot easier when you’re not drinking 🙂

  19. I love “Choose your discomfort”. It really resonates with me and has been key to me making better decisions around my drinking. I am working hard at taking a break and I find your blogs so motivational. Thank you.

    1. It could have been me talking about being bored and drinking giving me something to do, that so resonated with me. I loved your answers and you totally spoke to me. I will watch again and again and use it to try to start making changes. Thankyou xxx

  20. I just really love how non-judgmental you are. You and your experiences really resonate with me. I think you chose the right career path, you are very good at what you do. ❤️

  21. This is one of my main problems. I started drinking as a teenager so I don’t really know what my hobbies are, or who I am without drinking. I don’t even read books much anymore even though I used to be an avid reader. (I never read much when I’m drinking.) I’m trying to get more into exercising and hiking, which helps. But just being still at home is difficult. I’ll even push drinking off until 8pm sometimes but will open a bottle of wine to fill the void. COVID has also shown me that I might have some sort of social anxiety that I cope with by drinking. The first few months of “staying at home”, I drank less. Now that people are venturing out more, my drinking has increased. I’m strongly considering signing up for your October class.

  22. Thank you …Just what i needed. I stopped alcohol 10 days ago and realising i am bored and need a drink just to make time pass or all my vacation plans are related to eating and drinking …there is a lot ahead to rethink about my life and i am excited. I feel that taking alcohol away I will finally realise what I really want. Thank you 🙂

  23. Tears in my eyes. Boredom has been one of my primary triggers. I prayed this morning, as I was hungover, for God to bring me a friend who “gets it. I found your FB ad and feel I’ve found a friend here. I have a long way to go but I see it can be done if I set my mind to it. I do wonder how I can do this when my spouse is also an alcoholic. We have historically enabled each other. That is making it extremely tough for both of us.

  24. Hi All
    I started drinking more and more to i suppose drown out my own thoughts and guilt, surrounding financial and gambling bad habbits. It then became a habbit and it stopped me ffom owning up to my own truth and realising how much of a hole i was in. It can be really hard sometimes however one day at a day we all will get to where we want to be and achieve greatness.

  25. My significant other states he’s binge drinking because he’s in a good mood, good cheer – however, alcoholism runs in his family and he didn’t start drinking until he was 36 ( going thru a divorce, which “ made him happy, as she was a “robot type human” …he also drinks because I won’t give him intimacy – how can I when he has so many hygiene issues (celiacs disease and he’s a little autistic as well as a genius and a professor at a local university ! He states everyone knows he’s a functioning alcoholic – so I need to learn to accept it or leave – then when the binge is over he’s begging me to not leave – we’ve known each other 3 years , dated all thru Covid – now living together for 3 months and his best friends tell me he’s unable to stop! He even had a dui while bicycling – went to anger management and counseling and just did what he had to do to discontinue it . He says he will change once school kicks in and that I’ve seen him at his worst ! He usually is verbally abusing and leaves on walks for hours but will call to tell me he’s ok ? I don’t want to leave but I don’t want him binging and he has agreed to counseling – my question is this – are there underlying issues (he says there are none , but I think the divorce set him off and now he can’t stop due to the genetic disposition in his family ! We are 50 and 55 respectively !

  26. I retired in April 2021 I find myself with much more time on my hands. I would never drink at work. Now the voices in my head start talking to me earlier in the day. I’ve only been able to stop for two or three days at a time. Because of my age the alcohol is hitting me harder. My marriage of 40 years is shaky at best. Can’t blame her. Will AA help ? I my need more than one avenue of help.

  27. I hadn’t thought about the fact that quitting drinking alone wasn’t good enough. I need to find something productive in my life to fill the void of loneliness and boredom. Thank you.

  28. Wow, probably the best article I’ve seen on quitting the drink.
    As a home brew hobbyist that just happens to have 2x kegerators with 8 taps at home and 200kg of fresh asst European malt to brew with, this probably isn’t as easy as it could be. Lol. But you’ve really got me thinking
    I drink out of pure boredom and to also escape a wife that doesn’t like to be intimate with me. She’s a nice girl but as partner I really struggle sometimes.. I’m not sure how to handle quitting but will consider it

    1. I love this. I’m not quite ready to face the boredom but know that the evening wine is not the answer, as I’ve been doing it for 10 years. For all the good in my very different post divorce life, there is an enormously vast space of complete emptiness that I don’t know how to fill. My creativity hasn’t even begun to fill in the depressed voids.

  29. The “boredom myth” is one I need to overcome. So much wonderful information on your website and must be very rewarding to know that even after 2 1/2 years people still reading and finding help!

  30. Thank you for sharing your tips! I love the choose your discomfort… because for me choosing to drink today will bring on so many negative feelings that are worse than the discomfort I feel now of “being bored”.

  31. You are absolutely right. Getting alcohol out of my life gave me the desire to take up another avoidance tactic. I had to go through that until I began to enjoy spending time, alcohol free, by myself. It is and will continue to be a surprising journey. Lately, I have been enjoying lots of different kinds of music in the evening while I catch up with this and that. Sometimes I get bored with myself but it usually means I’m tired and just need to veg out and that’s OK. Thank you, Kate, for addressing the obstacles in early sobriety.

    1. Hi Susan, you are very welcome. Understanding what we really need is part of the journey and can definitely surprise us at times.

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