To everyone out there doing their first Dry January…CONGRATS!
You’re over a week and a half in and I am so excited for you.
There are a million reasons people choose to do a reset this month. The excess of the holidays. The start of a new calendar year. Wanting to try something different. I applaud you!
In thinking about the people embarking on their sobriety or dry journeys, I’ve been reflecting on my own path.
I’ve been trying to identify the choices, patterns, support networks, tools, and resources that helped me in my sobriety, especially in the early days and weeks of not drinking.
One of the things I keep coming back to was volunteering.
When I moved back to Las Vegas, it took me a bit to get back on my feet. My husband and I were living with my mom to save up for a down payment for a home, and after figuring out our employment situations, I realized I had a lot of time. What had I done with all that free time before?
I hadn’t realized how much of my time had been devoted to hanging out in bars, drinking at home, and recovering from both.
Now that I didn’t have alcohol in my life, I had a ton of free time. I also had a non-traditional sobriety path in that I did not participate in any kind of official program, which also left me with a need for community.
For me, The Neon Museum was the perfect fit. They had a very structured volunteer program and it allowed me to have planned interactions with groups of strangers. Believe it or not, even after all those years working in theatre, being around groups of people and talking in front of people still gets me nervous, so the fact that the volunteering position at the time was a 1 hour guided tour I would be leading for 15-25 strangers was PERFECT!
Giving my time at The Neon Museum also gave me a sense of connection to Vegas history and the larger local arts community.
If you’re starting your first few weeks of sobriety, I recommend writing down the things that you really find joy in to start brainstorming ideas.
Do you like hiking? Find a local group that does trail cleanups.
Do you love reading? Why not volunteer at your local library.
Do you have a passion for the arts? Offer your time to a nonprofit museum nearby.
I recommend researching a few different options for volunteering your time. Do you need structure? Or are you someone that is okay with showing up and not knowing ahead of time how you’ll be helping?
Know that about yourself can ensure that your volunteering hours and efforts are rewarding to you as well.
Although I only volunteered with The Neon Museum for a year, it was the foundation on which my sober relationship with Vegas was built.
It made me get out of the house EVERY week to do something that challenged me, something I’m not sure I would have been capable of without structured, scheduled volunteer shifts.
Looking back, the other element that was important during that period was rebuilding my confidence.
During early sobriety I felt super shitty about myself. I thought I was such a loser. I had wasted so many years drinking. So much money. So many minutes, hours, days. It was hard not to dwell on past mistakes.
Leading a tour every week that year helped me to slowly rebuild my voice and my self worth.
It also gave me the opportunity to connect with other like minded people, and because it was very structured time, didn’t put me in the position of needing to discuss my early weeks of sobriety with these new connections. I didn’t have to worry that somebody would ever offer me a drink while I was there because I was, in a sense, on the clock.
If you’re out there wondering what to do with yourself now that you’ve stopped drinking, I hope you’ll consider giving back your time to your local community.
For those of you in the Las Vegas area, I’m including a few places to offer your time to below:
- The Neon Museum
- Nevada State Museum
- Foundation for Recovery
- Get Outdoors Nevada
- The Animal Foundation
- Las Vegas Rescue Mission
- Litter Free Las Vegas
- The Center