**Please follow Public Health guidelines at all times to ensure your safety and that of those around you.
If you’re just getting sober, you know it’s coming: Victoria Day Long Weekend. This first long weekend of Spring signals more than just the arrival of warmer weather; for many who are in recovery, especially those newly sober or still struggling to maintain sobriety, Victoria Day used to mean one more day to dig into that two-four, hence the fond nickname wryly recalled. Now, the long weekend seems like a complete mystery: what to do, now that drugs and alcohol are off the table? Most people won’t have to work, and all kinds of places are closed.
It can be easy to look back on past Victoria Day weekends (or stare with longing at the social media feeds of friends who are still drinking and drugging) and re-live those ‘good’ times with euphoric recall. There were boats to fall out of and steaks to consume, beverage in hand, up at the cottage; getting high while laying on a blanket watching the fireworks; no boss or teachers breathing down your neck on Monday morning. Not a care in the world. Then, of course, came the bitter hangovers on Tuesday morning, the fights with friends and family, relationship breakups, car crashes…for some reason, it’s harder to remember the reality of the harsh consequences that can occur, once substance use gets out of control.
The key to having fun in sobriety on Victoria Day long weekend, rather than sighing over the ‘good old days’ or moping around at home, is a little preparation. Don’t wait for the long weekend to try and decide what to do; take a look at our list of fun things to do sober on the May long weekend, and start thinking of your own, now. Your only challenge will be that the weekend isn’t long enough!
- Get active. If you like sports, Toronto has all kinds of leagues, from soccer to basketball, and city pools and rinks are open for adult free swim. You can also grab some friends from a meeting, or neighbours, family members, whoever, and start up a friendly game of dodgeball in the driveway.
- Make something with your hands. Maybe you think you aren’t good at making things, but have you tried painting? Building birdhouses? Beading? Knitting? T-shirt making? Canning? Most craft stores offer free drop-in classes and advice, or you can YouTube it and learn something new online.
- Go to the Y. Now’s your chance to take that class you have been meaning to take…or take the kids to spend some quality time in the play zone.
- Have a picnic. You don’t need a hand-lettered cottage invite to spend time outdoors; go to one of Toronto’s many big, gorgeous public parks (may we suggest Taylor Creek Park or Edwards Gardens?) and have a picnic. Bring some bread to feed the ducks and take the trails with a group of friends. Make it a point to collect something interesting to remind you of the day.
- Spend time with animals. Nothing soothes the soul like reminding yourself you are connected to something bigger, and what could be bigger than Mother Nature? The Toronto Zoo is spectacular, the High Park Zoo is free; if you like aquatics, try Ripley’s Aquarium. Don’t believe animals should ever be caged? Visit The Leslie Spit, preferably on a bike, and see incredible birds, bugs, plants and small animals, living in the wild.
- Help someone. Spend one day of the three-day weekend volunteering at a shelter, home for the elderly, community sale or drive, roadside cleanup, church, meeting, or whomever needs the help. Your other two days will feel a lot sweeter even if you end up just vegging, watching too much Netflix.
- Start something. A weekend might not be long enough to finish a course or write a novella or learn a language, but you can start something you’ve always wanted to do. You don’t have to worry about how or even when you will finish it; as the proverb goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
- Spring clean. If this sounds like a terrible chore, think about how a messy house, closet, or bedroom can be psychologically and physically cluttering your life – and how good it will feel to finally tackle that pile of dirt, clutter or ‘stuff’ that you no longer need that’s weighing you down.
- Take a little trip. Even with a little gas or a Greyhound ticket, if you split the cost with a friend or two, you can both spend a night somewhere clean, comfortable and fun, and see one of the wonders of the world, for about $200.
- Stay in and invite friends over. If you do this potluck style, everyone can enjoy a feast, followed by whatever you want: music, charades, movies, games. Piggyback this with a meeting and you’ve got yourself a weekend.
- Get gardening. If you don’t have your own plot of land, buy some pots, seeds and soil, and start a windowsill garden. If you do have outdoor space such as a backyard, just know that what non-addicts traditionally do on May 24 weekend is put their gardens in. Why not follow the herd to the garden centre and buy your plants, and get them in the ground?
- Go out to eat with sober friends. Nobody will be thinking about drinking or using as you all enjoy your favourite foods and a fun night out. Piggyback this with a trip to a comedy club, a concert, a shopping expedition or a movie, and you’ve got yourself a weekend.
- Go camping. Talk about an evening on the cheap, and you can recapture your youth while enjoying the quiet and serenity of Nature. Sit around the bonfire with your friends, telling stories and toasting marshmallows; have a BBQ on the beach; swim in a clean lake. If the thought of all that wilderness with no amenities makes you shudder, remember that there are many campsites that have showers, toilets, and electricity – and the whole point is to get away from your phone for a bit!
- Write your bucket list. This is but one of the introspective, soul-searching activities that long weekends were built for. Many of us used to neglect our inner lives terribly, but sobriety provides the long-awaited opportunity to find out more about ourselves and what we really want to be, do and have in life. Do a deep meditation, write out your thoughts, goals, musings and dreams, write about where you’re stuck and what you think you could do about it. If you won’t spend the time to listen to yourself, who will?
- Make a vision board. This is a great activity with friends: find a meeting space (like someone’s living room) and bring a bunch of old magazines. Together, cut out images and words that resonate with where you want to be and what you want to achieve in the future. Make a collage that you can then frame and put on your wall, because what you think about (and see regularly), you bring about.
- Start a blog. Along the lines of the vision board, newcomers to recovery can often feel uprooted and aimless because they are on a new path, and new can be scary at first. To home in on where you’re going, setting up a new social media profile or better yet, your own blog, is a good way to redefine yourself and cut loose from old behaviours, people, or ways of thinking.
- Get some pampering. If massages and facials are not within reach, mani-pedis are inexpensive and you will feel incredibly pampered, which can be a step in the self-care direction.
- Redefine your space. Paint a room, go to IKEA and finally get the storage solutions you need, change out your old heavy winter curtains for some light and airy sheers, sand and refinish that cabinet you’ve been meaning to get to forever, improve the flow of your space with a nod to feng shui. Just like with clutter (or addiction, for that matter), we can get used to and even tolerate negative things, so if everything looks blah and you can’t see how it could change, ask a friend to look at your space with fresh eyes.
- Get bakin’. Make a cake and decorate it, even if you’ve never done so in your life before. What’s the occasion? Why, it’s Victoria Day. Your next challenge will be to find a friend (or 7) to share it with you.
- Make a plan. Recovering addicts are often told to ‘stay in the present moment’ and not worry about yesterday or tomorrow, however, the fact is that many recovering alcoholics also suffer from anxiety, and anxiety can often arise from not knowing what the next step is and not feeling prepared. Free up your mind to enjoy this Victoria Day weekend to the fullest, by writing out what you will do the following week. Do you need to look into school registration, find housing, or send out some resumes? Do you need to speak to a social worker, return a library book, call a friend for her birthday, bring someone to a medallion? Getting it out of your head and onto an online or paper planning tool will help you use the brain for its intended purpose: processing, not storage. Now sit back, relax, and watch Netflix.
In active addiction, things that were once enjoyable took a backseat to drinking and using. The good news is, you can rediscover those things – and a whole bunch of new things you may never have even tried. Fun in recovery is as easy as picking one of these activities – or several – and giving them an honest try to reconnect with who you really are.
Have a safe, sober, and very happy Victoria Day!