When I first made the decision to try a life without alcohol, my biggest concern was what the hell I would do with my time. If I wasn’t drinking, I was probably not going to have any fun at all and most assuredly not be leaving the house like, ever.
Well, let me tell you a little secret: Charleston is full of awesome things to do that do not require you to drink. Below is a little guide to some of the fun you can have in Charleston without booze. None of these people are paying me to write this – I just want to share some ideas with you that might be helpful. So, enjoy!
Take in a show!
If I have not mentioned it before I LOVE Broadway musicals and any theatre of any kind. (Yes, I spell it theatre and not theater because I’m super fancy like that.) And I personally believe and have believed for a very long time that theatre should only be taken in completely sober. Before I even considered a life without booze, I had very strict rules about my pre-theatre experience drinking. One drink, maybe, but most desirable was none at all. I did not want to take even the slightest chance that I might dull my senses to the magic of theatre. Yes, they do serve booze at most shows but let’s be real, waiting in line is a pain in the ass, it’s super expensive, and drinking during a show inevitably leads to bathroom breaks which may cause you to miss a big flashy dance break, and who wants that?
Yes, tickets to some of the bigger productions can be a little pricey, but just think of it as splurging all that money you aren’t spending on drinking, okay?
For bigger productions check out the Gaillard Center and North Charleston Performing Arts Center and for smaller local shows (but top notch quality) also check out PURE Theatre, Woolfe Street Playhouse, Charleston Stage, and South of Broadway, among many others! Theatre 99 also has fantastic improv shows and trust me that it is still hilarious, if not more so, when you’re sober. It’s great to remember with clarity the entire “church ladies at a potluck” bit that had you rolling on the floor with laughter.
And don’t discount a movie night! Grab a giant coke, a box of Nestle Crunch and a giant popcorn and tap into that child-like wonder of seeing a movie on the big screen. Removing alcohol from the equation makes for a totally different experience that is well worth it.
Get your sweat on
For me, one of the biggest advantages to living alcohol-free is that I am way more motivated to go to the gym and have even found it to be one of the most important tools in my sobriety toolbox. As I’ve talked about before, my “witching hour” is definitely the time right after work so I try to get to the gym at least 4 times per week to blow off the steam of the day. Pivotal Fitness is my drug of choice because they have everything – Red Zone (HIIT), Blue Turtle Yoga, and Spin in addition to all the regular gym stuff.
But there are all kinds of fitness classes around town to check out, so you can try a bunch of different ones until you find your perfect fit! There are spin studios like CycleBar, MethodRide, and Revolution, Barre studios like Barre 3, Pure Barre, and Barre Evolution, and then a whole slew of other fitness studios like Kickfit, Burn Boot Camp, and HY|LO are out there as well, so check them out!
Once I removed alcohol, I really found myself searching for things to keep my hands busy because it somehow helped me not reach for a bottle in my down time. I knitted some really wonky hats, made some ugly necklaces, and experimented with some very abstract painting. Even though none of my creative pursuits really panned out, it was awesome to connect to the little artist in me that I normally didn’t have time for because I was drinking during all my free time.
Fortunately though you don’t have to try and get creative on your own. Charleston has some great spots that offer workshops to create and show your inner artist some love.
Candlefish has the most delicious smelling candles in the world and you can make your very own at one of their workshops. They have several scheduled in the evenings every month and you can bring your own mocktails and snacks! You pick your favorite scent and make 2 fabulous candles to take home.
Redux Contemporary Art Center offers a TON of different art classes from figure drawing to oil painting, sculpture and beyond. They offer both single-day workshops and weekly commitments, so there are a lot of options for whatever floats your boat!
The Community CHS recently opened up at The Cigar Factory and regularly hosts fun pop-up events like Bring Your Own Vessel Candle Pouring and Abstract Painting night (wish I had found this last year!) and they are also BYO so you can bring your favorite mocktails.
You literally can’t throw a rock without hitting something of historical significance in Charleston, so it’s a great place to get your knowledge on. When I first moved to town to attend CofC, I used to just wander around downtown for hours, taking in all of the beautiful homes and cobblestone streets (and secretly hoping to befriend an old rich lady who would adopt me and take me on trips to Paris and Milan – don’t act like you haven’t thought the same thing!) and just daydreaming about the history walking those streets with me.
You can take a walk down the Battery and read all of the plaques that tell you about important events that occurred in those spots, check out the Charleston Museum, stroll through The Gibbes for some historical (and present day) art or take a walking tour (please don’t encourage the cruelty being done to those sweet horses by taking a carriage ride!) and get the lowdown from an expert. Although I find them a nuisance, you can also rent a bike and explore the city that way, but please just be courteous and don’t ride down the middle of the street like a jackass.
Not to mention the beautiful plantations you can spend a whole day exploring: Middleton Place and its spectacular gardens, Boone Hall where they filmed The Notebook (among other things), and Drayton Hall are all great spots to explore.
Whatever you do, don’t be ashamed to play tourist in your own town! It’s actually a good thing to find out the history of your town and you can snag some super sweet fun facts to throw out in conversation.
Get in touch with your inner yogi
Here’s a little truth bomb: I really didn’t get Yoga and Meditation before I quit drinking and thought a lot of it was hoodoo and bullshit. (All yogi friends: please don’t hate me for this statement!) Now that I have removed the substance that was numbing me out, I totally GET IT NOW!
The reason I struggled with it so much was because all my wires were crossed and hijacked by the alcohol. I wasn’t able to really tap into my inner self because I was literally drowning my spirit in poison.
There are some ahhhmazing goddesses in Charleston spreading the spiritual love and if you don’t do anything else suggested in this post, you have got to get yourself into one of their classes. In addition to classes at their studios, there are all kinds of events being held on the beaches and in some of the prettiest parks in town.
Satsang Yoga in Mt Pleasant has long been a favorite of mine. Mission Yoga and Charleston Power Yoga (if you want to sweat it out) practice downtown. And Community Yoga in West Ashley is awesome too. I have not had a chance to try it out yet, but Yoloha Yoga Factory is on James Island and holds monthly Women’s Empowerment Gatherings in addition to their daily classes.
Being kind to yourself, acknowledging the places where you feel ‘stuck,’ and tuning into what your spirit needs is SO important when you start an alcohol-free life and you can’t go wrong with any of the fabulous places listed above!
Become one with nature
I was talking with a sober friend and we were ruminating about how being sober is like unlocking a super power: the sky is bluer, the grass is greener, all your senses are heightened in the most exquisite way. In the time I have been alcohol-free I have found a brand new appreciation for the great outdoors.
I used to think being out in nature was so sticky and gross, but once I sobered up I realized how much I was missing out on. We live in a BEAUTIFUL place. Literally everywhere you look is like a painting. Breathing in fresh air and just taking 2 minutes to look up from your phone and appreciate all the beauty around me can be so transformative. Bad days turn into not so bad days when I reaffirm how miniscule my problems are compared to the big ol’ world we’re living in.
In January, when I was just getting my sober legs I decided that I was going to start hiking. It was something I had always secretly wanted to do, but didn’t think I would be able to because it involved a lack of showering and peeing in the woods. Once I started doing something super hard like not drinking though I figured I could give it a shot. Again, it’s like I cleared out all the gunk in my mind to clearly channel the motivation.
I enlisted my husband, a former Eagle Scout, to show me the ropes and I fell in love. We started small, with the Palmetto Trail in Awendaw, then in March we did a 26-mile, 2-day hike in Roan Mountain. More details on that later, but suffice it to say I’m basically a world-class hiker now and like, totally a professional.
Do a little Google search of local hikes and you’ll actually find some great spots around the Charleston area, but there are also some great mountain adventures just a few hours up the road. Charleston County Parks offer a lot of different trails and places like Edisto Beach, Hunting Island and Cumberland Island are beautiful too.
Any time I can get to the beach is a freaking amazing day, so you can always grab some fizzy water, the Holy City AF Book Club Book of the Month and find some peace by the sea. I go to the beach when I’m happy, sad, stressed, or any other type of feeling and I never leave worse off than I came. Especially now that there isn’t any booze involved.
Treat yo self!
For me, there is nothing like a little pampering to bring back that spring in your step. Since I was a kid I viewed a day at the spa as the ultimate luxury and I still feel super fancy when I treat myself to a visit. Men and women alike can all benefit from a little “me” time!
The nice thing about most day spas is that although they do offer champagne, they don’t push it and also have a wide array of hot tea for you to sip on instead. Some of my favorites are Earthling Day Spa (the Shirodhara will blow your mind) & Urban Nirvana (amazing massages at the Wentworth Mansion) downtown and The Woodhouse Day Spa in Mt Pleasant. Woodhouse is a little more expensive than the other two, but their relaxation room is worth every extra penny!
There are several I haven’t tried yet including the spa at The Dewberry and the Amethyst Spa at The Restoration Hotel that look fabulous (*husband hint), among many others. Basically pick your favorite and let your troubles float away with some lavender oil and a fluffy robe.
Also never underestimate the power of a lunch trip to get your nails done (yes, fellas, talking to you too). Princess Nails & 843 Nails in Mt Pleasant are both really nice and for a little extra $$ you can go the non-toxic route with Mylkbar and The Water Room.
Get your Spirit-free Drinking On
Now this one may be a little tricky, because you’ll find yourself in a bar (obviously) full of triggers and depending on how strong your resolve may be, might not be the best idea when you’re first starting out on the Alcohol Free train.
That being said, there are some really great restaurants all about town that have some well thought out Sprit-Free drink menus, so you can still enjoy the “glamour” of a fancy bar without the consequences of booze. Basic Kitchen, FIG, any of the Indigo Road restaurants, and Wiki Wiki Sandbar on Folly all have a nice selection and Hotel Bennett and The Dewberry also have a house mocktail on their menus.
Also check out Bottles and Total Wine for some great alcohol-free alternatives from non-alcoholic beer to fruity and fizzy drinks. Grab a few different things, some fun garnishes, and mixers and go crazy! Pull out that fancy glassware and go nuts!
Find your own thing
I also like to check out Charleston City Paper’s Events Calendar for all the happenings in town. They keep an up to the minute list of any and everything going on locally. You can also subscribe to newsletters like CHS Today that drop a list in your inbox every morning, so you don’t even have to search!
As you can see, there are lots of options for non-alcoholic fun in CHS and this is just a small list – I’m sure I missed a ton of others. Plus, you always have the option of just not drinking at boozy events, but that is WAY easier said than done, I know, and I still consider that an advanced move. When the urge hits, I always just try to think “will drinking make this a better experience?” and every single time the answer is a resounding NO.
It’s not always going to be easy and it’s okay to roll your eyes at this post and think I’m glossing over the struggle. I get it. It’s FUCKING HARD and it gets easier as time goes by and even then, sometimes it’s still FUCKING HARD, but as I’m getting used to participating in life without alcohol, it’s like a whole new world of possibilities has opened up and I just keep leaning into the good vibes and try to run like hell in the other direction of the bad.