There’s no denying it, New York City is a party town. Packed with thousands of bars, nightclubs, speakeasies, cocktail lounges, irish pubs, sake bars, underground clubs, and more, there’s no shortage of places to get a drink in the City. Manhattan has a well-earned reputation as a place where it’s easy to have fun. For many, this reputation makes NYC a destination to live the ultimate work hard/play hard lifestyle. But for those seeking sobriety in the City That Never Sleeps, NYC’s reputation as a party town can leave people in recovery feeling like the only way to get sober and stay sober is to leave the city altogether.
Luckily, you don’t have to leave New York to leave alcohol and drugs in the past. Sure, it’s easy to find a drink in NYC, but guess what? It’s easy to find a drink anywhere. In fact, while it may be easy to live a party lifestyle in New York, it’s also easy to live a healthy, rewarding, sober lifestyle without ever leaving Manhattan. In addition to NYC’s thousands of 12-step and recovery meetings, New York City abounds with endless booze-free activities that are fun, safe, and beneficial to recovery.
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings
In a city with a population of almost 9 million people, there’s always more of everything, including recovery meetings, self-help groups, and sobriety services. Manhattan is brimming with meetings of all kinds. There are 12-step fellowships like AA and NA, agnostic and atheist groups, gender specific groups, and meeting formats of all kinds that meet around the clock. There are also non-substance-based recovery fellowships like Overeaters Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and lots of non-12-step groups like SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, LifeRing Secular Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and more. No matter what substance or addiction you’re recovering from, New York City has a meeting for you.
Health and wellness for your recovery
When it comes to health and wellness, there are few places with better resources and activities than Manhattan. Everywhere you look, there are people practicing health and wellness techniques to help shake off the stress of life in the big city. There’s Tai Chi in Central Park, yoga studios of all varieties (including naked yoga), meditation groups, healthy eating groups, CSA farm share programs, and more. Not to mention NYC’s amazing selection of religious institutions, monastic groups, and churches for every denomination under the sun. If you’re looking for spiritual guidance, there’s no better place to find it than New York City.
Exercise for the mind, body, and soul
Exercise has a tremendous benefit for people in recovery. In addition to increasing overall health and wellness, exercise releases endorphins and triggers a dopamine rush that’s similar to the effects of alcohol and drugs, without the negative consequences and side effects. Manhattan has no shortage of ways to work out, and there are plenty of ways to get your sweat on in NYC that can only be had in the city.
In addition to the standard gyms, weight rooms, aerobics, pilates, and spin classes, NYC has high end, swanky athletic clubs like the New York Health & Racquet Club, the Core Club, Equinox, and the Setai Club where you can rub elbows with NYC’s elite, rich, and famous. Not looking to spend a lot of cash? Almost every park in NYC has an area designated for fitness activities, and there are tons of parks that sport free public basketball courts, handball courts, tennis courts, and more. If you prefer more scenic views during your workout, Manhattan boasts some of the most beautiful waterfront biking, running, and jogging routes on the planet. Wanna take a hike? Head up to Pelham Bay Park, Inwood Hill Park, Marine Park, or Staten Island’s Greenbelt to experience the natural beauty New York has to offer.
Explore your passions with classes and groups
One of the greatest things about newfound sobriety is having the chance to explore your new sober self and spend time exploring your passions and hobbies. In active addiction, we often lacked the time, energy, and drive to do much of anything outside of pursuing our substance or behavior of choice. Now in sobriety, we have more time on our hands, and what better way to spend that time than doing something creative and fun?
New York City is the perfect place to explore your creativity and desire to learn new things. There are groups and classes for almost any creative endeavor you can think of. The New School offers hundreds of continuing education courses in every subject. From professional development courses like Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing, to painting, sculpture, drawing, and music. For the more performative types, the UCB Theater offers improv and sketch comedy classes that have launched some of today’s most famous comedians. Wanna get serious? Study acting with some of the greatest acting teachers in the world at Barrow Group, the Actor’s Studio, Kimball studio and more.
Get out and stay out… outdoors that is
New York City has no shortage of booze-free adventures and outings of every type. Take a day to explore some of NYC’s smaller islands like Roosevelt Island, Governer’s Island, Randall’s Island, and more. There are also lots of beaches to explore, like the famous Jones beach, Manhattan beach, Orchard beach, the People’s Beach at Jacob Riis Park, and of course Coney Island. Speaking of Coney Island, why not spend a day at one of America’s oldest continually operating theme parks? Sample famous treats like Nathan’s hot dogs, ride a few roller coasters, and play some carnival games. For a more seafaring adventure, the west side piers host dozens of boat tours that allow you to explore Manhattan from the waterfront. And if you’re feeling spooky, try one of Manhattan’s many ghost tours. In a city with a history as rich as New York City’s, there are hundreds of tales of ghouls, goblins, witches, and warlocks just around the corner.
Feed your inner foodie
No roundup of NYC’s sober activities would be complete without a rundown of New York City’s selection of amazing eateries, fine dining, international cuisine, and non-alcoholic beverages like coffee, smoothies, tea houses, and more. Where do I begin?? Well for starters, NYC has entire neighborhoods dedicated to the various nationalities and cultures that have emigrated here over the decades.
Get your pasta on in Little Italy, sample wild varieties of Dim Sum and dumplings in Chinatown, hit Koreatown for some amazing Korean barbeque, or explore Little Egypt’s wild variety of hookah bars that feature amazing yogurt smoothies and other alcohol-free beverages. If you’re looking for fancy cuisine and fine dining, NYC boasts 72 Michelin-starred restaurants that offer some of the finest dining on the planet. If money is no object, try Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Masa, Per Se, Atera, and the famous Jean Georges just to name a few.
Of course there are plenty of NYC institutions that many refer to as “bucket list meals” that are as delicious as they are famous. Dig into the famous steaks at Peter Luger’s, the pastrami sandwich at Katz’s deli, braised pork shoulder at the Spotted Pig, the Pork bun at Momofuku, the lasagna alla Bolognese at Tra Di Noi, and pizza… well NYC pizza is always good anywhere you go (Sbarro doesn’t count) but I personally love anywhere that has the name Ray in the title. Famous Ray’s, Original Ray’s, Famous Original Ray’s… you really can’t go wrong.
Don’t get caught up thinking that the only thing to do in NYC is party. This city is rich with a million fun sober things to do for people of all walks of life, and it’s the greatest city in the world to get sober in. They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, and that sentiment rings true for your recovery too. Just remember to take it one day at a time, and if you need help, ask for it. NYC is here and we’ve got your back.
— Bryan Swift for Avenues New York 2018