I have never participated in a Dry January. I distinctly remember having friends that did it last year, and I just found it so unbelievable that they were going to go the full month without a drink. I remember saying out loud, “that is something I could never do.”
I wish I had given myself the chance to participate in a Dry January, or a Sober October, because then I would have experienced just how freaking amazing life can be without alcohol. So, if you have ever found yourself thinking about how a life without alcohol would look for you, here is a great opportunity to find out.
It is January 1st… now what?
Okay, you have decided to trade in those cocktails for mocktails for the next 31 days… where do you even start? I found it to be helpful to share with those around me that I was no longer drinking, because having that support is vital. It also helped in social settings where I knew I was going to be around alcohol. If the people I was around knew that I was not drinking, then there was no pressure for me to have a drink to fit in.
I found the social implications of quitting alcohol to be the most anxiety provoking, and I think that Dry January is a great opportunity for one to test the waters, as it is something that many people participate in, and it may feel more inviting than just randomly deciding to quit drinking out of the blue.
Your why is important.
One thing that is often repeated in recovery and living an alcohol-free life is referring back to your “why.” Why you consciously made the decision to eliminate alcohol from your life. I think for something such as Dry January it is just as important to make sure you come up with your why. Sure, it is maybe only a month long, but it is helpful to have your why as a reminder of why you set out on this journey. Whether that is just to feel a change, to get a glimpse of an alcohol-free life, or maybe you just want to try it because your friends are doing it. Your why is personal to you.
It does not have to be forever.
People often get turned off of the idea of going alcohol-free because they are afraid of making a life-long commitment. You do not have to go into Dry January thinking that it has to turn into Dry Forever. I personally know many people who participated in a Dry January and then continue to stay alcohol-free YEARS after. Just take it day by day, and at the end of the month, you can make a decision that is best for you. If you felt better and noticed other positive changes in your life, then try to keep it up for another month. If you went the whole month without drinking but do not feel any different, then maybe going alcohol-free is not something you need to do right now. No matter the result, this is a great opportunity to try something different, see what your life could be like without alcohol, and learn a lot about yourself along the way
What happens to your body?
You might be thinking that eliminating alcohol for 31 days is not nearly long enough to notice any significant changes. I am here to tell you that it is actually quite the opposite.
One of the biggest benefits that you will discover is just how your body feels without alcohol. You will get to feel how your body functions, how it feels, and how it reacts without alcohol. You may feel that alcohol does not affect you negatively or that you are able to function and live your everyday life without needing to eliminate it, but you may be blown away by the effects from going a month without it. It is an incredible way to experience an alcohol-free life without feeling like you have to make a long-term commitment.
Your immune system is going to thank the absolute hell out of you. When you have been drinking heavily, you are suppressing immune system – this basically means that you are making yourself more vulnerable to pathogens, which ultimately leads to inflammatory reactions throughout your body. So, by eliminating alcohol, even for just a month, you will be helping your body protect you from getting sick.
This probably goes without explaining, but by taking a break from a depressant, you may find that your mood becomes more stable. This is not to say that by participating in Dry January you are going to be cured of depression or anxiety, but by taking a break, you will likely experience a noticeable difference in your mood.
You do not have to take my word for it. According to a study by the University of Sussex, 71% of people who participated in Dry January said they slept better, 67% had more energy, 58% said they lost weight, and 54% reported that they had better skin at the end of the month.
Some may say that after that month of abstaining from alcohol they are just going to fall right back into their drinking ways, and sure, some might, but many do not. A 2016 study, published in Health Psychology, found that six months after Dry January over 50% of those who had participated in eliminating alcohol for that month reported not only having fewer drinks per day, but also drinking fewer days a week.
#1 – Your cup does not have to be empty, so find other things that you enjoy drinking. Personally, I am a sparkling water fanatic and have used this time to try all of the thousand different brands on the market. There is also a wide variety of non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spritz on the market that many find serve as a helpful replacement, especially early in their transition an alcohol-free life. They aim to produce the similar taste as your alcoholic beverage, without the inebriating and other harmful effects of the alcoholic versions.
#2 – It is easier than ever to socialize without alcohol, as there are so many alcohol-free events and alcohol-free options are just more widely available. This is a great opportunity for you to seek out different activities that will bring you a more sustainable type of joy than sitting at the bar drinking.
#3 – As mentioned above, it is vital to find and create your support network. It is admirable when someone makes the decision to see what life is like without something that could be holding them back from truly living, and that resonates with so many people. Tell people about the decision you have made, and surround yourself with those who understand it. Your best support network will not only include others who are living alcohol-free, but anyone who understands and respects your decision and will be rooting for you along the way. To successfully live an alcohol-free life, you do not need to eliminate relationships with those around you who are not currently living alcohol free, but you may need to re-evaluate some relationships if you find that they are holding you back from your goals.