Dry January, the challenge that encourages individuals to take a month-long break from drinking, has exploded in popularity. Data from 2022 suggested that nearly one-fifth of adults in the United States participated in the trend that year.
Due to the heavy drinking during December that comes along with the holiday season, culminating in New Year’s Eve celebrations, Dry January gives individuals the opportunity to take a break from alcohol consumption and reassess their relationship with alcohol.
For many, participation in this trend is just a fun challenge and offers a break from drinking. Other individuals find themselves curious about maintaining sobriety after Dry January has concluded.
One may choose to remain sober after Dry January for many reasons. Some people realize they are relying heavily on alcohol and appreciate the health benefits of reducing or cutting out their alcohol intake. Others understand how much money they save when they no longer include drinks in their budget.
Whatever the case, if Dry January has led you to consider sobriety or at least an extension of the challenge, you are not alone. With the benefits achieved from abstaining from alcohol and the opportunity to remove yourself from a culture that celebrates drinking, it’s no wonder that individuals are choosing to continue their period of sobriety.
Health Benefits during Dry January
Participating in Dry January offers many benefits, though the extent of these benefits varies based on the individual’s prior alcohol intake. In many cases, those who engaged in heavy alcohol consumption before starting Dry January will likely feel worse before they feel better.
In these cases, it is not recommended that an individual quit alcohol suddenly without speaking to their doctor. This is because of the likelihood of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening.
Those with severe alcohol addiction should undergo detoxification with medical supervision, especially if they experience symptoms such as hallucinations, confusion, fever, or seizures–known as delirium tremens.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to feel improvements. If you regularly engage in alcohol consumption, you may feel irritable or depressed at the beginning of Dry January. Alcohol decreases the level of stress hormones in the body.
Eventually, your body will adjust to the absence of alcohol, and you will begin to feel the benefits. For individuals who do not drink regularly, this can happen as soon as a few days into sobriety.
Although alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, it impairs the overall quality of your sleep. Not drinking makes you likely wake up feeling more rested each morning. Additionally, alcohol is dehydrating, so abstinence may reduce headaches and fatigue and improve the appearance of your skin.
Moderate to severe drinking can also impact the functioning of your heart and liver, increasing blood pressure and possibly leading to blood vessel damage and abnormal heart rhythms, as well as increasing the risk for liver disease. Detoxing alcohol from your body can help these organs heal.
Dry January can also have a positive impact on mental health. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to anxiety and low mood, so taking a break will improve your emotional well-being. For those on medications for depression and anxiety, this is especially true as alcohol disrupts how the body interacts with these medications.
Abstaining from alcohol also increases your energy levels, which can help you make other healthy habits, such as changing to a more nutritious diet and creating an exercise routine. Many people discover that participating in Dry January helps them lose weight.
Even without choosing to extend your sobriety past Dry January, many individuals continue to see benefits after the challenge has ended. The break from alcohol decreases a person’s tolerance, so individuals do not have to drink as much to feel the same effects.
A lower tolerance helps people change their drinking habits and adjust to less alcohol consumption in the months after the challenge. Beyond the immediate health benefits, Dry January helps individuals break unhealthy habits, and many begin to seriously reevaluate their dependence on alcohol and their alcohol intake levels.
Examining Your Relationship with Alcohol
Dry January can help people realize how much they drink and why. Taking a month-long break from alcohol can lead to individuals asking themselves questions such as why their drinking habits are the way they are, whether alcohol plays a role in how they feel, or whether individuals feel like they need alcohol to function normally.
To determine if you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, you should reflect on whether you use alcohol as a coping mechanism, if you find yourself stressed without it, how many drinks you have per week or day, and if drinking has impacted your personal relationships or professional life.
If you don’t like the answer to any of these questions, then you may have an alcohol dependence. Dry January may have helped you realize this as well, either by being more complicated than you expected or because it allowed you to know that you think more clearly and feel better when you are not drinking.
Dry January can empower you to create new habits, such as learning to turn down alcohol in a social setting. Though most people resume drinking after the month is complete, Dry January helps people gain more control over their drinking habits and understand their subconscious triggers. Having control creates more power in choosing when or if to drink.
Now that Dry January is over, the discoveries you’ve made about yourself and your relationship with alcohol may influence your decisions going forward. You may choose to reduce your alcohol intake or continue to abstain from alcohol completely.
Tips to Keep Progress Going
If you plan to extend Dry January and continue your sobriety journey, taking specific steps to make maintaining your progress more accessible can be helpful. Choosing to live life without alcohol isn’t about giving something up. It’s about gaining a happier, healthier, and more confident version of yourself.
However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging at times. For those who relied heavily on alcohol before, making this drastic change can feel challenging, but help is available. Following these tips can make the transition to life in sobriety run more smoothly.
Keep Track of Your Feelings
Tracking feelings is especially important when you lack motivation or risk falling into temptation. Remember how much better you’ve felt since becoming sober–think of the health benefits mentioned previously.
When sobriety feels difficult, reflect on the positive emotions you’ve had on other days. It may be helpful to keep a journal to reflect on to assist with this. If you begin struggling, reach out to someone for help instead of attempting to get through it alone.
Remove Alcohol from Your House
By maintaining a dry house, you are removing any physical temptations from your proximity, making it easier to maintain sobriety. Removing temptation also allows you to feel more comfortable in your home, especially during the early stages of abstinence. Think of your house as your alcohol-free sanctuary.
Set a Routine
Establishing a routine will make the adjustment simpler. Suppose you continue to wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat regular meals, and engage in physical activity. In that case, you are creating healthy habits that complement your abstinence and make you feel better about this drastic life change.
Maintaining employment and setting aside time for socialization will also help you keep this routine and reduce your downtime. Isolation and boredom are significant factors that contribute to many people’s alcohol intake.
Learn Your Patterns
Once you recognize your patterns, such as what feelings, people, or places push you to drink, it becomes easier to avoid these things. By identifying your drinking patterns, you can figure out ways to work around them.
Suggest another activity if you and your friends typically meet for brunch and mimosas. If you pour a glass of wine with dinner, find alternative drinks to enjoy. Avoid activities with high pressure to drink, such as clubbing or karaoke.
Find Sober Peers
Developing a support system is essential to maintaining sobriety. By surrounding yourself with people on their sobriety journeys, you’ll have people who understand what you’re going through and can help you if you’re struggling. It’ll also be more accessible to participate in activities that do not revolve around drinking.
Discuss Your Plan with Loved Ones
By explaining your goal to your loved ones, they can hold you accountable and help you stay on track with your sobriety. They can also offer you understanding and support, which will help during more difficult periods.
Explore Support Groups
Attending 12-step meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous, can provide you with additional support and help you reinforce your new sober lifestyle. Support groups are also an excellent way to connect with others in sobriety and discover resources to help you through your journey.
Becoming sober may feel awkward at a work party or happy hour with friends. You may not want the attention from not ordering an alcoholic beverage, or you might feel more comfortable with something to sip on.
Mocktails can help. Exploring creative alternatives to alcoholic beverages can help you feel included during events that involve drinking without risking your sobriety. Find tasty drink options that can replace your usual order.
Seek Treatment if Necessary
If your sobriety journey is more challenging than you expected, but you know it’s something you’d like to continue, it may benefit you to consider undergoing treatment. Many treatment options are available, and you can choose inpatient or outpatient treatment based on what will work best for you.
Participating in a treatment program provides you with structure, therapy, and support, which will help you maintain your sobriety. A treatment program also enables you to find underlying issues that contribute to your alcohol dependence and work to overcome them.
Remain Patient with Yourself
The most important thing is to remember that this journey isn’t linear. Sobriety looks different for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel discouraged if sometimes you struggle with remaining abstinent.
Sometimes, setbacks will happen. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed or you should give up. Remember your goals and continue working toward sobriety while remaining kind to yourself. Be proud of your progress and the steps you’ve taken, even if you aren’t quite where you’d like to be.
Get Help with Sobriety
At TRUE Addiction and Behavioral Health, we recognize that sobriety can be difficult for some individuals. If you need additional support to begin this journey, we’re here to help you.
Don’t let alcohol consumption control your life. Fight back with caring and innovative treatment that promotes overall healing. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline at (615) 802-6460 or contact email@example.com.