Once New Year’s resolutions come and go, a lot of people don’t have much to show for the goals they set. Giving yourself a month of good habits and practice can set the tone for the rest of the year, or even the rest of your life.
Many people are doing this with Dry January.
The Dry January public health initiative started in 2012 in the United Kingdom. This means 31 days of zero alcohol consumption for the entire month of January.
My struggles with and recovery from alcohol addiction have been well-documented. You still won’t hear me preaching that you have to give up alcohol for good, or else.
But in the short-term, you owe it to yourself to participate in Dry January.
In this article, you’ll learn how to successfully complete Dry January, the benefits of doing so, and what to expect.
Find an accountability group
Part of the reason that New Year’s resolutions don’t work is that the follow-through doesn’t match the initial enthusiasm. Finding an accountability group provides the moral support and motivation to press through the difficult stages.
Accountability partners give you other people to check in with. You’ll share observations and encourage each other. This is helpful since drinking is often a social activity.
Try substitute drinks
Dry January can provide you a chance to get creative. Since you’re choosing to abstain from your favorite glass of wine, beer, or cocktail, explore some non-alcoholic drinks to serve as replacements.
It might be an opportunity to find a non-alcoholic beer that you can replace your favorite IPA with the next time you want the flavor minus the alcohol. There are plenty of mocktails you can blend that have the bite, bitterness, or sweetness of a mixed drink.
This is especially helpful if you plan to attend an outing and want a drink to hold without feeling awkward.
Fill your time with other activities
Looking back on the years I spent struggling with alcohol, a big part of the addiction was a misuse of my time and energy.
Bouncing back from alcohol addiction to become a successful pro boxer was only possible because I found an outlet that put discipline and purpose over self-destruction.
If you’re a heavy drinker or someone who finds themselves drinking because they’re bored, Dry January is a good opportunity to turn this into productivity and good habits. You can reclaim this time and energy in your life to:
- Get a jump-start on your weight loss goals for the year
- Spend your weekends truly resting and decompressing from work, minus the hangover, loud music, and other variables that often accompany habitual drinking
- Pocket the money that you spend for alcohol and save, invest, or use it in more productive ways
- Start a new hobby or creative activity
- Journal your thoughts and goals with a clearer mind
You might even shock yourself to see how much more productive free time you have available when it’s not spent with alcoholic beverages.
Know your triggers and avoid them
Dry January will be an intense source of frustration if you don’t understand your drinking habits.
Our brains have reward systems that secrete feel-good chemicals like dopamine once triggered in certain ways. 1
You might also have emotional triggers that prompt alcohol cravings. Smelling smoke could remind you of the bar. Maybe you’re not used to watching your favorite sporting events without a beer in your hand.
For the entire month, you need to be mindful of the things that cause you to want to drink, and limit these situations as much as possible. It’s foolish to try to test your willpower when you haven’t unlearned the habit yet, so clear your environment of anything that makes you crave alcohol.
Don’t frame it as a punishment
Rather than lamenting that you “can’t” drink for an entire month, consider insead that you’re regaining sobriety. Even if you resume your usual drinking habits the following month, you’ll be glad that you exerted the discipline required to put alcohol in its proper place, rather than be controlled by it.
Dry January will drag by if every step of the way you treat it like a chore. You’re not being punished and this isn’t about taking your fun away because you did something wrong.
It’s a calibration and a gift to yourself that can improve your physical and mental health.
Learn what to expect
Set expectations for Dry January so that you can face it head-on.
First, expect this challenge to be difficult. Giving something up that you’re used to freely indulging in will at the very least mark a change in your routines and patterns.
Some people experience withdrawal symptoms like nausea, chronic headache, sweating, vomiting, and anxiety. Experiencing mild to serious alcohol withdrawal shows that your body is dependent to some degree.
Use this as a life-altering wakeup call so that you can start making healthy changes long-term.
Understand the benefits of Dry January
If you’re not someone who goes out binge drinking every night or even every weekend, is it worth it to do Dry January?
The negative effects of alcohol are abundantly clear when you’re blacking out, getting into fights, or if your identity is tied up in your drinking habits. It’s not so easy to notice how alcohol takes from you if your intake isn’t as severe or habitual.
Most can’t see the health benefits that come with being alcohol-free until you give it a try in the short-term. Breaking ties with alcohol for an entire month can offer you the space and breath you need to notice a change.
You might see benefits like:
- Experiencing better sleep that is more restful and with vivid dreams
- Health benefits like lower blood pressure, weight loss, lower body fat, and the ability to pack on more muscle in the gym
- Having more energy, clarity, and brain focus in your daily life
- The starting point for going sober for good or making other significant changes
- A chance to detox and allow your body’s systems to recuperate
- Improvements to your sense of well-being and emotional and mental health
- Avoiding serious safety and health issues like liver disease, drinking and driving, and blackouts
To fully experience these health benefits, you should use this time to make sure you’re also eating healthy and staying hydrated.
Give your body the balanced vitamins and nutrients that it needs, along with your recommended intake of calories. Make sure that you’re also drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces of water per day.2
So, if you weigh 190 pounds, make sure you’re getting at least 95 ounces of water.
This can help replenish your body with the building blocks that you lose when you drink. Not only does drinking alcohol dehydrate your body 3, but it also often comes with poor food decisions or malnutrition.
Cut out stressors and allow yourself the opportunity to internalize these changes throughout the month of January.
Quitting alcohol was the best decision I could have made for myself. I created a course called Vice Breakers to help you break your worst habits and finally leave them behind for good. You can check out Vice Breakershere
Wrapping up – Dry January
Taking control of my sobriety was more than an accomplishment. It gave me my life back and let me live a life I never dreamed of.
If you get to experience even a fraction of the joy that this sort of decision brings, you should consider your Dry January a smashing success. It takes discipline to find out what you’re made of or what’s holding you back.
Start with holding strong and cutting out alcohol for the entire month of January, and the rest is up to you.
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/does-alcohol-dehydrate-you. (Accessed January 13, 2023)
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Cravings. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/cravings/. (Accessed January 13, 2023) ↩
Stone, Jennifer. University of Missouri System. How to calculate how much water you should drink. May 6, 2022. https://www.umsystem.edu/totalrewards/wellness/how-to-calculate-how-much-water-you-should-drink. (Accessed January 13, 2023) ↩
Sullivan, Debra. Medical News Today. Does Alcohol Dehydrate You? October 8, 2021. ↩