8 Tips to Make it Through Dry January
Why Participate in Dry January?
After the excessive partying that often involves drinking during the holidays, many people choose to participate in “Dry January,” a month when they voluntarily stop drinking alcohol. This goal is a way to start the new year on a sober, more clear, and healthy note. If you need tips to make it through dry January, keep reading to discover the proper steps to take.
Alcohol Change UK, a British charity, began Dry January in 2012 with an incentive to reduce hangovers, become healthier, and save money by giving up alcohol for 31 days. Millions of Americans now take part in the challenge, especially with the growing evidence that alcohol has no health benefits.
There are some compelling reasons, primarily health-related, to participate in Dry January. One reason is to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Are you able to go a week, a month, more without alcohol? If not, why can’t you?
Dry January lets people sample sobriety without feeling overwhelmed about stopping alcohol forever. Within a few weeks, people will realize how much alcohol has impacted their health and that they are sleeping better, are less anxious, and see how much better they are feeling overall without drinking.
Drinking too much alcohol has some severe health issues, especially for women. Alcohol can increase the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer, and it can cause brain and heart damage and liver disease.
Benefits of Taking a Break from Alcohol
It is well known now that many Americans have reported drinking more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Heavier drinking and long-term drinking have been shown to have many mental and physical problems, especially among older adults. But even taking a break for a month by reducing alcohol cravings has shown noticeable health differences. Regular drinkers who stopped alcohol for 30 days had more energy, slept better, had better skin, and lost weight. One study even found a rapid decrease in certain blood chemical messengers associated with cancer progression. Taking a break also gave people a sense of achievement, and they felt better and more mentally sharp. Others reported a decrease in their heartburn, irritability, anxiety, and frequency of headaches.
8 Tips for a Successful Dry January
For some, a month might seem like nothing, but for others, it might be a little more challenging to go without alcohol, especially with years of forming habits around alcohol. Here are some tips to make it through Dry January successfully:
- Find a substitute: For the most part, people use alcohol in social situations or as a way to relax after a long day. Finding something to sip on at parties, such as sparkling water or virgin beverages, can help. There are also many non-alcoholic beers and wines; just be cautious of their high sugar content if you are trying to lose weight. Finding better ways to cope with stress is another way to substitute, like using calming teas or behavioral methods to relax, such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can help.
- Avoid your triggers: For some, some environments or events can trigger drinkings, such as sporting events or the after-work happy hour. It can be best to avoid these situations if you have trouble keeping your urges at bay, at least initially.
- Plan and set goals: You may have tried abstaining from alcohol for a month before but failed. It might be best to set smaller goals. Maybe it is reducing the number of alcoholic beverages a week or how many nights a week you drink, and that in itself is a significant accomplishment.
- Avoid temptations: Keep alcohol out of your house and when you are invited to someone else’s house, bring your own non-alcoholic drinks with you.
- Adjust your routine: If you have a habit of always having a drink at sundown or right after work, fill that time with something else, such as exercise. Keeping yourself busy will help with boredom, which is often a trigger for drinking. You can get more exercise by going for a walk or hike or even doing an online workout video. Other forms of keeping yourself busy may be to pick up arts and crafts or other hobbies.
- Build a support group: Let your friends and family know you are doing Dry January; some may even want to do it with you. Letting other people know can help keep you accountable or not feel so alone. You can also find online support groups if no one close wants to participate.
- Use the Try Dry app: This free app helps you keep track of your drinking and set personal goals. It also offers motivational information like calories and money saved from not drinking.
- Seek professional help: Many people will discover they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and it may be time to find professional help to quit bad drinking habits. You can talk to your local healthcare provider about where to start and what treatment options are available.
Once you check on your feelings during and after a month of abstinence, you may have lost your alcohol cravings or realized you are much better off not drinking at all. Be aware of problems that might arise during Dry January, including alcohol withdrawal that can range from mild to serious. Mild symptoms include anxiety, headaches, nausea, shaky hands, insomnia, sweating, and vomiting. Severe symptoms will kick in two or three days after quitting and can be severe, such as hallucinations, delirium, fever, and a racing heart. You should seek immediate medical help if you experience withdrawal symptoms.
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? Understanding Your Drinking Habits
You might not be aware that your drinking habits are a problem. There are multiple ways you could be drinking too much; it is not just being intoxicated every day of the week. Drinking in moderation limits alcoholic beverages to two drinks or less for men and one drink or less for women.
Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings the blood alcohol concentration up to 0.08%, which is about five or more drinks in two hours for men or four or more drinks in two hours for women. Heavy alcohol use is when men consume four drinks or more a day or more than 14 drinks in a week. It is drinking more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks per week for women. Heavy alcohol use can also be defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the past month.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that stops an individual’s ability to prevent or control alcohol use. This includes alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction. AUD can cause changes in the brain, making individuals vulnerable to relapse. But there is no problem that is too severe that cannot be helped. People can achieve and maintain sobriety with evidence-based treatment, behavioral therapies, support groups, medications, and holistic therapies. Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use, as defined above, increase the risk of developing AUD. Other risk factors include drinking at an early age, genetics and family history for alcohol abuse problems, and mental health conditions.
Some of the symptoms of AUD include drinking more or longer than you intended, not being able to cut down, spending a lot of time drinking or being sick from drinking, having withdrawal symptoms from stopping, wanting to drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else, and prolonged drinking even though it caused health or relationship problems. Any of these symptoms are cause for concern. Therefore trying out Dry January could be beneficial to reassess your relationship with alcohol.
If you are experiencing these symptoms of AUD or are having a hard time cutting back alcohol, you may need to reach out for professional help before it worsens. At Muse Treatment, we offer a wide range of programs for alcohol addiction. From medical detox to help safely wean off alcohol, assessing the core issue of alcoholism, and long-term care with support groups and individual therapy.
We support our patients no matter where they are in their recovery journey and customize treatment for each unique case. They then leave our rehabilitation center with tools to cope and manage negative emotions that may trigger their addiction. Please give us a call at (800) 426-1818 today for more information on sobriety and tips to make it through Dry January; one of our addiction specialists will be happy to answer your questions or get you started with any of our treatment programs.
— Muse Treatment (@MuseTreatmentLA) January 13, 2022