Every January, millions of people set resolutions and outline goals for the upcoming year. The first week of the first month brings with it an influx of inspiration for individuals to become the best version of themselves. You’ve probably at least a few ideas for how you’d like to head into the year, whether it’s reading one book a month or finally getting into the gym as you’ve promised yourself.
Dry January is another common resolution. This 30-day alcohol-free challenge is a way for people to reset after the often boozy holiday season. Taking a few weeks off of drinking serves as a welcome reset for millions of people around the world. While many people used the New Year as a way to kickstart their step back from drinking in decades past, Dry January helped bring people together for a booze-free month.
Participation in Dry January continues growing each year. It’s an opportunity for many people to reconsider their relationship not only with alcohol, but with other substances as well. Some find that separating from alcohol is harder than they anticipated. In this way, Dry January also provides some clarity on what many people consider their “normal” drinking behaviors.
What is Dry January?
Alcohol is so interwoven with social interactions that many people hardly consider how much they drink. From happy hour with coworkers to drinks on a first date to beers at a barbecue, alcohol is a prevalent force. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 50% of people ages 12 and older have had at least one alcoholic drink in the last month.
Alcohol Change UK coined the term Dry January during a campaign in 2013. The organization wanted to get people interested and engaged in staying alcohol-free for a month. Dry January drew far more attention and enthusiasm than anticipated and quickly became a mainstream practice.
When you’re challenged to decline drinks for an entire month, it gives you a clear picture of your relationship with alcohol. Even if you don’t consider yourself a heavy drinker, you may find yourself surprised if you participate in the challenge. You may not struggle with compulsive drinking, but it may not be as easy as you thought, either.
Dry January encourages you to reconsider your relationship with alcohol. You instantly become more aware of the role that alcohol plays in your life. After gaining some awareness, you can continue into the rest of the year taking a more intentional approach with your drinking.
Benefits of Cutting Back on Drinking
The inspiration for Dry January originated two years before the Alcohol Change UK campaign. Emily Robinson, part of Alcohol Change UK, was preparing for her first half-marathon in February 2011. Part of her training regimen included cutting out alcohol for the month before her race.
Robinson experienced notable differences in even the short time she spent alcohol-free. She slept better, lost weight, and had more energy throughout the day. She shared her experiences with friends and family, encouraging them to try it and notice the differences.
The benefits of cutting back on drinking aren’t isolated to Robinson alone. There are many positives to reducing alcohol consumption. Plenty of research shows that limiting drinking leads to dozens of beneficial effects. In addition to what Robinson noticed, some benefits include:
- Better focus and concentration
- Brighter mood
- Refreshed skin
- Fewer gastrointestinal issues
- Less liver fat
- Lower cholesterol levels
Alcohol Change UK also hired an alcohol behavior change expert, Dr. Richard de Visser, to track some of the campaign’s first participants. According to his six-month follow-up research, Dry January participants were so pleased with the benefits that 7 out of 10 people were still drinking less as a result. A month away from alcohol proved itself worth the initial challenge!Your Content Goes Here
Dry January and the “Sober Curious” Movement
What started as a small nationwide campaign in the UK has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. People throughout the world participate in the opportunity to start their year booze-free and on the right foot. The Dry January movement has made waves in the United States as well. Forbes reported that 15% of Americans expressed their plans to pass on alcohol for January in 2021, up from the 11% who planned to participate the year before.
The growing interest in Dry January likely stems from the increasing popularity of the “sober curious” movement in general. People on social media, from celebrities to influencers to everyday individuals, are more open about their decision to stay sober. The public shift toward acceptance of sobriety has encouraged many to reconsider their drinking habits.
Maybe you’ve found yourself intrigued by the sober curious movement. Plenty of people on various social media platforms find community among their booze-lite and booze-free counterparts. After all, the alcohol-free avenue is quickly becoming a big business, from non-alcoholic craft cocktails to booze-free bars.
When Dry January May Not Be Enough
At the same time, the Dry January and the sober curious movement are not sufficient for someone who struggles with compulsive drinking. Sure, they may introduce the idea of sobriety. They are often a catalyst for recovery in those who never realized they had a problem. But neither offer the solution and support necessary to overcome alcohol use disorder.
Taking a month off of drinking is only the start for those seeking genuine recovery. Recovery is more than a month-long challenge to remain alcohol-free. Maintaining an alcohol- and drug-free life when you live with alcohol or substance use disorder is not as simple as it seems.
Dry January is a great introduction to reducing alcohol intake, but sometimes it doesn’t go far enough. Someone who realizes they have a serious problem may want to consider a more intensive approach to help build lasting sobriety.
Has Alcohol Become a Problem For You?
If you opted to try Dry January and realized that it’s more difficult than you thought, it’s time to assess your relationship with alcohol. How do you know whether alcohol has become a problem for you? Some signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Not being able to have “just one” drink
- Regularly drinking more than you intend to
- Wanting to cut back but not being able to
- Slacking on responsibilities because of your drinking
- Continuing to drink despite resulting mental or physical health problems
- Experiencing cravings or withdrawal symptoms
You may find that you can’t stop on your own and need some help. Choosing to ignore your problematic drinking will only make the issue worse as time passes. If you notice any of these things, seeking treatment for alcohol abuse is the first step.
Shifting From Dry January to Recovery
Bridging the gap between Dry January and lifelong recovery likely sounds like a massive and almost impossible challenge. However, building a foundation for lasting recovery isn’t as inconceivable as it seems. Drug and alcohol treatment programs are a pivotal part of the recovery process for millions of people.
Peace Valley Recovery is an outpatient alcohol and drug treatment program in Doylestown, PA. We provide intensive care and support for those struggling to control their alcohol and drug use. If you tried Dry January and found that you couldn’t stop on your own, we’d love to help you. You don’t have to battle with your drinking alone.
Our kind and caring admissions specialists are here to answer any questions you may have. We’ll determine which approach is right for you and connect you with the care you need! To learn more about our programs or find out how you can get help, please call us today!