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  • Writer's pictureLandon Payne

Surviving & Thriving During Dry January

Much like Sober October, Dry January is the act of removing alcohol from your diet for the entire month.

Dry January began in 2013 as a public health campaign from Alcohol Change UK, a charity focused on reducing the societal and health effects of alcohol. Millions of people ditch the booze every year for a multitude of reasons like saving money, health reasons, testing out a sober lifestyle, etc.

If you drink regularly, you may have a rough go of things at the beginning. Trust me, I know how difficult it can be to enjoy a night out (or in, if you prefer) without a delicious cocktail to relax you. Drinking is so deeply embedded into American culture that gaining your social footing without alcohol can be burdensome.

As someone who's been in the trenches and back again, I have just what you need to make it through Dry January successfully. Before I go into my spill, I just want to commend everyone participating. You made it through the first week/weekend! As I mentioned before, practicing sobriety in an alcohol-infused world is no easy feat and the first Friday is, notably, where most people slip up. If no one has told you, I'm so proud of you!

Now on to the good stuff!

Set Social Boundaries

To be honest, I'm leading with this tip because it's one of the most difficult. Sticking to Dry January gets tricky when typical drinking occasions pop up – be it office happy hours or toasting at a friend's wedding. Resisting those familiar indulgences becomes a real challenge.

Part of being sober means redefining fun. If you are spending time with old friends, you may want to fit in with them like you used to. It's easy to romanticize the past once you have gained distance from it. Setting boundaries may look like avoiding events where alcohol is served or avoiding people who indulge. I prefer to avoid drunk people altogether. Thankfully, the presence of alcohol is no longer triggering for me. However, drunk people are the absolute worst and I prefer to avoid them at all costs.

It's also really helpful to have a plan for when friends ask why you're not drinking during a night out. A simple response like "I'm doing Dry January, but thanks for asking. Please, enjoy yourself!" works perfectly well and keeps things smooth.

Be solid about your boundaries and stand ten toes down. It might feel a bit controlling or selfish, but it's needed. If you want others to respect your limits, you've gotta do the same for yourself. Stick to your guns and stay true. Giving in just shows you're not serious about what you need..

Enlist An Accountability Partner

Having a trusted friend or family member helps you resist peer pressure. My mama is my favorite accountability partner. She stays all up in my business to make sure I'm feeling good mentally. Another source of accountability for me is social media. My sobriety journey is loud and public. A few hundred accountability partners are a HUGE help and it helps others who may want to sober up or cut back.

Enlisting an accountability partner while abstaining from alcohol has been a game-changer for me. Having someone to share this journey with, to check in with regularly, and to offer support and encouragement has made it so much easier. It's like having a teammate cheering you on and keeping you focused on your goals. It adds a supportive element that makes the whole experience more manageable and even enjoyable.

Reevaluate Your Social Circle

Now I'm not recommending you denounce your entire friend group. However, sobriety has a way of lifting the veil and putting some truths on display. This time lets you dig into your social life a bit deeper. You might start wondering:

  • Are these hangouts just about drinks, or is there value in this setting?

  • Do these friendships go beyond alcohol, or is that the main focus?

Getting a handle on the people we surround ourselves with and the reasons behind it all helps us focus on what matters and push forward in our personal growth.

What to Do If You Slip Up?

Take a deep breath. A relapse isn't the end of the world. It's a bump, not the whole road. Show yourself some grace. Acknowledge it happened, commit to learning from it, and move forward. Remember, alcohol cravings are a chemical response. To ace Dry January, it's crucial to shift your mindset. Instead of feeling deprived or missing out, focus on the gains of this challenge. Embracing sobriety in a positive light can make all the difference.

What I appreciate most about events like Dry January and Sober October is that they give you insight into your relationship with alcohol. After completing Dry January, some find themselves feeling their best, moving into February with a sense of accomplishment. Some experts say that a month isn't enough for a complete system reset or a full detox from alcohol. Considering this, why not prolong your sobriety journey?

If Dry January felt like a never-ending struggle, maybe it's time to take a closer look at your relationship with alcohol. It could be a sign that things aren't as healthy as they should be. If that's the case, reaching out for professional help might be the best move.

If you or someone you know is experiencing trouble with alcohol or any other substance, I highly recommend reaching out to SAMHSA.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Best of luck this month! I'm rooting for you!

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