4 Tips for Surviving Dry January—From Someone Who Did a “Dry December”


After overindulging at a networking event in November (who thought it was a good idea to slip me those extra beer tickets?), I decided to swear off drinking until my birthday in January. It wasn’t until I posted my promise on Facebook that I realized I’d instated my ban in what is perhaps the booziest time of the year: the holiday season.

Rather than deleting my post and giving up, I decided to go for it anyway. If I could make it through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve without a single drink, I figured, I’d kick off 2018 feeling optimistic that I could handle anything the year had in store for me.

Of course, the more popular month to go sober is the upcoming one. Dry January started as a public health campaign, particularly in the U.K., with the aim of getting people to abstain from (and reexamine their relationship with) alcohol for a month. But in the past few years, in particular, it has spread as a way to kickstart a healthier new year. Planning to give it a try this year? For all of you hoping to embark on a dry January to detox from the excessive “cheers” and spirits you enjoyed on the winter party circuit, I raise my flute of sparkling cider to you. And I leave you with these tips I’ve learned over the past month.

Share Your Intentions

Telling several hundred friends about my drinking hiatus helped to keep me honest. I didn’t want to write a follow up Facebook post announcing I’d failed. And quietly breaking my ban didn’t seem like an option because party pics of me with a drink in hand or looking lit could have found their way onto the Internet.

Even if you’re not a heavy social media user, you can shoot out a mass text to your friends letting them know what’s up. Better yet, you can announce that you’re devoting your month to being the designated driver. No one’s going to complain when you stick to water if you’re also the person getting them home safely at the end of the night.

Reallocate the Funds

The best part of not drinking was spending my cocktail cash on other things. I ended up buying several plants. It was pretty cool to watch my little indoor plant kingdom grow larger throughout the month; a way to passively track the progress I’d made toward my goal. So let yourself have the large frappe or that tube of lipstick you’ve been admiring. Or bank the extra cash for something bigger at the end of the month.

Have Bar Alternatives Ready

In my social circle, “Let’s grab a drink” is the default get-together suggestion. It was a lot easier for me to decline those invitations without giving up my entire social life if I had an alternative handy. Depending on the friend, I might suggest grabbing a cup of tea or a scoop of ice cream instead. Mani/pedis are also a good dry activity—so is spending the afternoon chatting and checking out an art exhibit.

Or Pick the Right Bar

You don’t have to swear off bars altogether. I found it was easier to kick it at bars that offered mocktails or had kombucha on tap. I still got to sip on something and feel a part of the crew. During my dry December, I stuck to high-end bars and bars at nice restaurants. People don’t tend to get as drunk in these settings as they might at a dive bar or a nightclub. And if I did go to a dive bar or a nightclub, I generally went early before everyone got tipsy and left after an hour or two. I’d clocked some time with my friends, but didn’t let myself get to the point where I’d be annoyed by anyone’s drunk antics.

With a week left until my birthday, I’m surprised to report that it’s been easier to go cold turkey on Wild Turkey than I imagined it would be. Peer pressure at the bar becomes less of an issue as you get older, and my friends were all understanding and supportive of my choice to abstain. I’d never thought of myself as the type of person who could easily go without a drink, so this hiatus is something I wish I’d tried sooner. I now feel like I have a better understanding of myself (and my drinking habits!). Here’s to 2018 and just saying no to surplus drink tickets!

If you’re struggling with an alcohol problem, speak to your doctor, or get more information at findtreatment.samhsa.gov or by calling 1-800-662-HELP.

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