Around 5 million people in the UK take part in Dry January by taking a one month break from drinking alcohol. After the Christmas holidays and New Years Eve celebrations many people have overdone the booze and feel the need to detox and prove to themselves they still have control over their drinking habits. Many people also partake in Dry January for charity and it raises millions for some awesome causes.
While I am an advocate of an alcohol-free life, I am also a big fan of one month no-drinking challenges as they give people an introduction to sobriety and will hopefully result in many of them never returning to drinking.
However, attempting to succeed at Dry January using willpower alone will usually result in an uncomfortable and slightly painful experience. Willpower works like a muscle and if we overuse it then eventually it wears out and we cave in. Just imagine holding a weight above your head for 31 days! This is what Dry January can start feeling like if you don’t have a strategy for success.
The last thing you want is to be feeling like you are being deprived for the whole of January, that would feel like torture. Dry January should be a fun and enjoyable experience and allow you to find out something new about yourself. Treat it as a 31 day journey of self-discovery and think about what you stand to gain, not what you are losing.
Below are some top tips that work for people who want to quit drinking long-term. They are also perfect for anyone who is looking to not only complete Dry January, but enjoy themselves at the same time.
Tips to help you smash Dry January
What’s your why?
At the start of Dry January get yourself a journal or notebook. You should write down your thoughts and feelings each day and stay really mindful about what you are experiencing over the 31 days.
Start by writing out the reasons why you are taking part in Dry January. Maybe you are sick and tired of hangovers or you may simply be wanting to prove that alcohol does not have control over you life by taking a break from it. There are no right or wrong answers, just write down whatever comes up for you.
Be sure to make daily entries in your journal and get really curious about what you are experiencing.
Treat it as an experiment
Rather than treating Dry January as a challenge, approach it as an experiment. We can fail a challenge but we can’t fail an experiment.
The point is that the 31 day break from alcohol is a personal experiment for you to experience what changes you experience (internally and externally).
A few weeks after I quit drinking I had experienced the best sleep of my life and also seen the darkness around my eyes fade away. People also told me my skin was glowing and I started to feel my anxiety slowly starting to reduce and I was becoming happier in myself. All this after just a few weeks, imagine what would happen after a few months without alcohol!
Again, make sure you write everything you notice in your journal.
I also recommend taking a selfie at the start of your experiment and another at the end of Dry January so you can see and compare the difference. You may also want to log your weight at the start and end of the month.
What do you believe?
I used to firmly believe that:
- I couldn’t have fun without drinking
- I couldn’t relax without alcohol
- Alcohol helped my anxiety
I now know that I was totally wrong and have worked on forming new beliefs that don’t hold me back. I want what I believe to allow me to be the best version of myself rather than limit me, I am sure you want the same.
Write down everything you believe about alcohol, including the reasons why you think you like to drink and as you go through Dry January look much closer at what you believe. I am confident you will find many of your beliefs about alcohol are limiting you and you will also discover many of them to be completely untrue.
I never tire of hearing someone tell me (in a state of shock) how they have just discovered that they actually can have fun at a party without drinking after dancing sober and laughing all night long without a drop of alcohol.
It is important to stay focused and I recommend getting your hands on a couple of decent sober books (my book The Sober Survival Guide is a good starting place). You can read a chapter or two each day until the end of January.
I would also recommend joining the Be Sober Facebook group where you can connect with other people who are working on changing their relationship with alcohol.
Podcasts and YouTube videos are also another great way to expand your knowledge about quitting drinking and keep you really focused during Dry January.
Check out the Be Sober YouTube channel for some inspiration and more tactics for quitting drinking and having fun while doing it.
Do something fun or productive with your time
I spent around 20-25 hours per week drinking before I finally kicked the booze. That is a LOT of hours that I could have been doing something far more productive and interesting with.
Rather than sitting around pining for my old friend Shiraz I made a list of all the things I wanted to do and achieve, I called it my sober bucket list (you can find my list here) and I have been getting out into the big wide world ticking things off the list ever since.
So make use of the time you were spending drinking and do something that excites you.
Find a new go-to drink
There are so many incredible zero-alcohol drinks available that it is hard to not to find a new drink that you don’t fall in love with.
I found the experience of sampling and experimenting with all these new and wonderful drinks so much fun. I soon forgot that I wasn’t drinking alcohol and quickly formed a new (healthy) habit with my zero-alcohol alternatives.
Take a trip to the alcohol-free section of your nearest large supermarket and explore all those new flavours that are waiting for you to discover them.
My current favourite is Atopia with a nice tonic and a slice of lime.
Learn from any setbacks
If you do have a drink during Dry January you are NOT A FAILURE – remember, this is an experiment, not a challenge, so you can’t fail.
Instead of beating yourself up and becoming emotional take the time to explore why you chose to have a drink and what you could do differently so it doesn’t happen next time.
Be a bit like a detective at a crime scene, look at the evidence and learn from what you find.
What was it that triggered you? What could you change to prevent it happening again? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Write it all down in your journal and make yourself stronger as you go forward.
Try and plan ahead. If you have any boozy nights out planned during Dry January consider switching them for a trip to the cinema or the bowling alley instead. The last thing you want is to be around alcohol and people who might pressure you to drink until you feel strong enough to know that there is no way you will cave into temptation.
It may also make sense to remove alcohol from your house during January if you think you might be tempted to drink. When I quit drinking I put all the bottles of wine I had (and there were a lot) in a box outside the front of my house with a sign that said ‘free to a good home’ – they were gone within 15 minutes.
Consider extending the break from alcohol
I found that I started to experience some of the gifts that sobriety had to offer after a few weeks without drinking, but the big changes came after a few months.
My anxiety eventually reduced to almost nothing and I found new levels of mental resilience, peace and happiness in my life.
When I coach people to help them quit alcohol, I always tell them that the first 30 days are the hardest and after this everything gets easier and easier, this is also when some wonderful changes start happening. While I love one month alcohol breaks, it feels a bit like doing the hardest possible part of becoming sober and returning to drinking just before starting to experience all the incredible benefits that come after the first month.
So as you approach the end of Dry January think about extending your break from booze, maybe you could commit to a further 60 days or even 90 days?
Maybe you could even think about what a life without alcohol might look like for you?
Watch the video below – Is Dry January Worth It?