If you are one of the millions of people who have taken part in Dry January you may have been wondering what to do when the month comes to an end, this post is designed to help you.
For some people it has been a long wait to drink alcohol again and after four weeks of not drinking through sheer willpower the first thing they want to do is head to the pub or break open a bottle of wine at home.
However, for many people who take part in Dry January the experience is much different, they haven’t been using willpower alone and have approached the break from alcohol with a different mindset. Over the course of the month they encounter positive changes to their mind and body and start to understand the serious impact alcohol has been having on their lives.
Often they will feel happier in themselves, less stressed and anxious and will want to maintain that feeling after January has ended.
I often speak to people who take a one month break from alcohol as an experiment and by the end of the month they feel like they don’t want to return to the old version of themselves. It is often the first step on the path to complete freedom from alcohol.
My advice for anyone who is coming to the end of Dry January and wants to continue their progress would be to consider extending the break from alcohol. Make a firm and true commitment, maybe for a further 30 days, or even make it 60 or 90, whatever feels right. Once you have made your commitment write it down and put it somewhere prominent to remind you, maybe on your fridge or your phone.
Below are more tips about what to do beyond Dry January:
Reflect on your progress
Hopefully you have been making notes and journaling about your Dry January experience. If so, as the month comes to an end take some time to reflect on your progress. Look at how far you have come and what has changed.
If you haven’t been writing down your experiences, now is a great time to start.
Revisit your beliefs about alcohol
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 approach the end of 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.
You may also find some of your beliefs have changed after your Dry January experience.
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.
What’s your why?
Write down the reason why you decided to take part in Dry January. Maybe you were sick and tired of hangovers or you may have simply been 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
If you choose to take a further break from alcohol continue to approach it as an experiment. It is not a challenge, we can fail at a challenge but we can’t fail an experiment.
Take the time to notice everything that is going on while you are alcohol-free, there may be changes to your moods, sleep, skin and a whole lot more. Ensure you gather the data and keep an open mind about the changes.
Take a selfie
If you didn’t take a selfie at the start of Dry January take one now and compare it with some old photos of yourself. Can you see a difference? Maybe in the eye or the skin? Write down everything you notice.
If you did take a selfie at the start use a photo editing app to compare another one now, you can put them side by side to see the difference.
When you can see the visual changes in your face it can motivate you to continue your alcohol-free journey.
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 during your extended break.
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 as you go forward.
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 or after 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 after 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 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.
Dry January can be the stepping stone to a long lasting life-change, by making a further commitment to take an extended break from alcohol we can get to a place where it slowly starts to feel insignificant and we no longer have any desire to drink.