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  • Emma Erickson

Dry January: 5 Tips for the Sober Curious


Nearly every new year for the last decade, we hear talk of folks committing to Dry January. Dry January is a campaign born out of the UK that aims to promote alcohol abstinence for 31 days, the goal being to help people improve sleep, energy, and overall mental health. With dry months quickly becoming the next health fad, it begs the question, “Are dry months really worth it?


The short answer is yes.


Taking a step back from drinking gives us the opportunity to examine our relationship with alcohol more closely. Through this exploration process, we can make changes that positively impact our lives. Additionally, Alcohol UK reports that 86% of Dry January participants save money, 70% sleep better, and 66% have more energy.


Whether you’re in the thick of Dry January or gearing up for your next alcohol-free month, here are 5 tips to help you make the most out of it:

1) Fill your time creatively

When removing alcohol or other substances from your daily life, it’s important to fill that space with something new, especially if drinking takes up a considerable amount of your time. The space freed by your newfound abstinence may feel vast. This is an opportunity to lean into creativity and find new hobbies to fill the new space. Some helpful questions to ask yourself are

  • What do I enjoy outside of drinking?

  • What activities did I enjoy as a kid that I want to try again?

  • What brings me joy?

  • Have I been curious about an activity I’ve never tried before?

2) Create new routines

When removing drinking from your day-to-day routine, be intentional in choosing which habits will replace drinking. The transition to sobriety can be made easier by incorporating new habits that spark joy, recharge you, or inspire you.


As you restructure your daily habits and routines, consider your values. Do your habits reflect your values? For example, if one of your most salient values is family, examine how often you include spending time with family in your routine. If peace is what you value, how often do you set aside quiet time for yourself to enjoy the present moment?

3) Invite in support

Part of bringing awareness to our relationship with alcohol means taking a close look at the role alcohol plays in our interpersonal relationships. Oftentimes adult support systems are intertwined with social drinking. Alcohol is a social lubricant that can act as the common denominator for many adult friendships. Take a look around at the people in your current support system. Can you connect with each other without alcohol? Do they support your choices?

Cultivate a support system of individuals who respect your choices related to drinking, and be vocal about how the people in your circle can support you. It may also be helpful to ask another sober-curious friend to be your Dry January accountability buddy.

4) Write down what you learn

Check in with yourself before, during, and after your next dry month and write down what you discover. If going alcohol-free is a new endeavor for you, there’s a lot to be learned about yourself throughout the journey. Writing provides an outlet to process it all so that you can look back on the experience with more clarity.


Consider writing about any positive changes you’ve noticed, as well as the most difficult parts of the experience.

5) Awareness is key

Incorporating an alcohol-free month creates space to bring awareness to how alcohol may be impacting your life. In reflecting on your relationship with alcohol, some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • How does drinking impact my relationships?

  • When is my desire to drink the strongest?

  • Have I dropped the ball on work/school responsibilities because of drinking?

  • How much time do I spend drinking, or thinking about drinking?

  • What do I enjoy about alcohol?

  • Have I noticed a desire to cut down on my drinking?

  • Have I made unsuccessful efforts to control or cut down on drinking?

  • How does alcohol serve me?

  • Do I ever feel out of control when I start drinking?

Notice how the answers to these questions sit with you. If feelings of concern come up, it might be helpful to explore your relationship with alcohol with the help of a therapist. As you embark on your sober-curious journey, know that therapy can provide a safe, non-judgemental place for self-exploration and support.


Lastly, it’s always a good idea to loop your physician in on any changes you plan to make with regard to your alcohol or substance use. For individuals who are dependent on alcohol, suddenly quitting can be extremely dangerous. In some cases, it can be fatal. Individuals who experience seizures, tremors, shakiness, hallucinations, sweating, anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts after a period of drinking should seek medical attention immediately.


Resources

Alcohol Change UK (2022) Dry January. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/help-and-support/managing-your-drinking/dry-january#:~:text=Dry%20January-,Dry%20January.,an%20amazing%20sense%20of%20achievement.


Emma Erickson is joining Honeybee and specializes in exploring your relationship with substances and determining your next right step in how you want to engage with substances in your life. She also offers walk and talk therapy as a tool if you struggle with sitting during a session. Her goal is to stand alongside you and help you move towards the life you want- without judgment or preconditions. Please reach out to engage@honeybeepsychotherapy.com to get scheduled with her today!


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