Tips For A Successful Dry January

Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

Of all the New Year’s resolutions that people make, giving up alcohol for a month is surely toward the top of the list. After all, the memory of a bit of over-enthusiastic holiday revelry (politely known as over-indulging) may be painfully fresh.

Indeed, the inclination to get healthy in the new year has even inspired a recent trend: Dry January. In 2013 a charity organization in England  — Alcohol Change UK — got the idea going and it almost immediately caught on in America.

Given the health benefits of moderating your alcohol consumption if you choose to drink at all, it’s no surprise people are embracing Dry January. Writing for Harvard Health Publishing, Matthew Solan says, “While past observational studies suggested a link between drinking a moderate amount of alcohol and health benefits from some people, more recent research has questioned whether any amount of alcohol improves health outcomes. And heavier drinking or long-term drinking can increase physical and mental problems, especially among older adults. Heart and liver damage, a higher cancer risk, a weakened immune system, memory issues, and mood disorders are common issues.”

If you’d like to kick off 2024 in a healthy way and go dry in January, Solan has some tips for you.

Find a substitute non-alcoholic drink. This is a basic bit of advice but one that people sometimes overlook. Of course you’re going to want to sip on something before dinner or at a social event. So find one you really enjoy and stock up on it for the month. Remember, it’s easier to replace a habit than break one, so make your favorite non-alcoholic beverage your new go-to whenever you have a little craving.

Avoid temptations. It’s pretty common to have a wine rack stocked with several bottles or beer out in the garage refrigerator. But to avoid any temptation, it’s best to get rid of any alcohol in the house. Consider moving your beverages to a friend or relative’s house. That will also be a chance to enlist them as part of your support group – see next tip.

Create a support group. Accountability is a strong motivator. Simply announcing a goal to a friend or loved one is a great way to actually achieve your goal — and that’s true whether you’re attempting anything from a Dry January to weight loss. Encourage your supporter to ask about your progress. If you’re taking your goal seriously you will naturally want to gain the self-respect that comes with achieving something that may be difficult for you.

Use the Try Dry app. (See CPR Counseling’s Resources page.) Handy apps that you can easily access through your mobile device are very useful. The Try Dry app, Solan writes, “helps you track your drinking, set personal goals, and offers motivational information like calories and money saved from not drinking. It’s aimed at cutting back on or cutting out alcohol, depending on your choices.

Don’t give up. The problem with maintaining any resolution is that people measure success in black-and-white terms. Sure, going alcohol-free for 31 days is the goal of Dry January, but if you slip and have a drink at a social event or anywhere else, don’t just scrap the whole idea. Be gentle with yourself and commit to getting back on track. That’s when your supporter can really help. They’ll probably be non-judgmental and encourage you to begin again the next day and skip the guilt.