Starting 2020, I participated in “dry January.” I went 31 days without alcohol – no sips, drinks or slip-ups. I learned a lot about myself during this process and wanted to share some insights if you’ve considered going “cold turkey” with something on any given month.
Here’s a few tips to help you get started:
- Have a strong “why.” – I started praying in December leading up to this. I had tried to do this last January, but didn’t stick with it or have clear expectations for myself. For me, I had started reaching for a drink most nights during the week after a hard day with the kids or to “unwind.” I knew I needed to break this cycle to know that I could and to reset my body. I also have random insomnia and wanted to know if alcohol use was related (turns out it is – more on that later). But I had a really strong why. I wasn’t giving myself an “out” this time. Even if we went out to eat or had friends over, I was determined to abstain, and I did!
- Avoid alcohol aisles and settings where it will be – the best way to fight temptation is to not even look at it or have access to it. I avoided looking at it in grocery stories, didn’t go into our beer fridge to just “look,” and stayed in most nights so as to avoid being offered it.
- Replace it with a fun flavored water or tea – I got really into hot tea at night and now prefer that to alcohol! I worried about replacing one habit for another, but this is a healthier one! We all need to relax and close the day and if the occasional tea (or beer) is what you desire, do so in moderation!
- Get your spouse on board – Nathan did this with me for most of the month. He had a few events where he knew he wanted a beer so he planned those then didn’t have anything with me at night. It helped to not see him reaching for something when he knew I was trying not to. We both started doing the tea and bonded over that most evenings!
Those are my tips for success when doing a “dry” month, but I also wanted to share a few insights of self discovery I had…
I first decided to do this in January because December is full of parties and lots of opportunities for me to drink more than 1 beer in a sitting. Working from home, I also realized how easy it was to consider every night a weekend. And on the weekends, we drink! My body needed it as much as my mind. I found myself reaching for a beer as soon as the kids were in bed as a way to destress. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a beer to relax, but I was grabbing it for the wrong reasons. I had come to believe I needed it to feel better or to feel like myself. For these 31 days, I had to sit with my feelings and consider why I wanted a beer after a long bedtime routine with the kids. Because I felt stressed? Anxious? Overwhelmed? It helped me stop and pray, evaluate what was actually going on, and reconsider my options moving forward.
I also didn’t miss it as much as I had thought I would. I assumed the first few days would be easy but the first weekend would be hard. It was because we had friends over and I simply said, “I’m not drinking right now,” and I didn’t even consider that some might think I was pregnant (I’m not). But it is a weird thing to say without a big explanation. I just wasn’t drinking this month. As the month went on, I realized I was more afraid of reintroducing it then being without it. I felt more at peace, had more energy and was sleeping better than ever. I can get random insomnia (wake up after 3 hours of sleep and can’t fall back asleep) and I had zero sleepless nights during January. When alcohol is metabolized, this shortens that deep REM sleep so we’re prone to more wakefulness. Once I cut alcohol, I was more productive, more patient, with more energy, and with a clearer focus.
I needed to know that I could go 30 days without alcohol, and I did! It’s true what they say that the more you use a mental muscle, then more that develops, much like your physical muscles.
Now that we’re into February, I am drinking on occasion again. I do love a good craft beer, but I’m intentional, don’t drink as much, and plan my week mentally first so I’m not reaching for a drink when I’m stressed or agitated.
Have you ever done a “dry” month? If not, I’d love to encourage you too! It will teach you a lot about yourself, strengthen you mentally, and hopefully leave you sleeping like a baby!