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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!