HAPPY NEW YEAR Y’ALL.
I am a seasoned vet when it comes to dry January (I’ve done it the last three years in a row) and this year I’m challenging myself to go dry for 65 days and see how I feel about it. Seven days in and I’m feeling great, but I also have done this before so I know all the tips and tricks to help me stay on course.
Going dry for a month can make you realize any number of things. Here’s a sampling…
- What do you do with your hands at parties?
- Oh god I’m socially awkward and painfully aware of it
- Going out for drinks as an activity doesn’t seem to have the same appeal
- Unwinding after a stressful day can be difficult
- Finding things to do with all that free time (Saturday mornings, for example)
- I don’t need booze to be myself
- I’m better off without booze
Sometimes going out for drinks can become a default thing to do in the evenings and on the weekends. Even if you don’t have an abusive relationship with alcohol, you might not realize the role it plays in your life. If you barely drank to begin with doing a dry month might not feel like much of an adjustment…but either way, you’ll probably come away with some new insights.
I share what I’ve figured out so far below.
My friend Ian stopped drinking for six years (I believe?) and he said the first 10 days are the hardest, and the first 20 minutes of any party is weird, but it’s only up from there. This is 100% true from my experience.
If you are going to a party or two during your dry month, why not offer to be the DD if you have wheels? People will appreciate it, and its a good excuse to lean on if people ask you why you’re not drinking (and you don’t feel like giving them the whole rundown).
Mind you, if you tell people you’re not drinking and they give you a hard time that’s their problem – not yours. If you not drinking makes them uncomfortable it might mean they need to examine their own relationship with alcohol.
I think this video below does a good job of realistically portraying one person’s first experience with a dry month.
I’m speaking from personal experience here, but don’t try to cut too much out at once or make a huge batch of changes all in one go. You’ll probably end up feeling really deprived and cranky. Worse: you won’t be able to stick to all of the changes you’re trying to make because you’re overextending yourself.
This is why I f*cking hate whole 30. I tried it last year, and I turned into a raging bitch who constantly talked about food and beer. I don’t really think about either of those things on a daily basis, but as soon as I told myself I couldn’t have them, my brain was like “you’re gonna die a slow death via your cravings.” Thanks, brain.
You might notice things about yourself you didn’t before, and that’s ok. It’s important to be kind to yourself and have supportive people around you who want you to do what’s best for you. Having someone to help keep you accountable in the moments where you want to cave so badly can really help.
On the other hand, if you don’t feel like going out and being around a bunch of drunk people, that’s ok too! Do whatever you gotta do to get through.
The best thing I did was fill my free time with other activities I could look forward to that didn’t involve drinking. I get bored very easily, and while a lot of people stop drinking to save money I didn’t want to be stuck in my apartment all month, parked on my couch watching Netflix.
Some suggestions for things to do on the weekend:
- Go skating and warm up with hot chocolate afterward
- Hit up a board-game café with a group of friends
- Try something you’ve never done before, like rock climbing, snow shoeing or archery
- Sign up for a karma class where your contribution goes to charity (yoga on a Friday night is the bessssst)
- Plan a ski or hiking day trip
- Buy a cook book and remember how good it feels to eat something you made yourself
- Rearrange your furniture and/or deep clean your apartment
- Go to a movie. Bonus points if you go by yourself — that’s an achievement you’ve unlocked as far as life goes.
- Pump a bunch of quarters into arcade games
- Play pool
- Two words: spa day
- Discover new tracks and make a playlist (this is as good a time as any to shamelessly plug my Soundcloud account)
In general, this is a good time to do things or try things you might not normally to give yourself rewards for breaking out of your comfort zone.
The way I see it, you have absolutely nothing to lose doing a dry month. Especially in January when you probably spent December getting hella merry and drinking all the delicious holiday cocktails and flavoured beverages (guilty as charged).
Every time I’ve chosen to lay off the booze for a bit, it’s been for a different reason and I’ve gotten something different out of it. I see it as another experiment you can try to optimize your life and wellbeing — sort of like changing up your morning routine or diet. Going into it, it’s good to make your reasoning clear to yourself. When we know our ‘why’ it makes it a lot harder to abandon our goals part way through.
You probably saw this coming, but journaling is a great way to track your feelings throughout the month and do some reflecting at the end (it’s great year round actually…but you already knew that, right?). I highly recommend picking up The Five Minute Journal if you don’t own one already.
The biggest thing I figured out is that I’m totally fine without booze in social settings and that I often just used it as a crutch because I was scared of being socially awkward. I now know that being without booze can make for a way more interesting and fun evening.
For example, instead of getting plastered on NYE and forgetting about 2017, I drove for Operation Red Nose on Dec. 31 with a few friends. I experienced some pretty wild and annoying stuff and it was wayyy better than wearing something covered in sequins and going to a party. Even though I went to bed at 5am, I woke up with a sense of accomplishment.
If you didn’t opt in to do dry January, you can always sign up for Dry Feb and help raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society! Sometimes a little external motivation doesn’t hurt either 😉
Worried about your consumption habits? There’s no harm in talking to someone and exploring your options.