January is a great time to set goals, take notice of areas you’d like to work on and try new things. It’s a time of renewal and reflection. It’s also a time when people across the globe go without alcohol for a month, now called Dry January.
Regardless of your reasons for trying the month-long challenge, here are a few tips and considerations to keep in mind. And be sure to check out our tips for holiday parties here.
1. Treat this as a learning experience
Any new goal presents an opportunity for self-discovery. For the next 31 days, pay attention to yourself, including how you feel, how you react, any mood changes you experience and/or your sense of accomplishment. Here are just a few questions you can ask yourself throughout the month:
- “Why am I doing this?”
- “How do I feel doing this?”
- “What challenges didn’t I expect?”
- “What would make this easier?”
If this is your first time trying to cut alcohol out of your life – and even if it isn’t – chances are you’re going to learn something. Hopefully it’s positive, but you may come across challenges as well. Approaching those challenges with curiosity, rather than judgment or shame, will feel better and help keep you motivated.
2. Set realistic goals
One problem many of us have with goal setting is doing too much all at once. Don’t try to stop drinking and stop smoking and start losing weight and eating healthier this month. The more you add to the list, the less likely you’ll be successful at any of them.
The rest of life doesn’t stop – there will be errands to run, childcare that falls through, disappointing news at work – all those everyday things that challenge us and make it difficult to take the time we need for ourselves. Start small. Focus on one thing, keep it simple and give yourself the best chance at success, whatever that means to you.
3. Pay attention to “side effects”
Depending on how much you normally drink, you may notice quite a difference in how you feel day-to-day. You may feel better physically, have more mental clarity, fewer digestion complications or more restful sleep. If you drink regularly, particularly daily, you may notice major improvements in a short amount of time. (One quick note: Alcohol withdrawal is incredibly dangerous. If you drink heavily daily, please consult a medical professional before stopping altogether.)
Paying attention to the basics like energy, nutrition and exercise will help you gain a better understanding of alcohol’s impact to your body. And if the changes are positive enough, they may motivate you to cut back on alcohol past Dry January.
4. Don’t feel like you have to do this alone
Different things work for different people. If you take inspiration from reading, then find a book on going alcohol-free. If having a partner would make things easier, ask your friend or sibling if they’d like to join you during Dry January.
Many people benefit from having an entire team behind them when they try new things or make significant changes in their lives. Your team could include anyone who’ll support you and your goals. Consider who would be most helpful as you encounter challenges. Beyond your family members and friends, it may be helpful to consult a doctor or peer coach who can offer professional insights and outside resources. You can ask questions, share fears and frustrations and receive guidance all in a confidential setting.
Whatever your support system looks like, try to remember you don’t need to do this alone. This is a process of self-discovery. As long as you’re trying, that’s what counts.
If you’d like to receive free, personalized guidance on reducing your alcohol intake – or if you’re concerned for someone you know – please reach out to Face It TOGETHER. We’re a team of peers who can help you meet your goals in a compassionate, empowering manner.
This product was supported by grant H79TI083760 from SAMHSA. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or polices of SAMHSA or HHS.