Is there a sound louder than the bottle bag clinking away as you take it to the recycling at the end of the year? If there is, we haven’t heard it. Following on from the (very) merry festivities of Christmas, many of us take up the challenge of dry January to give our liver a much-needed break. Last year a record number of Britons gave dry January a go, a trend that’s set to increase amid spiralling health concerns as we continue to wade through the COVID crisis.
So, whether you’re going dry as part of a new year health kick, or just can’t face the judgemental tuts from neighbours as you empty your bottles out – we’re on hand to help you figure out how to have a dry January that doesn’t leave you as bored (or as boring) as being on hold to John Lewis customer service.
“When I first gave up booze three years ago, I always dreaded going ‘out’. Feeling like the spoilsport whilst my friends were doing rounds at the pub, the empty handed ‘cheers’, the endless inquisitions WHY? It always feels difficult to swim against the current.” Natalie Collins, Beingwell family member
To help you navigate a dry January (and beyond) our lovely Natalie has put together four top tips to help you stay on track:
1. Drink More
When I first stopped drinking alcohol, I stopped drinking anything at all when I went out. This created more awkwardness than it was worth… Order a drink (just not an alcoholic one) when you go out. This gives you something to sip during conversational lulls and it also keeps you hydrated #winningatwellbeing. Now that dry January is a well-established initiative, lots of bars and pubs offer decent alcohol-free alternatives, check the drinks menu online before you go to see if there’s something there for you.
2. Keep your reasons short
When we make decisions to better our health, this can sometimes put our peers on the defensive. It can stir up feelings of comparison and questions that maybe they’d rather not consider. Some people can see sobriety as a pre-emptive judgement on their lifestyle – which of course it’s not. If people ask you why you’re doing dry January and you don’t want to get into a big discussion, just keep it short and simple. ‘I wanted to give it a try’, ‘I want to support my friend with their sobriety’, ‘I just fancied a break’ all work well – and then move the conversation on, no drama.
3. Try something new
If your local bar/pub is still too tempting, use dry January as an opportunity to do something new, alone, or with your pals. When we get stuck in a routine, however fun or comfortable, we stop discovering what’s new (about ourselves or our friends). Trying something different, whether that’s walking or paragliding, going to the cinema or trying an escape room, is a fun way of getting to know yourself better, and building your friendships, away from the watering hole. It might feel a little funny at first, but your friends (and your liver) will thank you for taking the initiative.
4. Recruit a booze-free-buddy
Going it alone can be tough (although doing it under the ‘dry January’ initiative certainly makes you less of an outlier) but going sober with a mate is a clever mechanism of mutual support. When it comes to forging new and healthier habits, having friends invested in the same process only makes it easier. What’s more, it can be a fun way to build your friendship and explore doing things together that time at the pub (or subsequent hangover) usually prevented. With a friend, you can take it in turns to help motivate each other, keep the other on track and resist temptation, you don’t need to be your own cheerleader when you’ve got one along for the ride.
Final thoughts: Whether you want to quit drinking just for January or for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t have to feel like a slog (January is already tough enough)! Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try focusing attention on what you stand to gain; whether that’s more time in the mornings, a clearer head, or simply an empty recycling bin – count all the wins big and small!