Posted on Jan 27, 2020, 5 p.m.
Article courtesy of: Ken Seeley, Founder Ken Seeley Communities
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions this year was participating in “Dry January,” the purposeful act of eliminating alcohol from daily life for the entire month. The Dry January resolution seemed to evolve organically, following the excesses of the holiday season, and provides the individual with a game plan to help rein in unhealthy drinking habits. Stated goals by those who adopt the Dry January resolution usually include losing weight, getting better sleep, feeling healthier, and saving money otherwise spent on booze.
For some, however, setting the Dry January goal will challenge them to test exactly where they are in their relationship with alcohol. Taking a month off can shed some light on whether they are okay without that glass of wine with dinner or those couple of beers after work. Some may already suspect that they have a developing alcohol problem so giving up alcohol for the month will quickly provide the confirmation. Of course, someone who does have a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder should never attempt to go cold turkey in January or any other month, as serious complications can emerge during detox and withdrawal.
But for the majority, deleting alcohol from their weekly shopping list is primarily about cleaning up their body after weeks of imbibing. Any other benefits that coincide with the health goals behind Dry January are just gravy. So what happens come January 31st? Fortunately, many who enjoyed the alcohol-free month realize that sobriety just feels good and decide to keep it going into February, and beyond. Consider taking this Dry January experiment, but do keep an open mind about the end date.
Who Started the Dry January Trend?
Back in 2012, a British charity called Alcohol Change UK, initiated a challenge to the nation, “Ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, and save some serious money by giving up alcohol for 31 days.” Two years later, the term “Dry January” was registered as a trademark by a British charity called Alcohol Concern. The movement began with 4,000 participants in 2013 and has morphed to over 4 million Brits now swearing off alcohol in the month of January.
Word about this health campaign eventually reached the U.S. According to a survey reported by YouGov, 21% of the Americans who answered the survey said they planned to participate in Dry January. Today, halfway through January on Instagram, the hashtag #dryjanuary has 215K hits. Dry January is definitely catching on in the U.S.
Health Benefits of Living Alcohol Free
Most of us are well aware of the damaging effects caused by heavy alcohol consumption, but amazingly, even moderate alcohol intake can negatively impact our health, too. Amazingly, taking just one month off from consuming alcohol can provide the following health benefits:
- Improves insulin resistance
- Reduces blood pressure
- Decreases chemical messengers in the blood associated with cancer
- Weight loss
- Clearer skin
- Sharper cognitive abilities
- More energy
- Less irritability
- Reduces anxiety
- Fewer headaches
- Reduced heartburn and acid reflux
- Better sleep quality
And then there are the intangible benefits when steering clear of alcohol for a whole month. Sticking to the resolution gives the individual a sense of achievement, as well as a sense of empowerment over his or her own health and wellness.
Living a Dry January Lifestyle Beyond January
For some folks, the objective behind embracing Dry January was to sample the idea of sobriety, to take it for a test run. These individuals were curious, wanting to see for themselves how a few weeks of abstinence might make a difference in the quality of life. In the waning days of January, as the positive results begin to be noticeable, the thought of prolonging the mission cannot be ignored.
As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When experiencing a multitude of health benefits, on top of the money being saved, there is a good case made to continue on the sobriety journey. Giving the experiment a longer timeline allows for even more benefits to be added to the list. These might include:
- Feeling more energetic inspires you to set new fitness goals or to take up a new sport or outdoor activity.
- Clearer thinking makes you sharper at work, which could lead to higher productivity and potentially a promotion or raise as a reward.
- Having lost some pounds and inches, you are looking so good that you updated your wardrobe, both leaving you with a renewed sense of confidence.
- Without alcohol clouding your mood or leaving you with ugly hangovers, the world seems brighter and you are feeling more optimistic about your life.
- Realizing life is just as fun without alcohol in it, why not embrace the sober lifestyle? Surround yourself with sober friends, join sober social groups, a sober gym, or sober travel groups.
It may come as a complete surprise that you actually enjoy living a life of sobriety. Why not make it a permanent thing?
What if You Couldn’t Stay on the Wagon in January?
Testing out sobriety with Dry January may have yielded a disappointing result—the reality that you had difficulty living without the stuff. Maybe soon after New Year’s Day rolled around you began to experience highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like sweating, trembling, nausea, irritability, and insomnia. These withdrawal symptoms are a sign that an alcohol use disorder has developed. The positive effect of attempting Dry January could be the realization that you are in need of some help.
Treatment for an alcohol problem is available in either outpatient or residential settings. Finding a program that suits your needs, aligns with your insurance benefits and other resources, and provides evidence-based therapies, has the potential to turn your life around. Instead of beating yourself up for being unable to stick to the Dry January challenge, be grateful that you will be on the road to recovery shortly. Soon, all of those long-term benefits from living a sober lifestyle will be yours for the taking.
Article courtesy of: Ken Seeley, Founder Ken Seeley Communities
About the Author
Ken Seeley is an internationally acclaimed interventionist, having years of experience in this field. Certified as a Board Registered Interventionist-Level 2, Seeley has worked full-time in the business of recovery and intervention since 1989. He is a regular contributor to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC on the topics of addiction and intervention. He was one of three featured interventionists on the Emmy Award winning television series, Intervention, on A&E. He is also the author of “Face It and Fix It,” about overcoming the denial that leads to common addictions while bringing guidance to those struggling with addiction. Ken Seeley is the founder and C.E.O. of Ken Seeley Communities, a full spectrum addiction recovery program located in Palm Springs, California.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.