Take a break from alcohol – Dry January and Beyond
It’s that time of year again when we’re setting our intentions for the new year, vowing that this time it will be different and telling ourselves ‘new year, new me’ Many of us are also thinking about taking part in Dry January (I don’t like that name by the way, it sounds so dull)
Despite the name, it is a great idea to put some space between you and the booze but if you’re not sure that it’s for you or that you won’t be able to do it, read these 15 reasons to take a break from alcohol and jump start your new year (and the real you!)
First of all, let’s call this a ‘Joyful January Without the Booze’ and immediately you get a much more positive and inspiring picture of the month ahead. It might be difficult to imagine anything more joyful than the festive season but the biggest gain you will get from a month free from alcohol is an enormous sense of pride, wellbeing and yes, joy.
Here are my 15 reasons to take a break from alcohol.
You can reset your relationship with alcohol
If you are so used to having a glass of something every day, drinking for any reason, for any excuse then taking a break will give you the chance to see what your relationship with alcohol is really like and decide how you want that relationship to look like in the future.
One of the biggest eye openers for me was that I didn’t actually need alcohol to do the things I thought I needed it for. My first month off the booze was full of firsts, kids bath times, cleaning, working, parties – daily life basically!
Once I discovered that I could still do all that stuff without a beer and be good at it and enjoy myself, I felt stronger and gained so much confidence. A month off the booze will make you realize just how strong you are and actually living your life in full technicolour instead of numbing your way through the days is extremely liberating.
You will give your body a break
Alcohol is a poison, it’s bad for us – that’s why we have hangovers or puke up when we drink too much. Our bodies are trying to tell us something. Listen to your body, be kind to it and in return it will be kind to you.
Depending on how much you have on New Years Eve, you might feel like crap for a day or two afterwards so use this as a sign and give your body a well earned break. Remember that ‘hair of the dog’ only made you feel better because that glass of wine was just ending the misery of withdrawal.
You probably need about 10 days to allow all the alcohol to leave your system but once it has, good things start to happen. So use this time and let yourself heal, be nice to yourself – you deserve it.
Your mood will improve
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, stress then you’re not alone – most of us do at some point but the worrying thing is that we tend to think alcohol helps up cope with these feelings. It doesn’t. Alcohol only makes them worse, and the worse we feel, the more we drink and so it goes on, a never ending spiral bringing you down and down.
While it might take a bit of time for you to find your pink cloud, when you do take a break from alcohol, you will gradually start to feel happier, brighter and lighter. I remember that after just a couple of weeks, I just felt better, more positive and I didn’t stress or get worked up about stuff as much.
The kids noticed almost immediately that their Dad wasn’t as grumpy or shouty. Even if you don’t notice your improved mood at first, others will and that can only be a good thing.
You will save money
This is a big incentive for lots of people and if you watched my interview with Jo from Coins in a Jar, this was the one thing that kept her going in the early days. You might not think that you’ll save much in just a month but putting the money you would otherwise spend on booze away every day will soon add up.
If you are always skint or complaining that you never have enough money to buy x, y or z or treat your kids or get a takeaway, then a month of saving your beer money will be real eye opener. Don’t spend it until the month is up and you’ll be amazed at what you can afford after all.
You will lose weight
You have probably heard a thousand times that booze is full of empty calories, but it’s true. Even if you do indulge in a little extra chocolate cake or biscuits to replace the sugar from the booze you might be craving, you WILL lose weight. In just nine months I have gone from a size 14 to an 8, I’ve lost all the puffiness from my face and I no longer have truckers arms. This happens because you are consuming less calories and also because you won’t spend your evenings glued to the sofa.
Even if you do indulge in a little extra chocolate cake or biscuits to replace the sugar from the booze you might be craving, you WILL lose weight.
You will have more energy
Once you get over the first few days of detox, feeling tired and sluggish then your energy will return with a bang! Whether you use it to blitz the house, play with the kids, walk more, fit in more exercise or just get off your bum and move, you will notice a rise in your energy levels which will increase as the days and weeks go by. This increased energy and desire to move will help you shift even more calories – what’s not to love!
You will sleep a whole lot better
I am a huge fan of sleeping, I would do it as a job if I could and let me tell you that there is nothing, I mean nothing better than good quality sober sleep. Even just 4 or 5 hours of proper sleep is way better than tossing and turning, sweating, peeing, worrying for 8 or 9 hours in drunken slumber.
You might have trouble falling asleep at first as there’s no alcohol to knock you out but once this passes, you will sleep like a baby and wake up feeling fresher than you’ve felt in a very long time.
Your focus and creativity will return
I used to think I needed beer for everything! Making a cake, cleaning, writing, planning, you name it, I just thought I couldn’t focus without a beer or glass of vino. Once I stopped drinking though, I found I had so much more focus and clarity.
All the tasks I used to dwell on or drag out just got simpler and while it did take a little while to get my creative spark back, when I look back at my work it is loads better. I will probably never write an Amazon Best Seller but at least I know what I am writing and don’t look back on it the next day without any memory of the nonsensical rubbish that used to flow from my fingertips!
If you find that you struggle from writer’s block, or have difficulty focusing at the beginning just be patient and give it time. Before you know it you’ll be back in the zone and what you produce will be so much better. Another big thing about focus and creativity is that the crazy plans that came to me in the middle of a drinking session just never got off the ground.
Now though, any plans or ideas I have are intentional and well thought out. I have achieved so much since stopping drinking, more than I thought possible. Whatever you want to achieve, ditching the booze is the first step to getting you there.
You won’t be embarrassed about your recycling
No more sneaking out the recycling in the dead of night, or slipping some of your empties into the neighbours bins trying to avoid the clinking of glass, you will be proud to display your empty tea bag boxes or posh alcohol free drinks bottles. Your rubbish will reduce and you will experience the delight of a much lighter recycling bin or one that no longer smells of stale booze.
You will gain peace of mind
The thing I hated most about drinking was the never ending conversations I would have with myself and all that negative self talk. Should I drink or not? How much can I have? I want to drink, why am I drinking? Why can’t I stop? Then waking up at 3am full of regret, shame and guilt that I gave in, let the kids down again or just wasted an entire afternoon achieving nothing.
Not drinking has given me immense peace of mind, right from the off. That very first night I went to bed and felt great, I was so proud of myself, it was so quiet in my head and my anxiety and worry disappeared soon after. Now, I still talk to myself a lot and answer most of the time too but it’s all positive.
No more little voices, putting me down and making me feel bad about myself. My head is still a bit of a mess with lots going on but it is much calmer, quieter and with that comes a freedom I tried to achieve for so long. Give up the booze and find peace of mind.
You will look better
If you take a picture of yourself on January 1st and then again on 31st, I guarantee you will see a huge difference. That’s because alcohol does terrible things to our skin, hair and bodies in general which all the exercise or green smoothies in the world won’t fix.
The first thing you will notice is the general bloatedness and puffy face will go after just a few days. You will become fresh faced and your eyes will definitely be brighter and less bloodshot. As for your hair, well alcohol makes it dry, brittle, dull and thin so if you want to see some strong, bouncy, shiny hair then having a break from the booze will do it.
You will fall in love with mornings again
Now, I was never really a morning person – I liked the idea of enjoying the day, unspoilt and quiet before anybody else was awake but it was always a struggle to get out of bed. I won’t pretend that once you quit drinking you will jump out of bed with annoying zest everyday but you will see your mornings in a whole new light.
Most days I am up between 6 and 6.30 and hardly ever need my alarm clock. It is still a struggle to leave to coziness of my bed and go out with the dogs but once I am up, I love it! Don’t tell anybody but I pull my joggers and coat over my pyjamas as I can’t face exposing my skin to the cold that early on!
Waking up clear headed, without a hangover and getting stuff done is one of the joys of sober living that I will never get tired of. Even if you never become a morning person, you will enjoy the feeling of waking up after a proper sober sleep.
If you wonder what all the fuss is about when us sober folks talk about the clarity, freedom, joy and liberation of being alcohol free, even for a short time, then trying it for yourself will light a spark you never knew existed.
You too will know how good it feels to walk in the woods and revel in the beauty, you too will know what it’s like to snuggle up with a book in bed completely clear headed and sober, you too will know what it’s like to have a vigorous spinning class or exhilarating run and really feel the genuine happy hormones. Most of all you’ll know what it’s like to wake up completely clean and alcohol free – a feeling that perhaps you haven’t felt in a long time. Isn’t it time you knew?
Your Facebook posts will become a whole lot more interesting
Scrolling down my feed this morning, I saw lots of pictures of people in bars, at tables with drinks in their hands, photos of their Baileys or bottles of bubbly. I know people go out a lot at this time of year but do you do anything else apart from drink?
When I look at social media posts from sober friends, the difference is huge! So much variety, interest and people doing cool, inspiring things. Having a month off the booze will liven up your social media no end, that’s because your life will take a whole new turn and trust me, you’re gonna want to share that!
You will delight in the little things
Out of all the reasons to take a break from alcohol, this one is my favourite. It’s the little things that will have a big impact. Sobriety doesn’t land you your dream job, or make you a fortune – certainly not in the first month, but it does give you a sense of awareness, gratitude and love of the little things that you probably haven’t noticed in a while.
For me, it’s spending quality time with my kids actually being there in body and mind, it’s getting stuff done, enjoying a walk without the need to rush back to my beer. It’s about waking up fully rested and feeling good, savouring that first sip of tea or having a piece of chocolate without feeling guilty.
It’s enjoying a good book and not having to read with one eye closed to stop the words jumping off the page or watching a film and actually remembering what happened.
It’s about looking in the mirror and liking what I see or going to bed tired but happy that I’ve had a good day not one wasted on the sofa. It’s about gaining confidence and feeling stronger with every day that passes and I don’t have a drink.
It’s about learning about who I am and everything I am capable of.
The little things all add up to one wonderful life that even with the bad bits is far better than a life with alcohol in it.
If you’re ready to appreciate the little things and give yourself that well deserved break from alcohol and discover what you are truly capable of, then join me this January and gain freedom, clarity and peace of mind.
You are such a great writer.
I am on the 30-day challenge to stop drinking and today as I get ready to watch the election results, I struggled with whether I should go out and get some gin to go with that fever tree tonic water and bitters.
I almost succumbed to the lure of that lovely familiar stuff and the buzz and then I found this piece and it made it pause, think and postpone the urge!