If you’ve overdone it on the Christmas cheer this year and are considering taking a break from alcohol then you might be one of over 3 million people partaking in Dry January.
I must point out that although I love the concept of Dry January, I really don’t like the name, it suggests missing out and a sense of lacking when really it is an opportunity to make a fresh start, to get back to yourself and rethink your relationship with alcohol, not to mention all the benefits of taking a proper break from booze. Dry January is a brilliant thing to do – if done properly.
What is Dry January?
Dry January is run by the charity Alcohol Change UK helping millions of people give up alcohol for the month of January. It began in 2013 with the aim of helping people to rethink their relationship with alcohol by taking a month off booze and raise money for alcohol awareness and alcohol abuse treatment.
Why do people do it
There are a whole range of reasons for taking part in Dry January from wanting to get back into normal routines after the excess of the holidays, the desire to be fitter and healthier as part of a New Year regime and of course those of us who want to quit drinking use Dry January as a starting point to a new sober lifestyle.
Reasons to do it
In order to really enjoy the benefits of a month off the booze in January, your reasons for doing it must be your own and they must matter to you. It is quite easy to get caught up and be pressured into joining in with others around you but unless you really want to commit for your own reasons then you will go into the month feeling miserable and forced.
Take some time and really get clear on what you want to get out of the month. This post I wrote on how to do Dry January will help you.
Taking a whole month off booze it a perfect way to kickstart your new alcohol free life and get back to who you really are, see it as a chance to rediscover past passions, make new connections, feel good or maybe even discover a new hobby.
If you are the kind of daily home drinker like I was, then you should definitely give Dry January a whirl. Your evening glass of wine or two with dinner or when the kids are in bed really do add up. But, it’s not just that you are drinking more units than the recommended guidelines which is 14 units or 7 glasses of wine, but if you find that you really can’t live without your crutch to relax you, then this behaviour has become deeply ingrained which can be so hard to break away from.
For that reason alone then you should make a commitment to give it your all. Alcohol is an addictive drug and once it has you in its grip, there is only one way things will go. Break free now, no matter how hard you find it – you will thank yourself for it, you really will.
Reasons not to do it
First of all if you are somebody who wakes up every morning with a strong need to drink in order to relieve your withdrawal symptoms and find that without alcohol, you just can’t function then you have a physical dependency on alcohol. Going cold turkey is extremely dangerous and should only be done under medical supervision. If this is you, then please seek help from your doctor.
Being told that you should do Dry January, or because your friends are doing it is not a reason for taking part. Although if loved ones have gently suggested that it might be something you should consider, then think about why they might be saying this to you.
It is important that you want to do this for yourself and are happy about doing this experiment and above all it should be considered a springboard or a kick start to longer term healthy choices surrounding alcohol, not just a month off.
Instead, you should be thinking of this as a chance to see just how much life there is on the other side of drinking and turn your passion for drinking into a passion for living.
The danger is that if you see the month as a chance to give your liver a break just so you can go back to it and drink again then you are really kind of missing the point and will spend the whole of January counting down the days until you can ‘get back to normal’. Instead, you should be thinking of this as a chance to see just how much life there is on the other side of drinking and turn your passion for drinking into a passion for living.
Mindset is important and having a negative mindset is not going to help you. It is not really surprising that many people start Dry January but don’t finish it. If you go into the month feeling deprived then you will be miserable and if you don’t give up halfway through, you will be counting down the days until you can have a blowout or ‘celebrate’ with alcohol.
If you can relate to this then I would encourage you to see the month as a chance to rethink your drinking or as a start to going alcohol free altogether. The first few weeks are always the hardest so it’s great that there is lots of support during this time.
Alcohol is really bad for us, so it’s not surprising that having a month off drinking will bring benefits. You will of course save money, you might lose weight and you will find really great ways to spend your time instead of sitting on the sofa all afternoon. As fabulous as all this is, when I quit, losing weight and dreaming of what I could buy with all the cash I’d save were quite honestly, not on my mind.
I was sick of hating myself at 3 am in the morning when I’d wake wracked with guilt, heart hammering and hurting from the pain of shame and regret. Wading through my mornings hungover and anxious was sadly normal for me and I didn’t want that to be my normal any more.
I was so sad from missing out on moments with my kids, just the normal every day ones like listening to their problems, chatting to them in bed before they went to sleep. I was tired of having beer and wine as my main focus, I was longing to be the Mum I really wanted to be, and, which I knew my drinking was preventing me from being.
Yes, better sleep, more cash, no hangovers and perhaps dropping a pound or two are all wonderful benefits of doing Dry January, but here are ten more important and life changing benefits of taking a proper break from booze.
Peace of mind
If you are always thinking about drinking and worrying about how much you drink, what you did or said when drunk, base your hobbies or nights out around alcohol and are then plagued by anxiety because you can’t seem to stop drinking or stop thinking about drinking, then peace of mind and clear head space is the most wonderful and liberating thing you can experience.
My first night of going to bed sober and not waking up with the 3am terrors was such a revelation to me that I just knew that what I was doing was worth every craving or tricky moment.
You are stronger than you know, stronger than you give yourself credit for. You have been through some tough times already I’m sure and come out the other side stronger and wiser. Quitting drinking is just another thing that you can do. How will it feel to get through your first night without a glass of wine? How amazingly proud will you feel when you go out and don’t drink?
Imagine the feeling of waking up early, hangover free, knowing you are putting your best self out there. Hold onto that feeling of strength and joy, you can do this and it will be the biggest, most amazing thing you will ever do.
What does that mean and why is it a good thing? Well, have you ever drunk dreamt of doing something, only to find that once you settle in to your old pattern of drinking and waking up hungover that all your dreams go out of the window? Having a clear head, more clarity, more focus and drive will help you to start achieving what you’ve always wanted. When you are sober, you can go for what it is you really want instead of always wishing into the bottom of a bottle.
This is huge! I thought it was normal to feel tired and lethargic all the time without any sort of spark or interest in life. Not true! After a couple of weeks when your body starts to adjust and the alcohol has left your system you will have an urge to get up off your bum and do something.
This increase in energy will get your body moving and this is when the magical weight loss happens without really forcing yourself to do anything. You’ll want to get out and walk or run or go swimming or blitz your house and play with your kids! Since quitting, I have lost around 18 kilos without restricting my diet, having a tough fitness regime, or cutting out my chocolate.
True freedom from alcohol is a life of ease, a life of peace, a life that is not controlled by alcohol, a life where you can be who you are and pursue your dreams. A life where you are in charge of your own destiny and are not bound by the rules and restrictions of moderation, a life where you are truly happy that you don’t need to drink anymore.
When you quit alcohol, you find freedom from the guilt and shame you carried around with you. When alcohol no longer makes you do things you regret, you are free to move on, you are free from the inner turmoil that keeps you awake at night.
Having a break from drinking is giving yourself a break from the negative self talk, the self loathing and the self harm. Alcohol is a poison and when we drink it, we are hurting ourselves. When you are free from alcohol, it is the ultimate act of self care and self love. You will learn to listen to yourself, be aware of your needs, physical and emotional.
Perhaps you haven’t been eating or sleeping properly, perhaps you don’t take time out for yourself and do what you need, do what you love. Without drowning your true self in alcohol you will begin to see who you really are, accept yourself and love you for you.
Get back to who you are
I find that when we drink, we lose ourselves, we lose touch with our identity and who we really are. I thought I was a cool mum who liked to party and stay up late and do crazy things. But really I am an introvert, I’m shy, I like routine and calm and peace, an early night with a good book.
Quitting drinking has allowed me to be comfortable with who I really am and go back to things I love but didn’t do when I was drinking. I love walking, reading, writing and connecting with people, all things I just let slide in favour of alcohol. What do you love, what brought you joy before drinking took over? Having a month off alcohol in Dry January will help you reconnect with yourself again and get back to who you really are.
See alcohol for what it is
Of course we all know that alcohol is bad for us, otherwise we wouldn’t contemplate having a break or giving up all together. Alcohol is a poison after all, but it’s more than that. Alcohol stops you from being you. Alcohol gets in the way of your true happiness. Alcohol numbs out your emotions and masks your feelings. Alcohol stops you from getting to the bottom of what really needs sorting out. Alcohol gets in the way of your dreams.
Alcohol dampens your passions and your spirit. Alcohol makes your world small. Alcohol makes you hate yourself. Alcohol makes you unhappy even when you believe it makes you happy. I’m sure you have heard this before but it’s not until you take a proper break than you get to experience this for yourself.
Let’s be clear. Quitting drinking does not make you Mary Poppins or turn your kids into darling angels, but it does make the job of parenting much easier to manage. Most importantly it gives you consistency, clarity, connection and a deeper understanding of who you are as a parent, your expectations and boundaries.
Like most of us mums, I still have no idea what I’m doing half the time (my eldest is almost 18) but what I do know is that I am not unpredictable anymore. I’m not unreliable, I’m not selfish and I don’t shout at my kids for no real reason like I used to. Most importantly I’m there, I’m their mum and a sober mum at that.
Just feel good
Feeling well, feeling good and healthy is something we all take for granted. I thought I was fine but it wasn’t until I quit that I realized that I was actually, very far from fine. There are no more weird sensations, alarming pains or strange injuries.
There is no better feeling than going out with the dogs early and just feeling great instead of having to drag myself out of bed and force one foot in front of the other. I rarely get headaches, I haven’t puked in almost two years and gone is the sense of heaviness that used to plague me all the time.
You might think that you’re okay or you might be used to that dull ache in your head and sluggishness that accompanies you wherever you go. But, believe me once alcohol has left your system, you get a good night’s sleep and you get outside in the fresh air you too will realize just how wonderful fine can really feel.
I hope that this has inspired you to take a break from alcohol as soon as possible whether you start on January 1st or whenever is right for you. If you really want to quit drinking you can and there is so much support out there.
You can quit, even if you think you can’t and if you are struggling, I can help.
Here’s to the most amazing year you will ever have!
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