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Ready For The Rest Of 2018?

“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Charles C. Noble

Ready for the rest of 2018?
A Farewell from the Administrators of Dryuary

It is our sincere hope that you have been able to learn from the Dryuary Challenge about yourself and your individual relationship with alcohol. All the staff of Dryuary, from the site administrators to the authors of each day’s post, have personal experience with alcohol and what we must face as human beings. With this annual event, we are doing our best to help others to avoid some of what we have learned to overcome.

Our lives are long and filled with changes. We are able to make our own choices on how we wish to live these lives. Developing reasonable healthy habits will benefit us now and into the future.

Please Give?
Your $5 donation is important to us! Dryuary™ is fully funded by people coming to terms with lifestyle problems with alcohol. We are grateful for your contribution of any size. Help us make this resource available for the years to come, and show your appreciation for the gifts of our volunteers who provided each daily post.
The header of each Dryuary page includes our PayPal donation link; find it at dryuary.org.

Thinking Ahead
We are already preparing for Dryuary 2019. You are all welcome to join us next year; we will be sending out invitations as the time approaches. Please consider making this an annual activity, and invite your family, friends, co-workers, and associates to join us for a Great Start to the New Year.

If you are not interested in receiving any further communications from us, please send a message to unsubscribe@dryuary.org.

Speaking for all the Administrators of Dryuary, we wish you well and only the best in the year ahead. May this experience prepare and strengthen you.

Additional Support
Should you need further help coming to terms with challenges related to alcohol, please consider examining the services of Moderation Management™, sponsor of Dryuary™. Our website is at www.moderation.org.

For more information about Moderation Management, see
Moderation Management™ is a 501(c)(3) IRS-registered non-profit organization. Our services are provided free of charge.

Post Submitted By: Kurt S., Dryuary Administrator

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Day 31 – The Road Ahead

“The long and winding road that leads to your door Will never disappear”
– The Beatles

The Last Day of Dryuary! The Thirty First Day…

Many of us who have had problems with alcohol (Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD, to use the medical term) have felt that we have been on a long road that always leads us back to the same door. We have that sense of déjà vu. Now, tomorrow, some of us will either walk through that door or continue on that long and winding road!

Welcome to the final day of Dryuary! You are here, on the thirty-first day of the annual Dryuary Challenge. So, now what do you do? Now that you’ve had a month to reset your body and its relationship to alcohol, what will that relationship look like going forward?

To begin with, your tolerance is now much lower than it was a month ago. When before you could have four or even five drinks before you felt tipsy, now it may take only two or three. And depending on how much you used to drink before taking this challenge, you might decide to either continue in the same way or change how you drink going forward.

Maybe you were a mostly moderate drinker before this challenge and just wanted to take a break. Now you figure you’ve had your break and will resume moderate drinking in February. No harm, no foul, good for you, and carry on! Maybe you felt that you were drinking too much, and really needed to stop drinking for a while to get a grip on your situation. Now you want to return to drinking, but you want to drink moderately from now on. Good for you! Read on!

Let’s get an idea of what moderate drinking really is. When you have made the healthy decision to drink less, and you stay within moderate limits, you should not experience any health, personal, family, social, job-related, financial, or legal problems due to alcohol. The suggested guidelines below allow for a degree of individual interpretation, because moderation is a flexible principle and is not the same for everyone. The suggested limits, however, are more definite.

A Moderate Drinker:

Considers an occasional drink to be a small, though enjoyable, part of life.

Has hobbies, interests, and other ways to relax and enjoy life that do not involve alcohol.

Usually has friends who are moderate drinkers or nondrinkers.

Generally has something to eat before, during, or soon after drinking.

Usually does not drink for longer than an hour or two on any particular occasion.

Usually does not drink faster than one drink per half-hour.

Usually does not exceed the .055% BAC moderate drinking limit.

Feels comfortable with his or her use of alcohol (never drinks secretly and does not spend a lot of time thinking about drinking or planning to drink).

The Suggested Limits:

Strictly obey local laws regarding drinking and driving.

Do not drink in situations that would endanger yourself or others.

Do not drink every day. The suggestion is that you abstain from drinking alcohol at least 3 or 4 days per week.

Women who drink more than 3 drinks on any day, and more than 9 drinks per week, may be drinking at harmful levels.

Men who drink more than 4 drinks on any day, and more than 14 drinks per week, may be drinking at harmful levels.

Now then, what is a drink? Silly question, right? Maybe not so silly. When I was drinking heavily, I’d take a big rocks glass full of ice, fill it half to three-quarters full of Jack Daniels, splash a little Coke in, and call it good. I’d have three or four of those every night. The truth is, each one of those drinks was probably close to three drinks, not just one.

Here’s the formula. To figure out how much of any kind of alcohol is one drink, divide the alcohol percentage into 60 and it’ll tell you how many ounces make a drink. For example, for a 5% alcohol content beer, 60 divided by 5 equals 12 oz. For a 12% alcohol content wine, 60 divided by 12 is 5 oz. How about an 80-proof whiskey? Well, proof/2 = percent. So, 60 divided by 40 is 1.5 oz. Hope I didn’t lose you there!

Some of you may decide you’d like some support in the form of a bunch of other folks who are problem drinkers, too. There are several to choose from. I suggest Moderation Management at moderation.org where you will find a couple thousand folks on a very active, non-judgmental email list, a smaller, more intimate gathering of folks in a web-based Forum experience, scheduled chats, a web page called *ABSTAR* where you can track your drinking, and a host of tools and activities to keep you motivated! If you want a place to go to explore other websites and online resources I can recommend no better book than Kary May’s excellent Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook To Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All: With the Help of the Online Support Community

Whatever you decide, we’re glad you shared this challenge with all of us!

Best wishes for you in the New Year! We hope to see you again next year for Dryuary 2019!

Post Submitted by: Just Plain Phil, Executive Director of Moderation Management

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Day 30 – Changes Since Day 2

“Open your eyes with waking light.”
– Beck

Back on Day 2, you got a baseline, i.e., you checked how you were doing in several areas of your life (physical, cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal). How are you doing in these areas at the end of the month (i.e., after abstaining for almost a month):

Brain: Are you anxious, irritable, sad, hopeless, distractable, restless, arrogant, impulsive, depressed, easily defeated, or low energy (dishes piling up, take-out too often)?

Sleep: Do you need alcohol to get to sleep? Do you wake in the middle of the night? If you use something like a FitBit, do you notice a difference in how you sleep when you drink?

Physical: How does your stomach feel? Any irritation in upper or lower tummy (e.g., heartburn)? Gas or bloating? Allergies?

Appearance: Are there dark circles or bags under your eyes? Skin blotchy or dry?

Interpersonal: How are you getting along with your loved ones? Are you less patient the day after you drink? Do you over-react? Less predictable?

Many people who take this break from alcohol find the experience eye-opening, if not life changing. They weren’t even aware that there was a problem in some of these areas, until they saw the improvement. But sometimes, it takes the symptoms recurring (e.g., if you lapse into over-drinking down the road) before people realize the connection to drinking.

Some are so impressed with the benefits, that they have no desire to start drinking again. This is totally your choice. There are also many folks who “almost abs” (i.e., they abstain maybe 95% of the time, but indulge rarely, and usually in small quantities, e.g., a drink or two).

For those of you who would like to indulge in moderate drinking, these tips can help keep alcohol a small, but enjoyable part of life:

Track: Tracking drinks over time is an important tool in keeping a handle on consumption. Just being aware of how much you are drinking is often enough to keep folks on track.

Avoid pressing the start button: For many people, it is easier to not drink at all than to drink a little bit, because alcohol lowers inhibitions. Spacing drinks too close together raises the blood alcohol content past .055%, causing inhibitions to lift. Well before slurring or stumbling, judgment is impaired, and it gets easier to say yes to another drink. Rationalizations come way too easily after a couple of drinks.

Find your stop button: Pacing is crucial. There are tips in MM steps of change, along with a drinking diary that is well worth keeping when you first dip your toes back into drinking. Don’t dive back into drinking; rather, dip your toes in the water, e.g.,like SBRS’sPost 30 Thirty).

Surf urges: We’ve touched on this a few times, but remember: Urges rarely last longer than 30 minutes. If you can “surf” the urge (observe it without acting) you can usually ride it out.

If you need support, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Moderation Management (MM).

Post Submitted By: Donna

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Day 29 – What Comes Next

“Everything you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.”
– Julien Smith, The Flinch

So you committed to Dryuary, and you’re well on your way to finishing. That’s great. I mean, that’s fan-freaking-tastic. Pat yourself on the back, because you deserve it.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You put in the work. You learned how to say “no,” how to plan for sober outings (and innings), maybe even dug into why you got to this point to begin with—whatever that point may have been.

We’re all here for a reason, after all.

But soon Dryuary will be over. The festivities will cease, the month will end, and soon your self-imposed doors will open and you’ll be free to moderate as you please.

Are you ready for what comes next?

It’s okay if you’re not. It can be scary to think about going back into that world after spending so long in the safety net of abstinence. In fact, some people decide not to go back, and that’s okay too. That is totally your call. If you want to stretch out your 31 into a 60 or a 90 or an infinite abs, right on. You do you.

The rest of you, who might be stressing out about how to go about moderating after spending an entire month saying “no“ and staying sober, I got you.

Here’s the trick: you’re still gonna stay sober. The goal with moderation is to drink slow enough and less frequently so that your blood alcohol content (BAC) does not have the chance to cross that threshold into legally drunk.

Recently, a companion of mine completed 100 days abs and I made them a moderation basket of goodies and tips to use during their first time drinking again.

Moderation Care Basket

Contents: Ocean Spray Mocktails, adult coloring books & colored pencils, 6oz plastic wine glasses from the Dollar tree, 0.5oz/1.7oz “jigger” for hard liquor pours, fidget dodecahedron, journal and gel pens, bubbles, calendar (manual ABSTAR), index cards

One of the index cards states the drinking limits as shown in the MM Steps of Change, and the others were my own personal tips:

General Moderation Tips

  • One drink every hour
  • Water down mixed drinks
  • Alternate with water or non-alcoholic beverage
  • Pour beer into smaller cups

Drink because you want to, not because you are bored, sad, mad, upset, or some other strong emotion.

First Time Modding

  • Drink in a safe place with safe people
  • Drink s  l  o  w  l  y
  • Journal your headspace afterwards
  • Each drink and the next morning
  • Aim low and raise your limit next time

Your tolerance will be lower after abstaining for so long.

The best part is you’ve got time to make a plan. Part of why Dryuary exists is so you and me and everyone who participates can take a break from drinking and think about what we really want to get out of our moderation experience. Social drinker? Wine at the end of a long day drinker? Craft beer connoisseur? (Guilty.) Create your plan around your own interests and limits, being mindful not to fall into old habits.

Something I’ve learned along the way is that 3-4 moderation days a week gives me a lot of opportunities to relax or reward myself or try that new drink. I don’t have to do it all in one night. In fact, I’ll enjoy it more if I space it out! I have it on good authority that the alcohol won’t go bad if I don’t finish it. It’ll still be there tomorrow, or the next day, or even next week.

So, you don’t have to plan a big party on February 1st to test out your newfound mod skillz. As it’s a Thursday, you may be better off having a drink or two with your sig-o or a trusted friend and see how that feels. Make sure to journal your feelings after your first and second drinks, and again the next morning. If that all feels good, you can try for three drinks next time, then maybe four if you’re a larger person.

I’m good at two. I don’t feel like drinking anymore after two. Either it’s already so late, or I’ve consumed so much liquid that my stomach is full. My favorite is those flights of beer at some of the local bars where I live. You get four 5oz glasses of the beers on tap, usually ranging from 5.5-9% ABV. I don’t like the taste of the higher percentage brews. I’ll order one of those flights and be set for the evening.

I am also weak for sangria. I’ll make my own for social gatherings, watering down my own pours and stocking up on the fruit to enjoy the taste without all the alcohol. I have a lot of tricks. I’ll buy a mix-a-sixer of seasonal brews and hand a friend the rest of the bottle after I pour my 6oz Dollar Tree wine “glass“ For Thanksgiving last year, I made spiked apple cider with salted caramel vodka and brought along sea salt and caramels so I could make a nonalcoholic version to drink after my allotted two alcoholic ones.

Moderation is arguably all about plans and tricks. You have the unique opportunity right now to take the time to design the path you want to take after Dryuary ends. You have the tools, the resources, and the support. We are not going anywhere after January 31st. We’ll still be here, sharing our stories and building each other up.

What comes next is up to you.

You got this.

Post Submitted By: RCK, MM Member

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Day 28 – The Road to Clarity

“The more of me I be,
The clearer I can see.”
– Rachel Archelaus

It was Friday night again and I was bound and determined to change my ways and try something different. I had been drinking and using drugs for a long time and it had changed my life in ways I was not happy with. Throughout my life, I had tried many different tactics to change my relationship with these substances with varying degrees of success, but I always went back.

While I do enjoy some of the benefits of use (how it can reduce social inhibitions, help me relax, and make me feel good or even great), it has also caused much consternation and conflict in my life. I knew I needed some time away from use to revisit my relationship with these substances, get my head clear and change the trajectory of my life.

I had tried Alcoholics Anonymous and didn’t like the premise it is based on which is, I am powerless, I need to rely on a power greater then myself to stop me from using and, worst of all, I would have to quit permanently-albeit one day at a time-in order to have any hope of ever having a happy life. No, not the way for me, I thought as I picked up the phone and dialed the call in number for a group called Inklings, a phone meeting that happens every Friday at 10pm Eastern.

This phone meeting was with Moderation Management (MM), a group that helps people learn about their individual habits and behaviors. Through this self analysis, one can discover an individual plan for habit change. So, with much ambivalence, I dialed the number.

The first thing I observed was that this was a group of people who, like myself, didn’t buy the idea that it was all or nothing with alcohol and that there was no other way. No, perhaps not as well-trodden a path, but, nonetheless, a different trail. I listened. I found out that there were all kinds of resources on the MM website and if I chose–I loved that concept–if I wanted to, I could read all kinds of information that could assist me in my desire to change my relationship with drugs, which seemed to me to be a truly onerous task.

Then I heard someone mention, “a thirty day” He talked about quitting alcohol for just thirty days, then evaluating where he was at with his relationship to alcohol, and then start drinking again with a fresh outlook. Wow, I thought, I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been without substances for a few days let alone a month. But the seed was planted and I began rolling the idea around in my mind.

I began reading. In thirty days, the pattern of habit is broken and the mind has the opportunity to reset itself and begin anew, I read. Also, if I didn’t like being without, after a month of reflection, I could go right back to my old ways if I liked. I could give it a try and just see what it was like to have a clearer thought process, I truly was tired of the behavior drugs and alcohol had allowed me the excuse of engaging in. On the website, I also discovered tools that had been tried by other members that I could use,

So I said, “Why not?”

It was about three weeks later that I put down the pipe and bottle and embarked on my first “thirty day” – the longest time I had been without in years. The first two days were the toughest for me by far. It was a whole new way of life for me. I rationalized with myself that I really didn’t need to do this. But, then, I would counter myself by asking, if it weren’t so hard then what was the big deal? I should forge ahead, Which is exactly what I did, learning all the way. After the first few days, I let go of the fact that it wasn’t even an option to drink and began the task of analyzing both my use and life.

I struggled with ideas like, why did I use anyway? Did I really want to put my body under such abuse and stress over what was supposed to be a “Good Time?” I was making my self sick because I  wanted fun? I enjoyed befuddling my mind just to be what I was calling being happy? Oh, it gets deeper then that. What did I really want outf life anyway, and was I really going to waste this gift of life for drugs? Oh yes, I went deep that first thirty and I haven’t stopped since. I got all the way down to, what is the true meaning of my life and how did I really want to enjoy it?

Well, my first “thirty” was over two years ago. I am still finding my way in my quest to discover myself and my desire for growth, change and self-discovery. I have learned so much about myself, my use, and what I want in my life. I continue my quest for knowledge about my own self-discovery and practice the art of self-control. I still can be found on the Friday night Inklings calls, and, occasionally, on the more recent phone meetings on Tuesday nights at 9 pm EST. These calls have been a supportive environment that has helped me complete many thirty day periods of abstinence.

While I am still working through my own foibles and trials and tribulations, I have made lots of major life decisions that have forever changed the way I see myself and my use. I now have a much clearer perspective on my life and where I want to take things. Life is full of challenges and choices, so deciding to try something new and taking my power into my own hands has been a big step towards my freedom.

Post Submitted By: Libbi, MM Member

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Day 27 – Can I Keep Drinking?

[Note from Moderation Management staff:  This post is expected to generate interesting discussions at the Dryuary 2018 Forum.]

“Drinking alcohol is like eating donuts.  Having one or two occasionally isn’t going to hurt you.  But having several a day is going eventually going to lead to serious consequences.”
– Cyndi Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC

Congratulations on making it this far in the month of Dryuary!  As adults we don’t usually get awards or reinforcement.  So I’m going to say it another way:  I am very proud of you!  Having been an addictions treatment therapist for over twenty years, I know the work that you put into being alcohol free this Dryuary.

On to the question you may be asking yourself: can I keep drinking?  Only about 6% of the population in the United States meets diagnostic criteria for a severe alcohol use disorder.  Or in simpler terms: alcoholic.  While this is a large number—the amount of people who live in Florida—the majority of treatment facilities and self-help groups require all drinkers to be totally alcohol free.  Forever. I don’t agree with this.

There is a much larger percentage of the population who struggles with alcohol but does not drink every day, have withdrawals, have a problem every time they have a drink, or gotten in trouble with the law. However, they may be dissatisfied with their health, mood, motivation, and relationships.  This group encompasses an estimated 22% of the population: the number of Americans living in the Central Time Zone!

You may be wondering which group you fit into and how it affects what you do on February 1st.

I developed the “How Do I Know If I Can Keep Drinking Quiz” as a way to help people answer this question.  It is designed to give you predictions on whether you will have success in attempting alcohol moderation.  Some of the questions are listed below:

Please answer yes or no to the following:

  1. Do I have any mental health, medical, or legal issues?
  2. Do I have a support person to keep me accountable?
  3. Have I had more than one blackout?
  4. Am I willing to keep track of how much and how often I drink?
  5. Have I had withdrawals from drinking?
  6. Am I free of all other non-prescribed, mood-altering substances?
  7. Am I drinking to change my mood?
  8. Will my family support moderate drinking?
  9. Do the consequences of drinking outweigh the benefits of abstinence? 

Full quiz available on www.canikeepdrinking.com or www.insightactiontherapy.com

If you answered yes to any of the odd questions, you may not be a candidate for moderate drinking. Affirmative responses to the even numbered questions increase your odds of being able to continue drinking.

Other negative predictors for being able to moderate include:

  • Daily drinking
  • Consuming to deal with emotions
  • Drinking alone
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Having legal, probationary, or employment conditions

The worst predictor for being able to continue drinking is having withdrawals after drinking.  Withdrawals are potentially life threatening and include delirium tremens “the shakes,” sweating, increased pulse, hallucinations, and seizures. This almost always means that your body has a physical dependence on alcohol and you likely meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for a severe alcohol use disorder. The more severe the problem, the less likely that you will be able to drink moderately.

Several predictors that lead to a better chance of being able to keep drinking include:

  • Experiencing a period of abstinence to develop and implement coping skills
  • Monitoring amount and frequency of drinking and staying within moderate drinking guidelines
  • Consuming when alcohol is part of a celebration or event, not the main focus
  • Delaying first drink until after age 15. One study of over 40,000 adults found that nearly half of the people who began drinking under age 15 met criteria for a severe alcohol use disorder while that percentage dropped to less than 10% if they waited until age 21.
  • Having family support. Research shows that the number one predictor for being able to moderately drink is having a support system that can offer perspective, accountability, and motivation.

Practicing alcohol moderation involves risk.  The safest amount of drinking is none at all. But for the 90 million people who are not alcoholics, drinking in moderation might be the answer. Keep coming back to Moderation Management for tools, encouragement, and support.

Post submitted by: Cyndi Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC
Cyndi is the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of Insight Into Action Therapy and has been in the field for over twenty years. She co-developed and facilitates the Dual Diagnosis Recovery Program©, is a national trainer on alcohol moderation, and is a Moderation Friendly Therapist. Her #1 new release book Can I Keep Drinking? How You Can Decide When Enough is Enough offers alternative ways to have a healthier relationship with alcohol.

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Day 26 – Home

“I’ve been a prisoner all my life… Take, take me home!” -Phil Collins

When I was drinking to excess, I often felt alcohol was holding me as its prisoner. I felt like there was no bail available. Every time I said to myself I was going to get it under control, I didn’t.

Several rough nights, a few blackouts, lots of self-loathing, many broken promises, a lost job, two failed marriages, a few months in AA and many years in Moderation Management later, I can truthfully say, I’m home.

Home. Where I can wake up refreshed instead of hung over. Home. Where I work out in the mornings instead of sleeping in and calling in sick. Home. Where I have a nutritious breakfast instead of puking my guts out. Home. Where I look forward to the evening when I can relax instead of dreading that I might over drink again. Home. Where I can even make plans with my former drinking buddy safe in the knowledge that I have a plan, I will stick to the plan, and I’ll remember every bit of the evening instead of blacking out and forgetting how embarrassing I was.

There are three important tools that keep me home instead of in alcohol prison.

First, I always drink a large glass of water after each alcoholic drink. It hydrates me and forces me to pause between drinks instead of pounding them until they pound me into oblivion.

Second, I never drink more than four drinks in one day. Never. Not even if I had wine with lunch, which I seldom do anyway.

Third. This is the most important tool in my toolbox. It’s the tool that trumps every tool in the box. This tool will beat any temptation I’ve ever had. Are you ready? This is the tool I use every single time I am contemplating taking a drink. Here it is. I ask myself one simple but profound question:

How do I want to feel when I get up tomorrow morning?

This question is simple because if my answer is “I want to feel great” then I know whether or not I should take that drink. But this question is also profound because if my answer is “I don’t care – I just want to drink” then I know I need to stop myself cold in my tracks and reevaluate my relationship to alcohol. For years now, my answer has always been “I want to feel great tomorrow morning. I want to get up and seize the day – heck, I want to grab today by the neck and shake it until it succumbs to my will, not the other way around. I’m going to eat a nutritious breakfast, workout for a half-hour, get all my chores done, and do a bunch of stuff to make the world a better place.”

I’d been a prisoner most of my life. I screamed to MM, my support group to please take me home. They showed me how to take myself home. And I’ve been there ever since.

You can, too.

Post Submitted By: Just Plain Phil, Executive Director, Moderation Management

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Day 25 – Into the Home Stretch

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. ”
– Viktor Frankl

Congratulations! You are headed into your final week of Dryuary. And even if you slipped here or there, the fact that you are still reading this means you are paying attention. This alone is a very important factor. For some of you, this has been a breeze so far. For others, it has been more challenging. Many of you are wondering how it will be when you start drinking again. Maybe you’re worried about losing some of the benefits (e.g., increased productivity, fewer health issues) you’ve enjoyed this month. We’ll talk more about those on 1/30. Meanwhile, it may not hurt to read “MM Steps of Change” — specifically the section Skills for Moderate Drinking.  It contains several tips for pacing your drinks, which is key to keeping your blood alcohol below .055%. Above that point, it becomes way too easy to rationalize more drinks.

People have found various combinations of rules like these helpful:

  • keep alcohol out of the house when abstaining
  • no drinking at home
  • no drinking alone
  • no drinking on weekdays
  • no drinking to relieve stress
  • no shopping after noon
  • buy expensive wine/whiskey/whatever (e.g., trade in box-o-wine for the good stuff, and savor it)
  • alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
  • keep adding ice chips to wine to stretch it out
  • touch the wine to your tongue – barely sip

Finding the combination of rules that works for you takes trial and error.

Above all, pay attention to your drinks, as Paul Staley describes in his Mindful Drinking post:

“It could be argued that to a certain extent all our problems with drinking stem from lack of attentiveness. This seems pretty intuitive when it comes to binging, since that is the habit of mindlessly forging ahead with your drinking until you are well past the point where consequences outweigh benefits. But I have times suspected that for some binge drinkers their problem is not just a conditioned response to a particular setting, but a basic lack of awareness as to how alcohol affects them. I’m thinking in particular of the people who say that they, for example, never drink during the week and that they never drink alone, and yet when they go out, WHAMO! Well, if you only drink in these boisterous, amped-up environments there is no way for you really to know and recognize how two or three drinks affect you. The process of re-learning how to drink could simply begin with sitting down in a quiet place, having a few drinks and seeing how you feel. Find your happy zone and learn how to stay there, but you have to be paying attention to find it in the first place.”

Some of you may mess up and have too much on one or more occasion, once you resume drinking. Pono does a post-mortem in her Drinking No Longer Means Party post:

“Did I eat first? Yes
Did I drink the first one slowly, slower than those around me? Yes
Did I wait awhile before getting another? Yes
Did I make sure I had water by me at all times and drink it between drinks when my coworkers ordered another? No
(booya-that was it)”

Often, emotions trigger overdrinking, as jonathan langley writes:

“On the tough weeks, when I’m having a hard time and notice that I’m drinking more, I remind myself that this is part of the bigger goal of handling my emotions better. That one takes the most time, I find”

Many of us have learned, through experience, that we’re better off abstaining during emotionally trying times. Just Plain Phil also writes:

“It underscores what I know to be true about me. When I’m upset the last thing I want is to drink. That leads down a path I no longer wish to go”

For those of you who could benefit from peer support, consider reaching out at one of the chats, face-to-face meetings, MM Forum, or MMlist listserv. You’ll find others who are going through similar issues, as Kary May writes:

“It is impossible to put into words all that my own community, Moderation Management, has helped me accomplish, as a matter of fact, I’m sure there are far-reaching effects that I will never know. But I do know that I would never have found my way to where I am without my fellow villagers there, the ones that went before me, raising a torch and showing me the way, and those that fought alongside of me, held me up and kept me from surrendering, and, now, the new members who encourage me to keep fighting for them.”

Post Submitted By: Donna, who cites excerpts of Public Hub posts from Paul Staley, Pono, jonathan langley, Just Plain Phil, and Kary May.

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Day 24 – Facing Fears

“Bob Diamond: Being from Earth, as you are, and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear.

Daniel Miller: It has?

Bob Diamond: Well everybody on Earth deals with fear – that’s what little brains do… Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything – real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can’t get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life“
– Dialogue from the movie Defending Your Life (1991)

First of all, you’re doing great! Now let’s talk about fear! I included the quote above, from the movie Defending Your Life, because that movie beautifully illustrates the effect that fear can have on our decisions. If you’re like me, you’ve probably daydreamed about what you could achieve if you lived without fear. And if you have abused alcohol regularly in the past, there’s a good chance that you’ve done so to deal with anxiety. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that long-term, heavy use of alcohol could actually increase your anxiety. Check out the results of a study at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine: https://healthtalk.unchealthcare.org/heavy-drinking-rewires-brain-increasing-susceptibility-to-anxiety-problems/ In the study, the poor drunken mice find themselves more and more fearful, while the control group of teetotaler mice learn to cope with a scary prompt.

If you don’t have enough reasons to reduce your alcohol use, this is a good one! Living with far less – or zero – alcohol, you will probably find more peace.

However, no life is without stress and anxiety. After Dryuary, a significant part of your plan going forward must involve those triggers. It might be helpful to sit at a notebook or computer and jot down some thoughts that scare you. Here are some common fears:

Failure – Can I stay sober or moderate? Or will I fail again? Will alcohol cause me to lose my [job/relationships/stuff]?
Truth – Can I face my demons?
Pain – If I acknowledge the truth, will it hurt me?
Embarrassment – I’d rather pretend I wasn’t sloppy drunk all those years, just having fun.
Loneliness – How will I cope without alcohol, my best friend?
Intimacy – If I let the drunken wall down and show my real self, will others accept me?

After you’ve written about your fears, write about how you might cope with these fears in the coming months.

Failure – If I fail, I will try again. I will get closer and closer to the life that I want.
Truth – Lying to myself and others has been a heavy burden. The truth will set me free.
Pain – I am strong, and I can handle it.
Embarrassment – Everyone else is just as embarrassed about their own social faux pas.
Loneliness – There’s a whole world outside my door.
Intimacy – I want others to accept me for who I really am, not for who I pretend to be.

Now for specific triggers. I want you to think of some situations where you tend to want a drink. Imagine yourself dealing with these triggers without alcohol.

For example, consider uncertainty about your job: Imagine you get a poor performance review, or hear about impending layoffs. What are some healthy steps that you could take to deal with that anxiety? You could brush up your resume and look at job websites. What else?

Or if you suffer from social anxiety, how will you practice being in social situations while sober? You could try smaller groups first, or get to the party late and leave early. What else?

Before I leave you to fill your notebook with scary sobriety triggers, a word about myself: I am a work in progress, not always dealing with anxiety in a healthy way. But I do the best I can, and practice, practice, practice.

Post Submitted By: ~ Hazel

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Day 23 – Time to Get Up (Again)

“I want to grow. I want to be better. You Grow. We all grow. We’re made to grow. You either evolve or you disappear.”
– Tupac Shakur

Welcome to Day 23

For a few years now, on January 1st, and often at least one other month during the year, I participate in something called the Whole 30 challenge. For those not familiar with it, it is like Dryuary, in that you give up alcohol for the month, but the challenge involves letting go of far more than alcohol. On the Whole 30, you’re also breaking free from all grains, refined sugar, cheese/milk products, and all processed foods. The goal is for everything you eat to be organic. In the beginning, especially the first time, it’s worse than it sounds.

I was trying to use positive language above such as “letting go of,” and “breaking free” of, but I mean, bottom line: not only are there many things that you cannot eat and drink, you also have to shop and buy all the right foods, chop them up and cook them – daily.

And if you decide you want to brave it by going out to eat at a restaurant, there’s another layer of challenging work-a-rounds you must face, to find somewhere and something you can eat while staying true to this plan. In the dining out situation, you must flex your assertiveness muscles, and practically interrogate the server about the food preparation. Does it have butter, sugar, tropical oils? No? You sure? It does have sugar? Well, can the chef make anything that I can eat, then? If yes, then you have to go through the whole list of what you can and can’t have. High maintenance. For sure.

Thankfully, coffee is allowed on the Whole 30, (as long as you can drink it black). In my life, the couple of morning double-espressos feel very important to me. If not for the coffee inclusion, I probably wouldn’t ever have ventured into trying this thing. By the way, for now, I am calling this coffee need of mine a “benign addiction.”

Now, given the Whole 30, does Dryuary sound any easier? I hope so! But I know it’s really hard to give up something you love. I can’t fathom the withdrawal I’d be in without my coffee in the morning. Dryuary, The Whole 30 and such are not for the faint of heart! In all reality, though, doing a Dryuary or a W30 is such a positive thing to do! It’s really cool to accomplish something hard, to meet a goal, to test oneself, and push through to the end! Feels good in many, many ways.

So here’s what I’m into now. I love it when I’m taking good care of myself: eating well, and exercising. Luckily, I enjoy cooking and making nice foods at home. As an introvert, leaving the extroverted world of work and responsibility behind and having some quiet time at the end of the day is truly a delight. Being on the Whole 30 helps me actually relax and enjoy that time, rather than mindlessly eating chips & snacks while I binge watch Netflix. I actually enjoy chopping veggies, preparing and creating a nice little dinner. And then maybe I’ll treat myself by watching something (for a moderate amount of time) on Netflix. As I write this, it’s the beginning of my 10th day. I’m feeling great! My energy and sleep are getting really good. I also feel like my focus is sharper. I’m tuning in, being more mindful, less judgmental and more patient with myself.

So I signed up for Dryuary the first time a couple of years ago, because I wanted to support my clients and because I was already planning to do my Whole 30 cleanse anyway (I actually did 31 days, in the spirit of Dryuary). I decided to do that again this year. Glad I did. It is so nice to feel the support of all of you out there and to know that there are so many others making positive changes that require some serious grit. Several people from my group and some clients have told me that they signed up, and that has made it more fun too.

Though I feel fortunate, that, for whatever reason, I haven’t struggled (at least not yet), with alcohol, I believe that I am capable of getting into similar negative patterns with food, TV, internet, and other distractions. I can relate to having these kinds of problems from working with people who bravely come into therapy to address their concerns and to work on changing the issues that they grapple with. I can also relate because I struggle with my own things too, of course. It may not be alcohol, but I believe that many things can get a beastly grip on almost anyone. It’s all a part of being human.

For me the struggle comes when I start listening to and believing in the pessimistic thoughts my mind kicks out from time to time. And then I say “F$%k it!” When I was working at an inpatient alcohol/drug rehab program, I remember one of my clients said that the addicts’ national anthem was those 2 words: “F$%k it!” That resonated. When things get stressful, it’s not hard to return to coping strategies we learned at some other point in time. Those things did work back then. Sometimes they work now, albeit for a short period of time. And that’s a problem because our brain hangs onto that thing worked and helped us before. But all the while, doing that thing excessively causes us a degree of pain and trouble, in the big picture. And after we fall into a habit – old or new – it can be difficult to break the cycle. In that vulnerable space we often listen to that voice that says – this is too hard! And then we sabotage the whole thing, falling down, again and again, with the addicts’ national anthem coming right out of our mouths. And our perceived failure to stick with it as a “perfect person should” diminishes our self-confidence over time.   Fascinating things, the mind and addiction.

I smoked cigarettes for close to 15 years and stopped about 20 years ago. I remember it was really hard getting to a place where I actually believed that I could stop. I tried to quit many times before that, but I guess I had to go through it until I finally was helped to figure out that having a good plan might help. And once I had a plan, the stopping was not such an overwhelming thing. Okay, maybe it was a little bit hard, at first. Soon after, though, there were so many things that were made better, because I wasn’t smoking cigarettes.

It helps me to remember that change is what we do as humans; and it’s what we’re here to do. We’re changing at a cellular level all the time. We can at least be curious about the way we think and how that has changed over time, right? We may be able to choose what we value and what we believe versus accepting every mean thought we have about who we are or who we are not.

Right now, it all makes sense. I’m doing a Dryuary, a Whole 30, and I feel so grounded, positive and calm. After January 31st, my plan is to move to a moderation program with my eating, which I do know how to do; I did well with it for several years once.

Alas, however, it seems that throughout the years, I will likely fall out of alignment. And then when that happens I may fall into self-recrimination for a while. I’ll likely believe the thoughts my mind creates again, and perhaps I’ll say F*&# it! I say ‘probably’ because that has happened before. It’s what has happened to me these last two years.

I suppose I told myself this, what I’m dealing with is too much; it’s too painful. And the pain, the pain of life, that is what has made me fall backwards. And it is painful to get into that place. I become the victim of my own mind in that scenario. But it’s not the pain of life in and of itself. It’s what I tell myself about that pain and what I believe, along with my old tricky, addictive thought patterns. I have either created those thought patterns or I have at least at some level contributed to them, or bought into them outright, raising them up from the dead.   And as intimately as I think I know the shadowy corners in my mind, I still fall for the unhelpful, irrational, pessimistic ways of thinking -sometimes. And I am working on acceptance of that fact.

So I found these words which helped me think more positively about the whole falling and getting back up process. They are by Dorothy Hamill, the former Olympic ice-skater. I send these out to all of you, and I hope they will be helpful to any of you who can relate:

“Everybody has to deal with tough times. A gold medal doesn’t make you immune to that. A skater is used to falling down and getting up again.”

Time’s Up. And as well – it’s Time to Get Up (Again).

Post submitted by: Linda Scott, MA CACII LPC, www.lscotttherapy.com

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Day 22 – The Choice Is Mine

“Time will pass anyway, you can either spend it creating the life you want or spend it living the life you don’t want“
– Unknown

Six months ago, I learned that harm reduction programs relative to problem drinking are found to be quite successful and are recognized by medical doctors as being as effective as abstinence, sometimes even more so. I began researching these programs and found Moderation Management (MM).

I had not consumed alcohol for two weeks when I finally called to participate in my first MM meeting. At that time, I was most concerned about the negative impact on my marriage that overindulging in alcohol was triggering. My first meeting let me know I was on the right path. Yes, my very first meeting. I found compassion, encouragement and camaraderie with people who were taking responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path of moderation. In addition, using the steps and guidelines of MM, the choice of a plan of moderation was mine. Yes, the choice was mine and that, along with MM guidelines, appealed to me as no abstinence program of rules ever had. Abiding by rules I set for myself are far easier to follow and maintain than those set by others.

At my first meeting, I was already 14 days into my initial 30-day abstinence which ultimately lasted 45 days. The parameters within my plan were quite limited, but, so far, my limits in my plan have worked well for me. I made the decision to not keep alcohol at home, to avoid alcohol when working the following day, to always eat something while drinking, to limit my drinks according to less than MM’s suggested amount for women and to drink some water in between cocktails. This was new behavior for me and I was amazed at how quickly it resulted in a positive effect on my marriage and on my own thoughts and feelings about me. I found that my triggers of drinking to excess, emotions and stress being two of the most common, were not unique. And over a rather brief period of time I felt a sense of belonging to a group of people much like me. New behavior, the choices I have made with respect to alcohol, are becoming familiar, routine and simply my path. We are both pleased with the ways in which MM has shaped the new me.

To the newcomers and those considering joining us in your own Moderation Management journey: I encourage you to join us and reap the benefits of embracing an MM way of life. My plan may not be right for you. Fear not. Using MM information as guidance, the choice is yours, just as it is mine.

Post Submitted By: Tina, MM member

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Day 21 – Stripped Down

“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”
– Stephen R. Covey

A little over a week ago, I went to dinner with an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years. We were never close, in fact, I’m not sure she even remembered meeting me before. She was different than I remember her, too. She was more stripped down. Her face was bare of make-up, her hair was loose and unruly, and her eyes glowed with a genuine eagerness and happiness to see me, so very different than the usual polite reserve almost-strangers usually present to each other. She had been persistent about us getting together because I had done her a small favor and she wanted to thank me. She also wanted to see me again, she insisted. She and I, our significant others, and another couple, carried on through the meal and afterwards as though we were old friends who rarely see each other and didn’t have near enough time to catch up. The wine (Diet Coke for me since I have been observing Dryuary for almost 80 consecutive months), the words, and the laughter flowed freely and loudly. So much so that the other patrons of the restaurant were shooting us dirty looks-don’t you love it when that happens? So much so that her significant other turned to her and urged her to quit laughing so hard, to take it easy, to calm down.

No, he wasn’t chiding her for being loud and embarrassing him as my significant other used to chide me when I was drinking and getting loud. Instead, he was looking out for her. He didn’t want her to harm herself. In blunt terms, he didn’t want her to choke.

See, my friend-yes, I now consider her more than an acquaintance because she showed me life is too short for people to remain acquaintances-has ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Every morning, she wakes up not knowing what simple ability will be taken from her that day, so she’s holding on to everything she can with all she has left. With her ability to walk and talk, to breathe and laugh being stripped away from her second by second, she’s been stripped down to a keen sense of what is important.

A week ago, over a million people in Hawaii believed they had only minutes to live. For 38 minutes, they scrambled for shelter of which there was none. They frantically uttered words into their cell phones they never dreamed they’d be saying that day. They ended their calls way too soon so they could call the next person down the line of importance. One man told of how his two children were on opposite sides of the island and how he was faced with the choice of which child to spend his final moments with since he couldn’t be with both. How do you make that decision? How many precious seconds do you waste trying to decide?

These people, too, were stripped down while faced with the decision of what and who were the most important in their lives. Who did they need to fit into those final moments? I’m sure the task seemed impossible, but, stripped down as they were, I doubt their minds strayed for even a second to the unimportant.

During this month of Dryuary, we, too, have been stripped down. We’ve been forced to put other things back in front of alcohol in the hierarchy of importance. Maybe we’ve been surprised by the realization of how important alcohol has become in our lives. Maybe we found we had put it ahead of some things, or someones, when there should never have even been a contest. Maybe we discovered that alcohol dulled our sense of the important and, stripped down as we’ve been, we can see more clearly now what is important.

Dryuary will be drawing to a close in a matter of days and we will enter into February with a keener sense of how much of a priority we want alcohol to have in our lives. Maybe we should continue to live our lives stripped down As if we knew with certainty that tomorrow when we wake up, something very important to us might be diminished or gone. As if we continually only had the next 38 minutes to decide what is important enough to include in every moment. And, only letting alcohol back in our lives as long as it remains where it belongs, as if it were unimportant to us.

Post Submitted by: Kary May, Author Of:
Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook to Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All-Quite Happily: With the help of the online recovery community.

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Day 20 – Are We Bored Yet?

“Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin, they betray you. You have made a commitment to the Jedi Order, a commitment not easily broken“
– Obi-Wan Kenobi

The following post was taken from a response to a Dryuary participant who was looking for incentives to keep going on those days Dryuary seems more like a slow uphill slog through cold molasses than a winged flight through fields of sunflowers.

I agree 100%. I am bored with it too by now. That said, for me the full 30 days is required, even if it is just to prove I can do it. It is about resetting your brain, and a habit takes that long to stop being a habit. For me, slipping would end it. If I have one drink it will turn into two, and then three. Then, I will drink tomorrow. And, the day after that. Before I know it, I will be back at the starting line. That is just me. I would feel I “failed”. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

But if I did/do slip, I would/will plan another 30 day period of abstinence for February. This is about solving a problem, and a slip shouldn’t send a person into a spiral of “I can’t do it”. A slip should be a reset point where you say “I slipped but I will try again”. That is what Moderation Management is all about.  January isn’t really the best time to do 31 days of not drinking,  in my opinion. On one Dryuary site, there is a blogger that talks about why they don’t do Dry January, they do February instead. I totally get that. January feels too much like a “New Year’s Resolution” and we all know how those go.

As for my motivation? Weight loss and my liver. I do have fatty liver. I am 6’7” and weight about 280 and should be about 250. So the fatty liver comes with the territory. When I am drinking too much, I can start to “feel” my liver. Not really pain, but pressure on my right side. When I cut out the drinking for a few weeks, that all goes away. Even after 9 days dry, it is feeling a lot better. So, I am not only resetting my brain, but my liver as well. If I can lose 15 lbs it really helps. That is how much I typically lose in a 30 – 45 dry spell. I like seeing the scale numbers drop, I like seeing the puffiness leave my face, and I like the feeling when I can’t feel my liver! That is my motivation to keep going.

Honestly, if I didn’t have any health issues associated with alcohol, I would probably have a much more serious problem with it. I like drinking. As I have said in other posts, I don’t really drink enough to get drunk. I just like the feeling when I am a bit buzzed. But, I pack on weight when I drink and that isn’t healthy. Plus, it makes some of the other issues I have even worse. I have friends who can drink all they want and never gain a pound. I don’t know how they do it.

Best wishes! I totally get where you are coming from.

Post submitted by: Dave (MM member)

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Day 19 – Freedom

“To be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is the ability to surpass the given toward an open future.”
– Simone de Beauvoir

For a long time – my entire adult life, and then some – I’ve associated alcohol with freedom: freedom from restrictions, responsibilities, anxiety (especially social anxiety), inhibitions, emotional pain, the sharpness of thoughts and feelings and memories, the crushing daily drive toward perfection and control. It’s important to develop other ways to manage these things, but that’s not the topic of this post. The topic here is freedom, and alcohol has represented freedom from many things for me.

In a rather cruel turn of events, alcohol itself became a constraint. There is so much I couldn’t do, and couldn’t even imagine as possible for myself in the future, due to what developed into a heavy nightly drinking habit. Reliability as a romantic partner? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over my erratic behavior. A 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment? Hardly. A wholesome sober night with friends or family? Not possible. If it was nighttime, I was drunk; if the sun was up, I was clawing my way through another hangover. That was a given.

For Simone de Beauvoir, “givens” are things that limit our ability to choose what to do with ourselves. Drinking became a given that I chose over and over, because it was the only thing that felt good.

When I want that particular flavor of feel-good and I feel constrained by my commitment to an alcohol-free stretch, I hear something in me say, “You’re free to do what you like. You can drink.” It’s true, I can. But there’s a very different kind of freedom that comes precisely from not doing what I’d like.

I have no delusions that I’ve fully surpassed my given. But I’ve gotten glimpses of the open territory lying beyond. During my first alcohol-free stretches last year, I learned how to be with myself, without a buffer. I experienced my first days without preoccupation around how much booze I had on hand/where I’d get more/how much I’d drink/what might happen if I went overboard. This month I spent an evening with friends without alcohol and enjoyed their company in and of itself. And I scheduled a 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment.

It doesn’t feel good not to do what I’d like; it’s uncomfortable and downright painful at times. But being able to see a future in which alcohol is not a determinant of my plans, goals and focus – that’s something I feel good about. I have to believe that future is worth the occasional constraint and discomfort necessary to get there.

Post submitted by: May-mo (MM member)

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Day 18 – The Garden Path

“Don’t trip over your own feet by worrying about the sidewalk” – Mom

I deliberately mis-named this post to echo the idiom ‘being led down the garden path’ because I think it reflects a suspicion I feel sometimes when things are too easy.

Like I learned from horror movies, “it’s quiet… too quiet” When I hit my stride and things seem easy, I sometimes start wondering what I’m missing and start worrying. This is a personality flaw of mine, and something that I seek refuge from with drinking.

This month I’ve had some great moments where this tendency to worry has gotten in the way. I think I can safely say Dryuary is at least some kind of challenge to everyone doing it – we probably wouldn’t have signed up otherwise. But for most people there are times when it’s hard and times when it’s easier. I’ve noticed that my worry creeps in when it’s easier, and that deprives me of the much needed rest and respite needed to get through challenges like this.

Sometimes a garden path is just a garden path. Sometimes, I’m just up early on a Sunday morning because I want to make it to the farmer’s market and get sheep milk so I can make my own cheese, and I’m not hungover. Saying hello to the early morning is one of the things I like best about moderation.

And I don’t want to think about it too much and have to ‘be grateful.’ Not really. It’s more like I want to not-think about it. I want to just stand in the fresh smells and mulling crowd, people stamping snow off their feet and chattering with their children, my backpack weighted down with jams, apples and jugs of milk as I bite down on a crisp, warm croissant. I want to just feel that moment and relax into it. I don’t want to be ‘mindful’ about doing this either. I don’t want to meditate about the ‘flow’ and remind myself to appreciate the day. I want to be mindless, unaware, just relaxed.

You know… the way I feel when I’m drinking… I mean, that carefree feeling is 99% of why I drink, why can’t I find it in the rest of my life? It’s literally a state of mind that exists within me. It’s potential is there, if only I can find it. If only I can put aside my worries, if only I could avoid tripping over my own feet.

Mom, I remember your advice, but I don’t always know how to follow it.

The idea of seizing the moment is an old one. But how do you experience it with less effort and attention and all those things that seem awfully stressful considering you’re supposed to be enjoying something and now have to really think about whether you’re doing it right? Setting a timer to remind myself to meditate seems like the wrong way to go about it – relaxation on a strict schedule.

The ancient Greeks had different words for time and how we experience it. I stumbled across them the other day – chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to chronological time, the latter signifies something a little different. Kairos is a proper or opportune time for action. While chronos is sequential and quantifiable, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature to it. It’s sometimes translated as ‘the times’ and in Christian theology it’s used to mean ‘the appointed time in the purpose of God.’

I think that’s the feeling I’m looking for. The sense that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, that I’m perfectly in my place, in my life, on my path, at the right time. It’s effortless because it’s perfectly placed. It doesn’t need worry or mindfulness because there’s nothing to analyse. It’s kairos. It’s complete in itself.

Don’t seize the moment when you’re sober, just open up to kairos in your day. Life is hard enough, even when it’s easy. Don’t make it harder on yourself by only allowing yourself to relax when you’ve got a drink in your hand. We can just stop and look for a moment – a kairos – and appreciate the wonder and liveliness of the winter’s market and the bounty of creation. Admire the colours, scents and sounds around us in their dazzling display. Warm ourselves with the joy at the good fortune that brought us to this market that would be the envy of people throughout the world and throughout time. The kairos of the many, many blessings of that fill our senses. We don’t need to reach for them, we just need to let them in.

Post Submitted by: Jonathan
Jonathan M. Langley is the author of Re-think Your Drinking: 5 practical tips to cut back on alcohol

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Day 17 – Why One Therapist Recommends Four Months Alcohol Free

“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near”
– Paulo Coelho, author of Aleph

I know it may be hard to imagine right now, but some of you may finish this month up and find that you’re reluctant to return to the drinking realm, you may be apprehensive that you’ll fall right back into the same patterns that convinced you you needed this month off from drinking. Maybe you’re not confident that a month was enough to “reset” your over-indulgent tendencies. Or, maybe you feel so good right now, you want to keep the groove going. Cyndi Turner, a Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner, Master Addiction Counselor and author of the book “Can I Keep Drinking: How You Can Decide When Enough Is Enough” recommends that her clients take a four month break from drinking before attempting moderate drinking, In the article below, she explains why.
I am going to recommend something that may sound strange: Before you try alcohol moderation, I recommend that you quit drinking. What?!
Moderation Management is my favorite resource for people who have experienced challenges with alcohol but may not need to quit drinking completely. While they recommend being clean for thirty days, I find this is often not long enough. Most of us can make a change for a short period of time but struggle to maintain it long-term. Of the many New Year’s resolutions you have made, how many have actually become part of your day-to-day life? Most people’s good intentions fizzle out after a few weeks.
Why do so many of us struggle to make lasting change? We often give up behaviors that are not good for us, but we may not identify why we were making poor choices and how to maintain the positive changes.
You may be familiar with the term white knuckling. Some say it originated with nervous flyers who gripped the armrests of their seats so tightly that their knuckles turned white. I believe many drinkers metaphorically do this. They hold on for a while and muscle through some alcohol-free time. Sometimes this is to prove to themselves or someone else that they don’t really have a problem and can stop at any time. The concern is that during this time they may not be dealing with the internal reasons for their drinking, therefore not developing necessary coping skills.
In my therapy practice, I actually want my clients to feel some discomfort during this period of abstinence. Yes, you heard me right. Being chemically free helps bring emotions naturally to the surface.  It allows us to figure out why someone has been turning to alcohol. Once we know this, we can develop different types of coping skills and see how you handle a wide variety of situations without alcohol.

While you are alcohol free, you may find yourself focusing only on negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, depression, boredom, and anger. Don’t forget to notice the emergence of positive feelings that perhaps had been numbed by alcohol: joy, awe, love, compassion, empathy… The range of emotions that you experience when you are abstinent may pleasantly surprise you.

Four months also enables you to cycle through an entire season of events. If you go this long without drinking, you will likely have to come up with a plan for handling holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, sporting events, annual get-togethers, and other such events without relying on alcohol.

Another goal during this time is developing self-regulation skills. This is learning how to tolerate negative emotions and delay rewards. Self-regulation can help deal with cravings to drink, which are often emotional, not true physical cravings.

Distraction can be a healthy way to manage cravings. Our minds may play tricks on us, telling us that we need to drink in order to manage a thought or emotion. I always recommend having a plan in place before you actually need it. Sometimes just the act of knowing what to do in a situation will help you feel more prepared for what to do when something actually does happen. Remember all those fire drills you participated in as a kid?

Additionally, sometimes we just fall into unhealthy patterns. This period of abstinence should give you enough time to break these patterns and determine to what degree—if any—you want alcohol to be part of the next stage of your life. In fact, 30 percent of those who try a period of abstinence decide to continue with permanent abstinence. Once you know you can do it, it is not as big of a deal to choose it voluntarily. Drinking or not drinking becomes less of a focus when you shift your attention, time, and activities to other opportunities. I recommend that you say: “I choose not to drink” rather than “I can’t drink.” The former implies empowerment rather than deprivation.

I encourage you to try abstinence for four months. What do you have to lose? You know what it feels like to be a regular drinker, but what you don’t know is what your current life will be like without drinking. If you hate it, you can always go back to the way life was before. However, you may be surprised at the new perspectives you gain about yourself and the people around you.

Post submitted by: Cyndi Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC
Cyndi is the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of Insight Into Action Therapy and has been in the field for over twenty years. She co-developed and facilitates the Dual Diagnosis Recovery Program©, is a national trainer on alcohol moderation, and is a Moderation Friendly Therapist. Her #1 new release book Can I Keep Drinking? How You Can Decide When Enough is Enough offers alternative ways to have a healthier relationship with alcohol.

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Day 16 – What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

WYSIWYG (wizzywig) is an acronym for what you see is what you get.“ It became popular with early computer printers of the 1980’s, meaning that the printout closely resembled what one was viewing on the monitor. That seems obvious today, but back in the computer dark ages, printing was quite primitive. This saying may have been originally coined by Flip Wilson in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, when he played “Geraldine” in the 1960’s. During the following years, several musicians included various versions of this same phrase in their songs–Hall and Oates, Tina Turner, Britney Spears and others. I’ve oftentimes heard people use the expression to indicate that they have nothing to hide, they are upfront people, they lay it all out there. I see myself, however, as more complex than that.

I prefer to flip the phrase around to “what you get is what you see.” Or in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

A perfect example of this lies outside my window. We’ve had an extreme cold spell in the Midwest with wind chills hovering close to -20 degrees. I can choose to moan & groan about being bored and stuck indoors or I can choose to use this shut-in time to start a craft in the basement, binge-watch Orange is the New Black, or work on my new Lego puzzle.

The first time I abstained from alcohol, it was for 9 months; thirty-six miserable, white-knuckle weeks. I “got” exactly what I “saw”, which were denial and deprivation; consequently I was filled with anger and resentment. At some point the buzzer kicked on and I realized that I have the ability to change my perception, thus my experience. I can embark on an abstinence period by seeing it as a growth experience. I can plan ahead, dig in and sell a few shoes (more on shoes later…)

There are so many positive things about abstaining, your imagination is your limit. I have learned to enjoy going to drinking events, silently abstaining and proudly serving as designated driver. I’m an introvert by nature, so drinking is the bait that lubricates my social skills. While abstaining, I can immerse myself in my introvertedness without guilt, engaging selectively, people-watching and enjoying the moment. It’s a different experience from drinking & engaging, but just as fun once I “saw it.”

When some of us drink, our personalities change a little (or a lot) so we use that change as a crutch to make things easier, better or just different. We lose site of the fact that our sober selves can create a unique experience too. As a child growing up, my siblings and I would never dare complain that we were bored or my mother would think of chores for us to do. With that thought, an attitude adjustment on our parts would quickly follow, we weren’t so bored after all when things were placed into perspective. Gosh, we could ride our bikes, play games, look for hidden treasures. We really do have the ability to change how we look at a moment (or even a month).

Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential.

The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes“

The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes“


Post submitted by: Bee Brown, Member of MM

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Day 15 – Just Do It!

“Just do it!” – Olor

Here it is mid-month and perhaps that initial enthusiasm for making a change is beginning to wear off. Sometimes while going through a period of abstinence, there will be a day where it seems that all the tricks and tools available to keep me on track lose their appeal or don’t quite click in a way that makes staying abstinent easy. On those days, I pull out the phrase ‘Just Do It!’ to keep going.

Whatever it takes to get through this day, this hour, or this minute, just don’t pick up that drink! Sometimes I have to do other things that might not seem healthy, like go out to eat, distract myself with TV, or stay busy in some way that might be counter to the oft-cited relaxation, meditation, health or having-it-all together state of mind that we would all like while abstaining. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way. Sometimes that stress is going to hang on. Maybe you’re too tired to exercise or cook. Sometimes you’re just in a bad mood.

So, maybe you’re not at the most zen or peaceful place this day, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get through it without a drink. This is often referred to as ‘white knuckling’ abstinence. Some might call it sheer willpower. That’s ok!

In her book, The Willpower Instinct, author Kelly McGonigal states that “I will” power and “I won’t” power are two sides of the same coin. “I will exercise.” “I won’t drink today.” But there is a third component to willpower that she stresses, and that is ‘the ability to remember what you really want.’ When you embarked on Dryuary you decided that you want to go the month of January without drinking, for all the reasons that prompted you to do this. You may want that drink right now, but what you really want, in the long term, is to achieve the goal you set for yourself.

If you have to ‘white knuckle’ through this day to keep from drinking, think of it as you remembering what that ONE priority is and putting it at the forefront of your mind. The rest of it can take a back seat for now. Perhaps if you get through this day without picking up a drink, tomorrow or the next day or maybe next week you’ll be more apt to get those other aspects of mental and physical health in line with your goals. But for today, Just Do It and stick to your goal of abstaining.

Post submitted by: Astrid

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Day 14 – Secret Destinations

My favorite quote for every new adventure comes from Martin Buber – ’Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware.’

Learning our secret destination is both worrying and promising. And since you can’t prepare for your secret destination, you just have to be open to the fact that at some point you will arrive in an unexpected place. The very nature of a secret destination is that it’s a puzzle piece you didn’t know was missing until it falls into place, and suddenly the nature of your picture is transformed because of it. Because it moves from unconsciousness into awareness, it’s always a surprise.

My secret destination has already found me this Dryuary, not many days into my journey. It came in the form of an argument I started with a dear friend – one of those petty, nonsense disputes that I sometimes wander into despite my best judgement. But even though I know I’m being mean and bull-headed, even though I can see it even as it’s happening… I still dig in. Nothing good comes from it. I hate these fights and the damage they do to my relationships. And this week I didn’t have the excuse of being hungover or drunk when I did it either. That’s the secret destination showing up as I turn this corner in my journey – that sobriety is partly about separating who I am as a human being, and who I am when I’m under the influence.

Everyone has bad days. I’ve definitely blamed many of my bad days on alcohol, whether it’s because I’m aching and bloated and my hangover headache is drowning out all other senses, or whether I’m not minding my words because I’ve tipsy and feeling contrary.

As it turns out, there are some bad days when I’m just plain stubborn and ill-tempered. This is partly who I am and I have to accept it. It’s certainly not all of who I am – I’m not shirking my responsibility for the argument, I’m not pretending it wasn’t my fault or anything like that. I’ve already apologized and hopefully repaired the damage done. But the incident brings into focus a few things for me.

1. One of the reasons I starting drinking too much was to deal with my depression.

2. I know my depression can make me irritable when it builds up and spills over onto other people.

3. I know there’s quite a bit of research that says that drinking, in the long run, makes depression more severe.

4. But I’ve been telling myself that’s it’s alcohol’s fault when I get cranky.

But it’s not; it’s my fault. I’m still struggling with the depression at my core. Still. And I can’t regulate my emotions very well when I’m depressed. It’s tiring. I know the depression itself drives my drinking, I know this is going to be a long haul to work my way through it, but what I didn’t allow myself to see was that it was continuing to affect my relationships and how I treat other people.

I’m not going to get into the various treatments and therapies for depression because that’s a whole other detailed topic, but I’m sharing this embarrassing revelation because I suspect some of you may be having similar unexpected discoveries. These things are not easy to accept, but they are important to know. If the problem is us, well… at least that means we’re in control of the problem. We can do something about it. And we have the responsibility to do so because we have the ability to respond. Greater understanding heightens our ability to become the people we want to be, and that’s a goal worth all our effort.

Secret destinations are not pitfalls in the road, they are the deeper meanings we uncovered by setting out on this course. It may seem like a setback, but it’s really the whole point of our journey. Our destination rises up to meet us, and we find ourselves transported back home where nothing is the same, or recognizing familiar sights in the strangest of places.

I’m pulling out my old cognitive behavioral skills workbook, I’m bracing myself for the freezing cold to go to the gym, I’m taking the time to be patient with myself and with other people in my life. I know how to deal with what Winston Churchill called his ‘black dog’ and know that I just need to keep applying the tools I have to get better. We all deserve so much more than a stiff drink to push the feelings away, only to have them return with twice their strength. Maybe I can’t be stronger, or better, with just willpower and alcohol to fuel me. I’m going to have to actually face my depression and work at it. In order to secure a life of moderation with my drinking, I’m going to have to make a life I want to be sober in. I welcome more twists in this road, more revelations in this journey.

Post Submitted by: Jonathan
Jonathan M. Langley is the author of Re-think Your Drinking: 5 practical tips to cut back on alcohol

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Day 13 – An Eight Year Tradition

This song was shared several years ago, by Colonel Parker if memory serves 🙂 I really like it, and think it gives us a glimpse of what things may look like from our loved ones’ perspective.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’“
– Mary Anne Radmacher

This year marks my eighth dry January. To start off with full disclosure, I did not abstain on Jan. 1, but had New Year toasts with DH, who had the flu and wasn’t up for it New Year’s Eve. However, my Abstar drink counter is set up in gorgeous green for the rest of the month.

I have come to look at January as a valuable reset for me… I’ve mostly been a daily drinker (sometimes moderate, sometimes heading into binging territory) so re-learning how to *not* drink every day is a good, even great, thing! Of course there are times when I think I would like a drink; but then again, there are days when I realize I haven’t even been thinking of it at all.

That was unheard of before I found Moderation Management. I like getting a good night’s sleep and waking up refreshed. I like knowing what I did the night before and not having to worry if I was a jerk, or if I forgot to do things that needed to be done. And if I don’t always remember what I was watching on TV, well, at least I know it’s because it wasn’t interesting enough to remember, not because I passed out on the couch.

And I really, really like that the person I sometimes became (who DH and I called the ‘evil twin’) has not been seen around here for a very long time. With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, I hope we never see her again!

Post Submitted By: CCrow, *ABSTAR* Administrator

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Day 12 – Picking Those Reins Back Up

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

I came to Moderation Management (MM) in mid-December of 2007. I lurked on the MM Listserv for a couple of weeks, and saw that there was a ‘Dry January’ planned. I knew this was something I needed to do, but up until that point the longest abstaining period I had had in decades was one very difficult week that I got through by the skin of my teeth. (It was supposed to have been a month.) I was nervous, scared, apprehensive, filled with dread. I don’t remember a lot of hope in that mix.

On New Year’s Day I said goodbye to my only child as she drove out the driveway for Boulder Colorado, to start a new life. Only then did I realize I would be coping with that emptiness without my best friend ~ booze ~ to keep me company.

As January began I was glued to the MM Listserv, as if it was my lifeline. Well, it was my lifeline. In the evenings I cried through my cravings, and looked to my husband for support. I went to bed really early. I was miserable, but I didn’t drink. Yet.

On Christmas Day our family had experienced a tragedy like no other we had been through. A baby was stillborn. We had been walking through that pain for the previous two weeks and on January 12 there was a memorial service for Baby Claire. As one can imagine it was a very difficult day. The service was late afternoon, a Saturday. The church was packed and heavy with emotion. It was held in a neighboring town so there was a half-hour drive home afterward, and all I could think about was how badly I wanted a drink. By the time we arrived I had decided I wanted gin & tonics, and that’s what I had. Several, in fact.

I was horribly hungover the next day, and extremely disappointed that I had broken my commitment to go a month without drinking. I was scared too, because I had been thinking that if I couldn’t accomplish this, I was in real trouble, and probably needed to go to rehab. I shamefully confessed to the members of the MM community that I had drank and got several posts saying, ‘It’s OK jj’. But of course it wasn’t OK, and I knew it. I don’t remember if I reached out to Pierre (MM member) or if he reached out to me, but some how we connected and I told him I wanted to start abstaining again and finish out the month and go beyond, to make up for the day I drank. He said he’d help, and knowing he was supporting me meant a lot. I finished what started out as one month without alcohol with 37 total days abstinent and one drinking day. That determination combined with the humiliation of failing in the middle spurred me on to be pretty successful with moderation for several years.

Thirty-one days without alcohol is hard. For some of us, it is most difficult in the middle, because the anticipation of starting and the newness of the experience has waned and the calendar is still filled with many empty days to come. We all know the tricks ~ keep busy, plan great NA (Non-Alcoholic) drinks, allow food treats you wouldn’t ordinarily have, go for a walk or work out in the evening to thwart happy-hour cravings, go to movies, etc. Once you get through the middle of the month you’ll find you feel good, you look good, you sleep better, your mind has cleared and you can appreciate being sober rather than simply cope with being sober. It’s worth the battle ~ I like to remind myself how great I’ll feel at the end when I’ve accomplished my goal, versus how disappointed I would be in myself if I have to live the rest of my life knowing I failed. I have lived with a lot of disappointment surrounding my drinking life, and I just don’t need any more of it. How about you?

Post Submitted By: jinglejoey (jj)

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Day 11 – A Fairy Tale

an•he•do•ni•a (ˌæn hi’doʊ ni ə)  n. Psychol. lack of pleasure or of the capacity to experience it.

After the Honeymoon period of No More Hangovers and Black and Blue Conscience mornings fades away (usually just about now), most of us find, well, that we’re bored out of our gourd. As a matter of fact, we’re more than bored, we’re apathetic about, well, everything. Our world has become a flat, dull, dun-colored landscape. Where did all the unicorns and rainbows go?

Don’t worry. You’ve just run into the Princesses.

Let me introduce you to Princess Euphoria and Princess Anhedonia. They’re sisters and they go hand-in-hand and they live in the land of Too Much Too Often. Where one goes, the other soon follows.

First, let’s talk about Princess Euphoria, we’ll call her Phoria for short. Phoria is the one we met that night we took our first drink. Remember? We felt like we had just met our long lost best friend. She was always there for us, anytime we needed her. Phoria was one great gal, even if she was a little flighty, and insincere, even if she was a little dangerous and convinced us to go places where we wouldn’t normally go.

Feel like dancing on the bar?

Sure, why not?

Wanna go home with that cute stranger at the end of the bar?

Hell, yeah!

Phoria made us feel more alive than we ever had. She was like the Pamela Anderson of friends, she was fake as hell, from her false eyelashes to her triple D’s, but-Dang!-she sure was fun and she made us feel so good about ourselves. Hot damn, we loved that gal!  She had lots of friends that she wanted us to meet and they all worshiped her, too.

Just one problem, she had this ugly sister name Princess Anhedonia, we’ll call her Annie. Annie was a loutish, brutish, clod of a gal, she followed Phoria everywhere she went because, heck, she couldn’t get any friends on her own. She was a real sour witch-with-a-capital-B and she got great pleasure from making us feel bad. She made fun of us, and told us that we were worthless pieces of shizzola, then, she’d cover her bristly mouth and giggle, “Just kidding. (he-he)  You know I love you“  She made our skin crawl and our stomachs turn but we tolerated her.  For Phoria. Like I said, they go hand-in-hand.

Some people wised up fast to Annie. As much as they liked Phoria, they couldn’t put up with her malevolent side-kick, so they regretfully bade their farewells. Smart cookies. Others, like me, lingered longer. We loved Phoria so much that we continued to withstand Annie’s abuse just so we could spend as much time as possible with our best friend. She was worth it. After all, she’d been so good to us.

Now, unbeknownst to us, Annie hated Phoria, she wanted all of Phoria’s friends for herself. Even worse, she wanted every part of us, she didn’t want to share even the smallest clump of cells with Phoria. She was secretly plotting to kill her sister, but first she kidnapped her and put her in a dungeon. She would let her out every once in a while just so she could lure us closer, but, then, she’d quickly throw Phoria back in the dungeon, and we would be forced to tolerate Annie’s increasingly sadistic behaviour. We couldn’t get rid of her, she started hanging around longer and longer. Again, some of our friends wised up, and, as much as they loved Phoria, they decided they couldn’t tolerate anymore of Annie and they escaped. Still, others, like me, kept coming back-we’d tolerate anything just for those few moments spent with our beloved Phoria. Those few moments of light with her were all we had left in our darkening world.

Annie began letting Phoria out for shorter and shorter periods, until she had lured all of Phoria’s most steadfast friends and trapped us in the dungeon, too. It was then, that she finally killed Phoria.  Still, we refused to believe Princess Euphoria was dead, we  kept looking for her. Through all the dark hallways and vomit tainted cellars, into the bottom of every dusty bottle we found, we kept calling out her name. Some of us got lost down in the catacombs beneath the dungeon and wandered about aimlessly, looking for Phoria, until we perished.

But some of Annie’s prisoners, and this time I was one of them, decided we had to escape. We couldn’t live with Annie, and we’d finally accepted that Phoria wasn’t coming back. However, Annie is a vigilant and punishing warden and time after time she caught us and pulled us back into her chamber of terrors.  Every attempted escape resulted in a harsher punishment which broke our spirits and made mush of our wills.  That old witch is a sorceress. She excels at brainwashing and she is very adept at making us believe that there is nothing waiting for us outside the dungeon walls. She convinces us we are reviled and worthless human beings. Blights on the face of the earth. Better off where we are. That’s what she would have us believe, and she is very convincing. It would be so easy to give-up, we feel doomed.

We’re not though! I forgot to mention, there is another sister!  Princess Joy!  We actually met her years ago, long before we met either Phoria or Annie. Now, trapped there in the hopeless dark, we recalled her and how she’d slowly started disappearing once we met Phoria and Annie. There’d been no room for her, so she quietly drifted away. But now, we realized how much we missed her. She wasn’t as crazy fun as Phoria, but she was quietly beautiful in her shimmering serenity. Most importantly, she meant us no harm. Quite the opposite.  She made us feel good about ourselves and our world. She wasn’t easy. She made us work for her favors but her rewards were enduring.

She was our only hope.

We went in search of her, struggling past Annie, breaking free from our cells and running through the endless dark halls calling a new name. Joy? Joy? Finally, we rounded a corner and a steady warm glow lit the walls. We’d found her. Joy.  She was standing there with her arms folded and foot tapping. Come to find out, she’d been waiting for us all along, waiting to lead us out of the dungeon that surrounded us. All we had to do was follow her and keep her in  our sight.

Annie didn’t give up that easily though. She gave chase. She was big and lumbersome, but she was persistent and we were weak. Some of us got outside the dungeon walls and saw all the obstacles looming in front of us and ran back in. Some of us looked back long enough to let Annie catch us and throw us back in the dungeon. She even managed to wrap her hands around the ankles of some of us and we had to pull her along until we could finally break free. That horrid creature dogged all of us for a measure, but, the further we got from her lair, the weaker she got and the closer we got to where Joy was leading us.

The moral of this fairy tale is: We may not find the “passion” or joy we need to lead us where we want to go until we escape the clutches of the anhedonia that is cultivated by drinking too much and too often. We may need to find something we once cherished,-something that brought us joy-or something we could cherish in the future to lead us out of the darkness. Then, we need to keep your eye on that object and stay sober until that object starts to shine.

Anhedonia is no fairy tale. Some of us may need professional guidance until this phase of “escaping” our drinking problem passes. Anhedonia is discussed more in depth in this Huffington Post article: The Condition Many Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics Don’t Know About.

Know this, anhedonia is not a permanent state. If you’re gaining distance, if you see the smallest glimmer of joy on the horizon or feel the slightest lift of your heart, don’t look back. Keep going. The fire will get brighter.

P.S.  I know that some of us embrace the anhedonia that alcohol wraps around us, it insulates us from the pain of life. Unfortunately, it also keeps us from the antidote to pain which is joy.

Post Submitted By: Kary May Hickey, Author of:
Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook To Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All, Quite Happily: With the help of the online recovery community

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Day 10 – Saddle Up Your Elephant

Dearest Dryuarians:

By far one of the best business books I’ve read is Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip & Dan Heath.  I’ve used its techniques numerous times to facilitate change at work.  For Dryuary, I’m going to apply it to abstaining from alcohol.

The Heaths utilize an analogy: you are a Rider perched on an Elephant and proceeding along a Path. The Rider analyzes and plans. The Elephant feels. The Path is the environment.  The Rider can direct the Elephant, but only for so long, especially on a difficult Path.  To accomplish change, one must direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path.

Using this construct, we learn three surprising things about change:

  1. People problems are often situation problems. The environment has an outsized influence on Rider and Elephant.  People eating off large plates eat more than those using small plates.  The same is true for alcohol.  Large glasses of wine encourage more wine.  Pitchers encourage more beer.
  2. Laziness is often Rider exhaustion. Self-control is an exhaustible resource.  It is easier to make one life change at a time for this reason.  If you try at once to stop drinking, diet, begin exercising, and learn to code, you leave little time to recharge your motivation.
  3. Resistance to change is often a lack of clarity.  Riders need clear, non-negotiable directions. “Drink less” is vague; “drink nothing in January” is actionable.  Institute manageable daily, weekly, and monthly goals.

So how do you direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path?

Direct the Rider

  • Find the bright spots.  Figure out what is already working about those situations in which you don’t drink, or don’t drink to excess, and clone it.  Don’t drink around your best friend? More best friend dates, stat!  Don’t drink with Thai food? Tom som soup sounds delicious right now.  Don’t drink when you go to bed early?  8pm bedtime it is.
  • Script the critical moves.  Don’t think too much about glorious, big-picture changes. (I’m never going to drink again.  Really.  I mean it this time.) Instead, think in terms of small, specific behavior changes.  What non-alcoholic substitutes will you buy and drink?  If you feel the urge to drink after work, will you do something fun like meet Charlie at the bowling alley, organize photos, call Esmerelda, or bake cupcakes?  Plan delay tactics.  Plan substitution behaviors.
  • Point to the destination.  Change is easier when you know what the destination is and why you’re headed there.  Make your goals visible!  Put a sign into your phone /on your mirror /in your car with your version of “At the end of January, I will have 31 days of abstinence behind me.  As a result, I will be healthier and have an extra $310 to spend“

Motivate the Elephant

  • Find the (positive) feeling.  Feel the self gratitude.  Focus on the clear-headedness.  Immerse in the pride in having abstained.  Compliment yourself when completing little steps.  Encourage these feelings further by journaling, discussing with friends, or communicating on the Dryuary forum.
  • Shrink the change.  Break the change into pieces that won’t spook the Elephant.  Don’t plan to never drink again. (Gahhhhhhhh! Elephant rampage!) Right now you’re engaged in 30 days of abstinence.  During these 30 days, plan each individual day.  Sometimes you need to take it one hour at a time.
  • Grow.  Build a sense of identity. (“I am not someone who abuses alcohol.  I may have in the past, but I am not now.  I am a healthy person who takes great care of a wonderful body.”)  Change is possible; our characters and identities are not concrete.

Shape the Path

  • Tweak the environment.  Situations change behavior, so change the situation.  Get the alcohol out of the house.  Don’t pass the bar or liquor store on the way home.  Put the wine glasses in that dusty cabinet above the refrigerator; put tea mugs in their place.  Sit in a different place in the house that you don’t associate with drinking.
  • Build habits.  Habits, once formed, are near effortless.  Get in the habit of keeping water or tea nearby always to stay hydrated.  Replace drinking with a new habit: the gym /the book club /yoga on YouTube /Stardew Valley.
  • Rally the herd.  Behavior is contagious.  Surround yourself with others who are not drinking.

Your Cowgirl Pachyderm on Abstain Alley –


Post Submitted By: Micro

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Day 9 – Habit Change and Treat Management

“When I let go of what I am I become what I might be“
– Lao Tzu

Treat management has been a lifelong challenge for me. There are many foods, beverages, and activities that I love (e.g., chocolate, watching videos, margaritas). I’m very fussy about taste and texture, so only certain foods and beverages achieve treat status. Same with videos.

It’s not unusual to fall into periods where I indulge too much/often on a particular treat. Over time, I learned to start rotating them, so I don’t become obsessed with any particular treat.

This is one way you can look at Dryuary. Some of you might end up loving how you feel this month so much that you decide to give up drinking permanently/mostly. Increased productivity is a common motivator for this decision. Totally rational.

Many others will decide to resume moderate drinking — also a rational choice. For many people, knowing this break is temporary makes it easier to abstain in January. For others, thinking of it as permanent makes it easier. Go figure. Think whichever way works for you.

Many folks take on broader goals in January, abstaining not only from alcohol, but from sugar, meat, processed foods, etc. Hopefully, whatever your goals, there are still some treats that are not off limits this month. Ideally enough so that you can rotate them.

If you’re struggling with sticking to your decision to abstain, consider seeking support (e.g., online through the Forum or on one of the phone chats). Make a note of triggers as they arise. For example, a coworker gets promoted or fired; a group decides to go to happy hour after work to celebrate/commiserate; you’re not sure you can go without having a ‘real’ drink. Stuff like this happens all the time. Make a note of it. Surf the urge to drink for one hour, and see if the urge subsides. Seek support online.

Trouble sleeping is a common issue when taking a break from drinking. There are many things to try, not all of which work for everyone, every time (e.g., melatonin). Meditation, reading, watching Bob Ross videos, listening to nature sounds are things worth trying. Exercise definitely helps me sleep, but not too close to bedtime. Yoga is more relaxing and is less likely to keep you up; in fact, it will probably help you sleep.

Post submitted by:  Donna (MM Forum & MM Phone Chat)

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Day 8 – Card Shark

“It’s hard to walk away from a winning streak, even harder to leave the table when you’re on a losing one.”
― Cara Bertoia, Cruise Quarters – a Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

There’s a card shark in town and he’s out to deal you a losing hand. Some people call him the The Inner Negotiator, but his foes-that’s us- know him simply as the The I.N. He sneaks up to the table before you even know he’s there and, if you’re not vigilant, you’ll have more chips stacked against you than a bag of Ruffles at a Pringles convention. The I.N. likes things that come stacked. Stacked odds. Stacked women. Stacked decks.

If he gets hold of a deck of cards, you better know what to look for. Here’s just a few of his favorites he hides up his sleeves.

The Deserving Card. Played when you’ve had a good day, a bad day, or anything in between. This card is easily trumped by the “I Deserve To Feel Good About Myself In The Morning Card” Remember, never has anyone been heard to say, “I wish I’d drank more last night.”

The Waste-Not-Want-Not Card. Played when there’s a glass or two of wine left in the bottle. There’s actually two cards that beat this card, The Drain, or The Cap. Those are pretty self-explanatory but they need to be played quickly before you re-think and decide to take a risk. If you don’t Dump it down the Drain, it will Drain you into the Dumps. If you don’t Cap it, it will Cap you. The great news is, during Dryuary, I.N. takes this card out of the deck because, if you don’t open the bottle in the first place, you won’t feel obligated to drink the dregs.

The Martyr Card. Played when your Significant Other shouldn’t have to drink alone. Sit this hand out. No reason to double your losses against I.N. with two losing hands at the same table.

The Cool-Crowd Card. Played when you’re with others and don’t want to be different. Really? Drinking is an adult game, not Follow the Leader. You are an adult. Isn’t it time to stand out instead of fit in?

The Ritual Card. Played on occasions when you’ve always had a drink in the past. This card is often mistaken for The Routine Card and some people use the two cards interchangeably even though they are vastly different. The Ritual Card should be played only on those very special occasions in which drinking is integral to the “ritual.” The word ritual is actually defined as a solemn or religious ceremony in which certain actions are repeated in a prescribed order. Driving home from work, opening the door and going to the refrigerator and grabbing a beer is not a ritual, it is a routine. We are trying to remove drinking as part of our routine this month. Remember? If I.N. throws you a Routine Card this month and tries to convince you it is a Ritual Card and, therefore, a “special” reason to drink, recognize it for what it is, another ploy to get you to throw in your hand. If he deals you what looks like an authentic Ritual Card this month, i.e. a wedding, a birthday party, or, goodness forbid, a baby shower, you will need to ask yourself if drinking really is integral to these solemn sacred ceremonies. (cough, cough, sputter). Or, have these occasions, too, become just another reason to drink?

The Party Card. Played when you can’t imagine having fun without alcohol. This is one of I.N.’s most devious cards. This is when you need to brush up on your strategy and get more adept at using your Imagination Card. The more you practice with the Imagination card, the greater the rewards. Only rank amateurs succumb to The Party Card.

The Wild Card. In cards, The Wild Card is a great card to have as it can be used as a substitute for any card you need to make a winning hand. In Drinking? Not so much. Last time I played my Wild Card, I ended up being carried out of a bar in the middle of the afternoon.  “Winning!” was not anywhere in the the caption to that picture.

The Julia Child Card. Played while fixing dinner – a little for the skillet, a little more for the cook! Make sure you have the NA (Non-Alcoholic) Drink Card prepared and in your hand before you start cooking. The Blog: This Girl Walks Into A Bar is serving up a new NA Mocktail recipe daily during Dryuary. That’s 31 drink choices-regardless of what you’ve heard, NA does not mean boring.

So, when, not if, I.N. shows up, itching for a game, you’re prepared. Don’t panic. Just slouch down in your chair and put on your poker face like you see all the professional gamblers on TV do. I.N. doesn’t need to know you’ve got him beat. You’re already holding all the cards you need for a winning hand in Dryuary.

This Post Inspired From: Jimmer (Moderation Management Member) and other MM members.

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Day 7 – Birthday Musings, Year in Review, and “Feeling Young”

“After a while the middle-aged person who lives in her head begins to talk to her soul, the kid.”
― Anne Lamott, Joe Jones

I’ve been involved in Moderation Management (MM) for over a year now and have been successfully plugging along through my plan of “indefinite abstinence.”   While January reflects a continuation of my same (lack of) drinking plan, I find it’s once again exciting to anticipate my second Dryuary.

The other day, I was in the final hours of a great birthday, after spending time with family and getting wonderful well-wishes from lifelong friends.  And yet, suddenly out of nowhere I heard that stupid internal voice and it said to me “aren’t you forgetting that now would be a great time to have a drink to celebrate?”  And then it goes “you’re home alone, no one has to know, go ahead and *reward* yourself!”  I suddenly faced that old internal dialogue where I tried to justify “deserving” a couple drinks to celebrate or reward myself.   So, it was the moment of truth and it took about two seconds for me to go “I don’t think so – what a crock!  I’ve come this far and this (breaking my abs streak) isn’t going to happen today.”  Confirming I have the power to make a conscious choice and may choose not have alcohol play a role in my life going forward (at least at this time) provided a greater birthday gift than any drink(s) would ever provide.

Thinking back on this year, I am eternally grateful to feel that I am in a safe, stable place when it comes to managing the thoughts that come up related to alcohol and drinking.  At first, I was disappointed that I couldn’t make those thoughts go away but now I accept that is the way it works for me and I’m pleased that I am able to acknowledge those thoughts are there and can work past them.  I am grateful to be fully present to handle the daily challenges that arise in my life.

I have encountered a few unexpected challenges recently.  As I’m sure many of you who participate in online chats and telephone calls know, I have spoken at length about my Mom and her struggles with respiratory issues and now congestive heart failure.  Through her hospital visits, doctors’ appointments, and all the other daily ups and downs: I’m thankful to be sober and ready to handle any issue that arises at any time.  I’m not sure how I would’ve handled this years ago without the support of MM.  Then about a week before Christmas, my apartment building was vandalized, where one or more criminals violently broke down a maintenance door and stole all the keys to the building.  Door locks were promptly replaced but one tenant still had his unit robbed.  So, it’s been a nerve-wracking time for the residents in the building, as many of us feel pretty violated by the crime.  At the same time, I am so glad that no one was hurt by confronting the criminals during their crime.  Property is replaceable and is not worth unnecessary risk to a person’s life or injury.  This scary event was one more reminder that I am thankful to not be fumbling my way home late at night anymore!

I recall that early in my sobriety, I felt frustration at times as I broke away from my previous drinking habits.  I felt like a little kid again, telling myself I couldn’t have something (and in turn allowing some kind of inner stubborn streak to kick in).

That said, I recently came across the movie “Big” playing on TV (Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins) and it was really quite amazing to watch this movie again years later, in a different light.  In a competitive business world, adults are shown backstabbing each other and behaving in childish, petty ways (at a toy company no less!).  They drink excessively while discussing the same, mind-numbing topics at the company party.  So, without giving away too much of the plot for those who haven’t seen it… I found a theme in the movie that sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what it was like to be a kid again by not taking ourselves too seriously, treating others the way we would like to be treated, and allowing ourselves to have some safe (and sober) fun regularly.

Post submitted by: Marc, MM Member

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Day 6 – Dryuary or Not?

“Imagine… I wonder if you can…
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man…
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world” – John Lennon

The idea of having a dry January doesn’t thrill me. It’s both enticing and daunting.

It’s like anything we do for ourselves, we have to wiggle around and “hem and haw,” before we decide. At least I do. But everyone is different. Some people just stop drinking when they plan it and it works well for them. We all have different genes and brain functions and models from our childhood. I sat the other night at my favorite place to drink with my choir group and half of them ordered hot water and lemon. It was pretty easy to see that they were choosing to de-tox from a toxic holiday. I gawked at them thinking about how natural that was for some of them. And for others of us it is harder.

But, I can tell you this much:  After this season of celebrating, I am torn between wanting to feel healthy and clear headed again and not sure if I have the discipline to give up alcohol.

One of the great things about Moderation Management (MM) is that we choose our own path and we plan.

It is so empowering to know that I am responsible for whatever way it goes. This process is unique to each individual, with certain recommended things like taking 30 days off or planning each time you are going to drink, whether it’s water between drinks or two and that’s it.

I did wake up this morning, I admit, with a sore throat and fatigue, so it’s pretty clear my body is sick of eggnog and cheese. I hit the vitamin C today and had little desire for alcohol. It was for sure needed; to tell the truth, my body was screaming at me.

I am pretty tired from the holidays, the winter, and here in Sonoma we had evacuations and fire. And the idea of being healthy and dropping a few pounds of lethal dough around my middle sounds good. Just to think of doing taxes and cleaning the house is, in a strange way, kind of empowering to ponder.

I have just started cutting back on everything toxic, including alcohol and I couldn’t believe it today:  I saw the trees and the birds and appreciated my life so much more. I was clear headed, even with this cough, and calmer. I thought to myself, “self, doesn’t this feel better than that foggy feeling after even one drink when I don’t really make good eye contact with other humans and I can’t get much done?”

Not to mention sleep – I slept last night for the first time in two weeks.

Sleep is no small issue. And unfortunately alcohol is poison to that lovely state of blissful rest. I had to get quiet with myself, line up my inspirational reading and turn off the violence on TV. But, sleep I did ! And oh what a feeling this morning! To feel grounded, not groggy – and clear thinking and even cheerful.

I love to drink, but like cookies and French fries, it only goes so far. Eventually it catches up to us, like any habit that is harmful to us and our relationships.

I’m a rebel, so anything I do that’s good for me is a process. It took me a year to get yoga lined up in my weekly schedule. I like goofing off a lot. But, the ironic truth about cutting back or going dry or abstinent is that we feel better, more energetic, calmer and rested.

Changing habits is a process. We live in an addictive, fast paced culture.
We can be gentle with ourselves and just take the next step towards change.

Imagine your life as you wish it to be.

Post Submitted By: Katy Byrne, MFT, conversationswithkaty.com

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Day 5 – Time For The Power Tools

“Many things which cannot be overcome when they are together yield themselves up when taken little by little“
– Plutarch

When I work on a project, I really enjoy working directly with my hands. There is a great deal of satisfaction in turning the perfect corner, attaching the ideal screw, and bashing a slab of steel into the correct shape with only my hands and a small tool. However, sometimes I have to get through the work faster than hand tools will allow. When I have to create something big and I cannot take forever to get it done, I go for the power tools and rip into the work.

Now, there are people I know who can take or leave alcohol. A drink is fun, but they do not feel that booze is absolutely required. They may have a drink or two at a party, and call it a night. I am not like that. Nothing about my response to alcohol is casual or unrehearsed – I know well where drinking without forethought and a plan will lead me. I need some serious power tools to get to the place I want to be with alcohol – and to have pleasant social experiences without unleashing my monster within.

So, for Dryuary, let’s see what Power Tools are in the toolkit:

We are going to a party! What will we drink? Not all hosts are thoughtful enough to provide an non-alcoholic beverage. (NA, pronounced “Nn – Aa.” Get used to it…) Sure, there is always water- but who wants to drink water all night? Plan ahead- if  you want to be certain there is an NA beverage at that party, consider bringing it yourself. And be warned- Sparkling Cider is quite popular; it may disappear immediately. People will slug down that Pom juice you brought to carefully mix with seltzer. Be sure you have made a good arrangement for yourself, one that will last the entire event.

What is your favorite Mocktail recipe? Don’t have one? Get one! There are some excellent NA beers available; your favorite beer stop will stock at least two or three. (I enjoy Clausthaler, myself.) Knowing how to take “bar stuff” and make an exciting NA drink out of it is a useful and practical skill.  A daiquiri can still be delicious, even without any booze in it. I enjoy V8 with tons of Tabasco; there is a kick and it makes you know you drank something! A splash of Pom juice, plain seltzer, and a twist of lime is fast becoming a holiday classic. Want something special? Check out this WIRED article on what can be available if you plan ahead. (It’s from the Dryuary Links page; there are other NA suggestions there.)

Are you worried about what other people will be thinking while you are not drinking? Just treat this as you would any other personal choice – None of their business! If they have an issue with you not drinking alcohol, who is the person with a problem? Besides, with a bright Mocktail in your hand they would be none the wiser- Everybody has a drink, right?

Do you miss the alcohol so much that it is hard to resist, even for one month out of the year? Perhaps if you looked at this time from a different perspective- Instead of taking a month to deny yourself something, you instead are using that time to build appreciation and understanding of how alcohol affects your life. You have an opportunity during Dryuary to see the effects of alcohol from the outside, as an observer instead of a participant.

Is the alcohol required for fun? Are you unable to be entertained without it? Think about that for a moment- Has it come to this? There is more to life than being buzzed all the time, and plenty of amusements that don’t involve drinking. As a matter of fact, many of them are not compatible with drinking- Try something new! Yes, I am aware that you have a lot of free time during Dryuary- Celebrate this freedom! Use the time to exercise, take walks, see new things. There is an entire world out there that does not expect you to be intoxicated. Learn to live in it.

Remember the goals of going out are to have a good time; to enjoy and appreciate the company you find, and to get home safe.

Keep the Power Tools handy – This month will fly by, and you will be in excellent shape with a great start to the New Year.

Post Submitted By: Kurt S., Dryuary Administrator

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Day 4 – V Formation

The V formation greatly boosts the efficiency and range of flying birds, particularly over long migratory routes. All the birds except the first fly in the upwash from the wingtip vortices of the bird ahead. The upwash assists each bird in supporting its own weight in flight, in the same way a glider can climb or maintain height indefinitely in rising air. In a V formation of 25 members, each bird can achieve a reduction of induced drag by up to 65% and as a result increase their range by 71%.[1] The birds flying at the tips and at the front are rotated in a timely cyclical fashion to spread flight fatigue equally among the flock members. The formation also makes communication easier and allows the birds to maintain visual contact with each other“
– Wikipedia, V Formation

I was out watching the ducks on the Pecos River early this morning. I watched as one duck would, seemingly without effort, float ahead leaving a “V” shaped ripple in his wake, very much like the “V” formation in which ducks fly. It brought to mind the similarities between my journey and the journey of this creature who, like me,  is constantly winging the world in search of a safe place to land.

The duck in the water reminded me of me when I was trying to change my drinking on my own. There I was floating on the surface, trying to look like nothing was wrong, I was in control and I knew where I was going. All the while, I was paddling furiously just trying to stay afloat and paying no mind to the turbulence I was churning up for the other ducks bobbing along beside me. I didn’t care, and I didn’t need their help, I could do this on my own. I’d flap and flap and flap and cause quite a ruckus but I’d finally break free of the water and launch myself skyward. Unfortunately, I did not know where I was going, I didn’t know what was up ahead of me and I didn’t have anyone to lead me so I would soon tire out and dive back into the water to start my furious paddling again.

After quite some time and quite a few failed attempts at prolonged flight, I looked up and I saw flocks of other ducks winging overhead in a “V” formation. I watched them until they were out of sight, way further than I’d ever gone. I was so tired of paddling and I just didn’t have the strength to try another flight on my own. I started thinking it would be easier to just let myself sink down and let the ocean of booze envelope me. But, just about then, way off in the distance up in the sky, I spotted a tiny speck. Then another.  Then another.  Slowly but steadily, the specks grew close enough for me to see the V formation of another flock flying together toward a single destination-that safe place I’d been trying so hard and so long to reach on my own.

Maybe I could catch up with them, I thought, maybe I should give it one more try.

I started flap-flap-flapping and suddenly I was up above the water and winging my way toward the “V.” As I approached, the other ducks moved over a bit to make room for me. They seemed to know where they were heading and the flying was so much easier than it had been when I was trying to do it on my own. I tried to keep up, to stay at the front of the flock, however, I soon found myself tiring again and I knew I couldn’t make it all the way, so I veered out of the formation and dove back to the water.

Back to my paddling.

“Yeah, but,” I said to myself. “I made it so much farther than I’ve ever made it before on my own. Maybe next time I’ll make it to where I’m supposed to go.”

When I saw the next faint “V” in the sky, I launched myself out of the water again and hurried to find my place in the formation. Again, the other ducks made room for me without any questions. Again, I weakened before I got to where they were going-where I wanted to be-and, once again, I cartwheeled through the air into the ocean.

I didn’t give up though, I kept trying,  and, each time, the other ducks made room for me. Each time I got a little further. Finally, I realized I didn’t need to fall out of the formation and dive back into the water every time I got tired, all I had to do was drift back and let the wings of the other ducks carry me until I was strong enough to move forward again.

And, in this way, I finally made it all the way to where I wanted to go.

We are like ducks, few of us can get to our destination flying solo. It is early in this Dryuary journey of ours and we’ve just taken flight. Each of us will grow tired at some point, this is when we should pull to the back and coast on the upwash of the other ducks. Rest, eat, pamper ourselves, skip a day or two at the gym. Read the Dryuary Forum posts written by the “ducks” at the front of the flock so we can see what they’re seeing on the horizon.  Take good care of ourselves until we’re ready to take our places at the front of the V again while others fall back.

Some of us might cartwheel back into the ocean. That’s okay. When you get your wings back, we’ll move over for you.

Post Submitted by: Kary May, Author Of:
Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook to Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All-Quite Happily: With the help of the online recovery community.

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Day 3 – What To Expect

“Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits. (January 11)”
― Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

Greetings! This is a post I shared on the Moderation Management (MM )Forum after I completed my first month of abstinence in September of last year, in hopes it might be helpful to someone else: 

I have to say at the outset that not drinking for a month was much easier than I anticipated. I felt awkward the first week or so, and had a few cravings to conquer, but overall it was not a struggle. I chose to do it willingly and almost looked forward to it, so no doubt my attitude going into it had a significant impact.

Positive results of taking a 30 day break from daily drinking:

  • Immediate end to negative self-talk, feelings of shame and guilt.
  • Increased confidence and improved self-esteem.
  • I feel better! Overall more energy, positive outlook, happier, more outgoing and friendly with people.
  • Waking up earlier, and feeling clear-headed instead of dragging through the mornings in a fog.
  • Improved productivity at work.
  • A complete end to the obsessive internal chatter regarding the supply on hand, getting to the store, disposing of empties, etc.
  • Freedom to do other things: I signed up for a night class, and was available to run to the store at 10 PM if necessary, or pick up one of the kids if they needed a ride home.
  • So much extra time!!
  • Renewed interest in hobbies that had fallen by the wayside.
  • Ability to read a lot, and remember the content.

Negative results:

  • Inability to sleep well at times, which perhaps I just never noticed due to passing out.
  • So basically, none.

Things that helped:

Now What?
At first I imagined I’d go directly to drinking recommended moderate amounts after my 30 was completed. Mid-way through, it was suggested that I have only one drink in the first week and I thought, “Ha! No way!“

Then I began reading about the need to make an actual PLAN, and thinking about what “by the book” moderation entails, and if I could realistically achieve 3 or 4 abs days each week. While I’d certainly enjoy 2 or 3 drinks on the other days, could I do those abs days? Truthfully, I’m not sure. I think I’d return to daily drinking pretty quickly, with only an occasional abs day. Doing the 30 has served as a good break, but my habit is probably just patiently waiting for the opportunity to re-establish itself.*

* This proved to be an accurate prediction. Since then I’ve had successful periods of both moderation and abstinence, punctuated by occasional episodes of over-drinking. Doing the 30 brought about a new awareness of my drinking triggers, habits and patterns. This increased awareness has had an incredibly positive impact on my life, and I hope the same holds true for you!

Post Submitted By: Ruth Marie, MM Forum Member

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Day 2 – Get a Baseline

“Forever is composed of nows.” -Emily Dickinson

Many people can benefit from a break from alcohol. You may notice subtle health issues you never connected to alcohol. Get a baseline of your physical and mental status today, so you can compare later this month, to see how taking a break helped.

Brain: Are you anxious, irritable, sad, hopeless, distractible, restless, arrogant, impulsive, depressed, easily defeated, or low energy (dishes piling up, take-out too often)?

Sleep: Do you need alcohol to get to sleep? Do you wake in the middle of the night? If you use something like a FitBit, do you notice a difference in how you sleep when you drink?

Physical: How does your stomach feel? Any irritation in upper or lower tummy (e.g., heartburn)? Gas or bloating? Allergies?

Appearance: Are there dark circles or bags under your eyes? Skin blotchy or dry?

Interpersonal: How are you getting along with your loved ones? Are you less patient the day after you drink? Do you over-react? Less predictable?

This month is about seeing what happens in these areas when taking a break from alcohol.

If something pushes your buttons, and you find yourself really wanting a drink, try “urge surfing.” Harm-reduction pioneer G Alan Marlatt noted that urges for substance-use rarely last longer than 30 minutes. If you can “surf” the urge – observe it without acting – you can usually ride it out. Try it: When you notice an urge to drink come up, don’t slap it down. Watch it. Mentally pick it up and turn it around, looking at it. Listen to what the urge tells you, without acting on it. See how you feel one hour from now. Did the urge subside like a wave? Was the need to act on it as urgent as it seemed to be at the peak of it?

This month is an experiment to see if taking a break from alcohol helps you achieve more of your goals. Many people find it to be a very worthwhile investment. And many are surprised at what the break did and didn’t do for them. See what it can do for you.

This post was submitted by MM Forum’s

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Day 1 – Beginnings

“Failing to plan is planning to fail“
– Benjamin Franklin

Welcome to Dryuary! This is the first day and, like every beginning, it’s going to be both easier and harder than any other day that follows.

It’s easier because you’re fresh to the effort and have lots of energy. But it’s harder because there’s a long way to go until the end and there’s so much to do and learn before it’s over.

I’m going to set you up for the 31 days ahead with some thoughts about preparing for your journey. Just like the quote says, you’re going to need some kind of plan.

I won’t tell you how to make your plan, but it’s something that you’ll want to think about today. You want to begin as you mean to go on. I’ll tell you how my plan is going to work, though, and hopefully you’ll find it useful in some way in making your own plan.

Step 1 is to remove my favorite alcohol from my home.
I know from experience that I have a different relationship with rum than I do with anything else. While I won’t be tempted by anything else, it will make the next 31 days go by much faster if this isn’t sitting around. I’ve often contemplated breaking up with rum because I know I feel differently about it, but so far I haven’t found it necessary just yet. For this month though, I’m gifting a quarter bottle still sitting in my home to a friend so I have the peace of mind I want for the month.

Step 2 is to give myself distractions.
The witching hour for me is in the evening hours when I want to relax from my day. I drink moderately these days, after doing some hard work a few years ago, but my baseline pattern has stayed with me and that’s what I like to re-set during Dryuary. I drink most often at home, on my own, in the evening. The best thing to do to break up my habits is to not allow myself to be at home, on my own, in the evening. To that end, I asked for gift cards to the movies for the holidays and now have a stash of credit to go out at night. I’ve also asked my friends to make dates with me to go and browsed through some listings of things I want to see. My gym membership is also renewed and I’m making a workout plan for my evenings as well. All told, I’ll be spending about half my evenings at the movies or the gym, and far removed from the boredom or habit that might overtake me at home.

Another part of this is giving myself little redirections for those times when I feel like drinking. I have finally found a non-alcoholic beer that I like, and I’ve stocked up on it. This way, if I feel the urge or habit to reach for a drink on the nights when I’m home, I can gently redirect myself to reach for that instead. My goal is to soothe myself with the rituals of relaxation that I enjoy, but minus the alcohol that’s usually involved. I like bitter tasting drinks, not sweet ones, so this is a good substitute for me. But I’m going to re-evaluate this part of my plan mid-month because I think I might get a bit bored. Maybe trying out some nice mocktail recipes will be better instead? I’m not sure, so I’ve made a note to check in with myself as the month progresses and see if this is really helping me or not.

Step 3 is having support.
Every time I do Dryuary, I ask a friend to be available to call or text if I felt I needed support. I once had a friend offer to join me in abstaining whenever we would spend time together, which was both surprising and very touching because it meant that if I went out socially, I’d have at least one person with me who also wasn’t drinking. Little gestures like that are a real boost.

Every time I take a break from drinking, I also find that writing about it is incredibly helpful to me. It’s part of why I volunteered to write a few posts this month. I also get support from checking in daily with the Dryuary emails as well.

If you find writing helps you too, try keeping a journal for the month. If you want, you can also post it publicly (so please use a pen name and don’t use your work email to sign up!) at Moderation Management members’ hub at members.moderation.org.

Even though I’ve gotten quite good at moderating my intake, it’s still unusual for me to not drink at all for a month, and it’s going to be a challenge. I think it’s very powerful to approach such challenges with the understanding that I’m not alone. I may find it awkward or even painful at times to do this, but my struggle is not unlike what many other people face. Knowing this, I don’t feel so alone with my feelings. Finding community and connection calms those feelings so they aren’t so overwhelming.

Between these simple steps, I’m hopeful that I can do this and learn something about myself along the way. What about you? Are you feeling ready? Do you have a plan? I hope you find some inspiration here and throughout the month to give you support and hope for a successful Dryuary.

Post Submitted by: Jonathan
Jonathan M. Langley is the author of Re-think Your Drinking: 5 practical tips to cut back on alcohol

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Welcome to Dryuary 2018!

Congratulations- You have joined us for Dryuary 2018!

We are sending emails every day in January to help you stay focused; these messages will also appear here on our Dryuary.org website. Your job is to stay focused and resolved. You have just made a great investment in a healthier, more productive you.

To contact us, use your Email system and send to:

Dryuary™ is sponsored by Moderation Management™
Moderation Management™ (MM) is a national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who desire to make positive lifestyle changes.

For more information, see www.moderation.org/whatisMM.shtml
Moderation Management™ is a 501(c)(3) IRS-registered non-profit organization.


Do you have fond memories of last year’s Dryuary 2017?
It is still online – visit the pages at:

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Dryuary Music Selections

See our Dryuary Playlist at:

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Dryuary Links and Resources

Thousands of people around the world are taking January off from alcohol, and there is no shortage of media stories about it:

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism – Planning Your New Years’ Fitness Coverage
“Following New Year’s Eve, Dryuary is when some people give up alcohol for the month. Are local restaurants serving up kombucha or mocktails for this contingent? Are local cafes, juice shops, meal prep businesses or other places cashing in on food trends like the ketogenic or keto diet (no sugar, carbs, fruit or potatoes) or the paleo diet (no dairy, legumes, refined sugar or cereal grains)? What does it cost to eat keto or paleo for a week compared to other options?”

Aspen Daily News – Dryuary
“The point is that this is a wine column, not a political activist editorial rant. And the point? Besides the fact that there isn’t any dang snow (well, it did kinda, wanna, sorta dump last week for a minute), there is another problem, and it directly affects the wine writer deep down within me: Most of my friends are on some Dryuary kick. Again, enough with the no-snow euphemisms. It’s the post-holiday sober season. Ugh.”

OpenTable.com – Drink Clean: 12 Refreshing Mocktails for Dryuary 2018
“Following a boozy holiday season, some choose to go cold turkey for Dryuary, or Dry January. Others give up alcohol for a pregnancy or other reasons or prefer not to drink during the work week. Whatever your motivations, you’ll find an increasing number of restaurants serving up mocktails for Dryuary 2018 and beyond for diners who want a delicious mixed drink without the buzz.”

TheTakeout.com – Welcome to Dryuary, a five-part series where The Takeout’s Gwen Ihnat navigates the month minus alcohol.
“Dryuary week 1: Follow my valiant attempt to plunge into 2018 booze-free. One of the many great lines in Girls Trip is when Regina Hall off-handedly remarks, mid-movie: ‘I think my liver is broken.’ I had the same thought around mid-December.”

Time-Out New York – Here are six non-alcoholic mocktails to get you through Dryuary in NYC
“And, while you could always order a virgin daiquiri or spritz anywhere, these dry innovations come complete with all the garnish, complexity and bite of their boozy brethren without the drunk texts and killer hangovers. What better time than temperance-soaked Dryuary to test-drive the sober route? If only all New Year’s resolutions were this easy to swallow.”

ThisGirlWalksIntoABar – Mocktails for Dryuary (Daily Recipes)
“This might come as a surprise but we have decided to participate in the growing trend of abstaining from alcoholic beverages for the month of January. Yes. We’re nuts. But even cocktail bloggers need to take a break once in a while.”

Forbes – Not Doing ‘Dryuary’? You Might Want To Reconsider. New Study Shows How Alcohol Damages DNA
“Those abstaining from alcohol this month now have extra reason to be smug as a new study, published today in Nature sheds light on how alcohol damages DNA and increases the risk of cancer.
Scientists and doctors have previously linked alcohol to an increased risk of developing at least seven types of cancer, and attribute it to causing almost 20,000 cancer deaths in the USA per year, but until now, the exact way in which alcohol damages DNA has not been clear.”

ValleyAdvocate.com – Monte Belmonte Wines: This January, Give Dry a Try
“In the aftermath of the holidays, consider giving you liver a little break and instead intoxicate the remaining brain cells in your skull with some binge watching and reading. Keep yourself hydrated, stockpile some milk thistle, and practice a modicum of temperance — at least for ‘Dryuary.’ And next time, we’ll dive into some delicious, deep-dark reds as we head into the doldrums of winter. But for now, my liver is grateful.”

Checkup & Choices – Take a Vacation from Drinking This Dryuary: How To Stop Drinking For One Month
“Most of us are creatures of habit, and certain habits like overdrinking can be a challenge to change. This is why CheckUp &Choices recommends doing a “30”to help change drinking habits.
   Taking a “30” makes a clean break in your lifestyle. Research has shown that taking a vacation from alcohol can reduce your tolerance, and help prevent overdrinking if or when you decide to drink again. You’ll discover drinking triggers that you may not have been aware of, better understand how you rely on alcohol, and take time for activities that bring you joy. Taking a break from drinking helps facilitate self-awareness: a primary step for lasting change.
   So, if you’re ready to reap the benefits of a break from alcohol this January (or “Dryuary” to those who take the month off from drinking) here are ten tips to help you succeed…”

Raptitude.com – Goodbye Booze, For Now
“There seem to be three basic relationships a person can have with drinking. There are drinkers, dabblers and teetotalers.
Teetotalers never touch the stuff. Dabblers may have a glass of wine or a beer now and then, or even regularly, but they only occasionally have enough that they’d have to call a cab. They see drunkenness as an accident, a morally salient line one should avoid crossing. Drinkers get drunk on purpose, and obviously believe it’s worthwhile.”

USNews.com & Yahoo.com/News & Msn.com –
4 Surprising Things That Happen to Your Body During Dryuary

Three outlets feature the same article on Dryuary by Journalist Heather Hausenblas:
“People who join in alcohol abstinence challenges like Dryuary tend to drink less – and have greater confidence in their ability to say no to alcohol – once the month is over, according to a 2016 study published in Health Psychology. The researchers also found that a month-long hiatus from booze is unlikely to result in ‘rebound effects,’ or drinking more following the dry spell to ‘make up’ for lost time.”

Was ein alkoholfreier Monat alles bringt

This is Page 2 of a three part series that features Dryuary:

“Gemeinnützige Organisationen wie Alcohol Concern und Moderation Management in Großbritannien und den USA geben sich seit Jahren Mühe, die Idee zum Trend zu machen. Sie erfanden etliche Kunstworte für den wochenlangen Alkoholverzicht. Neben „Dryuary“ ist auch zum Beispiel „Drynuary“ häufig zu finden.”
(“Non-profit organizations such as Alcohol Concern and Moderation Management in the UK and the USA give for years effort to make the idea of the trend. They invented some artificial words for the week-long alcohol dispensation. In addition to “dryuary”, for example “drynuary” is often found.”)

PourModels.com intro to Dryuary TV Segement

PourModels.com intro to Dryuary TV Segement (Click for Page)

AleanElston.com – 3 Dryuary Recipes from my TV segment on What’s On Tap
Local TV, South Jersey News – See the “What’s On Tap” episode HERE. (Jump to 10:02 for the segment.)
“Somehow somebody let me back on TV! lol If you are reading this its probably because you are looking for the information about the Dryuary products that I talked about on What’s On Tap. And if you are here by chance or because you missed that episode, don’t forget to check it out by clicking here. Here goes!”

Tctmd.com – Be It Resolved: How Alcohol Harms or Helps the Heart Remains Controversial—and Confusing
“Broadly speaking, we know that alcohol at that one to two standard drinks per day level in men and one standard drink in women has proven benefits in reducing the incidence of heart attacks, reducing the incidence of cardiovascular mortality, and even reducing total mortality and stroke,” Kistler said. “But it’s a J-shaped curve, so as we go beyond four to five standard drinks per day then [alcohol] becomes dangerous. And I do think we, as physicians, kind of struggle with implementing that moderation message.”

Blog: GodWalkedIntoThisBar.blogspot.com – Dryuary Countdown Special
“The book that 4 people are talking about! Available on Amazon for $.99 for the next 5 days.
Guaranteed results if you read this book! (okay, you can’t just read it, you have to do some other things, too. This recovery thing just doesn’t happen by reading, although I spent many years just ‘reading’ about it.)”

TheChronicleHerald.ca, Halifax Canada – Alcohol-free: ‘Dryuary’ trend gains momentum
“Don’t be surprised if your friends decline an invite to the wine bar or turn down a cold beer this month. Dry January is becoming a popular way to detox after holiday indulgences and start the new year on a healthier note.
The New York Times recently profiled a man who has been practising a booze-free January on his own for the last decade. He believes a month without alcohol allows him to sleep better, have lucid dreams, and lose about 10 pounds.
But for those who thrive with peer support, there’s Dryuary. The annual event started in 2014 and more than 5,000 people have participated so far — vowing to abstain from alcohol for the month of January.”

TheLuxicon.com – Surviving Dryuary
“I don’t take issue with this practice alone or the notion that it’s sometimes necessary to scale back on indulgence. Dryuary, Drynuary or Dry January, all of which sound disturbingly close to a medical condition that one ought to avoid, approaches obnoxious when one cannot complete the task of abstaining one month without continuous reminders on Twitter, Insta, Snap, FB and any and all other platforms which presents an opportunity to visually shout, “I’m better than you!” ”

Wired.com – Delicious Non-Boozy Beer, Wine, and Spirits for Dry January
“The first weekend of Dry January is upon us, which means you may find yourself more tempted than usual to reach for a drink. Pro-tip: Find alternatives you can get excited about. Here are some brilliantly conceived beverages you’ll be delighted to drink—even when you’re not being a sober soldier.”

Vice.com – How to Not Be an A**hole if You’re Doing Dryuary
“Quitting booze for one month a year doesn’t make you a hero.
I, like many others who went far too hard on the rum and eggnogs in December, will be ringing in 2017 with Dryuary, aka Drynuary, the annual tradition Urban Dictionary describes as ‘the art of not drinking alcohol for the entire month of January.’ And it’s an art indeed.”

Chicago Tribune – Chicago bars have mocktails at the ready as Dry January catches on
“A month without drinking can feel long and arduous to some, especially when that month is January in Chicago. The days are short, the cold is unrelenting and a cocktail or two might seem like a good cure for the winter blues. Yet five years after Dry January launched in England, it’s catching on in Chicago, and scores of folks are depriving themselves of alcohol for 31 chilly days. Call it a new year’s resolution, a cleanse or a money-saving tactic. Whatever it is, Chicago bars are prepared, mocktails at the ready.”

YourBestWorstFriend.com – Everybody’s Sober But Me
“I’m going to learn how to treat drinking as a nice thing to do occasionally. I am going to say no. I am going to sit in discomfort and nerves and learn how to deal with them in different ways. I am going to wonder if I’m saying the smart thing at the party. I’m going to be more jittery on the subway. I’m going to think more about my interactions.”

Yahoo Sports – “Dry Jan”, Week 1: Breaking Up With Booze
“If you think you can’t stop drinking, you should probably try to do it,” a close friend told me back in September. The friend was, at the time, celebrating one year sober with the help of AA. Now, I’ve been given a lot of advice about my drinking over the years, but it’s often the type I choose to ignore: “We’re going home after this one,” my friend will say as I order another round of tequila shots; “Maybe you’d have enough money to buy a house if you didn’t spend it all on alcohol,” quip my hilarious parents.

ApartmentTherapy.com – I’m Taking on Dryuary and Abstaining from Alcohol for the Month
“People don’t even agree on how this thing is spelled—Drynuary, Dryuary—so I’m not going into it thinking everyone will agree with my choice. Some experts say Dryuary, as we’ll be spelling it here, encourages binge drinking. Others say it’s one of the best ways to kick off a healthy new year. I’m sure the truth is somewhere in between.”

OhSoBeautifulPaper.com – A Mock Tai
“So, last month’s exploration of classic cocktails was cut a little short. We decided, with very little notice, to undertake a major house renovation project, the complete redo of our only full bathroom. Over the holidays. Yeah, we’re smart people. Anyway, we’re back this month to do something we’ve never done before: spend some time trying out mocktail recipes. Yup. This January is now Dry-uary. Let’s start with a mocktail version of one of our favorite Tiki drinks: A Mock Tai – Andrew”

GoBankingRates.com – Taking the Dryuary Challenge: How Much Americans Drink and Spend on Booze
“Most American adults spend $463 per year on alcoholic beverages.
If a month of holiday parties makes you want to swear off alcohol for a while, you’re not alone. Thousands of people across the U.S. participate in Dryuary, taking a pledge not to drink alcohol in January. Although some take part in the New Year’s resolution to achieve a feeling of control over their habits and life, taking a 31-day alcoholiday also makes financial sense.”

MedicalDaily.com – Life Without Alcohol: 2 Women, One 30-Day Physical And Mental Challenge
“Every study I’ve ever read straight up says this is bad, unhealthy behavior — a strain on every organ in your body that can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. For the life of me, though, I cannot color within the lines every single time.”

HuffingtonPost – Could You Survive One Month Without Alcohol? Here’s How I Made It
“I’m still just as fun as before. And, so are you. So, don’t alter your plans.”

HuffingtonPost – How To Stay Social While Cutting Out Alcohol For ‘Drynuary’
[It was] a month of exploring our city, going to places we normally otherwise wouldn’t, maybe explore instead of going to the restaurant or bar. It was fun.”

UrbanDictionary.com – Dryuary
The art of not drinking alcohol for the entire month of January. Participation normally arises on the 1st January from all walks of life along with phrases like ‘I will never drink again’.

Slate.com – What a Psychologist Specializing in Addiction Treatment Thinks About Drynuary

EveryDayHealth.com – ‘Dryuary’: Taking a Month Off the Sauce

University of Washington – “Dryuary” 2014

Business Insider – Dry January is terrible and you should stop doing it

Refinery29.com – Quit Drinking For A Month — & These 12 Things Happened

Seattle Times  – Dry January Reactions: Shaken and Stirred

Dry January Tips from “Eat This”

Time Magazine – Here’s What Happens When You Give Up Drinking for New Year’s

NPR – Dry January: Giving Up Booze For A Month Does Have Benefits

TheFix.com – 7 Ways to Prepare For An Alcohol Free January

PsychCentral.com – Self-Care: Stop Neglecting Yourself

InquiringMind.com – Urge Surfing – Substance-use urges rarely last longer than 30 minutes

The Moderation Management Public Forum – About Lapses and Relapses

Ocsober.com.au – Mocktails from a Mixologist in Oz

Good reading material, filled with knowledge and support for transformation

Responsible Drinking
by Frederick Rotgers Psy.D., Marc F. Kern Ph.D., & Rudy Hoeltzel
Good reading material, filled with knowledge and support for transformation

Changing for Good

by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente
The authors describe the stages of change and what must be done at each stage before moving on to the next.

Sober for Good: New Solutions For Drinking Problems
by Anne M. Fletcher
For this best-selling book, author Anne Fletcher went straight to the experts: hundreds of men and women who have resolved a drinking problem.

How to Control Your Drinking 2nd Edition
By William R. Miller, Ph.D., and Ricardo F. Munoz, Ph.D.
Many professionals in the alcohol field now accept that moderation is a reasonable and responsible goal for some (though certainly not all) people seeking to control their use of alcohol and to avoid developing more serious drinking problems. We have found that early stage problem drinkers can be quite successful in learning moderation.

Moderation Management “Steps of Change”
by Rudy Hoeltzel
Many of the people who look into MM have already tried to get rid of their drinking problem with a big, all-at-once effort of the will – but without success. This program takes quite a different approach. The better approach is to break the change process down into a number of smaller, more manageable steps.
(A free download, PDF)