“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I practice moderate drinking most of the year, but I choose to not drink at all during January. Friends and family find this confusing – why drink 11 months out of the year, and not January? I do it because it helps fortify my commitment to moderation for the rest of the year, and I like the affect it has my physical and mental health. This is my motivation.
The earliest physical change I noticed during my first Dryuary was better sleep. Now, I’m a professional-level sleeper. I fall asleep easily and I seem to stay asleep. It’s not unusual for me to get 9 hours of sleep. But when I’ve had a few drinks, I don’t feel energized in the morning. I go to bed tired and I wake up tired. This sleep deficit adds up and affects me for days. However, a few days into Dryuary I noticed I was waking up feeling pretty good, rested, and dare I say…happier.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “the consumption of alcohol – especially in excess – has been linked to poor sleep quality and duration. People with alcohol use disorders commonly experience insomnia symptoms. Studies have shown that alcohol use can exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea.” So even a small amount of alcohol can disrupt your sleep. And who doesn’t need more solid sleep?
With some quality sleep backing me up, I had more energy during the day – in the middle of winter! Here in the northeast, we have shorter days, less sunlight, grey skies and frigid temps during the winter. None of these contribute to feeling energized. When I forgo drinking throughout January, I’m able to focus more on my well-being overall. This led me to yoga. I started attending yoga classes during my first Dryuary, and I kept it up. I’m no yogi master by any means, but I find a few days a week of practice to be just what I need to help me relax in the evening, and quiet my mind.
Mentally, going without alcohol for a sustained period helps me manage my depression and anxiety. When I’m not drinking every evening, I spend that time on relaxing, enjoyable activities. I have discovered new hobbies through this process and learned to connect better with those around me. I recognize now I was often drinking as a social crutch. Remove the crutch and I had to put in the effort to make conversations, really listen to others, and be more present when socializing. Now, I regularly forgo the alcohol when attending events with family and friends (not that I’ve done any of that in 2020, but I’m remembering years past) and I have more fun as a result.
One thing that didn’t change – my weight. I know a lot of people think that giving up alcohol for a month will lead to weight loss. I’m sure that’s true – if you don’t end up treating yourself to nightly desserts as a “reward” for not drinking. I once tried to adhere to a strict ‘new year, new you’ diet during a dry January, but having to focus on food choices, while simultaneously focus on having a better relationship with alcohol was too much pressure. Now, I am more forgiving with myself, allowing myself to focus on one primary goal at a time. And for January 2021, that’s setting myself up for moderation success by going 31 days without drinking.
Knowing your own “why” for going 31 days without alcohol, can be a challenge – especially after the first week. Look to yourself for that motivation – don’t worry if it sounds superficial (“I want to lose weight), new-agey (“I need to focus what’s inside me”), or overly optimistic (“If I go without drinking this month, my life will be perfect”). Your motivation is yours alone and if it keeps you going, it’s the right motivation for you.
Post Submitted By: Heather M.
Suggested NA beverage: Frost Bite Mocktail Recipe