Another Dry January
“Lynnelle’s NOT having a drink!?”
I’ve heard it before. For some reason, people can’t believe I’d ever turn down a cocktail, but for the fourth time in five years I’ve committed to a “Dry January”. (It would have been the fifth time in five years, but I was in France all last January and… well, how can you NOT drink wine in France?) But, this year I’m in the U.S. and have jumped back on the “Dry January” bandwagon.
What is Dry January?
If you haven’t heard of “Dry January”, it started in 2012 when a nonprofit in the UK, Alcohol Change UK, challenged the public to go without alcohol for the month of January. Their pitch was “ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline and save some serious money by giving up alcohol for 31 days.”
I heard about it in 2015 and have lived the month of January 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020 stone-cold-sober. (Full Disclosure: The tradition is Bloody Marys on the 1st and a toast to my Dad with his favorite champagne on the 31st My Dry January is actually 29 days of January.)
The first year, 2016, it was a test to see if I could actually do it. I traveled a lot for work, entertained clients, and wasn’t keen on the idea of adding another “should” or “should not” to my life. Those who know me know I love a glass of good red wine, and that I love a good dirty martini even better.
I actually didn’t know if I could say “no” to a cocktail for a whole month. I knew I didn’t WANT to. So, as a test to myself mainly, I committed to it – and it wasn’t easy. It reminded me of when I decided to quit smoking and I wasn’t really ready to quit – or going on a diet when you really don’t want to do the work – exercise, go to the store, cook, or count calories or points or – or – or… The only thing I could think about was “It’s 6:00 p.m., I want a glass of wine and I can’t have one.” It was a constant mental battle and I hated it.
Why Do Dry January – Again?
I’m going to stop short of saying it’s now “easy”, but the “pain is much less intrusive. Why do I continue to do this? What’s the purpose of another Dry January? I rarely have bad hangovers, so I can’t count that as a benefit. My waistline doesn’t shrink (in fact, has probably gotten thicker, sadly). I suppose I do save some money, so there’s that. But what I think I like about doing the Dry January is that it tests (and hopefully strengthens) my self-discipline. Being self-employed and having very few demands on me, I’m able to do and not do pretty much what I want when I want (within my limited budget, of course). It feels good (in a weird way) to exercise self-discipline. It’s a chance to prove to myself that I can still do it.
Some people who practice Dry January claim to start sleeping better and even losing weight. That may be true for some, but I haven’t experienced it. Not sure why the weight doesn’t drop, but it probably has something to do with tortilla chips and hot sauce. Or Milk Duds. But my sleep not improving, I’m certain it’s my weird hours. Some mornings I’m up at 4:00 a.m. in order to teach at 4:30 a.m. Then, sometimes I’m up until after midnight and able to sleep in. This is tough and makes it hard to get into a consistent routine. It’s likely my sleeping would have improved without alcohol had my hours been more regular.
Dry January – or Just “Dry”?
Some people use Dry January as a springboard to giving up alcohol “for a while”. This is an interesting article about one man’s experience from not drinking alcohol for 2 years, and what he learned is mostly backed up by science. Giving up alcohol, you will likely find:
- Your mood improves. (or stabilizes – yeaaah!)
- You sleep more soundly
- Your productivity increases
- You lose weight
- You save money
- Your skin improves
- Your immune system strengthens
And guess what. We women don’t process alcohol as efficiently as men. This means the bad stuff alcohol does; it affects women even more.
Some people will judge you because you’re not drinking. Like Andy, the author of the above article noted, a lot of people would give him a hard time and even some who stopped hanging out with him because of it. I can see that. Most social events feature or are set around drinking – meeting for a glass of wine, getting together for dinner, drinks before a show, drinks at intermission, a nightcap, a champagne brunch… which I love all of it. Would you notice someone who was with you at one of these events who did not drink? How would that make you feel? Give it some thought.
There’s a lot to be gained by giving up alcohol. There’s a lot to gained by working out every day, eating clean and lean, and getting enough sleep, too. This isn’t anything we didn’t already know. So, on February 1, I may very well have that dry martini. I do think, however, I’ll drink less. Like with most everything thing in life, absolutes are not ideal for our best lives, but moderation. Instead of going totally dry, I’ll go “dry-ish”.
Here are some interesting articles on Dry January and/or women’s health and alcohol.
https://www.health.com/condition/alcoholism/rethink-relationship-to-alcohol (This article talks about the rise in the number of women drinking AND the rise in the amount we’re drinking, too – a double whammy. There are likely as many reasons women are drinking more as there are women, and I’ll bet many of those reasons are the same reasons some of us get into that “lonely”, isolated place from time to time.
What do you think about the Dry January “movement”?
If you want to make a change like going dry for a month, or any big change requiring consistent discipline and motivation, it can be helpful to have a friend or two to tackle changes together. When I had my consulting business in Maine, I ran peer groups for business owners that proved very helpful for the members. I think the same support can be equally as beneficial for those of us wanting to better ourselves as it was for business owners. The group will be small, five members or fewer. If you’re interested send me an email at heelsandtevas at g mail dot com, or send a note through the Contact Us page.