Alcohol Free January - My January Challenge

Month of no alcohol 16-9.jpg

No Alcohol in January

(Only 2 months late!)

Have you spent numerous holiday seasons filled with family and friends, parties and get-togethers, and way too much alcohol?

This was how I was feeling in the weeks leading up to January 1st. A friend visited over that period, and by the first of the month, my liver was screaming for some TLC. And with the new year bringing fresh starts, I easily found motivation to attempt a 'dry January'.

Yet, I was hesitant to choose this as my first challenge. I knew friends were visiting towards the end of the month, and I would likely want to have some drinks with them. I didn't want my first challenge to be set up for failure. But my husband encouraged me, pointing out that 27 days alcohol-free was better than 0 days. Too true.

Goal: Live a healthier lifestyle
Challenge: No alcohol
Success: Didn't fully abstain from alcohol, but still consider it a success

How did it go?

For the first three weeks of January, I had a glass of wine at on a few occasions. BUT (insert shameful emoji here) - I would do it when my husband wasn't home, because I didn't want him to see me cheating on the challenge! He was my accountability partner in this endeavor, and truly wouldn't have judged me, but I still wanted to keep this illusion up. These few times were days I was feeling extra high strung and wanted a depressant to literally chill me out.

But other than those few times, I replaced my normal glass of wine with tea, sparkling water, or other non-alcoholic beverages to ease my evening itch.

I then drank the last few days of the month while friends were staying. I could perhaps have stayed sober and enjoyed my time, but I gave myself permission, knowing that I had done pretty well for the last 3+ weeks.

What I learned

I realized that I don’t necessarily need the alcohol, but I enjoy the habit of a glass in my hand. There is something about the physical habit that I craved. Hence why the replacement beverages worked well for me.

Secondly, I re-learned how horribly I sleep with 3 or more drinks.

This was not a new realization to me, but once alcohol was out of my system entirely, I really felt how deep my sleeps were. Those nights of waking up at 5am and lying awake for two hours failed to exist. I think this is just one of those lessons that I needed to re-learn a few times for it to actually sink in.

If there is any reason to limit my alcohol intake, it's my sleep. It's so precious and really not worth it for me to have a full 24hrs feeling sluggish after a drinks-filled evening.

Overall I didn't find it too difficult, however there were definitely some techniques that helped me (nearly) succeed.

Tips to succeed during 'dry January'

Have a replacement beverage

  • I opted for a mocktail, sparkling water or tea. It's been shown in studies that it's extremely difficult to break a habit without replacing it. In the book The Power of Habit, they discuss the cue - routine - reward cycle. It goes like this:
    • Cue - Feeling tired, stressed, ready to wind down for the evening
    • Routine - Have a drink
    • Reward - Feel relaxed and laid back

The key to breaking a habit is keeping the same cue & reward, but just replacing the routine. For me, I most often replaced the routine with a non-alcoholic beverage. This could be anything that relaxes you though - reading, meditating, yoga, etc. 

Get your significant other (or roomie) on board

  • As in many things in life, it's easier with someone by your side. Drinking alcohol is a social activity, and having someone in the house drinking often could make it quite tempting to have one yourself. My husband was on board with this, and we definitely helped encourage each other along the way. (Minus those times I hid it from him...eek)

Feel confident socializing without alcohol

  • I went to the bar a few times and just ordered a Perrier water. None of my friends said anything. Likely, most people won't even notice you've swapped out a rum and coke for a coke. And if they do, they won't care. Your good friends will support you, and those who don't really aren't worth your time.

Find less-boozy social activities

  • Easier said than done, especially depending on where you live. If you're struggling with being the only sober one at social events, take the inititiative to plan alcohol-free activities for you and your friends.

I don't want to give up alcohol (and I haven't!), because there are some tasty drinks and wines I really enjoy. However, doing this challenge helped me opt for less alcohol (my tolerance did drop as well lets be honest). For better sleep, a better bank balance and ultimately, showing my body some love.