We’ve all heard it year in and year out … ‘I’m going to do Dry January’, yet for some reason we all seem to throw it out the window and find an excuse to get a cheeky drink in within the first week of the year.
As a self-proclaimed party girl, I have had my fair share of excuses to sneak a drink in, or occasions as to why I can’t do ‘Dry January’, whether that was a friend’s birthday, a brunch, a work-do or a hard day at work, I kept finding reasons to validate having alcohol to ‘relax’ or to ‘have a good time’.
So, with the daunting thought that maybe the UK binge drinking culture had caught up to me I decided to take on the challenge of Sober October in 2021. Easy peasy! I thought it would be a great starting point… I would do a few weeks with no drinking and still go to parties and enjoy myself. It’s fair to say that it was not actually that easy, but I learnt a few tips and tricks along the way that will most definitely help make Dry January a lot easier to do…
No matter how much your friends tell you that we’re ‘weak’ for no drinking a bottle of vodka with them, just stick to your guns, or to a non-alcoholic cocktail or beer. These Alcohol-free drinks go a long way, especially with their placebo effect. You can still have a good time at a dinner party or the pub without getting beer goggles and saving a few pennies as well. If you do however want to save all the pennies in the jar, then just stick to water… we all know it’s good for you and with the colder seasons of the months already upon us our skin will most definitely benefit from it!
Habit Trackers are not only great to set tasks and goals, but they’re also fantastic when you’re trying to quit something; whether that’s cigarettes, sugar, or in this case alcohol. These trackers trigger an instinctual side of a brain that makes you want to fulfil a certain challenge. Needless to say, it was very satisfying to see 30 ticks next to my ‘no-alcohol’ tracker. I personally used a Habit Tracker app, but you can use a diary or planner, ‘notes’ on your phone or track it on your calendar.
Some people more than others do struggle with self-control, and may see alcohol as an escapism, or simply struggle with peer pressure when in social situations. An easy and helpful way to deal with this is to set yourself some reminders and affirmations that will help boost your mood and combat any toxic feelings that may be arising. Some helpful reminders and affirmations that I used to boost my mood during Sober October, and that I will be using again in January were:
‘I don’t need alcohol to have fun, I’m already fun enough’
‘Sober me is so kind to be around’
‘My skin is looking so much better after not drinking that beer’
‘I can do this; I can do anything I put my mind to’
‘Spend £50 on a day out not a night out’
‘Don’t forget you want to feel energised tomorrow, not hungover’
Something I found incredibly helpful was planning my weekends in advance, and I don’t mean a half-made plan with my friend that may fall through. I would plan entire days whether it was alone time, with friends, life admin days or a date. This kept my weekends busy with things that I’d been putting off doing, like visiting my friends in Manchester, going on a hike to the Ilkley Moors and even a night out (sober of course) with some new friends. Taking that time to plan your ‘ME Time’ really helps to focus on the things that matter to you and the things that you’ve been wanting to do for quite some time but were unable to because every Sunday was ‘Hangover Sunday.’
There is nothing more important than your mental health and the people you surround yourself with. A lot of times when you quit alcohol, it can lead to some negative thinking, or just the resurfacing of unhealthy habits and thoughts, as alcohol has acted as a suppressant for these. The best thing to do is always to speak to someone you trust; whether that’s a friend, sibling or family member, and if the thoughts are too much to handle, do speak to a counsellor, they are there to help guide you through the process. Because we all know a healthy mind is a healthy life.
This is not an easy challenge, whether you’re doing it for health reasons, a challenge or any other motives, take time to congratulate yourself! You are your biggest fan so show some TLC and be proud of all you accomplish. And remember, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t make it to the end of Dry January… what matters is that you tried and did the best you could!