While there is a lot of heavy drinking during the December holidays and New Year’s Eve, millions of people spend the following month abstaining from alcohol. Dry January is a campaign—begun in the UK in 2013—encouraging people to stay sober for the month of January. It normalizes sobriety.
Dry January started with about 4,000 people; by 2020, 4 million people all over the world participated. Word got out that staying sober made people feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
How Can Dry January Be Helpful?
For some, the campaign is about resetting after the alcohol-heavy holidays. But for others, it helps them evaluate their relationship to alcohol and test what it feels like to be sober.
One of my sober friends began doing just that with Dry January. After participating in the campaign, she realized that alcohol exacerbated some of her physical and mental health struggles. Following that realization, she stayed sober a full year in order to recalibrate her relationship with alcohol. A little while after that year she decided to get sober for good.
My friend wasn’t alone in this. An interviewee named Wendy told the sobriety blog The Temper, “I thought it [Dry January] was a good way to sober up without admitting that I had a problem. I found it to be difficult to break the habit of my almost nightly wine, so I found an online support group specific to Dry January and began to journal daily.”
There are plenty of such groups. I was invited to one the first year of the campaign—a little over two and a half years before I got sober. Unfortunately, I was very all-or-nothing; I would either drink or I wouldn’t, and I was a couple years from being ready to stop. But even my reaction to the whole concept of quitting for a month—that it seemed impossible—gave me something to think about.
For some, distancing themselves from alcohol makes it easier to quit for a longer period of time. Addiction changes the brain, making people compulsively seek the substance. The more time people spend away from alcohol, the more perspective they can gain on their drinking. Sometimes, people simply feel so much better that they don’t want to go back to drinking the way they did.
Alcohol is so normalized that many people don’t know how to get through certain life events sober. Dry January gives people practice being sober through a month’s worth of experiences; this may give them the confidence that they could get through even more sober.
Can Dry January Lead People to Get Sober for Good?
If you are questioning your relationship to alcohol, Dry January is a great place to start. Eliminating alcohol will clear your mind and give you space from alcohol, making it more obvious if long-term sobriety is a better option for you. If this is the case, you will know that you can get through it.
You will undoubtedly feel better after a booze-free month. But if you have an addiction, the positive changes in sobriety just keep coming. Imagine how much better you’ll feel if you go even longer without alcohol.
If you are struggling with alcohol use or a mental health disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff will help you build the coping skills to thrive in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.