Whenever the start of the year comes around, about 40% of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions. They take this time as an opportunity to reflect upon themselves and their lives. They find out what they’re lacking, and resolve to make changes that will benefit their lives.
About 45% of those who make New Year’s resolutions want to either lose weight or get in shape. 16% want to quit smoking, and 53% want to save money.
You can lose weight, become healthier and save money if you participate in Dry January. In fact, Dry January can jump-start your recovery.
What Is Dry January?
Dry January is exactly what it sounds like. You aim to steer clear of alcohol for the entire month of January.
That’s right. You’ll basically resolve to not drink a sip of alcohol from January 1st all the way to the 31st.
Dry January is a concept that originally came from the U.K. In 2013, a non-profit group is known as Alcohol Concern came up with the idea for Dry January. It falls in line with many people’s New Year’s resolution.
The Dry January campaign will reset your relationship with alcohol. It can help you to:
- Reassess your relationship with alcohol. This is a good time to figure out whether you’ve been drinking too much and where you stand with addiction.
- Learn how to cut down on your drinking. Maybe, you drink when you’re bored. Or, maybe, you always drink when you’re with a certain social group. Dry January will help you look for alternatives to drinking. You might pick up a new hobby in lieu of drinking. Or, you might even start looking for other activities to do with your friends. This campaign will help you drink less or reset your drinking habits. At the very least, it can help you learn how to moderate your drinking.
- Take a deeper look at your inner struggles. Often times, alcohol abuse is linked with a mental health disorder. When you stop drinking, you can start to get a better look at what triggers you to drink or what may cause you to start craving alcohol.
Ever since the launch of Dry January, this campaign has caught a lot of attention from the media. This concept has since spread across Europe. It’s even gaining traction in America.
The Benefits of Participating in Dry January
Even if you don’t have an addiction to alcohol, you can still take part in Dry January. If you frequently drink alcohol, you could reap quite a few benefits from doing so, as drinking too much liquor can have some negative effects on the body.
“72% of people who participate in Dry January will drink less riskily even 6 months later.”
According to a study conducted by Alcohol Concern, among those who participate in Dry January:
- 88% of participants saved money. The average American spends $448 per year on alcohol. Of course, there are two ends to this spectrum. Some Americans spend nothing on alcohol, as they don’t drink. Others spend an upwards of $10,000 a year on their drinking problem.
- 71% of participants experienced better and higher quality sleep. Your body doesn’t reach deep sleep, or REM sleep, as easily when you consume alcohol. By abstaining from alcohol, you may actually repair and reset your sleep patterns for better sleep.
- 67% of participants had more energy. Alcohol is a sedative. As a result, it can rob you of energy. Alcohol fatigue is a very common phenomenon. Those who abstain from drinking may feel more energized and ready to go about their day.
- 58% of participants lost weight. Alcohol has quite a lot of calories. 5 fluid ounce of red wine has 125 calories, and 12 fluid ounces of beer has 153 calories. By cutting alcohol out of your life, you can significantly lower your calorie intake.
Abstaining from alcohol may also improve your skin condition and offer you many other health benefits. Alcohol has been closely linked with more than 60 health conditions. Regular consumption of alcohol or excess consumption of alcohol can lead to kidney failure, liver disease, and even brain damage.
By taking a step back from drinking, you reset your body and become a healthier version of yourself.
Alcohol Can Have a Negative Impact on Your Hormones
If you stop drinking, you may even normalize hormonal levels in your body. After all, alcohol abuse or misuse can have a negative impact on your hormonal cycle. In particular, alcohol consumption can negatively impact the estrogen and testosterone levels in your body.
Low testosterone levels in both men and women can result in fatigue and sluggishness. Those who have low testosterone may also have low muscle mass and a lack of motivation. Low hormonal levels can influence your mood and your mental state.
Low estrogen levels, on the other hand, have a larger impact on women than men. It can affect their reproductive cycle and system.
Fortunately, the effects of alcohol on your hormonal cycle are not permanent. If you stop drinking, your body will begin to normalize. Before long, it’ll be back in tip-top shape.
Important Note: Experts Warn that Giving Up Alcohol Can Lead Some to Drug Abuse
To make Dry January effective, you need to abstain from making any negative changes to your life. Don’t substitute drinking with a negative habit, like drug use. Experts warn that doing so can cause some to develop a drug addiction.
Ian Hamilton, a leading health expert in the U.K., found that those who gave up alcohol for a month were more likely to turn to drugs with a similar effect. This is the opposite of what one should do.
When treating substance abusers, Hamilton noticed that most people are polydrug users. They abuse not only alcohol but also tobacco and other types of drugs. Many of these people will start to abuse benzodiazepines instead. These drugs have a similar effect to alcohol.
Those who want to take part in Dry January must be wary of this phenomenon and must be careful that they do not take any drugs to substitute drinking.
Tips on How to Make It Through the Month
Giving up drinking sounds simple enough, but it can actually be a nightmare for some people. If you absolutely adore having a glass of wine with dinner or going out for cocktails with friends, you might have some difficulty making it through the entire month.
To ensure that you’ll be successful, you must plan ahead of time and anticipate the obstacles that you may run into. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you have an easier time making it through Dry January without reaching for the bottle:
- Rope in a friend. That’s right. You’ll have an easier time making it through Dry January if you have a friend who is willing to do it with you. Your friend can hold you accountable and motivate you to keep going.
- Substitute cocktails for mocktails. It’s hard to give up cocktails, especially when you often go to bars or lounges with your friends. You don’t have to give up your social life to participate in Dry January. Instead of ordering a cocktail, order a mocktail instead. It’s equally as delicious.
- Tell everyone. Let people in on the secret, so that no one pressures you to drink. Telling everyone will help motivate you to stick with Dry January.
- Learn a hobby or try a new exercise. If you like to drink recreationally, you might find that you’ll have a lot of free time on your hands. Keep yourself busy by learning a new hobby or trying a new exercise.
- Take it one day at a time. Stay positive and the month will be over before you know it!
If you tell yourself that you can do it, you’ll be much more likely to succeed. Making it through Dry January is not as difficult as some people may think.
What If You Slip Up?
You’ve been trying to withstand all temptations thrown your way. However, after a long and stressful day, your best friend invites you to grab cocktails.
And with that, you slip up! You take a sip of your favorite alcoholic beverage, and you’ve broken your dry spell.
Don’t beat yourself up too hard. Allow yourself to slip up. It’s not a big deal. Don’t let it throw you off course.
Instead, pull yourself together and attempt to abstain from alcohol again. Keep trying over and over again. Try to implement different techniques to see what works for you. This is a good opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and how to stay disciplined and motivated.
Warning: Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms to Keep an Eye Out For
If you stop drinking abruptly, you run the risk of running into alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This happens due to the chemical imbalances in your body. Without alcohol, your body doesn’t have the neurochemicals needed to function. The imbalance can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. It can also become deadly among heavy drinkers.
The level of intensity will vary from one individual to another. It all depends on the unique biological makeup of each individual. It also depends on how much each person has been drinking and the frequency of their drinking. The presence of withdrawal symptoms indicates that your body has become dependent on alcohol. Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anger, confusion, irritability and mood swings
- Anxiety, panic attacks, aggression and increased agitation
- A loss of appetite
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Tremors, shaking and seizures
- Intense cravings
- Dizziness or even hallucinations
- Difficulties concentrating
- Heart palpitations and increased blood pressure
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulties sleeping, like nightmares and insomnia
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Headaches and fevers
You need to stop what you’re doing and get immediate medical attention if you experience vomiting, severe shaking, seizures, depression, suicidal thoughts or hallucinations. These are symptoms of delirium tremens, which can be life-threatening. You also should seek medical attention if any of these symptoms are too difficult to bear. You may need professional help. Quitting cold turkey may not be a suitable option for you.
Minor withdrawal symptoms may be uncomfortable, but they may not necessarily be dangerous at all. If you’re willing to sit through these symptoms, your body will slowly start to normalize by itself without needing any external help.
What You Can Do to Ease Alcohol Withdrawals At Home
Now, if your withdrawal symptoms aren’t too severe and if you don’t need detox, you can get away with participating in Dry January without any professional help. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the process is going to be easy. You may feel uncomfortable.
To make yourself more comfortable, some experts have compiled a list of the things that you can try. They include:
- Staying hydrated and flushing the toxins out of your body. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it actually causes you to lose fluids. By staying hydrated, you’ll not only feel more refreshed, but you’ll also find yourself feeling healthier. If anything, drinking more water can do wonders for your skin!
- Exercising more frequently. Exercise can help normalize neurochemical levels in your body. If you exercise more frequently, you’re less likely to feel tired and exhausted. You’ll also feel more motivated. During Dry January, you should try a new exercise or go for a run around the neighborhood whenever you start to experience cravings.
- Drink more tea and eat healthy foods packed with antioxidants. You are what you eat. If you eat junk food, your body will feel sluggish. This will exacerbate the withdrawal symptoms. Instead, try to drink more tea and eat healthy foods that are packed with nutrients. Instead of eating a candy bar, eat a banana instead!
- Distract yourself. If you focus on how uncomfortable you are, you won’t succeed. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to distract yourself. Pick out several movies to watch or make plans with new and old friends.
- Take certain supplements and vitamins. Speak with your doctor to see what natural supplements and vitamins may help.
There is just so much that you can do to help yourself get through Dry January.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
If you experience intense alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you need professional help. In particular, you need alcohol detox services.
There are two different types of detox services: medical detox and holistic detox. When it comes to easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you’re going to need medical detox. This type of detox involves the use of medications to normalize chemical levels within the body.
Some detox centers will also incorporate holistic detox services into their program. Holistic detox services use natural approaches to help alcohol abusers wean off alcohol. They take part in activities like massage therapy, art therapy, group counseling, individual counseling, and behavioral therapy.
Detox is an important part of any alcohol addiction treatment plan. The main goals of detox are to help those with a drinking problem:
- Ease and soothe withdrawal symptoms
- Cope with the psychological effects of drinking
- Stop drinking without experiencing any painful symptoms
The alcohol detox process usually takes anywhere from 7 to 10 days to complete. This is the length of time that it takes for physical withdrawal symptoms to subside. The psychological symptoms can linger around for months, if not years, to come.
What Types of Medications Are Used in Alcohol Detox?
Depending on each patient, different types of medications are used in alcohol detox. Some medications are approved specifically by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Other medications are used by rehab centers to treat specific symptoms.
For example, those who have difficulties sleeping may be prescribed sleeping pills for the time being. The sleeping pills will help them get a better quality of sleep, which in turn will make it easier to deal with alcohol withdrawals.
The medications that are approved by the FDA to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Antabuse, otherwise known as disulfiram. This type of medication is used in aversion therapy. Essentially, it makes patients feel sick if they drink alcohol. This is believed to help train patients to associate drinking with unfavorable circumstances and consequences.
- Acamprosate. This medication blocks excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result, it can reduce alcohol cravings and can also dull a person’s desire to drink.
- ReVia or naltrexone. This medication is also used to treat opioid and opiate withdrawal symptoms. It can help reduce cravings.
Benzodiazepines can also be used to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. With that said, those who abuse or misuse benzodiazepines may develop a secondary addiction. They may need additional professional help if that’s the case.
What to Do After Dry January Ends
You’ve been counting down the days and you’ve finally reached day 31! That’s quite an accomplishment. You have every right to be proud of yourself.
So, what’s next? What should you do after Dry January ends?
Well, that’s entirely up to you. If you like how you’ve been feeling after you’ve stopped drinking, then you should really consider continuing your dry spell. Why not? After all, you’ve already proven to yourself that you can.
If you’ve weighed out the pros and cons and decide that a drink here or there isn’t so bad, then you can slowly start adding cocktails back into your life.
Do keep in mind that you should try to limit your drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), men should limit their drinking to four or fewer standard drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks in a given week. Women, on the other hand, should limit their drinking to three or fewer standard drinks a day and less than seven drinks a week.
Even if you already drink less than the recommended limit, you may still want to consider drinking less. This is especially true if you saw any health benefits from Dry January.
Spend Some Time to Reflect on the Month
Before you move onto your next goal, take some time to reflect on the month. Consider what went right and what went wrong. More importantly, take this time to reflect on yourself, your relationship with alcohol and your own discipline and willpower.
Dry January might give you a better perspective on yourself. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:
- Did I see any improvements in my life from abstaining from alcohol?
- Do I have a better understanding of my relationship with alcohol? Am I an alcoholic or do I have symptoms of an addiction?
- What have I learned about myself during this month?
- Have I learned more about my relationship with alcohol? Is it a healthy relationship?
- What difficulties did I face when trying to quit drinking? What actions should I take in order to better myself?
- What did I do well? Was I able to stay motivated and disciplined? If so, how? Can I use the skills that I’ve sharpened in other areas of my life?
Taking some time to reflect will mean that you’ve made the most out of your experience. Dry January is not only about staying away from alcohol. It’s also about learning more about yourself and your skills and tendencies.
You’ll find that you did some things well. You’ll also find that you have room for improvement in other areas.
Try Abstaining for a Month and See Where It Takes You
You don’t necessarily have to have a drinking problem to take part in Dry January. Maybe, you’ve simply noticed that you’ve started to drink more and more. You might just be a recreational drinker and only drink during the weekends. It doesn’t matter.
Dry January can help you better understand your relationship with alcohol. You’ll learn more about yourself in the process. For example, you might figure out that you tend to drink when you’re stressed.
If you’ve been upping your alcohol intake, now is a good time to reset your body and mind. They’ll thank you! A little break from drinking can do wonders for your health.
If you’re like most people, you should be able to get through Dry January without a hitch. Sure, you might be tempted, but you won’t experience any intense withdrawal symptoms.
If you do experience intense withdrawal symptoms, at least you now know that you have a problem. Don’t let your addiction fester. Instead, get help for it as soon as possible.
Here, at Northpoint Recovery, we can help you do just that! If abstaining from alcohol is a lot more difficult than you thought it would be, our experts can assess your situation to determine whether you’re abusing alcohol. We’ll teach you more about addiction and create an individually-tailored treatment plan for you that will help you get back on the right track.