The beginning of the year is a popular time for people to start self-improvement projects, and it’s just about as good a time as any. If you’ve been a regular drinker, you might even be considering the “Dry January” challenge, a yearly self-improvement challenge that has become popular in the United States in recent years.
Here, we’ll look into what Dry January entails and whether or not it’s all that it’s meant to be. Get in touch with our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to learn more about abstinence, treatment, and recovery.
“Dry January” has its origins in an initiative launched by the British charity Alcohol Change UK back in 2012. The idea was to get people through that first difficult step into achieving long-term sobriety by challenging them to get past that critical hump where being sober is the hardest.
The Dry January initiative harnessed then-new trends in Web 2.0, particularly the use of Twitter, Instagram, and other smaller, focused social media platforms. The popular hashtag #soberisthenewsexy emerged around this time.
While Dry January did not immediately capture the public’s attention in the way similar challenges like the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS did, it did have immense relevance and staying power for more people, spreading internationally and being used to help sobriety with substances other than alcohol.
Today, Dry January trends at the tail end of every holiday season and is something that is much discussed in the self-improvement and alcohol-use disorder (AUD) recovery circles.
If you have AUD or drink regularly, chances are that it is. In these cases, there are likely to be significant physical and mental health benefits to reducing or ceasing alcohol consumption.1,2
If you experience severe or painful alcohol withdrawal symptoms from your attempt, however, see a physician immediately. Serious withdrawal symptoms should be taken as a sign that you may have moderate to severe AUD. Seeing a doctor may help you quit alcohol more safely and sustainably, preventing harm and raising your chances of achieving long-term abstinence or AUD recovery.1
Quitting alcohol for one month may not be especially meaningful for non-drinkers or those who drink perhaps one standard drink a week or less. However, for regular drinkers (people who regularly drink 1-2 standard drinks or more daily), even quitting for a month can bring a host of tangible health, safety, and financial benefits. Some of these benefits include but are not limited to the ones below:1,2,3,4
If you’re like a majority of regular drinkers, you probably don’t go for low-calorie options. In any case, if the product has alcohol, then it contains empty calories. Knocking back two cans of beer or two glasses of wine regularly can easily net you anywhere from 800-2,000 extra calories a week. Quitting booze takes these empty calories out of the equation, possibly making it easier for you to hit and maintain a healthy weight.
Your liver, kidneys, intestines, heart, muscles, eyes, brain, and other organs all get damaged by regular drinking. It doesn’t need to be heavy drinking, either. There is now even evidence that so-called moderate drinking can still be damaging to your body. Regular alcohol consumption can cause a net loss of hydration, which damages cells and causes your body to age prematurely.
Ceasing drinking for a month allows your bodily organs to heal and reclaim some or all of their function. This means you’ll feel better, be less likely to get sick, and even have better overall mental health. Within one month, you’ll be at a reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, liver disease, and some types of cancer.
Technically, the skin is an organ as well. But it’s one that everyone could observe directly. People who complete the Dry January challenge are often surprised to see how much younger they look after just a month. This improvement can help your self-esteem and help boost your mood and mental health.
Every time you drink, you raise your risk of meeting an accident. Alcohol-related accidents don’t just happen on the road or while you’re operating heavy equipment either. People who drink regularly are more likely to experience worse consequences from otherwise minor scraps falls that can happen in and around the home.
While the first week without alcohol is bound to be emotionally taxing, most people who take the Dry January challenge will often find that they’re able to think clearer and make better decisions. Cravings may remain, so anyone who wants to maintain their Dry January gains should look into seeing a mental health professional for a full assessment and recommendations.
If you’re the type of person that finishes off a six-pack or two a week, you will save a non-trivial of cash by the time the challenge is over. When you do make it to the end of Dry January, you may want to consider using your savings to buy something you enjoy, like a new pair of shoes, rather than more booze. This may help keep you committed to abstinence — or at least, cutting back — well after the month is over.
If quitting alcohol is extremely difficult or painful, it could be a sign of a moderate or severe AUD. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be harmful, and occasionally fatal so it’s important to consult with a doctor immediately. If you have AUD, you may need to consider entering a treatment and rehabilitation program to ensure that you stay physically and mentally healthy.
Whether you’re interested in maintaining your Dry January gains or simply want help recovering from AUD, our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help. Call 857) 577-8193 to discuss your treatment and recovery options.
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