I decided to embark on the dry January challenge because I was unhappy with my lifestyle for the last few months before Christmas. I was out every night, drinking to excess, wasting lots of days with a hangover and staying out really late meaning a severe lack of sleep. I considered committing to cut down, but knowing what I am like, I felt that probably wouldn’t have much of an impact, so I decided abstaining all together would be the better option.
Many people sent me all sorts of evidence on why Dry January was a terrible idea and why it was actually bad for me, in order to try and persuade me not to do it. What surprised me most was how anti it some people were. Some admitted they were nervous I would realize they were not much fun if I was sober! Some said that having one month off booze was pointless and wouldn’t improve anything, others said that they just wanted their drinking buddy back.
After a while when people realized I was dedicated to this challenge, they gave up trying to persuade me to start drinking again. Many actually said they were impressed with my willpower. The funny thing was, I didn’t actually need strong willpower after a while. I really got used to not drinking quite quickly and what I loved about it was that need disappeared and I realized that living my life without alcohol was easily possible.
I really am not waiting until the 1st Feb and thinking YIPPEE I can have a drink. I definitely think this has changed my habits for the long run, not just for a month. Will I never drink again? No, I will enjoy a drink, I especially missed a glass of red wine with my friends on a Friday night, but will I go back to my previous overindulgent ways? I really think not. Having a month of drinking nothing has changed my outlook and has broken the habit I was in.
It has also reinforced to me that as per Gretchen Rubens definition, I am an abstainer. I don’t do well with moderation, but I find abstaining much easier. I seem to be all or nothing! This is good to know when trying to change a habit, as I get very frustrated when I try to cut down on something and don’t succeed.
I have listed some of the awesome benefits I have found from having a month off the booze:
I feel like I have created deeper friendships in the month I have not been drinking. I am much better at listening when I am sober. Its one of the things I need to work on most even when I am sober, but after a few drinks I’m at my worst! Not having any alcohol helps me to focus more on my friends, ask questions and find out what is going on in their life rather than keeping conversations at a surface level.
In November and December I had lots of good intentions to exercise but they were often hampered by my hangover! I have now got back into the routine of regular exercise, as I wake up fresh in the morning. I’ve created a good routine of doing HIIT training most mornings from YouTube and also Bikram yoga. You definitely can’t do Bikram with a hangover, so it’s been great for me to get back into that.
I have been more creative in the things I have organized to do as I don’t want them all to revolve around drinking. Since moving to Budapest, I have fallen into the habit of going out drinking and partying quite a lot as there is so much choice and great places to go. Not drinking has made me consider other activities to get involved with which has helped me with my micro adventure challenge. It has also helped me make more of the days as I have got up earlier and I have not had a single hangover day wasted in bed or on the sofa.
I look better, I feel better, my skin looks more healthy, I feel less tired. One of my friends said they thought I was glowing when I caught up with them lately. I can notice that my skin looks a lot fresher and I feel much healthier in myself.
I have slept way better since not drinking. I have got 7 or 8 hours of good quality sleep every night and its made a big difference. I recently read Thrive by Arianna Huffington, and she emphasizes the importance of getting a good nights sleep. I was, as she described, quite proud of needing little sleep, but since I have been more relaxed about getting more sleep over getting up super early, I have felt more awake and I am more productive during the day as I am not nearly as tired.
6) Responsible decisions
Since I have had a month of no alcohol I feel that I have been more true to myself. I’ll be honest, I think that it can become quite easy to make poor choices and hide behind the ‘I was drunk’ excuse. Not drinking means you have to take 100% responsibility for your actions, therefore resulting in more sensible decisions.
I have spent January doing things that I enjoy. If I was not enjoying myself then I left and went and did something else. Previously, I may have stayed and got a bit more drunk until I started to enjoy myself, I don’t think this is a healthy position to be in. I want to be enjoying myself without alcohol, not just drinking through it until everything seems better!
So yes, I am feeling the health benefits, absolutely, but the real advantages have been much more than health. I now view drinking alcohol differently, it’s not something I need in order to have fun. I had got to the point where I really questioned whether it would be possible to go a full month with no booze at all, which in itself is a worry! I saw some people doing dry Jan but making an exception for one or 2 particular events, which worked for some people, but for me being an abstainer, I would just start making more and more exceptions, so the full month without a drop was better.
I’d love to hear your comments about whether you did dry January, how easy it was, what you think about it and if you did it, whether you found any benefits from it.