Happy January! I’m excited to talk about all things Dry January, including my love/hate relationship with it (OK, hate is a strong word.), and how to keep the momentum you build up this month going into the rest of the year.
THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ON YOUR BODY AND BRAIN
First, before we talk about giving up alcohol, let’s review why alcohol is so harmful. If you’re like me, you haven’t been taught, well, anything about what alcohol is and how it affects our bodies and our brains. I spent 20 years of my adult life assuming alcohol was OK (maybe even healthy?) in small(ish) doses. Man, was I wrong.
According to the NIH, here are just some alcohol’s effects on the body:
- Alcohol has been linked to 7 different types of cancer: breast, liver, head, neck, esophagus, colon and rectum.
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways
For more of an in depth list of the effect of alcohol on your body and brain, I can’t recommend this Huberman Lab podcast episode enough.
BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATING IN DRY JANUARY
Remember when I told you about my love/hate relationship with Dry January (like 7 seconds ago?). Well, you can plant this section firmly in the love category. Any break you give your body and brain from alcohol is good. Whether that’s a day, a week, or the entire month of January, that’s a win. Giving your body a break from having to deal with a toxin will never not be a great thing. Here are just a few benefits of participating in Dry January…
I know you might assume that you sleep better after a glass of wine, but that’s scientifically disproven. According to the Sleep Foundation, “alcohol can disrupt the sleep cycle and decrease sleep quality.” (Not to mention, the 3am wake ups.) “Long-term alcohol use can result in chronic sleep problems and disorders like sleep apnea.” It may take some time for your body to heal itself after alcohol use, but your sleep is likely to improve once you stop drinking alcohol.
Sure, brain fog might come with the motherhood territory, but did you know that your nightly glass (or two) of wine makes it SO much worse? According to NIH, “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.” As a mom, I need all the mental clarity I can get.
If your house is battling colds and the crud as soon as those school doors open, you’re not alone. I’m always trying to boost my immunity, and quitting alcohol goes a long way in helping my immune system. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, “Drinking has a negative impact on both parts of (the innate and the adaptive) the immune system. There’s no ‘safe’ level of drinking. It has short and long-term effects on every organ in the body. Drinking 5-6 drinks in a single session can suppress the immune system for up to 24-hours.”
Just ask my husband about this one! I don’t need science to tell me that quitting drinking has drastically improved my mood. No more waking up feeling sluggish and starting the day behind. Don’t forget: alcohol is a depressant. Yes, that’s the reason I would find myself crying into my wine by 10pm in my 20’s. (Well, that and a horribly toxic relationship. *eye roll*) You can get all the Vitamin D and sit by all the light lamps your cold winter heart desires, but if you’re drinking alcohol, you’re messing with the neurotransmitters in your brain, and you starting at a deficit. Scientifically speaking.
REDUCE STRESS AND ANXIETY
Remember, I’m not even talking about the stress reduction from not having to deal with the fall out from the fight with your husband last night, of which you can’t quite recall all the details and why you were so mad. (But there’s that, too.) According to Drinkaware, “The more alcohol you drink, the greater the effect it has on your brain function and – potentially – your mental health. Regardless of the mood you’re in before drinking, alcohol’s effect on the brain can lead to feelings of being less inhibited, depression, aggression, anger, anxiety – or stress.”
For more on how alcohol affects your mental health, listen to this episode of The Sober Mom Life Podcast!
PHYSICAL CHANGES YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE DURING DRY JANUARY
The physical changes you may experience will depend on the amount of alcohol you were consuming leading up to Dry January. It can take your body some time to rid alcohol entirely from its system, which can feel frustrating and why I always want to scream from the rooftops: PLEASE DON’T JUDGE SOBRIETY BY YOUR FIRST MONTH WITHOUT ALCOHOL. (Sorry for yelling.)
SYMPTOMS YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE
Please note: detoxing from alcohol is very dangerous and can be life threatening. Please do not detox without the supervision of a medical professional.
HOW TO THRIVE IN DRY JANUARY AND KEEP IT GOING
You might be reading this and thinking: there is absolutely no way I’m going to thrive without alcohol. It’s impossible. And there’s even less way that I’m going to keep it going past January. I totally get it, and I was once in your shoes. I looked at alcohol as essential: to have fun, to connect, to unwind, and any break I took from it would most certainly be complete with white knuckles and a countdown to when I would be allowed my next glass of wine. Well, I’m here almost 4 years sober to tell you: It’s so much more than possible.
STRATEGIES FOR A SUCCESSFUL DRY JANUARY
First, I want to make sure to clarify the use of “successful” here. This is not a pass/fail situation. You are examining your relationship with alcohol, and in most cases, it’s a long game.
DRY JANUARY MOCKTAILS
Mocktails are a fun way to keep it interesting in Dry January and beyond, and I’m SO excited to share my No Ethanol-Needed Mocktail ebook with you!
WAIT 30 MINUTES FOR CRAVINGS TO PASS
This is where I have to remind you that alcohol is a highly addictive substance. If you’re having cravings, it’s normal and they WILL pass. Try to distract yourself with a mocktail, a piece (or three) of chocolate, a Bravo show, or something else to keep busy. Your craving will pass, and you will get stronger and stronger with each craving you withstand.
GET FRESH AIR
Sometimes we forget the simplest things, and that’s definitely true as we build a life without alcohol. Getting fresh air can sound trite or mundane, but it’s a reminder to get outside, and never underestimate a change a scenery.
AVOID THE FEBRUARY COUNTDOWN
Remember when I mentioned my “hate” for Dry January? That’s where the countdown comes in. Try to avoid spending your time without alcohol counting down to when you will drink alcohol again. Focusing on alcohol during Dry January is like…pining over a toxic ex when you’re on a date with Brad Pitt, you know? (OK, so you might not look at it like that yet, but maybe one day you will.) You will miss the wonder of a life without alcohol and the glory of being with Brad Pitt. And that’s just criminal.
FIND A SUPPORTIVE SOBER COMMUNITY
You might not have a supportive sober community IRL, but never discount the power of online friends. I created The Sober Mom Life Cafe as a space for sober and sober curious women to share and connect, and it’s grown so much over the past year. If you’re looking for a community, we’ve got you. We have Zoom Peer Support meetings every day except Saturday, a monthly Quit Lit book club, exclusive Discord chat and so much more.
WHAT TO DO WHEN DRY JANUARY IS OVER
Ahh, my favorite topic! How do you keep the momentum going into the rest of the year?
HOW TO KEEP IT GOING
Share it with the world! And if that seems daunting, then start by sharing it with your social circles. Don’t keep it to yourself. When we hide our sobriety, we send the signal to ourselves that it’s something to be ashamed of, something to lock up and away from everyone, even those closest to us.
When you’re heading to a party or a get-together, give your friends a heads up that you won’t be drinking and come armed with your favorite No-Ethanol Needed mocktail.
HOW TO QUIT DRINKING ALCOHOL AND LIVE MORE
If you’re loving how you feel and want to extend your Dry January into the rest of 2024, I wrote this post just for you. Read How to Quit Drinking Alcohol and Live More here.