I’m good at drinking. I’ve been doing it pretty consistently for 20 years now. Drinking lightens my mood. I’m more gregarious, know my way around a cocktail list, and I generally know my limits. But, I’ve also been a little too good at drinking, letting excess quiet reason. Do I drink too much? These health experts say I do. (For men, it’s 15 or more drinks per week. Seven or more for women.)
So, I’ve found myself giving up drinking for defined stretches. I’ve done Dry January a few times, have given up alcohol while training for long bike rides, and took a 40-day break at the beginning of the pandemic. I took October off and jotted down some notes.
These are some of the things I’ve taken away from my breaks from alcohol, with some advice on making your way through. Also, journalist Hilary Sheinbaum just released the 30 Day Challenge, a step-by-step guide to going sober for 30 days. She has some amazing advice, especially for people who are still dating and going sober.
IF IT HELPS, ADD ACCOUNTABILITY: Promise yourself. Then, if you think you might need some more accountability, verbalize the commitment to others. You could tell your partner. You could tell your kids. Your parents. Your favorite whatsapp chain. Maybe social media followers. Throughout the month, share, or don’t share, as much as you’re comfortable with - we all know where we fall on a privacy spectrum.
Or, approach it the opposite way. Maybe this is something you do for yourself, by yourself.
GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT: Skipping a nightly glass of wine or cold beer may not be the easiest thing to do. Every day you stay sober, give yourself a hand. You earned it.
I like to mark each day on an app. For Dry January, the Betera team is tracking ourselves on Streaks.
TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME: The best advice I’ve seen.
FIND SOMETHING THAT REPLACES THE RITUAL: For some people, making that first drink of the night is as much about marking the transition from working to not. Or maybe it’s after putting the kids down. If you’re trying to do a sober stretch, start with a new ritual. Replace making a cocktail, opening a beer, or pouring a glass of wine with pouring a cold Betera over ice and adding a sliced citrus wedge. (see how I slipped in a product mention?)
If you want to dive deeper into making non-alcoholic drinks, we highly recommend Good Drinks by Julia Bainbridge. She’s a James Beard nominated-writer and wrote the definitive guide to non-alcoholic cocktails. It’s stylish and inventive. Her drinks are exquisite.
IT GETS EASIER AFTER THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS: You’ll feel healthier. Skin looks better. No foggy mornings. You’re skipping a ton of nightly calories. Momentum will build - Ride the wave.
2020 PREPARED YOU FOR THIS: Let’s get real here. We’re survivors of a year that tested us left, right, and center. If we can mask up, scrub our hands endlessly, keep ourselves together as well as we have, well... Giving up a month of drinking just might be easier than ever. Plus, with the lockdown continuing, now’s a great time to skip drinking - there’s none of the social stuff we have to worry about.
BECOME ONE WITH THE SCALE. SERIOUSLY.: Cutting out drinking is a fantastic way to lose weight. I dropped 10lbs in October. Heads up, though, the weight loss comes faster at the end of the month. Wait for it.
THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE IT IS TO START: Not sure if you can do a whole month? Have a birthday? A team in the playoff hunt? There’s always always always going to be something up ahead. But, if you don’t start now, you’ll never know if you can make it through those days down the road. Plus, after some time off, you might realize you don’t need to drink in those moments. Realizing you’re stronger than alcohol is a hell of a thing.
This Dry January, I’m going to make it through the month without a drink. Hopefully you do too.