A Look at the Mirage of Dry January

Where to Go From Here

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Credit: Mia Shaley/Shutterstock. Ashley Britton/SheKnows.
Credit: Mia Shaley/Shutterstock. Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

For many, the beginning of the New Year kicks off with Dry January – a campaign that started in the early 2000’s to promote the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol. You may have just participated yourself, done so in the past, and/or know someone (or several people) who have as well. This year, nearly 1 in 5 adults noted they planned to participate in the challenge, “up from 13 percent who said the same in 2021,” according to recent research.

From a harm reduction and wellness perspective the idea of abstaining from alcohol for the month of January can be helpful in bringing more consciousness to your drinking in terms of your thoughts, feelings and behavior around alcohol consumption. In addition, the non-profit Alcohol Change states that 86% of participants in Dry January save money, 70% have better sleep and 66% have more energy.  However, while appealing as a mindfulness exercise, it’s important to note that it isn’t an efficacious idea to pursue long-term recovery for those dealing with alcoholism especially as only 4% of Dry January participants, on average, continue to abstain up to six months after the January has wrapped.

With a new month beginning, and for those who participated in Dry January, the months ahead present an opportunity to reflect on the first few weeks of the year, your habits and how you can move forward in a way that is healthy. For a person struggling with a Substance Use Disorder (“SUD”) that includes alcohol, Dry January may have triggered a negative reaction or an inability for them to successfully complete the month-long journey. 

In those instances, particularly for those dealing with an SUD, Dry January can be a positive cue to further actions to help them find a solution to their struggle.  Here are some good sources to help a loved one seek help for their problems with alcohol:

It’s important to note that there is no quick fix for those that struggle with a SUD that includes alcohol and Dry January can make it seem like that could be a solution.  For those with a SUD the health benefits of Dry January are lost when you return to drinking in February, which can be demoralizing.  Abstaining from alcohol can also initially be socially isolating, which for someone with a SUD could exacerbate their struggle with alcohol when they return to it.  Unanticipated withdrawal symptoms could also have a negative effect for those with a SUD based on the quantities they were consuming prior to Dry January, made worse by coming off the Holidays where alcohol consumption is often higher.

In conclusion, if you do struggle with alcohol or think you might have a SUD, seeking help beyond Dry January with an eye towards a long-term recovery solution is highly recommended.  Especially in today’s world, it takes a village filled with community and connection.

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