As the holidays approach, it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. For many people, the first day of January is a natural starting point for a new project. Some people want to start exercising; others see it as an opportunity to begin a new language or learn a new skill.
For many people, the first of January is an opportunity to examine their drinking habits and decide to either reduce alcohol consumption or to eliminate it — a “dry January.”
Before you begin, however, it’s important to know about the physical effects of going cold turkey. If you’re a moderate to heavy drinker, there may be side effects that come with completely stopping alcohol consumption. These include sweating, headaches, lack of appetite, fever and even hallucinations in some cases.
If you’re a heavy drinker, then, make sure you speak to a health care professional before you stop drinking suddenly.
With that in mind, here are a few practical tips to help you navigate your way through a dry January.
Tips for having a successful sober month
- Put it in writing. If you desire to reduce or stop drinking, make a list of all the reasons this is a good idea — improving your relationships, getting back into shape, spending less time being hungover or ill, etc.
- Think about your habits that lead to drinking. If it’s your habit to grab a quick drink at your favorite bar on the way home, consider going a different route. You might also want to think about planning an activity for immediately after work such as working out.
- Find a new activity to replace alcohol. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a craft like pottery or speak a language like Italian or German. It could be you’ve always wanted to go to the gym regularly. This is a good time to begin a new activity.
- Use technology to your advantage. This is the second decade of the 21st century, so take advantage of the available technology. There are many phone apps available to help you manage your drinking. These let you set goals and milestones. The app will track your drinking if you’re trying to reduce it slowly. Some apps will tell you how much money you’re saving by not drinking alcohol.
- Know your triggers. If there are locations or situations that encourage you to have a drink, avoid them if possible. If it’s not possible, such as family gatherings over the holidays, plan how you’re going to deal with each situation, maybe even for each person who wants you to have a drink with them.
- Be aware of peer pressure. Do a little role-playing. Practice saying no politely at home. It may be hard at first, as some friends will pressure you to have a drink with them. It may be best to avoid these friends for a few weeks and spend time with people who won’t urge you to drink until you feel more comfortable being able to say no.
- Avoid being alone. Think about how you’re going to spend this month. Look for opportunities to be with friends and family, especially in nonalcoholic situations. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are some of the biggest triggers for drinking.
- Get rid of all alcohol in your house. It’s easy not to drink if you don’t have any alcohol at home. Pour out half-full bottles and if you have full bottles, give them to friends.
- Reward yourself. If your goal is to quit drinking for January or longer, when you reach that goal, reward yourself. Buy a new dress or new jacket. Take your spouse or significant other out for a nice meal. It’s important to celebrate victories, even small ones.
We’re going into the holidays, a time of office and neighborhood parties. Here are a few specific tips to deal with those situations.
If you’re going out…
- Tell everyone you’ll be the designated driver. It’s easier not to drink if you know other people are counting on you to be sober.
- Arrange for an early morning meeting or a visit to a dentist or doctor. This gives you a convenient excuse to stay sober if friends or family are pressuring you to have another drink.
- If you’re going to have a drink, plan how you’re going to do it. Perhaps you’ll have one social drink to start the evening (make sure you sip it slowly) and then switch to water, club soda or soft drinks. Combine this with an early morning meeting and it’s easier to tell friends you’re just having one drink because you have something to do in the morning.
- Have a good meal before you go out. If you’re going to have a drink, having a full stomach reduces the effects of alcohol. And feeling full may reduce or eliminate the want for alcohol altogether.
If you’re staying in…
- Arrange for an alternative treat. Buy your favorite pie, cake or candy treat. This will help satiate that “I need a treat” feeling and is also something you can offer your guests instead of alcohol.
- Plan your evening. Think about the movie or TV show you’re going to watch, or what board game or card game you’re going to play. These also great reasons to invite friends over rather than “Come over for a drink.”
- Let your friends and family know you’re not drinking. Social support is important. Even if your friends want to have a drink, it’s easier for them not to pressure you if they want to help you maintain your goal.
- Finally, don’t give up. Reducing or quitting drinking can be hard. Lots of people stumble in the beginning. The most important thing is to keep at it and ask for help when needed.
When you know you need to speak to someone about your drinking, we can help. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Our compassionate team of counselors is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you on the road to recovery. Contact us today by calling (833) 596-3502.