Dry January has become hot and trendy recently, and although the practice has been followed by some for years, it was formally introduced in 2013 by Alcohol Concern, a UK charity focused on alcohol. It is estimated that over 17,000 people in Great Britain stopped drinking that month. Huffington Post recently reported that:
Dry January has become increasingly popular, with more and more people accepting the challenge to go booze-free for the entire month. It’s turned into something of a movement, with millions of participants worldwide every year. (There’s even an app to help people stay on track.)
If you google ‘Dry January’ a lot of articles come up. There are positive, negative, research-based, and opinion-based articles, and quite a bit of misinformation. All of these things make the topic quite confusing.
We have waited until now to post something about Dry January because we have yet to find an article that encompassed all of our thoughts, so we decided to just write one instead.
A common theme was a social life sans booze. Many articles suggested replacing alcohol and/or bars with volunteering, eating better, exercising more, learning a new hobby, or staying home and binging Netflix. All of these are great, don’t get us wrong, they just don’t really correlate with alcohol consumption. They can also stand alone and take place in any month, regardless of your relationship with alcohol. And to be frank, fun is not a word normally associated with them.
This got us thinking.
Why are people scared by the idea of going out and not drinking? Is it because alcohol has become so synonymous with fun, that people can’t envision socializing and laughing without it? A common reaction when someone suggests meeting for a drink and is met with, “I’m not drinking,” is shock paired with, “What do you do for fun?” or, “Oh, umm, well, what should we do?”
The Wellness Council’s goal is to elevate the alcohol-free scene and offer realistic, fun alternatives that make the idea of Dry January a possibility, and even one that could extend into the months following.
Your friends invite you to a bar for a drink? No problem, not drinking doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit or avoid places that serve alcohol like the plague. Our goal is to inform people that they have options, and who doesn’t love options?
Non-alcoholic drink options are wider than ever and those options are continuing to grow. Seedlip, Wellbeing Brewing, Curious Elixirs, and H2OPS are just a few examples. There are two bars paving the way for a nightlife without booze. Pop’s Blue Moon in St. Louis, a dive bar with a laid back vibe, has gone completely alcohol-free every Saturday night, and Sans Bar in Austin serves up and connection and fun sans alcohol. Sans Bar is currently on a nationwide tour to bring the concept all over the country, and other pop-ups based on this idea are growing increasingly prevalent in many cities.
As a society, drinking doesn’t need to equate with fun—a pattern that for years has been the case. Our challenge to you is to see how January goes, and perhaps keep it rolling it into February and see what that’s like.
Side effects of not drinking include but not limited to: better sleep, more energy, weight loss, overall feeling of being healthier, improved mental health, decreased anxiety, hangover-free mornings, more money, clearer complexion, not saying things that may be regretted, in fact, not making decisions that may be regretted, waking up in one’s own bed, and most importantly, seeing situations and people as they really are.
Not doing Dry January? It’s never too late to start and it’s okay to start over at any point. If the thought alone sounds terrifying we will leave you with this question: how will you ever know what life is like without alcohol if you never try?
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or other drugs please check out our resources below. Some people should not attempt to quit cold turkey and need medical intervention to safely do so.
By Annie O'Donoghue