6 tips to help you stay alcohol-free this January
Tips & tricks / by Ufuoma Onemu
Giving Dry January a go? Ufuoma Onemu gives her top tips to keep you on the straight and narrow path to an alcohol-free month.
Do you think you have a drinking problem? Even if you don’t, research has shown that there are likely to be many people who still experience a negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing due to drinking.
And that’s what Dry January is about. It’s not just for people who are alcohol dependent or have reached their lowest point due to alcohol – anybody can do it. Many people, for example, are quitting alcohol in a bid to be healthier, be more mindful of their mental health, and be free from the ill-effects of alcohol.
If you have decided to participate in Dry January and stay alcohol-free for the month, you are not alone in this resolution. Many people try this challenge at the start of every year and some even decide to stay alcohol-free forever. To help you through, here are some useful hacks to keep you alcohol-free for the full 31 days.
1) Tell people about it
You don’t have to tell the world, but it’s a good idea to tell your friends, loved ones, and those who often invite you for a drink that no alcohol is passing your lips this month. Doing so helps to reduce the peer pressure to drink in social gatherings as, hopefully, there won’t be any.
Instead, once people around you know what your goal is, they’re more likely to be conscious of where they’re inviting you and what kind of drinks they are serving. You also get the added bonus of cheerleaders to encourage you through the month!
2) Plan ahead
It can be easy to excuse falling off the wagon with statements like, “I didn’t know there was going to be alcohol” or “all my friends were drinking, what was I supposed to do?”
If this is something you know you’re likely to do, then you need to be proactive and create action plans for any social events you might be attending during the month. For example, if you’re going to an event where you know there will be alcohol, check to see if there will be any alcohol-free alternatives. If there aren’t, see if you can take some with you. If you’re really unsure of your willpower, perhaps it’s best you don’t go at all.
3) Try a challenge
There’s nothing better to keep you on track than the excitement of a challenge. There are many challenges to choose from to get started with Dry January. You can choose the traditional 30-day alcohol-free challenge, or you might choose to do a physical challenge instead. Alcohol Change UK has a bunch of resources you can use to create your own challenge.
Whatever it is, try something that pushes you, such as a 5k or 10k race, learning a new language, exercising more, or taking a confidence-building class. Giving yourself a tangible goal can really help keep you focused, while giving you those little bursts of joy when you know you’ve made progress.
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4) Download a sobriety app
From therapists to podcasts, the joy of modern times is that help can come in a variety of ways. Smartphone apps have been shown to be particularly effective in helping people kick their addictions by including a bunch of features to support people on their journey, from journaling functions to milestone markers to support locators.
5) Keep alcohol out of reach
As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. And although it might seem obvious, applying this to alcohol can really help you through the month.
The easiest way to do so is to make sure there isn’t any alcohol in your home – but of course, this isn’t always possible. If having some form of alcohol in your home can’t be avoided, make it difficult for you to access it. For example, keep alcoholic drinks in the garage or the attic or your basement (if you have one). Alternatively, if you love to drink your alcoholic beverages cold, keep them out of the refrigerator so even if you are tempted to drink, the thought of a room temperature drink is more likely to turn you off the idea.
If you really don’t think you can go without what is traditionally an alcoholic drink like beer or wine, then you can always stock up on non-alcoholic alternatives.
6) Focus on cultivating a new habit
Yes, I know, this is a lot easier said than done. But science says that if you can’t break a habit that you’ve cultivated for years, one of the best alternative actions is to replace it with another.
One of the first steps to take in doing so is to identify anything that triggers you to drink – what emotions, actions, locations, time, or people prompt the habit? Understanding your triggers will give you a good idea of why you drink, which can then help you cultivate habits that bring similar effects. Do you drink alcohol when you’re thirsty? Swap it out for a different drink. Do you drink to make you feel relaxed? Swap it for meditation or relaxing music.
Go forth and be (alcohol) free!
Quitting alcohol, for a short period of time or forever, is no easy feat. But it absolutely can be done.
A key part of successfully ditching the booze is understanding that the satisfaction it brings isn’t inherent to alcohol itself: it’s an association that we’ve learned over time. For some, it’s a stress reliever after a bad day, and for others, it’s a reward for doing a good job.
Whether you have a dependence on alcohol, or you simply want to cut down on the amount you consume, Dry January often acts as the catalyst that improves the relationship people have with alcohol – and will likely do so for you too. Whatever your goal is this January, hopefully these 6 tips can help you achieve it.