If you’re here and reading this, chances are you are likely newly sober or sober curious and considering what a month (or beyond) without alcohol could look like and do for you.
Maybe you’ve never done Dry January before and outside of not putting alcohol in your body, you’re not quite sure how to devise a strategy. First off, congrats and second, I’m glad you’re here.
Dry January (or any month) is an excellent way to dip your toes into what an alcohol-free life can look like, plus you can start to experience some of the many benefits that accompany removing alcohol from your life.
I wrote this to give you some solid guidance, suggestions, and strategy when it comes to Dry January so that you can set yourself up for wild success. Below are some tips that, when applied accurately and with consistency, can fundamentally change your experience with alcohol and support you in a successful, alcohol-free month, not to mention an amazing start to 2023.
While I can’t predict the certainty of your success (but you most certainly can), what I can say with certainty is that from my six-plus years in sobriety, three-plus years working professionally in the recovery space as a sober coach, thousands of hours of professional training, continuing education, and coaching, I know what works.
Tip 1: Make a Decision
I know this sounds incredibly obvious, however, making a rock-solid, deeply committed decision is the first step in changing a habit, behavior, pattern, or way of being.
If you’re considering whether or not to participate in Dry January, a “Sure, I’ll give it a try” is a very different approach than “I am committed to doing this no matter what it takes,” and when it comes to creating sustainable change, the latter is where you need to be. If you are wishy-washy or lukewarm about your level of commitment, chances are you’ll be more open to bailing on it when things get challenging.
Sometimes, refusing to make a committed decision is also a self-preservation technique because if we only half-commit to something and it doesn’t go according to plan (and we internalize this as our “failure”), we can then say we weren’t really trying that hard anyway as a way to let ourselves off the hook.
What if instead of looking toward your potential failure, you instead explored what it could look like when you decide to show up for yourself, your wellness, and your life?
What could be possible if you chose to show up wholeheartedly for yourself by opting out of drinking for the month of January? Instead of worrying about what happens if things don’t go according to plan, consider what could happen if they do.
Tip 2: Critically Examine your Relationship with Alcohol
The invitation here is to look—and I mean really look—at the role alcohol plays in your life. This will require you to get radically and brutally honest with yourself. And you may not entirely love what you unearth here and that’s okay.
As always, I would encourage you to approach this entire process with curiosity and compassion for yourself, considering this journey an information-gathering excursion. With the information you learn about yourself, you will then be equipped to proceed differently, should you choose.
Here are some journal prompts that will help you dive a bit deeper into your relationship with alcohol:
>> What benefits does alcohol provide you with?
>> What problem(s) does alcohol solve for you?
>> What are you hoping alcohol will provide you with?
>> Does alcohol actually deliver on that experience?
>> What drawbacks or consequences does alcohol result in?
>> Are the benefits you experience from alcohol worth the consequences?
>> If you choose not to change your relationship with alcohol, how do you expect you’ll feel?
>> What are your biggest concerns when it comes to drinking less or no alcohol?
>> What are the biggest benefits you anticipate by drinking less or no alcohol?
>> Why do you drink? Be super specific about the reasons.
>> How much are you currently drinking and how often?
>> Why are you interested in quitting or pausing your drinking?
>> What do you feel willing to do to uphold this commitment to yourself?
Take your time with these questions and do your best not to judge whatever comes up in response to them. Again, consider this an information-gathering activity that will uncover new pieces of the puzzle that will enable you to make different choices moving forward. Once you’ve made a rock-solid decision and spent some time reflecting on your relationship to drinking, the next step is to identify some goals for yourself.
Tip 3: Define your Goals
If you’re doing Dry January, the most obvious goal would be zero alcohol for the entire month of January. It can also be helpful to set additional, smaller goals that will be supportive of your main goal. For example, this could look like drinking more water each day or re-directing the funds you would normally spend on alcohol into a savings or travel fund.
Goals are helpful because they give you a target to move toward as well as provide you with something to measure progress against. An important part of the goal process is to also incorporate rewards into the mix. For example, after your first alcohol-free week, acknowledge and celebrate yourself or plan something fun as a reward. This could be a delicious meal out, a massage, a new book, game, or puzzle—something that feels exciting, celebratory, and motivating. The reward part is a crucial element in creating new habits and motivating yourself toward your goals.
Tip 4: Connect with Community
Fortunately, there are a variety of thriving, alcohol-free communities that exist in multiple forms from online communities to those who meet IRL. Finding a community of others who can relate to your experience, know what you’re going through, and provide support is vital.
As with anything, we can do things alone but we don’t have to. In this case, I would strongly suggest not doing it alone. Connecting with a community can provide support and accountability, both of which are incredibly helpful. Check out the following alcohol-free communities on Instagram:
If you’re looking for more when it comes to a community, check out my group coaching program, which starts January 2nd. There’ll be support, tools, consistency, and accountability, all led by me.
In addition to sober communities, let your friends and family know what you’re doing. This doesn’t mean you have to tell all of them, but pick a few that feel safe and comfortable and let them know that you’d love their support. What I find is that most folks who care about us are more than happy to support our endeavors and cheer us on, and this is only possible if they know what you’re up to.
Tip 5: Educate yourself on Alcohol and How it Impacts the Body
This was one of the most helpful things I did for myself when I first got sober. I knew shockingly little about alcohol even though I was regularly consuming copious amounts of it (which I can be gentle with myself about because “Big Alcohol” intentionally tries to mislead us when it comes to what’s true about the risks and dangers of alcohol consumption).
I found that once I was armed with a bit more knowledge, it really shifted my perspective on alcohol because I now knew what was happening in my body when I consumed it. If you’re interested in poking around with this a bit, here are some excellent resources to explore:
We now know that alcohol impacts pretty much every area of our body and all major systems so learning more about how alcohol impacts things like sleep, mental health, and heart health can be tremendously helpful.
Tip 6: Work with a Professional
Again, you can absolutely do this work alone but it’s important to know that you don’t have to. In many cases, working with a professional such as a dual-certified coach, like myself, or a therapist can be exceedingly helpful because they can offer unconditional support, care, accountability, and, ideally, tools that support you in moving forward.
Working with a coach allows you to fast-track your progress and experience because you’re no longer wading through the challenges and struggles alone, trying to guess what might be helpful and effective for you or spending a lot of time in trial and error. There’s no shame in asking for help and it’s often the best thing you can do. You don’t have to slog through it alone.
I have personally worked with a variety of coaches and therapists over the years and I can say with 100 percent certainty that it was worth the investment in myself, and I got so much further with their support than I would have gotten on my own.
Tip 7: Create a Plan for Socializing
I’ve written and spoken on this extensively so I will simply reiterate the importance of having a plan and being intentional about it. You can also check out this post and an article I wrote on Elephant.
Tip 8: Celebrate What Went Well
Reflecting on the previous week and identifying what went well is how I start every session with my coaching clients. Why? Because we can be having an excellent week filled with wins and then one thing will get derailed and all we can think about is the one thing that didn’t go as planned, while simultaneously forgetting everything that did.
Spending intentional time reflecting on what worked and both acknowledging and celebrating yourself is a power move that will demonstrate that more went “right” than you probably realize. Plus, you’ll be collecting evidence of all your hard work, proving to yourself that you have the capacity to move through challenging things, all of which are tremendously helpful.
My hope is that you found some helpful suggestions here that feel actionable and impactful. You don’t have to keep doing things the way you have been—you can change your relationship to drinking and alcohol, if you wish.
Change is possible and it starts when you decide.
Cheering you on as always!