Emma's story: "Dry January quite simply saved my life."

December 2019 | 8 minutes

Being in my early 30s, I had more than a decade of heavy drinking behind me. I was easily a 3-4 triple vodka a night girl, plus half a bottle of wine to mix with the vodka to perfect the ultimate numbing sensation.

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Dry January might not be suitable for you if you drink very heavily. If you have any concerns about your current level of drinking, please see your GP and get the OK from them before starting your dry month. If you experience physical symptoms like shaking, sweating or very severe headaches when you stop drinking you should seek medical help straight away.

Being in my early 30s, I had more than a decade of alcohol dependence behind me. I was easily a 3-4 triple vodka a night girl, plus half a bottle of wine to mix with the vodka to perfect the ultimate numbing sensation. That was on a ‘good’ weekday evening. On the weekend, holiday or a ‘bad’ evening, it was more like half a bottle of vodka, plus the wine and anything else other people were drinking (if I was with anyone else).

Dry January quite simply saved my life.

I started Dry January as I had completed two months dry the year before ahead of an operation and felt much better for it (I was worried that they wouldn’t do the operation if my liver results from the pre-operative blood test were too awful). I had tried moderation after that but soon slipped back into my old ways. I spent New Year’s Eve at home on my own falling asleep with my head resting on the kitchen table after alternating between prosecco and vodka. I was sad, bitter, lost and desperately lonely. Enough was enough.

"I had tried moderation after that but soon slipped back into my old ways."

The first week dry was a bit tough. With the amount I was used to drinking, I should have gone to the doctor rather than going cold turkey. I got terrible night sweats and felt very hot and cold for the first few days with painful headaches. This can be really dangerous – I now know I should have gone to hospital after experiencing these symptoms, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone drinking as much as me do the same.

However, I was lucky. After the first week, things started to brighten up.

I downloaded Try Dry: the app for Dry January and beyond, joined the Dry January Facebook group, which then lead me to This Naked Mind podcasts and Facebook groups such as Club Soda and Club Soda Flock. I started to remember the joy of being sober and saw it as more of a fun challenge. I didn’t intend to do it for longer than a month (as longer than that scared the living hell out of me!) but I thought I would see what would happen if I kept going.

I notice amazing things each day that I wouldn’t have registered before. For example how nice a warm shower is, how excited I get when I see my cats, how kind people can be, how good food tastes, the joy of a box set, chatting to friends, reading a good book – I could go on forever!

What has happened?

I have always been active, but now I am able to go to Bikram yoga at 9am on a Saturday and Sunday without worrying that I am going to pass out or throw up from being hung-over.

I am able to run around the river before work, which gives me such a wonderful boost to start the day.

I can drive to events or to meet friends at the pub, and the day after a night out I’m still fine to drive without having to buy breathalysers from Halfords.

I am SO much more confident! I don’t have to worry about slurring my words, appearing drunk, or that people might know I have a drinking problem.

I have lost a stone and a half – not through eating less as I literally LOVE chocolate... just through not drinking.

I have completed a 10k and signed up to a half marathon in October.

I completed my 200 days sober last week. I am taking being sober, and everyday life, day by day.

I take care of myself a lot more. I get my hair and nails done and buy new clothes (using money saved from not drinking).

I signed up for counselling which enabled me to move past an emotional rut and helped me to realise that I am ok just as I am.

Everyone in my life has noticed how much happier I am. I laugh a lot more, am much more positive and for the first time in years, I appreciate being alive.

I notice amazing things each day that I wouldn’t have registered before. For example, when the weather is good or bad, colours of plants (I could just be getting old here but I swear this has only kicked in since January), how nice a warm shower is, how excited I get when I see my cats, how kind people can be, how good food tastes, the joy of a box set, chatting to friends, reading a good book and listening to the High Low podcast – I could go on forever!

Finally, I have been sober dating. This literally would have been my idea of utter hell six months ago, but I have met the loveliest guy who is totally supportive of my sober lifestyle. He has made it easy to go out to gigs and other events without even thinking about alcohol, and I always have the best time.

I would recommend trying Dry January and cutting down alcohol or going alcohol-free to anyone. It has been utterly life changing for me and I have ended up totally sober in love.