Dry January: It’s not about going without…

Laura | January 2022 | 7 minutes

Dry January cannot only help you to address your relationship with alcohol, it can also give you the space to do things you don't normally have time for.

It’s not about going without… It's about making space for other things.

When I took part in Dry January over a decade ago, I approached it with an unhelpful mindset. I believed that giving up alcohol for a month meant that I was depriving myself of something fundamental to the enjoyment of life.

Sure, I knew that taking a break would be good for me. I understood many of the health benefits, such as improved liver function, better sleep, lower blood pressure and better mental health, and I was looking forward to having a little more money in my pocket after Christmas, but I still fundamentally saw it as ‘going without’. Dry January was therefore a month to be endured rather than enjoyed, and I spent most of my downtime alone at home counting down the days until I could join my friends in the pub again.

"Years of social conditioning had wired me to believe that alcohol was key to having fun and managing stress, and it was a huge part of how I socialised and relaxed."

It’s hardly surprising I had such a negative outlook. Years of social conditioning had wired me to believe that alcohol was key to having fun and managing stress, and it was a huge part of how I socialised and relaxed. Comments from people around me only reinforced my negative beliefs. “Why on earth are you doing that, Laura?” “Dry January? No thanks!” “You only live once” “Life’s too short”, which is ironic really when we consider how alcohol harm shortens the lives of people every day. And so, it’s no great surprise that from within that echo chamber of negativity and deprivation, my Dry January in 2009 was a pretty miserable month.

Now let’s fast-forward to today. I stopped drinking altogether over three years ago and now I relax, socialise, and celebrate very happily without alcohol at all. So, what has changed? The answer is my outlook. I choose to see not-drinking as an opportunity to make space in my life for new things rather than giving something up or going without. That felt empowering and exciting to me, but it was also a crucial factor in making my alcohol-free choices stick. Nature hates a vacuum and if you don’t fill the space alcohol leaves with something else – something more fulfilling – your old habits are more likely to find a foothold again.

"I choose to see not drinking as an opportunity to make space in my life for new things rather than giving something up or going without."

In my case, I picked up a pair of knitting needles and watched a couple of YouTube tutorials. I’d had a go a few years earlier without much success (funnily enough you don’t drop quite so many stitches when you’re drinking jasmine tea instead of wine). Knitting was helpful because it kept my hands and mind occupied in those early days, but it soon became a source of joy and satisfaction in its own right. Watching my kids wear the things I created made me very happy and my success gave me the confidence to branch out into other crafts. Soon I was tapping into a well of creativity that I hadn’t known existed and which I’m still exploring today.

Dry January can be this for you. If you approach it as a chance to make space for something new rather than going without, who knows what you might discover about yourself. Maybe you’re a portrait painter, a marathon runner, a writer or a photographer. Perhaps you’ll go for a walk one Saturday morning with a clear head and notice an advert for local volunteers that piques your curiosity. Dry January can be a life-affirming and positive experience, or you can see it as a month of deprivation. It all depends on your mindset. I wish I’d realised that back in 2009 because I know which Dry January brings more joy, and perhaps I wouldn’t have been quite so keen to get back to the pub.

Some more of Laura's creations...

Laura blog Dinosaur
Laura blog Scarf
Laura sporting her very own creation - a hand-knitted scarf.

Give yourself the best start to 2022 by taking part in Dry January and enjoy all the amazing benefits that brings! Download the free Try Dry app today!

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