Celebrating without alcohol: marking a special achievement

January 2024 | 9 minutes

One of the biggest challenges for people doing a dry month is learning to celebrate without alcohol. In fact, if you’ve got a birthday in January or have something special planned, you might have found yourself questioning whether doing Dry January® this is the right time to take a break at all!

It’s interesting to understand the common associations we have when it comes to alcohol and marking a celebration. And even more interesting to unpick how these have developed over time. The answers lie in in a mix of our society and culture, advertising nudges, and experiences over the years with our family and friends.

However hard it might seem, it is possible to celebrate in other ways without alcohol being front and centre. Doing a dry month is the perfect time to see what celebration can be like without the booze, and if you can do it alcohol-free once, you have the evidence to prove that you can do it many times again.

Here, we’ve rounded up the top four ways that people celebrate without alcohol.

So if your default was to crack open the bottle at the slightest sign of happiness, take a look at our suggestions below in readiness for your next big achievement. (We just know there’s one coming up soon for you!).

1. Buy yourself a gift

Big or small, if there’s something you’ve really wanted for a while and it’s within your means, why not use your achievement as the perfect justification for a little reward? If you’ve taken on a dry month, why not put some of the money you have saved by not drinking aside to help fund the gift? Maybe it’s a subscription to a streaming site you’ve had your eye on? Maybe it’s a new pair of shoes? Maybe it’s a trip down the café for a posh hot chocolate? After trying this out for a few different achievements, you’ll start to shift away from that default setting.

2. Reward yourself by meeting your (real) needs

Take a little time to think about what you really want in your moment of celebration and you’ll probably find it’s not actually a drink. If you’ve just passed an exam or some training at work that you’ve been swotting up for, what you’d probably like more than anything right now is a rest to help recharge your batteries. Could you take some time out for yourself and do something you find relaxing? That could be something obvious like booking a massage, maybe going for a swim in your local pool and taking some me time. If something surprising has happened like an engagement, pregnancy or new job, maybe you just want to share your happiness with those close to you. Find a way to express that – maybe that’s a group chat message, a social media post, a journal entry or gratitude list, or a ‘happy tears’ phone call.

3. Mark a special day in a different way

Ok so what happens if it’s a big one, like a really big one? Think the birth of child, a wedding, or a graduation. Well it’s time to get creative! Could you use the ‘buzz’ of the moment to make something special, like a memory book? Could you write a letter to yourself or record your reaction on video as a keepsake? Perhaps you get together with your closest peeps and make an alcohol-free day/night of it in a way that feels important to you.

If you still feel a toast is in order, why not substitute with an alcohol-free bubbly instead? Or for a drink which might feel more fancy and less ‘ordinary’ go for a special new mocktail recipe instead. Whatever you choose, know that your plans absolutely don't have to include alcohol and you and your loved ones can have just as special a time alcohol free.

For more info on approaching alcohol-free celebrations like weddings and hen and stag dos, check out our blog here.

4. Get social!

Most people would agree that the best thing about celebrating is connecting with the people you’re doing it with, rather than the alcohol involved. If you’re buzzing about a particular achievement, don’t be shy - why not shout it from the rooftops and post on your social media, if appropriate? Put it out there to the universe and connect with others in your network. You might just find the lovely thrill of sharing something special with others far outweighs the short-term rush of raising a glass.

5 ways to mark completing completing a dry month, such as Dry January®

And let’s not forget the celebration that many of you will hopefully be planning soon – the successful completion of Dry January®! This one definitely deserves to be marked.

  1. Tick off your final ‘teacup’ on Try Dry® – ok we admit this is only a small one, and should probably count as part of wider celebrations, but you already know just how satisfying it is watching that confetti flutter.
  2. Download your official Dry January® 2024 Finishers certificate - available on our shop here as a digital download or as a print out.
  3. Claim your alcohol-free “missions” in Try Dry®. Many of these special occasion badges include celebrations like birthdays, weddings, watching a gig, attending a sporting match. It will give you great satisfaction, and a confidence boost, to know that you have done those booze free.
  4. Meet up with a friend on 1 Feb – reflect on your experience and share the benefits you have experienced. (Plus it works if you had this in the diary to keep you accountable!).
  5. Go to the pub, if you feel up to it - yes, really! Now you’ve sharpened alcohol-free socialising skills, you’re probably a dab hand at having a great time in the pub with or without alcohol. You might also have had a chance to find your favourite alcohol-free tipples throughout the month so you’ll know exactly what to order. And after all, what could be more of a symbol of your Dry January® achievement than having changed your relationship with alcohol to the extent that you feel in control and comfortable hanging out in the pub and waking up with a clear head the next day?