Joe's story: This will be my fourth Dry January, is it worth it?

Joe | December 2022 | 9 minutes

In 2020, 2021 and 2022 Joe did a month of no alcohol then returned to drinking. January 2023 is different; Joe will be approaching 9.5 months sober and he is feeling better than ever.

Every year since I was about 16 or 17 years old, late December wasn’t mentally great place for me. After four weeks of heavy drinking on my birthday, New Year’s Eve and various Christmas “Dos”, I was well and truly whacked. I entered January in the same way most years: a maxed-out overdraft, a high heart rate, terrible skin and anxiety through the roof. I was actually looking forward to a month off the booze.

I’m excited to crack on with 2023 without the lingering hangxiety, embarrassment and broken body of the previous year. I’m not looking forward to a month off the booze, but the whole year.

I know at this time of year a lot of people are wondering if they would be healthier and happier with some time away from alcohol. I’d encourage anyone who is worried about their drinking or thinks that alcohol is having some negative impact on their life to take a step back. You could have just a few sober nights to start – at least just to prove to yourself that a sober social event is possible. If you do seven, 10 or 14 consecutive days sober in December then you can definitely pick back up with the Try Dry app to do a bit longer in January.

For me, I had countless failed attempts at trying to drink less, moderate or drink mindfully. I’ve now accepted that moderate drinking isn’t consistently possible in a way I can rely on. Given that alcohol often proved to be ‘all or nothing’ for me, I knew I had to go for ‘nothing’. I find it much easier to say ‘No’ to the first pint than I ever did to say ‘No’ to the sixth, seventh or eighth.

In my mind, once you’ve said no to the first alcoholic drink, it’s easier from there. If your first drink is a soft drink or a zero percent beer, it’s likely that no one will notice.

Since going sober I’ve realised that nobody cares about what I’m drinking half as much as I thought they would.

Occasionally, somebody might ask you a question as to why your first drink is alcohol-free. But nobody will then be surprised when your second drink is also alcohol-free too. By the time you’re on the third drink, nobody will care at all. If anyone is taking note (unlikely), they will have clocked that you just aren’t drinking alcohol tonight and that’s fine. The hardest part of my sober journey was saying no to that very first drink, and once you’ve done it once, you can do it again and again.

I vividly remember an ex-footballer on Sky Sports News talking about their own sobriety, saying that they always believed they could go sober for a month if they wanted to, it was just that they never wanted to. There was always some excuse (birthday, Christmas, party, wedding, holiday). What they realised is that there’s never an “empty month” in which you can finally do your sober month. If you’re one of those people who think you could, then I’d say prove it. You never know, you might even enjoy it!

The main thing I got from my three consecutive Dry Januarys was space – time to re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol, and a bit of perspective that actually; alcohol isn’t the deliverer of fun.

Fun continues without alcohol.

At the start of the first Dry January, I thought of it as something to get-through, to endure, like serving a much-needed and overdue corrective punishment regime for my sins of the last year. By the time I had finished the month my mindset had completely flipped; I had fully embraced it (ask my friends, to whom I was overly preachy about my newfound energy and light-bulb moments that alcohol isn’t that good).

Looking back, my first Dry January wasn’t a failure because I returned to drinking in February. It was a success because I’d achieved one-tenth of the year completely tee-total (I did 36 days without a drop), which was longer than I had done since I was probably 16 years old.

It then gave me the desire to do it again the following year and to up my total from 36 to 40 days (my competitive personality showing true). The following year I pushed to 50 days, each time proving more and more to myself that a sober life is not only possible but unbelievably happier.

Ultimately, I decided to give up the drink for good and start properly living my life, rather than bumbling from hangover to big night back to hangover and hoping that nobody notices the booze-induced hamster wheel of that you feel you’re in.

That very first Dry January was the start of my journey, the beginning of my new life - I just didn’t know it at the time!

So, is Dry January worth it? Yes, 100%.

Like most things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in. The main difference, I believe, in a successful and positive Dry January is to be part of a community and actively participate. Read up, make use of the amazing things out there like the Try Dry app.

Take the time to write a diary, collect your thoughts and take stock of what parts of your life alcohol has had a positive or negative effect. Revel in your newfound soberness and get out there and live life sober for a month and stay open minded.

Follow in Joe’s footsteps and take on the challenge of Dry January this year.

Sign up now