Author Annie Grace has been sober for five years. Here, she shares her best tips for sticking to Dry January in 2019, and offers her advice for those who want to change their relationship with alcohol for good.
If ever there was anyone who needed a Dry January, it was me.
I was ridiculously successful in my career, but I was even more successful at my drinking career. That is, until the day I dropped my bag while visiting the London Eye and sprayed beer all over my family. At that moment, I realised my habit of drinking one glass of wine a night had turned into a habit of drinking a bottle or two a night. I needed a break.
That was five years ago now, and I haven’t had a single drink since. I haven’t missed it.
If you’ve been participating in Dry January and want to keep the resolution going all year long, or if you’re simply looking for ways to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink on a weekly basis, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on for some simple tips on how to change your relationship with alcohol – for good.
One occasion at a time
Make your decision not to drink – or to drink – one occasion at a time. You might decide you still want to drink every now and again, so there’s no need to make hard and fast rules right now. Focus on the present.
Remember your ‘whys’
Remember why you decided to take a break from alcohol and what that reprieve taught you. Would drinking again benefit you in any tangible way?
Reap in the cost savings
Alcohol is expensive! Honestly - I have no idea how I was able to afford drinking the way I did. Now that I no longer drink I can spend my money on the stuff that actually makes me happy.
Focus on the health benefits
Your body feels better when you don’t drink. Your liver, your heart and your digestion all function better when they aren’t half pickled. I didn’t register that I was feeling poorly all the time until I stopped drinking. Feeling tempted? Do a quick mental check-in with yourself to see if you’re OK with the hangover you’ll feel the next day.
Take advantage of the pep in your step
Alcohol causes your blood cells to expand, making them less efficient at transporting oxygen around your body. This lack of oxygen is what contributes to the fatigue you feel after drinking. Blood cells take three months to regenerate, so by the end of Dry January you won’t even have felt all the benefits of not drinking. Remember there’s more to come!
Not drinking means you’re likely to be more productive and have more time on your hands. That can be a double-edged sword, as you might have filled boredom with alcohol before. But more time means you can do more things – you could try volunteering, Marie Kondo your flat or take up running. In my case, I started practicing Taekwondo.
Get your eight hours in
One of the great things about not drinking is that it helps you sleep better. Alcohol disrupts your sleep and causes you to miss out on REM cycles. To keep Dry January going all year, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep.
Love the ones you’re with
Focus on your relationships – personal, business and romantic. Non-drinkers make great friends because we’re present, both physically and mentally. Now is the time to improve those relationships and strengthen them.
Focus on what you’re gaining, not losing
Not once since I stopped drinking have I felt like I was missing out on anything. Make a conscious choice to keep your mindset on what you’re gaining. The gift of time, better health, better relationships, more money, etc. If you’re a visual person, keep a list and add to it as you go along.
There’s no failing
You can’t fail at this. Whether you choose to drink moderately and overindulge, or decide to abstain and end up drinking, you haven’t failed. You’ve learned. You have gained a better understanding of what your triggers are and what you need to work on. That is progress and there is no failure in that.
The end of Dry January doesn’t have to be a beacon to pick the wine glass back up. Spend some time evaluating whether alcohol still has a place in your life, or whether you’d rather keep the benefits you’ve just begun feeling going for another month, another year or indefinitely. Your relationship with alcohol begins and ends with you.
The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, published by HQ, HarperCollins, is out now in trade paperback, ebook and audiobook.
Images: Getty, Unsplash