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Type “Dry January” into Google and you’ll get several hundred million results—not bad for a movement that turns 10 in 2023. The initiative started as a public health campaign in Britain to get people to drink less and rethink their relationship with alcohol. But taking a month off from drinking has resonated with people around the world. Last year, 35 percent of Americans said “hold my drink” and attempted the teetotaling feat—and January 2023 is expected to be even drier.
“Dry January gives people solidarity,” says Liz Willette Danneels, who hosted the Boulder-based podcast The Fine Line about balancing the love of food and drink with health and wellness alongside fellow wine industry veteran Emily Gold (the last episode was released in early 2022). “It’s like why group fitness classes are so effective—you feel like you’re in it with other people, and there’s an energy behind it. Plus, post holidays and with new year’s resolutions, it’s a great way to head into a new year with a clear head.”
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Gold agrees on the timing. “It’s about all the excesses that happen in the holiday month. After squeezing in all those dinners and holiday drinks, it’s a convenient time to pull back,” she says.
Of course after the couple years we’ve all collectively experienced, it’s likely that December isn’t the only month we’re overindulging. Here’s a sobering thought: 75 percent of us reported turning to alcohol more since COVID entered our lexicon. The momentum of Dry January may be just what we need to reset ourselves.
“We have definitely seen an increase in requests for nonalcoholic options at the shop,” says Sarah Hauser, owner of RiNo’s Proof Wine & Spirits. “Honestly, it was non-existent a couple of years ago. When we bought the shop in 2017, I don’t remember anyone asking for non-alcoholic options.” Hauser says that she gets the most requests for nonalcoholic beers, like the popular Athletic Brewing or the local Grüvi.
Benefits of reducing or eliminating our alcohol consumption can include improved mental health, better sleep, a stronger immune system, and increased awareness of how alcohol affects both our bodies and minds. And without the extra calories and expense, not drinking can also buoy common resolutions like weight loss and saving money.
To maximize your chances of sticking to your dry spell, try using a tracking app like I Am Sober; share your challenge with friends and family for additional support and accountability; schedule social events around your resolution or swap in hikes and game nights for happy hours and bar hopping; and build in healthy rewards for yourself like a massage or special fitness class at the end of each week.
For heavy drinkers, quitting cold turkey can be potentially dangerous, and you should be on the lookout for withdrawal symptoms, like nausea, sweating, and high anxiety. If you’re concerned, medically supervised detox centers can be a great help getting you through the first few days safely. (And anyone can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for treatment referral or information.)