What does January mean to us? January can be the time when we decide that it is time for a fresh start...it's a new month and a new year so why not!. This could be looking at making some changes to our lives whether that be learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby, finding that dream job, starting that diet and trying to eat more healthy, try to give up smoking or drinking or start to exercise more. Whatever it is we decide to do, for some people January seems the most sensible and practical time to start.
A change that a lot of us do is to look at giving up alcohol for the whole month of January. This is what is now known as ‘Dry January’. In fact there are over 4 million of us who decide to take on this challenge. Why do we decide to do this? Well there could be many reasons, perhaps we have ‘over indulged’ with drinking over the festive period or perhaps we want to give our bodies and our minds a bit of a break and give ourselves a bit of a ‘detox’. There are many people who find it very easy to stop drinking but for others it can prove to be quite difficult and some may not understand why that is.
There are some great benefits for giving up alcohol. We may lose weight, it could help us with better sleeping, we will definitely save some money and it will allow us a clearer mindset. All of that should give us that push and determination for staying alcohol free for 31 days. It is also likely that if we do in fact refrain from drinking for the whole month, we are highly likely to be drinking less in 6 months time.
However there are some people who may find giving up alcohol for 31 days a real struggle. It doesn’t sound like a long period of time, but actually if we participate in drinking on a regular basis like the odd glass of wine with our evening meal or a few beers when we come in from work or even perhaps a couple of whiskeys or gins just to take the edge off after a difficult day at work, it becomes part of our ‘normal routine’ which can be a really difficult habit to break.
If you find it difficult to give up then you need to look at the reasons behind that. Are you actually craving the alcohol, are you craving the feelings that alcohol gives you or is it the thought that you are limiting yourself which is making you want it more? Perhaps you are more dependent on alcohol than you thought you were?
There are some really good questions we can ask ourselves if we find ourselves struggling. Have you noticed specific behaviours when you drink, is there a certain time when you need or want a drink? Who are you drinking with, are there individuals who are a big influence on your drinking? Do you feel the need to drink at that ‘certain time of the month’? What impact does drinking have on you? Do you find that you are putting yourself in more high risk situations? By looking at this on a bit of a deeper level it can really enable us to look at our relationship with alcohol in a lot more detail.
If some of these questions resonate with you then it may be that you need to look at establishing a new relationship with alcohol, try and look and see alcohol in a different way. This may feel very unsettling but there are many things that you can do and many different areas of support. Alcohol addiction is a medically recognised disease and there are a lot of different professionals who can help and support you. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Speak to your GP, find a therapist who specialises with alcohol issues, look at joining an alcohol support group either face to face or online. Always remember that you are not alone and that there will always be someone who will take the time to listen.
If you are not able to complete the whole month of dry January, you must remember to be kind to yourself. You must not punish yourself for not managing the whole month, instead look at the positives of how many days you have managed to complete and take some time to reflect. Remember, it doesn’t just have to be a Dry January, changes can always be made whatever the day or month.