Dry January: My Experience Author: GUEST POST     
Date: 28th January 2021



Dry January is the UK’s one-month alcohol-free challenge. It is organised by the charity Alcohol Change, who states that going alcohol-free for a month has multiple benefits, including lower blood pressure and a reduced diabetes risk. It is also a way of developing healthier drinking habits that last all year round.

Why am I taking part? 

When my doctor asks me “how often do you drink?”, I always say “once a month or less” – though if I had been asked this question during the last few months of 2020, my answer would have been different. Every week, I bought a bottle of white wine to use in recipes (for example, stuffed tomatoes in wine sauce, or tartiflette) and drank whatever was left over the next few days. There was wine in my food and wine in my glass, which meant I was drinking a lot more than usual.

Around the same time, I began a new role at Transform Housing & Support, a charity that provides housing, care and support for vulnerable people across Surrey and surrounding areas. Some of the clients we work with have alcohol issues, which are varied and don’t necessarily involve addiction. Our work is incredibly meaningful and learning about these clients made me question my own drinking habits. 

I decided to try Dry January to see if it would make a difference to my health. Here are my thoughts, three weeks into the challenge.

 

Week one 

Two days in and I am already feeling challenged. It’s time for me to go shopping, so I open my cupboard to see what needs re-stocking. I see rice, tomato purée, couscous… And the (expensive) bottle of white wine I have been saving since December. It’s for a special occasion. 

“Not today,” I tell myself. I hurry out of my house with my shopping bags and start walking to the farm shop, but the thought of this wine and what it might taste like stays on my mind. I wonder if consciously keeping away from alcohol is making me think about it more. 

Still, I resist. 

 

Week two  

Another week, another food shop. This time, I want to try a recipe I found online. It’s potato-based and looks vegetarian, so I don’t question it until I start scrolling down the page and see the last ingredient, which is white wine. I tell myself that ‘alcohol for food’ doesn’t count, but I know I am making excuses. 

I buy red lentils and make soup instead. 

On a more positive note, week two is when I start seeing real results. My previous bloating has gone down and I feel more energetic, which means I am performing better during my workouts. My mind also feels more awake.

I also notice that my parents have been drinking a glass of red wine every day this week. I ask them if they want to take part in Dry January, but they ignore me. I suppose the real question is: how strong is my resolve? 

 

Week three  

My parents no longer drink wine around the dinner table. They are on a diet. Ha! 

I could write entire paragraphs about the benefits Dry January has had on my body and lifestyle. For clarity’s sake, I have listed them below: 

  • My shopping has been at least £5 cheaper every week, which means I will be saving £20 this month. That’s a two-month subscription on Netflix. 
  • I don’t think about alcohol at all anymore. Before this challenge, I sometimes had thoughts like “wine would go well with this meal”, or “I feel stressed, maybe I should have a drink to cool down.” The thing is, I didn’t realise this was happening until I went alcohol-free.  
  • No more bloating!  
  • My workout routine is producing better results. My muscles look more defined.
  • This is a big one. I no longer wake up at night with a dry mouth, which used to happen every time I had alcohol. I feel more hydrated and my skin looks brighter.
  • I am having more vivid dreams than usual, which means I am spending more time in the REM stage of sleep (and therefore, I am sleeping better!)
  • My diet has become healthier because I no longer eat the foods I associate with alcohol. I have also experienced some minor weight loss.

 

Will you take part in Dry January?
I recommend taking part in this challenge if you want to ‘reset’ your relationship with alcohol. It has been an enlightening experience for me – and who knows, I might even sign up for Sober Spring. 

 

Some helpful resources: 

  • The Dry January Community Group. This private Facebook group, created by Alcohol Change UK, is perfect if you need some extra motivation to stay alcohol-free throughout the month. I became a member a couple of weeks in and found a strong sense of community full of supportive people. You can exchange tips, ask for advice, or share your progress – it’s a great way to remember you are not alone in this, particularly if you are finding Dry January more challenging than expected. 
  • You can also find tips on the Dry January blog, along with participant stories and more information on what happens in your body when you go alcohol-free. 
  • The Try Dry app is another free resource from Alcohol Change UK. Though I haven’t actively used it myself, I did download it for the purpose of this article. The app allows you to set a challenge and it helps you track how many units you drink, down to the calories you consume and the amount of money you spend. It’s useful if you need a visual reminder of your goal and progress.
  • Your GP! They can help you take part in a way that is safe and sustainable for you, especially if you are a heavy drinker.

 

 

By Melissa Saryazdi, a Social Media Officer Graduate Trainee at Transform Housing & Support

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