We’re approaching the end of Dry January – how was it for you?
Whether you’ve found it hard or easy, I know that by this point in the month many people start to wonder:
- “Does taking the whole of January off prove I don’t have a problem?”
- “Will this break from drinking make me great at moderating now?”
- “I miss the taste so much. I can’t wait to pour my first glass of wine.”
- “Phew, it’s nearly over. I can get my life back!”
Today’s blog isn’t about nagging you to stay sober or making you feel bad if you’re ready to go back to booze. But it is about helping you make wise choices, because sometimes our minds play tricks on us.
Before I quit drinking for good, I did a couple of Dry Januarys and Sober Octobers (with mixed results) and there’s so much I wish I’d known back then.
If you recognise yourself in any of the statements above, this blog will help answer your questions, so you can move forward with intention.
“Does taking the whole of January off prove that I don’t have a problem?”
This train of thought stems from the idea that there are two types of drinkers – ‘normal’ drinkers and alcoholics. Quitting for a month proves that you’re not a raging alcoholic, so that means everything is totally hunky dory… right?
Here’s the thing – at the height of my drinking career, I also quit for a month. Lots of people do. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I did it. I needed to prove to myself that everything was FINE at a time when things really weren’t fine.
Rather than worrying about whether you do or don’t ‘have a problem’, focus on how you feel instead. Write down what you loved about this month, what you disliked and why you want to drink again. Get it all down in black and white so you have a record.
If you decide to drink again, make sure you journal about it. Record how you feel in the moment, the morning after and in the days between drinking sessions. This is important data about how alcohol affects your quality of life – and that’s what really matters.
“Will this break from drinking make me great at moderating now?”
Here’s what you need to know: if you go back to drinking after a month off, your tolerance to the drug is going to be much lower, so you won’t need as much in order to feel the effects. This will make it seem as if you’re ‘controlling’ your intake better, but you aren’t really.
Once you’ve put this powerful drug back into your system, your body (and that booze loving part of your brain) will say something along the lines of “let’s do this again, soon…” and so before long, you will drink again.
Next time, you’ll need to drink a bit more in order to feel the same effects, so it will be harder to stop at one. The time after that you’ll need even more… and all of a sudden, you’ll be back to where you were before.
The slide back into your old drinking patterns may happen slowly, or it may happen fast (it’s different for different people) but it will happen. (I wrote more about why moderation doesn’t work here).
“I miss the taste so much. I can’t wait to pour my first glass of wine.”
If you’ve been fantasising about pouring a glass of your favourite wine at the end of Dry January, here’s my tip for you: take your time over it. Ask yourself, how does this taste? Is this as good as I remembered it to be?
Here’s the thing: most of us had to work quite hard to acquire our taste for wine, which means most of us also lose our taste for it over time. After a whole month off, you might find your favourite wine isn’t quite how you remembered – perhaps it’s vinegary or has an unappealing smell.
If that much-longed-for glass of wine tastes disappointing – but you force it down anyway – take note of that. This behaviour suggests you’re not really drinking for the taste.
Of course, people drink for many reasons other than taste and that’s ok. My point is simply, don’t kid yourself it’s all about the taste for you if it isn’t. If you’re going to use this powerful drug again, it’s important to know why you’re doing it.
“Phew, it’s nearly over. I can get my life back!”
This blog isn’t about shaming anyone who’s tried alcohol free living and has decided they’re happier keeping the drug in their life. But I do want you to make a decision you’ll feel good about.
Before February 1st arrives, take some time out to write down how Dry January has benefited your health, happiness, finances, free time, sleep, wellbeing and self esteem. Has it improved your outlook on life? Get this stuff out of your head and onto paper.
Double check you did the work. Did you read at least one book about AF living? Did you challenge your beliefs about booze and educate yourself about the drug? Did you do the all-important mindset work?
When I coach women to stop drinking, we spend a lot of time getting clear on the myths, illusions and romanticisation that surrounds this boozy world we live in. It’s so important you give yourself the chance to do that too, before you decide that alcohol-free living isn’t your thing.
Hi Kate; I’ve blown it twice in this what was supposed to be an ‘alcohol free’ January. 2 problems I see, are access and as a coping strategy with extended family. I definitely feel more alert and am sleeping well on the alcohol free days. I notice a real contrast. Jane
Keep going Jane! Success is rarely a smooth line from A to B – I know it’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but you will have learnt a lot from these slips. I wrote more about getting back on track here: https://thesoberschool.com/get-back-track-quickly/
If you need some help and support to really make things click (and come up with a strategy for those trickier times) my online coaching programme would be right up your street. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Hey, it’s only day 3,obviously this all sounds like me. I don’t wake up wanting a drink, I’m either hung or seedy and tired. But 5 o’clock rolls around and I can’t have one or 2 wines , more like bottles. I’m really scared, but I know I need to stop . How did I let it get this bad ?
I haven’t had a drink since Mother’s Day, 2018 and living and loving every positive thing about it. I have a new job that I enjoy and I feel tip top. I never want to drink again!
Hi Jane! I can relate to the “coping strategy with extended family” thing…. the first time I was around my family without drinking I was so uncomfortable!! But this past Christmas was a lot easier!! Anyway it does get better and easier..just takes time! Hang in there! 🙂
Thanks kate, I can relate to all of this. I’ve had a good month and am planning to stay AF for February too, but am not thinking too far ahead at the moment. I did Sober october and convinced myself I’d just be able to have 1 afterwards… needless to say that didn’t happen. Feeling so much better when I don’t drink!
Congratulations on your dry January Lydia! It sounds as if you learnt so much from your Sober October. Wishing you many more alcohol free days ahead 🙂
Hi Lydia, I’m at the tailend of January also and am feeling pretty good. Am planning to do February also and March also. No clear plan beyond that. Feeling heaps better physically but psychologically really down because I have only lost 2kgs from having drunk 1.5 bottles of wine each night. Diet is good, so just frustrated..
I drank after Dry January last year before I finally quit for good. All of this was true for me. Alcohol didn’t taste good. Even a little ruined my sleep and robbed my newfound appreciation. The contrast to dry January was stark, and I finally learned: alcohol no longer serves me.
I’m glad that experience inspired you to quit for good! Congratulations Karolina 🙂
Hi Kate,i have done Dry Jan a couple of times and the last time I did 1st of Feb drank a whole bottle of wine so I don’t think it changes a pattern of drinking in one month although it does give one the opportunity to really think of your relationship to alcohol. I decided back in November that 2019 I was quitting for good but It has taken a long time to get to that decision and a lot of reading, education about alcohol, listening to podcasts, and looking myself in the mirror and I had a eureka moment the shift in my thinking feels almost palpable, moderation is so hard tried countless times so much easier to take it off the table. So here goes 2019 Wish me luck
Moderation really is so much harder than quitting completely. True freedom comes with taking alcohol out of the picture, 100%. Go for it Linda!
I have had a positive experience with my mostly dry January. For me, drinking had become a mindless habit. Examining my relationship with alcohol has been very enlightening for me. Thank you for the education and encouragement. I am sure you have helped many!
Brilliant, keep going Mary! 🙂
Thanks Kate. I decided to quit drinking cold turkey on Black Friday of 2018 and have a list at least 20 items of all the benefits that have resulted. I was just having the thought about being in “control” now just the other day so this article came at just the right time. 🙂 really great perspective!
Well done Kelly! You’ve come too far to only come this far. You’ll never regret continuing with this journey 🙂
Hi there – I am doing your 6week program right now and I have to say without it I do t know how successful I would have been with Dry January!! I have not had any wine or anything else with alcohol in it! I am feeling much better sleeping much better. I have had my ups and downs and felt emotional at times but when I think I really am stressed about something and sad I can’t have a glass of wine – I think to the end of the movie and waking up at 3am and being just deviststed and sad that I drank. The hangover the feeling of failure naw I have done all that one too many times – Wine has absolutely nothing positive to offer me. It only took about a hundred try’s to get this lesson to stick and I attribute a lot of it to your wonderful program and the really amazing women I have met there. The support is always there – I can say anything – I can cry or laugh – it makes all the difference. I am Leary if that sneaky monster whispering in my ear saying a glass of wine would be great – NOT – I tell that voice to shut the hell up because I am starting to see right through it. I see a glimmer of light st the end of the tunnel and I’m just starting to believe that maybe one day I won’t even think about wine at all! It will be a non issue just like smoking is 13 years now since I quit and you couldn’t pay me enough to smoke – I want that feeling with alcohol – I know it’s achievable – ok sorry to go on and on – C
Hi Colette, I did Kate’s October 2018 course so I can completely relate to where you are right now!Sounds like you are building a solid sober toolbox, and also using one of my favourite strategies of playing the movie to the end. I am at nearly 4 months AF now and while I do still think about wine it is nothing compared to how I felt early on. Honestly it really does get easier!Good luck with the rest of the course and keep enjoying those hangover free mornings!
What a great post Colette! I’m glad you’re getting so much out of the course – I can’t believe we’re at the half way point already! You’ve got this, I know it.
I have been anxious, rather than relieved at the prospect of February being around the corner and end of my self-imposed rule of Dry-January coming to an end and leaving me back in unstructured territory. I’m up in the air whether to commit to another month, my fears being around a vacation at the end of the month which usually involves alcohol and not wanting to have to explain my self if I remain AF.
I started Dry-January with the mindset that I just needed a break and a re-set. I’m ending with a ton of unexpected insight into what my relationship with alcohol has been but I feel really unsettled on what I would like my relationship with it to be moving forward.
If in doubt, stick with it! You don’t have to make any big decisions about the future yet – what about setting another short term goal and seeing how you feel when you reach that? Just look at how much has changed in a month – where could you be by the end of February?
Hi Kate, this was such a powerful post at such an important time. You hit the nail on the head. My life is much better without the booze. Thank you so much
I’m glad this message reached you at the right time Lydia. Keep going! 🙂
I was in your October class, and while I didn’t stay sober after that, I did learn a lot about myself and began to cut down. But I knew in my heart and mind that I needed to get alcohol out of my life for good. I keep going back to your lessons, and they have helped. I’m finishing up Dry January, and finally, everything has clicked in my brain. I don’t want to pick up another drink, I don’t miss alcohol, I don’t miss feeling shitty in the morning. I feel good! I love my positive mindset, I was tired of always feeling blue and down in the dumps. Not any longer! I am continuing my sober lifestyle and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for me!
You stuck with it and that’s brilliant. It sounds as if this is your time Donna!
Found January “easy” the relief after the initial flu like symptoms that lasted 48 hours that wine wasn’t an option that it wasn’t something I would be planning on doing seemed to open up my mind. I still craved it on occasion but my choice was to not reach for a glass and I felt relieved each time until it’s now only a fleeting thought. Before it would be my first thought of the day ! Ooh it’s wednesday ,Friday , Saturday , Sunday, my birthday , anniversary any excuse for wine tonight . I’d stopped giving myself limits. I was literally tired then sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I never suffered with hangovers just a lagging underachieving amount of activity the next day.
I feel better , I’m present for my children in a way I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been for a good while.
Aiming for 100 days then more as I don’t want another day 1 in my future .
It sounds as if an alcohol free, hangover free lifestyle really suits you Karen. 100 days is a great goal. Go for it 🙂
I’ve done sober october for the last 4 years and dry January a couple of times and a very dodgy March madness which resulted in an awful April! I went back everytime…with the exception of October 2018, this time was different. I carried on with AF living all through November and my first AF Christmas since my 20’s! It’s been 100% great. I really didn’t think I could be wine free because I didnt want to be. In October I knew I did. There was no real turning point, there’s been loads of times in the past I’ve said never again and never again didnt come. Sometimes enough is enough.
Thanks for posting this Julie – it sounds as if things have clicked into place for you this time. Congratulations!
I just finished week 3 of the sober school and I love it. I’m going to continue being AF. I feel good and sleep better. An amazing bunch of ladies!!!!
Thanks Cathy. We have a powerful sober tribe inside that class! 🙂
These resonate so much with me! I took your advice and wrote down the benefits I’ve seen during dry January:
I’ve slept better
My depression has been a lot better
I’ve woken up early and in a better mood – more ready to face the day
I’ve been more productive – I’ve been more on top of the housework and I’ve been more inclined to do sorting and other chores
I haven’t text my ex – everytime I drink I message him then am filled with regret and self loathing afterwards
I’ve been going to the gym and started yoga
I’ve been practicing meditation
I’ve been able to follow the ww plan and haven’t eaten shit food
I’ve spent more quality time with my 12 year old daughter
I’ve saved money
I’ve already got a night out planned for 2nd February which involves alcohol. I’m so cross with myself – I can see in black and white all the reasons I’m better not drinking alcohol but I can’t seem to make that leap. I already know I’m going to be hungover next Sunday and will be feeling depressed. Why do I do it?!!?
What incredible benefits you’ve seen Nicola! So I guess the big question is: why do you want to put this powerful, cancer causing drug back into your system? I’m wondering if you need to do a bit of myth busting work here. Reading between the lines, I get the impression that you’re saying you won’t be able to go on your night out (and have fun?) without drinking? This is exactly the kind of limiting beliefs that I coach people through. If you want to shift some of this stuff for good, I’m happy to work with you via my online coaching programme (more details here). In the meantime, check out this blog of mine, which I wrote for Christmas, but it’s very relevant to you right now: https://thesoberschool.com/how-to-survive-the-boozy-festive-season/
My goal is to go AF for 100 days. I have been AF since January 3, and I feel AMAZING! I feel strong, healthy, and in control. Every time I think I miss it, I think about what 1 drink will lead to (for me, it leads to 4 or 5 drinks, guilt, and a hangover). Every time I think “This would be a great time for a glass of wine,” I remember my goal. I REALLY want to make it to 100 days.
Well done Jana – bring on 100 days! 🙂
Thanks for your support Kate!
I havn’t done dry july but i have gone af during the week. Guess what? Nothing happened and i didn’t die. I then consumed my usual bottle on friday and was promptly sick. I am only now learning my limitations at 41. Thank you for drawing my attention to noticing how much drinking is a vicious circle. Onwards and upwards
It’s resonated with me what you said about wine becoming unappealing after a a period of sobriety- I’ve been sober since mid December, and out of curiosity the other day I deliberately smelled a glass of my partners wine, and I just thought it smelled like chemicals! Not appealing at all.
And yet before I quit, I would’ve found the smell appetising!
So glad to be sober
That’s interesting! It just goes to show how quickly our tastebuds change and recover. Keep going 🙂
Your blog came at the right time for me! Thank you. I decided to have a dry January. It’s the first time in years I stuck with it thanks to your website and blogs. I’m a classic high functioning alcoholic. All the rules and best intentions don’t work for me.
It’s been a great month. The things I don’t miss: waking up every day thinking I’m a loser, hating myself, cursing the scale because I dieted all day and then ate garbage while buzzed, sleepless nights, worry about my health, anxiety, shame over being buzzed in front of my teens, resentment over having to postpone my dinner-making glass of wine if I have to drive for the kids, hangovers, red blotchy skin, acne, red eyes, depression, and on and on.
What I love about AF lifestyle: no shame, no hangovers, not having to rewatch an episode of a show to remember what happened before I went to bed, I can have fun without drinking, my skin looks great, I sleep through the night, I’ve lost 11 pounds, my kids want to hang out with me in the evenings, I’m mellow instead of anxious.
Last week I was thinking about February 1 being on a Friday, so with my “new rules,” I could have “a” glass of wine. Today I know my rules won’t work because they’ve never worked in the past.
Thank you! AF February, here I come!
Brilliant, I’m glad this came along at the right time for you Liz! Many congratulations on your Dry January – and here’s to an alcohol free February 🙂
It was a year ago that my dry January in 2018 led me to your blog and then to my doing the course in early April last year. I recognise and empathise with pretty much all of these comments from my own thoughts last year and I simply wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me then that I would be quite happily not drinking alcohol at all the same time next year.
BUT (having done the brilliant course) I have been AF now for 10 months and I love it! It was such a great investment – I wish I had done it sooner. Suffice to say, writing things down is a great idea; keep a diary during the whole process and read it back when you get a wobble.
Stick with it ladies – it is SO worth it!!
I’m so pleased to hear this Jenny! What a difference a year makes, right? Many, many congratulations on your 10 months!
I’m doing dry January, I also did it 3 years ago. I don’t feel as anxious, have lost half a stone although I am exercising and have improved my diet, which obviously has helped too. A couple of my family have done it as well, but they can moderate unlike me. Thinking of doing February too, but we are going away for the weekend to see my son who has moved away to go to college. Haven’t seen him for 4 weeks, and it’s my husbands birthday. So everyone will be having a drink to celebrate. I hope I can do this !
Hi again Kate and all the ladies who’ve posted – I see many have set a goal of 100 days to reach – there’s a lovely simple app to support this called ‘I Am Sober’give it a try – it logs your milestones and gives you a little inspirational quote each day ☺
I’ve managed to avoid drinking alcohol all month and I have to admit it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve lost 3kg, am less anxious and sleeping way better. My husband gave up with me which really helped because in the past when I’ve tried to quit, I’ve seen him with a drink and just caved in. From the start of the year I’ve been determined to quit, not just take a break, but he seems to be looking forward to January being over so he can drink again. He has raved about how much better he feels being sober so I’m confused about why he doesn’t want to continue, plus I’m worried that I’ll cave again.
I’m in the same boat, Bramble. My husband also agreed to have a dry January and mentioned how much better he feels. If he was drinking at the level we were drinking over the holidays it would’ve been much harder for me. He’s also noodling around what we can drink on Friday to celebrate. I told him I’m going for a dry February so leave me out of it! It’s going to be a challenge. I feel your pain.
It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one, Liz. Sounds like we’ll both just have to keep up our good work regardless of what our hubbies decide to do. 🙂
I missed dry january. Drank straight through it. Ive tried to stop drinking so many times, its embarrassing. Fortunately, no one, except my husband, knows this since is all a big,dirty secret for me.
Well today i am trying again, not just for february but for the rest of my life. I want to live my best life now. Im so tired of the whole drinking thing..hangovers, blackouts, falling and getting hurt…stupid, rediculous stuff. Stuff that makes me cringe, fills me with regret and anxiety and keeps me up at night.
No more. Today is day 1. This blog is my support. So grateful for it and all the help and encouragement it offers.
Thanks for this!! I’m at a year and almost 4 months AF! Sometimes I have thoughts of wanting to return to drinking but it passes… I focus on all the ways my life is sooooooo much better without it and that really helps me stay on track! 🙂 Reminders like yours help too so thanks! 🙂
All of these points are very true! I was drinking several bottles of wine a week the past couple of years and at 26 years old I’m just tired of it. For January I did the whole “only one drink” which has helped open my eyes even more. I’ve had a few days of only one drink this month and after each time I noticed that the wine didn’t taste as good, it took me forever to finish it because I felt that buzz faster, I got a craving for it again the following day, I was easily irritated, and it affected my sleep so much. All those things I hadn’t noticed when I was having several bottles a week. I now just simply don’t want to drink anymore. Those one glass nights are not worth the side effects.
I’m so happy to find this website today. I can completely relate. I hit a low point in November. I drank an entire bottle of wine while cleaning my house on a weeknight. I took a swig directly from the last splash in the bottle and my 10 year old daughter saw me do that. I was horrified that she saw me. I woke up with a terrible hangover, and had fast food for lunch. It was my wake up call– I didn’t ever want to feel like that again.
I reduced drinking drastically in December and did Dry January this month. I feel so much better. Whole, pure, present, rested, authentically me.
I”m really anxious that January is over and my “rules” and parameters are gone. Tomorrow is Friday, Feb. 1 and we already have drinking plans. I am praying I don’t stumble up my stairs, throw up, sleep in my clothes, and all the terrible things I used to do whenever I went out.
I’m so anxious and tearful tonight. I don’t ever want to return to old ways and miss the boundaries of January.
First of all I have to thank you for getting me sober, it all started when I listened to your video and I haven’t had a drink since.
I feel so much better, my face is more alive and I’ve never slept better.
I do have the occasional pull towards having a drink but so far I have not succumbed and I really don’t want to and when I say to people I don’t drink alcohol I am proud of it. It has been one month now and this is the way forward so thank you again.
I have been AF since the end of December and decided to have a glass of Chardonnay last night at girls night. When I took that first sip after over a month of not drinking, I thought it tasted too sweet and almost disgusting. And mind you, this was a brand I had LOVED in the past. I ended up drinking it and was proud I only ordered one glass (I shouldn’t have even had the one), but then I felt like crap this morning and decided it’s just not worth it. Even one drink effects me negatively.
I liked one of your Instagram pics where it said “Build a life you don’t need to numb out from”. I love that quote and am constantly telling myself that every day now.
(Day 36) Bit late on this post but why in the morning do I feel elated to have woken up fresh and full of energy. By mid afternoon my resolve is dipping and the voice inside tells me it would be great to have a drink! Will this pass? I have listed all the benefits alcohol free living is giving me but thinking it’s forever creates an odd unsettling feeling, I guess years of conditioning won’t be undone in 36 days.
This is my biggest challenge as well. How to stay in high spirits till the end of the day and go to bed still in the same mood.
I have marked 100 days on a calendar. April 9 seems a long way away but 28 days have gone quickly. My skin looks better & clearer (to me anyway) no sinus problems through January even with the smoke haze in Australia. Which had been affecting my sinuses. Also gave up smoking almost 4 years ago by marking off the days where I could see my progress at a glance. So hopefully February will be as successful.