Dry January is over. What should I do next?
Dry January is over and it's time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming. But just because the annual tradition of maintaining sobriety for a full month is behind us, that doesn't mean we should throw out all our hard work. In fact, now’s the perfect time to continue developing healthy drinking habits that will serve us well in the long run.
Celebrate if you must, then reframe
First things first: You may kick off February by indulging a bit, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail if that’s something you’re into. (However, moderation is key.) Then, once you’ve gotten that out of your system, rather than going back to pre-January levels of alcohol consumption, try setting a new personal goal for yourself. Limit yourself to a certain number of drinks per week or only drink on certain days of the week.
Do this, not that
It's also important to find other things to replace alcohol, both the activity of drinking and the beverage itself. Happy hour can be a fun way to unwind and socialize with friends and colleagues, but lots of bars these days offer nonalcoholic beverages, including spirit-free cocktails so you can keep your sober streak. If you find it challenging to be around drinkers without joining in yourself, consider replacing unhealthy social outings involving alcohol with healthier alternatives. Find a yoga class, running club, or new hobby that involves meeting at the times you used to engage in social drinking. These activities can be better for your physical and mental health, while also giving you a feeling of accomplishment — something you generally can’t get from drinking!
Water down the drinking
No, we don’t mean you have to add water to your alcoholic beverages (though doing so would make them taste so terrible you probably wouldn’t finish them!). If you do sometimes find yourself in situations where social drinking is part of the fun, make this rule for yourself: No drink is complete without a glass of water.
In other words, for every alcoholic beverage you consume, require yourself to also have a glass of water. Haven’t finished the last glass of water? No refill on that margarita! This will not only help you counteract the effects of a potential hangover and the mild dehydration that comes with alcohol consumption, but will also keep your hands busy and your bladder full. Since overindulgence in alcohol often occurs unconsciously as you’re chatting away with friends, you can trick yourself into drinking less by always keeping a glass of water at hand and building the habit of alternating water with other beverages.
Keep the momentum
Dry January is a great way to reset your relationship with alcohol, so now that you’ve done that, try to avoid falling back into old habits. You chose this month of sobriety for your own health and happiness, so why not keep it going? If your lifestyle doesn’t fit well with full-time sobriety, think about doing it every other month, or only months that end in “y”. Note how you feel during the dry months compared to the months that include alcohol, and you’ll likely find yourself choosing to cut back even without designated months!