As January comes to a close, people around the country will be raising a toast to themselves for completing a month without alcohol. According to a YouGov poll commissioned by Alcohol Concern, an impressive three million Brits planned to take part in Dry January this year.
We spoke to eight of this year’s cohort about the highs and lows of teetotal life. Although some struggled to resist temptation entirely, each of them got back on the bandwagon after a blip, which is an achievement in itself. After all, making a lifestyle change is an educational process and it doesn’t have to happen overnight.
Here’s what each of them learned after a month of giving up booze.
‘Alcohol is normalised in society.’ - Zoe
“Alcohol is subconsciously and consciously associated with so many everyday moments and events in a habitual way that’s so normalised,” Zoe tells HuffPost UK. “It can seem scary when we truly think about it. Especially when we add up what we’re drinking on a regular basis.
“From having a bad day to having a good day, a glass of wine is the answer. Meeting up with friends involves alcohol without anyone thinking twice, unless of course they’re driving. Then there’s the association of foods with certain drinks: pasta equals a juicy red. Sunny day, let’s grab a dry rose. Drinking alcohol is portrayed as the norm.”
‘Staying dry was too hard.’ - Becky, 30
“I decided to do Dry January and Veganuary this new year and although I’ve managed to stick to being vegan, staying dry for the whole time was just too hard,” Becky tells HuffPost UK.
“I lasted two weeks and even went to a friend’s birthday drinks for the whole night just spending £3.80 on lime and sodas. But a night out with old friends on a chilly eve mid-Jan proved too much temptation for me and I went all out on wine, then cocktails.
“However, the following day I resumed Dry January mode and allowed myself one more night (with just a couple of glasses of wine with a meal this time). Not drinking has given me a clearer head, better sleep, clearer skin and I’ve managed to resist post-drinking junk food binges. However, what my second night of January drinking showed me is that moderation is the way forward for me.”
‘Fake alcohol doesn’t cut it.’ - Omar, 46
“This is probably the first time in thirty-odd years I have had this much time off the booze. I’ve learned fake alcohol doesn’t cut it - whoever can invent an alcohol-free wine that tastes like wine is going to be rich,” Omar tells HuffPost UK.
“Our fortnightly recycling box is not overflowing with empty wine and beer bottles. Weekends tend to be a lot shorter too as you end up going to bed, there’s no, ‘I’ll just have one more glass’.
“I’m really looking forward to reacquainting myself with alcohol, but going forward I will try to be less dependent on it.”
‘Giving up alcohol means you spend more time at home.’ - Kristie, 26
“My mum, Mary, was diagnosed with a brain tumour just before Christmas and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Taking on Dry January was a bit of a spontaneous decision, but I thought it might be a good idea not only to have a bit of a health kick after Christmas, but to raise money for the charity Brain Tumour Research and make a difference to other people’s lives,” Kristie tells HuffPost UK.
“Over the last month I’ve found I have been at home more in the evenings and found alternative ways to catch up with people, such as going for lunch or staying in and watching a movie, I’ve also been really productive at work. With everything that is going on with my mum at the moment, just doing something small to help others was important to me and raising over £1,000 for research into a disease that is currently affecting my family feels really good.”
‘We are spending a lot on booze.’ - Kaye, 54
“I am someone who probably has been drinking every week since, well, I honestly can’t remember. I knew I had overindulged at Christmas along with my husband. I just had the inspiration to see if I could do Dry January and have been successful,” says Kaye.
“I mainly notice being more alert, especially in the mornings, and generally more lively. I don’t sleep that well and unfortunately I am still up in the night so that hasn’t really changed.
“The overwhelming difference is in our bank balance. We are spending a lot each month on booze. We do need to reevaluate our habits.”
‘Exercise feels better than alcohol.’ - Philly, 28
“Me and few of my colleagues at Eventa have been doing Dry January this year. We used to go out for a couple of cocktails on Fridays after work, however we’ve skipped the drinks this month and have tried a couple of fitness classes instead each week,” Philly tells HuffPost UK.
“Although some of the money we’ve saved on alcohol has gone towards classes, we’re feeling much more energised in ourselves and have noticed that our moods have improved and we generally feel more motivated. We’ve also learnt how much better exercise can make you feel, so we’re going to continue with the fitness classes weekly now – that’s not to say the odd cocktail won’t make an appearance in the future, but they definitely won’t be as regular as before!”
‘I’ve learned I’m in control of my actions.’ - Gillian, 38
“Dry January has offered me the opportunity to reassess why I drink and implement my own controls over whether I choose to drink or not. It has coincided with a pre-holiday diet as we go away in February,” Gillian says.
“Cutting out alcohol completely has helped me to break the habit of ‘armchair drinking’. In February I will use the control I have found within myself to stop the regular wine night Monday to Thursday. I will continue to enjoy drinks over the weekend, in moderation. I have noticed many positive outcomes including better sleep, bags more energy, weight loss, glowing skin and a feeling of control over my own decisions and actions.”
‘It was easier than I thought it would be.’ - Linda, 65
“My partner and I moved from London to the country and the pub was a way of meeting new people as we had retired. We found ourselves visiting the pub more frequently meaning that we were drinking more, but we were enjoying the social interaction with our mates,” Linda tells HuffPost UK.
“Dry Jan has been easier than I thought it would be, but in the beginning I did avoid the pub as I didn’t want to be influenced. I went once, had my soda and was actually slightly mocked for doing Dry January. I am determined to not get back into the pub habit and instead of going three-five times a week, just one or two. Moderation for me now.”