Veronica Mead had never tried ‘Dry January’ before, but having completed it in 2021 with flying colours, she’s decided to continue through February. In fact, she’s not sure when she’ll start drinking again.
“With no socialising and living alone, I made a conscious effort not to drink at all,” the 58-year-old procurement manager from Portsmouth, tells HuffPost UK of the past month. “I worked hard, walked and generally tried not to think about [drinking] to be honest.”
Mead says she drank too much in the first lockdown of 2020. “That, coupled with over eating and inactivity, meant I put on shed loads of weight. I’ve lost it now – and some more. So I’m focused on not going back there.”
She’s not alone. During the first lockdown, many of us drank more than ever, results from the Global Drugs Survey revealed. So for some, lockdown number three has been about cleansing. The #DryFebruary hashtag is full of people sharing their intentions to continue their alcohol-free lifestyle.
Mead is well aware returning to social environments might make going booze-free “more difficult” when the time comes. It’s a thought Rebecca Atherfold, 47, a maths teacher based in south London, has had too. Atherfold says the “bleak” nature of January meant it didn’t feel quite the same having a drink, compared with lazing in her garden hammock during the heatwave of lockdown one. She can’t see any reason not to continue with dry Feb, she says.
Atherfold has found if she has a non-alcoholic drink that doesn’t taste like alcohol – “but definitely tastes like something I wouldn’t drink at work or give to my kids” – then that does the trick. “I’ve broken the habit of drinking at home and don’t miss it at all,” she adds. “I’m not sure how I feel about socialising in real life without a drink, but that’s not happening any time soon.”
Duncan Dine, 59, who is retired and lives in Cheltenham, is staying alcohol-free through February to help with his health. “Lockdown definitely played a part [in stopping drinking],” he says. “I used to swim three times a week, which went with lockdown.”
“If I can get through February I will go to end of March, 100% percent”
Dine slowed down his drinking this year due to his upcoming 60th birthday, which he said had been playing on the back of his mind. “Stopping drinking is, partly, knowing this number is coming down the track,” he says.
He slept better without the booze and felt more refreshed in general. “Drinking is habit forming – once past the first few days, I found it surprisingly easy,” he says. “The support of my wife (who drinks very little) helped enormously. If I lived alone or was under great stress would I have had a drink? I’m not sure.”
The retiree did January five years ago and intended to carry on then, but “cracked” and had a drink when he visited friends the month after. He’s feeling positive he’ll get further this time. “If I can get through February I will go to end of March, 100% percent,” he adds.
While there may be many people quitting alcohol right now, there are plenty of us who aren’t. Data surveying 2,000 Brits, released by low alcohol beer brewer Small Beer, reveals 25% are drinking more this third lockdown – and 7% are drinking “significantly” more.
More than a third say lockdown has an effect on their drinking, and more than a quarter say the stricter the lockdown, the more likely they are to drink. But in the words of Mead: “Crack on lovelies, give [dry Feb] a go!”
1. Play it forward. “Look ahead to who you want to be when this is all over, and focus on the bigger picture,” suggested Laura Willoughby, our podcast guest and the co-founder of the mindful drinking movement Club Soda.
2. Add some alcohol-free drinks to your shop. You don’t have to ditch booze altogether, but save it for occasions such as the weekend to help maintain a routine and keep your consumption in check, said Willoughby. Getting some alcohol-free drinks in to kick back in the evenings will help.
3. Set some boundaries. If you’ve got alcohol in the house, find a new home for it, such as the garage or on top of the wardrobe, so it’s less visible and accessible in your daily routine.
4. Talk about it. If you feel like you’ve slipped into bad habits, speak to your partner, friend or family member about it. They might be able to offer advice, or share how they’ve cut down on drinking now lockdown is easing.
5. Get a helping hand. It’s important to recognise when our booze habits are teetering on dependancy. Signs it’s getting out of hand include finding it hard to stop at two drinks, wanting to drink early in the morning, and physical symptoms of withdrawal such as sweating, shaking and nausea. You can find support if you need help.