dry January

Dry January Survival Guide: Stay Sober & Enjoy It

My mission is to transform every sober day into an actionable, joyful experience.  Time Magazine says “In 2023,…15% of U.S. adults, which amounts to more than 260 million Americans, pledged to practice Dry January.” I salute those who are courageously embracing Dry January in 2024 and your commitment to an alcohol-free start to the year.

Today, I’m providing five tips to help you stay the course, drawn from my podcast content and personal experience in as a recovering alcoholic. These are not just strategies to get through January sober. These are the first rungs on the ladder to leading a healthier, more “present” lifestyle.

This month in our Reads and Recovery program, we are reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray, and she’s really speaking to both young and old in this book. She talks about how she got sober and more importantly what it felt like—the discomfort doing her “firsts” as a sober member of society. Going to a wedding, going to a nightclub, etc. can be really uncomfortable. She does a great job articulating those icky feelings.

In this blog, I’m providing some helpful ways to face these…well, yeah…icky feelings. First up is the ‘Next Right Thing’ Philosophy. This is all about breaking the month into manageable moments. Forget about the whole 31 days; let’s focus on today, this hour, or even this minute. This approach makes your goal much more attainable and way less daunting. When someone invites you to happy hour, but you were planning to go to the gym, turn off you “wanter” and do the next right thing. I had to turn off my wanter for quite some time before the next right thing became what I wanted.

Now, let’s talk about celebrating the wins, no matter how small. Turned down a drink? Said yes to a mocktail? Reward yourself. I like to keep some candy on hand for my mini-celebrations. This month I’ve stacked up and am celebrating with AirHeads because they’re vegan. It’s a sweet reminder that I’m on the right track, and candy makes me happy. I literally smile when I eat candy!

Community is key in life. Connect with others on the same journey. Online forums, local meet-ups, Dry January events—there’s a whole network out there. Shared experiences not only provide a safety net but also amplify your commitment. There’s absolutely no reason or excuse for doing anything alone in this world these days.

And then there’s Sober Curiosity. This isn’t just a trend; it’s a movement towards understanding the ‘why’ behind your drinking habits. Get real with yourself and the role alcohol plays in your life. Think about this statement, “something bad doesn’t happen every time I’m drink, but every time something bad happens I’m drinking.” Does this resonate with you? Think about your relationship with alcohol while you’ve got a clear head this month.

Lastly, we substitute. Replace the ritual of your evening drink with something equally delightful. Maybe it’s a new hobby, a workout, or a personally crafted non-alcoholic beverage. There’s joy to be found in these new delights. For quite some time, my personal mocktail was sparkling water with a dash of strawberry lemonade. I called it a “spritzer!” And I made a big show of it in the household when ever I was making myself a spritzer. We all had a laugh and mmm! I’ve switched over to coke since my stroke, and I don’t feel guilty about that either. Thank goodness Coke is vegan!

Now, here’s the fun part. Staying sober doesn’t mean staying bored and lonely. Here are some sober-fun activities to enjoy in January:

  1. Host a game night with friends – board games, card games, video games, sans alcohol.
  2. Dive into a DIY project. Ever wanted to paint an abstract art piece? Now’s the time.
  3. Get moving with a dance or fitness class. It’s exhilarating and you’ll be too busy busting a move to think about booze. If you don’t want to do a class, invite some friends over and turn on YouTube videos to learn the latest and greatest dance moves.
  4. Explore the outdoors. Nature is incredibly sobering and refreshing. Hike, bike, or simply take a long walk. Look for a walking stick and then widdle the end. I did this with my kids and all their cousins once. It was so fun for all of us.
  5. Indulge in a culinary adventure. Cook a fancy dinner or tour the area’s best dessert spots.

Each activity is an opportunity to rediscover the pleasures of life untainted by alcohol. I think a lot about before I was drinking, as a kid, and I didn’t know any better. Life felt different. I got that back in sobriety. Its real fun. Real joy. Real good food. Real tasty drinks.

There you have it, the blueprint for a successful Dry January. Each day is a fresh chance to commit to your well-being. I’m absolutely cheering you on every step of the way. The more sober people the merrier.

For more tips and conversations on sobriety, tune into Recovery Daily Podcast daily.