How to resist alcohol, and what to do if you drink

  • The first Friday and the last Saturday are among the most popular days to enjoy in dry January.
  • To prevent a slip-up, talk to a supportive community, go back to the “why” and plan triggers.
  • If you drink, show yourself compassion and learn from the experience. Do not start on route 1.

The first time I wanted a drink during dry January last year was the first Friday night.

I had gone for a late afternoon swim, proud of myself for a productive (and dry) week, and I was thirsty! Not much would taste or feel better on this chilly January night, I thought, than the simple pleasure of a cold craft brew at a local bar.

Instead, I settled for a non-alcoholic beer or three at home.

I wasn’t alone in my craving – data suggests that the first Friday of the month is a popular day in dry January, and most people cave at one point or another. But experts say there are ways to anticipate tempting times and recover from slip-ups.

Most people who commit to Dry January don’t stay completely dry

Data from more than 15,000 users of the mindful drinking app Sunnyside found that last year, 35% of those aiming for a sober month had a drink in the first week, the company said over email. More of them – 27% – did so on Friday 7 January than any other day.

The first Friday was also the most common “first fail” day last year, and Fridays in general had almost twice as many drinkers as any other day of the week, the organization found.

“What this tells us is the end of the work week for a lot of people is, ‘I’ve now been through the gauntlet of five days of work and I need to give myself some breathing room,'” says Nick Allen, Sunnyside’s co-founder and CEO. , told me.

The last Saturday of the month is also a popular day for drinking. Alcohol Change UK, the organization credited with launching the Dry January movement, found that more participants fell – 27% – on 30 January 2021 than any other day of the month.

Meanwhile, a UK study by water company Volvic finds that January 16 is the most likely day of the January cave-in, Good Housekeeping reported. “By week three, your enthusiasm may start to wane,” says psychiatrist Dr Tony Rao of Alcohol Change UK.

Overall, estimates of the percentage of dry January attempters who stay dry all month range from 19% to 55%—and these are people who are motivated enough to download apps to support their goals. Never mind that someone probably fudged their records.

“If you don’t quite succeed in keeping it to zero, you’re actually in the majority — not someone who’s an outsider who has no self-control,” Allen said.

How to avoid leaning on alcohol when you are vulnerable

Annie Grace, founder of the Alcohol Experiment, the 30-day program I followed last year, told me that predicting if and when people drink is less about a particular day and more about a person’s feelings and thoughts around alcohol.

If you’re anticipating a trigger, Grace suggests sharing how you’re feeling with a supportive community. My alcohol experiment Facebook group was filled with people working through upcoming ski trips, funerals, dinner parties and late work shifts. This year I’m connecting with like-minded women through Euphoric AF’s “Dry Bootcamp.”

It also helps to go back to why you wanted to take the month in the first place. For me, it’s an important reminder of what life can be like without booze. The better sleep, workouts and skin are also a bonus.

Practically speaking, Allen recommends stocking up on alcohol-free substitutes and making plans for Saturday morning — a hike, yoga class, or early coffee with a friend — if you’re one of the many who are tempted on Friday nights.

“Shifting the reward center in your mind from ‘I’m going to drink to relax’ to ‘I know I have something that I’m really looking forward to tomorrow morning that I won’t ruin by drinking’ tonight makes a really big difference,” he said.

What to do if you have a “wet” day

The experts agree: if you spend the month exploring your relationship with alcohol, it’s a success whether you drink or not. If you abstain but white-knuckle your way through only to double down on your drinking in February, well, you’ve missed the mark.

That’s why Grace calls an unplanned moment of drinking a “data point” from which to learn and discourages people from feeling like they have to start over on Day 1. Quitting drinking, she says, “is not a linear process.”

So if you throw back one or ten, first show yourself compassion, she says. So get curious: What triggered you to drink? Did it feel and taste as good as you expected? Was it worth it the next day? Journal about it.

Finally, remember the benefits of drinking less. Cutting your intake by half or a quarter also pays dividends, and can set you up to maintain a more moderate lifestyle from February onwards.

Alcohol Change UK, for one, finds that 70% of Dry January participants continue to drink less year-round.

“Think of this as a lifetime investment in your health,” Allen said. “If you take that philosophy, a drink in January doesn’t feel like that much of a big deal.”

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