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So you decided to lay off the booze for a month. Good for you! Whether you're sober curious, or just want to give your liver a break, participating in Dry January is a great opportunity to evaluate your relationship with alcohol.

I'm coming up on a year booze-free myself. My last drink was on Super Bowl Sunday 2020. What started as a 30-day experiment turned into a lifestyle after I fell in love with myself sans alcohol. I know those first couple of weeks are the hardest, so I'm here to be your cheer(s)leader and help keep you truckin' with some grade-A tips I've found on my own journey.

Get Your Conscious and Sub-Conscious on the Same Page

Alcohol education and awareness of the risk or dangers of drink consumption as a 3D illustration.

Consciously, you may want to make a change in your life, but if your subconscious isn't on board, you're likely to ride the struggle bus right off a cliff. Annie Grace's This Naked Mind was my sobriety bible. Grace's other book, The Alcohol Experiment, was written precisely for getting through your first 30 days off the sauce. In it, Grace advises to "bring unconscious experiences, observations, assumptions, and conclusions into conscious thought." Basically, that means to question everything, especially your long-held beliefs around drinking.

Question Why You Drink in the First Place

Open minded people embrace being wrong, are free of illusions, don’t mind what people think of them, and question everything even themselves.

Use Annie Grace's ACT technique to question your long-held subconscious beliefs about booze. ACT stands for:

Awareness: Name Your Belief

Clarity: Discover why you believe it and where it originated

Turnaround: Flip it and Reverse it

For example, let's examine my long-held belief that I drink alcohol for the taste:

  • Awareness: My first taste of alcohol was Peppermint Schnapps. I started drinking Zimas and two-buck Chuck, eventually moving on to a box o' Franzia and then finally graduating to $15 bottle of wine.
  • Clarity: None of those actually taste good. What made me think they did? Turns out, I was drinking for the effect all along.
  • Turnaround: Poison tastes bad. I can barely get a sip of whiskey down without an ice cube. I hate the taste of beer, especially Miller Lite. Most margaritas taste like neon. I don't even like olives and gin doesn't taste good, so it makes zero sense that dirty martinis were my favorite cocktail based on taste.

Try this technique with all of your reasons for drinking, from "booze helps me relax," to "drinking makes me happy."

Substitute Other Drinks

Fresh cocktail drinks with ice fruit and herb decoration. Alcoholic non-alcoholic drink-beverage. Mojito on blue background

Guess what? Liquor is not what makes drinks taste good. Shocker alert: Cranberry juice actually tastes better without vodka. Instead of a cocktail or glass of wine, sub N/A beverages, sparkling water, and/or juice. For champagne drinkers, we have soda, tonic, and sparkling water. For wine drinkers, there's cran-grape, white grape, or just plain old grape juice. I replaced my post-work wine with a ginger beer and my at-dinner wine with Topo Chico. For my all-night in front of the TV wine, I now enjoy hot tea.

You'd be surprised how much of drinking is just the ritual of pouring a drink or having a beverage in hand. For fancy occasions, bust out the sparkling cider or grape juice. Some people are down with Kombucha, but technically that does have alcohol. Even N/A beers can have trace amounts of alcohol.

Tell Nosey People to MYOB

When I quit drinking I was kind of embarrassed. I was afraid if I told people I didn't drink that they would think it was because I had a "problem" or was an alcoholic. When someone quits smoking cigarettes, we celebrate it, but when someone doesn't drink, our booze-obsessed culture cannot compute. I remember looking at my brother-in-law like he had two heads when I found out he didn't drink. People want to know WHY. Dry January is the perfect excuse. Or you can have a little fun by being vague and letting the pregnancy rumors circulate.

Pick Up a Hobby

Young beautiful woman playing music outdoors

I was also afraid when I quit drinking that I would be bored or become boring. However, I found the opposite to be true. Now that I'm not inebriated every evening, there's so much more time for activities! I started playing the ukulele and am reading more than ever before. Plus, now that I'm never hungover, I always feel like getting on the mat in the morning for my daily yoga practice. You'd be surprised the world that opens up to you when you make space for it in your life.

Find Another Way to Wind Down

Closeup relaxed woman blowing foam in slow motion. Side view of sexy girl washing hands in bath at home. Calm woman resting in bath with bubbles indoors.

Give happy hour a whole new meaning. Instead of uncorking a bottle of wine after work, now I run a bath and get my booty in the tub with some tunes, a podcast or audiobook, and maybe even a little candlelight. I'm not sure what the legal ramifications are for recommending marijuana when it's not quite legal in all 50 states, so I'll suggest treating yourself to some CBD instead.

Treat Yo'self

Portrait of an excited beautiful girl wearing dress and sunglasses holding shopping bags isolated over blue background

I pretty much drank a bottle of wine a night, so getting $15 back in my bank account every day made me feel like Scrooge McDuck diving into his gold coins in the DuckTales intro. Pre-pandemic, my husband and I attended our first booze-free concert. First of all: highly recommend! I remember the entire show and didn't miss a thing standing in line for beer or the bathroom. Second, we saved at least $80 at the bar between the two of us. Plus, we didn't have to spring for an Uber home. All that money adds up at the end of the month. Buy yourself something nice to celebrate!

Start a Daily Exercise Routine

woman practice yoga Downward Facing dog or yoga Adho Mukha Svanasana pose to meditation and kissing her dog pug breed enjoy and relax with yoga in bedroom,Recreation with Dog Concept

As previously mentioned, when you're not hungover in the morning, you have no excuse not to exercise. It feels so good to not feel like I'm going to upchuck in down dog. Bonus: Ditching liquid calories makes weight melt right off!

Stay Away from Drunk People

angry young woman because his boyfriend had a party and he is drunk

Omigod, drunk people are so annoying. Can you believe you used to be one? Being the only sober person might take some getting used to. Heck, socializing sans alcohol may take some getting used to. It gets better with time. Steer clear of drunks for the month.

Enlist Your Housemates

Diverse roommates drinking coffee, eating cookies and laughing at home

Speaking of steering clear of drunks, steer clear of temptation by making sure everyone in your abode is on board with Dry January. Obviously, you can't force someone to stop drinking, but it's best if everyone in the house is on the same page so there's no temptation. The least your cohabitators can do is be considerate enough not to drink in front of you while you're abstaining. If they aren't supportive of your efforts, they aren't your friend.

Self-Development

Many of us drink to hide from our feelings. But drinking doesn't make our problems go away, it just numbs our minds for a while. When you're not drinking to shut your brain up, some big, ugly, scary feels can come at you. Like my sister always says, feelings just want to be felt. Instead of ignoring your emotions, acknowledge them, and let them go. Read, journal, and meditate.

Follow Sober Social Media

From media to marketing, it's hard to get away from alcohol in our suds-soaked culture. We are inundated with mommy juice memes and songs that celebrate inebriation. To counter-balance, follow some #sobriety accounts online, like @theretiredpartygirl, @sobergirlsociety, @sobergrind, and @jointempest on Instagram. Follow hashtags like #sobernation, #sobercurious, #sobertribe, #hipsobriety, and #sobriety memes. You can even find podcasts that will help re-enforce your decision to abstain.

Eat Healthy Foods

Yet another tip from the patron saint of Dry January, Annie Grace: "Your body needs protein to make amino acids, which help elevate your mood." However, because there is a lot of sugar in alcohol, your body is likely craving something sweet. It's okay to give in to sugar cravings, but if you find yourself trading one addiction in for another, here's How to Quit or Lessen Your Sugar Intake.

If You Fall off the Wagon, Get Back On

This is an experiment, not a test. Beating yourself up if/when you slip up won't help anything. A slip doesn’t make you a failure or mean you're relapsing. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a friend who is going through the same thing. If your friend was trying to quit drinking and fell off the wagon for one night, would you call them stupid and worthless? I didn't think so.

Don't Decide Where It Stops

Beautiful happy woman enjoying freedom outdoors

Notice how your booze-free body and mind feel. Pretty good, right? Just because you "can" drink again on February 1st doesn't mean you have to. Here are some tips from Annie Grace on how to stay alcohol-free for longer.

Finally, I should point out that if you suffer from severe alcohol dependency, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Good luck and Godspeed!

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