Dry January: A retrospective

As someone who has been entrenched in the spirits and craft cocktail world as a writer and blogger for several years now, it had been quite a while since I had taken a significant booze break. In fact, I hadn’t gone more than a week or so without a cocktail since I was pregnant five years ago. So, when I was considering the kind of goals I wanted to make for 2019, “dry January” was at the top of my list. I knew it was time for a alcohol DTR. Or rather, R-DTR (re-define the relationship).

I wanted to do it for a few reasons.

1) I wanted to make sure I still could go a considerable amount of time without alcohol
2) I wanted to detox my body not only of bad food, but of general toxins in order to get a jump start on my health in 2019
3) I wanted to better understand my triggers when it came to alcohol (why and when I chose to drink)
4) I wanted to break the habit of a drink or two most days and flip it around (more days without alcohol than with)

Committing to dry January was hard for me, mostly because I am what I would consider a moderate drinker. While I have a drink or two on most days — I very very rarely drink to excess or to get drunk. Drinking for me has been more about winding down and relaxing, rather than gearing up for anything — let alone a night out. While I create cocktails, I am not so much a bar goer, and I can count the hangovers I’ve had since I become a mom on one hand.

All of those things really kept telling me that my relationship with alcohol was healthy.

But, there have been a few things that have been bothersome to me when it comes to my drinking.

The fact that I wanted a drink or two nearly every day was something I wanted to stop. Not only due to the intake of calories, but just the idea that my body was processing alcohol daily made me uncomfortable. Sure, I wasn’t getting drunk or drinking excessively, but this for me was too many drinks to have in a week’s time.

I was also ready to take my health to the next level. I have been focused on my workouts and food quite heavily over the past two years, but I felt like my alcohol intake was holding me back. I wanted more energy during my workouts and I wanted to get a good start on losing the last 10 lbs I have hanging onto my body with a relentless grip. Cutting alcohol sort of seemed like the next logical step.

So, what did being sober for a month reveal to me?

First, that my relationship with alcohol, was indeed for the most part, very healthy.

But it also helped me understand and learn a few other things.

It eliminated the daily conversation in my head:

“Should I have a drink or should today be a drink-free day?” This conversation for me was constant. Mostly because I wanted to have a few days a week without alcohol, but deciding which days those should be and why was always up in the air. Which meant I could usually find a reason to have a drink.

It pointed out my drinking triggers: When do I find it the most difficult to NOT drink?

First, when I am cooking. Cooking dinner with a glass of wine or cocktail had truly become my crutch after a long day. Or, after a great day! When celebrating, or when I was bummed out. It was just what I did. This was a really hard habit to break. However, I found that replacing a cocktail with a nonalcoholic option helped. It is amazing how the habit of drinking is so much in the actual doing of it. And the bubbles. That shit has to have bubbles.

Another trigger? You guys, I am not even embarrassed to admit it: THE BACHELOR.

That’s right. A whole month of watching The Bachelor wine (cocktail)-free was a bummer. haha! But, doable. And really, just media in general. Sitting down to watch a movie or something with my husband at the end of the day. I like to have a drink on my bedside table to enjoy while doing so. Scrolling Instagram didn’t do me any favors either, but was actually a lot less triggering than I had anticipated. Tea was a sufficient replacement for the month, however. I bought a lot of tea.

It meant avoiding social drinking situations.

I was basically ready to be a hermit after the holidays, so January was the perfect time for me to NOT go out. I had one social outing on the calendar before I committed to dry January, and I allowed myself to have a few cocktails that evening with friends. Because I had pre-planned this day, I didn’t feel guilty or weird about it. I was also super moderate, imbibing in low ABV cocktails and keeping things chill. It was actually a really good break in the middle of the month.

Other major takeaways

Workouts:

The number one place I saw the most significant impact from cutting alcohol was in my workouts. Working out is hard in general, but I would say in four hard workouts a week — normally, I would have two that I felt really great during. Where my caloric burn was in peak height, where my energy was massive and where my PRs would happen. I can say that during dry January, this was actually the case during most of my workouts. I hit more PRs than I have in two years. I ran faster and longer (in fact, my base/push/and all out paces have increased and stayed there). I lifted heavier. I felt better. I killed it, basically. And it felt really really really good. My body definitely performed better than normal. And to be honest, it has given me a different kind of high — one that I want to keep. One that will probably be the driving force to keep my alcohol intake lower. (And for those who have asked, yes, I dropped 5 1/2 pounds in January).

Sleep:

I think I have mentioned that I have high anxiety at night — which was really at its height Oct-Dec of last year. While I wouldn’t say that my sleep itself wasn’t a ton better, waking from anxiety nearly stopped. I think I was sleeping deeper and dreaming less, which allowed me to stay asleep, rather than wake in a panic from anxious dreams or thoughts. I’ve also been taking CBD oil, which I think has also contributed to lower anxiety at night. I didn’t necessarily want to get up any earlier, but mornings were easier. A good reminder that even 1 or 2 drinks can effect your sleep and your mornings.

Mood:

I’ll be honest. I was pretty agro the entire month. I was more irritable than usual. I felt like I was weirdly grounded. The first half of the month was worse than the last half, because I think some good detoxing happened and I didn’t want to drink in the way I did the first few weeks. Also, I was back to counting all of my food — so not only did I cut alcohol, but I was cutting out any bad food. I think my system was in a mild state of shock. Today, my mood is much better — but cutting back all of those things at once had a significant impact on my general overall happiness. You guys, food and drink make me HAPPY. I am much happier when moderating rather than eliminating.

Mental health:

While I may have been cranky, completing this goal has been really great for my mental state. I am very very hard on myself, and so when I set goals––I usually always reach them because if I cheat or mess up, I beat myself up over it. A sober month was great for me. It is not something I want to do all the time, because I enjoy and love the ritual of creating cocktails and pairing them with food and partaking in social libations with friends. But I know now that I don’t HAVE to. I know that I can choose NOT to. I am not dependent on it and it doesn’t define me or my life. Checking in on this relationship with alcohol was probably one of the healthiest things I’ve done for myself in a long time.

I feel really good that I did it successfully and I feel even better knowing
that I truly am in control of alcohol, and that it isn’t in control of me.

So, what next?

Well, I’m not grounded anymore! So, that’s great! But, I don’t want to fall back into bad habits like daily drinks. I have decided that I am not going to set rules and restrictions for myself, but rather approach drinking intuitively. This means monitoring myself in a way that feels healthy. If there are social situations during the week, I’ll partake. But when it comes to choices, I’d rather choose to have a great workout than two+ cocktails at home for no reason. I’ll probably still have wine when I watch The Bachelor and there will still be nights of celebration. The point is, to be aware and to put my health first. I don’t want to ever get to the point where I have to stop drinking (I enjoy it too much!)––so moderation is my best friend.

And that’s it! I’m proud and happy and so glad i did it. It was very very worth it.

CHEERS!

I know quite a few people who did dry January. I’d love to hear what takeaways you had! Was it worth it for you? Did it help you get clear about your relationship with alcohol? Was it a bust? Will you do it again next year? LMK!