In case anyone needs to hear this, Dry January is not for the faint of heart. Every year at this time, I get emails and notes from people telling me they’re giving up on ‘trying dry January.’
I’m not surprised, after a month or more of complete decadence and gluttony over the holidays, your body and mind are shocked to the core when you go on a diet, lace up your winter runners AND give up alcohol.
My first Dry January was a miserable month of feeling like I was missing out on something. I walked and ran through snowstorms to ease my restlessness, I listened to podcasts about being alcohol-free and made non-alcoholic drinks my project. It wasn’t easy. I was only a few weeks out from my actual last drink (although I didn’t know it), and looking back, I am surprised I made it through such a tough month.
We’ve been taught our whole lives that the only way to relax and deal with tough situations is by having a stiff drink. When this social norm is challenged, and you’re in the depth of the toughest part of January, your brain immediately fights back. One strategy for pushing through the month is to remember this, and understand your neurons are in flight or fight mode. You’ve trained your brain to look for the very solution you’re trying to avoid: that glass of wine to help you relax.
There are lots of ways to surf the urge and help your brain rewire itself. I personally found researching and hunting down non-alcoholic drinks a way to make Dry January fun (there are lots of recommendations on somegoodcleanfun.com).
As a runner, you could join the Sober Striders, a new running club in Toronto launched by local sober running creator Luc Zoratto, otherwise known as @marathontosobriety. Making connections with people who have the same health goals can be a great way to ride out (or stride out!) the rest of the month.
If you don’t need a new run crew, find something new to do to distract yourself from bad habits (yoga, meditate, journal), phone a friend, or sometimes just drinking a big glass of water can help your nervous system relax.
My take on all of this though is it doesn’t matter if you give up today. Go ahead and have a drink. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve taken a break for several weeks from something that’s not doing you any favours. It also doesn’t mean you won’t ever take a break again in the future. Be kind to yourself because this isn’t a test, unless you make it one!
If you feel like you have a really unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and Dry January is worse than you thought, the good news is there is a lot less stigma around sobriety these days, and there’s no shame in looking for the help you need. Reach out to me or someone else in the sober running community for support and to help you find the resources you need.
Or if you just want some fun drinks, and mocktail inspiration to get you through to the end of the month, check out recipes and non-alcoholic drink recommendations at SomeGoodCleanFun.com.
Cheers from my dry bar to yours!