What It’s Really Like to Give Up Alcohol, According to 5 Women Doing It Right Now
Enjoy a nightly glass of wine with dinner, order a few cocktails on the weekend, and it’s all too easy to overdo it on the alcohol. The latest dietary guidelines advise women to consume no more than seven drinks per week — that’s half the suggested amount for men under the age of 65. (Not fair, we know.)
If you’re feeling compelled to hit the reset button, you’re not alone. Dry January, an annual event challenging people to give up alcohol for a month, first started as a U.K. public health campaign in 2013, but has since found a worldwide following among temporary teetotalers. Instagram now boasts more than 166,000 posts tagged #dryjanuary as people take a step back after the holiday season, and it’s not too late to join in. The benefits of going sober — more spending money, better sleep, improved mood — don’t require you to start on January 1.
We checked in with five women about their experience giving up alcohol so far and what they’ve learned since Day One. If you’re curious about going sober for awhile, here’s what they’d like you to know:
“I wanted my daughter to see me making healthy choices.”
“Up until recently, I’d ignore the fact that I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. I’d blame being a mom with a young toddler who has never been a good sleeper. In fact, I’d blame the entire balancing act of being a parent. But, when I got really honest with myself, I was consuming far too many calories and toxins … in the form of wine. But it’s not vanity that has me kicking the habit as much as it is other factors. I want my 9-year-old daughter to see me making healthy choices and for both of my children, being that mom who is full of energy and enthusiasm. I used to be her. And this year, I’m on a mission to find her again. So far, the transition has been easy because I remind myself of the bigger, healthier picture. I’ve also filled my cabinets and refrigerator with a ton of different teas, coffee (even decaf), and sparkling water so I have fun alternatives in place.” — Erinne Magee
“I wanted to prove to myself I actually could.”
“I had heard about Dry January through social media last year. And this year after seven or so Christmas/New Year parties, I just needed to give my digestive system a break. I also wanted to do it just so I could prove to myself I actually could. I typically don’t drink much, if at all during the week. I was interested to see just how dependent I was on alcohol in social situations and after a long work week.
I live in Wisconsin, where alcohol and a social life are pretty tightly intertwined, especially in winter when there isn’t anything else to do but drink. So far this month, I’ve gone out to the bars every weekend (because that’s just what you do in Wisconsin) but have managed to avoid the temptation of a Malibu-Diet Pepsi, my cocktail of choice. Also being a married woman with no kids, I deal with the ‘You must be pregnant’ assumption. Pretty sure when I’m actually pregnant, I’ll be holding a fake drink in my hand just to avoid the question. My husband and friends have been very supportive, so that’s nice.
Since starting, I feel like I have more energy, better skin, lost a couple pounds, and have been sleeping better at night. I still manage to have just as good of a time when going out too, which was a surprise. It’s really not as bad as I thought it would be. I think I may do it again next year!” — Kellan Popp
“I wanted to identify when I was using alcohol as a crutch.”
“Dry January to me is much more than giving up alcohol for 30 days. My family has a history of alcoholism and drug addiction. Research tells us that the children of parents with addiction are more likely to develop an addiction of their own. So starting this year by eliminating alcohol is an opportunity to prove to myself that I am in control of my habits and to identify when I was using alcohol as a crutch.
This experience was NOT enjoyable at first giving birthdays, holiday parties, and the social norm of casual drinking. Being free of alcohol made me acknowledge the fact that sometimes I have anxiety going out and meeting people. I confronted that having a cocktail helped me loosen up and helped my anxiety dissipate. I wondered about my personality and if I was still interesting or fun. Now that I am on day 23 I am so proud of myself and my conviction. I am going to be honest and vain and say first my skin looks great and my sleep has improved. I am sleeping longer and getting deeper sleep. I don’t have any plans on giving up alcohol permanently but I do feel like drinking is no longer an activity! I don’t desire to drink to celebrate, have a good time socially, or when I feel tired after a long day of work. I have found better ways.” — Tiffany Poole
“I wanted to start 2019 on a healthy note.”
“My fiancé and I were feeling a little overindulged after the holidays and thought Dry January would be a good way to detox and start the new year on a healthy note. January is normally our slowest month with work and social events, so the timing was great for taking on the challenge. Overall it’s been pretty easy! The only downsides are that I’m starting to get sick of drinking sparkling water (my go-to non-alcoholic beverage) and I can’t drink wine while watching The Bachelor on Monday nights.” — Katie Manwarin
“I wanted to wake up without regrets or anxiety.”
“I had been contemplating giving up alcohol for a few months. My mind and body had been asking me to do it for some time now, so I decided this January was the right time. I wanted to see what changes would happen in my life.
I didn’t think it was going to be that hard because I mainly only drink on the weekends with friends in social situations. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to participate in these situations this month, but I have and it was actually a pretty positive experience. I was worried people would judge me for it, but to be honest no one has given me a negative response. Some are encouraging, and some just are like ‘that’s cool.’ I felt more confident in myself and able to connect with more people. At times I did get annoyed or tired as the night went on, but it didn’t bother me much knowing that I would wake up hangover-free and with no regrets or anxiety.
My relationship with alcohol for the past few years has been an interesting one — from non-existent to sometimes being probably too prevalent in my life. Mornings after I would go out drinking I would wake up with a lot of anxiety and regret. The whole next day would be hard for me mentally and emotionally. I don’t want to feel like that and I have the power to change that!
This whole month has shown me a lot about myself and how alcohol is going to fit into my life moving forward. I will begin drinking again, but more so to actually enjoy a glass of wine or a yummy beer, not to get drunk. I am so glad I did this and will probably continue to do sober months or at phases through the year. I will no longer be worried to tell people I am not drinking, because it’s very empowering for me to be able to stand up for myself and do what’s right for me!” — Hayley Kremer