Last Updated on January 15, 2021
January is a great month to cut back your drinking for a few reasons. Many people are drinking less as a New Year’s resolution, so there’s typically less alcohol around. People are tired from the holidays, so there are fewer social events. Plus, it’s Dry January.
To participate in Dry January, you can stop drinking completely or aim to have fewer drinks. Either way, changing your relationship with alcohol can be difficult. In this post, we’ll discuss five tips to make getting through a sober month easier.
What is Dry January?
Dry January is a movement where people aim to give up drinking for the month. It’s a global phenomenon, as well as an official public health campaign in the United Kingdom. Each year, more and more people are cutting out alcohol, or going “booze-free,” for the month of January.
With heavy drinking on the rise in the U.S., it’s a good time to consider your drinking habits. In 2015, almost 27 percent of adults reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The same survey found that 15.1 million adults had alcohol use disorder—6.2 percent of the adult population.
If you’re a heavy drinker, it may be unrealistic for you to stop drinking all at once for an entire “dry month.” You may want to use the month to cut back instead. Consider making a goal such as:
- Only drinking at social events
- Only drinking on weekends
- Pushing the time you start to drink back an hour (and keep pushing it back as the month goes on)
- Aiming for one less drink a night (and keep reducing as the month goes on)
Tips for Going Sober or Drinking Less This Month
You don’t need to be an alcoholic to cut back on your drinking. Here are five tips that can help make Dry January easier.
#1 Anti-Craving Medication
Abstinence-only methods like 12-step programs or rehab aren’t the only options. Medication is underused to treat alcohol dependence—less than 9 percent of U.S. alcoholics are prescribed anti-craving drugs. But it’s often more effective at reducing alcohol intake.
In fact, drugs like naltrexone, baclofen, and gabapentin have been clinically shown to lower alcohol cravings and keep drinking levels down. People who’ve taken these medications have gone from regular binge drinking to stopping after one or two drinks.
As Joseph, a Ria Health member, recently put it, thanks to medication-assisted treatment, “the urge to keep drinking is majorly reduced.” It’s a great option for people who want to be able to drink without losing control.
Another new treatment for cutting back includes services offered through telemedicine. Before, you’d need to find a counselor and travel there for every appointment. Depending on your schedule and comfort level, this may have prevented you from getting extra help to slow down your drinking.
Now, services like Ria Health allow you to access expert doctors, nurses, and personal coaches whenever you need them, all from your smartphone. We’re able to provide personalized care through anti-craving prescriptions, weekly calls, internet support groups, and in-app goal tracking.
#3 Social Support
When you start on your journey toward sobriety or drinking less, people close to you might notice. So you might want to think about how you’ll communicate these changes. You can tell your loved ones immediately or wait until they notice you drinking less. You may simply say you’re quitting or cutting back this month, or you may want to say it’s a long-term goal to go alcohol-free. How much you want to share about your reasons is a personal decision.
If you usually go out for a night of drinking with friends or family, suggest some things you could do that don’t involve alcohol. Another option is to go to venues that offer more activities than drinking, increasing your chances of having a couple fewer. This could include pool halls, arcades, or paint nights. If you feel your social circle getting smaller, consider where you could meet new friends who drink less.
#4 Replace Drinking With Something Fun
Even if you’re taking an anti-craving medication, it’s a good idea to have some activities planned ahead of time to distract yourself. You can schedule things to do around the time you usually start drinking—like after work or on weekends—to help you slowly break the pattern. Many people find that the less they drink, the more time they have to do other, more fulfilling things. View Dry January as an opportunity to do something good for yourself, as opposed to a month of deprivation.
We recommend thinking of ideas ahead of time and compiling a list of things you’d actually do. Keep the list on you, like on your phone, so it’s easy to access whenever you need a distraction idea. Here are 31 ideas to get you started.
#5 Track Your Drinking
If you use Dry January to reduce your drinking as opposed to stopping cold turkey, you may want to track your drinking in a journal or app.
You can note things like:
- The days you drink
- The time you start drinking
- Days without drinking, or days with fewer drinks
- The number of drinks you have
Tracking drinking has a few purposes:
- Counting your wins (and celebrating them to encourage future wins)
- Learning your drinking patterns
- Learning your triggers
- Assessing your progress
- Figuring out whether your drink-reducing techniques are working
- Assessing whether anti-craving medication is working
When you sign up with Ria Health, our app does all of this for you. We help you track your progress and alcohol levels a mobile Bluetooth breathalyzer and our in-app data analysis.
Take the first step toward drinking less. Join Ria Health now.