Dry January has become a recognised event in the nation’s calendar – growing each year both by those participating in the official campaigns or people informally determined to have a month of abstinence.
The benefits of going ‘dry’ for a month are huge. So much coverage is given about the physical health benefits (which are fantastic) that the mental health benefits are often given a second thought.
Here are just a few.
- A clear, fresh mind (you will find you are quicker and sharper when you do tasks).
- A better memory.
- Reduced anxiety within a few days of stopping drinking.
- Better sleep, which lowers depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, nightmares, and the risk of psychosis.
- Increased self-confidence.
- After two weeks any urges to drink will reduce dramatically.
My favourite part of not drinking is waking up fresh-headed with no anxiety about how much I drank the night before. I also get great satisfaction when I go for a run or a dog walk early on a Saturday morning because when I was drinking, I would be laid in bed feeling sick, anxious, and craving unhealthy food.
Dry January is not designed (nor promoted) as a serious medical intervention into an individual’s drinking. Various apps and websites are promoted to offer tips and a running total of the cash saved. Alcohol Concern, who run one of the schemes – clearly state that this is not a medical detox.
For some, Dry January might highlight a more serious alcohol problem. If you are experiencing sweating, shaking, sleepless nights, preoccupation with alcohol, racing heart, seizures, or delirium tremens (DT’s) then this is a good indication that you may have a physical dependency and need to seek medical attention. It is scary asking for help I know, but just remember it takes a strong person to recognise when they need help and ask for it. You can seek support from your GP, local Drug and Alcohol Service, Mental Health Service, or ring 101.
If you have had a go at Dry January then well done, even if you reduced your alcohol intake then you are on track for feeling better and improvements in your mental health. Don’t forget though, you can have some time off drinking alcohol anytime it doesn’t have to be in January. It is a good idea to keep a journal so on the days you are struggling you can look back and see how far you have come.
One thing’s for sure I have never heard anyone wake up the morning after not drinking and saying, ‘Oh I wish I had got drunk last night’. You never know you might like it so much you decide to go sober for a whole year or a whole lifetime like me.