It's not to late to make this a Dry January
Jan. 5, 2023
By Mary Wade Burnside
Happy new year! Did you stay up late and toast 2023 with champagne at midnight? Have you maybe celebrated the new year since?
Even though we’re five days into January, you still might want to consider making this a Dry January.
Dry January is a name trademarked by a group called Alcohol Change UK. And even though, as the name suggests, the group is headquartered in Great Britain, the idea to forego booze for a month following the holidays has been catching on all over the world in the past few years.
In the United States in 2019, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 25.8% of people 18 and older reported that they had engaged in binge drinking in the past month when the data was collected.
Also, it’s suspected that during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption went up.
Members of the Monongalia County Quick Response Team (QRT), funded with grant money obtained by Monongalia County Health Department, deal mostly with opioid misuse, but also know that drinking is an issue that some individuals need to address.
“The pandemic has increased stress in many ways in our lives and many individuals observed not only increased stress but also alcohol consumption,” said Jon Dower, a QRT member and the director of recovery services at Ascension Recovery Services.
Taking a break from drinking, Dower noted, can lessen some of its short-term consequences, like headaches and weight gain, and it also “may alert an individual to seek assistance should the struggle become too great.”
So if you have trouble giving up alcohol for a month, you might want to reconsider your relationship with it. That said, if you just enjoy an occasional drink and had some bubbly to celebrate the new year, that’s fine. But it still might not be a bad idea to see what a month of not drinking feels like.
And if you fall into a different category, there is nothing wrong with taking some time and taking stock of the situation.
If you feel like cutting back or quitting alcohol would be a good choice for you and you need some guidance, a first step could be to check out resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (samhsa.gov) and the NIAAA (niaaa.nih.gov). You also could consider talking with a trusted friend or even a professional counselor.
And if you decide you could use some local help, there are Alcoholics Anonymous meetings just about everywhere as well as Ascension Recovery Services at 304-241-4585 and WV Sober Living at 304-413-4300.
You can also Google “online alcohol support groups” to find other people whose journeys might be similar to yours and who could provide help, from the comfort of your home.
January is a perfect time to take a break, re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol and just see what life is like without cocktails or beer.
Dry January allows individuals to assess what it feels like not to drink long enough to see health benefits, which can include sleeping better, having more energy, losing weight and having a better immune response.
Long-term benefits of not drinking or cutting back can help liver and heart health and reduce chances of getting diseases such as breast cancer, just to mention a few.
Be advised, those with heavy drinking problems should consult with their doctor or health care provider about ways to safely taper down. If you are unsure if you fall into this category, make an appointment to discuss how to reduce or quit drinking safely.
Even if this means not having a Dry January, it’s OK. Start in February or whenever you are ready.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.