At the start of each new year since college graduation, I've seen a few friends partake in Dry January — meaning: For the 31 days of January, they abstained from drinking for
any reason, including birthday parties, promotions, weddings, and first dates. But for some reason, their temporary sobriety was always something they kept hidden. And every time the subject came up, things would inevitably get awkward. One year, I met a friend for our annual new year catch up over wine and cheese. As soon as I ordered my glass of wine, she yelped, "I can't have any wine — I'm not drinking." After laughing and asking her why she agreed to meet at a wine bar — instead of, say, a restaurant or a coffee shop — we both changed our orders to sodas and cheese, and continued the night as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Another time, a friend called me from the bathroom during a date in January to ask, "How do I survive a first date without drinking? I haven't told him I'm doing Dry January." I attempted to walk her through how to tell him about the challenge and gave her a few conversation starters to pivot off the topic. (They are married now, and I do take full credit.) After hearing and reading about so many people's Dry January experiences, including on Refinery29, I decided I would give it a try in 2017. To be honest, there wasn't one big motivating factor for me. Sure, the supposed benefits of better skin, better sleep, and increased energy would all be nice perks, but that's not my aim. I honestly just like challenges. When I first decided to take on Dry January last month, I thought it would be easy. It wasn't until the end of December that I started thinking about all of the events I had already planned in which I'd normally be drinking, and I got nervous. I may have been a source of wisdom and clarity when I wasn't the one partaking in the challenge myself, but how would I fare as the staunchly sober friend? So I reached out to my friends who have done Dry January in the past and asked them about it. Half said they cheated at some point, and most admitted that the reason they were so secretive was because they didn't want to be shamed if they failed. I don't like cheating or failing at things, so here's how I'm going to keep myself accountable: Not only am I doing Dry January, but I will be updating this story every day with my progress. I will let you guys know if I feel like my skin is actually getting better, if I feel more refreshed and energized, and if it's really that awkward to be the only sober person in the room. But, that also means that, if I cheat, I will be letting everyone on the internet know in real time. Wish me luck.
Day One Level of difficulty (0-5): 2 I made the decision ahead of time to only start counting January 1st once I woke up. So I didn't put my champagne glass down right as the clock struck midnight like a Cinderella whose fairy godmother worked at a bar. Instead, I continued drinking with friends until I decided it was time to go to sleep. Honestly, after drinking so much on New Year's Eve, I was hungover enough that wanting to drink didn't cross my mind. The only reason that this day got a "2" instead of a "0" for difficulty is because a group of friends went to karaoke that night, and I backed out because I wouldn't be drinking. I don't think you need alcohol to do anything, but I hate karaoke and I'm not the most confident singing in front of people, so a drink definitely helps. Plus, being the only sober person around drunk people singing (er, shouting) just didn't sound that fun. Improvements in physical or mental health? Well, considering I drank the night before, that would be a big fat nope. If anything, it's a miracle that my skin looked just fine, and that I had a productive first day of 2017 at all.
Day Two Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I would estimate that I haven't gone a month without a drink of some kind since I was 19 or 20 years old, but I have gone two weeks without drinking plenty of times. So, I don't expect Dry January to be challenging for at least another week or so. Plus, it was a Monday and the last day before returning to work, so I wasn't really tempted. However, as I was cleaning my apartment, I realized how much liquor and wine my roommate and I had accumulated as gifts over the holidays. I stored it all above our kitchen cabinets for now, to keep it out of sight (and hopefully out of mind). The most awkward part of the day was telling the man I am going on a first date with on Friday that cocktails really didn't need to be part of location scouting, since I am doing Dry January. So stay tuned for how that goes. Improvements in physical or mental health? Yeah, Dry January might do magical things for your mind and body, but I am 100% certain it will take at least a week for me to notice a difference.
Day Three Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 Today was the first day back to "real" life in 2017, since I had my first full day back at the office with all of my co-workers. It felt really.... long. As soon as I got home, I was ready to get to bed. I didn't even have a desire to pour a glass of wine, because sleep was more appealing. Improvements in physical or mental health? I still think it's too early to see any true benefits. I did sleep really well last night. But then again, I was exhausted. That probably had more to do with the long day than the lack of alcohol in my system.
Day Four Level of difficulty (0-5): 3 I was at work a bit late, and when I was leaving, I got a text from a childhood friend who needed to vent about a man. We met up at a bar, and I ordered a soda without hesitation. Easy enough. But soon, I wished it was mixed in with something stronger, because you have to be in a really special place to talk to a crying friend for hours about a jerk. I was glad to be there for her, though, and I was extra glad the next morning because not drinking meant I actually got a good night of sleep before work. Improvements in physical or mental health? I have slept amazingly the last two nights, but I still haven't woken up as energized as I had hoped. And I'm still having a 3pm slump. But here's hoping a few more no-alcohol days will lead to results!
Day Five: Level of difficulty (0-5): 1 I thought today was going to be a lot harder than it ended up being. I met up with friends from college. It was originally supposed to be for drinks at our favorite margarita place. It's the kind of place where the drinks are so strong, you always leave with a story. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to spending an evening there sober. But one of my friends is also participating in Dry January (her whole team at work is doing it), so we ended up going to a low-key restaurant instead. No one drank. So other than talking about how much we craved the margaritas, it was painless. Improvements in physical or mental health? I still don't feel confident that any improvements have happened, or that they are correlated to not drinking. I mean, it's only been five days.
Day Six: Level of difficulty (0-5): 6 So, as promised I had a first date tonight. I don't think I've been on a completely sober date since high school. Now, I don't normally get trashed, but I do have a drink or two to help lubricate the nerve-wracking situation. Tonight I had nada. To his credit, he also chose to refrain from drinking with me. The conversation was fine, but there were a couple awkward moments where I wished for an adult beverage. And after the first hour, I was ready to go, but I realized he was going to make sure this dinner lasted as long as possible — and then I really, really wanted that drink. I'm hoping this will be the hardest day of Dry January, to be honest. Improvements in physical or mental health? I was worried about what looked like a breakout coming on, but I didn't have time to do anything about it. However, it cleared up in only a couple of hours all by itself. Is it good karma or is this whole not-drinking-any-alcohol thing (and instead having a lot of water) working?
Day Seven: Level of difficulty (0-5): 2 My aunt and uncle are in town, so they took me out to a nice dinner. They order wine, but they didn't pressure me (and for the record, no one has pressured me to drink so far), so it wasn't a big deal. It was definitely easier than last night — but free alcohol is still free alcohol. Improvements in physical or mental health? I definitely had amazing sleep last night. Sleep is normally something I'm great at, but I've reached a whole new level of deep sleeping over the past week. I'm starting to think that maybe not drinking is to thank.
Day Eight: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 It was a busy day, and there was no time to think about the fact that I wasn't drinking. I went to a movie, a Broadway show with my aunt and uncle, and then straight to work to cover the Golden Globes. I was out of the house from 9:30am to midnight, so I basically forgot about Dry January. Improvements in physical or mental health? For the first time since it started getting cold, I didn't have to apply chapstick at all while I was outside today. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I'm replacing alcohol with water. At every event where I would have had alcohol this weekend, I've ended up sipping way more water than normal.
Day Nine: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I'm going to be real here: I don't normally drink on Mondays, so it wasn't very tempting today. I went to work, then met a friend to go see Sing (yes, we are 26 and watch every animated movie that comes out), made dinner, cleaned, and went to sleep. It just wasn't a day in which I thought about drinking. Improvements in physical or mental health? I was up late the night before (since I left work at midnight) and was able to jump out of bed an hour earlier than normal without issue. So, I am feeling more energy, which is a very welcome change.
Day Ten: Level of difficulty (0-5): 3 There were a lot of things that made me want to drink today: 1. A company happy hour 2. The reports of opposition research on president-elect Donald Trump 3. Staying at work until midnight to finish up a project 4. President Obama's farewell address I didn't drink. But as the evening went on, the list of reasons why I wanted to drink just kept getting longer and longer. Improvements in physical or mental health? I haven't slept for more than five hours any night in the last three days, yet somehow I haven't had a mid-afternoon crash either of the last two days. This is definitely something I could get used to. However, I am starting to breakout (probably because of the lack of sleep), so I have yet to see the blemish-free skin some people get from Dry January.
Day Eleven: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I ended up going to the gym before and after work today, meaning I was both too tired and too busy to think about drinking. Improvements in physical or mental health? While I do try to go to the gym three times a week, going twice in one day is absolutely unheard of for me. I am going to give Dry January all the credit for the sudden energy boost here.
Day Twelve: Level of difficulty (0-5): 4 I stopped by the bar my friend works at after work. It's not the best idea to go to a bar during Dry January, but since she works a lot of evenings as a bartender, my spontaneous after work check-ins are sometimes the only time we get to see each other for weeks. Having differing work hours sucks, but the free drinks that come with her job are definitely a benefit....except when you are doing Dry January. This month they are really just a temptation, one that I was thankfully able to say no to. Improvements in physical or mental health? I'm still feeling well-rested when I wake up, and my skin seems to be clearing up. I don't know if I am just wanting to see something, but I decided to skip wearing foundation all together today.
Day Thirteen: Level of difficulty (0-5): 1 I had a girls' night with some of my friends. We watched a movie and made a dinner of salmon and salad together. While this evening would normally include a bottle or two of wine, since another girl is also doing Dry January the group decided to leave the wine for this month. Improvements in physical or mental health? This morning I woke up an hour earlier than I normally do (which is unheard of for me), and I went to the gym before work. I am normally an exclusive 8pm gym-class-goer, so this was definitely a new improvement.
Day Fourteen: Level of difficulty (0-5): 6 Guys, I am going to admit something very real here. I broke Dry January today (hence the level 6 in difficulty). I had been going back and forth about whether I would drink Saturday night all week. My friend's parents were in town and took us to a nice dinner complete with a tasting menu and the corresponding wine pairings. Plus, we went to a cocktail lounge before dinner. I could have said no — they would not have pressured me. But the idea of having a fancy dinner at a restaurant I had never been to before, and enjoying the perfectly selected wine to go with my food won out. What can I say? I have a hard time turning down free things, and it was such a lovely evening. Improvements in physical or mental health? Once again, I woke up earlier than I normally would, way before my alarm was set. For the first time in my adult life, I just might be becoming a morning person.
Day Fifteen: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 Well, I almost wish I could tell you I feel ashamed that I broke Dry January yesterday, but I don't. Hey, who hasn't broken a New Years resolution? Plus, it was free. I am in my 20s in New York, and it was free. I am determined to not break it again, though. Not just because I am writing this, but because the hangover was real today. I really felt those drinks from last night until the afternoon, and that headache is not a feeling I miss. Improvements in physical or mental health? Well, I did wake up early, but I am pretty sure that had more to do with the fact I DID drink than anything else. When I've had a lot of alcohol the night before, I always find it hard to sleep in.
Day Sixteen: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 It's Martin Luther King Jr. day today, so I have the day off work. My cousin came to town for the weekend, so we went to a nice brunch and then around town. Whenever out of town guests come to visit, I end up spending more than I would during a normal week, so I was glad to not spend any extra money on cocktails at brunch. We spend the rest of the day exploring NYC until her train, and at that point, I went home to make dinner and finish up the chores I hadn't gotten around to that weekend. Improvements in physical or mental health? After the alcohol from Saturday, and the lack of sleep that night, I was exhausted and had no problem sleeping in on Monday. Thankfully, my cousin was also ready to sleep in (although she did get up before me, just like she has during every sleepover since we were toddlers).
Day Seventeen: Level of difficulty (0-5): 1 Today was easy. But ironically, two different people gave me bottles of wine today at work. I brought them home and added them to the stash of alcohol for February. Improvements in physical or mental health? Today was one of those days where I was a bit grumpy and tired and just sluggish. Turns out, you can have those days even if you aren't actively drinking.
Day Eighteen: Level of difficulty (0-5): 3 I met a friend after work to go to an art exhibit. Her boyfriend ordered us all drinks before I could tell him that I was doing Dry January. I was determined not to fail again, so I didn't accept the drink. I did offer to pay him back though. Instead he just drank two. So all is well that ends well? Improvements in physical or mental health? I've been sleeping so well that I no longer have under eye circles or puffiness at all.
Day Nineteen Level of difficulty (0-5): 5 We had taco night. Taco night means there are Coronas and margaritas. I love both of these things. But I said no, and just enjoyed my tacos instead. I am going to be glad to drink at monthly taco night next month, though, not going to lie. Improvements in physical or mental health? Today was one of those very stressful days. I should have been losing my mind, but I didn't. It had nothing to do with alcohol or the lack of, but just work and life in general.
Day Twenty: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I needed to partake in some good ol' self-care today. I took a bubble bath, I read a book (yes, a whole book), and I stayed up late. I naturally love the hours between midnight and 2 a.m. to journal and read, and think, so I let myself stay up and be creative. It was worth it, even if I end up being tired tomorrow. Improvements in physical or mental health? I realized today that I have been drinking on average around 9-10 glasses of water today. I had always made sure I got my recommended 8 glasses before dinner, since I might have something else to drink. Now that I've replaced alcohol at dinner with water, I've been drinking one to two extra glasses of water a day. That's great, except I am finding myself having to pee more.
Day Twenty-Two: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I joined the Women's March in NYC. It was one of those events where I did not even think about alcohol, because there was just so much going on that was so much more important. Plus, for a march that didn't cover that many miles, it was exhausting. So, once I went home, I was out for the count. I turned down every invite to go out. Improvements in physical or mental health? I am pretty sure my emotional state was the motivation behind my energy today, but I could be wrong.
Day Twenty-Two: Level of difficulty (0-5): 2 My roommate and I cleaned our whole apartment today and made it our mission to actually get rid of all the excess stuff we had in our kitchen, living room, bathroom, and closets. It was a full day job, and it was exhausting. Afterward, we both were tempted to have some wine, but we did not. Let me tell you, though, by not drinking this month, we have quite a collection of wine now. Something about saying "I am doing Dry January" meant that I got EXTRA free alcohol at work. Improvements in physical or mental health? I woke up two hours before I normally do on the weekend, and didn't crash like I expected I would. Perhaps I was just super excited about cleaning? That seems unlikely, though.
Day Twenty-Three: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 They are renovating the apartment above mine, so I had to stay at home to handle some surprise maintenance requests. I had to listen to hammering all day...which could have been a good reason to drink, now that I think about it, but I didn't. Drinking didn't even cross my mind. Improvements in physical or mental health? I mean, I woke up at 5:30 a.m., but that is also when the hammering started in the apartment above mine. I have officially just stopped wearing concealer, though, because I haven't had under eye circles or blemishes to cover up.
Day Twenty-Four: Level of difficulty (0-5): 5 I got a promotion today, one that I've worked really hard for. I really wanted to celebrate over dinner with my friend with a drink. I realized that I've been socialized to correlate drinking with celebrating something — birthdays, promotions, weddings, engagements, finishing a big project at work, etc. I resisted, but it was not the easiest. Improvements in physical or mental health? I had a random dry patch of skin on my forehead this morning, which normally means I would have to battle with an army of moisturizers for days. But, I noticed it was gone by evening.
Day Twenty-Five: Level of difficulty (0-5): 1 So. Many. Free. Happy. Hours. I went with a friend to one of her work events, where there was...free alcohol. I don't think I realized exactly how much free alcohol I am around until today. Between friends that work at bars, happy hours at work, and events for my friend's jobs, there is a lot of alcohol around. I said no, and no one said anything, but no wonder I so rarely have an alcohol-free week. It's just there. Improvements in physical or mental health? I ended up going to the gym after the event at 9:30 p.m., which is something I would never do if I had had something to drink.
Day Twenty-Six: Level of difficulty (0-5): 3 I met a friend for dinner after work, and everyone had margaritas but me. It wasn't that hard to say no, I've had practice now. But, I am not going to lie, I did want one. I do love frozen margaritas. Improvements in physical or mental health? Eh, it felt like a normal day.
Day Twenty-Seven: Level of difficulty (0-5): 4 Guys, I broke Dry January AGAIN. And the craziest part? It wouldn't have been hard to say no. I could have said no. My friends would not have forced me, and I don't think I would have really been tempted. But, I was just so touched! I received a promotion at work this week and my friend surprised me with a bottle of champagne, pizza, and really cute champagne glasses. I was so touched by the congratulatory toast that I took a sip of the champagne and enjoyed the celebration before I realized oops, I am not supposed to be drinking. I put the glass down after that first sip though, once I realized what I had done. Improvements in physical or mental health? Today, I woke up so early that I read for an hour before it was time to even get ready. That was really nice, and it definitely made me feel more relaxed and less stressed all day.
Day Twenty-Eight: Level of difficulty (0-5): 5 I met a friend for his birthday dinner, and then went to his birthday party that night. It wasn't hard to turn down the drinks during dinner. His birthday party was a little bit harder. I was just drinking Coke without a shot of something extra, and that was fine. It wasn't a hard decision to make, but there is something to be said about being the only sober person at a party. Things that can be seen as cute with alcohol, can be seen as real annoying sober. It was still a great night though. Improvements in physical or mental health? My hair and scalp have been really dry for the last month. This is something I always suffer from, but it's been worse the last month. However, for the first time, it didn't feel so dry, so I was even able to skip my medicated conditioner.
Day Twenty-Nine: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I was at work Sunday night to cover the SAG Awards, so there really wasn't time to even think that I wanted a drink. Improvements in physical or mental health? I didn't really notice anything different health-wise. But, when I went to the doctor and she asked if I had had anything to drink in the last week and I could say "only a sip of champagne," I felt a weird sense of accomplishment. Although, I know that's not something to brag about.
Day Thirty: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 I really don't ever drink on Mondays, but especially when I work on Sunday nights. I was so tired all day that, after work, all I wanted to do was go home, make dinner, say hi to my roommate, and get into bed with a book. Improvements in physical or mental health? I should have not been able to wake up early, considering how late I was at work. But not only did I get up in time to go to the gym, I even woke up before the alarm. I also realize that my skin is not nearly as dry as it normally is at this time of year. This may have more to do with all the extra water I am drinking at dinner instead of alcohol, though.
Day Thirty-One: Level of difficulty (0-5): 0 It's the last day! And okay, I can't call this a 100% success. I have broken Dry January TWICE now. But all in all, I did cut back on drinking this month. I do feel good (more on that below), but I'm not going to lie, I will be drinking in February. With my birthday, so many of my friends' birthdays, New York Fashion Week, and Valentine's Day all in one month, there is a lot to celebrate. I think the part that I am most excited about is the money that I saved because of Dry January. I get paid on the last day of the month, and on that day I transfer any money from my budget I didn't spend that month into savings. Since the two times I drank, I didn't pay for it, I didn't spend any of my budget allocated to going out/drinks. I was able to put an extra $150 into my savings account. Improvements in physical or mental health? I've definitely had more energy than I am used to, and I have slept better than I have in years. I wake up with energy when my alarm goes off every single morning now, which is something I am definitely not used to and happy about. My skin also does look clearer and brighter than usual. I've even gone a couple days without foundation or concealer at all.