How To Survive Dry January, According To People Who've Done It

In the past year or so, Dry January has shifted from a cool alternative to setting New Year's resolutions to something that's sometimes seen as an annoying self-righteous ritual. But let's get something straight: Electing not to drink alcohol for a month is a personal decision, one that people should respect regardless of their own feelings about drinking.

And not to mention, Dry January can be really tough for some people! Given that, we asked members of the R29 community to share their Dry January tips, wisdom, regrets, and takeaways. Whether you've already committed to a sober month, or are on the fence about starting, use this as a guide for getting through January.

If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.

bring Kombucha

"Order club soda, bring Kombucha, drink a coffee before going out with friends who are drinking."

– Liz

small social gatherings can be the hardest.

"Being in small social gatherings when everyone else is drinking can be the hardest. It’s harder to navigate at first than drinking at a bar or in a large group, where you can 'hide' your lack of consumption."

– Jordyn

Focus on the conversation.

"Focus on the people you are with and the conversation! Ask questions, be more engaged, fully absorb in the benefits of not drinking rather than what you are missing."

– Amanda

Fake beer.

"Drink fake beer."

– Damien

I enjoyed the idea of taking control.

"I enjoyed the idea of taking control of something in my life. When I decided to have a drink about four months later, I held a sense of satisfaction that I had an answer to my question: Did I really need a drink to have fun? Answer: no."

– Elizabeth

I loved feeling productive.

"Waking up on weekends feeling great was amazing! I loved feeling productive on my weekends."

– Megan

Seltzer with lime or diet Coke.

"Get a seltzer with lime or a Diet Coke. Most people won't even notice that you aren't drinking."

– Rachel

say you're trying to get pregnant.

"Saying you’re trying to get pregnant helps stop people from asking why you're not drinking."

– Megan

buy extra La Croix.

"Get through the first weekend, and you’re golden. If you’re a home-drinker, buy extra La Croix or something else to replace your usual glass of wine or beer."

– Jordyn

easy way to try to reduce my anxiety.

"I decided to do a dry month because my anxiety was really bothering me, and I know that alcohol/hangovers can be a real trigger for me. I would wake up after a night of drinking with my mind racing, and my entire next day would be spent in a miserable state of anxiety. So, I decided it was an easy way to try to reduce my anxiety."

– Rachel

first two weeks are the hardest.

"The first two weeks are the hardest; the back end of the month is no sweat."

– Sarah

Don't make a big deal about it.

"Don't make a big deal about it. The bigger of a deal you make it, the more your friends or coworkers will tease you and try to make you break your Dry January."

– Bella

Don't go on a bender on February 1st.

"Don't go on a bender on February 1st! Stick to one to two drinks."

– Samantha

I committed more to hobbies, such as drawing.

"I told some friends so they supported me, and I committed more to hobbies such as drawing."

– Amanda

I missed the ritual.

"I mostly missed the occasional glass of wine I would have after work. I missed the taste and the ritual. Also, when other people weren't supportive or didn't get it, I found it difficult."

– Rachel

I actually paid attention to people.

"I liked the satisfaction of achievement. Also, I felt super aware and healthy the entire month, and less bloated all the time because I would have water retention a lot after drinking. I felt more involved at outings because I actually paid attention to people."

– Amanda

Stay away from people who antagonize you to drink.

"Stay away from people who are only going to antagonize you to drink because they’re drinking."

– Megan

I can go to a bar and still enjoy the atmosphere.

"I loved learning that I could have fun at a bar without drinking. I had always known that I could have fun without drinking, but always thought of that as going to the movies, out to dinner, etc. But because I was dating someone who wasn't doing a dry month, there were still times when we ended up at bars with friends. And so I learned that I can go to a bar and order a seltzer, and still enjoy the atmosphere and people! Surprised me for sure."

– Rachel

I hate avoiding cozy drinks on snow days.

"I live in New England and I hate avoiding cozy drinks on snow days! That was the hardest part."

– Samantha

it changed the way my body felt.

"I did Dry January for a lot of reasons: I wanted to save money (I did!) and see how it changed the way my body felt (for the better!)."

– Sarah

I tend to cluster healthy behaviors.

"I have done dry January a few times to save money after the holidays and restart my routine. Like many people, I tend to 'cluster' my healthy behaviors. When I don't drink, I tend to eat healthier, exercise more, and sleep better."

– Samantha

You save money.

"You save money. I would sometimes get water or order a soda, and learned that if bartenders are busy enough they won't even bother charging your for a soda."

– Rachel

Drunk people can be exhausting.

"Being around drunk people when you're not can sometimes be exhausting."

– Sarah

I finally had time to pursue hobbies.

"I finally had time to pursue my own hobbies and likes instead of being hungover and embarrassed."

– Megan

see where drinking fits in.

"Prioritize your ideal life, and see where drinking fits in."

– Damien

Consider it more of an experiment.

"Just give it a go and see what happens. See what you can do for yourself and how it affects you. This may sound strange, but keep your expectations low to keep the stress low. Consider it more of an experiment. On the flip side, if you truly feel that you have a severe issue with alcohol, seek help."

– Elizabeth

Know why you're doing it.

"It might be awkward at first, but if you know why you are doing it, then it is easier to stick to. I am a very open person, so if anyone asked me why I wasn't drinking, I was happy to share my goal, and most people were very supportive."

– Rachel

I treated myself to donuts.

"I treated myself to donuts. Frequently."

– Sarah

Seltzer and cran.

"Order a typical seltzer and cran, and just keep reminding yourself how great you will feel in the morning."

– Samantha

do things that interest you.

"Take time to do things that interest you that do not revolve around drinking. The first few social events during Dry January will be awkward as you navigate the space sober."

– Eric

Stagger things.

"Don't attempt Dry January at the same time as trying to start off on all your other New Year's resolutions. Like, if you resolved to go to the gym more, cut out soda, and eat healthier, cutting out alcohol will make your resolutions seem impossible. Don't try to attempt everything at once — stagger things so that you're not panicking about being 'perfect.'"

– Bella

your Dry January story is actually a great conversation starter.

"Grab a glass and put something in it. I would avoid water; I tried that and (not kidding) ended up getting questions about drinking 'straight vodka.' Also, be honest if someone asks if you’re not drinking. Sharing your Dry January story is actually a great conversation starter." – Jordyn

Drinking becomes a treat.

"Dry January also benefits my mindset the following months, because my drinking habit dramatically decreases, and it becomes a treat, rather than something I would do mindlessly or when I'm bored."

– Amanda

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