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How Dry January Changed my Relationship with Myself

I just completed another Dry January, maybe my 5th Dry January in a row. This year it felt different. This year, I actually took the time to think about and assess my relationship with alcohol.

What is Dry January?

Dry January is choosing to abstain from drinking alcohol for the entire month of January. I like to think of it as a nice reset to begin the year, especially after holiday indulgences and treats.

According to the DSM-5, I definitely don’t have a drinking problem or an addiction to speak of, but I wasn’t living up to my own standard of how I want my life to be and I think that’s important. I would drink typically Thursday (because its almost Friday), Friday (because margaritas), Saturday (because it’s the weekend) and Sunday (my partner and I have Old Fashioned Sunday). So even though I don’t have a problem, that’s four days of the week I would have at least one drink. That’s a lot for someone who is focused on health and wellness.

I have hypothyroidism, low stomach acid, and have been trying to heal gut issues for years. Alcohol is an irritant and doesn’t help any of those situations and can possibly make them worse. So why do I keep drinking regularly?

The biggest reason is that I just enjoy it. I enjoy the taste, I enjoy the feeling, I enjoy the ritual and social aspect of it. I’ve gotten to a place where I am not drinking to avoid emotions, but I drink to feel better. As in, I feel good, I want to feel better. Not, I feel like shit, I want to use this substance to help me feel better. It’s a subtle but important distinction.

It also is a stress reliever. The first couple of sips allow me to just *exhale* and separate from whatever type of day I had. As a therapist, I hold on to a lot of painful stories and part of being able to do my job well is being able to let go of those, to not keep them for myself.

Those are the reasons I came up with. But then I thought about why I shouldn't drink regularly. What else can I use to feel better, to separate from my stress?

As a mindfulness teacher and therapist, that was my first thought and instinct. Mindfulness is a way to engage more fully with the world around you and therefore feel better when you're already feeling good. Mindfulness opens the door to bigger and better emotions and connection. I also know that yoga and breath work can destress and be a catalyst for those yummy feel good chemicals in our brains to start flooding in.

I can only imagine the dopamine comes in faster when you do yoga with a goat on your back.

All that requires work, and alcohol skips the work. Alcohol takes you on a direct flight to paradise while mindfulness and yoga both have layovers and plane changes. It just isn’t as easy.

What they don't tell you though is that the direct flight on Alcohol Airlines takes you to the Fyre Festival- it isn't real. The benefits that I am speaking of, when they are because of drinking alcohol, are temporary. Once the alcohol leaves your system, you’re back where you started at best, or more likely, feeling a little bit worse. Yoga and mindfulness take longer and more effort, but the results are longer lasting.

Why should I try Dry January?

There are so many reasons for anyone to try Dry January (or Dry any 30 day period). I can't make that call for you. The main reason I don’t want to drink regularly anymore is for my physical health. I have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to heal my gut with food, yet every week for 4 days of the week I would basically go back in and reverse all the work. I want to give myself a fighting chance to actually heal, to improve my health and then maybe reintroduce alcohol, on special occasions.

I am writing this on February 1, 2022. My plan is to continue to not drink for another month and see how it goes. And then maybe another month after that. My health is important to me so I need to start acting like it. I don't need to be perfect at it, but I want to be curious and open.

January is over, but if you are curious about what it might be like to stop drinking for 30 days, I highly encourage you to start at any time! I'll be here cheering you on.

Kaylin is a licensed mental health therapist, mindfulness based empowerment life coach, Self-Care Advocate and recovering people pleaser. She loves to help people pleasers and perfectionists stop trying to prove their worth and start living their lives.

Book a free consultation today to see if she is a good fit to help you!

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