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What if Dry January isn’t enough?

What is Dry January?

Dry January is a campaign run by Alcohol Change UK, in which participants give up alcohol for the month. Other charities run similar events, such as Dryathlon, organised by Cancer Research UK.

Every year millions of people make a resolution to lay off the booze for a month at the start of the year – Dry January started in 2013 with 4,000 people. Now in it’s 11th year it’s come a long way and over 175,000 people took part in 2023.

The risks of going dry for a month

 There has been remarkably little evaluation of the benefits of campaigns like Dry January. These initiatives are “blunt instruments” that work best for lighter drinkers. Dry January could however highlight difficulties among those with an alcohol dependency, many people are likely to be unaware that they have such a problem.

If people have a problematic relationship with alcohol, being ‘dry’ for just one month doesn’t cut it. Very often, people will ‘white knuckle’ it through the month not drinking “one day at a time” but they find themselves back on the booze with a vengeance afterwards. They are not looking at the impact on their work, their health and their relationships.

Therefore Dry January can be counter intuitive because it provides a justification to continuing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol for the rest of the year. Proving you can stop drinking for one month doesn’t mean you don’t have an alcohol dependency. If you find yourself constantly craving alcohol, either physically or psychologically during the month, and can’t wait to start again, you may have a problem. 

People who give up alcohol for Dry January will often convince themselves that they don’t have an alcohol problem because they’ve managed a month off drinking. However, many people go straight back to excessive drinking on February 1st and may even drink more than usual as a reward. The main problem with temporary abstinence is that the real issues behind why they drink haven’t been addressed.  

What if I can’t stop for a whole month?

Nobody likes to fail, but failure is a reality of life and is essential for growth.  However, some individuals can become crippled by failure, find it demoralizing and find it hard to move forward.  Some may take their failed attempts at sobriety harder than others, thinking they are a weak person, weak willed or other such negative thoughts.  It may be the case that they are fighting an obsession which is beyond their control and are in the grips of an illness. Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are fundamental to moving through failure as is seeking professional help.

Failure may not necessarily mean that you have a problem with alcohol.  People have different motivations to try sobriety.  For some, failure may mean that their motivation to be sober simply wasn’t strong enough, such as for the individuals who broke their abstinence because they forgot their dry January pledge.  It merely may not have been a priority for them.  What an individual’s reasoning is for failing to maintain their abstinence is telling as to if they do or don’t have a problem with alcohol.

Failing to stay sober also doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up.  Rather, it can serve as an opportunity to further evaluate what purpose alcohol is serving in your life and contemplate if it may be a bigger problem than you may have thought.  An alcohol “slip” or “lapse” can serve as a learning lesson for how you choose to move forward in your life with or without alcohol.

Making it through dry January, or even staying sober for several months or a year or more does not necessarily mean you don’t have a problem with alcohol.  It means you’re able to stop drinking.  Many alcoholics will tell you that stopping is the easy part, it’s staying stopped that is hard.

If alcohol has caused you problems in the past, there is a great likelihood that it will continue to cause you problems in the future.  Furthermore, if you have had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in the past, there is a great likelihood you will continue to abuse alcohol if you resume drinking.

If you are sober for a period of time but continue to experience cravings to consume alcohol, are obsessing over alcohol, have a poor social life without alcohol, or if you experience a low mood, anxiety, anger, or other mental health issues without alcohol then alcohol may be a problem for you despite your ability to be abstinent.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t participate in Dry January?

All the experts agree that people who are physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol should seek advice from a health professional before they commit to Dry January. This is because suddenly stopping drinking may cause withdrawal effects, which can be severe. If you’re concerned about your drinking, speak to your GP.

If you are a regular moderate to heavy drinker and you suddenly stop drinking alcohol, you may experience some negative effects to your health.

Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependency may include: restlessness, tremors, hallucinations, nausea, insomnia, sweating, anxiety and depression. If you experience any of these symptoms, the best course of action is to seek professional medical help. In some cases, going completely dry for January may not be recommended, so check with your GP before starting if in doubt.

People who are clinically alcohol dependent can experience fits and/or seizures if they suddenly, completely stop drinking.

If you experience fits, shaking hands, sweating, seeing things that are not real, depression, anxiety, or difficulty sleeping after a period of drinking and while sobering up, then you may be clinically alcohol dependent and should NOT suddenly, completely stop drinking.But you can still take control of your drinking. Contact us to discuss how we can help

Individuals with a history of pervasive alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence are at higher risk of relapse, as well as those who have a history of failed recovery attempts and relapse in their past.  Such cases are exemplary of the neurological impact alcohol can have on the brain, and demonstrate the need for more intensive alcohol treatment, guidance, and support for such individuals.  All individuals are capable of maintaining abstinence from alcohol despite their past trauma and past drinking history with proper framework in place.

Where to find alcohol help near me 

Help Me Stop offers non-residential rehab for drug and alcohol addiction in the form of Dayhab, a non-residential rehab programme. With our London centre and also an online program, our services are tailored to help our clients find their next journey and to navigate away from active addiction and into recovery. 

Our treatment programme centre around integrative psychotherapy, which blends a number of evidence-based therapies, including the 12 step approach to addiction treatment, person-centred therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, family therapy, art therapy, recovery workshops, mindfulness, and more. We work mainly in group sessions, and every client also has a one-to-one counselling session each week with their focal therapist.

The goal of Dayhab is to equip you with the tools you need to work towards recovery, with an intensive treatment programme that is centred around sobriety and rebuilding relationships. We regularly see family relationships reconstructed, people parenting successfully, people being able to function at a higher level at work, and people who are connected and inspired following the treatment.

We offer drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs along with detox programs. If you would like to talk to us in confidence about how we can help you, or a friend, then please reach out and a member of our team will be more than happy to help via our contact details or you can call us on 0208 191 9191

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