Dry January vs True Sobriety: Pros & Cons
The differences between Dry January and True Sobriety are too many to count. In fact, a lot of truly sober folks are reluctant to admit Dry January even exists.. We’re not so rigid. Sure it might attract a lot of lookie-loos. Yet they’re not all sober tourists. Some actually stop and stay awhile. A long while. And that can be beautiful.
Hey, at the very least we’ve got a lot less people getting a lot less drunk throughout one of the longest – and drinkingest – months of the year!
Dry January vs True Sobriety
Perhaps we shouldn’t say Dry January vs True Sobriety. After all, it’s really not a battle. But a lot of AA Old-Timers do scoff at the notion of designated tee-totaling. They also seem to resent the rooms becoming crowded with those so-called sober tourists. And if people are going to so strenuously object to something, we’d like to find out why.
Dry January: The Pros
People who abstained from alcohol for a month started drinking less the rest of the year and showed striking improvements in their health.
That’s how Washington Post healthcare columnist Anahad O’Connor subtitled his recent look at Dry January. And the longtime health and wellness writer backed up his sub by citing studies conducted by some of the subject’s most thorough researchers.
One study, for instance, gauged the drinking habits of 857 British adults before, during and after Dry January. The subjects – 249 men and 608 women – completed baseline questionnaires at the start of their participation, then were given follow-ups at one and six months after the month ended.
As you might suspect, “success during Dry January was best predicted by a lower frequency of drunkenness in the prior month.” Conversely, even a failed Dry January had positive, long-term impact. In fact, when the six-month follow-up was conducted, researchers found all participants had reduced their alcohol consumption, whether they’d stayed dry through January or not. They also found increases in drink refusal self-efficacy (DRSE), which we’re pretty sure means the capacity to say “No.”
Most importantly perhaps was how much a new perception increased the overall success rate.
“It becomes a reinforcing message instead of a punishing message,” Brighton and Sussex Medical School psychologist Richard de Visser told O’Connor. “Instead of public health people wagging their fingers and saying, ‘Don’t drink, it’s bad for you,’ people do it and say, ‘I didn’t realize how good I would feel.’ They often don’t realize how much stopping drinking will improve their sleep, or their concentration, or even just their levels of energy in the morning.”
We see nothing but positives there.
Every story has two sides though, and Dry January’s story is no different. The Cons concerning the month though have less to do with the concept and more to do with the parameters surrounding the concept. Dry January, naturally, begins on January 1st. January 1st is traditionally the day of New Year’s Resolutions. And if there’s one person on the planet who has stuck to every Resolution we haven’t met them.
In other words, by tying Dry January in with New Year’s Day we’re setting ourselves up to fail.
In fact, The Cut contributor Ana Marie Cox is so against the practice she began her last column by telling everyone “Not to get sober on January 1.”
“[January 1] has, obviously, always been a popular date for wagon hopping,” writes the very sober sobriety writer. “With the growing popularity (and marketing) of Dry January, even more so. And, sure, if you are someone who is merely toying around with quitting drinking, who thinks Dry January just sounds like a fun challenge or interesting experiment for you, go for it. But if you are someone who suspects they have a problem and the prospect of going dry for a whole month fills you with anxiety, then maybe reconsider your start date.”
One is a Lonely Number
Cox, of course, “understand[s] wanting to quit on New Year’s Day.” In fact, she’s “attempted to make January 1 her sobriety date a half-dozen times.” The now 11-years sober writer has also “attended a few thousand AA meetings and heard “countless” others recall making the same “recovery resolution.”
Care to guess how many people she knows who’ve actually stuck to that New Year’s Day resolution?
And that was by accident!
My friend “hadn’t planned on stopping the next day,” writes Cox. “New Year’s Day just happened to be the morning she realized she couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t the first time she’d realized that. It was, she says, just the first time it stuck. She went to an AA meeting — not her first — and she’s been sober ever since.”
January 1, 2023 will mark the accidental resolutionist’s 13th sober year.
Forget the Date
Cox isn’t just choosing New Year’s Day as a sobriety start date, she’s against choosing any particularly special date – and that includes the “always popular Monday.”
“I have heard lots of stories about people attempting to stop — but not staying stopped — on” birthdays, anniversaries, the first or the 15th of a given month, as well as its First Sunday and Last Friday. And all of those days have one thing in common – they are almost always not today.
Alcoholics “pick a special date to dry out not because we want to stop drinking but because we don’t want to. [emphasis added] We are not deciding when to quit drinking but negotiating how much longer we still can.”
Worse, a “symbolic date just ups the pressure and heightens the anxiety that comes from knowing every drink you take is one closer to your last.”
Cox dives even further into her reasoning, which is borne of some serious experience. And the insight is as keen as the candor is moving. It’s also a pretty much perfect essay; no easy feat when one’s tackling such a messy subject. Most perfect perhaps is the way Cox sums up the question of the day itself.
Recovery has helped me to recognize it’s my sobriety that makes a day special. And that’s true for every day, not just the first day I didn’t drink.
Because if January 1 is the worst day to get sober, today is the best.
Dry January vs True Sobriety: Who Wins?
So no, don’t count on Dry January to beget True Sobriety. In fact, tying sobriety to any particular date is probably not the best idea. However, trying Dry January is not a bad idea at all. Even if you don’t stay sober the entire month, your mind will begin clearing and your body will begin healing. Most importantly, you’ll learn firsthand that sobriety is less about being without alcohol, and more about again being with lucidity, empathy, vigor and the countless other charms liquor tends to lessen.
In other words, forget Dry January vs True Sobriety. If you’re game to get sober for a month, a week or even a day, then give it a Go-Go! And if you’d like to take a serious stab at Dry January and could use an assist, head on over to Alcohol Change UK. That’s the group who started the whole thing back in 2014, and they’ve got some very helpful tips.
If you’re looking to take your sobriety even further, then please, by all means, give Healing Properties a ring. Many a client stumbled into sobriety and then decided to stick around. Some of them came on a whim, some stumbled in on a dare, and some had no other choice. Then again, some swayed this way because it was Dry January. It doesn’t matter how you get here; only that you get here. Because once you’ve arrived, you’ll get to reap the rewards of a truly sober life.