One nightlife writer shares her advice for how to stick to your Dry January habits and make the most of your sober time.
Chances are you've heard of Dry January, or as I like to call it, Dread-uary. If you're unfamiliar, it's basically 30 days of zero—that's zilch, zip, nada, not even a drop—of alcoholic consumption. Sounds "easy," right? After all, it's only 30 days. Well, when your job is writing about food and nightlife and requires going out to restaurants, bars, and clubs on the regular like mine does...not so easy. Yes, I also cover fitness and like to think of myself as a pretty active yogi, but let's face it, the only thing better than Shavasana after 90 minutes of intense asanas is a nice glass of pinot noir. It's called balance.
This January marks my third Dry January, and while the last couple of years were painstakingly difficult, the "I need a drink" temper tantrums have been quenched and I've managed to strengthen my self-control, thanks to a couple years of practice. With experience comes success, wisdom, and a sober perspective—probably the biggest benefit of Dry January (that and the 5 pounds I lose like clockwork every year). It's also why I dread and look forward to this month all at once: because it makes me take a step back, observe, analyze, and reevaluate my habits. And as someone who spends more nights out than curled up with a book, my habits can certainly use some reevaluating.
Here's the hard-earned knowledge I learned along the way and how I plan to pull off Dry January as an annual tradition.
Stay Away from Bars
Sounds obvious, but it's the easiest step one. Unfortunately, I review restaurants, bars, and clubs for a living—in maybe the booziest city of them all: Miami. And while I like doing Dry January, it isn't a free pass to get out of work.
But I have my tactics. I bring a like-minded cocktail lover, whose palate I can trust, to drink on my behalf. And instead of going to a bar after midnight (typical in Miami), I’ll get there earlier and set a time limit for myself. It’s a good way to get to know the bartenders better too, since they’re not so slammed!
When I'm not "working," I straight up say "no" to happy hours or bottomless brunches, and sign up for a weekend workout class instead. Dry January gives you the opportunity to clear out the clutter and really focus on the most important relationship: the one with yourself. Make a vision board, clean your closet, read a book in one night, take a three-hour bath, meditate for 45 minutes uninterrupted, or make the switch to LED lights in your apartment to conserve energy. These are all the little but amazingly fulfilling things I've done in just a few dry days.
There's Strength In Numbers
You know what's worse than drinking alone? NOT drinking alone. My first year doing Dry January, I forced my then-boyfriend to participate. This is key: If you're in a relationship it's much easier to get through a dry spell together—especially since you can whet your whistle in other ways, ahem—and lift each other up when the other has had a rough day and all you want in life is an old-fashioned. Though that relationship ended, nowadays I've got a trio of industry friends to endure alcoholic abstinence with me, and whom I spend the rest of the year drinking and eating with (and whom I go to Sonoma with every March to buy wine for the year). In other words, make sure you have at least one sober sidekick.
Fake It Till You Make It
Yes, even at the age of almost-30 I have been known to resort to deceiving myself and my friends by asking bartenders to craft me a mocktail that resembles what everyone else is having so I can avoid dealing with or giving in to peer pressure. (Case in point: these tasty mocktail recipes.) It's a foolproof way get through most social situations without having to respond to the dreaded "you're not drinking?" question.