Dry January: Start Your New Year Sober

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Dry January means abstaining from alcohol for the first month of the new year.

Spending a month without consuming alcohol can deliver significant health benefits, and it can also provide you with insight into your patterns of alcohol consumption.

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Whether you feel that dry January might be an opportunity to reassess your drinking habits, or you simply want to detox your system this January, today’s guide will show you some of the benefits of starting your new year sober.

What is Dry January?

Alcohol Change, a U.K. non-profit, developed Dry January in 2013 as a public health campaign. 

The first iteration of Dry January involved 4,000 participants. Since then, the movement has grown worldwide, and the term Dry January has entered the cultural lexicon. 

As we approach the tenth anniversary of Dry January, one in seven U.S. citizens participate in Dry January

For many, Dry January acts as a welcome reset button after a lengthy spell of holiday indulgences. A 2019 evaluation of Dry January reports that people take on this challenge for the following reasons: 

  • To cut back on spending.
  • To improve their health.
  • As a weight loss tool.
  • As a personal challenge.

Additionally, research indicates that reducing your alcohol intake could deliver the following health benefits: 

The potential benefits you will achieve by staying sober for the month of January will vary. If you have been exceeding moderate drinking guidelines, you are more likely to notice pronounced benefits when you take a break from drinking. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) define moderate drinking as no more than two standard drinks daily for men or one standard drink daily for women. 

Dry January does not need to be all or nothing. Dry January meaning will vary from person to person. It is estimated that half of dry January participants intend to remain completely abstinent from alcohol, while the remaining participants plan to reduce consumption to varying degrees. 

It can be dangerous and possibly even deadly to abruptly stop drinking if you are physically dependent on alcohol. For those who have experienced any of the following symptoms after a period of drinking, Dry January withdrawal symptoms could be dangerous. 

If you feel that you are physically dependent on alcohol, or if you have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder – the clinical descriptor for alcoholism – you should consider engaging with professional treatment. Voice your concerns to your clinician and request a referral or recommendation for inpatient or outpatient rehab. More on Dry January withdrawal below. 

How to Do Dry January

If you’re unsure how to get started, here are some Dry January tips: 

  1. Start journaling
  2. Look for a substitute for alcohol
  3. Switch up your routine
  4. Develop and implement new coping mechanisms
  5. Reframe the concept of happy hour
  6. Remember to be kind to yourself during Dry January
  7. Start a healthier new regime
  8. Take the Dry January challenge with a friend
  9. Keep up the momentum moving forward
  10. Know when to seek professional assistance

1) Start journaling

Start Dry January by exploring your reasons for taking a break from alcohol. Write down these reasons. 

  • Are you looking to feel less bloated and lose some weight?
  • Do you feel that a break from alcohol would improve your sleep habits?
  • Are you considering the Dry January challenge to set a positive example for your kids?

Use these reasons to reestablish your commitment to sobriety if you encounter any roadblocks or temptations during Dry January. 

A journal of your Dry January experience can also help to illustrate the many benefits delivered by abstaining from alcohol. You have the opportunity to document improvements in: 

  • Mood
  • Skin tone
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Fitness levels
  • Sleep health

You might find that you extend Dry January beyond the end of the month once you determine what’s in it for you. You will gain much more than you give up during one month of sobriety. 

2) Look for a substitute for alcohol

If you find yourself drinking habitually, find a replacement beverage for Dry January. 

Water is the best option, although you may not find this appealing. Use some berries, citrus fruits, mint, or cucumber to liven up a tall glass of iced water. 

You may want to consider some premade mocktails, or you might experiment with making your own alcohol-free cocktails. 

Finding a suitable alternative to alcohol can help you to negotiate Dry January without feeling like you’re missing out. 

3) Switch up your routine

When you want to change a habit, it is often a smart move to switch up your daily routine. 

The desire for an alcoholic drink is often triggered by environmental cues – taking off your shoes and settling into your favorite chair after work, for example. 

In the above example, you could try delaying your return home by meeting a friend, running some errands, or taking a fitness class at the gym. 

Everyone drinks for different reasons, and everyone has varying personal triggers. Use Dry January to better understand your motivations for drinking and take the opportunity to implement positive lifestyle changes to help you stay sober for a month. 

4) Develop and implement new coping mechanisms

Alcohol has become an almost universally accepted coping mechanism but blotting out stressors with alcohol is not healthy or advisable. 

If you find yourself craving an alcoholic drink during times of stress in January, use the technique of distract and delay. Cravings may be intense, but they are also fleeting, subsiding in fifteen minutes or so. Try leaving the room and heading outside for a walk. Alternatively, do some light stretching or some breathing exercises. 

Use Dry January as an opportunity to investigate practices like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. All of these practices can help you to destress without reaching for a glass of wine. 

5) Reframe the concept of happy hour

Perhaps you often meet friends at a bar for happy hour. If so, you might find it too challenging to be around alcohol without indulging. Consider taking a break from activities that revolve around alcohol. Find other ways to have fun with friends, from movies or the theater to days out at the beach or some retail therapy with your loved ones. By removing alcohol from your budget for a month, you should have more spare cash for these activities. Treat yourself! 

6) Remember to be kind to yourself during Dry January

If you approach Dry January with the best intentions but slip up and have an alcoholic drink, don’t get down on yourself. Don’t give up, either. 

Reframe Dry January as Damp January or One-Drink January and move on. 

The purpose of this month of sobriety is not to feel about yourself. Rather, the aim is to become more mindful of the role that alcohol plays in your life. Be kind to yourself if you attempt Dry January 2023.

7) Start a healthier new regime

Drinking alcohol, even moderately, can leave you feeling dehydrated and fatigued. 

Use Dry January as a springboard and launch a new fitness regime. Harness your increased energy levels and commit to the gym or fitness class you have always wanted to engage with. 

8) Take the Dry January challenge with a friend

By embracing Dry January at the same time as a friend, you will have an accountability partner if you find temporary sobriety challenging to maintain. You will also have a sober companion for any events that crop up during this month of abstinence from alcohol. 

9) Keep up the momentum moving forward

If you want to use Dry January as a catalyst for making lasting change, be specific about the alcohol-related changes you want to make. 

Instead of committing to drink less alcohol moving forwards, impose specific limits in line with your personal goals and stick to those limits. 

10) Know when to seek professional assistance

Maybe Dry January illustrates your inability to moderate or discontinue use of alcohol. If so, you might consider engaging with professional treatment for alcoholism (alcohol use disorder). We can help you with that here at California Detox. 

An image of a woman who watching the sunset, who has decided to try a Dry January

Benefits of Dry January

Everyone will have different expectations of Dry January, and everyone can expect sobriety or a reduction in alcohol intake to deliver varying Dry January benefits. The most common of these, though, include liver recovery, better sleep, and weight loss. 

Liver Recovery

Dry January liver recovery is possible due to the regenerative properties of the liver. 

Abstaining from alcohol for one month could reduce inflammation induced by heavy or sustained drinking. 

In the case of chronic liver conditions like cirrhosis or fibrosis, one month will not be long enough to heal the scarring triggered by alcohol abuse. That said, the longer you avoid alcohol if you have any liver complications, the better it is for you and your liver.

Better Sleep

Going through Dry January and can’t sleep?

You may have noticed that you fall asleep easily after drinking alcohol, only to wake a few hours later. Research indicates that this may occur due to the way alcohol disrupts the way your body handles adenosine, a chemical associated with the relaxation and dilation of blood vessels. 

Studies also suggest that drinking alcohol, whether in moderate amounts or high amounts, can interfere with restorative sleep. There is also research that associates drinking alcohol with a reduction in sleep time and sleep efficiency

By sidestepping alcohol during the month of January, you could notice an improvement in the quality and quantity of sleep you get.  

Weight Loss

Dry January weight loss is another benefit that could increase exponentially depending on the amount of alcohol you have been consuming. 

Boozy beverages are often laden with calories, but without delivering any nutritional benefit. Additionally, many people find themselves reaching for junk food when they have been drinking. By removing alcohol from the equation, you could find yourself feeling less bloated, more energized, and possibly losing a few pounds. 

How Dry January Can Help You Identify a Problem

Many people approach Dry January believing that the process will be straightforward and seamless. 

You may find that after a few days alcohol-free, you start craving a drink. You may even find that withdrawal symptoms manifest when you begin your month of sobriety. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms are both diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. 

Alcohol use disorder is characterized by the compulsive use of alcohol in the face of clearly negative outcomes. If attempting to do Dry January shows you that you are unable to control your alcohol consumption, you should consult your physician and ask for a referral for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism is a progressive condition that tends to get worse if untreated.

Dry January Withdrawal Symptoms

Taking part in Dry January can trigger the presentation of alcohol withdrawal symptoms in those who are physically dependent on alcohol. Many withdrawal symptoms can be managed with social support, although severe alcohol withdrawal requires medical supervision to mitigate life-threatening complications. 

If you are dependent on alcohol, withdrawal symptoms are a physical and psychological response to the absence of a substance to which you are accustomed. 

The physical withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox manifest within a few hours of the last alcoholic drink, persisting for three days. These symptoms include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Appetite loss
  • Insomnia

If you experience any of the following symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, it should be treated as a medical emergency: 

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Profuse sweating
  • Fever
  • Seizures

Some of the most common psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox include: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Inflamed mental health issues
  • Paranoia

Delirium tremens, the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, affects 5% of those who quit drinking alcohol. Delirium tremens is characterized by: 

  • Paranoia
  • Severe confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations

If you believe you are at risk of developing severe alcohol withdrawal, you should consider using Dry January as an opportunity to engage with a supervised medical detox program. We can help you achieve that at California Detox in Laguna Beach.

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Get Help at California Detox

If you feel the time is right to extend Dry January and commit to sustained sobriety, we can help you achieve this at our California luxury rehab in Southern California. 

We specialize in the treatment of addictions, mental health disorders, and co-occurring disorders. This allows you to get the help you need at any level of treatment intensity from residential rehab to a variety of outpatient programs. 

If you require a supervised medical detox to withdraw from alcohol as safely and comfortably as possible, you can achieve this at our licensed medical detox center in Laguna Beach. 

You can access the following evidence-based treatments at California Detox: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual counselling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

When you complete your treatment program, you can either transition to a less intensive form of treatment – from a PHP to an OP, for instance – or you can move directly back into day-to-day living. Either way, your treatment team will equip you with an aftercare plan that includes actionable relapse prevention and management strategies. We are here to help you from detox to discharge and beyond. 

Call admissions today at 949.390.5377 for immediate assistance.


Dry January provides an opportunity for people to abstain from alcohol for one month after the excesses of the holiday season. This month can help people to start the year on a healthier, clearer, and sober note. Research shows that more than one-third of U.S. adults take part in Dry January, with almost three-quarters of those who intended to remain sober achieving their goal.
Studies indicate that those who take part in Dry January or similar sobriety challenges often generate lasting benefits. Many people find that they drink less alcohol over time, making sustained changes to their patterns of alcohol consumption that bring about dramatic improvements in their overall health and well-being.


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