I committed to drinking my last alcoholic beverage for the month over a glass of Cabernet on January 1st 2018.
I was sitting in my friend Liz’s living room when I began to entertain the idea of participating in Dry January. I had been in New York City for over a week and by that point, I was feeling invincible. Surviving walks in NYC’s merciless winter weather and finding the light after exiting a crowded subway cart does that to me these days. Colorado has me so spoiled that walking in NYC feels like survival. What even.
But really, my heart was also overwhelmingly full. My best friend had just treated me to a manicure, pedicure and a 15-minute massage. On Christmas eve I’d danced and sang the night away with my family. I’d celebrated the fifth annual Secret Satan (yes, I meant satan, not santa) holiday gift exchange with my best friends from college and brought in the new year with my best friends from high school in the comfort of my friend Jake’s very warm apartment. To top it all off, I was getting a daily dose of hugs and quality time with the love of my life, my mami. By the time I was sitting in Liz’s living room, I was radiating with love and happiness. So… obviously when Liz’s roommate announced that he was going to participate in the new year’s common Dry January ritual, I impulsively said, “You know what!? ME TOO!” After a week in NYC, I was clearly feeling empowered as fuck and was about to do something that for ages has felt completely impossible for me.
As I walked through the snow to the dreaded bus stop, my friends cheered me on and shouted things like “you got this!” I really felt like I “had it” until approximately one minute later when my cousin Crystal texted… “ What you drinking boo, wine or beer?” I read that text and my world felt as frozen as my toes. “Damn it” I thought to myself. “I’m trying to do a dry January detox,” I responded. And then I did what I often do when I set a goal for myself.
I said, “I’ll start tomorrow.”
I got to my cousin’s apartment and I drank 3 glasses of wine. I took each delicious sip and I wondered if I really wanted to stop drinking. By my third glass of wine, my lips were tinted purple and I had officially made the drunken decision that I was going to give Dry January a solid try. That solid try has become one of the impactful and empowering accomplishments in my journey to becoming my best self.
Until I decided to fully commit to not drinking alcohol, my decisions to drink alcohol were far from mindful. Honestly, they hardly felt like decisions. It felt like my brain had developed an automated response of “yes” to the question “do you want a drink?” While the start of a new year is a common time to set goals and get a fresh start, my commitment to Dry January was more than participating in a popular new year practice. Committing to a month without alcohol was about unraveling my relationship with alcohol but most importantly, it was about addressing one of my biggest insecurities that I am not a disciplined person. I committed to this goal to prove to myself that I can and am capable of setting a goal and sticking to it.
31 days of no drinking helped me get to know myself better and unveil who I am without alcohol. I am now better at saying no to alcohol and am more mindful about how much I drink. Instead of decompressing with a glass of wine or a vodka drink after work on a Friday, I realized that sitting at a restaurant and having a good meal with friends was just as valuable. During this month without alcohol, I also made time to meditate and practice yoga at home as a way to decompress after a long week. I am better at having a meal out without an alcoholic beverage accompanying it. This has saved me money. Through this experience, I also proved to myself that I can be disciplined and realizing this about myself has empowered me to create and commit to other goals like working out and creating healthier eating habits in February. This has saved me energy. Ultimately, the most valuable part of this experience has been realizing that alcohol has sucked a lot of my time, energy and money from in the past. I now have the tools and strategies to stop drinking if I need to or if I want to focus on a project that demands a lot of time, energy and money. I am realizing that alcohol is something I can cut out of my life when I need to in spite of the fact that I might really enjoy it.
During a time when shit is hitting the fan in America, preserving our energy for things other than alcohol is worth some practice. If you are curious about who you are without alcohol, how people respond to you without alcohol, developing your discipline, gaining energy and time to focus on other things even if it’s for a short period of time, below are a list of strategies I used to help me commit to this goal. None of this is research-based and is simply a result of my own experience.
How can you accomplish 31 days of no drinking?
- Get clear on the reasons you are doing this. On January 2nd, I lit some candles and wrote a SMART goal in my journal. The most meaningful part of this goal was unraveling the reasons why I felt like I wanted to complete this challenge. As I wrote down why, I realized that my commitment to this challenge has less to do with alcohol and more to do with my well-being, my journey and my process. My mission statement gave me something to refer to during moments where I did want a glass of wine or a beer. Referring back to these list of reasons was one of the most meaningful parts of the entire experience.
- Substitute your alcoholic beverage with a carbonated drink. La Croix and a lime was mine. Every time I felt tempted to have a beer or a vodka drink, I asked for a seltzer and lime, sometimes with a splash of orange juice.
- Make a list of activities you can do in place of drinking alcohol. Sundays are ideal for a boozy brunch. During my dry January, I also committed to 15 days of yoga. So instead of boozy brunches, I spent a couple of Sundays on my mat.
- Complete the challenge with a buddy. There might be moments of weakness and we need to prepare for that. My friend Katie also committed to a month of no drinking. We both shared why were wanting to do this for ourselves and every time I felt like I wanted a drink I called or texted Katie. She was my go-to person and congrats to her too cause she killed it.
- Share with your friends and family not just what you are doing but why you are doing it. If you can invest yourself in this process, it’s important for you to invest others too. Tell your loved ones why this is important to you so that they are not peer pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to do and so that they’re taking it as seriously as you are.
- Refrain from telling yourself you can’t do it because of a vacation or holiday. You can. Before I wrote my goal down in my journal, I considered giving myself one weekend off because I had a trip to San Francisco for MLK weekend to visit one of my best friends. I texted Alisa and told her I was not going to drink that weekend and that we should plan lots of fun activities that don’t involve alcohol. We did. We hiked, we exercised, we shopped, we ate a lot of good food and I had desert every day instead. It was one of the most fulfilling weekends away I’ve had in a long time. So don’t let that stop you.
Even though I made this decision when 2018 was 1 day old, a dry month or more is a valuable experience to engage in at any point in the year. Completing 31 days of no alcohol has not completely changed my relationship with alcohol but I am beginning to see healthier patterns and am working on maintaining them. For the people who have been able to analyze, address or completely end their relationship with alcohol, I commend you and I support you. For the people who have not participated in an alcohol cleanse, consider discovering what your life is like without it. I am confident that you will learn something very meaningful and valuable about yourself.