How to Succeed at Dry January This Year

How to Succeed at Dry January This Year

Real-life strategies to help you get through a full 31 days of sobriety.

SITUATION:

It’s Day 1, and you’re staring down the barrel of 31 whole days of sobriety. Quitting before you get started sounds like the most appealing option.

STRATEGY:

If you’re new to the whole no-drinking thing, a string of days that long seems biblical in scope. Sarah Hofman felt that way when she first decided not to drink; now, in retrospect, she knows the secret. “Focus on not drinking just for the day, and then the next day, and then the next day.” Those days add up more quickly than you think.


SITUATION:

Every month, you and the crew get together, and you already know that when you’re with these friends, without fail, you end up at the bar five beers deep and one shot away from singing Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” from atop a table.

STRATEGY:

Peer pressure is real. When Erik Kennedy first decided to quit drinking, some of his friends weren’t as supportive as others. He even learned later that some had tried sneaking him alcoholic drinks, but other friends stopped them. Those good friends took him seriously and wanted the best for him, and that’s the key takeaway Kennedy found that helped him stay sober. “Find your support system,” he says. “You need people who care about your goal.”


SITUATION:

You’re starting to see a pattern. It’s easy to say no to alcohol up until, say, 9 p.m., but after that, your willpower goes weak.

STRATEGY:

The No. 1 key to making Sober January work is self-knowledge. Whatever your pattern is, acknowledge it and strategize around it. For instance, Kennedy knows that after 10 p.m., he has to be mindful of invitations to meet up at bars and sometimes suggests other locations. “Know yourself, know your surroundings, know your limits and triggers,” he says. Stay mindful, and you can stave off temptation.


SITUATION:

You’re at a fancy celebratory dinner, a major night out full of pomp and revelry, and all your friends are enjoying champagne and martinis. Where’s the fun for you?

STRATEGY:

Kennedy points to mocktails as a great way to get your fix. “The mocktail movement in Milwaukee has really grown,” he says. Many local bars, such as Boone & Crockett and Hotel Madrid, offer a variety of creative and delicious non-alcoholic cocktails.


SITUATION:

Your buddies want to hang out, but hanging out with this crowd always involves going to the bar.

STRATEGY:

January is a great time to mix things up, whether you’re drinking or not. Rally your friends to try something new with you. “There’s snowshoeing, ax throwing, concerts, the art museum. Step outside your comfort zone and find those alternatives,” Kennedy says.


SITUATION:

It’s Day 9 (or Day 15, or any day at all), and all you can think of is how good a cold one would taste right now. “Why not?” you ponder. After all, you stayed committed for a decent length of time.

STRATEGY:

Anyone who has quit drinking (or gone on a diet) knows the feeling of wanting to reward your good behavior by indulging in the very thing you are avoiding. One way to combat this, Hofman says, is to “actualize the positives” that are coming from your sobriety in these moments of temptation, so you know what you’d be turning your back on if you give in. “It’s really beneficial for your health, not just mental but physical,” she says. “Awesome skin, way more energy, less anxiety.” Linking Sober January to broader self-improvements creates an incentive structure that will carry you through the valley of temptation.


This Story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s 2020 Winter Playbook

Find the issue on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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