Is Dry January Helpful? Here’s What Therapists Have To Say

Many people around the world set out to complete the first 31 days of the new year without alcohol. This is what’s commonly known as ‘Dry January’. Whether participants are looking to reap the health benefits of drinking less, save money, or gain perspective on what sobriety might feel like, everybody’s reasons are valid, and any reduction in drinking is an act of self care. It’s important to note that Dry January isn’t always a walk in the park, and you don’t have to do it alone. For some additional perspective about how to get the most out of Dry January, we polled 6 therapists on the Monument platform. Here’s what they had to say. 

Q: What are the benefits of completing Dry January?

Sabrina, LSW, CASAC: “Think of it in terms of your mind-body-spirit. Time away from drinking gives your body the ability to replenish all the neurotransmitters, chemicals, and signals that get disrupted by frequent alcohol consumption. Also, with more mental clarity comes a greater sense of ability to fulfill all of your roles. And from a spiritual perspective, finding deeper meaning with your life inspires a more lasting value on your health.”

Gretchen, LMFT: “Time without substances reveals the peace that sobriety can offer us.”

Adrianne, MA, LPC, CAADC: “The greatest benefit is getting through the most difficult part when many others are, too: those first 30 days. With that experience, you will have new confidence, patterns, and skills to maintain a healthier relationship with alcohol throughout the rest of the year, and beyond.” 

Marjorie, Psychotherapist: Save money: Per the Journal of Health Psychology, 79 percent of those who participated in the study reported saving money during dry January. Improved sleep: per the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, removing alcohol from your life may restore and improve sleep. Weight Loss: Alcohol consumption is known for its empty calories. Per the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, alcohol consumption can increase weight gain.” 

Kelly, MAC, LMHC: “You have the unique opportunity to authentically get to know the amazing person you are.”

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Reaching Out Is One Of The Best Things You Can Do 

Q: What can you do when you feel like giving up on your Dry January goal?

Kelly: “Answer the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Let this reason surround you through reflection and reminders. It can be as simple as writing it on a sticky note. Practice grounding, deep breathing, and asking for support when you need it.”

Sabrina: “Let yourself listen to the triggers that make you feel like quitting Dry January. Triggers are teachers, and you can learn from them, and address them. That way, when confronted with a trigger, you can recognize it and put healthy coping mechanisms like breathwork and meditation into practice.”

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Adrianne: “Reaching out is one of the best things you can do. Call a close friend, or join the conversation at Monument! We have an online community, free therapist-moderated alcohol support groups, and holistic alcohol treatment programs. You don’t have to look far to find a supportive network.”

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Q: Can Dry January put too much pressure on someone? Would you also suggest trying moderation for one month?

Mark, BC-TMC, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC: “A totally dry January is realistic for some, and moderation is realistic for others. The thought of remaining sober for 30 days straight can be daunting. Just starting the process is a success, even if you only remain abstinent for 5 days. Then try for 6 days. This is a journey of progress, not perfection.”

Sabrina: “Sometimes it is too dangerous to start Dry January if one is at risk for withdrawal or prone to conditions that need to be monitored by a medical professional. Moderation can be a great alternative as it allows for a growing, exploratory change rather than a rapid one.”

Kelly: “It’s a very personal decision. Some may find that setting moderation goals for January instead provides them a beneficial, reachable goal. It’s all about taking that first step towards a healthier self.” 

couple with coffee

Dry January can normalize reducing alcohol intake for everybody.

Q: Is participation meant to be done on your own, within a group, or supervised with medical experts?

Mark: “Participation is typically most effective with a combination of group sessions, individual sessions, and a medical consultation. Use as many resources as you can and your chances for success will significantly increase.”

Gretchen: “From his research, Johann Hari concludes that the opposite of substance abuse is actually connection. Finding a community to share in your goals can be incredibly powerful.”

Sabrina: “Countless evidence-based studies show group support increases success rates for sobriety and moderation goals. It’s absolutely ideal to find the group atmosphere that works for you and begin changing the patterns that keep you feeling stagnant. I would also strongly advise talking to a doctor first to make sure Dry January is right for you. ”

Q: Who is the best candidate for adopting a Dry January goal? 

Sabrina: “Dry January can normalize reducing alcohol intake for everybody. People might think that  Dry January is designed for someone who does not have prior dependency symptoms and wants to take advantage of the positive effects that come from abstinence, but in reality, Dry January can be a motivating time for all to work towards a new relationship with alcohol, support each other, and seek the resources that can help them get there.”

Mark: “Before beginning Dry January, take a fair assessment of your overall alcohol intake. It can be unsafe to stop drinking if your body has become dependent on alcohol, and changing your drinking may require finding the appropriate level of support, especially for beyond one month. Monument believes in providing stigma-free and evidence-based treatment, such as online alcohol therapy and medication to stop drinking.”

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After completing Dry January, many people notice major shifts in their physical health, mental wellbeing, and confidence. It can be a great way to kickstart long-lasting change, and establish the tools that will help you achieve it. Dry January isn’t easy for everyone, and that’s okay. You are not alone. No matter where you’re starting from, we’re here to get you to where you want to be in January, in the new year, and beyond. 

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Randy SmithBased in Portland, OR, Randy works on the marketing team at Monument managing all things content.