Written by Lisa Schneller, Director of ATOD Prevention, Delaware County

Have you heard people talking about Dry January?  It’s a movement that has increased in popularity over the past few years.  People who participate commit to taking a month long break from alcohol in January, often in response to additional drinking that can happen during the holidays.    It’s a great way to give your body a break and also to pay attention to any new drinking patterns you may have developed.  Substance misuse was up last year as a result of the pandemic and social distancing, making this January a perfect month to give this a try.

Why think about a sober month? Let’s talk numbers.  After just 30 days of being alcohol free, people report better sleep, an increase in energy and a clearer mind. Studies have shown that 15-20% of people who gave up drinking saw improved liver function. (NPR). Another study found that giving up alcohol for one month helped participants reduce their drinking later in the year.  82% of participants reported an enhanced awareness of their relationship with alcohol, and 71% said that they enjoyed a better quality of sleep (Medical News Today). New research suggests that alcohol consumption in the US rose 14% during the pandemic, with the most dramatic increase in heavy drinking episodes seen in women. Women reported a 41% increase in episodes of heavy drinking in the spring of 2020 compared with their drinking level in the spring of  2019 (Livescience).

During high stress and catastrophic events, research shows an increase in substance misuse and binge drinking.  It is easy for a glass of wine to become part of your daily coping or to play a role in your work to home transition. There are an estimated 14.1 million people with alcohol use disorder, and moderate misuse can sometimes result in alcohol dependence. When functioning under constant stress, like we have this last year, it’s understandable that coping skills, stress, and self care can feel difficult and overwhelming.  We are all burnt out to an extent. Finding ways to slow down, connect with ourselves, and one another is a good place to start.

Taking a break is a good time to reflect on the patterns you have developed over time and to take a look at your relationship with alcohol and substances and to practice other coping and self care skills. Let’s talk about some ideas to make changes when transitioning from work to home.  This can simply mean walking into a different room of the house.  In order to create space between work and relaxation, here are some suggestions:

  • ​Take a walk around the block
  • Dress for work and when your day is complete, change into more causal attire
  • Call a friend or a loved one
  • Have a healthy snack and beverage.
  • Make your favorite smoothie or have some seltzer mixed with juice.
  • Sit in the car and turn on the radio, as if you’re commuting home from the office.

Do you have to do a whole month? No! It’s never too late to start. Taking even a week off can make a difference and allow you to gain more perspective and insight! And, we love increased sleep quality. You may start to feel brighter, feel your feelings more effectively, and have more energy in just a few days!