Beginner’s Guide to Dry January

Today, I’m seventeen days into my second ‘Dry January’. For those of you who don’t know, Dry January means abstaining from alcohol for the whole first month of the year. It’s become a small phenomenon among people I know. It has health benefits, in particular weight loss, at a time when many are making and attempting to stick to their New Year’s resolutions.

When I told a friend I was temporarily teetotaling, he asked me what I do for fun and recreation, sober. I confessed it wasn’t that big a change for me, as I rarely drink during the week anyway, so it was more of a weekend change.

Now, I want to pause for a second because I’ve recently heard someone say “I have no sympathy for you if you live in New York and are bored. There’s always something to do.” Trouble is, many of those things involve or could very easily involve alcohol. And more people than you would think are bothered by other people not drinking alcohol when they do.

When I started listing activities that had replaced drinking, I realized they fell into three broad categories: Exercise, Personal Development, and Art. Let’s start with the first.

Exercise: I work out regularly to begin with, so this wasn’t much of a change for me. I do something physical almost every day, be it running, lifting, or racquet sports. If you don’t exercise, it is a great replacement for drinking, as you get a nice endorphin bump. If you already exercise regularly, I recommend trying something new. For example, I used to box, so I used dry January to get back into it. I’ve also tried swimming and yoga, which I don’t normally do.

Personal Development: Not being hungover in the morning has allowed me to accomplish a few needed household tasks: reorganize the closet, file a large stack of papers from my desk, collect all the materials needed for my taxes, and vacuum the whole apartment. That may sound dull, but systematizing things around the house is one of those tasks I always kick the can on. So, I made it a priority.

If you’re already the organized type, you could read a book, start a new project at home, or try to pick up a new skill. I wouldn’t discount studying for an exam in your professional life, picking up or brushing up on a foreign language, or starting a business.

Art and Culture: New York, where I live, has some of the finest art in the world. There are museums scattered all over the five boroughs. There are plays, films, and concerts taking place every single day. 90% of my cultural activities are concerts. And normally, I’m boozing during them.

I’ve taken the time this month to go to a museum and I’m attending an art event this coming weekend. For someone who visits museums once every three or four months, that’s a pretty strong increase in frequency. It feels simple to say, but an afternoon or an evening spent at a museum or a movie is good, sober fun.

All of these categories remind me of after-school activities, like sports, arts and crafts, or piano lessons. I would say, if you already do one or more of these regularly, try something new within the category. If you don’t do one or more regularly, give it a shot. Re-reading this, it feels simplistic, like it is a given. But, I’m surprised at how sometimes the simplest advice can be the hardest to follow.