Lessons From a Month of No Drinking

Every year I participate in Dry January. After the holiday season, it feels good to reset and I’m always happy that I did it. But because we had COVID in December and basically missed the holidays in 2021, I wanted to just enjoy life without restrictions in January.

So instead I decided to do a Dry February which was a bit of a womp womp situation because all of my friends were already done with their month of no drinking. Going out to meals where everyone else was having a cocktail was a challenge but one I’m so glad I succeeded in.

Because now I feel great! And, as always, I learned a lot about myself along the way.

What improved: I was waking up with headaches (even on mornings when I hadn’t had a glass of wine the night before) and those are completely gone. I’ve been tracking my sleep with an Oura Ring (review to come after a few months of use) and my sleep has dramatically improved. And as a happy little accident, I lost almost 10 more pounds of baby weight without changing anything else about my diet or exercise routine.

What replaced my alcohol: As someone who suffers from regular anxiety, I often reach for a glass of wine when feeling anxious or stressed, to calm my nerves and recalibrate. But with this month off, I found myself pouring a cup of Kava Stress Relief Tea or a mocktail with CBD drops or Aplos. All three of those options took the edge off of any stress without any of the negative effects of alcohol.

When we went out to dinner, I would bring my CBD drops and add them to a club soda with lime. Not the same as a cocktail by any means, but it did the trick. Going out with friends was the hardest part because after one cocktail everyone would get really giggly and I would get FOMO. But the next morning when they complained of headaches (we’re old), I was so happy that I didn’t give in!

At one dinner, they had a Seedlip mocktail on the menu that ended up being amazing, so I bought some for home. Seedlip is a non-alcoholic spirit that is great mixed with seltzer, cucumber, mint, and a little ginger ale. Beyond that, I haven’t been into any of the non-alcoholic wines or spirits.

What I learned: Two years ago I wrote about my relationship with alcohol. It can be a dicey one. I actually went back and read the post when I broke my dry month last weekend and I still resonated a lot with this mantra for myself:

Drink when you’re feeling good or if it’s for fun. Don’t drink if you’re feeling anxious or stressed and need it to cope.

What I learned in February is that following this mantra is really really important for my mental and physical health. Not only does alcohol give me headaches, but it inflames my sinuses (I have a chronic sinus condition that is beyond annoying).

And while it might help emotionally at the moment, it’s not a long-term fix for negative feelings.

That said, I love a good cocktail. I love good wine. And I appreciate pairing the right drink with an amazing meal. And I also don’t want to give it up for good. But this little reset reminded me to stick to drinking in the good times and in group settings, not to alleviate stress or anxiety.

Photo by Julia Dags.