With January nearing a close, we were curious to hear how our readers were handling Dry January — a month without alcohol — in 2021.
Because this wasn’t an ordinary January. It was a January that has suffered another COVID surge, a Capitol siege, a police response to the insurrection that was markedly more restrained than last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, and warnings of violent protests leading up to Biden’s inauguration, among other events. Stress and anxiety, for many, is soaring. So how did alcohol play into that?
According to our survey, almost three-quarters of the 250-plus respondents have been able to continue their quest to remain alcohol-free this month, with many citing better sleep, loss of weight, and improved mental health as a result. Some people decided to stop participating in the challenge, opting for an easier month to try instead. Others had no interest in even trying it, but mentioned that they have adjusted their drinking habits anyway, including significantly cutting back on alcohol.
Read on to learn more about how Boston.com readers have tackled Dry January this year.
70% of readers are still going strong.
Kudos to you, Dry January followers. Despite an onslaught of jolting events, you’ve held fast to your pledge for staying alcohol free this month — and the health benefits are paying off.
“I haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Eve and I feel pretty good,” wrote M. in Somerville. “I sleep much better and I’m focusing on other ways to relieve stress, like taking walks in the woods and knitting.”
“In two weeks, I’ve lost 7 pounds, I’m sleeping better, and my anxiety levels have plummeted,” Kevin in Shrewsbury wrote. “I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make it through the month, but seeing and feeling the benefits have been motivating. It doesn’t make any sense to me to do a Dry January just to say I did it, then go back to my old habits on February 1st. I’d rather develop a new habit of taking breaks and drinking in moderation.”
For Deb in Beverly, “The decision to jump on the dry January bandwagon has lifted the fog from my head, given me a much better balance both physically and mentally, and provided a renewed energy to make it through this unprecedented time that we are coping with today and for the foreseeable future.”
In order to stave off any urges, readers shared that they’ve been drinking plenty of tea, nonalcoholic beers (a handful recommended Athletic Brewing Co.), and mocktails.
For some, the lack of socializing during the pandemic has helped people stay away from alcohol.
“I have found it surprisingly easier to do this year, and I believe it is because I am not dining out every week and tempted to order drinks, and the usual group get togethers are no longer on the table,” wrote one reader. “Having a little mocktail while I watch TV doesn’t seem all that different than having a real drink while doing the same activity.”
For others, the chaotic month proved to be a stumbling block.
“I’m still alive in the Dry January challenge,” shared J. in Cambridge. “The Capitol riots and an existential crisis in the pandemic have been obstacles, but I somehow managed to get around them. I share my success weekly with friends, cook every meal, and walk the 5.5 miles home from work to keep me motivated!”
One reader wrote that “it’s been extremely difficult, especially after the events of January 6th, but I’ve stuck with it.”
“I’m stronger than all the noise that surrounds me,” shared one extremely zen reader. “This is within my control, and it’s not being taken away from me. I’m halfway there and still going strong!”
Or, as David Drew in Melrose put it: “Being in control of just one thing right now is keeping me grounded amongst all this insanity.”
13% broke up with Dry January this year.
Whether they decided to postpone Dry January in 2021 or started the year alcohol-free before ultimately having a drink, 13 percent of readers said goodbye to the annual challenge. As one reader wrote: “Heck of a month to give up drinking.”
“Nope! Nope! Not this day and not this month,” shared a Dry January avoider. “Ask me about ‘Dry September,’ because Dry January left the building on January 2nd.”
“I opted to put off Dry January, however [I] may attempt a Dry February since it’s a shorter month,” wrote Keith in Bridgewater, while another reader posited, “Why January…there are [fewer] days in February.”
Some readers gave it a go at the beginning of 2021 but quickly lost steam.
“Made it until there was a coup attempt,” one reader wrote, understandably.
“I have cut back on my drinking, but after life in general the past year and this month, I threw in the towel after a week,” another shared.
Others were just tempting fate.
“When I opened a bottle of wine for a recipe over the weekend the challenge ended,” Mot in Medway admitted. “I mean was I supposed to pour the rest down the drain?” Fair enough!
A number of readers wrote that while they’ve been going strong with Dry January, they were making one exception: Jan. 20.
“My husband and I will be breaking our annual alcohol fast on one pre-designated day this year: Inauguration Day, in order to open a long-awaited bottle of sparkling wine,” wrote one reader.
17% have never even considered participating in Dry January.
While one reader shared that he was drinking “like a viking,” Fred in Boston wrote that he “never thought about it because I never drink. Don’t understand the point of alcohol. So many really bad things happen around alcohol.”
Despite not participating in Dry January, a handful of people wrote that they’ve altered their drinking habits.
“[I] stopped drinking wine, it added up to about 660 calories a day,” one reader shared. “Switched to Tito’s and I now measure out 1 ounce and put it in 12 ounces of club soda. So [I’m] only consuming about 210 calories per day; I’m down about 3 pounds.”
“I never thought about a totally dry January but I generally cut back significantly,” wrote Jennifer in Gloucester. “Normally, it’s just due to holiday overage and an upcoming vacation so I want to shed a little weight. This year, I knew I’d been drinking a lot more alcohol, a lot more frequently, so I decided to scale back. …I’ve gone from a bottle of wine almost every night to a half bottle every other.”
Perhaps we can all take some advice from this sage reader: “Moderation is the key to all.”
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