While in-person alcohol sales naturally dropped and even came to a total halt in some areas due to the pandemic, online alcohol sales absolutely skyrocketed. One Nielson report even showed there’s been an unprecedented high demand for “large pack” alcohol, like crates of wine and beer much bigger than previously purchased by normal consumers. Though it may not have been the healthiest way to get through the pandemic, it appears many Americans chose to drink their way through it. But a global health and economic crisis is no time for anyone to be too hard on themselves about how they emotionally got through it. The important thing is identifying when it’s time to make some changes, and choose healthier ways to move forward. Dry January provides a great opportunity for that.
Whether your biggest struggles during 2020 were physical, emotional, mental, or financial, we can probably all agree there’s an overwhelming desire to detox from that terrible year. We want to rid ourselves of all the toxic energy and experiences that came from it. We want to start fresh. So Dry January couldn’t come at a better time – quitting alcohol (even if just for a bit) has a way of helping the body feel pure again. But, Dry January is easier said than done for some. The challenge is something for the moderate drinker – not for those with alcohol addiction. Drinking in moderation can be tricky because moderate drinkers don’t necessarily need alcohol, but also don’t typically abstain. For that reason, Dry January can bring about some interesting realizations. We decided to consult an expert on how to make it through the month. Shamara Moody is a Licensed Professional Counselor and one of the therapists you can find on Monument, an online treatment platform that aims to help users understand and improve their relationship with alcohol. Check out what she had to say.
A little backstory on Dry January
It may feel like Dry January has been around for decades now, but it’s actually quite new. Moody tells us it originated in the UK in 2013 and was started by a non-profit called Alcohol Change UK. The initial campaign was to raise money for alcohol abuse treatment, but over time it morphed into a global phenomenon. In the UK in 2015, over two million people participated.
Not everybody gets it
Even while we’re socially distanced, we can certainly still feel social pressure to take a sip. This can happen during a virtual happy hour or say, if our roommate isn’t taking a break from alcohol with us. This is something Moody brings up as a possible challenge to those trying Dry January. “A challenge could be the lack of support and family and friends that disagree with dry January, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness,” she says. “Just because you make the decision to improve yourself doesn’t mean that the next person is improving themselves.”
Where to find support during a pandemic
To help you put down the wine glass and keep it down for the month, it’s encouraged that you find support from people like you.
“I highly recommend building a support network and joining platforms like Monument where you can do different support groups of that nature,” she says. Monument offers telehealth sessions with licensed counselors, along with peer support groups – including the BIPOC one in which Moody works – where you can discuss your particular challenges with drinking less and get some reassurance about your efforts so that you can continue to stay “dry.”
How does drinking less improve your health?
We asked Moody what some potential health benefits are that one can see from reducing alcohol consumption. To no one’s surprise, she said that there were many major changes the body can go through for the better when alcohol is removed from the picture. Even temporary fasting from alcohol can have a positive impact.
“Research has shown people have experienced improvements in concentration, sleep patterns, reduced cholesterol, lower blood pressure, even weight loss, and losing liver fat,” she says. “Other studies have found [a] decrease in alcohol consumption can decrease cancer-related growth factors.”
How to unwind without alcohol
Since Americans need ways to relax without alcohol out of a pandemic, and certainly in it, we asked Moody how one can do that when they aren’t drinking. “Healthier options are exercising, doing yoga, or mindfulness meditation,” she says. These are all things you can do in the comfort of your own home.” So instead of winding down with a drink at the end of the day, roll out a yoga mat, do a few poses to help you relax, and when you’re finished, reach for a glass of water instead. Can’t have too much of that! (Well, actually you can have too much water, but you get what we’re saying.)
A new kind of journaling
Moody also suggests journaling as a way of collecting your thoughts. “Often people aren’t aware of the thoughts that they’re having,” she says. But she doesn’t just write in her journal – she does audio journaling with a free app called Voice Recorder. She says it helps, “Tap into unconsciousness” and “Bring about more awareness.” Because of the benefits of getting your thoughts out there, it’s also a part of a homework assignment she often gives clients. Journaling may even help you understand why you drink so that you can perhaps go dry for longer than just January.
Know the facts to stay motivated
Mood believes that knowing the ways a reliance on alcohol can play into your health and even your coping mechanisms, is important.
“Covid cases are steadily increasing. And there are other recent things happening in our country, like the U.S. Capitol incident. So alcohol may be the go-to for some. But it’s an unhealthy temporary fix,” she says. “In the cold and flu season, drinking alcohol won’t aid in your recovery. It disturbs sleep. It can negatively interact with other medications. Studies have shown 10 percent of high blood pressure in men is alcohol-related.”
What are some immediate benefits?
While long-term benefits of decreasing your consumption of alcoholic drinks can be hard to wait for, Moody did mention some benefits you may feel right away that you can look forward to. They vary from the ways your rest is impacted to the how you feel from day-to-day. “Because of the improved sleep, actually restful sleep, you may be less irritable,” she says. Mood told us that some also experience decreased anxiety, more energy, overall better moods, and possible weight loss. All of those sound like perfect reasons to commit to staying dry this month.
The truth may surprise you
Many individuals might try Dry January because it’s a trend – something to post about on social media – or because they just want to lose weight or start the year off right. But what they may find is their relationship to alcohol is a bit more involved than they knew. Once you know better, you can certainly make changes to do better.
“Alcohol contributes to anxiety and depression. So dry January is a great opportunity to encourage individuals to look at their lifestyle issues and what might be affecting their overall wellbeing,” says Moody.
Working with Shamara Moody
As previously mentioned, Moody is a therapist on the Monument platform, and she moderates a BIPOC support group. She hopes to help people who are trying to maintain sobriety but deal with obstacles in everyday life that can complicate that.
“The group focuses on the challenges of navigating sobriety and the stresses that come with being a minority and dealing with oppression,” she says of her work and of the platform as a whole. “You can participate in a non-judgmental community but there is accountability and licensed professionals.”
Learn more about Monument and get the support you need to partake in and actually enjoy a dry January.