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‘I feel so good I may never drink again!’ Readers on their success – or failure – during dry January

‘It’s easier without the pub’I don’t drink every day, but I do drink every weekend and I usually drink a fair amount. I did dry January (and Februa

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‘It’s easier without the pub’

I don’t drink every day, but I do drink every weekend and I usually drink a fair amount. I did dry January (and February) two years ago when my wife was eight months pregnant with our son, but I’m finding it much easier this year because I don’t have the opportunity to go out and socialise. The thing I miss most about drinking is visiting the pub with some friends – without that it’s certainly easier. Duncan Ward, operational resilience manager, West Sussex

‘We really want a drink’

Our new year started off with a raging hangover, so my partner and I pinky swore to each other that we would do dry January. It was the first time either of us had done it and we were optimistic about the benefits. It was going OK for the first few days, then domestic terrorists stormed the US capitol and we really wanted a drink. Then we watched the David Bowie memorial celebration, and we really wanted a drink. Then over 1,000 people started dying each day in the UK, and we really wanted a drink. When we move from the little work screens to the big entertainment screen each night, we watch people drinking, and we really want a drink. It’s felt like a very long January. Anonymous, creative freelancer, Folkestone

‘I have a bit more energy and have lost a few pounds’

I unintentionally started doing dry January after obtaining a kidney infection at the end of December. I stopped drinking until I got better and just decided to keep it going. In 2020, I found myself drinking wine at lunchtimes (well, from about 11am) at the weekend, when I never used to. Since going dry, I have a bit more energy and have lost a few pounds, but nothing to write home about. In February, I’ll definitely be back on the red wine, but I’ll maybe cut it down a little and not start so early in the day! Anonymous, civil servant, Scotland

‘In the first lockdown, I definitely drank too much’

I’ve tried to do dry January a few times but the furthest I’ve made is the 24th. Usually by then, my husband has packed it in. Going to the pub with him and watching him drink isn’t much fun. I figured this year would be easier as the pubs are all shut, so it removes temptation. In the first lockdown, I definitely drank too much so was keen to try to avoid that this time around. It’s been fine – although I hadn’t anticipated home schooling and other additional stresses – but it has reminded me that alcohol doesn’t actually solve problems, it just makes you forget about them for a while. Hannah, project planner, Bristol

‘January is miserable – why make it worse?’

I tried OK. But I gave up at the first weekend. I’d ignored rugby drinks – and I’m the club chairman! – but then the days dragged. I thought, what’s the bloody point? I’ve cut back on the booze for sure; I drink a fraction of what I did during the lead-up to Christmas and I don’t drink at all during the week. But January is miserable – why make it worse? Anonymous, Holland

‘I actually like how I’m feeling’

The first weekend was the hardest. I love a glass or two or three on a Friday. During lockdown, my partner and I have enjoyed planning meals and what wines to go with them. However, I got a non-alcoholic gin which is lovely and so is the non-alcoholic Erdinger. Heading into each dry weekend I actually like how I’m feeling. I’m doing a 30-day yoga challenge, too, which means I have a way of winding down without a glass of wine. Doreen O’Mahony, digital brand manager, Cork

Low alcohol beers can make it easier.
Low-alcohol drinks can make it easier. Illustration: Guardian Design

‘I’ve never got past day six previously’

I drank steadily all through lockdown so decided to try dry January again, having tried a couple of times before. I’ve never got past day six previously, but this year I have stuck at it. Working from home doesn’t seem to have the highs or lows that might make me want a drink when I get home [from work]. Having no social occasions is also helping. I am sleeping for hours every night, which is great, but there is no sign of the much-vaunted glowing skin or weight loss. Claire Foster, teacher, Solihull

‘Dry January felt like a good opportunity’

During the November lockdown, my husband and I drank our way through plenty of negronis and delicious wines, but this time I’m enjoying not drinking. While I’m not a heavy drinker, dry January felt like a good opportunity to have a break from the drinking that is usually part of my job. There are very few good quality non-alcoholic alternatives – I would completely avoid dealcoholised wines, and many soft drinks are unpleasantly sugary. The best I’ve found are Seedlip or Aecorn bitters with tonic or soda. Fever-Tree’s aromatic tonic with angostura is a favourite. I also recently tried Punchy, who make a blood orange and cardamom soda which is delicious, low sugar and has great environmentally friendly packaging. Emily Jago, wine salesperson, London

‘I feel liberated rather than constrained’

I have never done dry January before; the very thought of it horrified me. I could count on one hand the number of days I’ve NOT had a glass of wine or three in the past 20 years or so. But in December, I found out about a book called This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. Someone on a Facebook page I follow had been drinking a bottle or more a day for 15 years and after reading this book, she stopped. I read the book over Christmas while continuing to drink “normally”. As I kept reading, I was conscious of my craving for white wine (my favourite tipple) lessening. Then, on 6 January, I took the plunge and stopped drinking alcohol altogether. I’m really enjoying good quality flavoured tonic water with a dash of cordial or lemonade and have two or three glasses each evening when I would usually be drinking wine. I feel liberated rather than constrained; it’s a good way to feel. Hopefully, by the time lockdown restrictions are lifted, my non-alcohol habit will be firmly entrenched and I’ll be able to resist temptation. Anonymous, librarian, North Yorkshire

Alcohol-free ‘gin.
Alcohol-free ‘gin. Photograph: Alison Thompson/Alamy

‘I feel loads better without booze’

Like most people, wine o’clock became earlier and earlier during the pandemic and once I knew we were facing a full lockdown with no option to go to the pub, dry January was a no brainer. Put simply, I feel loads better without booze: more alert, happier and not drinking helps the Xmas pounds to come off. My alcohol-free tipple of choice is an Everleaf and tonic with a big slice of orange. And you can’t beat Brewdog for alcohol free beers. There’s much more choice on the market now. Joanne Mackenzie, executive assistant, Sheffield

‘I crave a drink almost every evening’

I did dry January for the first time last year and was pleasantly surprised by how easy I found it. It has been much more difficult the second time around, which I can only attribute to the circumstances of the past 10 months. Like many people who have been working remotely, pouring a glass of wine at the end of my day is one of only a few ways to designate where my work life ends and my personal time begins. I find myself craving a drink almost every evening. Dry January in 2020 felt like a fun, intentional reset – in 2021, it’s felt like I’ve cut myself off from a nightly habit that I looked forward to and which provided a sense of respite in this crazy time. Kalle Covert, law practice manager, Richmond, Virginia

‘My skin remained unradiant’

It’s easy to give up booze – but it’s also boring. I think the benefits are overrated. Halfway through dry January, I still felt grumpy, still wasn’t sleeping well and my skin remained unradiant. This year is the only time I’m ever likely to try it, given my current lack of social engagements. Janet Ravenscroft, author, Somerset

‘I thought of myself as more hedonistic than this’

I don’t remember actively deciding to do dry January – perhaps because I was drunk when I committed to it. Yes, I sleep better, I have more energy and there is a smugness to sobriety – but I like to think of myself as way more hedonistic than this. It’s been seven years and I’m still getting over the loss of my beloved cigarettes. I’ve become a plant-eating, weight lifting, shadow of my former self. Soon I’ll be talking about turmeric. My fear has not been that I’ll fail to get through the month, but that it will last for ever; I’ll feel so good, so healthy, that one day I’ll hear myself say: “I’m never drinking again” – and actually mean it. Dawn Batsford, writer, Essex

‘I might wait for Valentine’s Day to open champagne’

Getting Covid–19 was not the best way to fall into dry January. I opened a bottle of Moët to do the tasting notes for my Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level 2 class and thought it was a bad bottle: no smell and then no taste. I opened a bottle of Suntory whisky … nothing! Patron… still nothing. By the time I took my WSET exam my fever was 103F and I don’t remember any of it. That was 20 December. New Year’s Eve rolled around and I was still unable to smell or taste, so no champagne for me. My daughter fixed me green tea in a whisky glass and soda water in a champagne flute. My senses are slowly returning but I decided to finish out the month dry … Might just wait for Valentine’s Day to open champagne again. Anneliese Place, historian and author, Santa Barbara, California

‘I have decided to maintain zero alcohol indefinitely’

Throughout lockdown I felt myself becoming increasingly more isolated, depressed and anxious. I’m certain that drinking regularly was making this worse. I’m useless at moderation so decided that dry January was a good opportunity to eliminate alcohol completely. After 24 days of being alcohol free the app that I’m using to help me says I’ve saved about £300 and 12,000 calories. I’m sleeping better and I’m able to function and focus more effectively. I’ve read Catherine Gray’s book The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, and it’s been helpful in spurring me on. Dry January has made me reassess my relationship with alcohol: I recognise that, previously, I was using alcohol to mask my shyness and create fake confidence. As we reach February, I have decided to maintain zero alcohol indefinitely. Rachel Brandwood, product manager, West Yorkshire

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