On New Year’s Eve, I challenged myself to abstain from drinking alcohol in January. Some of you might think that’s a bit severe. Others might think I have a drinking problem. Over the month, I realized that I don’t have a physical addiction to alcohol, thankfully, but I did discover that I had a mental addiction.
I enjoy drinking wine, but I am definitely not good at it. One glass of wine and I feel buzzed. My husband does not drink. So, usually when we go out, I will order a glass of wine, and he will drive us home. After a holiday season of parties and Netflix binging, #DryJanuary was welcome.
The Dry January website boasted interesting benefits of abstaining from alcohol: better sleep, physical health, financial situation, plus a yearlong desire to drink less. Initially, I had concerns of making it till Feb. 1. But I did it, and here is what I learned:
- I actually did sleep better, so soundly, in fact, that I have surges of energy and mental clarity. My boss remarked to me about the number of new ideas for projects I’ve shared with her.
- I lost most of the pounds that I gained over the holidays, even though I switched from ordering wine to ordering ice cream.
- I saved an average of up to $45 per week at restaurants. That one $8 to $15 glass of wine was adding to our bill.
- My relationship with my husband improved. Because he is the non-drinker, he often feels left out when we are with our friends at social gatherings. He said repeatedly how he enjoys that we share abstaining from drink and he appreciates not having to drive all the time. (And that it’s easier to choose places to eat because my dining options had to include a bar or B.Y.O.B.)
- I still have friends. I was worried to tell some of my closest friends because usually they are the women that I like to drink wine with. I didn’t want them to dump me. But as soon as I confided that I was going dry for the month, they confessed that they were going dry, too, to meet financial or health goals.
- My faith in God is stronger too. I’ve discovered I have more time to spend in quiet reflection. And I am thankful I can stop drinking out of choice. This is not true for a lot of people.
I made it. I feel better physically, saved money, improved my marriage and slept like a baby. But most importantly, I learned that my single glass of wine a night did add up to drinking too much for me. I also learned that my drinking was a habit.
I can manage without wine—but please, Lord, don’t ask me to give up my coffee.
Elizabeth McBride is the editor and designer of Café.
If you suspect that you have a problem with alcohol, there is help. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/support-treatment
Photo by Jenny Downing, used with permission, Creative Commons