Dry January has become increasingly popular, as people look to reduce their alcohol consumption after the festive party season.
Dry January launched in 2013 and the number of people participating in the month-long challenge has grown year by year. A campaign drawn up by Alcohol Change UK, Dry January encourages participants to go through the whole of January without any alcohol. Many people decide to take up Dry January as part of their New Year resolutions.
In 2013, around 4,000 people took part in Dry January. Statistics from Alcohol Change UK show that in 2022, there were more than 130,000 participants. Cutting down on alcohol can have benefits for physical and mental health, including improved sleep quality, increased energy levels and enhanced well-being. For many people, it’s also a way of saving money after the expense of Christmas and festive parties and social events in December.
Many people celebrate the end of Dry January by enjoying a crisp glass of wine or a refreshing pint of beer but the number of people choosing to cut down their alcohol intake on a more permanent basis is rising.
Emma Bricknell, 45, is one of a growing number of people who have chosen to embrace a “semi-sober lifestyle.” Emma moved to Northern Ireland from London 18 years ago and decided to stop drinking after suffering from the “worst hangover” of her life. In May 2021, she gave up alcohol for eight months, explaining that she “just stopped drinking” and “never really went back again.” She enjoys the occasional drink but her habits have changed completely and she has re-evaluated the way she views alcohol.
When Emma stopped drinking, she said that she “functioned a lot better” and she was much less paranoid. She was able to “view things better” in terms of her friendships and relationships and she enjoyed being the designated driver on nights out. Although many people were supportive, she felt that others judged her because her sobriety made them reflect on their own drinking habits.
Emma believes that there are benefits of doing Dry January but suggested that problems with alcohol in Northern Ireland run deep. Alcohol is an integral part of life for many people and is a common feature of special occasions, such as funerals and weddings. She believes that there is a “bigger picture” and a “really unhealthy connection” between people and drinking.
Alcohol Change UK has advised anyone who drinks heavily to seek medical advice before abstaining from alcohol for long periods, as they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Dry January is designed for people who are not dependent on alcohol as a means of restricting intake for a set period and potentially reducing consumption in the long term. There is help available for people who are worried about their relationship with alcohol via local GP services and charities.
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