Dry January has changed people’s lives worldwide with its many health benefits. Understanding its significance and benefits can help guide participants through the month and beyond.  

What Is Dry January?

Every January, people globally partake in Dry January, a month-long commitment to abstain from alcohol. The motivations behind this practice vary, ranging from curiosity about sobriety to personal challenges and health assessments. Dry January encourages individuals to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol after the indulgences of the winter holidays. For some, it offers a chance to kickstart the new year with healthier goals and a fresh perspective. 

The initiative started in the United Kingdom in 2013 and has since extended its influence to the United States. Participants can choose to register online to show their support or simply make a personal choice to avoid alcohol in January. 

Benefits of Dry January

Participating in Dry January and refraining from drinking alcohol for a month can have many physical, mental, and emotional benefits. While there are many more, here are six benefits of avoiding alcohol in January:

  • Enhanced sleep quality: Alcohol consumption can disrupt sleep patterns, reducing energy levels and motivation.
  • Increased energy levels: Symptoms of alcohol hangovers or consistent drinking can negatively impact both energy and mood levels.
  • Weight loss: Alcohol may contribute to an increase in calorie intake, potentially hindering weight management goals.
  • Optimized organ functioning: Excessive alcohol consumption can adversely affect liver function, underscoring the importance of moderation.
  • Reinforced immune system: Reducing alcohol intake can contribute to a stronger immune system, enhancing the body’s ability to ward off illnesses.
  • Improved social life: Minimizing alcohol consumption can positively influence personal relationships, fostering healthier connections. 


6 Tips for a Successful Dry January

Before delving into strategies for successfully navigating Dry January, reflect on your motivations and goals for participating in this alcohol-free challenge. Establishing this mindset and purpose will help guide your efforts. Consider incorporating the following practices into your routine:

  • Do some reflective journaling: Documenting your thoughts and experiences during the challenge can provide valuable insights and help you stay motivated.
  • Engage in regular exercise: Physical activity boosts your overall well-being and is a constructive outlet during this alcohol-free period.
  • Discover a new hobby: Replace the time and energy once spent on drinking with a fulfilling and enjoyable hobby, such as learning a new instrument, reading, or arts and crafts.
  • Encourage friends to join you: Share the journey with friends, turning Dry January into a collective and supportive effort.
  • Explore delicious non-alcoholic drinks: Treat yourself to flavorful non-alcoholic beverages, discovering new tastes and aromas in craft sodas, juices, seltzers, and more.
  • Connect with support groups: Whether online or in-person, finding a community of individuals going through a similar experience can provide encouragement and camaraderie on your Dry January journey.

Ready to build a sober routine? Check out this 6-week guide to changing your drinking habits.

Recognizing the Signs of a Bigger Issue

If refraining from alcohol becomes an ongoing challenge during Dry January, and the experience proves to be more difficult than anticipated, it could be an indication of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

AUD is a pattern of alcohol consumption that involves difficulty controlling your alcohol use and continuing to use it despite harmful consequences. It’s important to recognize the signs of this disorder to seek help when needed.

Only a licensed medical or therapeutic professional can diagnose an alcohol use disorder, but knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder can help:

  • Drinking more or for a longer period than intended
  • Feeling incapable of cutting back on the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Becoming sick for an extended period as a result of drinking too much
  • Inability to concentrate due to alcohol cravings
  • Inability to care for a family, hold down a job or perform in school
  • Continuing to drink despite problems caused with friends or family
  • Decreased participation in activities that were once important
  • Finding oneself in dangerous or harmful situations as a direct result of drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite adding to another health problem, feeling depressed or anxious or blacking out
  • Drinking more as a result of a tolerance to alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Experiencing at least two of these criteria within 12 months may indicate an alcohol use disorder. The severity of AUD depends on the number of symptoms:

  • Mild: Two to three
  • Moderate: Four to five
  • Severe: Six or more

If you struggling to control your alcohol use, you are not alone. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 28 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2021, which equates to 11.3% of adults. Thankfully, professional addiction treatment can help.

Breaking Free from Alcohol Addiction

If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol addiction, start by talking to your primary care doctor or a rehab center about your concerns regarding your alcohol use. It’s crucial to understand that each person’s journey to recovery is unique, and seeking help from a medical professional is key to finding the best approach for you. 

Seeking professional addiction treatment and creating a long-term support plan are both essential steps in the pursuit of treatment and recovery from alcohol addiction. Treatment programs include undergoing a medical detox, staying in a residential or inpatient program, and outpatient care. Each program provides necessary medical and emotional support to help you achieve sobriety. 

It’s important to work with a team of medical professionals to identify the most effective treatment for your specific needs. This proactive approach not only recognizes the challenges of addiction but also sets the foundation for a personalized and comprehensive strategy for treating and recovering from alcohol addiction.

At The Recovery Village, we provide evidence-based and comprehensive treatment programs tailored to address alcohol addiction:

  • Medically Supervised Detox: Our medical professionals create a secure environment for withdrawal, using medications to alleviate symptoms.
  • Inpatient Rehab: Within our residential facilities, we integrate intensive behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, and medical care to provide a focused recovery experience.
  • Outpatient Rehab: Offering flexibility, our outpatient programs enable individuals to attend therapy sessions while living at home, aiding in a smooth transition back to everyday life.
  • Aftercare Planning: Our support extends beyond treatment with relapse prevention planning, medical referrals, and recommendations to support groups and other resources to assist in maintaining sobriety long-term. 

For any questions or to learn more about addiction treatment, our Recovery Advocates are available 24/7. 

Begin Your Recovery Today

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Reach out to us today to begin living a substance-free life.

Editor – Aileen Delgado
With years of journalism experience, Aileen's reporting has reached several outlets including PBS NewsHour and the Alzheimer’s Association—covering mental health, profiles, local community issues and public health. Read more

Ballard, Jackie. “What is Dry January?” “>The British Journal of General Practice, January 2016. Accessed November 20, 2023.

Solan, Matthew. “Thinking of trying dry January? Steps f[…]for success.” Harvard Health, January 3, 2022. Accessed November 20, 2023.

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).” (n.d.) Accessed Date.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the Unite[…]acteristics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023. Accessed November 20, 2023.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Understanding alcohol use disorder.””&a[…];g[…]se disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, April 2023. Accessed November 20, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.