Make Dry January Last All Year
Everywhere we turn, there’s a pre-event cocktail hour or an innocuous text asking “want to meet for a drink?” I don’t know about you, but it can be exhausting. Not just physically, but financially and mentally as well. So often we default to a glass of wine or a beer out of habit, and soon find ourselves reaching for it without thinking.
So when we talk about “conscious consumption,” it goes beyond just shopping and invites us to be aware of how our consumption affects the world around us. It also invites us to explore how our consumption affects our bodies and minds, and alcohol can be one tricky bag to unpack. To start building a better relationship with ourselves, it’s time to get a little more intentional about how and when we drink—or don’t.
I’ll note that I still enjoy kicking back with a craft beer on the weekends, and don’t withhold on celebratory occasions. But, as I’m getting older and realizing there’s no space in my life for headaches or hangovers, I’ve been searching for better ways to enjoy myself without drinking.
No matter what your relationship with alcohol is, it’s important to challenge ourselves to go out of our “comfort zones” of habit and give our bodies a rest from time to time. Whether you can’t remember the last Friday night you didn’t sip on something, or if you’ve been sober for years, here are some of my favorite ways to connect and commune without a drop of alcohol to drink.
Beyond habits, alcohol addiction is serious and has severe consequences for each community it impacts. If you or someone you love is struggling, using alcohol to numb feelings on a regular basis, or is regularly and negatively affected by drinking, seek out a local support group or call in to a hotline to find the best ways to help.
Tools To Get Started
If this is your first time trying a dry week or month, I’ve found a few initial tools are helpful to break the habit.
First, plans are essential. We’re a culture who loves our drinks, and it’s amazing how quickly an “I’m bored, what should we do next?” turns into grabbing a beer at the neighborhood bar. I love these bursts of spontaneity, but it doesn’t have to always center on alcohol. If you’re working on breaking that habit, plan out the most sensitive times of day when you find yourself gravitating towards a drink. After work, late weekend afternoons, and of course, Friday nights.
Second, soda water is your friend. I invested in a SodaStream last year and not only did it instantly cut out my embarrassing sparkling water can waste, it also cut down on how many drinks I’d have in a given evening. Add a splash of cranberry juice, a couple mint leaves and a reusable straw and cheers to a night without a hangover. This also helps if you end up at a bar and feel self conscious about not drinking—ask the bartender for soda water with lime, and you’ll have an inconspicuous drink to sip on through the evening.
Gather Around Food, Not Booze
The dining table can often be a joyful gathering space for friends and family, and often sports a bottle or two of wine for sharing. Instead of ditching the space altogether, reinvent meal time with a focus on community and nourishment with these tips:
Bake or cook something new or elaborate together. Try something that requires two adept hands and concentration like pastries or candies. Bread is also an excellent thing to make when you need something to do with your hands. Bonus: you get to eat bread when it’s done.
Meal prep or make a stock. If you lean on the pragmatic side like me, prepare for your week ahead by chopping veggies, soaking dry beans, or making homemade freezer meals. I know it’s not glamorous, but if you put on a favorite show, podcast, or album and do it with some of your nearest and dearest, it’s bound to be fun. Stocks are also a fun thing to make when you have several hours on your hands, and can help cut down on food waste too.
Watch sports or movies at home with a full snacking spread. Sure, you can opt for the Doritos and Oreos of the world, but it’s more fun to craft some festive healthier alternatives like vegan cheese boards and buffalo cauliflower wings.
Eat at a fancy restaurant. I mean, with all the money you’re saving on not going out for drinks, you’ll have more money to try the best food in town. We can eat like royalty without having to spend $12 on a tiny cocktail.
Go to breakfast or host brunch. If you want to avoid evenings altogether, meet up for an early breakfast or host a brunch with friends. Coffee, orange juice, tea—with all the other beverages and a full day ahead of you, you won’t miss the booze.
Get really good at crafting mocktails. Like, really good. You can make simple syrups (here are 7 unique ones), use your SodaStream, and add beautiful garnishes for the full treatment. Here are some fun recipes to start with.
Things To Do & Places To Go Instead Of The Bar
For many of us, it’s a matter of keeping ourselves busy and away from the places that tempt us the most. Here are some of my favorite alternative activities, ranging from ultra-cheesy to only mildly-cheesy. Plus, most of these are good whether you’re hanging with a group or flying solo!
Go to the library and read something new. If your local branches don’t stay open into the evenings, snag a book you’ve been meaning to read and head to a café. Or camp out at your local bookstore or even Barnes & Noble, if you still have one.
Go to a late night yoga or fitness class. Ugh, I know it can be a pain. But I guarantee you’ll wake up the next day feeling amazing.
Take in some art. Spend a few hours wandering the halls of the closest art museum—many museums are open into the evenings to accommodate their visitors availability, and some even have free entry for locals.
Host a clothing swap. Here are some tips on how to do it.
Go down the YouTube rabbit hole. Catch up on late night comedy, follow along someone’s daily life, or even get involved as a vlogger. Why not?
Go bowling. A throwback to my not-so-reckless teenage years, bowling is a stimulating, challenging, and competitive way to spend a weekend night. Not your style? Lace up and go roller skating. Need I say more?
Catch a show—and I mean more than just movies. Find out if your community center has any musicals or shows, or even keep an eye out for the high school plays in your neighborhood. Live music of any kind is always a wonderful sensory experience—look for jazz cafés, open mic nights, or community bands playing.
Get your game face on. Host a board game night and play something new (here are some of my favorites, and Catan is always a winner too). Flying solo? Invest in a video game. It may seem odd, but immersing yourself in a new game can challenge your mind in ways your daily life doesn’t. I had the time of my life playing, of all things, Spiderman on the Playstation 4.
Host your own painting night. Have everyone chip in $10 and snag some canvases and paints from a local craft store. Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks top it all off.
Video chat with someone in an earlier time zone than you. Have a friend or family member overseas? Stay up late or plan to wake up super early to chat with them and catch up.
Journal or create a vision board. How often does a social night out get in the way of your grounding routines? If you’re an introvert like me, a couple hours in on a weekend evening can really help recharge you and reset you on the path towards your goals.
Host a craft night. This is something you can do solo or with friends, and what you make is up to you. Giving yourself something to do with your hands is also a helpful deterrent for habitual sipping. Not into crafting? Grab some supplies for an at-home manicure and pamper yourself a bit.
Have a music sharing party. Ask for contributions to a Spotify playlist and spend an evening listening and sharing what’s on your heavy rotation.
Go. To. Bed. Early. This is one huge benefit of low-to-no alcohol nights. You don’t feel the need to keep riding the high, so you can tuck yourself in before 11 and wake up feeling fresh and being fully rested at 8. No more 11 AM rolling out of bed and shuffling to the kitchen for an advil. To help facilitate this, you can make plans for early in the morning, or seek out events like Daybreaker and greet the new day with some serious celebration.
Whatever you end up doing, do it with intention. Whether you’re feeling like the odd one out while you’re sipping on a sparkling water, or you caved and had a drink or two, be kind to yourself. Build yourself up positively, nourish the healthy habits you love, and celebrate the communities that make you feel most like yourself—even without substances.
Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio. Say hi on Instagram!