So You Loved Dry January. Here’s How to Be Mindful About Drinking Year-Round

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That said, it’s definitely not a bad idea to be mindful of how much you’re drinking year-round. Below, mental health and substance use experts provide tips for anyone looking to extend their period of abstinence beyond Dry January, or anyone trying to revisit their relationship with alcohol in the days ahead.What to do if you want to cut back on alcohol—or stop drinking altogetherKeep track of how you’re feeling. As with many “health” challenges that go viral online, it’s easy to go through the motions of Dry January without really diving into your feelings. If you took a break from drinking and want to keep going, reflect on how you’ve felt living alcohol-free for the past few weeks. Ask yourself some questions about what your relationship with alcohol has looked like in the past. It can also be useful to think about what usually happens when you drink, Fred Rotgers, PsyD, ABPP, founder of Moderation Management, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the harm caused by alcohol misuse, tells SELF. “Alcohol problems are defined not by how much you drink, but by the consequences that happen as a result of your drinking,” he explains. A few starters to get you going include: Do I use alcohol to manage uncomfortable emotions, or is it something I turn to when I’m happy? Do I always go a little too hard with a certain group of friends? (If so, how can I still connect with those friends without drinking alcohol?) Do I drink when I’m bored or to mark the end of the workday? In short, taking a big-picture look at the role alcohol plays in your life can help you set up some guardrails for safe drinking practices in the future.Pick a starting place. Those aforementioned guardrails look different for everyone, Benson says. “It really depends on the person, the approach [they’re] going to be able to stick to,” she says. A couple of habits that work well for some people include not drinking two nights in a row; not drinking alone; only drinking a certain number of nights a week; only drinking at celebratory functions (like birthday parties or weddings); drinking a full glass of water between every alcoholic beverage; or not keeping alcohol in your house.Remember your goals can—and probably will—change. We live in a very New Year’s–resolutions–focused culture, Benson says. As anyone who uses the internet knows, there’s often a lot of pressure to make radical lifestyle choices on January 1 in the name of “health”—and to stick to them, no matter what. But the first changes we decide to make—anytime, not just at New Year’s—often aren’t sustainable long-term and may need to be tweaked along the way. Try not to blame yourself if you end up breaking a rule you’d previously agreed to stick to, Dr. Vakharia says. “When you put so much preciousness and so much weight on the ultimate goal, you see a violation of that [goal] as a clearing of the slate,” she says. If you do end up straying from the original path you set for yourself, soften the language you use to describe it. “Rather than using the word ‘relapsed,’ use a gentler term like ‘slip,’” she recommends. “It’s kinder. When you slip, what do you do? You get up again.”Talk to your loved ones about your goals. If you’re thinking of extending Dry January (or taking a break at any time!), a good first step is to make that clear to friends, family members, and anyone you regularly drink with so they can help you stay on track. “Surround yourself with people who understand the situation—people who are going to be understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” Benson says.Explore support groups for sober people. If you don’t know of any in your area, you could use this tool from Psychology Today, which allows you to search for support groups by zip code, as a starting point. If the options in your area don’t feel like a good fit for you (or there simply isn’t an option in your area), there are loads of groups that meet online. For example, Moderation Management offers private online support groups, which you can find more info on here, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has links to support groups here. 

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