Navigating Dry January While on the Sinclair Method
Every January we hear the same question – “Should I attempt Dry January (or ‘Dryuary’ as it is also known) while I’m on the Sinclair Method (TSM)?”
There are many benefits to beginning a new year without alcohol. If you have wined, dined, and celebrated your way though the holiday season, abstaining from alcohol for a month can allow your liver to recover from the strain of a few too many celebratory evenings. It can also assist with other new year’s resolutions like weight loss and exercise.
If you have reached extinction, go ahead and give Dryuary a try. You can do it on your own or with a friend. It’s a great time to talk with a loved one or friend who may join you in solidarity for the month.
If you have recently started TSM, you may want to consider a less drastic approach to Dry January. This is due to the alcohol deprivation effect (ADE). If you are chemically dependent on alcohol, reducing your intake too quickly or stopping altogether can cause alcohol withdrawal, which can be unpleasant at best and medically dangerous at worst.
But that’s only the beginning, because once January is over, or if you relapse before you complete the month, thanks to ADE you are likely to drink more frequently and heavier, than you did before you started your trek for a month of sobriety. The point of Dryuary is to ultimately be healthier. If you approach it in a way that leaves you worse off, then it’s probably not a good idea to take a month off of booze.
Even if you just started TSM, there are ways that you can take part in Dry January that can challenge you to reach reduction goals without undermining your health and progress toward pharmacological extinction. Here are a few ideas that you can use depending on how much reduction progress you have made since beginning TSM:
Just starting – 25% reduction (If you are still drinking 7 days a week, please do not try to rush headlong into a month of sobriety.)
Ask yourself if you are ready to attempt one alcohol free (AF) day per week.
YES – go for it! Pick one day each week, plan enough activities to help keep your mind off alcohol, and keep your medication handy just in case. Adhere to the medication protocol when you do drink, and enjoy the endorphin boost on that AF day.
NOT YET – Don’t feel bad. Don’t judge yourself for being honest about where you are in your journey. Nearly everyone on TSM has been where you are. You can still take part by committing to reduce by one drink a day. For example, if you are currently drinking four standard drinks per day, try three. Set a goal that you have to think about, but pick something that isn’t going to cause you to have an anxiety spike that leaves you wanting to drink even more.
25% – 50% reduction
Maybe you have reduced your alcohol intake significantly, but you still have fewer alcohol free days than you would like. You may not be ready physically or emotionally to take on a full month without alcohol, but you may surprise yourself with what you can actually do.
If you haven’t had many AF days yet, try to escalate your AF days through the month. Start at one the first week (or more if you feel comfortable). The following week, try to add an extra AF day. If you are successful, add another day the following week. If you are not successful, then don’t beat yourself up. Try that number of days again the following week. Who knows? You may end up having more AF days than you thought you could handle.
50% through extinction
You have already accomplished a lot on TSM. You might not have reached your final reduction goal yet, but if you are considering Dryuary, you are likely to give yourself an extra boost to get where you want to be. Whether you want to take a modified approach or jump in all of the way, just remember that the decision is yours and if something unexpected happens that leads you to drink during the challenge, as long as you still follow the medication protocol, you are not setting yourself back.
Even those not addicted to alcohol can fail at a month of sobriety. If you succeed, you are probably going to feel a sense of accomplishment. But it’s not the end of the world if you try for 31 days and are “only” sober for 20 of them. Remember what your life was like before TSM. Could you have even contemplated an entire month without alcohol? The simple fact that you are wondering if you are ready for dry January speaks volumes about your progress.
Are you taking part in dry January? Share your tips and modifications in the comments below. We manually approve comments to avoid spam, so your comment will not show up right away. We’ll make it visible as soon as we can.
I had no choice because had to stop with the Nal due to surgery. The strange thing is though that it was not hard to stop drinking. Who would have thought that? Might be the after effect of the Nal?
Came to extinction last May…have been drinking sometimes, always compliant with TSM. What a gift! I do think the holiday season has been too full of rich food and more alcohol than wise. I’m going to consider Dryuary–just to feel better. I am not a rigid person, though. I keep the Nal in my purse. If I choose to drink, I will choose to take the Nal as well!
Great comments! I’ve been doing TSM for four months. I’ve had improvements! I’m not ready for a dry January, but this is a marathon, not a quick race. Thank you for this article!