January is almost over, but 'Dry January' should continue. Here's how to help yourself and patients

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published January 26, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Dry January can have health benefits for everyone, but especially those who are reevaluating their relationship with alcohol.

  • A therapist discusses the benefits of continuing the resolution for more than one month.

Over the years, more information has come to light about the dangers of alcohol use—and the benefits of sobriety. At the beginning of this year, some people are experimenting with a sober lifestyle through dry January resolutions. Dry January can be a helpful resolution for people who want to reap the short-term benefits of sobriety or who are taking the first step into an alcohol-free lifestyle. Maybe some of your patients are testing it out—or maybe you are, too.

Now that the month of January is coming to an end, participants can choose to go back to booze or continue their sober streak. If you or your patients are contemplating quitting drinking for the long term, here are some things to think about as the month comes to a close.

A dry month has short-term benefits, which can be built upon

Jeff Yoo, LMFT, a therapist at Moment of Clarity Mental Health Treatment Center, says that going alcohol-free for a month can benefit multiple aspects of health, including weight loss, cognitive awareness, sleep, and more. The longer you refrain from drinking, the more time you have to reap these benefits.

According to Yoo, staying alcohol-free can benefit your health and lifestyle by:

  • Improving blood sugar management.

  • Improving cognitive functioning,  such as improved memory, clearer thinking, and mental stability.

  • Boosting confidence to cut back on drinking in the future.

  • Facilitating weight loss: Yoo reminds people that alcoholic beverages contain empty calories and can cause bloating.

  • Improving sleep, including feeling well rested and aware upon waking.

  • Saving you money.

Benefits of continuing dry January for people with alcohol use disorder

While quitting drinking can be beneficial for everyone, the benefits of full sobriety for someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be life-changing—and life-saving.

Looking at the numbers, more people in the United States die of alcohol-related causes than from opiods and other drugs, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Alone, alcohol contributes to more than 140,000 deaths in the US each year, and more than 200 health conditions, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Alcohol-related deaths increased in 2020, during the beginning of the pandemic, and this rise continued into 2022, according to analysis on NIAAA data.[][][]

Discussing these figures can be helpful when talking to yourself, a patient, or a loved one about the life-long impact of “dry” challenges.

In addition to people who have AUD, refraining from drinking is a good idea for those who are “abusing alcohol as a coping tool for grief, [or those with] trouble sleeping or struggling with depression,” Yoo says.

Reframing resolutions

Yoo says while he often notices people use dry January as a way to start the year with a “clean slate,” this commitment doesn’t have to start and end in one month.

“The issue with the word ‘resolution’ [is that it] does not define commitment to recovery or improving [one’s] life in general,” in the same way that making a longer-term, firmer commitment to sobriety does, Yoo says. 

Redsolutions can also put pressure on the “all-or-nothing” approach, which isn’t helpful for everyone, Yoo adds.

That being said, if you or your patients are currently pursuing dry January and noticing the health benefits, it is a great idea to keep going. Additionally, if you missed the dry January bandwagon, it’s never too late to hop on.

When talking to a patient, loved one, or even yourself about continuing a no-alcohol streak, Yoo recommends “being direct and honest in communication” and emphasizing the concept of free will. He discourages saying things like, “It’s easy to abstain” from alcohol, or calling people failures for not making it through a full 31 days.

“I would suggest [saying] that they always have a choice and they are in charge of their actions,” Yoo recommends. “Once they begin, should they find themselves failing to keep the commitment, give themselves permission to start over—to remind themselves of the reasons they beg[a]n the challenge and to use the tools to help them continue.”

What this means for you

As January comes to a close, people who have been pursuing dry January can decide whether or not to continue their resolution. Giving up alcohol for a month can have some health benefits, and giving it up for longer can build upon them.

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