Tips For Trying A Dry January

Are you sober curious? If so, you've likely been wondering for a while if there's a way to enjoy yourself socially or relax and unwind on your own that are guaranteed not to result in a pounding head, a queasy stomach, lost time, and a vague sense of embarrassment. Well, there's no better time to take a test drive on an alcohol-free lifestyle than during the first month of the new year, especially if you've had a particularly epic (and inevitably regrettable) New Year's Eve.

This was the impetus behind the Dry January movement (via Alcohol Change UK), something that started out in the U.K. in 2013. As of last year, some 130,000 people had officially joined the campaign via the website, but numerous others are participating on an informal level by adopting it as a temporary New Year's resolution of sorts. Business Insider reports that up to 15% of American adults expressed interest in giving Dry January a try for 2021, and they think that sobriety (whether of the month-long or permanent kind) is poised to be even bigger in 2022. If you're thinking you might want to join in the booze-free fun next month, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Change up your whole routine

The Manual points out that drinking is a habit, and the easiest way to change one habit is to substitute another, more positive, one in its place. If the first thing you do after you get home from work is to crack a cold one, try popping open a seltzer instead. If that substitute doesn't cut it for you, maybe skip the whole beverage routine and instead take the dog for a walk or try a new recipe for dinner. Too chore-like? Okay, then, sit yourself down at the computer and play a game.

It doesn't matter so much what you do (well, within reason -– picking fights with your nearest and dearest is not recommended) but that you do something, anything, to take the place of your nighttime drink, and that you keep doing it, day after day. As Psychology Today explains, there's no set amount of time to form a new habit and the more pleasurable ones are likely to take a lot less time to "stick" than ones that aren't so much fun. Whatever it is that you choose to do, though, repetition is key.

Opt for family-style restaurants that don't rely on booze sales

No need to stop dining out during Dry January. You can choose different restaurants. Servers depend on tips to make up much of their paychecks, and at establishments that serve alcohol, boozy beverages are quite a bit pricier than soft drinks (and hardly ever come with free refills). On a Reddit thread where the original poster asked if servers tend to look unfavorably upon non-drinkers, many rushed to deny such a thing, but one person admitted that yes, of course they do, since "the guy who throws down on a $300 dollar bottle of wine and then orders another will be pampered and spoiled to the extreme, while the average diner will receive standard, quality service."

At times even the restaurants themselves may seem to engage in a little subtle (and likely unintentional) shade-throwing. A recent advertisement for a New Year's Eve bash at Milwaukee's spy-themed Safe House speaks of champagne toasts, but does say that a booze-free alternative will be provided. Unfortunately, the way they phrase it –- "Non-alcoholic beverages will be available for Junior Spies to join in on the toasts!" –- seems to imply that anyone opting for a less-spirited libation should be seated at the kids' table. Perhaps the easiest way to avoid any sober-shaming (deliberate or otherwise) is to dine at restaurants that tend to cater to families, as these establishments are less likely to rely on booze for their bottom line.

Hang out in a coffeehouse or check out a sober bar

If you prefer a more adult environment than that provided by family-style (and liquor-license-free) restaurants, a coffee house might be a pretty good bet, While occasionally you do run into an establishment where spiked coffee is available, for the most part people are there for the java. If you've picked an especially snooty spot, you might get some side-eye for putting cream and sugar in your single origin brew, but no-one will care if you opt for an Americano over an Irish coffee.

Should you live in a large Metropolitan area, you may be fortunate enough to have a sober bar within driving distance –- and you can be the one doing the driving, too, no need to budget for an Uber when the bar you're drinking at is booze free! At many sober bars, such as Racine, Wisconsin's Inmoxicated, the clientele is still 21 and up, and the cocktails aren't "kiddie" ones. Instead, they are alcohol-free mixed drinks –- plus beers and wines -– intended for a grown-up palate. WTMJ's reviewer describes the mocktails served at Inmoxicated as tasting nearly identical to the boozed-up versions, and says that if you didn't know this was a sober bar, the only way you'd figure it out is after you'd knocked back a few drinks and found yourself without even a buzz.

Experiment at home with non-alcoholic options

If you're not in close proximity to a sober bar and the restaurants in your area don't have anything more exciting than Pepsi products to offer the non-drinker, you can instead hit the grocery store and stock up on booze alternatives. Non-alcoholic beer has been available for a while, and there are even non-alcoholic wines that are far more sophisticated than plain old grape juice, including a new sparkling rosé created by RHONY's Luann De Lesseps. Non-spirited spirit alternatives are also becoming more widely available, with big-name brands including Seedlip and Ritual.

One option that's growing in popularity is something called "social tonics." These are drinks that allow you to catch a booze-free buzz as they are infused with psychoactive ingredients. Aurora Elixirs are one of the many CBD drinks available, while hiyo makes use of ingredients like ashwagandha and l-theanine. If you live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, you may enjoy the THC-infused Cann Social Tonics. If you're looking for something out-of-the-can, other options include Zenbarn Farms' Hierba, a 0-proof spirit alternative made from coffee, maple syrup, and hemp extract, and Whistle Pig's Piggyback Devil's Half Send, an undistilled aged rye nonalcoholic "bourbon" that contains hemp extract.

Of course there's an app for that

Whether you've got an iPhone or an Android, you can go to your app store and search for an app called Try Dry. This is the official app of Dry January organizers Alcohol Change UK, and it includes all kinds of tools to help you get through the month (and farther into the year, should you so choose). You can keep track of your "dry streak," and if you decide to take a break from booze in the future, you can compare this to past ones, as well.

You can also use charts to analyze your past drinking patterns. The cool thing about the charts is that they will allow you to then see just how many calories -– and how much money! –- you are saving each day you go without a drink. If you fall off the wagon, no judging, you simply 'fess up to the app what you drank. It's not even going to scold you. As one Google reviewer says, "it doesn't feel punitive or difficult when you do have a drink." Another reviewer appreciates the fact that tracking your alcohol consumption helps you "be ... honest with yourself." This, in turn, may encourage you to get going on a brand-new dry streak.