How to survive Dry January

I’m tempted to say please don’t!

But bear with me.

Let me be honest, January sucks for change! When people give a talk online about how to survive Dry January my heart sinks!

Dry January exists in the UK and many other countries, but what is, what should you not do and why is it in my view very unpopular and popular!

48 hours to live gives you a big wake up call. That was my Dry January but it happened in April.

I am always curious as a coach why most people wait until January to start something or make a change in their lives.

It seems odd as change happens to us at all times of the year including January so I often talk about the harm Dry January does. People spend the whole month going without alcohol only to have a bender on the 1st February.




Our liver of course does not know what time of the year it is!

If you are starting a new venture why not do it in November or December? Why does January become the holy grail, the calendar is a made up time construct anyhow.

Making change can happens in an instant. When I was told I could have 48 hours to live I did not say “I’ll wait till January and make the change then”.

I was a social drinker and drank nothing but wine but with a mix of infection, stress and genetics my liver started to pack in. There was no goal setting as such apart from getting a will. I made up my mind that I needed a change.

I’d made it at that moment. My health came first.

I have made more change in the last year than I did in the last 10 but none of it started in January.

What change will you make today? Of course that over expensive life make over programme will still be there in January if you don’t fancy doing it today.


What is a dry January?

Dry January is a concept which has been around for a while now and to be fair also raises money for good causes. The concept is easy to understand especially when you think of the concept of a new start and new beginning.

If you think about it January has been long known for a great new start with so called new year resolutions. These can include:

  • Saving for a holiday ( I remember as a kid brochures came through just after Christmas and all the magazines were full of lovely holiday pics!)
  • Lose weight so join a gym and take out a year contract after all you are here for the long haul.
  • Look for a new job
  • Start a project
  • Eat less
  • Cut back on alcohol

It might be people realizing all drink they consumed over the festive season. Maybe it’s the festive season antics catching up with people and the office parties are at the forefront of our memories.

You know only you! Personal motivation is just that, its personal.

It might be the bad sight of our finances we have got ourselves into or just the fact we need to cut back having had a medical at the doctors where we have lied about our weekly alcohol intake!

You as well eh?

Of course the calendar year is a construct in our mind and does not actually exist. Yet we are governed by it so much.

More people join a gym or take up an exercise regime in January than any other month only to have given up by February and certainly by March.

Yet we still pay for the membership a year later because “we might need it at some point”.

In fact the best gym membership I ever had was a pay as you go as I actually went more and made it count!

Dry January plays into “peer pressure” to give up that month and raise some money for charity despite the fact you could give to that charity all year around.

My social media will be full of the fact that it is hard in the dark Winder months to give up alcohol while pleading for sympathy.



Why is it a bad idea?

Actually the concept of Dry January is a good one, you make a commitment and you are public about it. You get plenty of support and actually after a period of feeling any withdrawal symptoms, you feel much more awake and alert.

However, here is the thing because it is just a “constructed” goal and a bit forced so all you do is spend it thinking about is having another drink. That is all that is on your mind and given the chance you will tell everyone!

I often read social media posts and wonder why people do it to themselves! It sounds really painful.

Yes of course I would like that change if it lasts, fantastic but it reality it never does. After all you will spend all the time thinking about what you don’t want rather than what you do want.

I often explain as a coach why “will power” does not work when giving up or changing habits. The brain can’t process negatives. It is simple really.


Here are some everyday examples:

  • Don’t bang the door on the way out
  • Don’t forget your keys
  • Don’t think about a red boat!
  • Don’t blow on the that straw


In order to think about what we want we have to think of what we don’t want so think about it more.

You see, we just can’t process negative thoughts. The brain is designed to be like that to save us time so Dry January and giving up alcohol is like pushing sludge up a hill, it’s doable but hard work.

Exerting “will power” is the last thing we should be doing if we want to change habits

If you think about it your brain is like an iceberg and the brain’s subconscious has all our habits and drives our behaviour so by thinking about what we do not what to do all the time makes matters even worse.

My preferred partner for a hypnosis system that gets a 10/10 affiliate provider score is Mark Tyrryll, a very experienced coach who I first studied with.

His programme on mild addiction from drinking to food is first class. You can check it out by clicking my referral link on the banner below and I would love to know what you think about it.

Mark is very credible and you can do it not just in January! All you need is a quiet space and headphones.


So why is January not a good idea for being dry

Let not knock it out completely. It can work of course, if it is part of a long term plan. Most of the people I see use it have been desperate to have respite from continued or increased drinking.

Of course, it can help with all the surrounding support including :

  • Peer support
  • Online planning
  • Fundraising
  • Very public statements

So why does it not work well, it’s simple.

It’s a moment that we talk about for a month and can’t wait for it to end, we talk about the big sacrifices we are making and I guess when you have nearly died of liver disease you do take a second glance and say “really?”

Yes I am being controversial!

The fact is very often people drink more the first week of February that they would have done if they had cut out drink steadily across a year. Why?

Because they see it as being locked up and want to celebrate getting out rather than it just being a life adjustment across a year.


I was always struck by the science behind how one archery team for the USA did so well in their Olympic endeavors.

They were doing the following. The archery board ( and please bear in mind I know nothing about this sport) was placed as far away as possible.

Guess what, it didn’t work and their practice was very unsuccessful.

They hired a coach who I know from my training who did the most unusual thing, he halved their goals and brought the target very close, then over time he moved the target further and further away. Of course people tend to go for what they think they can get.

They had the best Olympics ever! They chunked the goal down.

In terms of Dry January, it’s a big goal and yet making small changes over a year unless of course you are totally committed is a much easier route to take.

You can damage your liver in an instant. One massive session can do it even if you have been free of alcohol for a full month.

Most doctors and health professional recommend modifying bit by bit. Its just easier on the body.



Alternatives to dry January

Firstly, think about the overall lifestyle rather than one month of the year, you will take the pressure off and you will avoid the big push mentality.

If someone in the street pushed you you would have what they call the “oppositional effect” and you would feel the need to push them back. People like to rebel!

It is the same with smokers being constantly being told to give up so they push back and rebel. It’s the reason rules work to a certain extent but then you have to build a consensus.

It is one of the reasons in my view the recent lock down rules did not work as well. The night before shut down everyone went out and partied because they wanted their freedom.

It is the same with giving up drink and or reducing it.

You have to want it to really happen and here are a few ways to do it:

  • Aim to drink less over the year!
  • This is really the classic small wins strategy as you become familiar with doing a little bit and over time your body and mind start to adjust accordingly.
  • In my experience buying a handwritten diary and logging your progress really helps so if you have 4 pints of large beer after work aim for two and keep the momentum small but consistent.

This strategy is the same as goal setting because as a rule :

People overestimate what they can do in a month and underestimate what they can do in a year.

It’s one of the biggest reasons people give up on goals before they have very often achieved them and were only a few steps away from doing so.




Use hypnosis – its natural and powerful

Hypnosis is a great way to really start to understand how we get addicted to certain things and how the brain works. It’s how habits are formed.

Our brain loves shortcuts and given the option in our busy life it will take the easiest route to avoid pain and get pleasure.

Drinking too much is like having faulty software working against us and it’s our backseat driver which is why we sometimes end up where we don’t want to go.

It’s how we learn to ride a bike, at first we have to think about it and then it just goes into our subconscious so we don’t have to think about it anymore. It becomes an automatic response.

Hypnosis bypasses the critical thinking part of the brain and gives us the option of reprogramming our mind to drink less. Drinking alcohol actually starts with social pressure and hypnosis anyhow.

As I mentioned earlier the Mark Tyrryll course is one of the best in the business on reducing alcohol and can be used anywhere where it’s safe to do so. It can be used on mobile and tablets and is my preferred recommendation with a score of 10/10.

The affiliate link is below ( you pay the same ) and I would love to know how you get on in reducing what you drink.

Click on the link below to access the training and find out more.




Do activities that don’t involve drinking

This is really why I say Dry January sucks. Imagine committing to going to gym day in day out in the bleakest month of the year as opposed to aiming for something resembling a beach body across a year. It sucks!

Social activity as opposed to doing stuff that involves driving across a year can really help.

  • Exercise
  • Theatre
  • Walking
  • Volunteering
  • Learning a new course
  • Spending time with different friends

All these things can change our behaviour. And before you dismiss things like volunteering I once had a coaching client who decided to volunteer for 1 hour per week and without realizing ended up cutting their alcohol consumption in half.

They just found a different passion and energy. This kept drinking but in a much better way and in moderation.

It’s true sometimes it’s the little things.

For example, I started this blog with Wealthy Affiliate as a new career and now run a coaching blogging practice for people who want to blog with a purpose.

You can access my 5 day free training for FREE here if only to see how I developed this blog and made the move away from social wine drinking to a hobby into a business after taking redundancy.

It can be done!

Switch to alcohol FREE option

When I nearly died from my liver disease I was just a social wine drinker and yet my body reacted to alcohol really badly. When I was back on my feet again I looked for an alternative.

It could help me socially but did not threaten my life.

Now if you have a high dependency or even the thought of alcohol could drive you to drink this may not be for you but for me it worked really well as an alternative

There is now a wide range of options for alcohol free that are great and contain no alcohol at all. If you switch even partly to these brands it can over a year make a big difference. Just switch in say February or March.

If you are on a night out start with them don’t finish with them.

Certainly all the big beer brands are now in this market and its a growing one too at over 23 percent per year.

It can still sometimes be a challenge finding them but they are out there and I know people who have naturally switched to them either totally or party with ease.

There are now options across the range including beer and wine and you can access my review of wine that may help with your waist line and be alcohol FREE here.


If you want to be sure it is alcohol free always check the label especially the alcohol by volume so ABV figure, Ideally 0.0% as once you get past 0.5% you will be looking at low alcohol which can still have no massive effect on your drinking habits providing there is no underlying health issue.

Be clear on your purpose for drinking less!

This for me is key. People in dry January very often do it because they feel they should. However, remember why you wanted to cut back on your drinking in the first place:

  • Health
  • Lifestyle
  • Problem Drinking
  • Save money
  • Holiday
  • Memory Loss
  • Weight issues
  • Hangovers
  • Improve your career prospects

Remember to have a good range of both towards and away goals so carrot and stick.

It is really important you have a good reason for doing it and not just for Dry January!


Finally, go on dump Dry January

I hope this has given you some food for thought and the stuff here seems simple but it does work. They have worked for me and I have seen them work for others!

How to survive dry January probably says it all as a question! Cutting down on booze in January. Why put the pressure on?

By taking the pressure off you can make change across a year that lasts.

I would love to know thoughts on how to survive dry January? Leave a message below and I also get back to you. It’s great to get your comments! Have you successfully done dry January and it worked, go on prove me wrong!


4 thoughts on “How to survive dry January”

  1. Hmm, this is a whole new look on January for me. Honestly, I had never even hear the term “dry January” before until my random google surfing brought me to this site. I can certainly see that it is a lot more intricate that I have ever seen it before and I’m glad that you have laid out some great tips here for us, as I can certainly take a lot of this in for myself this upcoming January

    • Hey Misael, thankyou so much for commenting on how to survive dry January. 

      Its funny when you write these things as it easy to presume everyone knows about them and of course they don’t ! That’s really good feedback for me. I am really pleased you enjoyed the tips and that they were useful. I really appreciate you taking the time out to comment. All the best, Phil

  2. Hi Phil, 

    Impressive I must say. I am fortunate enough to not have had to make such a drastic lifestyle change. I have never been fond of alcoholic beverages but am sharing my life with some who do. You have given me some insight on how to help one manage these temptations and possibly overcome what one would call an addiction. 

    It also helps to have a resource where one can get some inspiring success stories and reasons why one can benefit from it. it. I will be sharing this page with others that I know need this kind of direction. 

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey thanks for your feedback that means a great deal and I am so pleased you got something worthwhile out of it. I have to say its been a real rollar coaster ride as you can tell. Thanks for sharing as the message is an important one. I really appreciate you taking the time out to focus on How to survive Dry January.. All the best Phil


Leave a Comment