It’s a new year, traditionally a time many people pledge to be healthier. Observance of “Dry January” is becoming increasingly popular as an opportunity to start fresh with a resolution to cut back on drinking alcohol – especially after over-indulging during the holidays.

People observe Dry January for a variety of reasons. For moderate drinkers, taking a break from drinking has real health benefits. However, people who drink heavily should use caution, as suddenly stopping alcohol consumption can cause problems. As with any change that affects our health, it’s important to take it seriously.

Just as we should consult a health care professional before starting an exercise program, talking to a doctor or addiction treatment specialist before quitting “cold turkey” can start things off on the right track. For more information on withdrawal, visit The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time to participate. Here are five tips for moderate drinkers who want to reduce their use of alcohol during Dry January and beyond:

  • Make a plan. Start by making a list of your “whys” – all the reasons you want to stop drinking – and then write down the steps you’ll take to be successful. As with any goal, taking smaller steps can be more achievable, while aiming too high can set you up for defeat. Take it one day at a time.
  • Connect with loved ones. Connecting to others keeps us grounded and rooted in our communities. It helps us hold onto what’s important and focused on living well. This month, take time to nurture those relationships, setting the tone for the year.
  • Find other ways to cope. If you tend to use alcohol to destress, try other ways to relax during the month. Regular meditation, yoga or walking can have longer-term, calming effects than drinking.
  • Get back to basics. Focus on basic self-care such as getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating nutritious foods. Choosing healthy behaviors such as these add up. Although they’re simple, each action is meaningful and builds a foundation for lasting success.
  • Avoid triggers. Just like during the holidays, avoiding drinking can be difficult if you’re attending parties, dinners or other gatherings where alcohol is served. Tell the host you’re observing Dry January. Bring your own non-alcoholic beverage to enjoy. Also, don’t hesitate to decline the invitation. It’s OK to seek out other activities that don’t involve alcohol, as well as companionship from others who are also abstaining.

Remember, if you feel withdrawal symptoms such as headache, anxiety, sweating, confusion or racing heart rate while participating in Dry January, reach out to a physician or addiction treatment specialist.

If you or your loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and need help, reach out to RCA at 1-800-RECOVERY.

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