An initiative founded by the UK charity Alcohol Concern, Dry January offers British people the opportunity to give up alcohol for a month following the often alcohol-heavy festive period. Through the website, people are able to sign up and are offered tips and support, with the aim being to raise awareness of the harm that alcohol does to our bodies, and help to reduce alcohol-related harm in the UK.
According to a recent YouGov poll, around 4.2 million people plan to take part and give up alcohol in January 2019. Most people will stick out the month and then return to drinking, except hopefully with a better understanding of their drinking habits and a healthier outlook on future drinking. However, Dry January can also be a struggle for some.
Alcohol And The UK
According to research, alcohol is the biggest factor for death, ill health and disability in the UK, amongst those aged 15-49.
31% of men and 16% of women regularly consume more than the recommended weekly guidelines for alcohol, which is currently 14 units per week for both sexes.Persistent problematic drinking has long-term effects including liver and heart diseases, and an increased risk of a number of different cancers, whilst the mental health effects are severe both in the short and long term.
Research has found that schemes like Dry January benefit drinkers in both the short and long term. At the end of a month of abstinence, participants often report feeling healthier and happier, with increased energy levels, significant weight loss and better sleep patterns. But the month has even better long-term effects, with more than 60% of those surveyed in a 2015 study saying that after six months they found themselves drinking less every week than they had in the previous year.
But Dry January isn’t all positive. Some experts posit that, for problematic drinkers, participating in a month of abstinence gives them the green light to binge drink throughout the other 11 months of the year.
Many alcoholics use things like Dry January as a way to ‘prove’ to themselves and others that they don’t have a problem, which in itself indicates that there is an underlying, more serious issue. For people that already display problematic thinking with regards to alcohol and other substances, just giving up alcohol for one month is unlikely to significantly change their relationship with it, and may trick them into believing that they don’t have a problem.
For others, if they are unable to give up drinking at all and ‘fail’ at Dry January, this could lead to feelings of guilt and shame which only make their drinking problem worse, forcing them into even more disordered patterns of binging and abstinence.
What If You Aren’t Able To Quit?
Ian Hamilton, a lecturer at the University of York, specialising in mental health and addiction, worries that people struggling with an alcohol dependency may actually have their condition exacerbated by Dry January, saying: “The problem for them is that if they start Dry January and don’t complete it, which I don’t think they will, it does nothing for their confidence.”
“They may well realise they have a problem with alcohol – but then what do they do?” he added.
“We know that treatment services for people who do develop problems with alcohol have been savagely cut – so in some ways [these campaigns are] a distraction from people who really do have a problem,” he said.
However, other experts have pointed out that the campaign is not designed for those with alcohol addictions, and rather to reset regular drinkers’ ideas about alcohol consumption. If this is the case, then coming to terms with the fact that you do have a level of alcohol dependence, rather than simply ‘enjoying a drink’, can help those with addictions to start making changes.
What If You Experience Alcohol Withdrawal?
One of the reasons that it is critical that you approach your GP before you attempt to cut down on drinking, if you feel that you are suffering from alcohol dependence, is that you could go into withdrawal.
Alcohol dependence is the most severe form of problem drinking and is the point at which your body requires alcohol to complete its normal daily processes. At this point, it is no longer feasible for you to go ‘cold turkey’, as you will start to exhibit serious and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms which may include:
•A racing heart
If you find that you are unable to complete Dry January, either because you suffer physical withdrawal symptoms or simply find it too difficult mentally and emotionally to avoid alcohol, then you should be aware that you need help.
Although it may be tempting to ignore the problem and try to handle it on your own, the best and most comfortable way to beat an addiction is to face it head on and get the professional support that you need before it is too late.
Consider discussing your issues with friends and family. They may have noticed your problem drinking and felt unable to bring it up, and your support system will be key in the early days of alcohol recovery.
The Ocean Recovery Centre is a dedicated rehabilitation unit where you can go to detox and rehabilitate from any type of addiction. We offer a range of treatment options to suit you and your needs, as well as an aftercare service which ensures that you get the support that you need once you are ready to head back to your everyday life.
You can call us on 01253 847 553, or text HELP to 83222 if you would like to find out more or make a start on your recovery journey.
Posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2020 at 4:50 pm in Alcohol Addiction.