What I learned about myself by participating in the Dry January wellness challenge

JFCS’ Jewish Community Addiction Services promoted Dry January participation with resources from Star Tribune

By Ruth Paley, LICSW, JFCS Director of Children and Family Programs

Since COVID hit two years ago, liquor sales have hit the roof. Women especially report drinking more heavily and more often, and one in four Americans report drinking to cope with pandemic stress. Isolation, depression, anxiety, distance learning, and loss of employment have also contributed to and intensified drinking.

“Dry January” – a month without alcohol has grown in popularity in recent years, and the Star Tribune offered and advertised the Dry January wellness challenge this year with articles, mocktail recipes, classes, sober stories, and much more.

JFCS’ Jewish Community Addiction Services’ (JCAS) goal is to support individuals’ sobriety in the way that best serves them, and promoted Star Tribune’s Dry January challenge as one way to do so. It is not meant to be a substitute for AA or other professional support that people use to manage their drinking. If you think you have a problem with drinking, call 952-922-0880 for help 24/7, or visit aaminneapolis.org for additional resources.

Even if someone does not have a severe drinking problem, Dry January is a good time to re-evaluate drinking behavior. At the end of a month of sobriety, some people have reported having more energy, sleeping better, saving some money and having a new perspective about their drinking behaviors.

With this in mind, I decided to participate in the wellness challenge myself this year. I think of myself as a moderate drinker, having an occasional glass of wine. I liked the idea of this challenge, and it made me feel hopeful at a time when hope can be difficult to find. I wanted to be an ally and add my support to others who wanted to have a month of sobriety. I wondered if I could even do it.

I really wanted to explore how, why and when I drink. Had my drinking changed during the pandemic? I wanted to think about what drinking means to me. Did I feel any different/better from not drinking? Maybe I had a bigger problem than I knew before Dry January. I wanted answers to some of these questions. I wanted to engage with others who were participating in this challenge.

I learned that it isn’t so easy to give up drinking. Sure, I tried some mocktail recipes, and they were pretty good. However, I missed and wanted to join the rest of my family with a glass of wine when lighting Shabbat candles, and it was hard to say no to that. I did not notice a big improvement in sleeping or a loss of weight, which I had hoped would happen, even if no one promised that. I did save some money.

I read articles every day, especially the personal stories that appeared in the Star Tribune. I had conversations with others about their drinking behaviors, and was more thoughtful about how hard this is for so many folks. Would I give another month to sobriety? Yes, I think I would and would encourage others to try it, too, especially if one had never tried a month of sobriety. Any month could be dry, not just January, especially for a reset or more clarity about drinking.

JFCS’ Jewish Community Addiction Services is designed to promote recovery and reduce stigma for individuals affected by substance use disorder and their families by providing knowledgeable, confidential, and culturally-sensitive supports and services. This includes individuals who participate in AA or/and other treatment or programs.

JFCS has always supported people’s sobriety in whatever way they want for themselves. If you or someone you love would like additional support from Jewish Community Addiction Services, please call us at 952-546-0616. JFCS, in collaboration with the Jewish Recovery Network, will host the virtual annual Freedom from Addiction Seder on Monday, April 18.

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