With endless parties and family functions, December’s holiday season may feel like a month of non-stop indulgence. That’s why some follow it with “dry January,” a month of sobriety to compensate for a month of excess.
But what’s been lauded by some as a liver-detoxing tradition has at least one expert cautioning dry January participants.
For Rick Dubras, executive director of Richmond Addiction Services Society, dry January has become a bit of a “phenomenon.” The trend was started in England in 2013 by Alcohol Concern – now Alcohol Change UK. Dubras says there are certainly benefits to completely abstaining from alcohol for a month, but there could be drawbacks as well.
“If we go into a place of absolute restriction…a binge-abstinence cycle…can sort of play out with this idea of a dry January,” Dubras said, adding that cycle can be “just as damaging.”
“If everyone is binging all the time and then takes a month off and then is expecting to binge again in February, there’s obviously harm in that.”
Dubras added that for those living with an addiction to alcohol, participating in dry January is not recommended.
“When we meet people who speak about heavy, daily or routine alcohol use, we generally don’t talk about going cold turkey,” he said. “Dry January is not really focused on people with addiction. Dry January is focused on the average Canadian who may have taken on too much during Christmas time.”
One international student in Richmond wasn’t convinced to try the trend.
“I just like to hang out with my friends during the weekend, drink some beers and have fun,” Mark Fan told the News. “I don’t really see the harm of (drinking) so I don’t really want to stop it.
“The only negative effect is that I’ve been gaining some weight,” he added.
However, what dry January can offer is an opportunity to consider how and when one drinks.
“We use alcohol for numerous reasons so taking on a dry January can be a perfect opportunity to look into and understand that relationship with alcohol,” Dubras said. “If we realize that alcohol is serving a purpose in our life, then perhaps there’s an alternative way of coping with that experience rather than always turning to a beer.”
Dubras added it’s about then taking this information to build new habits such as getting exercise or finding other ways to relieve stress and cope with emotions.
“If we’re looking for change, that’s talking about recovery. In order to be in recovery, we need support,” he said, pointing out that support can come from family, friends, colleagues, peers or even an online network.
Melanie Ware, who is a paralegal and doesn’t drink throughout the year, echoed Dubras’ thoughts, saying dry January could help reshape routines.
“Sometimes you don’t realize what your habits (are)…drinking is one form of buffering, of putting something between you and your emotions or things that are happening in your life,” Ware said. “Doing a dry January is definitely a step towards positive change.”
With files from Megan Devlin