So, for those of you that opted to complete Dry January this year, you’re well into week two. Finding it a breeze? Or are you itching to ditch the temporary abstention and get back to the booze?

From someone who’s completed Dry January a few times in the past and then decided to quit drinking altogether nearly a year ago, I’d encourage those of you doing it this year to hang on in there and see the month through, or just take a dry month whenever if you’re sober curious.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach like one of those insufferable health fanatics who renounces alcohol and makes it their whole personality.

I respect anyone’s choice to do Dry January or not. Up for it? Nice. Couldn’t think of anything worse? Fair play.

The important thing is: there really doesn’t need to be a chasmic divide on the matter.

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An increasing propensity to drink alone or binge drink in social situations prompted me to cut out alcohol completely as I had absolutely no desire to sustain unhealthy habits.

The result? Improved sleep, better mood, the ability to drive whenever, more time and best of all: no hangovers. And those are just the ones I’ve experienced. Speak to anyone who’s opted for sobriety and I’m sure they’ll tell you more.

Do I miss regretting my behaviour from the night before, being plagued by acute dread at the agonising thought of what I may have audaciously said and feeling utterly terrible due to the residual drink wrenching down my mood? No.

And what benefit did I – or anyone – ever really derive from drinking anyway, even when just having a few?

Maybe an ephemeral feeling of relaxation or a chemically induced confidence boost but, those aside, I can’t think of anything else.

If you wish to eschew alcohol, whether temporarily or permanently, and aren’t entirely sure if this is an achievable feat – from someone who used to often drink socially, trust me when I say: you can.

How? Well, you literally just stop. Forgo that pint, glass of wine or gin and tonic at home or in the pub and opt for a soft or alcohol-free drink instead.

Alcohol-free drinks are a game changer and the market for them is rapidly expanding. Zero per cent beers, wines, stouts, ciders, fizz, gins, rums, whiskeys and so on – many popular brands are now offering their own version.

Many taste equally as good and if you decant them, no one suspects a thing. I did this at a stag do and during my best friends’ wedding last summer and no one was any the wiser.  

Witney Gazette: Decant an alcohol-free version of a popular drink into a (branded) glass and no one looks twice.

I find this the easiest way to prevent the vehement interrogation or seemingly expected explanation or justification often resulting from the decision not to drink in a social situation.

Interestingly, it’s well-established that alcohol exclusively remains the sole recreational drug which apparently affords those consuming it the right to question those who aren’t.

I’m sure many of you will have experienced this. Tell a friend, family member or group that you’re out with you aren’t drinking and it elicits reactions of palpable confusion, shock and even horror.

Strange isn’t it? That we can normalise this response where alcohol is concerned yet it would be instantly frowned upon to encourage someone to smoke or take illegal drugs.

A friend who recently cut back on alcohol, to the point she now occasionally drinks socially, was met with the classic barrage of questions and even pregnancy speculation over Christmas when out with her wider family.

Agreeably, that’s unnecessary; it’s not hard to respect another’s decision and we could certainly work harder to erase any stigma related to not drinking.

Should you find yourself on the receiving end of such questioning, counter the attack with an acerbic “I don’t drink” instead of softly saying something like “oh well um I don’t fancy it tonight” which you can guarantee will spark an absolute pile on.

You really don’t owe anyone an explanation regarding personal health decisions.

I saw a TikTok user discussing this in a video recently, saying those who take it upon themselves to denigrate your decision not to drink do so because it inadvertently holds up a mirror to their own drinking behaviour, which they dislike. 

I couldn’t agree more. Would someone take it upon themselves to be equally as invested in your choice of what to or not have for dinner? Doubt it.

If all else fails, perhaps say you’re driving or better still, be proactive and refrain from putting yourself in environments where alcohol will feature and you may be tempted or face gratuitous pressure to drink.

And I get it, alcohol is everywhere – shops, bars, restaurants, clubs, pubs, trains, planes, events, films, TV shows – and readily accessible in a fashion many other harmful substances aren’t.

It’s a deeply rooted norm in our culture, with our societal predilection for drinking stemming back long throughout history.

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But the narrative is definitely shifting when it comes to ditching the booze.

With the decision to choose sobriety previously somewhat demonised, it’s now a lifestyle choice more widely discussed and promoted, especially with the expanse of (discourse on) social media, as corroborated by Alcohol Change UK who report an increasing number are opting to complete Dry January every year.

It also appears fewer youngsters are bothered about drinking.

According to a recent study by the Portman Group, 44 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds now opt for alcohol alternatives (up 31 per cent from 2022), with the trade group’s findings also suggesting that up to 39 per cent in that age bracket now choose not to drink whatsoever.

So, if you want to do Dry January and reap the benefits of being alcohol-free, crack on. If you don’t, don’t. Simple, but no one in either camp need attack the other. Respect is where it’s at.

Either way – nobody wakes up glad to have or wishing they had a hangover.