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Dry January

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Hugh Osborne qualified as a cognitive hypnotherapist in 2011. Since then he has built addiction-focussed practices in London and Zürich, Switzerland.

Hugh also developed an addiction-focussed training, Addiction Inside Out, which he has offered to Quest Cognitive hypnotherapists since 2015.

He is also a writer. His book, Insights From The Edge, tells the reader of his personal journey from addiction, through recovery, and how he came to help fellow strugglers on the path.

Hugh is also  a co-founder of Sunflower House, a holistic health practice that offers bespoke wellbeing solutions for its clients. Hugh lives in Zürich, Switzerland, with his wife, son, and two cats.

Dry January

If you plan on making January 2022 an alcohol-free month, congratulations on your commitment. Like most things in life, if you are going to do something, it’s worth doing it well. There are many ways to approach Dry January, and perhaps this article will help you find the right one for you.

While the prospect of a whole month without a drink might seem daunting, perhaps it can also be a time of learning and growth? As a possibility, could this be an opportunity to change your relationship with alcohol for the better? Perhaps this is an opportunity to reset your drinking habit in a way that makes healthy moderation possible? Dry January can be these things and much more if you approach it with open-mindedness and willingness to learn about yourself.

Some people see Dry January as something to endure, and they white-knuckle their way through the month and feel relieved when it’s over. They see the month-long abstinence as a period of denying themselves something that brings them relief from the strains of life. Some see Dry January as an obligatory path that they must trudge until February brings comfort.

Perhaps you have had a similar experience in the past and would like to approach dry January differently this time? As a possibility, how would it be to see and experience this alcohol-free month as a gift that you are giving to yourself? The gift you would be that of seeing who you are without your alcohol. As a further possibility, how would it be if you actually enjoyed the process of reconnecting with your sober self?

Here are a few questions to consider that may help you make the most of your dry January experience.

Who will I be without my alcohol? – This question may raise fears. Perhaps you drink to dissolve the stresses and strains of life. After work, a few pints in the pub seems like a good and fun way to relax and unwind. A couple of glasses of wine may help get you through the early evening when cooking dinner and helping the kids with their schoolwork may otherwise be a little bit overwhelming. Perhaps you have tried going without alcohol sometimes but find yourself trapped in the momentum of your day and unable to slow down and disconnect.

Considering these things, perhaps you fear being stressed, overwhelmed, and struggling to cope without your alcohol? The good news is that these feelings will probably not last long. Our brain and nervous system are wired to naturally respond to stress and overwhelm in a way that brings us back into balance. This process is part of our body’s natural homeostasis. Our inner pharmacy is well stocked with endorphins and serotonin. The problem is the systems that manage the release of these soothing chemicals have become lazy because alcohol has been doing their work for them. They need some time to re-activate and start working again as nature intended.

Are you using alcohol, or is alcohol using you? – This may be a difficult question to answer. Do you feel like you are in control of your drinking? If, for some reason, you could not have a drink

this evening, next weekend, or at a family gathering, what kind of internal response would you feel? Would you feel a neutral reaction, like not drinking wouldn’t make any difference? Or would you feel discomfort, anxiety, or perhaps even a little fear at the thought of not being able to drink?

Who has the upper hand in your drinking? Is it you? Or is it alcohol? When you open a bottle of wine, can you leave some for tomorrow? Or do you feel compelled to finish the bottle? If it’s the latter, then to some degree, alcohol is using you because you don’t have the upper hand. This is not a problem unless you allow it to continue unchecked. What if dry January would be an opportunity to recalibrate your relationship with alcohol so, when/if you choose to go back to it, you drink on your terms.

What’s the root cause of your drinking? – You may already have an idea about what drives your drinking. Or perhaps your drinking is a mystery to you. Something you habitually do without really understanding what makes you do it. Either way, dry January is a chance to process the root cause you already know about or an opportunity to discover something you have previously been unaware of.

The root cause may not necessarily be a newsworthy event. It’s not usually the things that happen to us that create the problem, but more the meanings and interpretations that we attach to them. Our minds are meaning-making machines, and sometimes we develop beliefs about ourselves and the world that, while making sense at the time, are no longer an accurate reflection of who we have become. Sometimes we need to update our operating system so that our core beliefs reflect who we are now and not who we were in the past. Dry January is an opportunity for this kind of learning. In many ways, it’s a beautiful journey waiting to happen.

You don’t have to do this alone – You may look at all of this and think it’s too much to take on. The good news is that you don’t need to do this alone. We all need a little extra support at times. Having a trusted therapist guide you through your month-long abstinence in a way that helps you change your relationship with alcohol could be a great investment in yourself. A good therapist and guide can also help you reset your way of thinking, feeling, and being. This does not have to be a full life makeover. Often in life, the small changes have the most significant impact, and you may be surprised when you discover the truth of this for yourself.

One of the benefits of dry January is that you may realise that your drinking does not have to be the way it has been. Alcohol doesn’t have to be a time stealer, emotional management tool, social connector, or confidence booster. You can take back control of how you spend your free time, find healthy and generative ways of managing your emotional state, connect with people outside of the pub, and build the kind of inner confidence that does not depend upon alcohol to sustain it. A good therapist can help you with all of this and more at an ecological and supportive pace.

Should I do Dry January?

Only you can know the answer to this question. If you are uncertain, simply ask yourself what you have to lose. Indeed, you may lose some things, such as the kind of social contact you are familiar with. You might miss out on fun with your friends, and you may feel like you are boring. Maybe others will judge you for not drinking because they experience your choice as a judgement or challenge of their drinking. It may help to look at this time as a filtering process. If people judge and shame you for doing something positive, are they the kind of people you want in your life?

If you are living your life from a place of growth, some people will come on the journey and grow with you, and some will choose to stay as they are. It can be hard to let go of old friends and acquaintances, but perhaps doing so creates space for more of the right people to come into your life. People who support you in your intention to become better at being yourself, who want to learn and grow with you.

I hope this article has helped open your eyes to a few possibilities regarding how Dry January could be a gateway to so many things. How you approach the process is up to you. Whatever way you decide to do Dry January, may your experience be a great one!