Was it a washout?
OK. So it’s the end of January again, and we’ve been posting and reposting this blog since 2020, in one form or another. We don’t want to repeat ourselves, be boring or come off sounding sanctimonious. However there are some important points to make here - but to be clear, this blog is for people who may have attempted Dry January (or other periods of abstinence from alcohol) and found it didn’t quite go how they had hoped or expected.
If this is you - read on!
If not, please stick around anyway - it may not apply to you but to someone you know or someone you love. Or both.
Whether you were aiming to raise funds, seeking a respite from alcohol post-Christmas or in reaction to a challenging 2023, exploring sobriety out of curiosity, responding to pressure from friends or family, following medical or therapeutic advice, or addressing your own concerns about your relationship with alcohol - there are countless reasons to embark on Dry January. And not completing the challenge doesn't inherently signal that you have a problem We are not here to label you!
However, a significant point arises if Dry January was particularly challenging for you – if abstaining for even a day or just a few hours seemed impossible if you faced difficult emotions, physical withdrawal symptoms (check here), mood fluctuations, or a sense of dependency on alcohol – these experiences may indicate deeper issues worth exploring.
The old saying "if you want to find out why you drank, stop drinking" is pertinent here. Did your effort to abstain help you uncover or recall the underlying reasons for your drinking? Did the removal of the anaesthetic bring old pains, feelings or emotions to the surface?
While there's no single cause for what we'll loosely term as "problem drinking," it's widely understood to be a mix of initially using alcohol as an emotional coping mechanism, which leads to physical tolerance. This often evolves into emotional and physical dependence, creating a self-perpetuating cycle due to loss of control and erratic behaviour. But this is just one aspect of a very wide landscape, where almost anything goes. And a lot of it happens completely unconsciously. For example - I didn’t know that I was using alcohol to regulate difficult emotions until I tried to stop.
And what’s more - there’s no shame in it! Who wouldn’t want to continue doing something that seemed to be working (besides plenty of evidence to the contrary.) Addiction is a disease that tells you have haven’t got it.
So recognising a drinking issue isn't a sign of weakness or a personal failing. As above, the complexities behind problematic drinking are well-established and don't reflect a character flaw.
For many, acknowledging and addressing these issues marks the beginning of a transformative journey. However, the stigma surrounding drinking problems can be so severe that some people only seek help after significant suffering, and tragically, some don't survive. Yet, hitting 'rock bottom' isn't a prerequisite for seeking assistance.
The recent reports on alcohol-related deaths in the UK - now at their highest recorded rate ever - paint a bleak and alarming picture, highlighting a worrying increase in alcohol-related deaths in women. Read our recent article here.
Addressing the stigma surrounding drinking problems is crucial, as societal attitudes still contribute to the shame and isolation experienced by individuals struggling with alcohol dependency. This stigma can manifest in various ways, from negative stereotypes portrayed in media to judgmental attitudes in family, social and professional settings. At Taking Action on Addiction, it’s our mission to address this stigma; we need to foster a culture of empathy and understanding, promoting open, non-judgmental conversations about addiction and recovery. If this is your first visit, welcome aboard! We understand.
The labels others impose can be damaging, and it's natural to want to avoid them. However, allowing yourself to consider whether your relationship with alcohol is problematic could be the most compassionate act towards yourself, and potentially even be life-saving.
Recovery from problematic drinking varies for everyone, and it begins with acknowledging the possibility of an issue. Only then can new doors open.
Watch our 2023 Campaign Video "Everybody Knows Somebody" - you might just recognise yourself in here somewhere ....