10 Ways Dry January Changed Me for the Better

10 Ways Dry January Changed Me for the Better

Here it is February 1st, the first day of a new month and my 31st day without alcohol. On the heels of a Dry January, I thought I’d share my takeaways from this experience by highlighting the 10 ways Dry January changed me for the better: physically, emotionally and mentally.

Like millions of others around the world, I spent the month of January alcohol-free. I didn’t join any Dry January online groups, didn’t get “an app for that” – and there are apps for that. I just stopped drinking on January 2nd, having attended a New Year’s Day party on the first.

This was not a spontaneous decision, but a planned one. I asked my husband back in early November if he would join me in the challenge – an experiment of sorts – to have a Dry January after the holiday festivities concluded. I had noticed an uptick in my alcohol intake during and after the wine country fires in October. Plus the holidays are so much about socializing, which for me almost always equates to more drinking.

For a long time I’d been curious about what not imbibing for an extended period would do for the 30+ pounds I have put on in the last 2 years, annoying and persistent hot flashes and night sweats, wonky sleep patterns, low energy levels and my overall health, wellbeing and outlook on life.

I’m happy to tell you that refraining from alcohol greatly impacted all of the above in positive ways. With that, here are the 10 ways Dry January changed me for the better in order of my most important:

1 ~ It Made Me Not Hot 

I put this benefit at the top of the list for a reason. Hot flashes and night sweats have plagued me since 2015 and I was desperate to do something about them. My doctor will not let me get near any hormone replacement therapy due to cancer in my family history and when I asked for something else I was offered only antidepressants.

I had pretty much given up on finding relief until I found out that wine contains histamines, which are known to flip the switch on hot flashes. I discovered the truth about this when I went to a holiday party last December. I hadn’t had any alcohol for several days and was feeling pretty good. My hot flashes had stopped and the relentless night sweats weren’t gone but they were diminishing.

At the party, I decided to have one small glass of white wine. I sipped it slowly and when I was done, I set the glass down. Soon I was chatting with a longtime friend then suddenly – within 3 minutes of finishing my wine – I felt the blast of internal heat take over my body. In no time my face had turned bright Santa Claus red, beads of sweat covered my forehead and cheeks and my hairline was drenched – all of this on a cold December night with the doors open. My friend even noticed what was happening and asked if I was feeling okay. I would not have been surprised if she told me my hair was on fire.

It took me only seconds to put two and two together. Me + wine = hot flash.

Fast forward to today and I can happily report I am completely free from hot flashes and night sweats. Prior to giving up alcohol, I would have paid money to be able write this sentence honestly.

2 ~ I Sleep Through The Night

Night sweats contributed to many, many months (years?) of sleepless nights. Waking up in a cold sweat is startling and disturbing no matter how many times it happens, thereby making falling back in to a peaceful slumber nearly impossible.

The absence of night sweats certainly goes a long way toward a good night’s sleep but there are other reasons I am sleeping soundly through the night. And when I say sleeping soundly, I mean I fall asleep quickly, then – and this is the important part, I think I’ll italicize it – I stay asleep all night until it’s time to wake up. I know! It’s like winning the post menopausal super lotto.

I am no scientist nor am I a health professional but I do know that alcohol interferes with sleep. In a not complex nutshell, it does so by delaying and decreasing our REM stages of our deepest sleep. I don’t wake up groggy anymore and while I might not exactly leap out of bed with pep and vigor, I certainly have more energy and alertness than I did when I slugged wine before bed.

3 ~ I Lost Weight 

I have been struggling with mid-life weight gain since 2015. I have tried being “okay” with my heavier self and accepting it as part of the aging journey. But I’m not that evolved and the truth is I loathed it. I hated having to take outfit photos for the blog. Trying on clothes in my closet was something I had to work up the nerve to do. Giving clothes I loved away to Goodwill because they didn’t fit me anymore was upsetting as was shopping for bigger and bigger clothing sizes. I could go on and on about all the emotions around sudden and dramatic weight gain, but I think you get the point -> I hated it.

A month in and I am not sure how much weight I have lost. The scale and I don’t get along so it’s best if we keep our distance if I want to succeed. However, I do measure my waist and hips every couple of weeks and have lost two inches in my waist, a little over 1 inch in my hips and the jeans I couldn’t wear in November are now barely staying on, they’re so baggy. Also, I used to fasten my bra on the last notches, now I fasten it on the first.

Giving up alcohol is not the only contributor. I am also following a ketogenic/low carb diet and exercising 3 to 5 times per week. But I was doing that when I was drinking alcohol too, without much success. Why? Because alcohol consumption on a keto diet interrupts the fat burning process even if that alcohol has no carbs.

4 ~ I Have Glowing Skin

I quit wearing most of my makeup a couple weeks ago. With my lovely eyelash extensions that I adore, eye makeup is unnecessary and with my glowing skin, which I also adore, no foundation is needed. My redness is gone and the dryness and blemishes also vanished.

So now, when I want to put my face on as they say, I fill in my eyebrows, add a little blush and lip gloss and I am good to go.

People are noticing and asking me about my skin. It looks that great, even I see it! Aside from washing and moisturizing my skin and using a konjac sponge a few times a week to exfoliate,  I’m not doing much to it.

5 ~ I Am Even Tempered, Mostly 

I confess to being short, snappy and impatient with those whom I love the most, like my husband. I am not curt with him as much anymore, I am pleased to report. I do hope he has noticed the change. I have, strangely, become more irate with those I share the road with. Not sure what that’s all about. Maybe it’s time to cut out the caffeine too or take up some kickboxing?

6 ~ I Am Committed to My Wellbeing

Being able to live life without wine or any alcohol isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was kind of easy once I got started. January being the month with few social opportunities and short, cold days helps. Still it was much easier than I had envisioned.

If not drinking alcohol for 30 days was simple, what other areas of my life could I improve? How else can I take better care of myself?

Well, all the money I spend over at Amazon is pretty ridiculous. So I just stopped that nonsense for now. And I’ve been wanting to incorporate yoga into my daily life forever. So instead of thinking about it for another couple decades, I started actually rolling out a mat and getting on it every day. Sometimes I spend 2 minutes on the mat and sometimes I spend 30. The point is I am doing it and I am committed to doing it. My wellbeing is a priority because I made it one.

7 ~  I Found New Ways to Sip and Chill   

A glass of white wine is now absent from my clutch and in its place at any given time is a mug of expensive tea or a glass of sparkling water with a wedge of lemon. I think it helps me unwind. Now, it’s the ceremony of making the drink and sitting down to enjoying it that helps calm and relax me, not the buzz.

Along with tea and fizzy water, I also love green juice. I splurged on a bad ass juicer last year and enjoy creating veggie concoctions with stuff like dandelion leaves and collard greens that I love but make my husband recoil and shudder (I make a special one for him with extra fruit). Sometimes I serve it up in one of my fancy wine glasses and take an extra long time drinking it.

I also bought a nifty electric tea pot that I am crazy about. It heats up in minutes and shuts off automatically so I don’t have to run to the stove to shush the whistle. I also keep my tea cabinet full of delicious and healthy teas. I don’t mind dropping a few extra bucks on the high end stuff now that I don’t buy alcohol.

8 ~ I Have New Interests

Over the last several weeks, I have developed more of a willingness – a yearning even – to try new things. Whether it’s freezing my tookus off in a cryotherapy chamber or learning about fermentation and making my own sauerkraut, I’m finding new interests all the time. Next I want to experience a session inside a deprivation tank and possibly take up macrame! Oh, and I also want to find out what freeze-dried crickets taste like.

9 ~ We Have More Moola

Bill and I love good wine and good wine is not cheap, in my experience. The money we would have spent buying  bottles of wine, going out for drinks, or the extra expense of wine with dinners out, we’ve put into redecorating our guest rooms. I tell you, it’s so nice to have something to show for our dollars other than tight pants.

10 ~ I Got This 

A surprising aspect of not drinking is a new found confidence, an “I got this” frame of mind. I feel more capable and inwardly strong than I have in years, maybe ever. I also have much less anxiety now which is interesting since I relied on alcohol to get me through stressful and traumatic periods in my life like the recent fires. Alcohol impacts your neurotransmitters and serotonin levels and can lead to anxiety issues. So all those days spent trying to soothe my worries and calm my nerves were actually exacerbating my anxiety.

Dry January is over. What now?

Now that January is over, will I drink alcohol again? Yes, I plan to drink again but I am not picking up where I left off. I will treat alcohol as a treat. Just like I rarely order dessert in a restaurant or eat a donut for breakfast or buy shoes over $150, I will also rarely drink alcohol.

Celebrating my birthday? Yes, I’ll have a glass or even two of the finest French bubbles I can find. Husband retires (someday) and has a dinner party? Okay, that warrants a nice cold martini with a fat olive. Wine tasting at a gorgeous and luxurious winery? I am more than happy to sample the wines.

February will therefore be a month focused on living this new lifestyle, mostly alcohol free. We were not very social in January which made things easier, but this month we have plans with friends at a winery, are attending a fun pruning party at one of our favorite Sonoma Valley wineries, and we have some exciting local travel plans booked. We are prepared to be tested!

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17 Comments

  1. Victoria bahnsen
    February 1, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s inspiring me to step up my game and stick with my plan to eat and exercise well.

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 2, 2018 / 8:15 am

      I am so happy to hear that, Victoria! I have truly never felt better – at least not in the last 10 years or so.

  2. KSL
    February 2, 2018 / 4:59 am

    Wow – what an endorsement. Your skin looks absolutely amazing, and I can’t believe all the things you’ve gotten done, your enthusiasm to try new things, etc. Congratulations, it takes a lot of willpower to do what you’ve done…xo

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 2, 2018 / 8:18 am

      I feel great and am so relieved to not have the hot flashes and especially the night sweats visiting me daily, multiple times. The relief from that alone is enough to make me refrain from drinking but I also want to be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine now and then. I hope I can find a balance that works well enough to keep the night sweats at bay.
      I am so happy with my skin right now. It just goes to show how what you put in your body really impacts what shows on the outside – and not only weight. xo

  3. Rosemary
    February 2, 2018 / 9:04 am

    Hi Adrienne. Really brilliant post and so much of it resonates with me. … I could have written parts of it about myself! Especially the negative effects of alcohol, effecting hot flashes or flushes, as we call them. I had the exact same feeling at a friends one Christmas, sipping champagne and suddenly feeling my fringe sticking to my forehead and the sweat down my back! Gross, I know and so embarrassing. At the time I remember standing there, thinking “why’s this happening, I’m only wearing a thin lace dress, not a sweater and it’s not that hot in here!!” I didn’t actually connect it to the champagne at the time but like you found that these episodes and sleepless nights all improved when I gave up alcohol for a couple of months. After the first few weeks I didn’t really miss it … I often wonder why I started drinking wine again! I tend to think as much as we enjoy it, it becomes a habit or an association with a certain occasion … going out for a meal, meeting friends, being in holiday etc. I definitely feel that you’re right re the “ceremony” I can happily relax in the evening with a nice wine glass filled with chilled sparkling water and fresh lime or a couple of raspberries. I’ve also started to enjoy a glass of tomato juice with Worcestershire Sauce and a stick of celery …. like a Bloody Mary minus the vodka!
    I find what you’ve written so inspiring and I’m so glad it’s all working so well for you. I do think finding a different focus and a new interest also helps to prevent that feeling of “I’ll just have a glass of wine” in the evening!
    As you say, much better to enjoy it on special occasions.
    Have a great weekend!
    Rosemary

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 3, 2018 / 4:33 pm

      Hi Rosemary,

      You’ve reminded me that I love tomato juice! I will have to get some..or maybe make my own this summer (I love it homemade). Also I think your idea for adding raspberries to water is smart and sounds delicious. I am a huge berry fan.
      I hope you have a great weekend as well. We have plans next week that involve wine tasting and I admit to being a little freaked out about it. But it will be fine – I need to not be so afraid of going back to where I was…or of having hot flashes again. If that happens, I may need to abstain longterm. Yikes!
      Adrienne

  4. February 2, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    What a great post! I went Dry three years ago now, and while it hasn’t solved all my perimenopausel and menopause problems, I must say it has definitely improved my life considerably. There were a few friends who didn’t invite me out anymore because I wasn’t “drinking.” I don’t say anything to anyone unless we are having dinner at someone’s house, in which case I let the hostess know privately so there isn’t an awkward moment when wine is being served to all the guests. We were out for drinks with friends last night and no one noticed I had water.

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 3, 2018 / 4:22 pm

      Hi Nina,

      Lovely to hear from you!
      I do think about going dry for good – it would upend many things in my social life, that is for sure. Even my blog would be impacted since I am here in the center of the wine universe – but I have to do what is right for me in the end. February will be another month of experimenting while I see what happens when I do drink wine and other alcohol again. I am sure things will be much clearer to me by month’s end.
      Great tip about how to handle social situations. I will have to keep that in mind!
      Hope all is well with you! Adrienne

  5. February 2, 2018 / 5:36 pm

    So so so inspiring!
    I am a little alarmed that you have peeled into my brain and wrote about my very thoughts .
    I have been considering not only a dry 30 days but a major life change as well. The sleep and hot flashes are brutal and I notice my energy level getting worse.
    This blog has just confirmed its time! ITS TIME!!!!
    Thanks for putting yourself out there and being honest. It’s not always easy.
    PS- I think your absolutely stunning!

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 3, 2018 / 4:19 pm

      Hi Vicki! I had to read your comment to my husband because I loved it so much!
      I guess we’re menopause wine loving twins or something, yes? See the comment I left for Jackie – I included a link to a product my nutritionist/herbalist recommended to me. I have been taking it for almost two months, along with the cutting out and back on alcohol and I think the two are working well together. Please talk to a medical professional about taking it before you buy because we are all so different. But I wanted you to know about it because I hate to think about all the women suffering so much when they might not need to!
      Thank you for your comment – you are so kind! Adrienne

  6. jackie m Dodge
    February 3, 2018 / 8:27 am

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I’m going thru the same struggles with too much wine, hot flashes and lack of sleep. Its time for some changes and more balance.

    Jackie

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 3, 2018 / 4:13 pm

      Hi Jackie,

      The hot flashes, lack of sleep, night sweats thing is such an awful state to be in. I am glad I could pinpoint to help reduce and even stop it all!
      I went to a nutritionist back in early December who put me on a supplement that has really helped me too. It’s called FemmenessencePro and it has Maca in it. I believe it has really helped me with my hot flashes and such. But talk to your doctor before trying it. Here is the link so you can look into it more: http://vitaminlife.fit/natural-health-internationalfemmenessencepro180-capsules.aspx
      Maybe it’s just the not drinking and maybe it’s the maca supplement on top of not drinking that is doing the trick…whatever the case, I plan on sticking to it as much as possible! Thanks for stopping by Jackie.
      Adrienne

  7. Juliana
    February 3, 2018 / 8:32 am

    Congrats, this is awesome! You look great!
    I too tried dry January (which morphed into mostly dry January, oh well), and WOW! Even though I did not go an entire 30 days without alcohol, sooooo many good things happened in my life. I too lost weight and my skin looks better, I have new hobbies, I read 3 books, I got a big promotion at work. I’m kind of dumbfounded by what a profound life change cutting back on alcohol can be!

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 3, 2018 / 3:59 pm

      Thank you, Juliana!
      Good for you – it sounds like you were doing it enough to see the benefits. That is great!
      Congratulations on your big promotion!
      I find I am getting so much more done these days – both fun/creative endeavors as well as the to-dos – and seem to have more time for things I want to do like reading, exercise, seeing friends, watching a movie.
      Thank you for the comment! Adrienne

  8. Jenny
    February 3, 2018 / 9:27 am

    This is a wonderful post! I find that as I age alcohol affects me very differently, and I’ve recently decided to make a change. We have a lot of social events, so I will need to have a strategy for either moderating or abstaining. A few years ago I went 2 months with no alcohol and it was surprisingly easy! Thank you so much for your honest and upbeat post.
    Jenny

    • Adrienne Shubin
      February 3, 2018 / 4:30 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      Oh yes, you are so right about the age thing. Alcohol definitely takes its toll on the body and mind when you head into your 40s. The social thing is always dicey. I have only been out with friends once in the last month – Bill and I went out with some of his co-workers and their wives. Everyone already knew about our Dry January so there was no conversation around it and we just ordered sparkling water with lime wedges so we could cheers and all that stuff.
      We also had some family over for dinner and they decided they wouldn’t drink either. We had the BEST time – I kid you not. I was shocked at how fun and how easy it was. I was laughing so hard my gut hurt…and I was 100% sober. Who knew? Not me!
      Thank you for stopping by Jenny – would love to hear how things go with the social events.
      Adrienne

  9. Cathie McGinnis
    February 6, 2018 / 11:37 am

    I am so happy to have stumbled upon this website! I have been toying with the idea of doing this very thing. I do quit drinking every 3 or 4 months for a couple of weeks (probably just to prove to myself that I am not an alcoholic!) and do get all the benefits you described. Maybe I will make it a dry March or April and from then on drink only on the weekends. I believe I will give it a go!

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