Drynuary // what I learned when I stopped drinking for a month

You guys, happy February! I’ve never been this stoked for a new month. You see, we decided to participate in “Drynuary,” which means we essentially stopped drinking for an entire month. January 2017 has been… grueling, to say the least. What a month to take go on a wine hiatus. But it wasn’t all bad; I learned a LOT about myself, my habits, and how I practice self-care in general. A lot of you were really encouraging (especially on Instagram where I was most vocal/complain-y), so I thought a recap of sorts was a good idea.

I am a creature of habit. Quite honestly, I was totally blown away by exactly how much of a habit that glass of red was at the end of the day. Patterns became more noticeable: if the news was upsetting, I wanted wine. If I had a stressful day at the studio, I wanted wine. I became aware that I got straight up CRANKY at times, whining at Sean and moping. I wouldn’t call this withdrawal, but instead growing pains as I sought ways to self-soothe that didn’t include alcohol.

Finding a healthy replacement behavior is key. At first and without realizing it, I replaced drinking with eating… not exactly ideal. Right away, I noticed that my sweet tooth got more and more demanding. Upon noticing this, I stocked the fridge with my berries and clementines which helped a lot. I also put more effort in the dinners that I prepared for us. I noticed that I really enjoy cooking and spent more time doing that activity, almost like engaging in nesting behavior. I also tried to swap out my nightly glass of wine for long soaks in the tub. This was somewhat short lived because I developed an adverse reaction to the epsom salts I was using, so I had to cut back on this. I also did WAY more face masks during the month off from drinking.

The changes were subtle. Honestly, I thought I’d feel amazing right away: that I’d sleep better, feel more rested, have better skin, have less of a tummy pooch. But no. I’ve always had trouble sleeping, so I guess it’s no surprise that I still wasn’t a great sleeper, even if I wasn’t drinking. I also didn’t really notice an improvement in my skin or body shape because at first I was replacing wine with gummy bears (true story). Once I’d gotten the eating reigned in more, I still didn’t drop inches or weight which, honestly, was kind of frustrating.

Going out is hard. Every Friday, Sean and I go to our local bar and indulge in a few cocktails, tater tots, and burgers. During Drynuary, we went once and it was TORTURE. I didn’t want to drink soda and found that most mocktails were just vehicles for shitloads of sugar. I’m much more of a ‘savory’ drinker, preferring whiskey drinks and dry red wine, so sugary mocktails were a tough sell for me.  I struggled to find a less-sweet alternative, to be honest. Because of this, we stayed in more which had a really nice benefit: we saved a lot more money!

Stuff feels more… real. I’m sort of an emotional ostrich. I like to hide my feelings and stick my head in the sand instead of facing whatever is bugging me… and a lot of shit is bugging me right now thanks to our country’s new “leadership.” Without the ability to drown my sorrows in a glass (read: bottle) of red on Inauguration Day, I really struggled to take care of myself. I made it through, but it felt like my emotions were extremely overwhelming because I couldn’t easily numb myself.

This is the first time I’ve ever tried something like this. I’m really proud of myself for making it most of the way through. Confession: I had 2 drinks at an event on Monday because it was at a bar I’d always wanted to try. I think this exercise has really helped me to evaluate what drinking means to me and inspires me to pause a bit more before ordering another round. Truth be told, I did notice differences in how I felt after those 2 drinks on Monday night: my mouth tasted kinda funny the next morning and I was more sluggish when it was time to get out of bed. This has been a really interesting experiment for me, for sure!

Have you ever taken a month off from drinking? I’d love to hear how it was for you!

Photography by Meghan Klein.

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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  1. 2.2.17
    hithaonthego said:

    I took 9 months off drinking. It was called pregnancy :)
    I did notice that I did wake up feeling more rested, was more keen to get in a morning workout, and generally just felt better. That said, I also had a little alien growing inside me and giving me a mess of other issues, so…
    My attempts at dry January derailed 1 week in. I did establish a more moderate drinking pattern during the week – I try not to drink at all ‘school nights’, or at least limiting myself to 1 glass at 6 pm while I cooked dinner. On weekends, I gave myself a little more leeway, but saw myself settling to 1 cocktail (savory drinker here as well!) or two glasses of wine. Having a morning routine that forces me to wake up at 6 am has helped me self-regulate against that “oh, just one more glass” temptation.
    This was an awesome post. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • 2.2.17
      joanna said:

      You’re the best for sharing your experiences and tips! I really like the rules you’ve set up for yourself and foresee doing the same for myself, too.

  2. 2.1.17
    Julie Schoenfeld said:

    Nice job, girl! Alcohol has never really had much sway on me, I have and can easily drop it for months, BUT sugar on the other hand… I tried to stop eating all sugar for a month once. It was torture the first few weeks. And I kept having to restart after cheating with ice cream. But I finally did it. I learned a lot about my weaknesses, and triggers and in the end came away with a little more self-awareness and a little less of a sweet tooth. Congrats on making it through!

    • 2.1.17
      joanna said:

      I’m thinking sugar might be my next experiment. I’m really curious to see how THAT goes ;)

  3. 2.1.17
    chiosso said:

    Good for you! Definitely a tough month to take on this challenge.

    If you ever do this again or for any other reason need to order a non-alcoholic bev at a bar, I highly suggest soda water with bitters! I’m also not big into sweet drinks or soda but it’s fun to have more than just club soda when you can’t drink so this is kind of the perfect solution for me. It’s tasty but not sugury. You can almost trick yourself into believing it’s a really weak whiskey soda, haha!

    • 2.1.17
      joanna said:

      Thank you for the encouragement AND the tip!