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Extending Dry January? How to keep the progress going, according to Priory experts

  • Dry January could trigger lifelong healthier habits

  • Priory experts give tips for how to maintain abstinence

  • Making your home an alcohol free sanctuary is key

  • Losing weight and saving money are tangible early benefits

  • Some organ damage done by alcohol is reversible if you quit early enough

Dry January has become a phenomenon, so much so that the charity Alcohol Change UK estimates that one in five people who drink alcohol in the UK are taking part this year, which amounts to a staggering six and a half million people.

The benefits of taking a month off from alcohol are enormous. By the end of the month, if you have refrained from drinking, you’ll be enjoying improved sleep and increased productivity. There’s a good chance that the reduction in calories will have resulted in weight loss, and your liver, stomach, and skin will have all have benefitted from not dealing with alcohol. This is all in addition to the money you will have saved. If one month can make this much difference, why not go one step further, and enjoy these benefits all year round by quitting alcohol all year or even permanently?

Choosing to live life without alcohol isn’t about giving something up, it is about gaining a happier, healthier and more confident version of yourself, says Priory Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Paul McLaren. “Confidence comes from ‘doing’, and free of the shackles of regular drinking you may be open to a host of things from new opportunities at work to potentially new and different social horizons.” After a couple of months, you’ll find yourself with “more energy and enthusiasm”, which will help your relationships and your career, he says.

It’s well known that drinking does long-term damage to the body, including to the brain, the heart, the liver, and the pancreas. Heavy drinking can also increase blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, which are major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. It’s less well known that some of the damage is reversible if you stem it early enough. “Human tissue has a degree of regenerative potential,” says Dr McLaren. “Allowing your body to recover, and avoiding the myriad problems associated with alcohol toxicity is one of the major benefits of quitting.”

After a year of the pandemic, 2021 certainly feels like the time to make a fresh start. But does the isolation of lockdown make giving up harder than it otherwise would be? Not according to Dr McLaren; “It's always a good time to stop,” he says. “How people react to lockdown varies enormously. For some who get anxious in social situations, the isolation may actually make life easier.”

Tips for remaining alcohol-free

Deciding to extend a period of abstinence is one thing, but maintaining it is something else. Priory psychotherapist Pamela Roberts offers her tips to those considering extending their break from alcohol:

  • Keeping a dry house is the best way to start. This means more than making sure there is no drink in it; you should be thinking of it as an alcohol free sanctuary. Find a new non-alcoholic go-to drink

  • Make a note of the compliments you get, like people saying ‘wow, you’re looking great’, because they are good things to remember later on, when temptations might creep in. The first few months of abstinence are when you’ll feel the biggest difference, so you should make the most of this feeling

  • Note the changes in the way you feel for the same reason. Little things, like having a clearer mind, feeling healthier, being more tolerant and having more patience, make a big difference to your quality of life

  • Do your best to keep to your normal bedtimes and waking up times, eat as normally as you can, and keep reaching out to people to avoid loneliness. It’s important to avoid becoming hungry, angry, lonely, or tired if you want to maintain your abstinence

  • Be cautious in your use of social media. If you find spending time online is making you feel worse, take this as an opportunity to do a digital detox as well as a drink detox – or consider joining a Facebook Group of others who are also changing their relationship with alcohol

  • Plan your time. Being in your house for long periods can lead to boredom, which could lead you back to having a drink. Consider any hobbies you’ve always wanted to take up, or things you’ve wanted to learn, and use this opportunity to do so. Be productive

  • When you find yourself tempted, perhaps by a time of the day or week when you would normally have had a drink in the past, you can use calming phone apps to focus on something different until the feeling passes. Reflect on all the progress you have made. If you do have a lapse, just start again. Do not consider yourself a failure

Other benefits of giving up alcohol for a year

 

Calories saved

Money saved

After 1 month

4,320 (the same as about twenty standard chocolate bars)

£91.20

After 2 months

8,640

£182.40

After 3 months

12,960

£273.60

After 4 months

17,280

£364.80

After 5 months

21,600

£456

After 6 months

25,920

£547.20

After 7 months

30,240

£638.40

After 8 months

34,560

£729.60

After 9 months

38,880

£820.80

After 10 months

43,200

£912

After 11 months

47,520

£1003.20

After 12 months

51,840

£1094.40

*Based on drinking the equivalent of six pints of beer a week, 4 weeks per month, priced at £3.80, which is the UK average price according to the ONS

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

For interviews with Dr Paul Mclaren, please contact communications@priorygroup.com

About Priory Group

The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.

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