Are you someone who has been drinking more alcohol during the pandemic? If so, you are not alone. Many Americans have been so pained by all the losses and loneliness of the prolonged epidemic that they have started drinking earlier in the day, and more than before, a lot more. Drinking seems like a way out; until it starts messing with your sleep, mood, energy, and general health.

Dry January, started in England in 2013, as a way to start over after heavy holiday drinking, is now a thing in many countries, including the US.  For many who are concerned about their drinking, it is a way to get in touch with what it is doing to them.  Most start to feel better and sleep better; hangovers are gone, so mornings are better. But, since stopping can be really hard, some people use January to create a strategy and plan for success, and actually quit in February. If your goal is simply to get through January, and then go right back to drinking, quitting might not serve much of a purpose, other than to show you that you can quit.  However, since most people actually feel BETTER with less alcohol, the month of sobriety can help flush out your system and going forward, you can then think about how much and when you want to drink.

Some people need medical help to quit.  If you drink heavily every day, have morning shakes, have ever had withdrawal seizures, have combined alcohol with other “downers” or other drugs, experienced blackouts, or feel agitated, sweaty, nauseated or tremulous after quitting, you need medical help to withdraw safely.  There are medications and programs to help you. Don’t attempt it on your own.

If you decide to go “dry”, it helps to find something else enjoyable to do.  Exercise is always helpful; music, dancing, art, board games, live or Zoom, all are useful.  Writing in a journal can be really good.  You start by trying to name your feelings:  I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel cheated, etc. You then try to explore WHY you feel that way.  Just having to think about feelings helps you cope with them.  The rule is to always end the journal session with a positive…The sun was shining today, I feel grateful for…, I slept better etc.

The Covid pandemic has been devastating on many fronts, but there will be a better future. Less alcohol is a start.

Guest blogger Georgia Newman sees patients in Oberlin, Ohio.  

Georgia Newman, MD