Your Dry January Wasn’t Perfect, Just Keep Going

Melinda Staehling
4 min readJan 20, 2021

This post is for the sober curious, grey area drinker, or questioner. If you’re confident in your decision to quit drinking, keep at it. If you’re struggling, connect with SAMHSA for resources.

Get out the magic markers and string a few days together on a good old-fashioned calendar.

There are ten days left in Dry January. Maybe you had the intention to take the full month off drinking, and still, the Merlot made an appearance or two. Or you’ve made it this far without a sip and are thinking of your next move. Will you drink on February 1? I suggest you just keep trying.

Dry January and Sober October, and any time-restricted break from alcohol, are relatively low stakes. People jump in on the early days of the month. We all know they’re going back to the booze when the time is up. Lots bail out early. There’s no punishment in that. Maybe it feels like a white knuckle experience, the 30-Day Challenge Mentality usually does. Regardless, stringing together some alcohol-free days has undoubtedly provided some benefit.

You’re in the process of preparing yourself for next time

One of my favorite tips for exercise works for quitting drinking, too. Exercise “snacks” are short breaks during the day when you do just a couple sets of pushups or go out for a quick walk. Short sprints can, over time, add up to equal a marathon. Not drinking can work like this, too. String together a few days and then a few more. Forget about forever for a minute. We can look up to and be proud of people that have long stretches of continuous sobriety. Their achievement is remarkable. Anthony Hopkins just celebrated 45 years. We can also be realistic in our own expectations for ourselves. If this is your first try at quitting alcohol, or your goal is to drink less, then I suggest you keep your eyes on your own paper and start small.

You don’t experience all the seasons in 30 days

Not trying to be discouraging, but 30 days is not that long. I don’t know who first said it was long enough to change a habit, but newer research suggests that habit change takes 66 days on average. Gain some momentum, but until going through all the major life events without drinking — job drama, an argument in a relationship you care about, travel, weddings, all the holidays, it’s all just practice. That muscle memory grows over actual seasons of time and not just a few weeks.

You’ll probably hear more negative than positive

So far this month I’ve seen Jillian Michaels, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jimmy Kimmel, and a bunch of my Facebook friends making wink-wink, “Oopsies! We botched Dry January!” jokes on social media. I know it’s been a rough month, but there is real societal pressure that makes it even harder for people who are trying to drink less. I worked in hospitality and the wine industry, so my social media is full of Dry January memes. Unfortunately, they’re not positive. Overcoming the flood of these messages is not easy. Remember not to beat yourself up if you surrender and have that glass of wine. You can start the month over any time you want.

Celebrate the small wins

While giving up hangovers has made me a better person to everyone around me, it’s done the most for my relationship with myself. Don’t forget to celebrate the good. Unless you already have a crew of fantastic sober buddies, nobody is coming to congratulate you on your efforts. You have my blessing to throw your own damn party. Mark the small milestones with chocolate, a fancy AF drink, an afternoon date, or a nice trinket for your time.

Adopting a new Mindset

As the month is winding down, think back. What was your mindset like when you started? Did you want to do the full 30 days, no matter what? Was it a post-holiday impulse? Did you have a plan in place for when somebody offered you your favorite cocktail? Is there a group of friends (either online or in-person) that are supportive? Were you coming into Dry January from “Oh, this just sucks, why me,” or were you looking to discover something new in the process? Mindset will make a difference, and it will probably shift if you let it. Part of the process is doing the actual thing (not drinking) while juggling cravings with pandemic life. That takes more work.

Dry January has turned into a global movement. It’s a great way to start the year, and reducing your drinking, on whatever level, is bound to impact your life. It doesn’t matter if your Dry January wasn’t perfect. You tried something that a lot of people wouldn’t try, and that’s admirable. If you have an urge to keep exploring life without alcohol beyond this month, keep going, it’s worth it.



Melinda Staehling

Nutritious Alcohol-Free. Health Coach & Writer. Work with me in private coaching to drink less — IG: @melindastaehling