Local addiction specialist gives tips for a successful Dry January

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WILMINGTON, NC — Many people are looking to live their best life in 2021, after a holiday during the pandemic.  For some, that means pausing their alcohol consumption.  Across the Cape Fear and around the world, people participate in “Dry January”, a time to refrain from drinking, and reframe their relationship with liquor, beer and wine.  Good Morning Carolina’s Donna Gregory asked local addiction specialist Jim Doxey to give viewers some strategies for success.

“The idea of not drinking the month of January is not new,” explains Doxey. “People for years often decide not to drink in January, which is right in line with new year’s resolutions like health and fitness goals and others.”

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According to Doxey, Dry January is a great idea. It’s good for self-esteem.  He says, a recent study shows 93% of people who quit drinking during the month of January experienced a sense of achievement, while 82% reported enhanced awareness of their relationship with alcohol.

Here are some health benefits Doxey says can be attributed to partaking in Dry January:

· 80 percent felt more in control of their drinking habits

· 76 percent understood when they felt more tempted to drink and why

· 71 percent of participants learned that they did not need alcohol to have fun

· 71 percent said that they enjoyed a better quality of sleep

· 70 percent reported better overall health

· 67 percent had higher energy levels

· 58 percent of participants lost weight

· 57 percent reported improved concentration

· 54 percent said that they noticed better skin

And, he says, people who quit in January often drink less for the entire year.

Doxey says, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends women should have no more than 2 measured drink in a 24 hour period and no more than 7 in a week and men no more than 3/24 and 14/week.  “Most people I know are often surprised how low it is…and that drinking more than recommended amounts may indicate problem drinking” says Doxey.

He says for people who have a problem with alcohol, quitting cold turkey can cause other issues.  “Drinkers often experience withdrawal symptoms”, Doxey explains. “Heavy drinkers and problem drinkers could experience life threatening withdrawals requiring detox medical intervention and hospitalization.”  Here are some withdrawal symptoms he says to watch for:

1. Sweating or pulse rate greater than 100 bpm).

2. Increased hand tremor.

3. Insomnia.

4. Nausea or vomiting.

5. Psychosis

6. Psychomotor agitation.

7. Anxiety.

8. Seizures.

Doxey offers these guidelines for the best chances for Dry January success:
1. Start with a plan: Choose a structure that works for you. What will you do when you feel the urge to drink? Who will you call if you need support? Know some coping strategies in advance and be ready to follow through. It helps to know your drinking patterns and triggers as well. Plan to avoid situations that encourage you to drink and know some effective ways to distract yourself when alcohol appears. The better you understand yourself, and the more you prepare, the stronger you’ll be when the going gets rough.

2. Build a strong support team: Quitting is much easier with friends, allies, coaches, or all of the above. Simply telling friends and relatives what you’re doing and asking for their support can make a big difference.

3. Practice Self-Care Strategies: Some people begin scheduling a long walk into their day. Some start a meditation practice. Others repeat positive affirmations before going to bed. Whichever works for you, try to find a set of rituals that help you stay balanced and mindful. Changing any persistent habit is difficult. You can expect good days and bad days. It’s best to plan for it and have some ways of dealing with it. Although this can include talking to a friend or a coach, it also matters what you do on your own time. Be kind to yourself and stay positive.

4. Find New Activities to Replace Alcohol: Consider hitting the gym after work to replace having a beer. Seek out social groups that focus on shared hobbies—like music, sports, arts and crafts, or hiking. Fill your schedule with things to do instead of drinking and watch as they eventually take the place of alcohol in your life. New activities and pursuits that don’t involve drinking alcohol will help distract you in the short term.

5. Don’t Give Up: The important thing is to keep going. If one option doesn’t work, start again and try another. There are many programs, systems, and methods for giving up alcohol. The truth is, one of them is bound to work for you. If the process takes a while, remember you are making a major change in your life and health. Big changes take time. That is part of why, when you eventually succeed, it can feel so liberating.

6) Talk to Your Doctor Before Attempting Cold Turkey. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, or even fatal. This won’t necessarily be true for you, but a doctor’s advice can go a long way to keeping you safe. Additionally, even if you don’t expect severe withdrawal symptoms, medical counseling can point you toward useful resources that are appropriate for your particular situation.

When to seek counseling? According to Doxey:

· You’re having difficulty regulating your emotions

· You aren’t performing as effectively at work or school

· You’re experiencing changes or disruptions in sleep or appetite

· You’re struggling to build and maintain relationships

· You’ve experienced trauma

· You no longer enjoy activities you typically did

· You’re grieving

· Your physical health has taken a hit

· You want to improve yourself but don’t know where to start

· You’re using substances, sex, or addictive behaviors to cope

For more information, visit wilmingtonpsychotherapy.com