Making Dry January the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Before it finally stuck in January 2021, I tried and failed at dry January many times. I generally started January planning to reverse everything I indulged in in December — Negronis (not anymore, but lord did I love them), great food (still yes), desserts (still yes), and the lack of sleep that resulted from my excessive partying. The first thing I would do January 1 was make a list of everything I was going to cut out – alcohol, sugar, gluten, dairy. Then I’d get the ingredients for some sort of cleanse (I’ve done juice cleanses, milk cleanses, Whole30 – all of it), buy a few self-help books, and clear my calendar of all social plans so as to “not mess everything up”.
This restrictive plan worked only once, when I was in a serious relationship and we cleansed in near seclusion for most of January (we broke up that March). Aside from that one (do not recommend), every other Dry January prior to 2021 would end early when I caved and met a friend for a drink. After having spent the first few weeks of January depriving myself of not only alcohol/sugar/gluten/dairy but also of socialization, I would head out to meet that friend feeling like a prisoner who had escaped jail. Having not felt a dopamine hit for weeks, I’d get a rush from meeting the friend and then binge on every other dopamine-spiking thing on the menu (cocktails and sugar galore). That night I would feel incredible, but I’d wake up in the morning feeling like a failure. And once I’d cheated on my Dry January restrictions, there was no going back – the rest of January looked like December-light, as did the remainder of the year … at least when I wasn’t doing another cleanse.
I finally got it right in January 2021 when I committed to indulging in things that make me happy instead of depriving myself. Because I love the ritual of having a drink, I bought a fridge full of non-alcoholic drinks (none hit the spot, which is why I created Little Saints in the summer of 2021). I ate nourishing foods and cooked healthy meals. I prioritized social abundance by making a ton of social plan, and by calling loved ones. Instead of half-reading self-help books on “how to be better”, I read biographies of people who inspired me. I journaled about my daydreams rather than making endless lists of everything I had to do. I did a morning and evening gratitude practice, and added a self-love mantra to my meditation. I prioritized pleasurable movement (dance, sex or both) on par with my vitamins. And I committed to connecting with plants (through scent or in nature) in an intentional way every day.
Once I had made my Dry January a lifestyle of healthy self-love, pleasure and connection, it stuck. After a 2022 holiday season that was equal parts joyful and depleting, I can’t wait for another Dry January centered on indulging my spirit.