Elva Ramirez: You Don’t Have to Do Dry January, You Get to Do Dry January

As a reporter and the author of “Zero Proof: 90 Non-Alcoholic Recipes for Mindful Drinking,” I get hundreds of emails, comments and DMs about Dry January. Here’s the trend I’ve noticed: Most people begin by framing Dry January in a negative way. Typical emails and blog posts offer ways to “survive” Dry January, which is “a month of social exile” and is all but fated to be “boring.”

This type of attitude, that Dry January is something joyless to be gotten through, only reinforces the idea that alcohol is the default setting for good times, and everything else is lacking. Describing taking a month off of drinking with phrases like “social exile”, “survival” and “boring” paint Dry January in bleak terms that suggest it’s only meaningful when it’s over.

Those ideas are, frankly, the wrong attitude. 

My favorite fitness instructor will often tell the class that you don’t have to work out, you get to work out. He will point out that being able to move freely, to dance even, is about finding joy, not focusing on tedium or even the short term pain of squats and planks. Changing that perspective, transforming repetitive lifts into mindful moments, can really make an impact in how one approaches daily workouts. I find this grateful-to-be-here attitude gives me a mental kick even if my body isn’t always entirely energetic at the moment. What happens next? You do the workout and you feel great afterwards.  

In a similar way, this kind of thinking can apply to Dry January. No one has to do Dry January. You get to give yourself a drinking re-set.

There will be no suffering in social exile, but if you go into Dry January expecting it to be dull, maybe it will be. 

Rather, if you think of Dry January as the re-set that it is, and approach it as a gift of mindfulness, not only will it be easier to do, but you may discover new things about yourself. A month off is a great time to build new habits or tricks that will resonate if you do go back to the occasional drink in the post-January months. 

Everyone’s journey is different, but a positive attitude really does make nearly everything easier to tackle.


Elva Ramirez is the author of “Zero Proof: 90 Non-Alcoholic Recipes for Mindful Drinking,” a look at the growing non-alcoholic cocktail movement. Follow her on @zero_proof_cocktails on Instagram.