After the revelry of the holiday season, many people vow to cut back on drinking. Dry January, a monthlong challenge to stay sober, is a popular way to kick-start this healthier habit.
“When it comes to deciding to stop drinking alcohol, there are many health benefits — for both the individual and those they interact with,” says Dr. Sammie LaMont Moss, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente. Going dry can help you think more clearly, in addition to improving sleep quality, physical health and mood regulation, Moss tells Yahoo Life.
Many people resume drinking alcohol once February rolls around. But some aren't quite ready to go back to their old drinking habits and challenge themselves to stay sober for longer — or even for good. Maybe it's because they feel better without alcohol in their system, or because Dry January has given them the opportunity to reflect on their relationship with booze.
For actor Tom Holland, the British star of Spider-Man: Homecoming and its sequels, it was the latter that convinced him to quit drinking entirely after dabbling in Dry January two years ago. "All I could think about was having a drink," Holland has said of the experience. "It scared me." His struggle to go dry for a month made him feel "obsessed" with drinking, which highlighted the hold alcohol had on him and prompted him to make a bigger change.
Holland isn't alone. Ahead, people who became teetotalers after trying Dry January share how what was meant to be a monthlong challenge turned into a major lifestyle overhaul.
'I am shocked at how much more mindful my life has been'
"Pretty much all of my 20s were spent drinking," Marta Napoleone Mazzoni tells Yahoo Life. "I really, really enjoyed drinking."
But in 2016, she started questioning her relationship with alcohol. She and her husband decided that they would stop drinking as a “mini reset"; from that point on, Dry January became an annual tradition that gave them the "opportunity to connect" over activities that didn't involve booze. Instead, each year they would try something new: improv, learning Italian, scuba diving.
After the first few Dry Januaries, Mazzoni and her husband congratulated themselves on staying sober for a month and went right back to their old lifestyle. But she couldn't ignore the fact that Dry January was when she felt her best. She noticed she was happier and more productive when she was sober, and so she decided to do it for longer. Dry January stretched into February, then March and so on. She's now been teetotal since January 2023.
Once Mazzoni gave up drinking entirely, she experienced some “grief” because so much of her social life centered around alcohol. She stopped going to happy hours and bars with friends and lost her “sense of self.” Nevertheless, she is certain she made the right decision.
“I’m so much more clear," she says. "I sleep so much better. I am shocked at how much more mindful my life has been” [without alcohol]. The benefits are so rewarding. I don’t think I’m going back.”
'Ditching alcohol allowed me to dig in to what I really wanted to do with my life'
Karolina Rzadkowolska is a Florida-based life coach and the author of Euphoric: Ditch Alcohol and Gain a Happier, More Confident Life. She tried Dry January for the first time in 2018. Though she didn’t consider herself a “problem drinker,” she felt like she was caught in a cycle of “overdoing it” on the weekends and needing to spend part of the week recovering. “It was mentally draining,” Rzadkowolska tells Yahoo Life.
“My first weekend without alcohol felt awkward,” she recalls. However, a few weeks into Dry January, Rzadkowolska noticed how much better she felt. “It was amazing. I was sleeping better, waking up with so much more energy and really finding myself and a new sense of fun,” she says.
Once January ended, Rzadkowolska went back to drinking, but noticed that alcohol made her feel “tired and cranky.” It "was such a contrast to how I felt in January,” so she decided to take another break. It has now been nearly six years since Rzadkowolska had a drink.
“Ditching alcohol allowed me to dig in to what I really wanted to do with my life — increase my confidence, run a half marathon, make a ton of new friends — and feel better than I had in years,” she says. Now Rzadkowolska finds alcohol, once an important part of her life, “insignificant.”
'After seeing how good I felt without alcohol, I decided to continue beyond January'
Jasmine Charbonier, a marketing strategist from Florida, decided to try Dry January in 2023 after noticing a concerning uptick in her alcohol intake. “Dry January seemed like a good opportunity to take a break and reset my relationship with alcohol,” she tells Yahoo Life.
It wasn’t an easy transition. “The first week was the hardest, as I was used to winding down each evening with a beer or glass of wine,” Charbonier admits. Eventually she found new rituals to replace drinking at home. “Making tea or flavored seltzers helped give my hands something to do in the evenings,” she says. When it came to social gatherings, Charbonier says that her “willpower was tested,” but she managed to make it through the month.
Although Charbonier intended to resume her old habits once February hit, she reconsidered after realizing she “had more consistent energy, better quality sleep and clearer skin" as a result of her January challenge. “After seeing how good I felt without alcohol, I decided to continue beyond January and reassess later,” says Charbonier. The benefits she experienced “motivated me to continue abstaining long-term."
Despite her initial challenges in socializing as a sober person, Charbonier has since come to find that "going to gatherings felt more enjoyable as I wasn't focused on drinking and could better remember conversations.” She now prefers going out to dinner versus getting together for drinks, but she doesn’t avoid bars entirely — she just orders mocktails instead. “My friends have been very supportive,” she says.