Where did Dry January come from and should you try it?
Resolutions — many have them, fewer keep them.
Online polling firm YouGov reports that reducing stress, working out and losing weight, eating healthier and saving money are the top five goals for Americans in 2019.
Ditching various vices is also an oft-popular goal for the new year. Tiffany Hall, executive director of Recover Alaska, said cutting out alcohol is something numerous people resolve to do.
“January is a time that a lot of people are thinking about resolutions and changes they can make to their lives and if somebody drinks alcohol, they’ve usually come off of a heavy alcohol-infused holiday season. So it’s sort of a good reset for the year,” she said.
So how did this popular — and to some already-annoying — self-improvement trend begin? Blame the British.
Dry January is an annual campaign trademarked by Alcohol Watch UK, a nonprofit that works for changes in policy, research and cultural perceptions of alcohol. According to its website, the campaign began in 2012 with 4,000 people and has grown exponentially to more than 4 million taking part in 2018.
In the nonprofit’s annual report from November 2018, research suggests the campaign is sparking change.
“Our evaluations so far suggest that, for the majority of participants, Dry January has a long-lasting impact in terms of both reduced drinking and their confidence to refuse drinks when offered. We continue to evaluate Dry January in order to deepen our understanding of how, and to what extent, it works in reducing harm, and to continuously improve it.”
Back in Anchorage, Hall said Alaskans have even more reasons to participate in Dry January.
“I have been sober for over nine years and I know that it’s just a lot easier for me to be present and to experience joy with people,” she said. “Also it’s easier to get through really difficult times or trying times, especially in January in Alaska with all of the darkness and after the holidays. It can be a really difficult time of year.”
Hall suggests those who give Dry January a try have a backup plan, such as having a friend to call or resources in place for when the urge to drink hits. Even better, Hall said it's helpful to use the buddy system.
“It’s always easier for me to do something that I think is going to be difficult with somebody else and even if somebody isn’t participating with you, make sure they know about it,” she said. “They can offer you a non-alcoholic beverage when you go to their house or maybe go out on the town with you and don’t drink alcohol that night. You know, the more support the better.”
Recover Alaska’s website offers access to support groups, a screening tool and more.
Part of what can set people up for success is replacing the pleasure of a having a drink with something other than water. Getting creative with non-alcoholic drinks and taking the time to make a libation that feels special can help curb longing.
Even changing what you eat can make it easier. For those who can’t stand the thought of a burger without a beer, try ordering something that doesn’t have that same connection.
As chefs and food personalities have opened up and shed light on mental health and substance abuse in the food and beverage industry, it's become more common to see non-alcoholic beverages crafted with as much care as their counterparts.
In Anchorage, the Beartooth Grill's bar menu includes a whole page of alcohol-free libations, listing just over half a dozen handcrafted sodas. Around the corner at Spenard Roadhouse, the bar menu lists non-alcoholic mixed drinks made with house-infused simple syrups and house-made shrubs. On the other side of town, South Restaurant + Coffeehouse's bar menu includes its own sans alcohol appellations, including the Raspberry Rocktail.
Recover Alaska has even curated a gallery on their Facebook page with non-alcoholic drinks at restaurants around the state.
Other places in town making a point to offer zero-proof drinks are La Potato and The Writer's Block Bookstore & Cafe in Spenard.
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