Is your New Year's resolution to do Dry January?
If so, you're not alone. 2 million people in the UK took part in the Dry January challenge in 2015.
However, a recent study showed that only 63% of those that try to go dry for a month make it, and those are primarily the 'moderate' drinkers, the ones who didn't drink much in the first place.
Perhaps you're one of those people? You overdid it a tiny bit on the Cava over New Year and want to detox for a while. You're not anticipating any trouble, and you'll pick up again, moderately, in February. If so, good for you. Crack on.
I, however, was never a 'moderate' drinker. In fact, I'm not good at moderation in general. I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. I did lots of 'dry' challanges. Sometimes I managed to white knuckle through a whole month, but often I'd cave within a fortnight.
By the time I finally quit, last March, I was drinking around a bottle of wine a day - more at weekends. I was feeling fat, toxic and ashamed, and my life was going nowhere.
If that sounds familiar, then you're in the right place.
Whether you want to quit just for January, or whether you've realised you've got to give it up forever, here is some advice on how to get through the first 31 days.
(I'm hoping that my regular readers will chip in in the comments section below with their additions).
It's really hard to condense this into just one post, but there's more information on all of this - and very much more - throughout this blog. Or you can e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting your head in the right place is crucial. If you start the month with a sense of dread and deprivation you'll never make it.
You are doing an amazing thing. You are about to change your life for the better. Be excited!
If that last sentence is just incredibly irritating, and you can't imagine feeling anything like excitement right now, then read Jason Vale's book: Kick the Drink, Easily.
In fact, read it anyway. It'll completely change the way you think about drinking, and make the whole process of quitting much easier.
Write down, right now, while you can remember, all the reasons why you want to stop. The big ones (like health concerns) and all the little ones (like being embarrassed about your recycling bags).
Over the next few weeks there will be many moments when you will think "why am I doing this?" You'll need that list as a reminder.
2. Know what to expect
The first two or three weeks after quitting drinking can be physically and mentally gruelling, but it's much easier if you know what to expect, and know that it's all perfectly normal. After years of flooding your body with addictive toxins, it's bound to fight back a bit when you quit.
You will probably feel more tired than you can imagine. By mid afternoon you'll want a nap - like a toddler. You'll feel muggy headed, like you're wading through soup, and your concentration levels will be completely shot.
Don't worry - it'll pass. See it as a sign that your body's recuperating.
Ironically, you may find that you also have problems initially in getting to sleep. Again, this is temporary. Soon you'll be sleeping like a baby - better than you have in years. And no more waking up at 3am with the night horrors.
You might get headaches and/or constipation. That's all part of your body detoxing. Drink lots of water, fresh juices and smoothies.
You may be a bit (or a lot) tetchy and snappy. Like a bad case of PMT. Try to avoid taking on anything too crucial or stressful over the next week or two.
You'll constantly think about drinking. Or not drinking. And, generally, the more you try NOT to think about something, the more you do.
I found that the best thing to do is to indulge the obsession - at least initially. I read endless books, articles and blogs about drinking. My favourite drinking memoir is Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story. For great drinking fiction read Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins, or Summer Secrets by Jane Green.
3. Find Some Friends
It's really difficult to quit drinking on your own. You might be lucky and have someone 'in real life' who's doing it with you. The problem with that, however, is if they cave they're likely to take you down with them. And they might not need to quit as much as you do....
Luckily, there's a huge amount of help online - a whole Soberverse!
You can start at the beginning of this blog - back in March - and read through my first few weeks. And sign up to www.soberistas.com where you'll find huge amounts of help and support.
If you'd like to follow the story of someone starting on Day 1 now, then check out my online blogging friends: redrecovers.wordpress.com, gingergroundhog.blogspot.com and annieuk101.wordpress.com. And another more seasoned blogger, like me, thewinebitch.blogspot.com.
There's also AA. I have to confess that I've still not been myself, but they've helped millions of people and saved endless lives. With AA you get all the help and support you'd get online plus real hugs, not just virtual ones.
4. Be good to yourself
You are doing a phenomenal thing. And it's not easy. So, for the next few weeks at least, don't try to do anything else. Don't worry about dieting, about getting a new job or redecorating the house. Just concentrate, for the moment, on NOT DRINKING!
Give yourself some rewards - you deserve them. And you're saving money! Eat cake. Drink lots of hot chocolate (it has magical properties - you'll see). Have hot baths with bubbles and candles. Book a massage. Whatever makes you feel good.
5. Watch out for cravings
You're bound to get them, especially at your main trigger points, like 'wine o'clock' or when you're hungry, tired, stressed or bored. Or pretty much anytime, actually.
Remember - THEY WILL PASS. You just need to distract yourself for as long as it takes.
Bake cookies. Or, the more healthy option, do some exercise. Go for a long walk, or a run. Getting away from the fridge or any drinking environment is a good idea.
Have a hot bath. Log onto Soberistas (see above) or your favourite blog. Take up knitting, colouring, the guitar - whatever works.
6. Wait for the miracles to happen
Just take it one day at a time and you will, slowly slowly, start to see the benefits.
You'll sleep better than you have since childhood. Your eyes will be brighter, skin fresher and hair bouncier. You'll look five years younger.
You'll lose the puffy face and the wine belly. You'll feel calmer and happier.
But the best things about being sober don't happen in the first month. They keep on coming, over the weeks, months and years.
So don't just do Dry January. Consider making it forever.
Just think about it....
Good luck to you all!