RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Many view the beginning of a new year as a fresh chance to tackle new goals. For some, that list of goals include limiting alcohol consumption or healing one’s relationship with the substance.
As we head deeper into “Dry January,” it can become increasingly challenging to remain motivated in finishing out the month. Health professionals told 8News, even if someone can’t fully commit to making their January “dry” — or, 100% alcohol free — simply reducing intake can still foster major health benefits.
Point-Five in Carytown is the city of Richmond’s first stand-alone alcohol-free bottle shop. Owner Jody Sidle began her “sober-curious” journey around 3 or 4 years ago. She’s been alcohol-free for around nine months.
“It started as a 30 day challenge and it just felt really good and continued from there,” Sidle explained.
Her friend and customer Jarrod Collier has been sober for more than nine years.
“My life was a wreck,” Collier said. “The joys and wonders I’ve gained back in my life from choosing a sober lifestyle have been endless.”
The two are on entirely different journeys, but both advocate for people’s participation in “Dry January.”
“It’s just a good way to give your body a break,” Sidle said.
The “Dry January” movement dates back to around 2013, when only a few thousand people participated. However, it has since taken off, with an estimated more than 100,000 people joining in this year. While these statistics come from the United Kingdom, VCU Health Hepatologist Dr. Richard Sterling, explained how this trend might parallel the United States’ participation. He noted more people are taking interest in the movement for various reasons including physical, mental and financial improvements.
Sidle noted how sales at alcohol-free shops typically skyrocket in January as “Dry January” participants seek out ways to make it through the month.
“Alcohol is involved in pretty much everything we do,” Sidle said. “So it becomes more and more difficult.”
Collier elaborated by noting the importance of pushing through those 31 days.
“Momentum is something you can’t see,” Collier said. “You start to gain things back in life, right, why stop there?”
Dr. Sterling urges people to consider reducing alcohol consumption in the long-term and extending their “sober-curious” journey beyond one month. But he noted how locking the liquor cabinet even just for the month of January can set one up for success.
“It can have improvements in blood pressure,” Dr. Sterling said. “You can lose weight, and also you can have improvements in how your body metabolizes insulin. Improves sleeping, people having more energy, having overall better health.”
Many are familiar with the adverse effects alcohol consumption can have on the human body. It can perpetuate liver scarring and damage, lead to liver failure and even make an individual more likely to develop primary liver cancer. But Dr. Sterling explained how alcohol does not exclusively put wear and tear on the liver.
“Alcohol can affect other organs,” Dr. Sterling clarified. “It can affect the pancreas; it can affect the heart.”
Experts recommend talking with your doctor to better understand how cutting out or reducing alcohol could impact you. Those who drink heavily might need to take a different approach to movements like “Dry January” to ensure the habits are instilled safely. Heavy drinkers could be subject to withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to abandon the substance too abruptly.