Beware the January relapse

We’ve all seen countless posting about dry January. The early in the month posts talking about the joy of being sober, the worries over lack of sleep and sweet cravings. The ponderings about staying dry forever and the questions as to when weight loss will occur. It’s everywhere and I am glad that it has gotten people to talk about sobriety.

However, there is a more worrying side to January that sadly is just as prevalent. The risk of relapse for those of us who have been sober for a while.

We stayed sober over Christmas and New Year!

Christmas and New Year is undoubtedly a time for overindulgence in everything, including alcohol. It can feel like everyone around us is constantly drinking alcohol. They can have it for breakfast, for elevensies, for opening a present. Any reason, it’s Christmas after all!

And then we have New Year’s eve, it’s all about alcohol again. Staying up late, getting wasted and then waking up the following year with the king of all hangovers. But it’s fun, right?

So what about those of us, who stayed sober, who sipped on our AF drinks, while everyone else got drunk and slurry? Shouldn’t we be celebrated? We should definitely be proud, but more than that we need to be aware. For some, the month after abstaining from such a pressure cooker of drinking exposure can be the month we relapse.

I deserve it..

The fact that we have managed to stay sober during this time, can send our brain on a little journey of persuasion. If we have managed to stay sober during such a tough time, do we really have a problem? If we can stay sober during this time does this mean I could actually moderate? I stayed sober, it shows I do have some control, I can have a drink now I deserve it!

Dark January

Dark miserable January

January is a horrible month, the days are short and we spend much of our time in the dark. Payday is far away and there is a general feeling of depression and a yearning for summer. Life feels harder than usual, so the risk of relapse can be greater.

Add to that the relief that we stayed dry over the festive period and it’s a dangerous time for those in recovery. Mr Moderator is going to be on overdrive in our ears, telling us we can have a couple. January is a boring month, cash flow is tight after Christmas, it’s cold, it’s dark and people can become very insular. Thus, creating the perfect storm for relapse and giving Mr Moderator an easy way into your thinking.

Stick with it

The pull to have just the one, to relieve the stress and boredom of January is huge. I understand that. But my advice would be to think about how you got here and why you are here. If you have felt so strongly that there is an issue with your alcohol intake that you have gone to all of the trouble and done all of the work needed to stop, then truthfully, you probably do have an issue.


Early morning anxiety

Taking up alcohol again may relieve the boredom for a few hours, or days even. But eventually, you will feel exactly how you felt when you came to the conclusion that you needed to stop drinking.

You may manage to moderate for the first few times that you drink again. You’ll feel buoyed by this. You may feel that you have managed Christmas and now you are managing to moderate. Go you!.

Pretty soon though, you will face the consequences of your decision. You will be back where you really didn’t want to be. The waking up at 3 am, the feeling constantly ill, the shame. Not to mention the serious health and emotional implications.

Do the work

Do what works for you

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. You stopped for a reason and you can stay stopped for that reason. Carry on with the work that you have been doing. Talk about your feelings with people who understand. Fill the time with things that interest you that don’t revolve around alcohol. Remember how you felt at your worst. Is that where you want to be again?

Look after yourself, eat well, meditate if that floats your boat, stay hydrated. Take note of your sleep hygiene. make sure you are rested. Do the things you have been doing on your sober journey that has worked so far. Don’t let January win.

I think the main thing that I would say is, keep an eye on your thoughts. It’s so easy for doubts to creep in and for your brain to start convincing you that you can moderate. Or that you were never that bad. The choice is yours, but I know that I would not ever want to be back where was before. Choose wisely.

Much love,

B xx

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