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Why so many people are trying Dry January

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Dry January is a month-long break from alcohol that some people choose to do after overindulging during the holidays or as a way to kick off the new year.

Successfully making it through Dry January is all about understanding your motivations, according to a Lubbock therapist.

Dr. Kim Kerksiek is the director of the Southwest Initiative for Addictive Diseases at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She said Dry January can be an opportunity for someone to really consider how much they’re drinking and how that affects their life.

“Asking questions like, ‘Have you ever felt like you should cut down on your drinking?’ ‘Have people annoyed you by criticizing how much you drink?’” Kerksiek said. “Or ‘Have you ever felt bad or guilty about drinking?’ And then even, 'Have you experienced any consequences because of alcohol use?'”

Coming off the holidays and the start of the new year can lead people to embrace things like Dry January as a sort of new year’s resolution, but so many break from their resolutions quickly after the year begins. Kerksiek said identifying and adopting a plan for Dry January can make it feel less like a resolution, and more like a goal, keeping your motivation in mind. Drink substitutes like seltzer water and mocktails are popular aids.

“Sometimes part of the plan can actually be to prepare for a slip-up. And if you slip up, acknowledge that changing habits, changing behaviors, is not always the easiest thing to do. And when we try to change our habits, slip-ups do happen,” Kerksiek said. “[having] a time-limited focus where you're choosing to do this for 30 days. For some people, that might take a little pressure off.”

When it comes to taking pressure off, Kerksiek said sharing that Dry January goal with friends can also encourage accountability in yourself.

“If you have friends on board who are doing it with you, or you have a support group, or you tell people who are close to you what you're doing, then it's not that you're necessarily accountable to them, but you have an accountability group,” Kerksiek said.

Kerksiek said even a short break from alcohol can help your health. Some benefits people see just within a month include mental clarity, better sleep and more energy, according to one study by the University of Sussex.

For those who drink heavily, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be very serious. Be mindful of symptoms such as anxiety, shakes, headaches, increased heart rate or fever, and seek immediate professional medical help in such cases.

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Sarah Self-Walbrick is the news director at Texas Tech Public Media, where she leads the news team and focuses on underreported stories in Lubbock. Sarah is a Lubbock native and a three-time graduate of Texas Tech University. She started her career at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
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