Giving up alcohol for January has become a popular trend - Albuquerque Journal

Giving up alcohol for January has become a popular trend

Andy Hageman jumping out of an airplane. The lifelong drinker gave it up for good after deciding to take a month off. (Courtesy of Andy Hageman)

Traditionally, holiday cheer leads to holiday beer. Lots of holiday beers and wine and cocktails and copious amounts of chocolate. In short, most people imbibe a little too much during the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

In recent years, Dry January, also known as Drynuary, has become a popular trend. Participants vow to give up alcohol for the entire month of January but can resume their relationship with spirited beverages Feb. 1.

Although the term and concept have been around for more than a decade, the United Kingdom-based nonprofit organization Alcohol Concern kicked off the first official Dry January campaign in 2013 and the next year trademarked the term.

Andy Hageman, 56, decided to give up drinking for a month. His health improved so much, he gave it up for good. (Courtesy of Andy Hageman)

Since then, the movement has inspired people globally to take a month-long break from drinking when the calendar turns to the New Year.

Those who participate in Dry January don’t necessarily have a drinking problem. Some want to take a break and reassess their relationship with the socially acceptable pastime or to explore the health benefits of eliminating alcohol from their diet.

But does it work and who should try it?

William Campbell, a clinical psychologist with Behavior Therapy Associates, said everyone can benefit from giving up drinking, even if it’s only for 30 days.

“All attempts to change behavior teach you something about that behavior,” he said. “If you can pull it off, that gives your liver a real break … Maybe your skin clears up or you’re getting a good night’s sleep.”

Sometimes, the secondary health benefits sway people to give up drinking all together. Those who return to it after 30 days do so with much more awareness about their relationship to alcohol.

There are some caveats, he said. People who are heavily dependent on alcohol and suddenly stop drinking can experience dangerous side effects such as seizures and hallucinations, and should seek the advice of a physician first. Also, the more one is dependent on drinking, the more supports they will need to stop.

“The trend works well for people who have control of their behaviors,” he said. “The more severe your problem, the more changes you have to make in your life, the more support you will need. Get other interventions lined up like friends who are sober, outpatient treatment or therapy.”

For Andy Hageman, 56, back surgery in late 2018 was the catalyst. His doctor suggested he take up swimming and make overall health improvements. He decided he would go through January without drinking.

Hageman, a local radio sportscaster from England, began playing cricket at the age of 11 on an adult team. The tradition, he said, is for the captain to buy pitchers of beer after the match and go around filling up everyone’s cup. Hageman was supposed to be drinking lemonade, but quickly graduated to beer. By age 13, he was drinking four times a week. But, alcohol, he said, never created a real problem for him. He was able to hold down a job, have friends, relationships and function day-to-day.

“Soon I found myself a month alcohol free,” he said. “I felt fitter. I felt healthier. I thought this is the way forward. I never wanted to go back.”

And he hasn’t. His took his last drink Dec. 27, 2018.



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