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Opting for a 'Dry January' millions put down the drink

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jan 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-02 18:49:47-05

After getting through the holidays, millions of people across the globe are opting for a ‘Dry January’ and abstaining from alcohol for the first month of the year.

In the U.S., the ‘sober curious’ movement is also taking hold, seeing the rise of social events at clubs that provide mocktails instead of alcoholic drinks.

Mark St. John, program director for Hanley Center at Origins in West Palm Beach, says there’s a sharp increase in the number of patients who seek help from the addiction treatment center. The phone calls start to roll in before Thanksgiving and continue through the New Year as people seek assistance. More than two-thirds of their patients travel from outside of Palm Beach County to enter the program.

“I spent 30 years in an opioid addiction. My husband finally said to me one day in mid-December ‘I can no longer watch you kill yourself, you have two choices. Choose treatment or separation, so I chose treatment,” said Carolyn Emmons, a patient who is celebrating one year of sobriety.

Emmons called Hanley Center at Origins a few days before Christmas in 2018. She spent two months in rehabilitation before entering a 12-step program to navigate potential triggers in social settings. Emmons says the program saved her life and encourages others who are battling an addiction to take a leap of faith and seek help.

“I will not give this life up. There’s no party worth giving up this life for,” added Emmons.

Pledging to have a Dry January can lead to better sleep, lowered blood pressure, weight loss and move productivity. However, it could be dangerous for someone with a severe alcohol use disorder to attempt because they can suffer acute withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, insomnia and anxiety.

“We highly recommend if you do have a severe alcohol problem, then dry January is probably not the best solution for you. Getting medical attention would be,” said Mark St. John.

St. John addes that moderate drinkers are considered an ideal candidate for the month-long break from alcohol (one drink per day for women, two for men). The challenges helps establish a new relationship with alcohol as an occasional experience, rather than a habitual one.

However, one month of abstaining will not make up for heavier drinking during the remainder of the year, so an overall change in drinking habits is more helpful.