New year, new you

7 helpful hints to make it through January without alcohol

7 helpful hints to make it through January without alcohol

Parktoberfest
Many Austinites are starting their year with a dry January. Photo courtesy of The Shops at Park Lane

You celebrated the holidays with eggnog, toasted the new year with Champagne, and in between downed enough Pinot to give the Real Housewives pause. Maybe it’s time to take a break.

Dry January has increasingly become a post-holiday tradition, with folks focusing on their health, challenging themselves to try new things, or just reexamining their relationship with alcohol. After all the December hangovers, giving up the hooch for a few days may be easy, but you’ll need a game plan if you are going to last the full month. Here are seven tips that will help keep you on track.

Replace the ritual
For many of us, getting to sleep is difficult without a daily glass of wine. Yes, the fact that alcohol is a depressant helps with snoozing, but the act of slowing down and unplugging is just as important. During dry January, start a new nightly habit. Replace the wine with a decaf tea (Zhi Tea makes a soothing Egyptian chamomile), start a new skincare regimen, or schedule in time to catch up on your reading list. The important thing is to make whatever you do routine, training your mind to know it’s time to unwind.

Be prepared
Giving up drinking shouldn’t mean giving up a social life, but you shouldn't expect party hosts to provide a fully stocked “dry” bar full of various juices and seltzers. Instead, take a cue from your vegan friends and bring your own fun. We suggest bringing several bottles of kombucha to the next house party, which can act as the main event for you and a mixer for those who choose to imbibe. We like maker KTonic, whose Master K variety is flavored with bright ginger and lemongrass with a kick of cayenne.

Avoid trigger foods
Certain dishes, like pasta bolognese or chips and queso, practically demand to be paired with alcohol. While on the wagon, opt for foods that don’t automatically have you reaching for the hard stuff. Noodles work nicely, whether by themselves or in a soup. After downing a huge bowl of Saigon le Vendeur’s spicy vermicelli or Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s legendary ramen, who has enough room for a pint of beer?

Order mocktails
Some experts will tell you that in order to successfully abstain, you should avoid going to bars altogether. But that resolve can quickly dissipate when your crush invites you to throw back a few at your favorite spot. Luckily, many bartenders are more than willing to whip you up something sans sauce with a little guidance and using the flavor profiles (smoky, citrusy, herbal) you usually gravitate towards in more high-octane drinks. Just make sure you throw a little extra in the tip jar for the trouble.

Try new activities
For those of us who substitute drinking for entertainment, a sober month gives us a chance to reconnect with the activities that are truly fulfilling. Spend a day visiting The Blanton, try your hand at learning a new craft (East Austin's Craft has all sorts of workshops), or volunteer at a nonprofit or for a political campaign. All are guaranteed to have a more lasting impression than just another night at the bar.

Treat yourself
An old fashioned here, two bottles of bubbles there. All those tipples can easily topple your budget. Use some of those savings as a reward for keeping on track. But be mindful in your approach. The idea is to invest in things that will give you joy throughout the year, like luxurious bedding (local shop Wildflower Organics is a good start) or original art. Or use your newly found wealth on something experiential, whether that’s a day at the spa or an overseas trip.

Practice self-kindness
So you had a mimosa at your best friend’s birthday brunch; that doesn’t mean you have to go full Leaving Las Vegas for the rest of the month. It’s impossible to achieve a goal without running into a few bumps. If you slip sometime during the month, don’t deem it a failure. Use it as a chance to take stock of your dry January goals, then forge ahead.