Doing Dry January? Then Be Mindful of Alcoholics and the Support They May Need

Dry January can be an incredibly difficult – and exclusive – time for alcoholics.

‘Dry January’ is that time of year where everyone says they’ll give up booze after a hefty season of festivities (also known as, a month of boozing and events). The attitude of Dry January can be seen throughout the year though. When people have had too much, the next day they will post how they’re never drinking again, even though they’ve posted that status roughly 400 times since they were a teenager. However, using Dry January as an excuse to joke can be incredibly difficult for alcoholics who may struggle at this time of year.

Treating it in a flippant manner, or caving after a day and making jokes that it’s too difficult risks undermining the experiences of alcoholics. Furthermore, there can be huge pressure at this time of year. Due to loneliness, financial pressure, constant work events and parties and family stress, Christmas can be an immense struggle for some alcoholics who may end up drinking again. While everyone else may be trying to cut down on alcohol, those with addiction issues around drinking may be facing the prospect of seeing their drinking increase as they struggle to manage their health and dependency.

“Those with addiction issues around drinking may be facing the prospect of seeing their drinking increase as they struggle to manage their health and dependency”

Dry January can be a hugely isolating time. While everyone talks about the struggle of giving up alcohol, it’s rare that they will truly understand what that means. The fact it’s only treated as a month long spectacle to get through also risks making trivial of a situation which is serious for some. For many, managing life without alcohol intake can feel like an endless process and is something that will be required every day and not just for a month. Jokes that you need a pint after a day can get irritating pretty quickly.

Alcoholism is still hugely stigmatised. It’s often treated in two ways: it’s a joke to be mocked after a heavy session or with your mate who you can always count on for a night out. Or it’s something to fear and run away from because there’s just a singular idea of alcoholics as weak, dependent and amoral. These ideas are false and overly simplistic of an incredibly complex condition. Alcoholism can wane, sometimes it’s easier than others and people do experience it in different ways but given the pressures around Christmas and the New Year, it’s easy for feelings of needing to drink to be triggered.

Participating in Dry January can be empowering, but it’s important to remember to be considerate as it can be a time of year, and conversation point, that can be difficult for some people more than we realise. There’s often resistance to talking about alcoholism. It’s so silenced in society but it’s important to be able to consider how our actions or language may make managing addition harder for some people. Alcoholics deserve our support, not being sidelined as a punchline.

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