January is almost over. If you were abstaining, there are several factors to keep in mind as you decide how to proceed.

Your Tolerance is Lower

After abstaining from alcohol for a month, your tolerance for alcohol will be lower, so it will take less alcohol than it used to for you to feel the effects. So go slow and try to be mindful of how you are feeling, so you don’t overdo it. You want to gradually introduce alcohol back into your routines.

You lost weight, were sleeping better, and felt better, will this continue?

If you experienced weight loss, improved sleep, lowered blood pressure, clearer skin, and an increased ability to focus, you will likely find that a return to heavy alcohol consumption in February will lead to the reversal of these benefits. To protect your investment in your health, consider reintroducing alcohol in moderation and pay close attention to see if there is backsliding on the improvements that are important to you.

Are there more mindful or health-conscious ways to go back to alcohol after January?

Yes! Consider adopting a “damp” or “dry-ish” month approach, where you still drink alcohol but with more moderation and mindfulness. You might want to a set number of days per week that you don’t drink, or you may want to set an upper limit on how many drinks you have on the days that you do drink.

Where can you go to learn more about how alcohol affects you?

If you’ve had realizations about your relationship with alcohol during Dry January and want to continue exploring these thoughts, you may want to seek out support as you think it through. The good news is that there are many options to choose from. You can look for a psychologist or social worker who is trained in assisting people with alcohol issues, you can talk to your primary care physician (PCP) to discuss medication options to support your goals (e.g., naltrexone, acamprosate or disulfiram), or you can check out www.myrelationshipwithalcohol.com which is a website that has questionnaires and information about different treatment options. If you are thinking it’s time for a longer-term change in your drinking, reach out and talk to someone who can help you work through your thoughts on this decision.

To ensure a successful transition back to drinking alcohol, consider the following tips:

**Tip #1 for Resuming Drinking **

  1. Identify your reasons for drinking (e.g., to relax, to transition to home-life after work, for social lubrication, to reduce anxiety, etc.) and find alternative ways to achieve those objectives without alcohol. You’ve already tried a few of them, reflect on the most successful ones and consider adopting them long-term.

**Tip #2 for Resuming Drinking **

  1. Communicate your plans with friends and family, and ask for their support.

**Tip #3 for Resuming Drinking **

  1. Make sure to have lots of non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. sparkling water, non-alcoholic beer, iced herbal tea) both in your home and when you go to parties and social gatherings. You can choose these on days when you are abstaining, or you can mix them in to reduce the number of alcoholic drinks you consume.

Summary

If you’ve gotten this far without drinking (or drinking much less) congratulations! The good news is that researchers have found that just taking one month off, leads to a reduction in the number of days and the number of drinks you’ll have even six months later. So you are off to a great start this year! Taking a few moments to reflect on your successes can consolidate your gains and help you keep up your healthier habits for the rest of the year.