Dry Jan’s coming to an end. Those of you who made it through the month booze-free — congrats! Those who didn’t — congrats, too, as we’ve prepared a little something for you. Last weekend, Hilary Sheinbaum — journalist and author of the book The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month joined us at Boisson UWS for her book signing session, where she gave us some sobering advice on how to navigate social life without drinking, including bonus tips on dry dating: believe it or not, Valentine’s Day is just in two weeks, and Cupid’s already bent his bow. And we remember Shakespeare’s warning…
Below you’ll find many valuable things: how ice cream can cool your burning desire to drink, why doing just a month of not drinking can help you cut back on alcohol long-term, and even how to slide into Hilary’s DMs properly: N.B. — only for a pep talk.
With Valentine’s Day and spring on the horizon, the question of how to fill our hearts with love without filling the glass first becomes very relevant. Can you share some of the tips on dry dating that worked best for you?
I found that dating during a sober month could be potentially awkward at first, but it definitely helped me spot red flags, be more intentional about my dating life, and it made room for more creative date ideas. Overall, 10/10 — I recommend dating dry. My first tip is to be forthcoming and confident about a dry month (or not drinking), meaning, I've always been straightforward about it ("I'm not drinking" rather than "I don't feel well" or another response) and I don't apologize for not drinking! I also find it fun to suggest unique date ideas like ice skating or yoga, or ice cream shops — and I certainly opt for venues with nonalcoholic options, instead of the usual bar-scene!
Depending on how serious you’re about quitting alcohol, your decision might force you to really filter your social circle — and some people will have to part ways with most of their friends, at least, temporarily. How can we prepare ourselves for this solitude?
Personally, I've found that true friends are eventually supportive of new lifestyles (including lessening or quitting alcohol), even if they have a million questions or don't understand it at first. There's no doubt that giving up alcohol can change your social plans and potentially your circle, but it can also open you up to new experiences and new friendships with likeminded people. I think the important thing is focusing on things you enjoy doing, whether that's in a group setting or solo. I definitely recommend tapping into your creative side and picking up, or reintroducing, hobbies you otherwise didn't have time for, if you are alone and want solitude — whether that's reading a book, or learning how to play an instrument. But I also think that if you're a social butterfly, that you should still do things that you normally would otherwise, just without alcohol. My top picks are group workout classes, coffee get-togethers, and popping into Boisson with friends.
In the book, you briefly acknowledged the risk of getting the ‘sober month support squad’ back up: while touching base with a person with the same goals can help you not feel alone in your journey, it might also drag you down should they give up. How to pick a partner wisely?
I always say strength in numbers, so during a dry month it can be helpful to have more than one friend who is not imbibing with you, or at least one that will be cheering you on, even if they aren't participating. Granted, not everyone will stick to the plan 100% (which is OK!), so I recommend partnering with someone who won't try to convince you to give up your goal(s) if they don't succeed, and on top of that: it's important to remember that everyone's path is different. Don't let anyone else's decisions influence your journey! And yes, you can totally slide into my DMs (@hilarywritesny) if your support squad goes sour. I GOT YOU.
Was there any situation that you look back on as something that really helped you not to become a Dry Jan dropout, when you were about to?
During my first Dry January (in 2017), I had a bet going with one of my best guy friends to see who would make it to the end of the month without a drop of alcohol. Bets aren't for everyone, but in this case: I really didn't want to lose! And it for sure helped keep me consistent. I think seeing the positive changes (like better sleep, clearer skin and financial savings) that Dry Jan had on me definitely helped too. Plus, the winner of the bet was going to be treated to dinner, so, a fancy dinner certainly did not hurt my motivation. Lastly, I also think — as crazy as this sounds — ice cream and candy helped. I was craving sugar when I gave up booze!
Obviously, it’s better to opt for sober-friendly places while you’re doing the challenge, but if you end up at one of more old school spots, do you have any tips on how not to hate yourself asking for a non-alc option (which often happens to also be the cheapest)?
There are so many traditional bars that offer non-alcoholic options on their cocktail menus now, which is pretty sweet. I've also noticed that a number of bartenders enjoy the challenge of crafting a well-balanced non alcoholic cocktail. With that, I'm always genuinely curious what they can whip up! And, if they can't or don't, it's probably going to be a diet soda for me!
Dieting frequently leads to diet relapses, while Dry Jan abstinence is claimed to decrease alcohol consumption long-term. How are they different?
I'm not a registered dietitian, so I can only speak from my personal experience of consuming fewer alcoholic drinks in the months that follow Dry January! Now, having done Dry Jan and other sober months for the past 7 years, my booze consumption has been less and less every year. For me, I got used to not drinking, saying no and ordering alternative options, so my alcohol intake became less and less. (FYI, it's important to note that Dry Months aren't a replacement for recovery programs.)
Can you share your favorite non-alcoholic cocktail recipe?
I have a few that I love. Right now, I'm very into RTDs, because it's been a busy two weeks, and I haven't had time to go grocery shopping for more fresh ingredients — and namely limes, if I'm being honest! I really like Jukes RTD cans, Grüvi beers and No-seccos, and Giesen 0% wines. But when I do have more time, I'll be back to making NA Palomas with Free Spirits Gin, Grapefruit Soda, and lime. It's so easy. I need to stop making excuses and just go to Whole Foods already...
You obviously knew a lot about sober challenges when you started writing the book. Did the writing process somehow change your perception of that? Any epiphanies, maybe?
When I was writing The Dry Challenge, I began to realize more than ever before how ingrained alcohol is in our culture (and other cultures too)! For so many people, booze is part of celebrations, grieving, hanging out, dating, boredom, and everything in between. It's everywhere: at the grocery store, the corner deli, the football game, a commercial between reality TV programs, etc. Before writing the book, I didn't notice how consistently we are offered (literally and visually) a reminder of alcohol. And also, at the time, there weren't that many non-alcoholic beverage alternatives, save for a few brands. There were many epiphanies, but these were major.
If we asked you for just one quote / thought from your book to motivate our readers to give a dry month a shot, what would it be?
If you're thinking about giving a dry month a shot (no pun intended), do it! It's 29-31 days. If it works for you, keep going. If you have an opportunity to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol, awesome! And if it's not for you, that's okay too. Who knows — you might accidentally find yourself writing a book about it years later! And most importantly, if you are truly struggling to eliminate or lessen alcohol consumption, please consult a physician.