What is a Dry or Sober Month? Benefits and Participation Tips

Published July 25, 2022
Group of friends drinking smoothies

A sober month, also known as a dry month, is when you choose to give up alcohol for a full month. Popular sober months include Sober September, Dry January, or Sober October. These opportunities challenge people to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol by abstaining from it for about 30 days.

Many people also participate in sober months to experience the health and wellness benefits associated with going alcohol-free. For example, the possibility of better sleep and increased energy is enticing to some. Also, many people raise money for charity during sober months to support a wide variety of causes, such as cancer research.

Benefits of Going Alcohol-Free for a Month

Have you ever wondered how your body and mind would feel after a month without alcohol? Going alcohol-free is actually associated with certain health benefits that may make the idea of a sober month a bit more enticing.

Better Sleep

Several studies have shown that drinking alcohol can negatively impact sleep patterns. For example, alcohol consumption has been linked to poorer quality and quantity of sleep. Drinking alcohol can make it harder for a person to fall asleep and harder to stay asleep throughout the night. In addition, drinking can increase the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in a person's sleep cycle, which prevents them from falling into a deeper sleep.

By refraining from alcohol, you may help yourself get a better night's rest. In addition, it will help you practice better sleep hygiene by not drinking before bed. And, it might even make you more mindful about nightly routines.

Clearer Skin

Alcohol has been linked to various skin problems. Research has shown that alcohol consumption is associated with increased facial lines around the lips and mouth, as well as under-eye puffiness. In addition, alcohol has also been linked to acne because when people drink alcohol they may be more likely to make poor food choices, such as eating fried food or sugary snacks.

Taking a sober month may give you and your skin the break you need from alcohol to notice any changes in your skin. You might even experience improvements that can give you a confidence boost.

Increased Energy

Happy female runner jogging in the morning in nature

When a person consumes alcohol, it affects their brain glucose metabolism or the way that the brain uses glucose for fuel. Studies have found that alcohol can also disrupt the way the brain communicates with the body. This leads to changes in a person's mood and behavior, such as feeling sluggish or fatigued during and after drinking. In addition, many alcoholic beverages contain high amounts of sugar, which can cause people to 'crash' after the sugar high has ended.

When you swap alcoholic drinks for booze-free ones, you might just notice that you feel like you have more energy. If you refrain from drinking alcohol for an entire month, you may begin to experience the benefits of feeling more energized throughout the day.

Lower Blood Pressure

Alcohol consumption has been linked to higher rates of blood pressure in humans. High rates of blood pressure can develop into a disease known as hypertension, which can cause serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.

Decreasing your alcohol intake may help you maintain a healthier blood pressure. Which, in turn, can help prevent the development of chronic kidney disease, heart attacks, stroke, and even heart failure.

Reduced Cholesterol

Research has found a link between cholesterol and alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol can lead to significantly high rates of cholesterol. High rates of cholesterol can cause the build-up of plaque or fatty deposits in blood vessels. This has been linked to serious health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.

When you participate in a sober month and reduce your alcohol intake, you may be able to help support healthier cholesterol levels. This can have a positive impact on your heart health and overall well-being.

Who Should Do a Sober Month?

According to data from Alcohol Change, over four million people in the UK alone have considered participation in a Dry January. However, you don't need to formally sign up for a campaign to participate. You can take the pledge yourself or with a group of friends. You can also participate any time of year.

It's important to note that participating in a sober month is not meant to be a treatment for alcohol addiction. In fact, most of the campaigns note that sober months are best for individuals that participate in low-risk drinking. Low-risk drinking in women is definited as consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage a day or seven total drinks per week. For men it means consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks a day or 14 per week.

People who have developed an alcohol dependency should not immediately abstain from drinking and participate in sober months, according to Alcohol Change. Doing so could lead to negative health consequences, such as episodes of vomiting and other side effects of withdrawal depending on the level of alcohol consumption. If you want to participate in a sober month, but aren't sure if it's right for you, talk to your primary care provider and make a plan to move forward.

Popular Sober Months

Are you interested in participating in a sober month but not sure when you can get involved? There are several sober months throughout the year for you to choose from. Some sober months include:

  • Dry January - Is the first sober month campaign ever launched and started in 2013. It was created by a UK-based charity known as Alcohol Change as a way to help people re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. It takes place at the start of the year and can help you begin the year with health and wellness in mind.
  • Sober October - Started in 2014 by a UK-based charity known as Macmillan Cancer Support. It takes place every October and allows participants to go sober to help raise money to support the charity's cancer research and the healthcare services for those living with cancer.
  • Sober September - Started in 2016 through social media and Cancer Research UK. Is a challenge to go the entire month of September without alcohol. If you formally sign up to participate in the campaign, you can also raise money to support Cancer Research UK's efforts to provide medical care for people living with cancer.
  • Dry July - Began in 2008 when three Australian friends decided to give up alcohol for part of the summer in order to raise money for a local hospital. Now, the Dry July Foundation has raised over $73 million to support people living with cancer with its Dry July campaign.

Keep in mind that you can also choose your own sober month based on your own schedule and lifestyle. Also, you don't have to wait for a sober month challenge to come around. You can go sober any month of the year that fits your schedule. And, you don't have to start at the beginning of the month if it isn't a good time for you. For example, if you have an event on June 6th that you want to drink at, you can still start a sober month in June. Just start on the seventh and go until July seventh.

Sober Month vs. Dry Month

Some people consider a sober month to mean that you need to go the entire duration of the month completely sober. That means not engaging with any alcohol. But many people in states where marijuana is legalized wonder if they can smoke or consume edibles during a sober month.

The answer depends. You can make a commitment at whatever level you feel comfortable and see if you experience any health benefits. For example, some people commit to doing a "dry month" and interpret the meaning a bit differently than you would interpret a traditional sober month. During a dry month, a person might abstain from drinking alcohol, or otherwise, stay 'dry' but, they may smoke or consume marijuana in states where it is legal. This type of dry month is often referred to as going "Cali-sober."

Tips for a Successful Sober Month

During your sober month, you may come face to face with challenges. You might attend family dinners or parties where people are drinking and alcohol is within easy access. This can create a lot of temptation.

It may require a lot of willpower to make it through the month alcohol-free. You don't need to avoid social gatherings and prevent yourself from having fun with loved ones. However, you will need to be more mindful of your choices and environment. The good news is that there are some tips you can use to support you throughout the month.

Go Sober with Family and Friends

Leaning on a support system is a great way to help you through a sober month. One way to do this is to get family and friends to go sober with you. You can even ask co-workers to get involved and bring a sense of community to your office. When you are surrounded by people that are going through a similar experience, it can create a sense of solidarity and let you know that you can turn to others to help conquer the challenge together.

Raise Funds for a Charity

Several sober month campaigns have an option to help raise money for charity. You can sign up to donate to the organization associated with each sober month, or, you can choose a different cause to support. You might feel more motivated to refrain from alcohol when you know that your effort is going to a good cause.

Prepare Yourself for Social Gatherings

You can - and should - still go to social events during your sober month. In fact, it might help add a little bit of fun and relaxation to your day. Also, it will give you the chance to find other aspects of social connection that you enjoy that don't surround alcohol.

Before you head out, make sure you mentally prepare yourself for potential temptations. You may want to find a sober buddy to hang out with at the party. In addition, you can think of ways you are going to turn down drinks beforehand. You can even practice these responses out loud at home, or just brainstorm ideas of what you want to say. Some phrases you might find helpful are:

  • I heard about sober months and wanted to try it out.
  • I took a pledge with friends to stay sober this month.
  • I was curious about being sober and wanted to see what it would be like.
  • I'm taking a break from drinking for a bit to see if I feel any healthier.
  • I'm trying to raise money for charity by giving up alcohol for the month.

Become a Designated Sober Driver

Cheerful group of friends on road trip

If you go to family events and social gatherings, offer to be the sober driver. This is one way to ensure that you make it through the celebration without drinking. And, you'll already have a solid, thoughtful answer to tell others when they try and offer you a drink. Also, it might make you feel good to help out family and friends.

Bring Your Own Refreshments

One way to ensure that you always have a non-alcoholic drink that you enjoy on hand is to bring it with you. This can be anything from your favorite sparkling water or cider to soda. It'll give you a bit more variety at events and may help you fight off temptations. There are even brands of water, like Liquid Death, that create cans designed with skulls and graphics to resemble beer or seltzer. These products may help prevent others from asking you if you need something to drink.

Switch to Mocktails

Cranapple Cooler Mocktail Recipe

You might not have to give up your favorite flavors of the drink you love entirely. You can make the switch to mocktails instead. These non-alcoholic versions of your favorite drinks can give you a little taste of what you're giving up for the month. If you're hosting an event, make your own mocktails. Or, if you're a guest, ask the hostess for booze-free alternatives. There are mocktail recipe books to explore for ideas. You can even check out different types of alcohol-free wine, spirits, and more through brands like Free Spirits.

Set Goals and Keep Track of Them

Another way to help keep you on track throughout your sober month is to create goals and keep track of your progress. You can set small goals and celebrate them, such as at the end of each sober week. You can also count the days down on your calendar, or track them on your phone. If you decide to raise money for charity, you can also keep track of that progress, as well. You can also keep track of your savings throughout the month by using the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's alcohol spending calculator.

If you keep a sober journal, consider some of these questions:

  • Does the sober month seem to come easy or is it more of a challenge?
  • Do you notice any changes inside or out? If so, what are they?
  • Have you experienced any cravings or temptations? What are your triggers?
  • How can you manage those triggers with other activities?
  • What do you want to achieve from this sober month?

Replace Your Drinking Habit with a New One

Many people like to de-stress at the end of the day by having a glass of wine. It's a habit that people can develop to help them unwind. During your sober month, you might find it helpful to replace the habit of reaching for a glass of wine at the end of the day with something else you enjoy. For example, you can practice your favorite self-care activity, start on a new home improvement or craft project, or watch an episode of your favorite TV show. By replacing one behavior with another, you might even feel like you are gaining a different enjoyable experience instead of simply giving one up.

Take It Easy on Yourself

It's not easy to break a habit or to be more mindful about drinking habits. Being more mindful is what a sober month is all about. Just because you take a drink doesn't mean that your sober month has to end. There are different levels of commitment. Some sober challenges, such as Hello Sunday Morning, ask participants to restart their sober month at day one if they end up drinking. However, not every challenge suggests that. Find a level of commitment that works for you. Keep going and just do the best you can. It's all about progress, not perfection.

Whether you participate in a sober month on your own, or with a group of friends, you might find that it gives you a refreshing break from alcohol that you didn't even know you needed. If you have questions about participating and possible health concerns, talk to your healthcare provider. A sober month may not only lead to health benefits, but it might also help you learn something new about yourself.

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What is a Dry or Sober Month? Benefits and Participation Tips