Watch: Why 2022 is the year you might want to finally try dry January
Of all the months, January seems the most brutal choice for quitting the booze. The festive fun is a fading memory, it's dark, cold, and there's nothing to do in the evening other than watch TV and crack open another bottle.
Then again, that's why it's perfect – because you're not going anywhere, there's no pressure to knock it back at parties (because there aren't any) and we're all skint, so a four-week booze ban can save you a fortune.
I stopped drinking in January, four years ago – not because I was at rock bottom, or had liver disease, or was training for a marathon, or any of the big, dramatic reasons.
Simply because as a middle-aged, peri-menopausal woman, I could no longer stand the woolly-headed wine hangovers, that meant I was firing on half a cylinder for two days after a few glasses of Pinot.
I thought I'd quit for a few weeks and see how it went, without intending to keep it up forever. But with a few brief exceptions – a Baileys at Christmas, the occasional glass of champagne on my birthdays – I haven't wanted a drink since.
I wrote a book, How to Be Sober and Keep Your Friends, developed some banging non-alcoholic cocktails, and advised when my best friend and several others all decided to quit too.
We haven't taken up wild swimming, extreme running, ongoing smugness, or any other classic side-effect. I haven't lost weight, and I wouldn't say my skin glows particularly healthily.
But I don't feel rubbish any more. I don't wake up at 3am with a toxic headache, or fail to do things I promised because I can't face getting up early.
I don't have to mentally scan the previous night's party for stupid or tactless remarks I may have made, or wonder how I went out for a couple of drinks and somehow spent £147.53. I don't have stupid rows with my partner because being drunk made me over-sensitive, and I don't feel exhausted from opening one more bottle, to prolong an evening that should have naturally ended.
I don't regret it, in short - and I don't miss it.
Even if you're just doing a month, then, here's how to do it successfully. I promise you won't regret it either.
1. Inspire yourself
Doing it because your partner is quitting and has nagged you into it, or because you feel a bit rough and it's New Year's Day, probably won't work. The majority of Dry January-ers go back to booze within a fortnight. So to keep you going, you need positive inspiration.
I loved the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, who gave up and then explored exactly why we all drink so much - but there's 'quit-lit' by the litre out there, so find a book that resonates, whether it's memoir, self-help or how-to, and dive in.
You also need to focus on what you want from giving up. A clearer head? Less regret? Better health? Pick one reason, and write down all the benefits you hope to experience from quitting.
Most importantly, don't be fooled into thinking drinking is vital for relaxation. It only ever relaxed you because you trained yourself to be tense without it. Now, you can learn to relax sober.
2. Get rid of booze
Having the one thing you're not allowed to have in the house is a constant, miserable temptation. Every time you feel a bit low, sad, tense, exhausted – all the usual booze triggers – you'll go straight to it like a dog to a bone.
If possible, get rid of it all. Pour it away, donate it, but you need a booze-free house.
If that's not possible (because your partner or housemates still drink) ask them to keep it hidden, or at the very least, not to offer you a glass. And replace all your wine/beer/vodka with alternative booze-free drinks so there's something in the fridge when you go to look.
3. Change your routines
If you always do the same thing, all the little alcohol-triggers will be the same. If you always pour a glass when you come in from work, or open a bottle with a Friday night takeaway, you have to change what you usually do or you'll feel the loss acutely.
I started to have a hot bath or shower after work to relax me, or go for a walk in the early evening before dinner when it got lighter. Walks, runs, baths, books, phone calls, crosswords, podcasts – anything that's difference from your normal drink-punctuated routine – is going to be a huge help in breaking the habit.
4. Try fake booze
Some people like to replace alcohol with water, or soft drinks. I quickly found myself sick of fizzy pop and boring water, and I experimented with fake alcohol. Since I quit, hundreds of brands have been launched, and most big supermarkets have a dedicated section, selling 0% beer, wine and spirits.
You'll need to try a few before you find the ones that suit your palate, but they can be a godsend when you want something in a grown-up glass that doesn't taste like a kids' party spillage.
5 Resist peer pressure
The biggest threat to your sobriety is other people. Whether it's 'oh come on, it's my birthday', or a grumpy, 'well, I can't drink the whole bottle on my own', or 'come on mate, have a proper drink' the peer pressure is real.
Nobody likes a sober person, because they think they're being silently judged for their own drunkenness and they want a partner in crime.
The best way to avoid this is to avoid drinkers themselves for the month. Tough, and impossible if you live with one. But you have to be clear.
Say "I know it seems daft, but it means a lot to me to prove to myself I can do this. I'd love it if you'd just leave me to my boring lemonade for a few weeks."
If they're still pressuring you after that - well, they're not really friends, are they? They're drinking buddies. and you're not drinking - at least for the whole of January.
Watch: The health benefits of Dry January