University student, Elizabeth, tells us about her Dry January experience

After a successful Dry January, unlike most people I spoke to also doing Dry January who couldn’t wait to indulge in some seriously alcoholic drinking on the first of February, I had absolutely no desire to ‘celebrate’ reaching February with a pint or a glass of wine. Doing Dry January has not only really changed my attitude to my own drinking habits, but has also opened my eyes to how alcohol is deeply ingrained part of our culture.

I decided to do Dry January for a number of reasons: my parents were doing it, I felt bloated after overindulging over the Christmas holidays, I wanted to save a bit of money and I was just not in a healthy state mentally or physically. As a university student, the odds were against me in terms of having an easy time avoiding alcohol. Whilst I was at home I had the support of my parents, but back at university I was pretty much on my own.

I’ve struggled with alcohol in the past few years at university too- in my first year I fell over outside a London club on New Year’s Eve, hit my head, and saw the New Year in with the staff at A&E, where I was kept until 4am. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been out partying and woken up with a freshly smashed phone screen the next day. The embarrassing list of disastrous episodes went on, and whilst I was fully aware that the booze alone was bad for my health, I didn't ever really appreciate that I was putting myself in very dangerous situations where I was unable to make sensible decisions.

Now, if you take all these episodes and describe them to a university student, they wouldn't really think that you had a problem. This is all just what constitutes a wild night out which then makes for a good story the next day- it’s all good banter. But in hindsight, I absolutely believe that I had a problem: I drank nearly every day, and the worst part was that I couldn't do it in moderation, I always had that bit too much. When you’re part of a culture that sees it as acceptable for you to go out and have a few drinks every single night of the week, then it becomes incredibly difficult to jolt yourself out of the drunken haze and realise that you're seriously damaging your health.

When I told my friends that I was doing dry January, the first response that I had was ‘don’t be so boring,’ which considering that it came from one of my best friends, who I thought would be supportive of me, I found quite upsetting. The more people told me that I was boring, the more I was determined that I could have a fun time at university and not have to drink. The notion that alcohol was necessary for me to have fun, or for me to be fun, was really irritating, however there were some people who would turn around and say ‘fair play, good for you.’

And despite all these obstacles, I didn't really find it too hard to stay sober once I saw the benefits. I didn't have to deal with a hangover, I could make it to my 7am yoga class, I had more time to do my previously neglected university work, and my skin was glowing. I looked healthier and happier, and I was achieving more, whilst still going out with my friends in the evenings (just sober!). I lost that extra bit of weight, and I had money to spend on doing things I enjoyed more than going for a drink. Interestingly, Dry January made me realise who my real friends are at university- I was struck by the fact that the only thing in common I had with some people was drinking together.

So after feeling refreshed and more alert than I’ve been since I started drinking at 18, why on earth would I drink again? My go-to drink is now a lime and soda, which makes for a far cheaper and more hydrated night out! I’ve realised that cutting out alcohol is such a small thing to do for the massive health benefits you reap. And really, it’s not such a big deal being sober, its other people who make it a big deal. I’m really grateful to Dry January for educating me further about alcohol and all the support they provide, and I’m looking forward to staying sober for the foreseeable future!