Louise, a public health nurse in recovery, shares her experience with Dry January - how it helped her stop drinking, and how much she values and supports its ongoing success.

I remember driving past a poster advert for the very first campaign

I stopped drinking on 21 September 2013 and Dry January was an integral part of my journey leading up to that important, life changing day. I'm a general nurse who was working as a District Nurse back in December 2011 and clearly remember driving past a poster advert for the very first campaign. I noticed it, but wasn't ready to acknowledge that I had a problematic relationship with alcohol and was still heavily self-medicating with booze following the death of my grandmother and father in the preceding year.

The opportunity to see what my life was like without booze

By December 2012 I had started my training as a specialist community public health nurse and this was the first year that I completed Dry January. In fact I remember completing it and carrying on an extra couple of weeks as I felt so good! This was the beginning of moderating and trying to manage my drinking. The break has allowed me the opportunity to see what my life was like without booze and also to see how quickly I reverted to my old drinking behaviours and patterns.

I began to see and feel the increasing benefits of not drinking

By December 2013 I had qualified and was working as a public health nurse with children and families including those affected by alcohol. It was also during this time that I experienced one of my last drunks which helped to crystallise my understanding that I wasn't able to moderate and stopping completely would be a better option for me. This time Dry January was extended to three months as I began to see and feel the increasing benefits of not drinking. I was also running the Smokefree programme for young people in a secondary school and became aware of how little information and support there was for those who were wishing to cut down or stop drinking so began my blog A Hangover Free Life and had a social commentary piece published in The Guardian about alcohol and public health.

Dry January... gives people a social space to try to change their drinking

So much has changed in the four years since I started my blog and in that time Dry January has gone from strength to strength. I was delighted when the Chief Medical Officer reviewed and revised the drinking guidelines in January 2016 as I had advocated in my published social commentary piece. It is critical that there is public policy guidance and support around alcohol use and ways of supporting those who wish to change their drinking just like there is around tobacco use. Dry January and Alcohol Concern provide a great service in supporting those aims and give people a social space to try to change their drinking which offers encouragement and builds on social capital through charity support.

The Dry January app also builds self-motivation and offers supportive guidance in those first difficult few days and weeks of behaviour change, and their social media campaign offers a community to share and celebrate successes, supporting non-drinking or reduced drinking as a lifestyle option.

What positive changes could you make to your life?

In the time since I had my last alcoholic drink I have lost over 12lbs in weight, saved well over £10,000, and now sleep like a baby. I wouldn't go back to drinking as I now know that there is nothing in life that an alcoholic drink would improve.

My family and I are about to move to Australia as I have a new job as a clinical nurse in alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs services and I know that none of this would have happened if I hadn't stopped drinking. What positive changes could you make to your life if you stopped drinking for a month or more?


Read more from Louise on her blog, A Hangover-Free Life.