I Went Sober for A Month, Here’s How That Went

My first attempt at a Dry January.

Mark Chinapen
10 min readJan 31, 2024
Image Source: Unsplash.

On New Year’s Day 2024, I woke up feeling groggy and nauseous. it’s a feeling I’ve had to deal with almost every New Year for quite some time. I’ve always rang in the New Year nursing a hangover while hovering over my toilet bowl puking my guts out for a good chunk of the day. After maybe the 4th or 5th year in a row where I had to put up with the consequences of my actions from the night before, I finally decided to give the booze a break going into the new year and participate in my first-ever Dry January.

My relationship with alcohol and sobriety

Although I had my first taste of alcohol when I was in high school, I didn’t start making drinking a regular thing until I was around 19–20 years old. The occasional beer or cider was my go-to, and if the situation called for it then maybe some shots of harder stuff. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic nearly 4 years ago that my drinking began to escalate.

Considering I was stuck at home for a few months while I was out of work, I had nothing to do. So to alleviate the boredom most of my days were spent playing video games, occasionally writing on Medium (as I started writing on here during the pandemic), smoking weed, and drinking all the liquor in the house. Soon after I began to drink during the week, being hungover in the mornings was starting to become an almost daily occurrence.

For the next couple of years, my habits remained the same, I’d have a few stints here and there where I wouldn’t have a drink but it never came to a full stop, even while I was pursuing my post-grad in 2021. In October 2022 I decided to partake in Sober October that year, and I went the whole month alcohol-free. It was great! But as soon as November 1st hit, I was right back on the wagon, and things started getting worse.

The amount I’d drink during the week increased, most nights I’d go to bed drunk, and frequent “hangxiety” started becoming a thing. I’d constantly tell myself I needed to stop, but I never did. My parents were getting concerned but because they never confronted me or stopped me, I felt like I could just keep going and not care what others thought. As I drank more and more, however, I was unraveling into a downward spiral.

So Why Go Sober Now?

So if I didn’t feel the need to stop before January 1st, why would I choose so now? After months of making fake promises to myself and convincing myself that I didn’t have a problem, why the fuck did I decide to quit drinking right now?

While I do have the generic and sappy “I wanted to start the new year clean and sober” answer, the harsh truth is that I was afraid of becoming an alcoholic, and based on my drinking habits in the past year I pretty much was on the path to becoming one (or was already an alcoholic depending on your point of view). Either way, I think I must have had a vision of the future on New Year’s Eve ’23. I saw something scary while looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror that night. I saw a version of myself that was a hollowed shell of my own.

It was a frightening, but much-needed realization for me. Even now as I write, I’m still haunted by that vision I saw of myself that night. It was enough to motivate me to put down the bottle, and seriously reconsider my relationship with alcohol.

The Goals

Of course, I wasn’t going to do this without having some sort of goal in mind. For me, that was to not turn to alcohol at times when I would want to drink the most. I want to cut alcohol out from my diet completely but to do so, I needed to pinpoint when I was most likely to have a drink, which was as follows:

  • 1.) Every weeknight/weekend with dinner or before bed.
  • 2.) At times when I am bored at home and do not need to leave the house.
  • 3.) During moments of stress or anxiety when I need something to take the edge off.

It’s during these specific moments throughout my weeks that I need to monitor, as I anticipate that the cravings will surely kick in. It was going to be very, very uncomfortable but it needed to be done. A secondary goal of mine with Dry January was to improve my physique. As I plan to start a new workout regimen for the new year, a big factor I had to account for (Aside from exercise) was my diet.

I’ll admit I don’t exactly eat “clean”, but I do my best to maintain a healthy diet with whole foods and supplements. However, a big hindrance that I know has affected my progress in the past is alcohol. So, by eliminating it I hope that it will positively affect my overall physique. I don’t expect huge changes like a sudden drop in weight, but subtle changes like less puffiness in my face for example.

With all that in mind, I was ready to take on the month now with a much clearer headspace and defined goals that I aimed to achieve.

Weeks 1–2

As expected, the first two weeks were brutal. I had become so accustomed to mixing myself a drink every day once I got home from work/the gym that when I stopped, the cravings were kicking in badly. Every evening I’d suddenly get this nagging feeling, whenever I’d walk by my bar or the fridge the temptation to open a bottle of wine or crack open a beer would come. Fighting off these feelings for the first 2 weeks was not easy.

During these bouts, I’d crave to eat something sweet. I’m not much of a candy or chocolate person, but I found myself devouring so many sweets during the first 2 weeks. It did help tide me over when my body craved alcohol, as I’m sure my body was fighting for the sugars that alcohol was giving it. I also found myself drinking a lot of pop too. Again, not much of a pop person but on a given day I was going through 3 cans of Coke like I was 13 again. I ended up switching the sparkling water instead, it still had the fizzy carbonated feeling but wasn’t as sugary as a can of Coke. Within the first 2 weeks my basement was pretty much stocked with cans of Bubly.

During the first 2 weeks, I also found my sleeping patterns improved immensely. Within the first few days, I was getting a solid amount of hours (roughly 7–8) and I slept comfortably. My head wasn’t throbbing, I wasn’t tossing and turning as much compared to a few weeks prior. Waking up didn’t feel like a mission anymore. I wasn’t nauseous or experiencing migraines. I felt much more energized in the mornings, so much so that I was waking up earlier than normal. This renewed energy also helped with my workout routine. I found that I had a lot more energy to get through each day, which was important when considering how taxing some exercises would be (training chest and back on the same day will humble you.).

Despite that, 2 hurdles came in the way. On both weekends I attended some get-togethers with my girlfriend where of course, alcohol was prevalent. Thankfully, I made it clear to my friends that I was abstaining from drinking for the month. Naturally, I was met with the typical “Just one it’s not gonna hurt” type of reaction. However, most people respected my decision, which I greatly appreciated. I remained firm and didn’t cave in. I knew that if I only had one shot or one drink of anything, it would lead to more. What this also showed me is that I didn’t need alcohol to be social or anything, as I was still very much my regular self. I didn’t feel awkward or like was being a Debbie Downer to everybody else.

Weeks 3–4

By the time week 3 rolled around, I was starting to get much more comfortable. Without giving a little TMI, I found that my stomach wasn’t as upset as much. Rarely did I feel bloated or need to run to the bathroom every so often, that whole “situation” started feeling more normal and almost to how it was before I started drinking. I also found I was having fewer heartburn problems throughout the day, before Dry January I was experiencing bad acid reflux problems from the constant alcohol. Now that’s almost subsided save for a few times if I eat something that may trigger it.

Around the 4 week mark, I started to notice some slight physical changes in my body. My face seemed a tad slimmer than it did the first week of January, and my stomach had gone down a bit as well. I also started to see some (not major) but some gains in muscle. I attribute that not only to this newer workout regimen but due to the fact I wasn’t consuming as many empty calories and sugars caused by drinking.

The cravings were not as bad as they were the first 2 weeks, but they were still happening. By now I felt a little more comfortable introducing non-alcoholic beers and wines into the mix. Products like Corona Sunbrew for example were a solid substitute. Despite being non-alcoholic, I was aware that they could potentially trigger my drinking again, but surprisingly they never did. I only allowed myself to enjoy these alternatives once/twice a week.

During the last 2 weeks, I also found that my productivity improved quite a bit. At my full-time job, for example, I was a lot more attentive while working on various video projects, and I was getting more tasks done throughout the day than I anticipated. I was also much quicker to jump on several personal assignments of mine and finish them promptly instead of procrastinating. Using my downtime in the evenings to work on a prospective internship application, as well as completing various reviews for the publication Modern Music Analysis.

I was also less inclined to grab a drink during times of stress or when I was bored at home. For the stress, I found that embracing the feeling and the tension in a sober mindset was much better than suppressing it with alcohol. Forcing myself to let the anxiety or depression wash over me gave me a clearer mindset to overcome these feelings, but also to deal with them head-on as opposed to running away. I was able to gain a little more clarity on certain problems I had about myself (self-doubt, lack of purpose) figure out healthier ways to cope with them, and change my way of thinking. Mind you, quitting drinking was not the “be-all-end-all”, but it was a small step in the right direction to positively work on my mental health.

At the end of the last 2 weeks, I felt I was in a much better position both physically and mentally compared to the first 2 weeks.

By The Month’s End

Now it’s January 31st at the time of writing, marking the end of Dry January. Over the month I was able to re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol, by cutting it out completely I managed to achieve the goals I set for myself at the beginning of January. Abstaining from it during times I wanted to drink the most helped me get through those situations in a much healthier way. I also saw an improvement in my physical health, fitness-wise I feel that I’m finally on track and seeing progress for the first time in a long time.

There are more changes I’ve noticed since going sober that I could talk more about, but for brevity, I’ll say that they’ve been mostly positive. Granted, my life hasn’t changed miraculously over the month, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see any changes in my lifestyle and the world around me since I put the bottle down.

Now for the most important question: What’s next? Now that the month is over, am I going to reintroduce alcohol back into the equation? The past month made me realize that I enjoy the “new” person that I am, I like the sober me. So my answer would be a resounding no. I don’t think I can see myself having another drink again for a very long time. I feel the longer I can abstain from alcohol, the more beneficial it’ll be to myself and the people around me.

Navigating the rest of 2024 alcohol-free is going to be interesting. I imagine there’s going to be even more physical, mental, and physiological changes to look forward to. As well as many changes in my social life. I expect it’ll be a challenge to approach them, but going Dry for January has prepped me with the building blocks to tackle those situations effectively when they do arise.

If you got this far, thank you! As a writer on Medium for the last 3 years, I never got this personal before and it was a challenge. Not only was it difficult to write something outside of a music review but to be open about my sobriety and figure out how to communicate that was just as hard. I never thought in my 26 years of life I’d be writing a whole piece on quitting alcohol but here we are. If sobriety means I can be one step closer to living my life with more purpose and fewer setbacks, then I’m taking that chance.

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Mark Chinapen

I like to pretend I’m a critic. Writer and editor for Modern Music Analysis