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People have already given up on Dry January because of the pandemic and attempted coup at the US Capitol

Anna Medaris Miller
·5-min read
alcohol convenience store shopping beer
Sue Ogrocki/AP Images
  • Some people who usually do "Dry January," or taking the month off drinking, have decided against it this year, opting for a more "damp" month instead.

  • Others who began the year sober gave it up due to current events.

  • The pandemic has increased many adults' drinking, though some have used the break from social pressures to cut back.

  • Any break from alcohol, no matter when in the year or how long, is good for you.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Related: A cardiologist revealed the truth behind red wine's health benefits

For the past five Januarys, Lizz Schumer and her partner have given up booze. The Buffalo, New York-based pair take the time to give their bodies a break from the food- and drink-laden fetes of December, and to try out different beverages like new brands of kombucha and nonalcoholic craft beers.

Their yearly ritual has increasingly been taken up by others, growing from a writer's coining of the term "Drynuary" in 2006 to the UK launching a national "Dry January" movement in 2013.

But it's 2021, and a global pandemic is raging. A mob just stormed the US Capitol, and everyone's stuck at home.

Wine, beer, and spirits are pleasures that remain. So, this year, Schumer, a journalist, is making an exception to Dry January, and taking on a "damp" month instead.

"Instead of dry January, I'm cutting down to drinking just on the weekends or special occasions - like my book release and inauguration day - and trying to be more mindful of my consumption, in general," she told Insider.

Read more: Chrissy Teigen and other sober celebrities who rang in 2021 without booze

Others are toasting Dry January goodbye too. According to a survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by the American Addiction Centers, 28% of respondents said they're less likely to give up alcohol in the new year since they're spending less time out drinking with friends.

About half of respondents said they're forgoing New Year's resolutions of any kind, presumably because trying to survive these days is commitment enough.

"This year, more than any year, we deserve to be treating ourselves kindly," Dru Jaeger, co-founder of Club Soda, a UK-based organization that helps people drink more mindfully. For some, that means staying sober. For others, it means letting themselves indulge.

Wednesday's attack on the US Capitol and the UK's lockdown have led some people to abandon their dry January plans

Teddy, a congressional aide who asked to use his middle name to protect his job, was on the fence about doing Dry January, but started off the year alcohol-free. Then, a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol, where his boss was on the floor and his colleagues were on the campus.

When his sister offered him the leftover wine in the fridge with dinner that night, he didn't decline. "It turns out that sedition and sobriety mix about as well as milk and whiskey," Teddy told Insider.

Corners of the internet also declared Dry January cancelled Wednesday.

In the UK, people were quick to ditch their sober start to the year when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced another national lockdown.

Jaeger, author of "How to Be a Mindful Drinker," said taking a break from taking a break doesn't mean the first few dry days of the month were for naught.

"For people whose January is a bit damp, look at the big picture," he said. "If your lockdown drinking has been getting out of control, these short breaks, however many you have, however frequently you have them, all of them are good for you, and they all contribute towards your health and well-being and your happiness."

The pandemic has 'polarized' drinking

Some reports show people are drinking more during the pandemic, with one September study finding that binge drinking, especially among women, has increased significantly in the US in large part due to stress, anxiety, and isolation.

Overall, American adults are drinking about 14% more frequently than 2019, the study found.

The situation is similar in the UK, where a survey found that almost half of Britons were drinking more than they had pre-pandemic.

People who've leaned on libations tend to be emotional drinkers, or those who pop open a bottle to either enhance positive feelings or dull negative ones, Jaeger said. Plus, stay-at-home orders have removed social norms and practical boundaries like commutes, allowing cocktail hour to creep earlier in the day in some households, or mark a boundary between work and play in others.

"You can hide a hangover on Zoom the way that you really can't if you are stinking of booze in the office the next day," Jaeger said. "So it's hardly surprising that people that found themselves drinking more than they want to."

to go cocktail
A bartender holding take-away cocktail pouches during the pandemic. Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto/Getty Images

But not everyone. Many social drinkers who used to over-indulge mostly when out with friends have cut back. For them, bar and restaurants closures have, in some ways, been a relief, Jaeger said.

"I've talked to lots of social drinkers who have used this as an opportunity to reassess their drinking habits and work out how it is that they want to socialize and engage with other people," he said. "And people are finding healthy ways of doing that online and in ways that aren't centered around alcohol."

Read more: Millennials are cutting down on alcohol without going completely teetotal - and as one of them, I understand why

The same divide can be seen in folks' approach to the new year: While some see the pressures of the times as a reason to let themselves off the dry hook, others see them as all the more reason to stay sober.

"If you are not drinking, you can deal with everything being thrown at you during this pandemic with a clear head, Emily Lynn Paulson, a recovery coach and founder of the Sober Mom Squad, told Insider. "Drinking doesn't make anything better. It numbs temporarily, but over time makes anxiety and health worse."

Read the original article on Insider