One of the biggest arguments put forth by individuals who are using, abusing or even dependent upon or addicted to alcohol is that they have complete control over their alcohol consumption and can stop any time they want. Perhaps due in part to the fact that alcohol consumption is both legal and socially acceptable, and perhaps also due to the fact that some medical doctors have voiced the opinion that some alcohol consumption can be beneficial to an individual’s health, few individuals recognize it as the potentially dangerous and addictive drug substance it actually is.
Ideally, an individual will either entirely abstain from alcohol consumption or strictly limit their alcohol consumption so that it does not adversely affect their health and life. Of course, an individual who has a problem with alcohol abuse, dependence or addiction does need to receive the proper treatment and support in order to resolve it. But can one month of abstinence actually lead to a beneficial change in one’s long-term drinking habits?
Alcohol Concern has recently challenged drinkers to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for the entire month of January. Following a holiday season that seems filled with opportunities for drinking, this may seem like quite a good idea, and a great way to start off the new year. However, one has to wonder whether a single alcohol-free month can actually contribute to long-term change.
As a campaign, Dry January has the goal to raise awareness of alcohol-related problems and educate the general public in the health benefits possible through abstinence, among other things. Alcohol Concern indicates that abstinence will not only save the individual money, it can also help them to lose weight and improve their sleep patterns. More than two million individuals accepted the challenge last year, but the question remains–can one month of abstinence actually work?
It’s true that abstaining from alcohol consumption for a month can help an individual lose weight, as long as they don’t eat more during that same period of time. The liver, which is not actually designed to metabolize alcohol, can return to good health with two weeks of abstinence, as long as alcohol consumption had not already caused irreparable damage. There have also been research studies to indicate that abstinence does lead to improved sleep. Unfortunately, being abstinent for a single month does not appear to have any lasting effect on the individual’s drinking habits or health, simply because a single month alcohol-free does not help an individual overcome his reasons for consuming alcohol in the first place, nor does it better prepare the human body for alcohol consumption in the future.
An individual who is dependent upon alcohol, which means their body demands this substance in order to continue functioning “normally”, can actually experience seriously undesirable effects as a result of trying to abstain from alcohol consumption. The withdrawal symptoms they experience, like anxiety, sleep disruption, restlessness, seizures and hallucinations, can be so uncomfortable and sometimes so dangerous that the individual either rapidly rebounds into alcohol consumption or even increases their alcohol consumption in order to deal with it. This can also force the individual into believing that they are unable or unwilling to pursue true sobriety.
That said, an individual could use Dry January as a jumping off point from which to begin an entirely alcohol-free future. In this case, one month of abstinence can lead to lasting benefits, because the individual is beginning a new pattern and routine that they plan to carry on into the future.