Maybe Sobriety Shouldn’t Be Your New Years Resolution – The Cut

Maybe Sobriety Shouldn’t Be Your New Years Resolution – The Cut

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

I don’t like to give prescriptive advice, but as we are winding up my year here at the Cut, I’ve decided to go out with a directive or at least a plea: Dear friends, do not start your sobriety on January 1.

It has, obviously, always been a popular date for wagon hopping. With the growing popularity (and marketing) of Dry January, even more so. And, sure, if you are someone who is merely toying around with quitting drinking, who thinks Dry January just sounds like a fun challenge or interesting experiment for you, go for it. But if you are someone who suspects they have a problem and the prospect of going dry for a whole month fills you with anxiety, then maybe reconsider your start date.

I understand wanting to quit on New Year’s Day. As a culture, we’ve weighted January 1 down with almost unbearable pressure to change, to be “better.” The resulting anxiety almost single-handedly fuels the market for fitness equipment, gym memberships, and productivity apps. Miserable hangovers from celebratory binge-drinking the night before can further prod thoughts of personal betterment. My own dismal post–New Year’s Eve mornings often spurred thoughts of putting the bottle down.

That’s my point: I attempted to make January 1 my sobriety date a half-dozen times. Lots of alcoholics do. At 11 years sober, I’ve attended a few thousand AA meetings, and I’ve heard countless people recall a January 1 recovery resolution in meetings — and I’ve been at several New Year’s Day meetings during which multiple people collected a “desire chip” to symbolize their first 24 hours.

And yet. Want to know the number of people I know who have actually kept New Year’s Day as their sobriety date? Exactly one. One!

As my friend tells it, getting sober on 1/1 wound up being an accident. Even the night before, she hadn’t planned on stopping the next day. New Year’s Day just happened to be the morning she realized she couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t the first time she’d realized that. It was, she says, just the first time it stuck. She went to an AA meeting — not her first — and she’s been sober ever since January 1, 2010.

Now, in all fairness, I haven’t yet met every sober person on the planet. I also imagine there are January 1 starters …….


Stop drinking