Dry January — it’s a thing

How Martha’s Vineyard has embraced the trend.

Desert vector by Vecteezy

Among the lengthy list of “start the year off right” routines, “dry January” has emerged as a popular trend. It’s when individuals commit to stop boozing for the month, and the short-term abstinence is linked to numerous health benefits. It also creates a window of time to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol, and make necessary changes that extend beyond the first 30 days of the year. Maybe you lose a few pounds. Maybe you save a bit of money while you’re at it. 

The trend first gained traction in the U.K. around 2014, eventually evolving into an annual campaign that helps “millions reset their relationship with alcohol,” according to alcoholchange.org.uk. It’s slowly trickled into the U.S., and onto Martha’s Vineyard. In a poll in the Minute, 25 percent of readers said they’re participating in dry January. 

“We overdid it slightly through the holiday season. I just wanted to give myself a break,” said Donna Arnold, a dry January first-timer. 

“I’m only doing this for dieting reasons,” another Minute subscriber told The Times. 

“There is no particular reason, but I have made it my goal to live healthier,” Ana Ilievska said. 

Two MV Times editors are giving the challenge a go. “Although I have a confession,” said editor George Brennan, admitting he had a beer with reporter Rich Saltzberg at Liam’s in Falmouth while he was waiting for the boat. “I’m out,” he said. 

But Brennan’s not the only one who’s jumped on, and then off, the dry January bandwagon. “It was going great until we met up with friends on our trip [to New Jersey] this weekend,” Arnold added. “We’re heading back to the Vineyard now, and I will get right back on dry January today.”

“I will have to break it on Jan. 25 for my best friend’s wedding, but I have already forgiven myself,” Ilievska said.

If you’ve broken the streak, it’s never too late to jump back on. 

So why “go dry”? 

Studies show going alcohol-free, even for a short time, is linked to better sleep, more energy, weight loss, and better skin, according to a University of Sussex study. Other studies show reduced cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and immediate improvements in liver health. Brennan attested to a totally dry September that allowed him to properly jumpstart weight-loss goals. “Not drinking was really key,” he said. 

“I love to challenge myself, which is another reason I like doing these challenges,” Ilievska added. “My friend made a joke that I should have picked February, since it’s the shortest month of the year.” 

But if you haven’t noticed, there aren’t quite as many things to do around here as there once were. Shops and restaurants are closed for the season, and our comprehensive calendar of events is dwindling by the day. The January-February-March doldrums are upon us, and we don’t even have the postseason Patriots to help us through. If there was ever a time to “drink because you’re bored” — it’s now. 

One Vineyarder who asked to remain anonymous offered tips on how to get through the dry spell.

  • Find yourself some new treats, i.e. Throat Coat lemon tea with mint.
  • Watch the sugar. Try eating more fruit during the day to fill the void.
  • Avoid your “alky” friends.
  • Find other things to do that don’t involve drinking.


And on that note, I came up with a few “dry” suggestions of my own:


  • Go to the Ritz. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but the Ritz has Kulture Kombucha on tap, and it’s been a hit. You can currently find the Cape Codder on draft — which is made with cranberry, hibiscus, and a little bit of lemon. And if kombucha isn’t your thing, just ask one of the bartenders for a mocktail. “We have all the juices, great ginger beer, and a talented staff that can make something tasty for someone who doesn’t want to drink,” said manager Kelly Feirtag. There’s also Beck’s and O’Douls nonalcoholic beer available. 
  • See a movie. The Oscar nominations were just announced, and “Little Women,” “Ford v. Ferrari,” and “1917” are still screening at local theaters, and all vying for Best Picture. See movie times at bit.ly/moviesJan.
  • Check out open mic night. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s a welcoming community of creative artists sharing their craft through music. The night, hosted by Island Music in Vineyard Haven, is open to all ages. Next one is on Jan. 28, from 5 to 7 pm. 
  • “Bugs Bunny’s Revenge” at the Cardboard Box. Courtesy Erica DeForest

    Exercise. This is right in line with the “get healthy” spirit of dry January, so you might as well. Sol Boutique is a brand-new fitness studio in West Tisbury, and Yoga on the Vine in Edgartown is offering a 20- or 30-day yoga challenge. The Yoga Barn has a special community gathering in celebration of Ram Dass this Sunday, Jan. 19. And the YMCA, Mansion House, and Airport Fitness schedules are always packed.

  •  Try this mocktail recipe, courtesy Erica DeForest of the Cardboard Box: “Bugs Bunny’s Revenge” is made with carrot, ginger, soda water, celery salt, and mint. (And stop by the Cardboard Box on Circuit Ave. to try it.)

So whether you’re tried and true with this trend, or just hearing about it for the first time now, dry January is a thing, and it is beneficial. And if you’ve already tapped out, that’s OK. There’s always time to tap back in. Cheers!