My “Dry” January 2023

Typically, Dry January refers to a month of abstention from alcohol (and maybe whatever else was overabundant in the pre-new year holiday season). After an emotionally exhausting and panic-attack-filled 2022, I decided to do my own grief version of a “Dry January” in 2023. 2022 was awful, and I wanted to begin a practice of abstaining from all the crap that made last year terrible.

My “Dry” January…2022

I didn’t just want to abstain from things to abstain; I needed a reset. (I still do.) 2022 was exhausting. The holiday season is constantly emotionally draining in a way that I can’t describe to non-grievers. My birthday and my kiddo’s birthday are in early fall, which adds more emotional weight to the last quarter of the year. I ignore my birthday to focus on over-planning my kiddo’s, the grandchild my mother never knew. It’s four months of longing and emptiness, remembering the giant hole in my life, and overbuying gifts because I don’t know what else to do.

My abstention at the start of 2023 needed to give me rest, but not just rest. I needed to lie fallow. Every January, I immediately feel a release of tension as soon as the year changes, but this year I needed more. 2022 brought an abundance of triggers after family health issues saw a family member stuck in the same position of alienation I had experienced in the wake of my mother’s loss: looking for help from people who just don’t want to give it. I spent much of the year being triggered.

I addressed issues and found resolutions, though not the ones I had hoped for. I sought comfort and family solidarity. What I got was: if you don’t like the dysfunction, then get out. So I am.

The past seven years (eight next month) now seem like they have been a very long shedding process. Now, I need to hum along and recharge as I prepare for the next chapter of this post-loss life. My Dry January set the stage for my fallowing year. I’m still figuring out what lying fallow will look like, but I know it’s started.

Here is what I went dry from in January 2023:

I abstained from giving more f*cks than I have to give. I thought I had given away my last f*ck a few years ago. Turns out, a bunch was hiding in me. I have zero at the moment, and I felt pressured last year to have many when I didn’t want to. I only have so many things that I can make my priority at one time, and I’m done with trying to dredge up f*cks to give about other people’s priorities when they could give a f*ck about me. I also abstained from focusing on the people who made life difficult. (For more on how to have fewer f*cks to give, see my review of Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck.)

Photo by Yan Krukau on

I had a lot of anxiety (partly from the pressure to be someone I couldn’t be) and panic attacks in 2022. Abstaining from giving a f*ck helped.

To help with anxiety, I also decided to drop coffee from my day (the horror!)…I couldn’t fully abstain from that; I love coffee far too much. So I abstained from coffee during the week, saving it for the weekends, and went back to black tea. I bribed my daughter to cooperate with our food shopping outings by promising her we could stop at the local Dunkin’ for munchkins on the way home. I got coffee there, too, as a mid-week treat.

Photo by Samson Katt on

I went from coffee once (sometimes twice) a day over seven days to coffee once a day, three days a week. While I can’t totally attribute it to coffee, my anxiety is down. I still crave coffee every day because I love the taste so very much. We’ll see what I do now in February. I receive coffee through a subscription service, and I switched my preference to light/medium to exclude dark roasts. I love them, but they may be too much for me at this point. I also changed my delivery date, so I have enough for weekends and no more.

I abstained from working after 11pm. The only time I can accomplish much is after my kiddo goes to sleep…and she falls asleep late for a toddler: 9pm. After weeks of sticking with my old 2022 routine, I decided to populate my day with more evening tasks, done in 5-10 minute increments. Thanks to some well-thought-out holiday gifts, my kiddo is more occupied and could care less about me for small chunks of the day. I can meal plan, put together our grocery order, or return an email, or declutter an area of a room. Those small little things add up to bigger accomplishments in the day. I wasn’t always successful, but I have been slowly able to take my evenings back thanks to a drive to have more time for myself.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I tried to abstain from ridiculously late nights where I do nothing but fatigue-scroll through Instagram. I put a Do Not Disturb on my phone which keeps me from being able to listen to audio in my apps. It hasn’t totally stopped me (I have had the captions activated for a long time), but I have spent fewer nights up until two a.m. looking at ridiculous things.

Photo by Ron Lach on

I gave myself a bedtime and set alarms (a twenty-minute warning and a final goodnight alarm). I have had trouble sticking to it because I want to read (or watch movie previews on Youtube–which I had done a great job of avoiding this year). It’s been much better than last year when I got only three to four hours of sleep per night. I’ve managed five or six more regularly, and while that doesn’t sound like an improvement, my mental processes feel sharper because of it.

I have been reading almost every night since January 1. There have been a handful of nights when I don’t, but overall I have been pressing through a book one chapter at a time (or a few pages at a time), and it has been a much more fulfilling rest time before bed. I’m averaging one book a month, so I’m not speed-reading by any means, but I am savoring the written word regularly again. My 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge aimed for 24 books; I got through 21 with half an audiobook to spare. This year, I’m shooting for 24 again, so we’ll see. I’m one down, into another novel, and still waiting to finish that audiobook…. But, I’d rather really enjoy what I’m reading than worry about how many books I get to read.

The secret to my rest period has been not giving any f*cks about stupid stuff and people anymore. It’s amazing how much time other people’s crap takes up in your life, especially when it consists almost entirely of drama. At the end of January, I found myself able to actually get back to activities that I have been needing. I’m still consciously working on being in a restful state, reminding myself that I am seeking to fallow my “fields” by no longer producing for other people.

Photo by Pixabay on

I’m producing only for myself and my immediate loved one.


Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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