The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Dry January isn’t impossible, you’re just a college student

Maya Oclassen

Every year, we tell ourselves that the new year will be different from the year before. The new year brings the idea of a fresh start, a definitive date as to when we will start making the changes we said we would make months ago but kept postponing until the calendar flipped to Jan. 1.

This is especially the case for those who participate, or attempt to, in Dry January, a month-long streak of sobriety. 

After the holidays — which for some can mean a lot of drinking — people are desperate to wake up on a Saturday morning without a hangover. 

For some, the beginning of the year can be uneventful. After all of the excitement of the new year passes, there’s not much to look forward to except spring break.

It also does not help that Chicago has been experiencing what could be the coldest temperatures in five years, keeping schools closed and people inside. 

The plunging temperatures and early sunsets may lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “seasonal depression.” According to Mayo Clinic, 44% of college students experience depression, which can slip into SAD during the winter months. 

The demands of being a college student can also increase stress levels and compromise your ability to cope. This is when students may turn to drinking as a way to relieve the symptoms of SAD or just plain boredom. 

With that, Dry January can be especially difficult for college students because they may not see a reason to temporarily quit drinking. 

“I think all that you can do is communicate the associated risks [of drinking] and the reward of not,” said Eiron Cudaback, DePaul professor of health sciences and neuroscience. “… put it into the context of things that they can appreciate. For instance … relationship between drinking and personal relationships and STDs, eating behaviors, metabolism, exercise, etc. Things that grab their attention.”

Dry January aside, sobriety in general can be challenging for college students to commit to. 

In the media especially, college is portrayed as one never-ending party and glamorizes drinking and partying every weekend. This leads students to believe that it is a necessity to go out, even if it is not what they genuinely want to do. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, peer pressure consistently contributes to excessive drinking among college students. 

However, peer pressure does not always come in the form of incessant offers to drink like many people think when they hear the term; simply seeing other people drink can be enough to persuade someone to do the same. 

“Being sober in college is difficult because we feel like that’s when we’re supposed to drink,” said Gillian Tietz, founder and host of the Sober Powered podcast, where Tietz uses her biochemistry background to help listeners understand what alcohol does to the brain and how to make quitting easier. “It may feel like alcohol is required to help you connect with the group and have fun. … Alcohol helps us tolerate activities and people we don’t actually like.” 

So, now we can see why college students may have a hard time living a sober lifestyle, but how do we fix that? 

According to Tietz, there are three things you can do to practice a sober night out: have a plan for how to turn down a drink, understand that no one really cares about your drinking more than you do, and find an alternative drink, like a non-alcoholic beer or mocktail. 

If none of those work for you, then look towards the heart of the matter — your brain. 

Vendant Pradeep is the CEO of Reframe, a neuroscience-based alcohol reduction app. Reframe has helped more than 2 million people reduce their drinking or abstain from alcohol altogether. 

“Neuroscience offers insights into how habits are formed and how they can be changed,” Pradeep said. “We incorporate daily neuroscience lessons to educate users on the workings of their brain and the nature of habits, while also boosting intrinsic motivation. Users also engage with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises which are designed to challenge and change unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors related to alcohol use.” 

Let me say this: I’m not writing this to say that if you drink, there’s something wrong with you or your brain. I’m not saying you have to stop drinking right now, or that if you tried Dry January and failed then I don’t like you or something — because I had my own New Year’s resolutions that I already failed. But, I do know how good it feels to give up something, even if it’s only temporary. 

For example, whenever finals come around, or I’m getting too distracted by social media, I delete it. Alcohol and social media are from two different playing fields, and normally people in your circle aren’t pressuring you to use social media. However, once I delete an app, I realize that I don’t really need it and that the sense of connection I thought it was giving me was nonexistent. 

When we think we need something or we become dependent on a certain thing, we give it power and take power away from ourselves. 

Even if it’s not alcohol, I urge you to take something from your life that you’re giving too much time and attention to and just see how you do without it. 

Of course, if you are drinking, drink responsibly. If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol-related issue, please reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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  • M

    Mark SoukitupJan 23, 2024 at 6:30 pm

    Great read and great message !

  • K

    Kathleen DeceroJan 22, 2024 at 1:32 pm

    very good information. I hope many people can get this info and be helped