Local Presents A Guide to the Dry January Challenge


 Considering taking a break from drinking? There’s no better time to step back from “on the rocks,” and get on the wagon, than with the start of a new month, especially one that encourages making resolutions for the New Year. As we approach 2021, Hilary Sheinbaum is about the drop the perfect guide on how to take a month off from drinking with her first book, “The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month.”

Sheinbaum, who moved to Rockaway in the spring, brings firsthand knowledge to her guide to a dry month as she’ll be going into her fifth January of taking the challenge herself. What started as a bet with a friend, Alejandro, who she dedicated the book to, turned into an eye-opening experience of what life is like without alcohol, by simply taking an entire month off. As a reporter who covered the food and beverage beat for publications such as AM New York and USA Today and who covered celebrity red carpet affairs and after parties, alcohol was not only a part of her social life, but her job. So the challenge was anything but easy, but it was made more enticing with a motivating end goal.

Sheinbaum says she was having dinner with Alejandro in December 2016, when he brought up the idea of a dry January. Doing what she does for a living, she found the idea preposterous. “I changed the subject as it was not possible I could go a month without alcohol,” Sheinbaum said. But it was while drinking on New Year's Eve that she had a change of heart. She texted Alejandro and they made a bet to get through January without a drop of alcohol and the loser would have to buy dinner for the winner at a restaurant of their choosing. In 2017, she celebrated as Alejandro treated her to dinner at Momofuku Ko. With peer pressure during a date, he had slipped up, but Sheinbaum stood steadfast in her battle against temptation.

But it was more than a good dinner and bragging rights that Sheinbaum earned. “My skin was nicer, I was sleeping better, I had so much more energy, I was more upbeat in general and I realized how much alcohol was affecting my day to day life,” she said.After seeing the perks firsthand, Sheinbaum has turned dry January into a yearly ritual and has even thrown some extra months into the mix. From her experience and through consulting with experts, Sheinbaum decided to share her experience with others by writing her very first book on the dry challenge. Her book, published by HarperCollins, is set to drop just in time for those New Year’s resolutions, on December 29.

The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month,” contains everything from how to get started, how to stay motivated, how to handle those pesky “why aren’t you drinking?” questions, alternative ideas for how to have fun while sober, to even recipes for nonalcoholic cocktails and baking ideas to occupy the time.

As someone who has done the challenge, Sheinbaum says this book is the guide she wishes she had when she did it. “When I started my dry January, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no guidelines, no friends who had done it before, and especially that first year, I had so much to learn and observe. I received so many questions about why I’m not drinking or why I can’t have just one and I learned the answers to that and how to respond to those questions, so I put it into a book to help people to embark on their own dry January,” Sheinbaum said.

Some of the best answers are some of the perks to taking a month off. Sheinbaum outlines the advantages throughout her book, but she has some personal favorites. “One of the things I was surprised about was how it affected my sleep. Alcohol sedates you and might help you fall asleep easier, but when you metabolize it, it causes wakening, so it disrupts your sleep and it dehydrates you and makes you urinate more, so you get up throughout the night. If you’re a bad sleeper, I recommend cutting out alcohol. I was sleeping five hours a night and thought it was because of anxiety but during the first dry January, I slept seven to eight hours a night,” she said.

Another big perk, she says, is the savings. “You save a ton of money because you’re not spending it on booze. I think it’s fun to look forward to having extra money at the end, so you can spend it on new boots or a coat or video games or whatever it is that will bring you joy,” she said.

One of the most challenging aspects, Sheinbaum says, is how stopping drinking can affect your lifestyle and social circle, but she suggests one of the best ways to tackle this is to not go it alone. “I had a friend who I knew was supporting me and going through the same thing, so I suggest that people do this with a friend, family or partner. My boyfriend who I live with does it with me now, which makes it easier because there’s not that constant reminder that alcohol is available when it’s out of sight. Your lifestyle and social circle is a big challenge in this, but when you have people doing it with you, it makes it easier,” she said.

Sheinbaum says some local establishments also make it easier. “At the Rockaway Hotel you can order nonalcoholic beers and cocktails and more and more places are incorporating nonalcoholic beverages into their menus, so you can still feel like you’re drinking,” she said.

After taking a month off, some may opt to lessen their alcohol intake or call it quits. But for those who get back into it, Sheinbaum suggests being prepared. “Stock up on coconut water and brace yourself for a brutal hangover because your tolerance is lower” she said. “Sip more slowly, remember to eat and hydrate or it won’t be the best time the next morning.”

Sheinbaum’s book will be available starting Tuesday on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Target, Strand Bookstore and more.