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Helping your friends survive this year's Dry January

It's a wellness trend taking on new significance with drinking on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic.

MAINE, USA — It's a wellness trend taking on new significance with drinking on the rise during the pandemic. Dry January is a health trend where people go alcohol-free for the month of January.

According to a Morning Consult poll, one in four Millennials and nearly one in five Gen X'ers said they had increased their alcohol intake this past pandemic year.

It's a challenge that comes in handy this year, a year where many are feeling more stressed and drink to mark the end of a workday. Some of the benefits of Dry January include clearer skin, better sleep, better digestion, and a better mood since alcohol is a depressant.

"I encourage people to do it, I think it's great, it's a good trial because if you can't succeed...and it's really important to...it says something to you, doesn't it? It says that despite this I can't do it, and so it means that maybe I have more of a problem than I think, and I think that's maybe one of the best things that come out of this, so people search for help and get help," Dr. Eric Brown, general medicine doctor at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, said.

Doctor Brown recommends finding a friend to complete the challenge with and to support each other through the month.

"After all the excesses of the winter holidays, drinking mimosas, having Baileys in my coffee, I just felt...just felt gross," Amanda Fell said.

Amanda Fell is a hairdresser at The Raven Salon in Portland and has been doing the trend for the past 15 years.

"It worked so well the first year that I decided to keep doing it every year, and it always felt right to do it," Fell said.

Ann M. Soule, LCPC, Clinical Director, Adult Services has decades of experience in substance use disorder treatment at Northern Light Acadia Hospital. "We've noticed a little bit of a trend upwards in use, a lot is with winter, covid has brought in a lot more isolation for people," she said.

Soule said the biggest benefit is health-wise. "Alcohol negatively impacts weight, work, family relationships." She adds the month-long challenge can help you determine if you have a drinking problem, "they will struggle along the week to the two-week mark."

Dr. Eric Brown is a family medicine doctor at Northern Light EMMC.

"Alcohol has a component of it that is quite frankly addicting, but it changes us in a lot of ways, it's a toxin," Brown said. "It starts to block you off from all the other things you need to do in life."

Dr. Brown said a month is good, but a year is even better.

"Stay away from the people that despite knowing you want to stop, keep enticing you to use," Dr. Brown said.

Fell said it's hard at first but it's all worth it. She even extends the challenge until the middle of February sometimes. Fell said a mocktail is a great alternative for those people used to always having a drink after work.

"I notice that I sleep better. I don't wake up in the middle of the night anymore. I notice my skin improves a lot."