Anna Anderson on Dry January - the answer to our relationship with alcohol?

Panel member Anna Anderson is a Female Transformational Coach who helps women to find their innate feminine power and self-worth. Anna looks at how we can learn to nurture ourselves not only through our food, but in every aspect of our lives. Through this healing work Anna helps women to ultimately find fulfilment from within so they can identify their true purpose.

"We’ve also got to look at the deeper emotion behind it"

Do you think that Dry January as a concept is toxic; something that could potentially make people feel a lack of self-worth?

‘I have two minds about it… I like to think about the intention behind what we do. So there isn’t necessarily wrong with the alcohol itself, but if we’re using it to numb, if we’re using it to self-medicate.... It’s such a societal norm to get drunk! That we need alcohol to express ourselves, to be confident… I’ve even heard it to mean, “I need it to be who I am”, which to me indicates, “I don’t know who I am”.’

‘I’m really interested in our purpose, and falling madly in love with who we are and understanding ourselves. For me that does mean a removal of alcohol, and I don’t drink alcohol. I have had a very toxic relationship with alcohol in the past which is why I do what I do.’

‘So, in terms of Dry January I think having a break from alcohol is a really good idea. It’s a really good idea for your liver. And if you don’t have a relationship with it where you’re using alcohol, then actually it’s just a straightforward thing to do. But we’ve also got to look at the deeper emotion behind it, that is if you’re taking something that you’re using to help you numb feelings and emotions that you don’t know what to do with or how to manage, then there’s a deeper problem. Because then what happens is that you’ll struggle to do Dry January, and then the self-worth question gets louder. It will say, “Well, I can’t even do that!” ‘

‘But it’s not that you can’t, it’s understanding why we have the habits and the patterns that we do, and realising that it’s safe to feel the feelings and learning how to do that, because we haven’t been taught how to do that.’

Whilst a reset with our patterns with alcohol might be a good concept, it is ultimately not going to get to the root cause of our unhealthy relationship with alcohol (if that is the case). If we use alcohol as a means by which to escape or cope, then by simply taking the month off this abuse may either re-appear in the form of something else (eg. binging), or it will feel impossible to do and we will “cave-in”.

Anna explains that it is not so much our relationship to alcohol that is the problem, but rather a symptom of the real problem which is our relationship with ourselves. It is only once we can learn to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that we have when we reach for the bottle, rather than numb them out, that we can begin to understand ourselves better. This is the way that Anna works with women in bringing themselves back to a way of living with self-love and nurturing, rather than sitting in cycles of self-destructing behaviours and patterns with food, dieting and indeed, alcohol.

What about if someone is finding it hard to abstain from drinking when all of their friends are, or they’re on a Zoom “pub-crawl”?

'It’s so sad that we’re told we’re boring when we don’t want to drink! It can actually be fun - having energy and feeling good in our body is fun. I think, even if we do have a drink and we might feel as though we’ve failed in some way, it’s about being kind to yourself and going, “Okay, that’s fine, why do I think I did that and how can I approach it differently next time?”'

In essence, Dry January could be a positive thing, but in the UK, relying on alcohol to “unwind” or “have fun” is so normalised that we may not have the most healthy relationship with it in the first place. Despite the good intentions behind it to be healthier and raise money for charity, it may be that Dry Jan is an overly simplified concept. Drinking is something that ultimately requires a closer look at how we treat alcohol, and questioning whether cutting it out is the real answer to our overall health and happiness.

As Anna so eloquently said, it is not about not beating ourselves up if we don’t “succeed” at Dry January. It’s about loving ourselves and enquiring into our reason for relying on it in the way we do (if at all). This process of inner healing is not a quick fix, it’s a process, and one which requires a lot of compassion towards ourselves.

Anna Anderson is a Female Empowerment Coach. Certified in life and health coaching, Anna works with 40+ women to guide her clients from negative cycles of dieting and self-sabotage to creating a deep and loving relationship with themselves.