By Naomi Carr
Updated: 04 October 2023 & medically reviewed by Morgan Blair
Staying sober for a month might feel like an easy and achievable feat for some, while for others it could feel like more of a challenge. Setting goals for yourself, understanding the benefits of sobriety, and learning some tips to manage abstinence can all help you complete a whole month alcohol-free. And might just convince you to keep going for even longer!
Table of contents:
What are the benefits of staying sober for a month?
Whether you are an infrequent drinker or someone who likes to have a drink most days, avoiding drinking alcohol for a month can have numerous benefits. Taking part in Sober October could result in many positive changes, which might vary from person to person. Some of these benefits include:
Improving physical health
No more hangovers
A sense of achievement
Finding new interests and hobbies
What happens to the body after a month of abstinence?
Alcohol affects many different bodily functions and can contribute to short-term and long-term physical and mental health issues. Avoiding the consumption of alcohol for a month or longer can lead to significant improvements in many of these functions.
Alcohol often contains many calories and a high sugar content and can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients effectively. Therefore, abstaining from alcohol for a month could result in several noticeable physical changes. For example, you might find that your skin looks healthier, you have lost some excess weight, your digestion has improved, and your immune system is stronger.
Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on mental well-being, especially for people who have conditions such as anxiety, depression, or psychosis. Spending a month without consuming alcohol is likely to have a positive effect on mental health, improving anxiety, depression, stress, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, and overall emotional resilience.
Frequent alcohol consumption is associated with many serious health problems, including stroke, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and diabetes. Although other factors can influence the risk of developing these conditions, it is likely that after a month of avoiding alcohol, your risk will be significantly reduced.
Regular alcohol consumption can impact sleep quality, reducing the amount of time spent in REM sleep, which is the restorative stage of sleep that helps us feel rested. Alcohol can also cause disturbed sleep throughout the night and early morning, causing you to feel very tired and irritable.
After a month without alcohol, you will probably notice improvements in your sleep quality. You are likely to feel more rested and have more energy throughout the day, which can also help physical, mental, and cognitive health.
Alcohol can cause impairments in cognitive functioning, such as difficulty concentrating and poor memory. Abstaining from alcohol for a month will contribute to improvements in these areas, helping with academic or professional functioning. Long-term abstinence from alcohol can also help reduce the risk of dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Top tips for Sober October
Write a list of reasons
Consider why you want to stay sober for a month and write these reasons down. This list could include some of the benefits listed at the top of this page as well as some personal reasons and goals.
Keep this list somewhere accessible, like on your fridge or in your handbag, so you can look at it and remind yourself if you ever feel like giving up.
Tell people you’re doing Sober October
Telling your family and friends that you want to avoid alcohol for a month can be very useful. Your loved ones can support you during this time and will be less likely to suggest social occasions involving alcohol that you might find tempting.
You might also want to speak to your doctor about your plans, particularly if you are a heavy drinker. For some people, suddenly stopping drinking alcohol could cause withdrawal symptoms. Generally, these symptoms will only last a few days, but it can be helpful to get your doctor’s advice on how to manage them.
Remove any alcohol from your home
Having alcohol in your fridge or cupboard is likely to make it harder for you during your sober month, so throw it away, give it to friends, or ask someone to keep it for a while. You will be far more likely to give in to temptation if you see alcoholic drinks every time you get a snack.
Learn your triggers
Think about the occasions when you are most likely to drink. Are there certain moods, people, places, or times that you associate with alcohol? These are likely to be your triggers. Recognizing in which circumstances you tend to drink can help you avoid or manage these triggers successfully.
Avoid unhelpful situations
Try and avoid situations like going to a bar, spending time with friends who drink a lot, or going to parties. It can be very difficult to keep saying no when you are continuously challenged, so try to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
If you are likely to struggle with these situations but don’t want to avoid socializing completely, you could suggest to your friends that you meet for coffee, do activities together, or hang out in the morning. If you do go to a bar or restaurant, you could order a soda or non-alcoholic drink, so you still have something to sip and don’t feel left out of the fun.
You will probably save a lot of money by abstaining from alcohol for a month, so you could use some of this extra cash to treat yourself. Go somewhere for a fun day out, buy a new outfit, or start a new hobby. Treating yourself can be a good way to distract from alcohol cravings and can give you a sense of joy or excitement that motivates you to carry on.
Taking part in hobbies and activities can also help distract you from thinking about drinking. Exercise and hobbies can be a great focus for your time and energy, providing numerous health benefits. Being active releases endorphins, lifting your mood and reducing stress, alongside improvements to your physical health.
If you slip up
The goal of Sober October is to not drink any alcohol for the whole month. However, if you do slip up and have a drink or two, it is important to be able to forgive yourself. It can be easy to beat ourselves up when we think we have failed and think that there is no point in trying to carry on.
Take each day as it comes, forgive yourself for your mistakes, and keep going. You will probably feel more frustrated at the end of the month if you give up part-way through than if you can move past the slip-up and carry on.
Feel like carrying on?
Some people might get to the end of the month and feel inspired to continue abstaining from alcohol. If so, the previous list of tips can help with this. Additionally, you might find it helpful to consider the following:
Coping strategies: Sometimes abstinence is interrupted by an emotionally distressing experience. It can be helpful to learn coping strategies to help you manage emotional distress and find alternatives to alcohol. This might include seeking professional support with psychotherapy or counseling, engaging in calming or relaxation activities, or speaking to loved ones.
Joining a support group: Many people find abstaining from alcohol to be much more manageable if they attend a regular support group with others going through a similar experience. Support groups can provide a space to share experiences, advice, and support, along with a sense of community and like-mindedness.
Keeping a diary: As your abstinence journey continues, you might find it helpful to keep a record of any changes you notice along the way. This could include physical, emotional, financial, or relationship changes. You might also find it beneficial to use an app on your phone to keep track of how many days you have been sober. Keeping a diary or log can be motivating in maintaining your sobriety and can also remind you of your achievements.