by Denise Hamilton-Mace
2023 has been one heck of a year for me; launching Low No Drinker Magazine has been a whirlwind of inspiration and creativity that I had been told for years that I did not possess, and so to be able to bring that all together with an entrepreneurial spirit that I had all but buried has put me in place that I never thought I would or could ever be.
And it is without doubt all down to the fact that I have chosen to live a life less intoxicated. For me, Dry January was a catalyst for where I am now, but it wasn't a straight line. I actually managed to go dry for three months after completing my first successful DJ a few years ago (that itself was after many years of complete disinterest, followed by a couple of years of "failed attempts").
Later (about five years, but to be honest, I've lost count in the haze of indulgence and partying), when I had come to the realisation that alcohol was no longer serving me and, worse still, was getting in the way of me living the kind of life I wanted, it was looking back on those three months, instigated by Dry January, that let me realise that cutting back on booze was not impossible despite a lifetime of it being closer to me than my own family.
I remembered that the process had been hard but that I had done it; that it had seemed long but I had continued; that I thought I couldn't do it but found that I could do so much more.
Dry January isn't just about 'giving up booze' for a month; it's not about denying yourself what little pleasures you have and missing out on the good times. For me, Dry January was about discovering who I am and what I can do, and planting in me the seed that I had the potential for so much more in life.
In April 2023, I launched Low No Drinker Magazine, then the blog, then the podcast. In October, Shell Righini approached me and asked if I'd be interested in this crazy idea that she'd had to create an advent calendar for Dry January full of resources for people who had decided to give the challenge a go. In a sane world, with a magazine to publish (alone), two small people to care for (not alone) and the rest of life's demands (can you say never-ending laundry), I'd have said, "No way, there's not enough time," but where did that ever get anyone?
It's been a mad dash to the finish line, and if I'm honest with you, as I write this post two days before the big man descends the chimney, it's still not entirely finished (- but it will be!), still, I couldn't be prouder of what myself, Shell & Hannah have pulled together and my only hope is that it brings valuable information, invaluable support and most importantly a smile to anyone lucky enough to come by this first of many to come.
The first official Dry Advent Calendar is available to access now. To get yours, donate to Alcohol Change UK here - or jump to this section to read more about it.
Shell Righini is the host of the We Recover Loudly Podcast. She works hand-in-hand with the Burnt Chef Project to fervently support those working in the hospitality industry facing the turmoil of drink and drug misuse.
I never wanted to do Dry January – Why should I? I don't have a problem with alcohol, so I don't need a break. That was the narrative I used to convince myself my increasing consumption was not an issue, that I was in control. I managed 23 days once, then packed it in as I was bored and restless. What was the point?
Fast forward to 2021, and my life was a shambles: no job and no friends, my family was so angry and worried about me, and I was completely broken by the disease of addiction.
I remember, in early sobriety, not understanding why people in recovery were so willing to dedicate their time to looking out for me, helping me get better in those early days, giving me a shoulder to cry on and ears to rant at! They listened without judgement and allowed me to pick apart the reason behind my unhealthy behaviours in a safe place.
Now I am sober, I know exactly why those people did it – Because they wanted to share with me what an incredible life I could have if I took that break from alcohol. They wanted me to succeed. I have now been sober for 2.5 years, and so much has changed in that short time in both my life and the lives of those around me.
There are some incredible tools, tips, and products out there to help you, so many that it can feel overwhelming. That's why we created the calendar - to compile support and encouragement for those making a big change in January.
I wanted people to know that they deserve a daily reward for sticking to it, even when it gets tough.
This journey may be personal, but you are not alone.
When it came to asking for help, I could think of no better people than my sober sisters, Denise and Hannah. Being able to create something useful and exciting while supporting such an epic charity like Alcohol Change UK has been the perfect gift this year.
Hannah Taylor is the founder of The Sober Butterfly Collective. A community of nationwide 'flutters' that meet to support, encourage and champion each other on their sober journeys. Flutters are led by regional volunteers and include hikes, nights out, coffee mornings and all-round social support . The Sober Butterfly Collective is free to join... because friendship is free!
I was honoured to join the Dry Advent Calendar Committee, led by Michelle. Her incredible vision and the concept itself motivated me to support the initiative. Looking back, I wish I had such a motivating tool back in January 2019 when I first attempted Dry January but failed due to temptation.
Stumbling across one of our contributor's stories later in 2019 was what truly inspired me and played a significant role in helping me extend my alcohol-free journey. If it wasn't for them, I honestly can't say that I would be celebrating over 4 years of sobriety today. So I can vouch that the content in here can be truly life-changing!
It has been such a joy to be part of this team of angels that has brought individuals access to a whole load of inspiring, incentivising and informative content all in one place. Not only that but being able to also raise awareness and support some incredible brands, people and resources out there in the low/no world.
Oh, and of course, not forgetting that you're not only getting something awesome, but you're also supporting a truly amazing cause in the process. All the money raised from donations goes to Alcohol Change UK, a charity that has inspired so many to take a break from alcohol and experience the countless benefits and rewards at the beginning of their year.
Being part of this has just been such a fantastic way to give back and spread some love!
About the Calendar:
Whether you consider yourself a regular, grey-area or problem drinker, taking steps to improve your life with challenges like Dry January can be an excellent way to introduce yourself to a life less intoxicated.
That's why Shell, Hannah and I, have come together to create this mind-blowingly fantabulous calendar to get you through the month, whether this is your first attempt or your 10th!
In it, you'll find some well-known sober and low/no faces, such as Noah Villeneuve, Camille Vidal, Sober Dave and Millie Gooch, sharing their knowledge, experience, recipes and tips, all to help you have the best dry month ever.
Podcast episodes, blog posts, recipes, tastings, discounts - you name it, we've got it for you!
Every day, you can open another door and see what low/no goodness there is inside. Follow the links to watch, read, listen, buy and generally immerse yourself in a month of support, tools, advice and most importantly, fun!!
I'm in! How do I get mine?
The Dry Advent Calendar is brought to you by we three self-proclaimed angels of Dry January in partnership with the charity that made it all possible, Alcohol Change UK.
When the movement started 11 years ago, there were a mere 4,000 people taking part. Now, with nearly 200,000 officially signed up via the Try Dry app and millions more taking part on their own, the only way to access this calendar is to give back to the charity that's made it all possible.
Just follow this link and make a donation to Alcohol Change UK - we think the cost of your usual favourite drink would be fair, but it's up to you how much you can give.
Once you've donated, you'll receive a welcome email with the link to access the calendar, and the first door will be ready for you to open on New Year's Day!
And don't worry about forgetting or missing a day; we'll send you a little reminder email every week to make sure you don't forget, and any days you do miss, you'll still be able to access all the way to the end of January.
The Dry Advent Calendar could be the game-changer you need to finally help you succeed in your Dry January challenge. Whether you're taking part to raise money for others or to show yourself some love after the Christmas & New Year indulgences, we've got you!
*As an affiliate partner Low No Drinker may earn from qualifying purchases