A month off the sauce: Steamboat residents recount Dry January
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Anyone who has been in Steamboat Springs long enough is bound to hear a local describe the place as “a drinking town with a skiing problem.”
For some, the description is more reality than hyperbole.
Erin Orr, account manager at Butcherknife Brewing Co., knew she needed a change from alcoholic indulgence, something that had become a daily routine during the course of her adult life.
“I was drinking a dangerous amount,” Orr admitted.
She decided to enter the new decade with the goal of abstaining from alcohol. It started with Dry January, a month of swearing off drinking that has become an international challenge. Her goal is to reevaluate her lifestyle and be more purposeful with how she spends her days.
Orr is not alone in seeking a healthier relationship with alcohol. Dry January, started by the British nonprofit Alcohol Change UK, has since become a viral hashtag, with participants documenting their journeys of abstinence on social media. Posts ranged from inspiring insights about the benefits of sobriety to metaphoric memes, such as a battle-scarred Bruce Willis in the action blockbuster “Die Hard.”
Orr’s experience was much milder, she said. She has not suffered from alcohol cravings and has managed to continue going out to bars and concerts without feeling the need to partake in any libations.
That may come as a surprise, considering she works at a brewery.
“I enjoy beer. I sell it. I’m around it,” Orr said.
While her job requires her to sample beers, Orr said she just spits it out once she gets a taste.
After a month of sobriety, Orr has noticed some major improvements in her life. Among the most noticeable is her ability to remember dreams, something she has not been able to do in years.
“They’ve been really wild,” she said.
When she does go out, Orr described having more meaningful conversations with people. Rather than babbling about gossip she would forget by the morning, Orr has made lasting memories and deeper connections.
She also has picked up some new hobbies, particularly baking. Her recent specialty has been dog treats that use spent grains from the brewery.
Research has shown that a successful Dry January can have lasting benefits. One study from the University of Sussex found that people who participated experienced better sleep, had more energy and lost weight. Another study found that people who abstained from alcohol for one month were more likely to drink less over the next seven months.
Sobriety has not come without its challenges, Orr admits. At the start of the Dry January challenge, she described having intense sugar cravings. They arose, she believes, from a logic that she could indulge in a few — or a lot — of sweets because her alcohol abstinence would balance things out.
Recently, Orr has been managing those cravings with healthier sugar alternatives. On Friday, she carried around a water bottle infused with fresh limes, pineapple and coconut.
“I’m dreaming of a beach,” she said.
For Taylor Farquharson, taking the Dry January challenge was not a matter of resolving any issue with alcohol. It was a way to address issues that alcohol instigated.
As she explained, a night of drinking often would lead to other indulgences, namely desserts. Farquharson also found it hard to stay committed to healthy routines. If she drank a mimosa on the weekend, she would not feel motivated to enjoy her hobbies, like cross country skiing.
Farquharson admitted that abstaining for the first two weeks of January was difficult. Her instinctual reaction to a stressful day used to be a glass of wine. But she has since discovered a renewed interest in activities that ease those stressors.
“I realized I have so many other things in my life that satisfy that need for relief,” she said, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and swimming.
What: Sober Steamboat Super Bowl party
Where: CrossFit Steamboat, 2645 Jacob Circle
When: 4 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2
For people who are considering easing off the sauce, Orr has a few suggestions. First, many bars in Steamboat offer mocktails, alcohol-free versions of people’s favorite drinks. Her go-to is soda water with cranberry juice and lime. Farquharson likes to swap beer with a glass of kombucha, saying it offers a similar taste and effervescence.
A local group called Sober Steamboat offers events for people to enjoy an alcohol-free experience. The group is hosting a Super Bowl party from 4 to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday at CrossFit Steamboat, 2645 Jacob Circle.
With January freshly in the rearview, Farquharson, a middle school teacher, wants to extend the challenge to Blues Break in mid-February.
Orr plans to extend her sobriety through 2020.
As she said while sitting at a conference table of the brewery, the smell of beer heavy in the air, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
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