Home LifeStyle Somewhere between Dry January and Cali Sober lies a more sustainable semi-drinking “damp lifestyle.” Check out the benefits here.

Somewhere between Dry January and Cali Sober lies a more sustainable semi-drinking “damp lifestyle.” Check out the benefits here.

by белый

Chances are you’re already familiar with going “dry,” but what about going “damp?” It seems that now more than ever, people are opting to drink alcohol in moderation over eliminating it completely. The goal? To make drinking less alcohol a lifestyle instead of a one-month challenge (which usually fails anyway.) Curious? Ahead, we share everything there is to know about going damp, from its benefits to tips for getting semi-sober.

Keep reading to figure out whether a damp lifestyle is for you.

What Is a Damp Lifestyle?

As opposed to going dry or entirely sober, a damp lifestyle involves cutting back on your alcohol use (i.e. moderation over abstinence).

“It’s about being aware of how much alcohol you’re drinking and its impact on you in the moment,” said Ian Andersen, co-founder of Sunnyside, a tracking and coaching app focused on mindful drinking and moderation. “It’s about recognizing the reasons for and the ramifications of drinking. It’s about improving your relationship with alcohol so you maximize enjoyment and minimize negative side effects like hangovers, regrets, and anxiety.”

Ultimately, going damp is about drinking more mindfully.

More and more TikTok creators, like Hana Danly — who’s credited for coining the term “damp lifestyle” — are sharing their experience with drinking on occasion.

Who It's For

“Going damp may be helpful for those who want to find a middle ground, one that would allow for consumption of alcohol in moderation,” said OB-GYN Karina Celaya, M.D., an assistant professor at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. “Other people may find going damp as a transition to going dry without the pressure to do it all at once.”

Not to mention, research shows that for some people, going cold turkey — even for one month — isn't the most effective way to cut back on drinking. One-third of people who attempt Dry January fail to make it the whole month without a sip of alcohol.

Ian Andersen, co-founder of Sunnyside

"It's about recognizing the reasons for and the ramifications of drinking. It's about improving your relationship with alcohol so you maximize enjoyment and minimize negative side effects like hangovers, regrets, and anxiety."

— Ian Andersen, co-founder of Sunnyside

Three years ago, Sasha Dookhoo, then 30, began to notice that drinking was affecting her differently than it used to. Her recovery time was longer, and if she drank "just a tad more" than she should have, she'd feel it — and regret it ‚ the next day. She initially flirted with the idea of cutting out alcohol altogether.

"But I'm a social drinker," she said. "I had quite a few friends hitting the big 3-0 and promised I would drink to them on their birthdays."

So, she decided to strike a balance, setting a resolution to simply consume less alcohol throughout the year — and it worked for her. She could still have a drink at all those 30th birthdays without feeling hungover the next day.

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The Benefits of Going Damp

Going damp can help to create space for you to socialize and prioritize your wellness. It also teaches moderation and forces you to consider whether you really need that second drink.

"Going damp opens your eyes to how much you drink out of habit," said Lauren Manaker, a Charleston, South Carolina, native, who cut back on her alcohol intake after drinking more than she "was proud to admit." 

"I was getting in the habit of pouring a glass of wine every day around 5 p.m., and if I felt stressed, I would lean on wine to help myself unwind," Manaker recalled. "Getting to the point where you need a drink is not OK. I wanted to get away from that feeling."

As a registered dietician-nutritionist, she knew there were healthier ways to deal with stress than by leaning on alcohol — not to mention that drinking made her feel dehydrated. Still, Manaker felt like "enjoying a social drink or cozy cocktail once in a while" would be OK.

"Having a glass of wine with friends at happy hour or enjoying a spicy margarita on taco Tuesday is fun and enjoyable, and many people like to 'grab a drink’'with a friend or co-worker as a social outlet," Manaker pointed out.

Manaker recommended taking the time to be mindful about why you are reaching for a drink to get clear on your motivation. For instance, if you're stressed, sipping tea might be a better choice, noted Manaker. If you're lonely or bored, you might call a friend and go for a walk.

Danly shared in a TikTok video that drinking less has been a major boon for her mental health, and that alone has kicked off a “domino effect.”

"I have more energy, I'm sleeping more, I'm working out more, my skin's better, I'm happier, I'm more confident in social settings, etc.," said Danly.

Hrishikesh Belani, M.D., Associate Medical Director of the South Los Angeles Health Center Group and advisor to Sunnyside, agreed that going damp can have a positive ripple effect on your overall health. “Benefits can be silent,” Dr. Belani noted. “Over time, lower intake of alcohol can reduce the risk of early aging, liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.”

The pros can also be more obvious. Think: improved sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, better skin, supporting your reproductive health, and feeling better overall, suggested Dr. Belani.

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Kavita Desai, Pharm. D.

"Going damp can significantly reduce the burden that alcohol puts on our entire body, allowing it to heal and work efficiently, as it should."

— Kavita Desai, Pharm. D.

The reason: Alcohol, in any amount, affects brain and liver function, according to Kavita Desai, Pharm. D., a brain health specialist and founder of the female-focused health and wellness brand Revivele. 

"Going damp can significantly reduce the burden that alcohol puts on our entire body, allowing it to heal and work efficiently, as it should," Desai noted. 

Desai has seen people who've chosen a damp lifestyle find that their skin glows, their gut is healing, and their thinking is clear. In other words, going damp ultimately ties to overall bolstered vitality, which is definitely a reason to stick with it.

Damp Lifestyle vs. Going Dry

For people like Dookhoo and Manaker, going damp is more doable than going dry. However, Desai pointed out that making the call between the two options is a highly personal decision and depends on your current — and ideal — relationship with alcohol.

"Each one of us is unique in our journey, and this is a good way to move towards where you ideally would like to be," Desai explained.

Jill Carnahan, M.D., the Medical Director of Flatiron Functional Medicine in Boulder, Colorado, recommended considering whether you’re the type to stick to hard and fast rules. If so, you might find that going dry is actually more freeing and less stressful because, as Dr. Carnahan said she’s found for herself, you’ll never have to grapple with a decision in real time. However, going damp can be a great option if you feel “overly confined and restricted” by non-negotiable boundaries.

How to Adopt a "Damp" Lifestyle

Reflect on Your Why

Georgia Foster, a world-renowned clinical hypnotherapist and author of Drink Less in 7 Days, recommended tracking any negative emotions that come up for you before you drink. Maybe you’re feeling tired, angry, bored, restless, or lonely. 

"Over a week, you will clearly see a connection to feelings that drive you to drink when you know you don't want to," pointed out Foster. 

Once you've noted the negative, you can bring in the positive — specifically, thoughts, feelings, or memories that make you feel good, such as love, laughter, or something that makes you feel safe. 

"Keep bringing emotions that ignite the logical, intuitive you before you drink," suggested Foster. You'll find you're calmer before you drink, and you're able to curb "fast and furious fearful-based drinking."

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Commit to Alcohol-Free Days

If you tend to drink socially throughout the week, Foster encouraged committing to several alcohol-free days (AFDs) per week. 

"It's a beautiful way to balance weekly drinking — and also good for healthy sober sleep too," Foster said. 

If you're a less frequent drinker, maybe you do a certain number of AFDs per month. 

Although Dookhoo found that lots of weddings and vacations made it tough to be damp, she's recommitted to the lifestyle, and — instead of AFDs — she's committed to having just 10 drinks this year to stay damp. "While I have a few upcoming weddings and vacations, this number helps me stay accountable," Dookhoo said. "I'm in the process of mentally mapping out my 'drink days.'"

Find Alternatives

Dr. Carnahan said switching up where you're hanging with friends can make a world of a difference.

"You may want to choose different environments, like a coffee shop instead of a nightclub or bar or different groups of friends doing something you enjoy — hiking, camping, skiing, cooking, book club, etc. — that involves other activities you find enjoyable besides just drinking alcohol," Dr. Carnahan noted.

If you feel like you need to have a drink in your hand at a party, find a mocktail you like or another alternative (Dr. Carnahan likes San Pellegrino in a martini glass with lime) that makes you feel like you're still participating in the festivities even if you're skipping alcohol that day or have reached your limit.

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Be Compassionate with Yourself

If you're struggling to cut back, acknowledge that there may be underlying pain, sadness, or trauma that's driving your substance use, suggested Dr. Carnahan. 

"There are healthier ways to deal with pain, but we must be compassionate with ourselves in the process," Dr. Carnahan shared, encouraging people who are going damp (or dry) to be gentle with themselves as they'll feel previously numbed, painful emotions creep back in. 

In times like these, Dr. Carnahan said you might spend time in nature, play with your pets, connect with friends or loved ones, meditate, or engage in another spiritual practice to get connected and comforted.

The Final Takeaway

"Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail to keep your commitment," said Dr. Carnahan. "If you are creating a new habit, it may take an average of many tries to successfully ingrain the new habit into your subconscious."  

Sources InStyle uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

    De Visser RO, Robinson E, Bond R. Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during "Dry January" and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology. 2016;35(3):281-289. doi.org/10.1037/hea0000297

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