Have you heard of the “Dry January” concept?

Dry January is the world’s idea of abstaining from alcohol for the first month of the year to help evaluate or break some unhealthy habits. The hope is that you start the new year alcohol free for a time of self-evaluation as a profitable endeavor mentally and physically.

The article, How Dry January Can Be a Gateway to Addiction Recovery, [1] reminds us Christians that negative habits can creep in quickly. So evaluating one’s own alcohol intake patterns can be a very good thing.

January is a good month to ask, “Do I need a weekly accountability program for some structural help?”

Some Christians even wonder, “Do I need a psychological behavioral treatment program? (I urge you to read this link to Dr. Howard Eyrich’s article on the DSM and mental health first for biblical wisdom and insight!) Or contact one of our CABC’s in The Addiction Connection’s network.

Since alcohol is a drug in liquid form, there could be many benefits from a Dry January.

As Christ-followers, we prefer to start with God’s Word, though, and figure out our “why.” Why would we be motivated to do a Dry January? The primary answer is to seek to glorify God and to become more Christ-like. A time of fasting from food, or in this case, drink, can serve to draw you closer to Christ.

Testing your struggle against any pleasure that could turn into sin when sought excessively (Eph. 5:18) can lead to a wake-up call to ask for more help.

You will hear me say this often: I am all for what the world calls “sobriety,” and “recovery,” because it means less car crashes, and usually less crime, less out of control behavior, even less abuse, etc. All sorts of negative things have been studied and found to be on the increase when an individual’s alcohol consumption increases.

While alcohol doesn’t cause the sins and horrors of our world, the primary problem with alcohol consumption is its inebriating effects that exaggerate the expressions of the sin of mankind.

It’s no mystery that heavy drinking contributes to other attending sins like sexual sin, lying, and other poor decisions like driving while intoxicated, just to name a few sinful manifestations often chosen while drunk.

God’s Word offers a very different goal for the believer in Ephesians 5:18-21:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The filling of the Spirit is far better than being out of control from drunkenness.

Dry January is a focus upon the put-off but God’s goal is infinitely better as He directs you to focus upon the put-on, which is to be filled with the Spirit. When filled with the Spirit, you are able to serve others who need your help and to glorify God while doing. When filled with alcohol, you generally focus upon yourself and how you could gain more pleasure in whatever form that might take.

God has already given you everything you need in this life by His Spirit so there is no need for alcohol.

There might be a “want” for alcohol but not a “need” according to 2 Peter 1:3-4:

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” ESV [2]

If you are born again, then you now have the ability to live a life that is pleasing to Him which comes from His divine power.

In Him, you have all the things that pertain to life and to godliness. You can be led by the Holy Spirit to serve God and those He sends across your path.

The danger with alcohol is that it can add to your sinful desires and increase the corruption that is in the world. It can ruin your goal to glorify God and to become like Christ.

What About a “Dry Main Cabin”?

One interesting example about the concerns with alcohol exacerbating the desires of one’s heart to feed the flesh occurred recently when a large airline wisely decided to stop serving alcoholic drinks of beer, wine, and spirits on board the main cabin of airplanes during the summer of 2021. The expressed purpose of this unprecedented policy was “to further provide for social distancing on board.” We can surmise that less alcohol sales creates an environment more conducive to social distancing. In other words, obedience to instructions and awareness of other people’s preferences lessens with consumption of even one alcoholic drink.

How brave of this airline to correlate the two circumstances –alcohol consumption and social distancing—and in doing so they demonstrated a biblical view of the human heart—we don’t like to be told what to do, and alcohol consumption doesn’t increase our desire to act more righteously!

Choosing to live out a Dry January is a great choice.

I applaud the world’s attempt here to make people consider their alcohol intake. What I would add is that you consider a biblical put-on to spend time in prayer and studying the Bible. Care should be taken when choosing to abstain or fast from alcohol, food, or anything really. Please consult a physician who can guide you in changing any alcohol patterns—withdrawal can be very dangerous for the body.

WebMD has many claims of benefit for a Dry January.

The health benefits include,

“Weight loss, better insulin processing, improved sleep with increased energy levels and decreased fatigue, better immune functioning and support, lowered blood pressure and risk of hypertension, improved mood with less agitation, irritability, and depression, mental sharpness and flexibility, insight and understanding into your own coping patterns, and improved relationships.” [1]

Again, a period of chosen abstinence—making efforts to not feed your flesh—is a terrific idea. When you decide, in view of God’s mercy on your life, to put a road-block in front of your sinful flesh, beautiful things can happen. You can direct your time and your resources toward productive things, and you can intentionally think about serving and pleasing God during this time. Again, prayer, service to others, and study of the Scriptures are great ways to supplement your “fast” from alcohol.

To the Christ-follower:

If you are a Christ-follower, I would like to urge you, maybe even challenge you if you have seen some of the negative effects of alcohol in your life, to reconsider whether or not alcohol needs to be a part of your life at all. Do you really need it? 2 Peter 1 tells us that God’s divine power has given to us who are believers all things that pertain to life and godliness. So we have everything we need. We don’t need alcohol to cope with life. We have our Savior, our Comforter, and our Righteous Coming King!

We don’t need it to change our thinking.

We have the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us, lives within us teaching us and bringing to our remembrance all the things Jesus has taught us.

We just don’t need alcohol to live a fruit-filled life.

In fact, alcohol might hinder a fruit-filled life! We have everything we need for life and godliness on this planet. The 4Him song lyrics that say, “All that I need, already have it…” [3] say it well. God hasn’t left you insufficient or ineffective or without help. He has given you everything that you need for life and godliness “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Mark is an ordained minister, author, and Founder of The Addiction Connection. As an author, speaker, teacher of the Word, and certified biblical counselor, Mark has been involved in helping people who struggle with addictions since 1991. He and his wife Mary have 4 children.

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[1] WebMD Connect to Care, How Dry January Can be a Gateway to Addiction Recovery, Jacqueline Hensler, August 11, 2021, found at  https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/alcohol/how-dry-january-can-be-a-gateway-to-addiction-recovery accessed January 4, 2022

[2] Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

[3] Songwriters: Brent Bourgeois / Brent Thomas Bourgeois. The Only Thing I Need lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc