(Bloomberg) -- As with every commitment to good health made at the start of the year, a Dry January pledge invariably starts strong—and soon hits a road bump.

The first big challenge to my inaugural Dry January came less than two weeks in: a beach vacation. I was staying at the Seven Stars Resort on the Turks & Caicos Islands and was offered a rum-filled coconut cocktail. I turned it down, but not without pausing. My nonalcoholic version made with just the natural insides—fresh coconut water—was hydrating, but it wasn’t relaxing elixir I would have otherwise been eager to try. As a food and beverage journalist and a curious person in general, it was challenging to pass up a drink that might spark inspiration for a story (and a nap).  Later that day, I had to decline an invitation to a cocktail demo. 

I was already aware of how integrated alcohol was in my everyday life in New York. There was no escaping it on a tropical island. Whether at brunch, lunch and dinner, or at the beach and pool, there was an abundance of alcoholic options in sight. Of course, people go on vacation and drink—no judgment here—but reminders to imbibe at every turn were challenging. After a trip to the gym (no cocktails there) and the spa, I felt relieved to have found places and activities that didn’t involve booze. 

You may be eager to participate in the movement; some 35% of Americans took part in Dry January last year. In December, Alcohol Change UK estimated  that 8.8 million adults in the UK planned to participate this year. I do. Still, enthusiasm doesn’t eliminate the difficulties in giving up wine, beer, spirits and cocktails.

Most people who engage in Dry January will soon realize, as I did, how ingrained alcohol is in all parts of your life, from meals and dating to networking and work functions. There are everyday occasions where you’ll feel judged fielding unsolicited feedback from acquaintances, drunk or sober. You may feel left out of activities and tipsy bonding escapades. Now, in my seventh Dry January, I still get some side-eye when ordering a nonalcoholic beverage in a restaurant or bar. And questions—queries ranging from personal health to alcohol addiction—continue to pop up.

What you need is a strategy. Here are my seven best tips for how even the best-intentioned nondrinkers can keep it going for the month and beyond. 

Put Away Your Booze

If your collection of spirits is visible on a daily basis, remove them from your shelves or bar cart. (Throw a bed sheet over your stash if you don’t have room for storage.) You don’t need a daily reminder of what not to consume, especially when so many people are working from home.

Stock Up on Sweets

Odd as it may sound, I—and many others who do dry months—typically get killer cravings for sugar in the absence of alcohol. (They both have been found to trigger the release of dopamine, the brain’s feel-good chemical.) Don’t deprive yourself of sweets if they help you keep your goal of abstinence. Lollipops or ice cream give me a leg up. 

Chart Your Month

For data-driven minds, 31 days of statistics can keep you invested in your goal and motivated to uncover end-of-month results. You might have signed up for Dry January to save money, lose weight, get better sleep, eliminate hangovers, all of the above—or something else entirely. (The benefits go on and on.) Track your wins to see how you progress.

Keep a Journal of Your Progress

Similarly, documenting your experiences—the good, the tough and the unexpected changes—is an effective way to reflect on the myriad psychological challenges and address them. This includes analyzing what you miss about drinking. The company you keep? The ambiance of a bar? The relaxing ritual of it? Writing helps you pinpoint your feelings and find resolutions; it also offers opportunity to vent. And as with charting your month, chronicle your achievements: What have you gained without alcohol?

Ask for Support

Text, call, video chat, send pesky voice notes (which is what I do) and lean on friends or family members for support. Even if you don’t struggle with alcohol, giving it up for a short period of time can feel isolating. In addition, pinpoint the person who will best support you by cheering you on, holding you accountable with daily or biweekly check-ins, or even participating.

If you have a naysayer in your life (or a few unsupportive people), you can choose to avoid them or change the subject if they give you a hard time about not drinking. Sometimes it might be best altogether to avoid the topic with them. However, if Dry January becomes a topic for debate or discussion, state your position confidently and stay strong.   

Change Things

Do the project you’ve been putting off. A reprieve from drinking frees up nights, weekends and the occasional hungover morning. From hiking to writing to baking, new pastimes can get you excited and give you feelings of accomplishment.

One Drink Is All Right

Damp January, one-drink January and demi-sec (half-dry) Januarys have recently gained popularity. It is completely all right to take a night off (or on). The point of Dry January isn’t to have a perfect score. The point is to give you the opportunity to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol during a discrete time period. If lessening consumption versus total abstinence ends up being your best way forward, that’s fine. You can still observe what role booze plays in your life and what you want it to do as you look forward. And if January isn’t the month for you, just around the corner is Sober February—which has fewer days. Cheers! 

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.