Khadi A. Oluwatoyin, founder of the Sober Black Girls Club, offers tips on navigating sobriety, and coping with stress during the process.
It’s that time of year again: new year’s resolution time. Nearly 40% of Americans participate in the annual tradition by setting at least one goal toward living a healthier life.
Pledging to exercise more often, lose weight, and reduce work-related stress are among the most common resolutions for 2023.
But for folks participating in Dry January — a 31-day sobriety challenge started by U.K.-based organization, Alcohol Change — their sights are set on a life, or month, free from alcohol.
Research shows that giving up alcohol, even for a short period of time can support weight loss, better quality of sleep, improved mood and energy levels, and lower blood sugar.
The Sober Black Girls’ Club (SBGC) — a coalition of Black girls, women, femmes, and nonconforming people living or considering sober lives — are handing out tips and tricks on how to make the most of the month-long challenge.
“Giving yourself grace” and “celebrating weekly” are just a few. We sat down with the organization’s founder, Khadi A. Oluwatoyin, to learn more.
1. Be honest with yourself along the way.
Dry January is “just a month,” and it’s “just the beginning,” Oluwatoyin says. People enter the challenge with different goals and at different points in their sobriety journeys, and that’s OK.
“People can define it however they want,” Oluwatoyin told Word In Black in a video interview.
Ultimately, she encourages participants to pay attention to themselves and be honest about their needs during the challenge. It’s OK to seek professional, long-term sobriety care if needed.
She also encourages folks to ditch labels in the process.
“Instead of thinking that you have to call yourself an alcoholic or addict, which I don’t. I’m in recovery, and I don’t call myself those two things. It’s easier to say, ‘OK, I am struggling with alcohol. I thought I was able to go a day or two, and now we are on day three of January, and I’m drinking again.’ That’s being radically honest with yourself, right? And then getting the appropriate help,” she says.
2. Don’t panic. Cravings come and go.
Alcohol cravings are common and are experienced differently by each person. Once a person stops drinking, the urge to consume alcohol can be triggered by feelings, objects, situations, or people. Driving past an old bar, being around people who drink, or experiencing a stressful event, can all be triggers.
An intense craving for alcohol typically lasts three to five minutes but could pop up every now and then during the recovery process.
After a month of sobriety, the urges are likely to happen less and be weaker in intensity, according to Monument, an online alcohol treatment platform.
Oluwatoyin says when she experienced cravings while becoming sober, she kept herself busy. Additionally, during a craving, she recommends that folks check in to make sure all of their needs are met.
“Make sure you have eaten. Make sure you aren’t dehydrated. If you’re sleepy, go take a nap,” she says. “I feel like a lot of times, folks will reach out and they say they’re stressed and they reach out for the bottle, but it’s like, did you even eat today? Did you sleep? Did you meditate? Take a shower? Those are basic needs that we need to do first.”
3. Find accountability in a friend or support group.
Oluwatoyin says it’s important to have a community that’s supporting you through the same pivotal life moment they’re navigating. Even if it’s just for a month, having a support person or group to lean on during Dry January could be beneficial.
That’s the whole reason why she created the SBGC in 2018.
While trying to get sober, she searched for content online and attended in-person meetings, but “there was hardly any Black folks,” and she felt sobriety was being talked about as if it “was a luxury.”
Those barriers jumpstarted her mission to make an alcohol-free lifestyle accessible to Black folks, who consume substances at less than other groups, but are dying at higher rates. She encourages folks to attend SBGC’s weekly meetings during Dry January.
“I want them to feel supported. And also, we invite them to come to our meetings, even if we never see you again. If you come for this month, that is OK. At least you’re getting a taste of what sobriety can be and look like,” she says.
For more information about the Sober Black Girls Club meetings, sober mentor program, and other resources, visit soberblackgirlsclub.com.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental and/or substance use disorders, visit samhsa.org/find-treatment or call the national helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for treatment and referral information.