top of page

How many days in Alcohol-free January?

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

As I see it, there are five distinctive stages in the of undertaking of an alcohol-free January. Also, a modicum of grief.

Having owned a boutique winery*** for many years, along with my husband, I am a wine drinker.

Once, when my doctor, an internist, asked the standard “How much alcohol do you drink daily?”

I hesitated.

He replied with something between a smirk and a smile.

“Whatever a patient tells us, we doctors multiple by three.”

A glass or two of wine on special occasions (it could be three but aren’t most social occasions special?) is part of my regular routine. A habit, if you will.

I began the year 2020 vowing to extricate that habit from my life for thirty-one days, the entire month of January. Earlier in the holiday season, I told my friends of my plan, making myself accountable.

At a New Year’s Day gathering, I pondered the wine list. My daughter’s birthday is January 3.

“We’re going out to dinner to celebrate. I think I’ll delay until after Jamie’s celebration,” I said, waffling. “What’s two or three days in the whole scheme of things?”

My big friend John, sitting across the table looked up and I heard his basso profundo voice say “Wait!”

We all looked at him.

He stood, came around the table, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Marilyn you said you were having an alcohol-free January.”

Sheepishly, I ordered a non-alcoholic beer.

That was twenty-something long days ago. I regularly abstain for shorter periods of time, but this thirty-one-day ordeal is taxing. I have been able to identify the five stages of Alcohol-free January, which as I said, does include a fair amount of grief.


This is the stay-out-my-way stage. Short fuses, random outbursts, and snap judgments abound. Best to keep your pissy self under the covers. About our upcoming Duplicate Bridge game, John joked he’d send his wife in first.

Tell your friends BEWARE!


The second stage is perhaps the most surprising—full of energy, boundless heart-pumping energy which cartwheels through me with bullet-like force. Tasmanian Devil, Looney Tunes-style in the house!

The moment my eyes opened on the third day, I catapulted my long-legged self out of bed and did not stop running, jumping, cleaning, talking and/or unleashing loud and auspicious comments to all within earshot until I collapsed in bed fourteen hours later. Blabber, blabber, blabber.


Oh, my goodness, this is a thrilling, shocking stage. It usually overlaps stage two, which can last up to three weeks. My popcorn brain emerges with tweet-force. Ideas burst forth relentlessly; good ideas I might add.

Enthusiasm, possibilities and a wallop of potent confidence fills my entire being.

Long range vision, corporation-worthy organizational plans and a full-scale overhaul of my life ensues.


And then, the holier-than-thou sense of superiority takes hold. With nose slightly turned upward, I count my pals’ refills, volunteer for Designated Driver status and silently and proudly marvel at how good this all feels.

When John, who turned out to be my conscience in this endeavor, stopped at our table one night, I could see him mentally counting the six people and five wineglasses. He gave me a reassuring head nod.

It is important to curb pomposity and the urge to evangelize at this point. Also, a warning from my amiable censor, John.

The superior stage usually occurs midway through the alcohol-free January time frame.


This stage negates all the others. With February in sight, this stage is characterized by both rabid eagerness and second-guessing. I’m there now and I dream of a quiet moment by the fire with an expensive glass of Pinot Noir.

There is, however, a genuine sense of accomplishment and a nagging do-I-really-want-to-go-back? tug in my psyche.

My dad did an alcohol-free last twenty-five years of his life; my son stopped drinking after a storied career as an USC student. He’s still the life of the party.

I have saved money, slept well, watched and remembered movies (Harriet most recently. WOW just WOW), read and remembered the endings of books, (Conviction by Denise Mina, also WOW) emptied and refilled every closet and cabinet in my house, cleaned the garage, and improved my health.

Could I stay here drinking O'Doul's or mocktails with happy people at happy hour time? I have love this adventure. Like reading a really good book; I hate to see it end. There is a trip to the central coast wineries with friends next month...

My jury is out, but definitely deliberating.


*** Our winery, The Orange Woods, and our escapades there fill the pages of my upcoming book by the same name. Look for it as summer begins, 2020.


Oh, good! There's a book coming. 

What a delight to follow your creative output...


 I predict that The Orange Woods will be a huge success. .it will be made into a blockbuster movie and Jennifer Aniston will play the role of Marilyn Woods. Ok NOW I’m going to bed KC

I had an alcohol-free NIGHT last night...

Looking forward to the book!CB

Wow!  My hat is off to you.  I do not over-drink (only two glasses of wine/cocktails) and am frequently the designated driver; mainly because I am almost the only one of my friends able to drive after dark.  I tried to abstain for three days for my liver's sake but mostly do not make it more than once or twice a week.  My rationale is that I'm eighty.  My circle of friends like to eat, drink, and have a good time.  Why not enjoy the time I have left.  

All the women in my family love champagne and indulge for any reason.  I prefer heavy cabernets but find that I will drink whatever is offered.  My favorite story is Sunday dinner at my mother's home was a ritual for our family.  My brother Mark owned a liquor store and brought the wine.  The Sunday she cooked chili and beans he brought all the wine the winos ask for as soon as the store opens.  We had wines like Strawberry Hill.  What fun and they were great with the dinner. Hi from Texas. Margaret

Hi Friends.

A 4 minute read. Such great energy and writing.

(I’m sending this as a bcc so that none of you take it personally. Read on…)

xo G

This is fabulous.  She is such a great writer.    I remember my Colorado days where every January was alcohol free.  It was a great way to start the year.  What I loved about her description of not having alcohol was the clarity and energy it brought.    Thanks for sending. Barbara

195 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All


This is such a fun post, Marilyn. Love the "hankering" stage. Congratulations on your Alcohol-free January experiment.


I'm very impressed that you have "stuck it out" for the whole - almost - month, Marilyn, and I loved reading about the stages you have gone through. What do we do to ourselves with our love of alcohol?! Will be interested in your decision.


Glad I could help! Maybe you can return the favour some month - but not just now!


Jan 22, 2020

Good on you, Marilyn.


I’m doing the same. Although I’ve set my sites on a longer haul. I appreciate the humor you bring to the event. I am starting to feel a peaceful clarity . To fall asleep and wake with a clean continuity of mind is worth the sacrifice.

bottom of page