New Yorker pens guide to successfully navigating a Dry January, Sober October, or any month without alcohol

hilary cover
Photo and cover image courtesy of Hilary Sheinbaum

A new book that explores how to successfully navigate an alcohol-free month is hitting the shelves soon.

Written by New York City’s Hilary Sheinbaum, “The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month” dives into how some could accomplish a Dry January, a Sober October, or any other month. 

Prior to writing “The Dry Challenge,” the thought of going without alcohol for a month was not something on Sheinbaum’s mind. But it wasn’t until December 2016 that Sheinbaum suddenly had some motivation to participate in Dry January.

“I went to dinner with my friend Alejandro at Sugarfish. We were just catching up, and the conversation shifted to New Year’s resolutions and how I didn’t believe in them,” said Sheinbaum. “My approach is, If I want to change something, I’ll do it now, I won’t wait until Jan 1. Dry January at the time was so brief, I would have never considered it.”

At this time in her life, Sheinbaum was a reporter contributing to multiple publications (including amNewYork) on food and beverage content as well as entertainment/red carpet news, which meant many after-parties and lots of food to try. 

“Part of my job is food and beverage. If someone says to you, ‘give up alcohol for a month,’ part of my job seems impossible,” said Sheinbaum. “On New Year’s Eve that year, in 2016, I tipsy texted Alejandro and started a Dry January bet. He was somebody I would go out and have a drink with. I bet him that whoever wins is treated to dinner. Dinner could be anywhere, any restaurant in New York City — the stakes were pretty high.”

Sheinbaum ultimately won the bet and was treated to a nice dinner at Momofuku, but beyond winning the bet Sheinbaum says the benefits of winning the bet went much deeper; her skin was clearer, she was sleeping better, and overall had less anxiety. 

“It changed the way I was living my life, even my dating life,” said Sheinbaum. “Essentially giving up alcohol for 31 days gave me a new perspective on how alcohol was impacting all those things, but it also opened my eyes to non-alcoholic options on cocktail menus.”

Sheinbaum has since participated in Dry January every year following, as well as three Sober Octobers (“I’ll probably never drink in January ever again,” Sheinbaum said with a laugh). She even gave up alcohol at the start of New York City’s quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing Sheinbaum noticed at the start of her dry month journey in 2017 was that her friends weren’t necessarily on board about it.

“When I embarked on the first Dry January, the concept was something people have heard of, but in my friend group this was the first,” said Sheinbaum. “That first year, especially because I didn’t plan on doing it, I didn’t have the time to warn people or to have people join me. When I went through that first year, learning experience, especially learning to communicate why I wasn’t drinking. People were skeptical. A friend of mine whose birthday is in January, she might have taken it personally.”

Over the years, Sheinbaum’s friends have come around and started to accept her choice.

“I stuck to my resolution and had fun anyway. So much time has gone on and four years later, my friends understand why I’m doing it,” said Sheinbaum. “They appreciate it, over time people have asked me a lot of great questions, many were looking to cut out alcohol for a week or a month. I think there are more conversations now about sober months and it’s more accepted.”

Sheinbaum eventually started to write “The Dry Challenge” as a way to help those better understand that it’s possible to have fun without having to rely on alcohol as the catalyst for a fun night out.

“I never initially set out to write a book, I went out to win a bet,” said Sheinbaum. “It turned into a book, that in itself wasn’t the plan either — I wanted to do something different.”

“The Dry Challenge” contains a myriad of information that New Yorkers can find useful when trying to accomplish a month of sobriety. In addition to outlining the benefits of giving up alcohol (both for you and your wallet), the book also offers non-alcoholic beverage recipes — including one from a Brooklyn hotel — and a month’s worth of activities to partake in sober.

Within the book are several New York City staples, such as Breads Bakery, Listen Bar, Eleven Madison Park and The Nomad, plus many other businesses and New York City references. The book also has date ideas New Yorkers can have while participating in a dry month.

“There are so many ways to have fun in New York City. One of the chapters is about dating; in New York there are so many great avenues to do that: going to a park, going to get ice cream, coffee shops, discovering a museum or a new exhibit. There are so many different avenues in New York, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, with and without alcohol.”

Sheinbaum hopes that whoever reads the book will takeaway the idea that anyone can accomplish a sober month if that is something they want to do, and how beneficial it could be for your life. Shienbaum also wants readers to see that they can still have fun while doing so.

The main takeaways are how to succeed in a dry January or sober October, or any other month — you can start on Jan. 2, March 3, etc. — it’s really about easy ways of how to accomplish dry months,” said Sheinbaum. “I want people to see the benefits, and know how to ask friends to join you in a sober month. I think also different activities you can partake in without alcohol. You can learn about entertaining yourself and having fun without the help of alcohol.”

“The Dry Challenge” will be available on Dec. 29 wherever books are sold. The book is available for pre-order. For more information, visit hilarysheinbaum.com.