If a commitment to Dry January or Sober October seems too extreme, then you might like the idea of a “damp” lifestyle, aka the much more lenient drinking trend that’s taking off on TikTok. Instead of going completely dry — which means you don’t consume any alcohol at all — a damp lifestyle is all about cutting back and drinking in moderation. And it comes with a whole lot of perks.
A big reason why people are drawn to the damp lifestyle is that it isn’t an “all or nothing” approach, which can feel very restrictive and difficult, says licensed psychotherapist Dr. Teralyn Sell, Ph.D. Going “dry” is pretty black and white while going “damp” offers you some wiggle room. Essentially, the latter lifestyle allows you to consume alcohol in moderation, so you can choose whether you want to have a drink with dinner, go out with friends, or order a fancy bev while on vacation.
A damp lifestyle can also include drinking beverages that have a lower alcohol content, according to Sell. If you usually go for a vodka or tequila drink — two types of alcohol with a high ABV ( alcohol by volume) content — a damp girlie might pour a glass of wine, reach for a seltzer, or sip on a cider instead. Read on for more intel about the TikTok-famous lifestyle so you can live your best damp life.
What Is A “Damp” Lifestyle?
If you typically only have a few drinks a week or sip alcohol on special occasions, then you’re already damp, Sell says. You aren’t dry or sober but you aren’t drinking to excess either. Moderation is what “dampness” is all about.
Of course, part of the damp journey is deciding what moderation means to you. As you reassess your relationship with alcohol, you might realize that you enjoy having one drink in the evening, or two drinks when out with friends. The lifestyle calls on you to be more mindful about why and when you imbibe.
According to Abby Wilson, LCSW, a psychotherapist with a background in addiction treatment, the the process of figuring it out can feel super empowering. “It’s healthy to take a step back and be curious about which behaviors are supporting you versus hindering your growth as a person,” Wilson tells Bustle. If you realize your drinking habits often lead to a hangover, an empty bank account, or if you’re tired of your social life revolving around happy hour, then the damp lifestyle might be calling your name.
As you cut back, you’ll likely start to notice how alcohol has been impacting your life and how much better you feel without so much of it. “You may also feel less anxious after drinking, and more likely to follow through with certain commitments,” Wilson says. “This can be a confidence boost: You are showing yourself that you don’t actually need alcohol to be social, decompress, get through the week, etc.”
How To Try A Damp Lifestyle
TikToker @hana.elson, who talks a lot about her journey with the damp lifestyle, has quite a few tips for drinking in moderation. When out at a bar with friends, she says she often starts with mocktails to prove to herself she “doesn’t need to immediately buy seven drinks.”
Elson also throws back glasses of water between alcoholic beverages, says no to shots when they’re offered, and tries to think of her “future self” when drinking. If she starts to feel tipsy, she takes it as a sign that a hangover is imminent and it's time to go home.
“For maintaining a damp lifestyle, I would also recommend keeping your ‘why’ in mind,” Wilson says. “Remind yourself of the reason you are drinking in moderation. This could be that you want to feel more productive in the morning, focus on alternative coping skills that feel healthy, or strengthen your social skills without using alcohol as a crutch.”
All of that said, the damp lifestyle isn’t a good choice if you’re trying to stay sober or if you struggle with binge drinking, as having “just one” can be a slippery slope. And according to Sell, the damp life can also be a way to deny a more serious drinking problem, so it’s important to be aware of that.
The Bottom Line
The damp lifestyle is a good choice if you want to cut back on alcohol, assess your drinking patterns, or stick to drinking on special occasions. “Many people want to become more conscious and healthy with their lifestyle,” Wilson says. “Limiting alcohol intake is one way of doing that, and it allows people to feel more in control of their physical and mental health.” Cheers to that — with whatever drink you’re in the mood for, of course.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).
Dr. Teralyn Sell, Ph.D., licensed psychologist
Abby Wilson, LCSW, psychotherapist