It was after spending the holidays back home on the Island that I made the decision to tackle Dry January: an aptly-named, specialty cleanse in which one gives up booze for 31 days at the start of the new year.

I come from a family that celebrates togetherness with food and drink: concern spikes if someone is without a glass of wine or hasn’t gone back for seconds at dinner. Over the winter holidays, there is a lot of togetherness to celebrate. And so, this December, as darkness fell, we’d light a fire. If the sun was down and the fire was on, it was probably time for a drink. Shortly thereafter, it would be time to cook dinner – definitely something better done with a beverage in hand. Dinner itself would necessitate another glass (or two). Then there was the after-dinner movie, for which we’d all pour one last glass, grab a cookie or dish of ice cream, and snuggle under blankets. It was a typical, Vineyard-in-winter week and a half: family, cook, drink, repeat. And come January 1, I needed a break.

Here are things that I didn’t consider when I decided to go booze-less for a month: post-holiday company holiday parties (simply awkward without a drink, but I survived), break ups (honestly, ice cream does the trick), book clubs (does anyone really go for any other reason than the wine and snacks?). I definitely didn’t consider first dates, which, before this seemed only feasible armed with a tension-cutting beverage. But this month, I went on three – the first, at a bar where I ordered seltzer and we talked over the din of friends catching up and a band beginning to play. For the next two, I stuck to activities in which no alcohol was involved: an afternoon tea date just as the first snowflakes of a weekend storm began to fall, and a walk around a local university with an architecture student who pointed out the quirky design choices, intricate details, and secret spaces of buildings created years ago.

All these things happened before I turned the calendar page on January, and I made it out alive.

What’s more, I began to enjoy the challenge of it, as well as the mindfulness that came along with not drinking. The presence of mind I felt was not dissimilar to the way I feel at home on the Vineyard, when there is more time and space for talking with family, for cooking with ingredients caught or grown by people I know, for reflecting on the way I feel and the goals I have for a day, a month, a year, or a lifetime.

Of course, just like life on the Vineyard sometimes you need a vacation – to get off the Island or go out for a drink at the bar. Which is what I did on February 1, though in moderation and with perhaps a little more awareness than I’d had before.

Julia Rappaport is managing editor of fresh, a food and cooking magazine.