It’s here. Dawn has broken over the day we’ve all been waiting for: the day when order is once again restored to British society. It’s February 1st and the Dry January veterans can imbibe the demon drink without betraying their solemn promise to jaded post-Christmas souls and New Year broken bodies.
Now that I’ve successfully completed my first ever attempt at Dry January (or, indeed, of cutting out booze for longer than a week in approx. 10 years), I thought I’d share my experience on all the ways it affected me across the spectrum.
Lesson one: Survival of the Fittest
If you can forgive my loose comparison of not drinking for a month to Darwinism, let me tell you – when you’re a socially active city girl in your twenties grinding that 9-5 life, Dry January can be a jungle. Get to the second weekend of the month and you’re gasping over a large glass of Malbec like a camel for water.
While this may serve to some as a reason for not doing it (“Why put yourself through that? On the bleakest month of the year?”) once you prove to yourself you won’t give in, there’s actually a higher satisfaction – at least for me – that comes from saying no to something your mind and body falsely tells you you need.
Basically, aside from snubbing a big glass of red, there’s a much more important lesson to be learned within it all.
Lesson two: Productivity prevails
For someone who, from time to time, has been guilty of using the fact I’m a bit hungover as an excuse to do, frankly, SFA, suddenly I find myself more productive than ever at weekends – and therefore more satisfied and fulfilled in general.
I’m not saying that you’re not satisfied or fulfilled after a night of drinking moderately, but at 28 I now feel the effects of even 2 glasses of wine the next day (woe).
Lesson three: Social events = alcohol (or do they?)
If you don’t wish to spend every January evening hidden beneath a rock, you’re going to have to accept that if you want to socialise after work, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in a bar/pub/drinking hole of some sort. Sans alcohol.
As a life and style blogger, I get invited to a lot of events – 90% of which I’d say involve tipples. Now, the old me would probably have avoided most of these because the thought of mingling/socialising/staying awake on a mid-week evening after 7pm without a drink was, to be frank, somewhat grim.
Writing this I realise there is a certain level of tragedy attached to the above confession. But it’s only with distance (i.e., not drinking) that the concept has even risen out of my subconscious and I’ve been able to challenge it. So, out of all the social events I’ve been to in January (including dinners, launch nights and birthdays) I’ve imbibed nothing but water and “Virgin cocktails” (who am I) and it’s actually been completely fine. Sure, alcohol has a good way of taking the edge off but 20 minutes in and your focus turns to the good time you’re having, not your empty hand.
Lesson four: Haters are rife
While the gratification of proving your own mental strength gives off a good buzz, you’ll need it to fend off the equal amount of negativity coming from the impressive crew of Dry Jan haters.
Quitting booze for a month to give your body a rest shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, but give it a week and you’ll find yourself faced with friends, family and colleagues who either question your motives, accuse you of being boring, or try to persuade you to quit.
This for me has been the toughest part of Dry January. As my boyfriend pointed out the other night, it’s got to the point I’m beginning to treat it as a kind of “Us versus Them” stand-off. But in all seriousness, although I did expect some resistance to my decision not to drink for a month, it’s been really disappointing to be made to feel constantly on the defensive by people who should be encouraging your decisions.
As one of my good pals pointed out, if you said you were cutting out sugar, or caffeine, or any other ‘indulgent’ food and drink group, people would probably be interested to know why rather than primed to shoot you down, or tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t be doing it (which are, incidentally, largely to do with themselves.) As our friends across the pond would say, go figure.
Lesson five: Alcohol free beer actually has a purpose
Until literally this January, I would say I still questioned why such an invention exists. Beer does not taste as good, as, say, ginger beer, or Irn Bru, or any other fizzy, non-alcoholic drink. But let me tell you, don’t knock this shizz until you’ve tried it.
I had alcohol free Erdinger during a meal out in Glasgow about half way through January, and it definitely trumped Diet Coke in the “naughty” league – despite being, at 0.5%, about as naughty as a nun. It definitely activates the placebo effect to some degree, and, at 10 days without booze, that was good enough for me.
Lesson six: It’s easier (and you’re stronger) than you think
In fact, in a very bizarre way, it’s almost enjoyable. The amount of events I’ve been to or times I’ve drunk where I’ve thought I’ve been having fun, but in fact can’t remember a lot of details the next day, or get the fear because I can’t quite recall what I’ve said to somebody or if I’ve offended them, or just generally acted like a bit of a tit.
It’s been really nice to take the expectation of drinking away altogether and just focus on the people you’re with, what they’re saying and – shock horror – actually remembering the majority of it the next day.
Lesson seven: Mental benefits outweigh the physical
…If you can stay sober at a manic children’s party with tipsy adults telling you to quit, you can do anything. Similarly for Lady Libertine’s glitzy launch event I attended recently. It is quite something, after all, to see everyone else drinking champagne on tap while you’re drinking the product of, well, an actual tap.
But in all honesty, it really wasn’t that difficult. Sure, I left a bit earlier than I probably would have had I been drinking, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a really good time. It would have been nice to enjoy a glass or champagne or two but the fact I now know I’m able to say ‘no’ (and be a tiny minority) was actually hugely liberating.
Lesson eight: Omg it’s January and I’m rich
Christmas is expensive and alcohol is a financial hoover. Amen to having more money for nice food and clothes.
Let’s see how February’s finances fare.
Over and out, DJ!