Dry January

Today is February 1st, the beginning of the second month of the new year 2023. So why am I writing about January now? I’m so glad you asked.

I have never been a “joiner.” Unlike most people I’ve known in my life, the way to get me to NOT do something is to tell me about how everyone else is doing it. I tend to be of the opinion that if something is popular, it must be bland, uninspired, dispassionate, non-polarizing, boring or dumb. So when folks started talking about abstaining from alcohol for the month of January before the holidays, I couldn’t help hearing about it, but generally had no interest.

I consider myself a moderate drinker and I pretty regularly enjoy beer, wine and cocktails at home, not all at the same time, of course. I have never really considered myself “sober curious,” or anything like that. I haven’t really drank in excess since my party days in my 20s and I have no ethical qualms preventing me from enjoying a drink with dinner or a nightcap a couple times a week.

But then, one of the articles I saw framed the idea of dry January in a completely different way. It wasn’t about quitting drinking entirely, or even about a fun challenge to do with others. It didn’t mention about how, in order to be successful, you needed to share your participation with all your friends and/or on social media for accountability. It didn’t even talk about the health risks of heavy drinking, like we don’t already know that.

This article was different; it was an opportunity, an open door to trying something out. Rather than a competition at which you could succeed or fail, it was more like an invitation to a personal project. And for some reason, that really spoke to me. So after the New Years toasts were done, I stopped drinking. I didn’t throw away all the booze in the house and I actually only told one person, my husband, that I was going to do this. Around mid-month, I shared with a few other folks, but mostly I didn’t speak about it publicly at all.

And I did it. Without any extra rah-rah encouragement from a gaggle of cheerleader friends or any accountability buddies. I was my own accountability. There were a few evenings when I thought I’d really like a glass of wine or a sweet splash of Tuaca or rum at the end of the night, but I didn’t do it. Even though nobody would have known. Self-accountability is the best kind of accountability because you must believe yourself to be worthy for it to work. This has been an incredible struggle for me in the past so this in and of itself is the greatest reward of the month.

I don’t plan on committing in advance to “Sober October” or dry January 2024 or anything, but I am just a little bit proud of myself for making the choice to continue with this project for 31 straight days. A couple people and things helped me. First, my husband, who I never demanded go along with me, but mostly did. Also my work buddy who, when we had met up for a happy hour/going away party, told me he “respected that,” over and over, as he had already consumed 3-4 beers by the time I got there. I was also delighted to find out that Athletic Brewing has some really solid offerings in their array of near-beer that you can order of their website and have shipped directly to your home. It’s not particular inexpensive or low-calorie (though lighter than normal craft beer), but if you’re not into the sober game for budgetary or caloric reasons, you should give them a try. I was particularly fond of the golden ale.

I stopped short of seeking out any non-alcoholic wine or spirits, though I know they are out there. I did drink a lot more water, sometimes sparkling, with or without a squeeze of citrus or splash of pomegranate vinegar. My pandemic project of homemade kombucha came in handy. And, because winter, I rediscovered my hot tea stash (no pun intended). I did cook with wine a couple times during the month, but I decided that was allowed because I make my own rules, dammit!

The only other thing I’ll say is that so many of the first-person stories about these sorts of events are marked with all kinds of fantastic changes or revelations that people experienced. I don’t really have any of that. My skin didn’t miraculously clear up and I didn’t lose any weight. My sleep is still varied and unpredictable, at best, and my energy level is about the same. I don’t feel any different than when I started. While I am happy to have done the thing, I don’t expect to have any particular long-term benefits from it. And though I don’t “crave” alcohol, I am going to enjoy that glass of wine with the next dinner we have that is suitable for pairing.

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