I’ve done it, i’ve made it through January! A month where alcohol, dairy, meat, fish, cigarettes and fun were all banned in favour of staying in, keeping warm, and reading my book. I haven’t entered a pub since 2017 for God’s sake; it’s been a strange month.
For those who don’t know, Dry January is one whole month without consuming any alcohol. I tried last year and failed miserably after just two weeks when my friends invited me out and I couldn’t face going to a club sober. But this year was different. I felt dedicated, motivated to commit, and really just do it. Not to drink at all. Not one sip.
You see, in December, I’d read an opinion piece in The Telegraphthat really resonated with me. The columnist is a woman in her 30s. She has a good job, a loving family, and by all means has made a success of herself and lives an enviable life. At the same time, she has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that has landed her in rehab. She didn’t drink every night, rather when she did drink, it was an uncontrollable session that led her into potentially damaging situations. To cut a long story short, it turns out that binge drinking is also a form of alcoholism, who knew?
The article hit a little too close to home. I’m not a person who drinks every night, and I never have been. Instead, like most people my age, i’m a binge drinker, and on several occasions I’ve put myself in potentially unsafe situations because I was so drunk. On more than one occasion i’ve been so drunk that I couldn’t read Google Maps to get myself home. I’ve always been alright in the end, but i’m pitifully aware that I only need to stagger past the wrong person or pass out on the tube and i’m in some serious trouble.
I read the article and wondered uncomfortably if I had a drinking problem. I reasoned that most young adults are binge drinkers because we’re still in the habit of partying; most of us don’t have children to rush home to, we’re free to do what we please, and our hangovers haven’t yet reached peak horrific. However, I thought Dry January might be a good test, just to double check I could lay off booze for a month and not miss it, and by joe, I bloody did it.
I didn’t slip up once throughout the month, I haven’t even had a sip of someone else’s drink. My biggest surprise has been the ease of the process. I was expecting to crave my Friday night binge, but no cravings came. The second to last weekend of the month was the most challenging when some friends came over for dinner, some drinks and a game of Risk, but even then, I didn’t crack. As the month progressed I began to enjoy staying in, I started looking forward to heading home on a Friday evening to put the telly on and make a cup of tea. Before this month I never went a Friday night without any alcohol. I didn’t always get drunk, but i’d drink at least half a bottle of wine to ‘reward’ myself for all my hard work that week.
Now the month is over, I physically feel noticeably better. i’ve lost weight, i’ve slept better, and I seem to have upped my stamina. Somewhere near the beginning of the month I went for my first run in a long time, and freely admit I was utterly rubbish. But on the final weekend of the month, I went running again, and the improvement was massive. I can only put it down to stopping drinking because I haven’t been working out regularly throughout the month. I think i’m just healthier.
Mentally, the effects of avoiding booze have been brilliant. As i’ve alluded to in the past, I am basically a walking, talking ball of anxiety. While i’m definitely not ‘cured’, I feel much lighter now. I find hangovers mentally exhausting, and so consecutive weekends without them have really had a positive effect. Smoking also makes me anxious, and thanks to Dry Jan, I haven’t smoked a single cigarette this month either. Possibly another reason for my better running abilities. Finally, I feel noticeably more driven. I’ve worked on this blog consistently throughout the month when I got home from work. I’ve also had a couple of ideas on how earn extra money on the side of my ‘day job’, and have taken the first tentative steps to putting the plans in place. Sobriety has without question made me far more productive.
Sadly, nothing in life comes without its downsides, and my social life has taken a considerable hit. Like I said, I haven’t been to a pub for more than a month, when usually I go with my friends every Friday. I feel a little distant from my friends because i’ve spent all my spare time cooped up in my flat, and so i’m looking forward to seeing everyone properly again.
More problematic however, is that i’m now anxious about the idea of drinking. Because not drinking has helped my anxiety, of course i’m now anxious to introduce booze back into my life. It would be so great if my damn brain could just work with me from time to time. In light of that, i’m not sure where I go from here. I thought i’d end the month ready to grab anything in sight even remotely alcoholic, but actually, I don’t want to drink at all.
Realistically, I don’t plan to go sober because i’ll never see my friends or leave the house, but what I will take from this experience is that it’s fine to go home on Friday and just chill out without alcohol. Oh, and i’m definitely not an alcoholic, phew!