Dry January – are you doing it? Have you done it? Normally the driest my January goes is a dry white wine. I’ve always been a bit sniffy about abstaining from alcohol for a full smug month – not to mention the fact that January is chock full of family birthdays which means there is a high level of refusal willpower needed around the lunch table when the prosecco is flowing. And willpower isn’t always my greatest gift.
I have always said to myself that as long as there is moderation, and that there are a few days a week with no alcohol, this is fine. And I do agree (with myself, which is a good thing) that generally moderation trumps abstaining as a general rule. But I have started to become aware and uncomfortable about the fact that I ALWAYS have a drink of an evening from Thursday to Sunday. Some evenings only one glass of red, savoured, but often, usually…two or three if it’s a weekend and I’m out or sharing a bottle with my husband. You know that you’ve got a reputation of a lover of the grape when people express surprise if you’re not drinking, or if they affectionately refer to you as a drinker. My mother in law has a lovely artist’s print on her wall, of a woman drinking a glass of red wine. My then-2 year old once pointed at it and said “MUMMY!!!”. Which made my face go as red as the vino.
I once read somewhere that if you’re conscious of a feeling that you might need to get a handle on your drinking, then you’re probably right. I certainly don’t get drunk very often, but I do drink often. And it’s such a habit and intrinsic behaviour – wine o’clock, a glass of prosecco to salute the weekend, a confidence-boosting crutch at an event where I don’t know anyone, a reward gin and tonic after a crappy day, a glass of red to celebrate the end of a long evening of children’s mayhem followed by teaching, a lunchtime glass of rose with a friend….. all of these situations sometimes feel hollow without that alcoholic prop. Which makes me cringe a bit, like a vegetarian hearing a meat eater say a meal isn’t complete without meat. Which is why I feel like I need to kick the prop away and question what exactly I am propping up.
I also am curious to see the effects of nil alcool on my digestive system, my skin, my sleep (although until Freddie stops sabotaging my sleep this one will be harder to decipher). There are myriad benefits that skipping alcohol altogether have going for our wellbeing and health. Alcohol is a proven hormone disrupter, and messes with the delicate balance within our systems. So I want to see when these benefits start to make themselves known, and if they compensate for the lovely full-bodied taste of a glass of Shiraz.
But abstaining from alcohol brings with it societal umbrage. Unless you’re pregnant (and any skipping of alcohol from a woman is often assumed to be related to that), you’re not often given a get out of jail free pass when it comes to being allowed to not drink without causing raised eyebrows and offence. Shining a light on other people’s discomfort about their own drinking? Or just being a party pooper? Drinking is sanctioned by society as the joy bringer, and the uniter. Which it undoubtedly is. But it’s funny how we can be judged for not wanting to – and I’m including myself in the judging panel here.
This is an exercise in self-care and restraint for me. A real challenge to see if I can actually do it. It’s not a judgment of drinking or a suggestion that anyone is wrong if they are continuing with their moist lubricated January. It’s just for me.
So, I did have a drink on my husband’s birthday on 2nd January, and my dry January began then. We’re only 4 days in but I already feel like it’s been aaaages, which is quite amusing and telling. I got through a Friday night post-first-week-back-at-school without a congratulatory glass of fizz or a glass of beer with the curry I had with my husband, even though his beer looked delicious and complementary to our meal. I felt such a childlike sense of achievement that I almost feel sorry for myself. But I am also buoyed to go forward and carry on.
Is anyone else doing Dry January? Do you have any tips and tricks? Have you given up booze for good? Do you miss it? I’d love to hear.
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