Reporting back on the 31 long dry days of January…

SOME people give up alcohol because they have to. An old friend and reader of this blog hasn’t had a drink in more than twenty years, and is a better man for it.

I’ve not had a drink in 31 days and am the same man for it, only denied something nice to do at the weekends.

This was my first go at Dry January. I might abstain again or I might not. You see, the difference between drinking and not drinking strikes me as minimal. Perhaps I just wasn’t trying hard enough with the drinking.

According to the Dry January website, 6.5 million people took the alcohol-free ‘challenge’ this year. The official messages, although well meant, seem to over-promise the benefits of being dry. You will “get your fun back” and get “your YOU” back, according to the cheery bullying.

Let’s take those two. Fun has been scarce for everyone this month anyway, and seeing as my ‘fun’ – those little treats to myself – have been removed, fun has been lessened rather than increased. As for the other part, I fear “my ME” will always like to sit in a bar somewhere, drinking a couple of decent pints. That’s a key part of who I am; not the only or even the main part, but it’s there for sure.

Been there since sixth-form days in the 1970s and the Church Inn in Cheadle Hulme; been there through university and the early newspaper years in south-east London, when lunchtime drinking was still a thing (along with clattering typewriters and smoking in the office); been there ever since, although modified to a couple of pints a week in our local bar, when it’s allowed to be open.

Add two or three tins of craft beer and a whisky, and that’s my average weekly consumption. Sometimes there is wine instead of beer.

According to Alcohol Change, the backers of Dry January, by now my skin will feel brighter, my wallet fuller, my days busier, my step bouncier, my mind calmer, my “nights sleepier”. Oh, and something was whispered about losing weight.

I’ll leave others to judge my skin, but it looks the same as usual to me. I’ve saved perhaps £40 over the month, and lost a disappointing three pounds or so, even with breakfast having been skipped in the name of daily mini-fasts.

My mind is calm enough, thank you. My step is as bouncy as a sixtysomething step can be; my nights not one twitch sleepier. In fact my usually rotten nights have been even worse. I’ve slept like an insomniac spring, coiling back to wakefulness throughout the night, starting in one bed and ending in another. So no booze-free quietude there.

There have been benefits. Although the weekends have been flatter, I’ve not broken the booze-free pact with myself. It’s pleasing to know I can do without alcohol for a whole month.

Perhaps you need to drink more to get the full effect. I nearly always have four dry days a week anyway, and that seems to suit me. Levels of drinking differ widely, of course. I’d describe my habits as moderate but quietly determined; but to someone who confines themselves to a cheeky sherry at Christmas, they may appear dissolute.

In the spirit of being supportive, my wife, a trainee teetotaller, has been doing One-Gin-January; and she wouldn’t have missed that one gin much at all. Whereas I really missed those beers.

I won’t break the pact today and, as tomorrow is Monday, the dry spell will probably last until Friday. Then January will definitely be done with.


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