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The Dry January Diary: One week in

8th January 2014

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2014 began like this: 3am in a flat above a Clapham kebab shop, a half full (or empty?) bottle of Amaretto, and the realisation that when I woke up sobriety would be on for a full 31 days.


I am indeed doing Dry January, and it’s not something that I’d fully considered the implications of.

Let’s consider a typical weekly routine, which is likely to start with good intentions and, you know, actually going home after work to do wholesome things like watch costume dramas and read twitter and tackle multiple loads of washing. So well done - Monday is responsible and ends with an early night.

Tuesday someone fancies a catch up, so you take advantage of the happy hour cocktails before making your way home. And then it’s Wednesday, and hey – it’s taken a really, really long time to get here. We deserve a drink, don’t we? Don’t we? Yes. Off to the pub we trot. Happy Wednesday everyone, we’re over the hump!

On Thursday there’s an office birthday, so you go to the pub at lunchtime, and “just have a half.” And then there’s the birthday dinner, with wine. And then it’s Friday, and Saturday, and we know what that means – more wine, maybe some gin, cocktails if we’re feeling flush, and if people are in an out out mood there will probably be some foul tasting shots thrown in too.

And so the weeks go by.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person for whom alcohol is a large part of life, there whether we particularly value its presence or not, draining our bank accounts and causing our mornings to go so.much.more.slowly.

So, the first question: why go dry? Well, that’s an easy one: because it’s January and December was overindulgent and at some point it would be nice to see if I can finish the month without abusing the savings pot. Is there a better time to do this than post-New Year?

Also, I’m doing Dry January just see if I can. As has been noted, my weekly routine is extremely booze-heavy. It’s a personal challenge and I’m not doing it for charity, because as my mother pointed out: “that would be asking people to give you money to do something that is essentially just for yourself.”

So, it’s the 8th of January. I’m one week in - and so far, so sober.

How is it going?  As yet, I’ve felt no noticeable health benefits. I might have slightly more energy (or I might have imagined it, placebo-style) but that’s probably because to make up for not being in the pub I seem to have been doing a lot of swimming and walking and running. It’s amazing how much time there is for exercise when booze isn’t a part of your life.

Have I wanted a drink? Only once, fleetingly, during a Sunday evening dinner with flatmates. My craving for a big sparkly glass of white vanished immediately though, when everyone else started ordering Diet Coke. Ice Tea sufficed.

My resolve is bolstered because a record number of my friends and acquaintances are also off the sauce this month. If temptation isn’t put in your way, you are unlikely to seek it out, I have discovered.

Of course, I have already encountered problems.

There are no good options in pubs, bar, or even restaurants for those who don’t want to drink. Endless Diet Cokes and orange juices are hardly going to be healthier than alcohol. I’d drink tap water, but sitting in a pub without paying for a drink feels shameful. Pre-Dry January, I once timidly asked for a cup of tea (at 3pm, I might add) in a bar that was attached to a Central London bowling alley (did you know, incidentally, that there are no bowling alleys in London that don’t serve alcohol?) and was looked at like I’d asked the waiter to please perform a jig whilst balancing a pint on his head. Mocktails work occasionally, but they’re essentially just sugar and fruit juice too. Bye, healthy teeth.

Also, you’re supposed to have a ‘usual’ when you’re in a pub. By this I mean, you’re supposed to know exactly what you want, and not have to seek out menus and search hopelessly for alternatives to booze. If you do, the staff move on to other (beer-swilling) customers and forget you’re there when you have finally made a decision. I’m already sick of panic ordering Diet Coke lest I never get served at all, and there are three and a half more weeks of this.

Next week brings my first PR event of the year, which is likely to come with many, many offerings of free wine. I can usually deal with these things solo because I know if I have an awkward moment alone I can nurse my wine/distract myself by getting another one. And when you’ve got a glass of wine in your hand, networking conversation flows better. Now though, I suddenly feel the need to take someone with me for non-drinking moral support.

“How is Dry January going?” asks one friend. Swiftly followed by, “Hahaha. I’m going to ask you every day.”

I’ll keep you posted.

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