As a journalist, I am moved by the zeitgeist. My finger is surgically attached to the pulse.
This, curiosity and a mid-20s realisation that I probably haven't gone more than a week without glugging an alcoholic drink for the last 10 years drove me to participate in Dry January this year - and (spoiler alert) it was more underwhelming than a pint with too much head.
News articles and friend's testimonies promised me more energy, fresher skin, a yassified mood and newfound confidence. The reality? Boredom, impatience and weird dreams.
Stick with me for my tale of trauma, navigating life as a modern-day Puritan.
In preparation for my abstinence, I doubled down on my drinking in December, saying yes to every pint and prosecco. I wanted to drink so much that I'd be leaking and waiting for January to come.
And so I imbibed and imbibed until I woke up on the 1st January 2023, two parts hungover and one part pious, waiting for the spiritual enlightenment that was surely inevitable.
But it never came.
For the first week of January I felt anxiety so physical I wanted to be ripped out of my own body and exist as a liminal spirit. I couldn't sleep for ages and woke up alert every morning with my heart thumping against my ribs. If you know, you know!
The shit no one talks about #anxiety #anxietysquad #dryjanuary
I revised my opinions on NHS pay, swigged an alcohol-free beer and plodded on through the month.
By week two my skepticism about the sorry project grew.
I went to the cinema on a Friday night and gaped at people sipping from wine glasses as they reclined during the trailers. One single drink to accompany a two-hour flick? Vibes more immaculate are hard to come by and I felt profound FOMO.
Saturday came along and I watched my friends enjoy the hoppy bubbles of a nice IPA at a birthday do while I stomached a G&T without the G. I left feeling pretty great to have learnt that I like my friend's company sober and it was empowering to feel as confidence without the sauce as I do with it. Spending £6 on a night out and waking up without a hangover was also not to be sniffed at.
But would I have enjoyed a drink too? Yes. And could I have limited my intake to save money and prevent a hangover? Also yes.
After all, I have a pretty healthy relationship with alcohol. I'm good at only drinking when I feel like experiencing a mild buzz and rarely use it as a crutch to avoid unpleasant emotions. I'm giving self-aware.
So why was I depriving myself just for the sake of it? Stubbornness, by this point.
Some more side effects - I craved sugar constantly during the month because I wasn't getting it from the bevies. That was neither a pleasant or unpleasant experience. I also had vivid dreams, because of more REM sleep, according to doctor Google. Again, comme ci comme ca.
But there was one profoundly negative impact. My relationships came under strain and after one too many fascinating text updates about the minutiae of my experiences, I even managed to break the titanium patience of a Jewish mother.
"It’s only the 14th …….. how will I cope with all the mentions up to and including the 31st. You’re doing dry January. I GET IT!!! But it’s driving me to drink"! my mum despaired.
She had a point. If I had £1 for every time I droned on about dry January I could afford at least one bottle of Don Perignon.
But I didn't ask to be born, as they say, so the updates continued right until the very end of the month, and what final learnings did I gather then?
By the end of January my skin did feel a bit more youthful and making Dry Jan my personality trait to keep my self-absorption fresh for 2023 was great. But overall, I'd rate the experience a meh/10.
February is coming. Sorry, health bros, but the forecast is wet.
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