To Drink or Not To Drink: A Dry January

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There wasn’t an exact moment when I thought giving up booze for an entire month would be a good idea. It was more like a gradual process starting shortly after graduating college in 2013 and knowing all too well that my alcohol consumption had to decrease…drastically. By December, with the holidays taking their toll, I quietly hatched the plan to have a month void of weekend hangovers.

Dry January, or Drynuary, has rapidly become a popular alternative to the daunting New Year’s resolution. At the very least, it’s become a supplemental assignment to help achieve some promises for a healthier year. Trying to lose weight? Cut out all those extra calories from the heavy winter ales and stouts. Want to stop smoking? The urge may diminish if you take away a cigarette’s best friend – a cold bottle of suds.

That’s not to say Drynuary is going to make all your problems go away. Like other temporary solutions that we have today (cleansing, e-cigs), a month without alcohol is more of a kickstart to help rewire your system. Most people, like myself, dive right back into their casual drinking once February rolls around. Even worse, they run the risk of having a Wet February – a month of heavier than normal consumption to make up for the drought.

So why do it? Why suffer a month without something you enjoy? I can’t speak for everyone, but I just knew that I was tired. I was tired of missing out on Sunday mornings. I was tired of Saturday-long Netflix binges in a dark room. I was tired of the occasional headaches and crowded bars playing Nicki Minaj so loud that a conversation seemed like a waste of time.

Most importantly, I was tired of thinking that going out with friends meant that I had to drink, or that I had nothing to offer if I wasn’t spouting off jokes from the safety of a bar stool. So I made a simple deal with myself, and I’m happy I did. Anyone familiar with the Christian observance of Lent knows what it’s like to give something you enjoy up for a month. I was raised Catholic, so I credit those years of giving up candy or television for 30 days as solid practice for Drynuary.

Health wise, I lost seven pounds and slept much better throughout the month of January. My coffee intake increased, but I assume that was because I was looking for something to fill the beer void. I also drank plenty of water and managed to get to the gym on the weekends in addition to maintaining a weekday workout schedule.

I was caught off guard midway through the experiment when I had a vivid dream that I was on some kind of insane bender and had given up on Drynuary. When I woke up, I thought, for a split second, that I had actually been out drinking the night before. I remember being disappointed in that brief moment when I was stuck in the hazy dream state.

Cravings for booze were constant throughout the month. I was thinking about what I would like to drink or living vicariously through friends at the bar. But there was never a moment when I stared longingly at a beer in the refrigerator and thought about devouring it.

Now that it’s all over, I can’t say with certainty that a month without alcohol is worth it. I think it is, but that’s just me. It was a personal decision that I made for myself when I had had enough. The reason for trying Drynuary, or any month without alcohol, has to be more important than what you hope to gain from it.

Besides, the alcohol will still be there the following month along with the Netflix hangovers and deafening Nicki Minaj tracks.

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