Dryathlon or Dry January: worth trying once

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drythlon worth trying

My friends in the drinks industry won’t thank me, but I’ve joined the growing ranks of those who have sworn off booze for January.

Swearing seems to be the appropriate word too, as it’s what I’ve felt like doing every one of the 20 or so times during the last two – is it only two?! – days when I’ve remembered what it is I can’t have anymore.

There are many reasons not to do it, namely that drinking in moderation isn’t necessarily bad for you and can even be beneficial, or that it’s better to have a couple of alcohol-free days every week throughout the year rather than go cold turkey for a month and then go bonkers in bars for the rest of 2014.

What attracted me to the idea in the first place was, like with most people, the thought of the weight I’d lose and the money I’d save, both typical but perfectly laudable New Year’s resolutions.

But the main thing that tipped me over the edge onto a month of total and utter sobriety was my reaction to the prospect, the closer it became.

I actually started to feel quite panicky as the days ticked down, much more than I ever thought I would. I always thought that doing the ‘Dryathon‘ (a term coined by Cancer Research), Dry January (Alcohol Concern) or just the Month from Hell (unhelpful friends) would be a huge challenge, especially for a drinks journalist who rarely goes 24 hours without one sort of drink or another. Whether it’s a pint of real ale or a taste of newly distilled gin, a glass or six of fizz at a PR bash or something entirely random that’s landed on my desk (barley wine or absinthe anyone?) I am rarely far from a drink (see picture below as proof).

dry january

But a general feeling of lardiness plus a  growing suspicion that alcohol was actually the glue that held everything together prompted me to commit to a full 31 days, alcohol free.

But while I thought doing it would be hard, nothing prepared me for how stressful I would find just planning to give up. Or at least, the decision was easy, but the feeling that time was running out for me to enjoy a drink or two really started to panic me, even before I’d actually done it. Ridiculous, right? But at 4pm on New Year’s Eve I felt as if the dark clouds were descending and nothing was ever going to be fun, ever again.

What threw me is that I’d planned it all so perfectly. As I’m in France on holiday at the moment, it seemed crazy to give up mid-break.     Finishing off a week in rainy Normandy without anything to drink seemed madness and the way to ruin a good holiday, and this was agreed by all. So Monday 6th January was to be the start of the 31 day detox.

But all of a sudden there was a decision by my fellow holidaymaker (my sister) to give up from the 1st, to be in synch with everyone else. My last drinking days suddenly got chopped down to just one. I started thinking of all the great evenings I’d spent drinking over the years, the times when a drink was the answer to whatever problem I was facing, the fact I just love the taste of pretty much anything alcohol, dirty martinis and posh beers in particular.

Even the thought of spending the weekend at my mum’s without my usual G&T over a game of Scrabble seemed an unthinkable prospect.

My total over-reaction was definitely something to worry about. It reminded me of a friend of a friend I met in Rome, a former priest. I asked him about the night before taking the vows. Did you all go out and party, chat up girls, get drunk and do all the things that you were never going to be able to do again? I’d asked, possibly rather insensitively.

We just sat and meditated, he replied. If we’d have wanted to go out and party, then we probably wouldn’t have been in the right frame of mind to enter the priesthood in the first place.

I understood what he meant, but applied the exact opposite to my own situation. If I was getting so ridiculously worried about the whole thing before it had even began, there was nothing else to do. Give up on the 1st, on the stroke of midnight, and just bloody get on with it.

My final drink of 2013 was a bottle of Fuller’s Brewers Reserve, aged in cognac casks which I’ve been given at the Great British Beer Festival five years ago and much to my amazement, managed not to drink in the intervening years. It was smooth, rich and delicious. But, I suspect, nowhere near as delicious as the drink I’m going to have on the 1st Feb. Or maybe later? With any luck, by then I will have lost a few pounds but gained a much healthier perspective on drinking by then.

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Sarah Bridge

Sarah Bridge

Every review is personally researched and written by me, Sarah Bridge, who, when I'm not writing about leisure for a national newspaper, spends my time seeking out the best leisure experiences, from city centre boutique hotels to country house estates, Michelin-starred dining to the newest openings. Some of the links on my reviews are affiliate marketing links, which means if you click through I get a small commission if you end up buying on these sites. This in no way affects the independence of my reviews, but helps with website running costs and I just wanted to let you know so as to be fully transparent.
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5 thoughts on “Dryathlon or Dry January: worth trying once”

  1. I did it last year; until my boss rewarded me with a well-deserved very special type of gin in a G&T for a big project. For the first time, I was pretty happy with 25 straight days of no drinking. I did manage to not drink for the rest of the 6 days until the end of January but went mad in February (2 holidays, six nations, boyfriend’s birthday), March (??), April (Easter), May (new house, summer), June (still sunny, BBQs, Andy Murray wins Wimbledon), July, (I blame guests staying in Cardiff), August (hen nights, London, camping etc etc), September (hen night turns into wedding, MY birthday etc), October (I was in a play), November (turning cold, any excuse), and December (Christmas!!!!) So, in short this year I started out with the same promise only to lapse on visiting friends last weekend but have now vowed to keep up what I think is a much healthier promise: no weekday drinking (and no weekend binging). I say this with a nice glass of red next to me, and feel neither guilty or unhealthy. Just realised 2013 was one heck of a year though… Good luck keeping up the great start on your blog! 🙂

    1. I know what you mean – it’s hard to stay off the booze when life gets in the way! I think the main thing I’m planning on doing after this endless month is to have a drink for an actual reason, not just random ‘I’m bored/thirsty/tired’ type reasons. Lots of drinking just seems to be habit and not drinking does force you to break that habit and find other things to do. Or allow you to comtemplate the unthinkable and not necessarily have a drink even if you’re in the pub! So it’s been an interesting experiment but not one I’m likely to repeat. Pleased I haven’t found it especially difficult though. Just very, very dull. But thanks for the follow and glad you liked the blog. Onwards and upwards….!

    1. Good – I’ve been writing it in my head for 20 days now! All in all quite an interesting experiment – or at least, a very dull experiment which has thrown up some interesting thoughts. To be posted soon!

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