In defence of dry January

Published

Pint of beer

Credit: Pexels / Little Visuals

David McGinley
Writer

“I still feel like there is a certain strength to resolutions like Dry January (and Stoptober, and so on). It provides a collective framework for us to examine our habits. Even the questioning has value: what do I do too much, or not enough?”

With its proximity to the New Year – and, of course, New Year’s resolutions – January is the month that feels most suited to ambitious public health campaigns. This opinion was obviously shared by whoever first conceived of “Dry January”, which promotes the abstention from alcohol over the month. The creation of Dry January is a relatively recent development, the term having been conceived in 2012 by the charity Alcohol Concern.

Your impression of Dry January will probably resemble your thoughts on resolutions in general, which seem to be getting less and less popular as the years go by. I can’t really say I’m any different. Although I like the idea of committing to a dramatic positive lifestyle change, to be absolutely honest, I’ve never been bothered enough to make the effort. I won’t be drinking during January, but I already don’t drink full stop; saying that I was doing Dry January would be like a lifelong vegetarian making a resolution to not eat meat – it’d be a shit resolution.

Despite this, I still feel like there is a certain strength to resolutions like Dry January (and Stoptober, and so on). It provides a collective framework for us to examine our habits. Even the questioning has value: what do I do too much, or not enough? It’s common to hear about the low number of resolutions that people actually manage to stick to for a year, but at the same time I can’t help but think that a low number is better than none.

Obviously, not every change is going to work for every person. Much of the discussion about Dry January focuses on its benefits weighed against its drawbacks, but this focus is misplaced. So much care is given to arguments about how drinking in moderation or even being entirely sober will give you some minute change in your chance of liver disease, while discussion about the relationship that people have with alcohol – whether positive or negative – is left to the wayside. Dry January, like resolutions in general, has the potential in my view to let people experiment with changes they might like to make.