Giving up alcohol for a month can provide a lot of benefits, some of which won’t be realised until you give it a try.
Dry January: the popular no-alcohol January challenge that many have participated in this past month. For some, this challenge was taken on to save their bank account, while for others it was done as a drinking-reset to encourage healthier drinking habits for the rest of the year. For me, this month of no-drinking was done to analyse when I drink and why.
Last year I participated in Dry January, which ended up lasting until May - I enjoyed the break from alcohol so much that I stayed away from it until one of my friend’s birthday parties at the end of May where I finally cracked open a cider. During this time, indoor drinking wasn’t allowed due to the lockdown, so I didn’t feel much pressure to drink. Because of this, I didn’t do much reflection on my sober months - all I knew was that I enjoyed the feeling of not drinking. Over the summer I drank infrequently, enjoying the occasional cocktail or glass of wine, spending most of my nights off work sober with friends. I avoided bars and clubs where there would be pressure to drink and didn’t go to any parties where I would be surrounded by others who were drunk. I avoided heavy alcohol consumption altogether and found my life to be a lot more peaceful.
"I didn’t do much reflection on my sober months - all I knew was that I enjoyed the feeling of not drinking."
This lasted a while until I did some travelling at the end of the summer. I enjoyed alcohol at nearly every destination - I couldn’t turn down a cocktail in Iceland or a pint in Dublin. After summer ended and I switched jobs, I found that my evening job helped in my lower alcohol consumption. Once university was back in session, I began drinking much more often, enjoying nights out, gigs and drinks with friends multiple times a week. By the time January rolled around, I realised I was in deep need of a reset. I didn’t enjoy the fact that I was drinking so often, and neither did my bank account.
This month, not drinking has been a relief, although I will admit to feeling the temptation at times. One of the biggest realisations I had occurred on a society night out when I opted for sparkling water instead of my usual vodka-soda: my conversations were clearer, more enjoyable and memorable. I found myself able to focus on what my friends were saying, contribute more to the conversation and wasn’t as worried on my walk home after. When I got back to my flat , it occurred to me how much more I preferred not drinking when socialising. So, I put this theory to the test.
Later that week I went out for drinks again with a couple friends, ordering a glass of cranberry juice (a real Billy Costigan from The Departed moment) and a 0% Gordon's gin and tonic. Instead of feeling left out from the fun as I expected, I laughed just as hard and had just as great conversations as our usual nights out. The best part was that I felt present the entire time and that that night remains clear in my head.
"The best part was that I felt present the entire time and that that night remains clear in my head."
The only times I missed drinking this month were when I was out to dinner; I hated having to pass up a glass of white wine with my pasta. However, I did have the chance to enjoy mocktails that I never would have tried, and was able to share this experience with my friends who don’t ordinarily drink.
My relationship with alcohol is one ever-changing - if you knew me in first-year, you’d know what I mean. However, I think that after paying close attention to my drinking habits this past month, I’ve realised how often I drink for the sake of others and due to the fear of social-awkwardness. I used to dread being the sober one in a room full of buzzed people. I feared awkward silences that felt a lot less heavy when I had a drink in hand. Now, though, I’ve found a new beauty in these silences, and have begun to enjoy crystalline moments of clarity.
This February I will enjoy the occasional gin or glass of wine, but my relationship with alcohol has definitely improved. I urge anyone who is questioning their relationship with alcohol to take a break and reflect on when and why they pick up a drink. Sometimes a vodka-free lemonade will do just fine. And your bank account will definitely thank you for the break.
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