In these dark post-Christmas days there is little to rejoice over. We hunch beneath layers of drab jumpers wheezing and damning our once festive paunches. Our skin becomes pallid and drawn as we swear that come the first of Januarywe will treat our ailing bodies with a tad more respect. Days with only chocolate seashells and seasonal ales as sustenance have run their course, and we gaze in collective horror at the puffy, greasy lumps we have become, perpetually hungover, vowing between languid bites of Domino’s to make a change.
Along with the standard empty promises of diet and exercise I endeavored to attempt the Dryathlon – to stay completely sober for the month of January. As if somehow the shitty weather and bleak evenings weren’t sad enough, the warm embrace of booze was to be temporarily shunned.
For a good few years people have cut out alcohol for January as part of a post-Christmas detox. This year the theme has been adopted by Cancer Research UK to raise awareness and raise a bit of cash through sponsorship and when dryathletes invariably fall off the wagon. For those late to the party http://www.dryathlon.org.uk/ has further information.
My attempts at abstinence of any kind are usually laughable. If you’ll cast your mind back a few months to my Stoptober attempt you’ll recall I lasted a day before deciding my love of smoking overrode my teensy shred of willpower. Quite rightly, I was roundly mocked. This time my approach was different; I didn’t announce my intentions and leave myself open to further mockery come my inevitable failure, believing I could slyly sup on orange sans vodka, apple juice over Stella and my own bitter tears over my beloved Merlot at Soho’s Crobar.
It is now the 20th and I have faltered – albeit spectacularly – only once, which believe me is good going.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the village drunk, however a night out minus alcohol can be extremely odd when you are the only one sober. As those around you loosen up and begin to slur, you get gradually more self-conscious. Do you start to fein slurring too? Do you make your excuses and leave, lest the self-consciousness grow? You don’t want to appear smug, extolling the virtues of your noble sacrifice on your physical health, but you also don’t want to whine about how much you would give for a delicious supter of booze. Friends’ reactions have been positive on the whole, yet the “one glass won’t hurt” brigade have nipped maddeningly at my heels. “Shoo,” I say to them.
As the weeks trundle on, my discomfort has waned. A Saturday morning without a raging hangover is a rare treat, and cravings for greasy breakfasts and carbs are ebbing gradually away. It’s most likely psychological but I feel a bit thinner and less lumpy, my skin feels more hydrated and I awaken feeling genuinely well-rested. Weird.
Enforcing an drink restriction has, however, made me question my relationship with the stuff.
Alcohol certainly lives up to its name as a social lubricant. For those of a shyer persuasion it is pretty crucial to communicating easily with new faces. One thing I noticed was that at first striking up a conversation with folk I am just on acquaintance terms was excruciatingly hard without a liquid buffer. This lead me to wonder if I was actually crushingly dull and pitying my budding companions for having to endure an evening with me. Thankfully, this too has become easier and I’m making more of an effort to actually engage and listen rather than tipsily cackling away at my own awful (awfully hilarious) jokes. I’ve not dared to go to a club sober yet but I can imagine this too would be pretty interesting and / or painful. Perhaps I dance like a Step Up extra when not clutching a warm Red Stripe? We may never know.
With just over a week left of the month to go, it’s tempting to come over all virtuous and proclaim a lifelong abstinence – feeling healthier certainly is great particularly after such excess – but we all know that come happy hour I will back at my favourite bar, slugging down the Merlot with the best of ‘em. I guess what I am learning is that there is a lot to be said for moderation and monitoring your intake; nights out minus a few drinks aren’t the hellish torture I once imagined, and perhaps in future I won’t be so quick to get another round in the second my glass runs dry.
To follow my progress / goad me into boozy oblivion check out @NadiaReads on the Twitters.