As these final hours of Dry January tick away, I'm reflecting on the month.
My first inclination is to compare my experience to the experience of the person who wrote the article that inspired me to take on this challenge. Here are the 12 things she noted about her experience and how my experience compared to each:
- You might want to try not to get totally wasted on NYE. I did not get totally wasted on NYE, so I started off right on January 1st.
- The first two weeks will be really hard. I didn't find the first two weeks any harder than the subsequent weeks. The triggers that make me think of having a drink were there throughout the month.
- You’ll realize that almost all social life is centered around food and drink. This didn't come as any shock to me. It's one of the reasons I eat and drink as much as I do, because I'm a very social person.
- A lot of people, including your close friends, will be super annoying and unsupportive about your decision. This was not my experience, for which I was thankful. I would say the most common reaction was, "You're not drinking for a month? You're kidding!"
- Tell people you’re on some serious antibiotics or, in very extreme cases, tip your bartender for club soda. I never had to do this this month. Ironically, I have done this in the past, when I'd had enough to drink, but didn't want to have to keep saying why I was stopping. In fact, in the past, I've gone so far as to ask a bartender to give me a club soda and then splash a little bit of Diet Coke in it so it would look like it had some bourbon in it. For the record, that tastes awful.
- You might decide you don’t like your friends anymore. I'm happy and thankful to say that this didn't happen.
- Maybe “just a drink or two a night” is much more than that. While I never was one to have a drink or two a night, I am one to binge drink on the weekends and am thinking about strategies to temper that a little—two possibilities being: 1) Have a club soda between each drink, or 2) Have two (or three) drinks and then drink club soda the rest of the night.
- Your Dry January will likely lead you to new friendships, relationships, and other cool people your slightly inebriated brain didn’t really notice before. This didn't happen to me. I can't think of one person I met this month specifically because I wasn't drinking and noticed them for that reason.
- By the end of week two, you’ll feel like a new person. I wouldn't say I felt like a new person. What I did feel like was a person who wanted a drink.
- You might be tempted to extend your Dry January to a Dry February. I never considered this at all. I did consider extending it for two days in support of one of my friends who started doing this a couple of days after me, so we'd start up drinking again at the same time, but that didn't end up being necessary.
- The first drink you have after the dry period will be like whoa. And hangovers? Well, they might never be the same. I guess I'll find out if this is true later this evening, or "first thing in the morning," technically. Hopefully, I won't be assessing a hangover later in the morning.
- This whole experience may change how and how much you drink forever. This is not going to change how and how much I drink forever, but at least for a few weeks into February. :-)
Thoughts and observations about the overall experience::
- The things I probably thought about the most during this month were the triggers that make me think of having a drink, of which these were the top 5:
- Big news (e.g., your favorite bar in the world suddenly closing)
- Appetizers (which just beg for an accompanying drink)
- I spent some time contemplating whether eating food with alcohol in it (e.g., black cherry rum pound cake, bourbon chicken, and rum raisin ice cream) would violate the Dry January commitment. While I didn't indulge in any this month, I think if I were to do this again, I'd eat them. I'm very clear that I wouldn't be eating such things "to get the alcohol out of them," so it seems innocuous to eat them.
- I contemplated whether having more fun when drinking is because being intoxicated actually makes (or enables) you (to) have more fun, or if it just makes you think you're having more fun. I'm still not sure what the answer to that is, but I am sure it's more fun being out (specifically in a bar) when you are drinking than when you're not drinking—whatever it is that makes that so.
- I lost 10 pounds this month, but it was not entirely due to not drinking alcohol. I went to the gym, on average, every other day this month, and I limited my daily calorie intake to 1500 for at least as many days.
- I estimate that I saved between $250 and $300 not drinking alcohol this month.
- On average, I would say that I go home from the bars earlier when I'm not drinking than when I am.
- Physically, I don't feel any different after not drinking for a month. I don't feel like I have any more—or less—energy. I don't feel more "clear headed." I don't feel "healthier." With that said, I'm going to go ahead and assume my liver has had a nice break that it appreciates.
- Both emotionally and intellectually, I do feel like I've gained some clarity around when, why, and how much I drink, and that I am still in control of my drinking.
- At this point, I'm still ambivalent about whether I'll do this again next year. If I do, however, it most likely will be for the month of February instead of January.
Most hours down, just a few to go!