April may be the cruelest month, according to T.S. Eliot. But January is definitely the longest. It’s a wintry, gray, wet slog. How do you make it even longer? Sign up for Dry January.
I experienced a pretty “wet” December; we had some gatherings with neighbors, and I drank much more wine than usual. I also discovered the Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned while on vacation in Nashville. All that drinking made me feel puffy and sluggish, and I just wanted to get it out of my system.
Now I have come out the other side and survived to see February. I thought I might lose a couple of pounds. Nah. But there were other benefits.
I had never heard of Dry January before, but suddenly in December it was everywhere in the media. According to a December 27, 2022, Washington Post article:
“Studies show that people who participate in Dry January and other sobriety challenges frequently experience lasting benefits. Often, they drink less in the long run and make other sustained changes to their drinking habits that lead to striking improvements in their health and well-being.“
I do not generally exceed the guidelines for women of one drink or less in a day. Maybe on vacation. We’re not exactly party animals, and I haven’t binged since my journalism days. Another concept, Gray-Area Drinking, doesn’t really describe my current habits either. Although I do drink to relax, I stop after a (generous) glass of wine, one beer, or one mixed drink.
Still, I notice that I now seem more eager to drink than any of my friends, ordering a beer at lunch or a cocktail at dinner. When I was working, I regularly had a margarita or a beer for lunch with certain co-workers. This habit goes all the way back to my first jobs out of college. When I went to the University of Texas at Austin, the drinking age was 18. I was 200 miles away from home, and I believe that easy access promoted an unhealthy mindset about booze that carried over into adulthood. It represented freedom and release from inhibition, and those were formative years. Also, my sister was an alcoholic, and my mother routinely drank too many “bourbons and branch;” I can still hear the ice cubes clinking in the glass for the third or fourth time in an evening.
January was hard, I am somewhat ashamed to admit. Sue helped keep me on track. About mid-month, I purchased some non-alcoholic beer (it actually contained 0.5 percent or less alcohol) that probably salvaged the month for me. It was much better than I expected. Two six-packs from Athletic Brewing and one from Brewdog called Hazy AF with only 20 calories. Where I used to down a 200-calorie IPA for lunch, my mind was sufficiently tricked into enjoying the low-calorie, low-carb non-alcoholic version. I intend to keep buying them.
On February 1, after rehearsal at church, I poured myself a small glass of port at about 9 p.m. It was underwhelming. We had white wine with a pork loin this weekend. While I write this, I am drinking a small snifter of 43 (don’t smirk). But I think Dry January gave me time to reflect on the pros and cons of drinking and my attitude toward it, and I hope to spend the rest of 2023 drinking less.