I Survived Dry January and Feel Really Good

With our futon in the rarely seen folded down position, we peeked out from under our comforter to watch Shrek. Neither Tessa nor I had seen the movie in years and I thought laughter might cure our hangovers. It also was the first suggestion on the Hulu homepage and my head hurt trying to focus on the title descriptions. 

Shrek (2001)- courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

The night before, sharply dressed and with an array of beverages, we said goodbye and good riddance to 2020. We drank good craft beer, nice wine, shitty light beer, and a shot of whiskey with friends over Zoom. Any college freshman can tell you that mixing alcohol will yield bad results so it should have been no surprise that mixing alcohol in your late 20’s is a recipe for disaster.

It was on the futon, between reluctant bites of toast and Shrek’s iconic lines from our childhoods, that Tessa suggested we partake in Dry January.

A Strong Start

The “hair of the dog” theory has never worked for me and steering clear from what was causing me physical and mental pain seemed smart. Just as determined as Shrek was to take back his swamp, I was determined to take a month-long break from booze. 

Our New Years’ binge was a rarity in our drinking habits. Typically when we drink, it’s a shared bottle of wine throughout an evening or two beers each. The only other excessive consumption comes on the occasional Sunday Funday, which involves me sitting on the couch, watching football, and slamming light beers. 

For us, it’s not an issue of excessive but regular consumption. Everyone is drinking more while stuck at home, and we count ourselves lucky to have control over our choices.

I consider myself fairly disciplined (Sunday Fundays aside) and with a hard date set, I was excited to see how it would go.

Double Down

The first time I felt myself really wanting alcohol was January 6th, the evening of the Capitol Insurgence. After a long day of doom scrolling newsfeeds, both Tessa and I felt like a drink would calm whatever unsettled nerves we were feeling for our country. Remember, it hadn’t been a week since we’d begun the sober recess. In the past, we had each taken breaks from alcohol but none in our adult life had lasted a full month. 

In the moment of yearning, I doubled down on my commitment to the goal, realizing that I needed an intentional break more than I had thought. Staying busy with our jobs, actively reading, and working out filled our time and the days of the month went by without any real thought. 

I had also started working an hour earlier and found myself ready to get into bed around 9:30 each weeknight. Removing alcohol from activities was no problem. Instead of drinking beers while playing Call of Duty, I smashed sparkling water. Instead of wine in the evenings, we stocked up on caffeine-free tea.

Buckley (2020) – courtesy of Jennah Stillman

The other time I felt like I really wanted a drink was on a recent cold but sunny day. Blue skies meant outdoor tables and portable heaters overtop small groups of friends having tall glasses of beer and soaking up the rare January sun.

I thought about how visiting a brewery patio with my sister and her dog Buckley would be a great way to spend the afternoon. We grumbled under our masks at the folks enjoying their time but continued on a walk and ended up having a nice day ourselves.

A Good Beginning in 2021

With the month officially completed, it doesn’t seem like I’ve missed out on anything and my body feels great. Tessa and I both have looser fitting jeans than we remember and the earlier sleep schedule is helping to get a jumpstart on the long gray mornings. 

We will be having a celebratory drink this evening and I plan on watching the Super Bowl with multiple light beers. However, the break and my body’s response have influenced my thoughts on personal consumption and I plan on taking more set breaks throughout the year.

I can’t say from experience what this looks like in a non-pandemic world because social interactions create more opportunity for happy hour drinks and late night imbibing. But to us, the point was to cut out casual consumption in our daily lives, focusing more on enjoying the drink rather than on the habit of drinking because it’s there. In the words of Tessa, “I don’t need to drink whatever sugary-ass cider on a Wednesday night.”

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