Reflections on Dry January

Because it’s currently one of those weird transition times in life for me (everything is in flux due to the house move), January has sort of both flown and dragged at the same time.  Not drinking for the month has been a lot easier than expected, but it’s felt different than expected, too.

Last time I went for a substantial period of time without alcohol (Lent 2011), I spent the whole time being irritated that I couldn’t drink when I was out or visiting people, making sure to try as many alcohol-free versions of beer and cider as I could find, and impatiently counting down the days till Easter, when I would be able to drink again.  This time round has been a completely different experience, and I suppose that’s partly because my life has changed a lot without me realising.  I don’t go out to pubs or round to people’s houses anywhere near as much as I did in my mid-20s, mostly because I’ve relocated twice in the intervening period and have maintained a much more pared-down social life than when I lived in my hometown.  As such, I’ve only been out once in January (post-birthday, that is), to a dinner party, and I found I didn’t miss drinking while socialising at all.  I’ve had no interest in alcohol-free fake booze, either – this is mainly due to being on Slimming World, as fake booze would just amount to useless extra syns when I’ve got perfectly good syn-free fizzy flavoured water to drink.

The biggest difference, though, is that I’ve not been itching to get back to drinking again, or really missing it much at all.  I think there are a few reasons for this:

1. Not drinking is actually a more stable thing for me in terms of stress/anxiety levels

Obviously, it’s an extra-stressful time at the moment, and usually I’d deal with that by having a few ciders in the evening.  What I found over Christmas, though, was that drinking was actually leading to more stress and anxiety the next day, which was the main reason I decided to give Dry January a try.  While it’s sometimes felt a bit frugal/miserable to be spending weekend evenings without a drink, on the whole I think not drinking has been better for my mental state.

2. I feel healthier

Over Christmas, having even a couple of drinks every night, coupled with all the extra food I was eating, was making me feel ill.  It’s nice to have avoided that sluggish/bloated/hungover feeling for a while.

3. My evenings have been more productive

I started the year with a lot of New Year Resolutions, mostly pertaining to daily habits like writing and keeping up with hobbies, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve been sticking to them.  It’ll be interesting to see if this feels harder on an evening when I’m drinking alcohol.

4. I’m not doing the ‘was I drunk when I did/said that?’ dance

Well, that’s not quite true – I have caught myself doing it a few times, and then realised I couldn’t possibly have been drunk, because I’ve not drunk alcohol all month, obviously.  This has been a) eye-opening – I’m surprising myself with the things that I assume I must have been drunk to have done/said (e.g. not actually remembering doing household chores that I have done – I was surprised to find that sometimes ‘not remembering’ is due to distraction/tiredness rather than alcohol use!) and b) alarming – it’s really made me realise how much mental energy I waste on trying to ascertain what state of intoxication I was in at any given time.  And this is with my current ‘normal’ intake of about 10-15 units a week – I dread to think what it was doing to my mental state pre-Slimming World, when ‘normal’ was closer to 40 units a week.

5. My Slimming World results have been killer

Obviously, as I’ve not had to spend my syns on alcohol, I’ve been free to use them for other things…but I’ve found that I’ve not been that bothered about the other things, meaning that rather than struggling to stay under the 105-syn weekly limit, I’ve been averaging a much more SW-friendly 70-80 syns per week, meaning that my weight loss is really speeding along at the moment.  This is definitely something I will be keeping in mind when I go back to drinking!

So, the original plan was to celebrate the start of Non-Dry February with a few of my birthday gift ciders after weigh-in tomorrow, but having realised that I’ve got a tattoo appointment the next day (which is starting to feel like the worst timed tattoo appointment of all time), I will be avoiding alcohol for an extra day so as not to thin my blood, meaning that I will be enjoying my ciders on Friday night instead, having gone exactly thirty days without a drink.  It’ll be nice, but this month has really made me think about my drinking going forward, and what I can do to keep an eye on it.

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