Reflections On Dry January

Greetings from January 42, 2019, more often identified as February 11. I joined Dry January this year on a lark. And, I haven’t yet stopped.

Started in the United Kingdom as a way to help people reset their relationship with alcohol, it’s pretty simple for folks who, like me, can stop drinking alcohol without encountering physical problems. Tonight I drink tea.

I like red wine, and I like hoppy beer. What I have learned over the past month and change is that I don’t need them. More than anything, Dry January has taught me how much of my drinking has been mindless and out of habit: Ordering a drink because a server at a restaurant asks me if I want one. Drinking because other people are. Drinking because I’m watching a movie or a game.

I was most nervous about attending a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party without drinking. But, it wasn’t bad. Not drinking during a night with dear friends who were drinking did nothing to interfere with my enjoyment of the evening, and it was easier to get up too early the next morning to catch a flight home. I can also report that not drinking in the face of stressors — such as, oh, being a Virginia Democrat — has been fine. I’m 42 days clear that drinking does nothing to resolve problems or calm me down.

My not drinking does seem to make some people nervous. That’s interesting. It’s easier for me to hear dark humor and offhand comments about drinking for how dark they truly can be. How hard walking and breathing through our culture must be for those with alcoholism. Compassion and respect, y’all.

Physical: I’ve had fewer problems with acid reflux overnight. My skin has lost its barest trace of a Keith Richards-like quality. I’m eating all the time and in the best shape of my life, although that one’s hard to tease out from training for a marathon, which has been happening simultaneously and is also why I decided to stay straight edge, for now.

When this is all over I’m looking forward to a glass of red wine with a piece of bitter, punch-in-the-mouth chocolate that makes my cheeks flush. The dark chocolate is at least as exciting. It has been nice to gain a greater appreciation for little life things I had conflated with alcohol.

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