A Dry January

Pub-crawl on Christmas Eve; one (two, three, four…) too many on Christmas Day; throw up my guts on Boxing Day (couldn’t even face the brie and glass of Port that I so look forward to every year,); had drunk epiphany that I hadn’t been sober since I’d left Egham; bottle(s) of vino with the girls; pub, pub, pub, NYE!!! Sobriety.

Since my semi-successful attempt at Stoptober last term, I decided to accept the challenge of the decade and commit myself to ‘Dry January,’ 31 booze-free days supported by Alcohol Concern and Cancer Research UK. Of course the first day of the year was difficult enough. I don’t think I have ever watched an Arsenal match without having a couple of pints to ease the inevitable frustration as Koscielny, once again, proves to be a liability. I opted, much to the shock and disgust of my peers, for a pint of soda water with blackcurrant cordial, coming in at a mere 30 pence. Settling down to watch the game, I sipped upon my first non-alcoholic drink in the local since, well, what seems to be Before Christ. I can safely say that this is the first and only time that a pint has lasted me a whole football match. I sipped it tentatively, envious of the Stella and Sambucca on the table before me. Sober and disappointed (bloody Arsenal), I went home, not looking forward to the impending insipidness that was to be the rest of January.

The return to Egham was another challenge. I planned to catch up with a few chums over a couple of bevvys, but to no avail. Instead, I drank green tea with lemon, chain-smoked, and spent Saturday night scrubbing the kitchen floor with a brillo pad and listening to Abba’s greatest hits. A new low point. Lower than the low points that alcohol has caused in my life? Perhaps not. Perhaps this is good for me, I thought, I’m going to lose a couple of pounds on the waistline and save a couple of pounds in the overdraft.

I speak now 17 days into the dryathlon and I have seen massive improvements in myself already: my skin is clearer, I’m more confident (because I know I’m not talking drunk rubbish, I am in control of my speech and actions), I have actually lost some weight and my memory and sleep have improved. Also, I attended a 9am lecture. Yes. I’ll give you a moment to take that in. I managed to go out for a “drink” (cranberry juice) with my housemates and have a surprisingly good time. I walked home in a straight line and was able to get on with some emails and job applications, rather than ordering Domino’s and passing out. Could this be the best thing I’ve ever decided to do?

However, I have two close friends’ birthday parties coming up over the next week. This is going to be difficult, especially for someone with an inherited addictive personality (cheers for that, Dad) who could easily say, “You know what, I’ve done so well not drinking alcohol for 17 days, I’ll have one glass of wine, as a treat, because I deserve it.” I really am determined to actively go to Tesco and purchase several bottles of non-alcoholic Becks, and pretend that I enjoy said beer just as much as I do when I know it will get me slaughtered. It is easy to conform to peer-pressure, and drinking games won’t be the same when I’m downing fake beer, but hey ho! I’ve seen first-hand the damage that alcohol can inflict on people and a recent study of 106 people in the south of England with alcoholic liver disease found that 71% drank on a daily basis, (this used to be me). For many with liver disease this pattern of daily drinking had started in their early 20s, hello there, wake-up call!

I would seriously urge my fellow Hollowegians to consider taking a week off from booze, or just have a sober weekend once in a while. I can’t tell you how good it feels to wake up not smelling of a brewery, and to get up and actually have a productive day rather than wallowing in last night’s clothes and trying to piece together vague memories of the night before. Try it, you never know, you might see the positive changes for yourself. Although, I’m not going to lie, I have made plans for a messy drunken night out on 1st February. My intentions for this month are good, though, the effort is there and I have certainly learned my sober lesson. Happy Dry January everyone!

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