I started the New Year feeling bleak: an hour’s tube ride through London, desperately trying not to throw up. A bottomless brunch at 2 p.m. had turned into an afternoon of drinking, followed by an almost constant stream of booze at a friend’s house, all after a month of drinking at least one a day.
Miraculously, I got home without destroying myself or the other passengers on the subway, but woke up the next morning with the same regretful thought that most revelers shared the night before: “never again.” I’ll be 30 this year and it feels humiliating to overdo it like this. No more – I used to start January the way I wanted: dry.
Unfortunately, my social calendar got in the way: drinking with friends the next day; meeting a friend and his fiancee for dinner; It’s my mom’s birthday on the weekend. An endless parade of social events involving alcohol though not focused around.
Therefore, I will not join the 8.8 million Britons attending this year’s Dry January; it’s impractical and doesn’t sound fun in these bleakest months.
I do not deny that the teetotals may be right. Dry January founding charity, Alcohol Change UK, found that one in four people increased their drinking in 2022, and one in six said they drank to deal with concerns about the cost of a livelihood crisis that seemed like a dangerously slippery slope. I also experienced “hangxiety” (anxiety after drinking), which 40 percent of people my age say is the biggest reason to cut back on drinking.
I’m not sure my social calendar excuse will also be washed away by trendy sobriety. I have no doubt that they will say how pathetic I am for relying on booze to get through such events, mocking my lack of willpower, or questioning my ability to have fun without booze.
The truth is, I agree with them to some extent, which was one of the reasons I’ve tried Dry January in the past. I generally tend to manage for about a week and then fall off the wagon. I’ll forget I’m doing this until I order two cocktails or a friend buys me a “cheat drink” and I give up on everything.
I don’t seem alone in this. A snapshot survey by hospitality insight firm KAM in 2021 found that 2.7 million people who tried Dry January gave up within six days. Dry January doesn’t seem particularly effective at helping people quit drinking either—a study published in the journal Drug And Alcohol Addiction found that despite increasing participation in the trend since 2015, there has been no significant population-level decline in alcohol consumption.
Worse, a study published in The Lancet in 2021 found that participation in Dry January was a risk factor for increased drinking later, because people “feel freer to binge drink at other times of the year.” Essentially, it’s the drinking equivalent of the yo-yo diet.
Frankly, there’s a good reason why the human race has been drinking alcohol for much of the last 10,000 years – drinking is fun.
I decided that the answer, as with many major divisions in modern life, was to draw a middle ground. Neither sober nor drunk, not dry or wet, just Humid January.
Essentially, that means I’ve been drinking in moderation this month; less than I normally would, but without scolding myself for the weird gin and tonic. NHS guidelines say drinking “in moderation” means consuming 7-14 units per week; equivalent to about six pints or six medium glasses of wine. It’s not as hard as you think, is it?
While the rigor of going Teetotal may work for some, it’s impractical for most. “I don’t particularly like something like the Dry January, as I believe people should create a lifestyle that is good for them,” says neuropsychologist Dr Rachel Taylor. “I think abstention is an interesting topic. It’s good to think about reasons and why something is attractive to you. Be mindful of what you do and why you do it. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons, your brain will be resilient.”
In fact, the CEO of the UK Alcohol Exchange, Dr. Richard Piper concurs, arguing that the plan is designed “for an alcohol replacement”, not “anti-alcohol”. “It’s worth taking a look at our drinking habits and if it’s increased more than we realize, consider making a change,” says Dr Piper. “This is what mindful drinking means – controlling our drinking rather than letting alcohol take the lead… We encourage all Dry January participants to set an ongoing, personalized goal… this could be drinking only a certain number of days per week, or limiting it to the amount you drink in a single session. ”
My goal is to consume no more than two gin and tonics a week – singles if possible, double if there’s a lot of drinking around me. This is also quite easy; My strategy is to start with a soft drink, drink in the middle, and end with another soft drink in the last round.
Humid January also avoids many of the social pressures that come with Dry January. It’s sad to say, but many drinkers take it as a personal insult when you tell them you’re not drinking, as if you’re judging them in some way; whereas if you get wet, you’re still drinking, so you can meet your friends at the bar and it’s much less noticeable.
When February arrives, I hope the dizzying drinking days of December will be worlds away, but I will avoid alienating my social circle. Most importantly, it feels like an achievable step.
Will you be attending Dry January? How about a humid January? Let us know in the comments below