Every year, hundreds of thousands of people swear off booze for the whole of January, or at least say they’re going to. It’s become known, imaginatively, as Dry January, and shows no sign of going anywhere. Anything that encourages people to think about how they treat themselves, their bodies and their minds is undoubtedly a good thing (and we drink far, far too much in this country, with a million and a half people dependent on alcohol).
But, going sober for a month isn’t going to solve all your problems. You might save a bit of money, lose a bit of weight and/or catch up on a bit of sleep, but if they come at the cost of a really fucking shit/rubbish/boring month, have you actually gained anything?
The answer might be, rather than drying out for a month, reducing the general wetness of your life instead of using a miserable month to try and fix everything and live forever.
You’ll wake up hungover, and hair of the dog, yo!
According to the book Proof: The Science Of Booze, by Wired editor Adam Rogers, hair of the dog might well be the best hangover cure there is, as hangovers might not be caused by dehydration as previously thought. “There is a theory that says the hangover is actually the symptom of very, very small amounts of methanol”, he said in a talk at Google. “The notion is that if a hangover is methanol toxicity, if you have another drink the ethanol will displace the methanol off the enzyme and you will feel better.” It’s very much only a theory, but if three-quarters of a pint at 5pm on New Year’s Day makes you feel better after a heavy New Year’s Eve, why deprive yourself of that?
There’s nothing else to fucking do
It’s still freezing and wet and dark outside in January. Have you ever looked inside an orca’s blowhole? That’s your whole world for a month. Christmas pretty much exists to get us through the depressing winter months (as the first Satanist on this list explains), and they’re still going on in January, but without the imminent joy of the big day to look forward to. You’re better off indulging yourself in occasional simple pleasures than being miserable all month. If you want to have a month without alcohol, you could always do Dry July, when life is all picnics and surfing and barbecues and you’re high on your own existence.
Like, there’s not even anything on at the cinema
January and February are traditionally when movie studios release films they expect to tank but are contractually obliged to put out. They’re known as “dump months”, due to both reduced cinema attendance (thanks to people being broke after Christmas) and the vagaries of the award calendar. Only one Best Picture Oscar winner has ever been released in January (The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 - weirdly, January 2009’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop failed to trouble the Academy). Do you really want to trudge out to the pictures and pay 14 quid to watch Insidious: The Last Key?
Someone might have bought you a nice big bottle of something delicious
How ungrateful are you, you little shit, shoving a thoughtfully-chosen Christmas present on top of a cupboard and ignoring it for a month? You’ve taken someone’s selfless act of giving and made it all about you. Are you too good for your Christmas present? Maybe next year they just won’t bloody bother.
Or, like, a book of cocktails that they really think you’ll love
Don’t be so mean - your auntie spent ages choosing that, and you know she paid the full RRP because she doesn’t know how to buy things online. “Have you tried any of those cocktails yet?” she’ll ask next time you see her. “No, I’m not drinking at the moment,” you’ll reply. She won’t say anything, but she’ll purse her lips tightly, and the next day she’ll (drunkenly) phone her solicitor and have your name removed from her will.
Or big bottles of booze might be on sale
Loads of retailers have massive discounts after Christmas, and anything vaguely Christmassy in a brick-and-mortar shop either gets stuck into storage for 11 months or savagely reduced in price. It’s not out of the question you’ll pick yourself up some imminently-expiring, heavily-discounted Bailey’s in a Christmassy bottle on 9 January or so. If you don’t drink it, you’ve thrown that money away. If money saving expert Martin Lewis could see you he’d shake his head in dismay.
And you’ve probably got a Lastminute or Groupon restaurant voucher that’s expiring
You know, one you got in a January discount last year and forgot about because you were so pissed. Have a look in your Gmail. You put a star on it. Yeah! That was £38, remember? You don’t want to let it go to waste, but you also don’t want to go to a posh restaurant and insult the sommelier by asking for a Ribena.
The pubs are half empty, it’s amazing
Loads of people are doing Dry January, so it’s nice and peaceful in the boozer, and you can always get a table, plus you’re doing your bit to keep the pub industry alive - more than a thousand pubs close every year, and swearing off them for the first 31 days of it isn’t likely to help.
You can avoid being a massive git
Nobody likes it when you boast about how drunk you aren’t and how great you feel. Especially on an occasion like this, when quite a few people are doing it, something that starts off as a genuine attempt at self-improvement can easily turn into a competitive smugfest, and giving up alcohol for a month so you can tell other people you’re better than them doesn’t help anybody, Rob, you arrogant piece of shit.
Think of the people whose birthdays are in it
“My birthday is on 6 January” says Mat, a dude whose birthday is on 6 January who we asked about his birthday (6 January). “For most Dry January-ers it’s too early to go back to the pub without being tempted to drink, as they’re not invested enough it it to feel committed. I used to try and arrange after-work drinks at various jobs and people would produce loads of excuses as to why they couldn’t come, or turn up and have exactly one cranberry juice before apologising and leaving.”
Don’t be culturally insensitive
What is Burns Night without whisky, Australia Day without some sort of £1.99 Foster’s deal in Wetherspoons? These are deeply important cultural events for quite drinky cultures, so you shouldn’t disrespect them by turning up with a mineral water and refusing to get involved.
There are loads of sackings in January
If an employer wants to sack you just before Christmas, they’ll probably put it off for just long enough to not ruin your holiday - if they can get away without being the dickhead that sacked you right before Christmas, they’re going to want to do that. But then, hey, they’ll get it done in January. It’s fairly customary when sacked to go to the pub, drink the day away while slagging your boss off and wake up the next morning ready to start looking for your next step, but drinking loads and loads of Cokes just doesn’t bring the same catharsis.
Couples are twice as likely to break up in the period between New Year and Valentine’s Day than any other time of year, and the majority of that period is in January. Whether the dumper, the dumpee, or a pal of either, there’s a lot to be said for talking through sorrows over a pint or two. Not getting dangerously smashed up for months on end, but just one or two…
More natural deaths take place on 1 January than any other day of the year - nobody is quite sure why, but they do. Is it people not wanting to leave their families to go to hospital until after the holidays? The best doctors taking the festive season off and some avoidable casualties slipping through the cracks? Or, for the very old and very ill, do Christmas and New Year represent goals to try and make it through, after which they just don’t have anything left? Whatever happens, do you want to be the jerk who refuses to raise a glass to a dearly departed loved one?
Post-abstinence binges aren’t good for you
Have you ever been in a pub on 1 February? It’s like the fucking apocalypse. People feel like they can reward themselves for 31 days of sobriety by going completely crazy and binge-drinking, potentially doing themselves way more damage than if they’d just drank in moderation all the way through. If you’re genuinely concerned about how much you drink, a month isn’t really going to change anything long-term, and you’re much better off looking at your drinking habits in a larger way if you actually want to make a difference to your life. The government advise at least two boozeless days a week, which is much more sustainable than one month off every 12. Being quietly sensible on an ongoing basis might not give you the bragging rights of a month-long aren’t-I-great stunt, but in the grand scheme of things, your body will appreciate it far more.