Dry January, Veganuary? What next? Self-flagellation February?

This was the response I got from my quick-witted and especially funny friend when I announced that I was doing Dry January and Veganuary at the beginning of the month.  It wasn’t an announcement as such, while trying to organise a get together of old school friends, I thought I should mention it before we ended up somewhere catering mostly to the carnivores among us.

What else is funny, is the notion that cutting out things that aren’t really very good for us is going to be painful.  Don’t get me wrong, in the past I’ve often dieted or tried to cut down drinking and it has been really difficult.  I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t have a drink when everyone else was having one. I craved junk food, believing it to be delicious and tasty, and why not treat myself? Didn’t I deserve it gaddammit?! 

So, what’s changed?  A lot really.  My beliefs around what I get from drinking and eating crap have been shifting over time.  I used to believe that drinking was an essential for social events, that it helped me to relax and made parties funner (not a word).  Now, I notice more and more the downside to drinking.  The hangover that lasts until Tuesday.  The hangover that isn’t just the physical feelings of nausea and headache but the existential crisis, self-loathing and anxiety that comes with it.   Losing weekends to feeling too shabby to really make the most of time with the family.  Even relying on the hair of the dog to get through that Sunday Lunch on the odd occasion (anyone?).  This is a roundup of the worst bits and by no means a regular occurrence (not since my twenties at least).

My beliefs gradually changed and so did my mindset about how easy it would be to stop drinking.  The more I focused on the negatives the more I wanted to stop.  By the time January 1st came, I was relieved and even excited.  I was looking forward to feeling more in control, sleeping better, having more time and energy and generally getting shit done.  Focusing on the benefits of abstaining made it easy to refuse the offer of a drink (the first offer was on New Years Day).  I felt tempted initially, with those old associations coming back, but what immediately followed was the thought, “I don’t really like drinking” or “I prefer to be sober”.

On the third weekend, I chose to drink, while we met up with various friends.  This was the first time I'd felt like having a drink in those three weeks and I enjoyed it. The hangover was minimal but afterwards I wondered how much it really added to the weekend? Would I have enjoyed it more sober? Now that January is almost over, I don't feel desperate to crack open the  wine or gin.  I feel like if I decide to continue to drink, I'll save it for special occasions.

So yes, I FAILED Dry January. But I've succeeded in changing my drinking behaviour and mindset. I'm enjoying the benefits of being sober (most of the time!)

Join me for Self-flagellation February, fun if your mindset is right!


**If you plan to stop drinking, it’s not always safe to stop suddenly – get some tips on how to stay safe and cut down **

Claire Guthrie