Dry January

It kind of started on a whim.

While I was debating what I wanted my resolutions intentions to be for 2017, one that resounded a little louder than the others in my mind was the fact I want to make a conscious effort in the coming months to be more aware of, and actively seek to improve, my health and lifestyle.

I know, I know, I know, “You’re only 22! Have fun while you’re still young!” But… I want to start being responsible with my body now. Some may see it as wasting my youth, I see it as extending my youth. Potato, potato. In any case, I spent some time brainstorming and figuring out just how to pursue this intention, when it hit me.

Dry January.

In case you don’t know what Dry January is (even though you’ve probably got a pretty good idea from the name) here’s a little background:

YES – It means a whole month (gasp) without alcohol.

The whole idea really gathered a stronghold in Britain with an organization called Alcohol Concern , and has spread like wildfire over there. As of 2016, approximately 1 in 6 (!) Brits were at least attempting to go the whole month without a drop of alcohol.

The whole idea made me a little nervous, but the obvious positive health (and financial) effects of giving up alcohol – even for a mere 31 days – was enough to get me on board. So, in an attempt to hold myself accountable,  I told everyone my plan. Many people openly questioned my decision, I was given a few “I’m sorry’s”, and a handful of well-wishes.

I didn’t want to miss out on the New Year’s festivities, and since we went to bed at about 12:30a on January 1st, I rang in the new year with a bottle of champagne couple of mimosas when I woke up and really joined the non-alcoholic party on January 2nd.

31 days later, it’s time to answer the question, “So how was it?”

I’m not going to sugar coat it, it wasn’t easy.

Especially being an avid football fan, spending Sunday afternoon sans-beer was a tough one for me. Date nights and dinners with friends were a true test as well, I don’t think we necessarily realize how much peer pressure there is to assimilate, even when it is unintentional and/or subconscious.

As for the health affects I knew I would probably see – the studies didn’t lie.

I’ve noticed an an obvious improvement in my skin, one might even say it’s gotten a slight glow going on. This could be because I’ve increased my intake of water, but it’s amazing the difference just that makes. Granted, I have such young skin, but if I can avoid spending a ton of money on skincare products? Extra score.

I’ve also lost 6 lbs since January 1st, but this is more than likely mainly attributed to my workout regime and diet change. However, I have noticed that by cutting out alcohol it has been incredibly easier to get in a whole gallon of water per day. That also allowed me to slash my dependence on caffeine – I haven’t had a single soda and only 1 cup of coffee in the last month – and my energy levels have soared.

I’ve felt strain on bank account loosen a little as well, at least kind of. I have to preface this with the fact that I’m not a major drinker, and that I tend to only drink socially – maybe buying a bottle of wine here and there. But, even I’m surprised at how quickly those little purchases add up when you redact them from your budget. While I can’t say I necessarily spent ‘less’ money, not spending money on alcohol opened up a little extra ‘fun’ money to spend in different ways.

I knew it would have an affect on my health –
but I never considered the other changes it would bring about.

I suppose the increase in my mood can be attributed to my health, but in my mind it goes a little deeper. And here’s why. The main thing that really stuck out to me about Dry January is how in tune with my own thoughts I became. Cliché, I know, but cliches exist for a reason.

So many of us, myself included at times, use alcohol as a sedative of sorts.
Upset? Drink. Bad day? Drink. Bad news? Drink. Can’t sleep? Drink.

We also use it as a social lubricant – to make social settings less “awkward” and in turn, more shallow.
First date? Let’s grab drinks. Awkward confrontation? Drink. New friends? Drink.

Once alcohol was removed from my arsenal of tools to lighten up these situations, I found myself looking at things a little clearer, so to speak.

Rather than drown a bad day in a bottle of rosé, I sat down and went through the day in my mind – peeling back the layers of why I was upset, if I could have changed anything, and if there was anything else I could change going forward. I’m a crier (I admit it, and if you ask my boyfriend he’d probably just roll his eyes and tell you exactly how much), but I found myself crying a little less and expressing my emotions constructively with my words a little more.

In situations that involved meeting new people, I didn’t have that liquid courage I learned to rely on in my college years. Rather than taking a sip when I felt an awkward pause coming on, instead I would ask questions. Even as outgoing as I am, this took a little an entire boatload of courage to really just open up in that way, but in turn was repaid with deeper connections.

So you finished the challenge – now what?

Dry January didn’t convince me to give up alcohol, and it’s not intended to.

What I will say, is that I feel encouraged to maybe adjust my relationship with alcohol a little bit going forward. Rather than coming home and drowning a rough day in a bottle of wine, I’ll think through it first. Maybe even exercise to release some stress. Then, I’ll probably settle down with a glass of wine or two, because I’m still human.

Instead of drinking to make social outings more comfortable, I plan use alcohol to enhance those settings in a more positive way. I plan to be more intentional (there’s that word of the year again) on making deeper connections, and simply enjoying both the company of those around me as well as that really great Manhattan I’ve heard everyone raving on.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life,” and I’ll cheers to that. Here’s to one month without alcohol – 4 weeks of solid willpower and self-discovery.

Would I do it again? I would, and chances are, I will.  But until then, it’s time to sip a beer and slip on those rose colored glasses – because Dry January is officially OVER.