Dry January, Take Two

31 days alcohol free? Whose idea is this? I admit, it sounded impossible to the point of ridiculous. Yet, there had to be something to it with so many people giving it a go. Maybe I should try it, I thought. But just as quickly, that thought was replaced by questioning my sanity. I didn’t want to give up alcohol, even for a week.

It was just an offhand comment from our son who last year mentioned he was planning for ANOTHER dry January. That really piqued my interest. I mean if our thirty-something, fun-loving kid could repeatedly go without alcohol for a month, several years running, could I? Seriously, I had my doubts.

Without giving it much more thought I decided to at least try. No need to overthink these things for fear of talking myself out of trying. And before I really realized it, January first rolled around and I remained curious about this experiment. Like any habit, it took a bit of time to adjust. No pouring an icy cocktail in the evening and no bottle of wine to select for a weekend meal. Boring, but tolerable.

And for the next couple of weeks that was about as much enthusiasm as I could find. Like lots of things, we’re perfectly capable of doing them but WHY??? Fortunately, the “why” started to become apparent. I began noticing small shifts in the way I felt. I had more energy. I woke up feeling more rested and ready to start my day. And maybe it was just the enormous quantities of water I was drinking as a substitute, but my skin looked and felt hydrated. No amount of Le Mer could do that.

All of these feelings seemed to gradually intensify as the month unfolded. That helped keep the alcohol-free train on track as January turned to February. I was fortunate to spend a couple of weeks in February re-booting in Miami so it felt perfectly natural to abstain through that second month. It turns out an alcohol-free diet pairs well with fresh ocean air, early morning yoga and afternoons on the beach.

But my alcohol free existence soon fell victim to the pandemic slowly unfolding as I returned from Miami. Businesses were closed. Schools went virtual. No one seemed confident how long this virus would be a threat. Would the horrific scene from New York soon be our reality? So, that gave me the excuse to resume my former drinking habits, in an attempt to stay entertained while sheltering at home.

That’s where I remained — drinking and working to stay entertained while sheltering at home — through the entire rest of the year. But January came again and with just as little thought and planning as the year before I again spent January alcohol free. But this experience was quite different. I knew we’d be staying home, away from temptations to indulge. I also knew what to expect in terms of cravings and making substitutes. As the photo indicates, I invested in a soda stream, a new mug and an assortment of exotic teas. These all made for enjoyable substitutes. I also had less anxiety about explaining my dabble in sobriety to friends and family. If they’d rolled their eyes last year, I didn’t see it. This year, I never gave it a thought.

So why do it? For me, it was curiosity that soon gave way to feeling better. Also, it gave me the opportunity to think and act more strategically. What do I want to consume? How do I want to feel? Like most habits, drinking becomes an automatic response. And honestly, that’s the part of resuming consumption I’d like to avoid.

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