Do This Don't: Give Up Drinking in January

This will be the first time in 15 years I've gone for a whole month without drinking. My liver and I are relying on you to keep us honest.
Publish date:
December 13, 2012
alcohol, not drinking, dry january

As I write this I feel great – I had 7.45 hours of sleep last night, which is pretty amazing. I had one solitary glass of wine, as a treat, because I’d remembered to eat both oily fish and greens for dinner. Jesus, I’m boring myself now. Are you still awake over there?

Anyway, feeling this great is a definite novelty right now. Because it’s December, and I work in the media, which means I’m contractually obliged to be pissed or hungover 30% of the time. Well guess what, world? I want out.

Despite (or because of) my conviction that I was going to be the office party tit, I managed to behave myself fairly well last week at the Say Media UK Christmas Party. I was in bed by 1AM, didn’t use up all of my drink tokens, and remember everything. I left my purse in the back of a taxi, but that’s because I was stupid, not drunk.

It did mean that I was much more aware than normal of how hammered everyone else was, and it wasn't a pretty sight. Random guy who nearly knocked me over at the bar in the rush to get to your tequila shot, which you then chucked down my arm, I’m talking to you.

Of course, my all-time Christmas party hero is now none other than Miss Mandy Stadtmiller, who, at a New York Post Christmas party a few years ago, drank five shots of whisky before sitting down next to her boss, biting his finger, falling off her chair and vomiting. Spectacular work Ms S, I salute you. Also, check her out on ABC offering pro Christmas party boozing tips. If only I’d had these earlier.

That said, despite not being as big a prick as usual at our Christmas party, I still had plenty to drink. And combined with every other Christmas drink, Christmas lunch, Christmas house party I’ve attended/hosted in the last 12 days, my body and my brain are sending me some clear signals that it’s time to give it a rest.

My skin is dry and flaky, and covered in spots. If I’m in bed after midnight right now my eyes feel so scratchy and sore the next day that I can’t see my computer screen without my glasses.

On Saturday I hosted a relatively tame house party (where everyone else was asleep or had gone home by 2AM and I was still drinking punch out of a large Tupperware box).

I then spent most of Sunday on the couch, alternating between total despair and anxious panic, for no good reason at all. In the end I found a fluff-covered diazepam a friend once gave me for a long-haul flight, which I consumed with a glass of bucks fizz and some Quality Streets. Happy Bloody Christmas.

It’s not the hangovers that bother me, it’s the drunken guilt. That gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that I probably did something terrible, because I’m a terrible person. That I’ve wrecked everything, even though I’m not sure what, and that the entire world is going to come crashing down around my ears at any second.

And I suspect that if you’ve ever gone out for one drink on a Monday night, only to find yourself in a bar called Trisha’s at 4AM with a semi-famous playwright you met in the street and a plumber called Dave, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Obviously there’s no point me getting off the booze train now. I have four more ‘events’ before the end of next week to negotiate, after which I can skulk off back to my parent’s house for some R&R and some classic episodes of Doctor Who, before the whole sorry mess starts again with New Year’s Eve.

But after that. After that, dear readers, I will be a new woman. For I am doing Dry January. Dry January is an initiative from Alcohol Concern, encouraging people to lay off the sauce for the whole of January. It’s also an opportunity to raise some cash for charity.

Plus, you’ll save money (I will, it’s definitely where I’m frittering away my pay packet), potentially lose some weight, and your skin will improve (I currently look like an adolescent version of Grotbags, so things can only get better on that front).

I’m hoping I’ll be more focused, do more exercise, have more energy, be happier and better looking. So it’s a no brainer, right?

However, as I've been writing this, I realised that I probably haven’t gone for a whole month without drinking since I was 15 or 16. I can do a week, no problem. But 10 days, or a fortnight? I’m really not sure. It’s never been done.

I’m 30 in February, and apart from the fact that I’d like to kick off that milestone birthday without looking 40, I just want to know if I’m actually capable of giving something up and sticking to it.

I’ve never really had to exercise any level of self-control before. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I’ve never been particularly interested in drugs, and I hate smoking (unless I’m drunk). But can I now give up something I really like, if only for a finite amount of time?

And what if I can’t? Or what if it’s so much harder than I think it’s going to be? Or what if I become a miserable, boring, antisocial person without that gin and tonic, or large glass of wine to get me through the first hour at a house party, or the awkward work event when I don’t know anyone?

What if I become that person who starts yawning and making noises about calling taxis at 10pm on a Saturday night, when everyone else is having a really great time?

It's perfectly possible that I’m only fun when I’m a bit pissed (that point where I’ve had a couple of drinks, not the point three drinks later when I’m a bit slurry and obnoxious). And I have no reason to believe otherwise.

So, lets look into the abyss together and find out. I’ll track my progress each week on the site – mainly because I’ll be expecting you to keep me honest and on the straight and narrow.

I’m officially starting on the third of January as I’m away with friends for the first couple of days of the New Year, and I want to give myself a fighting chance of actually succeeding, but from then on my ass, and my liver are yours, dear reader. Are you ready?

In the mean time, here’s how I’ve been preparing for Dry January:

Inviting people round to help me drink the rest of the booze left lying about the house after our last party, so it’s not coquettishly winking at me on 1 January.

Planning to redecorate my flat so that it’s all nice and lovely and grown up, so all I want to do is sit on the sofa and drink Perrier and write poetry. In a white nightie.

Listening to my binge drinking hypnotherapy tape. I’m a big fan of hypnotherapy tapes to cure all ills, but I’m not convinced this one works. Mainly it just makes me really crave Perrier water. Might as well persevere though.

Passive aggressively coercing my flat mate into also not drinking in January.

Planning a rigorous Saturday night cinema and Nandos schedule for four weeks.

Putting myself in lots of positions where I’ll have to operate heavy machinery in January (haven’t thought this one through really, might try and get a second temporary job at the rubbish dump, driving the crusher).

Inviting loads of hot men to my birthday in February, so I have an incentive to look like my best version of myself. I don’t know all that many hot men, but I’m working on this.

Rebecca is obsessively charting her weekly alcohol units on Twitter @rebecca_hol. Fun!