In early January of 2020, I read the Memphis Moms Blog article titled, “Dry January: Going Booze Free After the Holidays.” I read the article with an intrigued interest. I had NEVER heard of Dry January. After reading the comments, I was surprised to find that this was something that several people did. (Who knew.) I read and reread the article. Although it was written in an informative manner, I felt like this was more of a persuasive blog. Then I thought, “I wonder if I could do this? Can I give up alcohol for a month?”
I told my husband that I was thinking about going “dry” for January. He looked at me. No, correction. He stared at me. Then said, “Uh, okay.” Sooooo he wasn’t enthusiastic about my new adventure. No problem. I told my sisters about my idea. They had a mixture of feeling. “Do you Boo! But don’t drag me into this!” “Yea right, I give it a week.” “That’s so nice, honey.” “Bless your heart.” If you’ve lived in the south for any length of time, you should know that “Bless your heart” is not a positive comment.
Nevertheless, I decided to try something new. I decided to go DRY. Honestly, how hard could it be? I’m not an alcoholic nor do I drink excessively. So this should have been a breeze. Emphasis on SHOULD.
One day after deciding to go “dry,” I came home from work and started on dinner. My typical dinner-cooking ritual involves an audiobook and beer or wine. As I reached for a cold Gotta Get Up to Get Down, I remembered that I was going “dry.” So I decided to have some decaf coffee instead. Let me tell you now, cooking with decaf coffee IS NOT THE SAME as cooking with booze. Feeling dejected, I finished up dinner and sat down with the family. With great sorrow, I sipped on some tea with my dinner. At the end of the day, I was feeling stressed. So I went to bed early.
The next day was very similar. Boozeless dinner prep and boozeless dinner. A few days later, I had a really tough day at work. I wanted to come home, drink wine, and loose myself in a good book. I was suddenly smacked back into reality. It was still January and I was still “dry.” Then everything hit really close to home. My sisters and I were having some Saturday night fun. There was Mexican food, beer, homemade wine, and “dranks” galore. I was already bummed because there weren't a lot of meatless options. (I stopped eating meat in November 2019.) And now I couldn’t even replace my meatless meals with booze! The travesty!
But at the end of this very, very late evening, I had an “AH-HA” moment. I had a lot of fun! I laughed and had a really great time. AND I didn’t have a single drop of booze. WOW! Surprise! Surprise!
On Sundays, my oldest son has a church youth group meeting from 6:30-8pm. After I drop him off, I usually head to my favorite bar, Casual Pint. I have a couple of beers and laugh with the beer-tenders. But now that I was “dry,” I needed to find something else to do. So I drank coffee and read in my car. Occasionally, I used this time to complete errands or just go for a long walk.
After 2 weeks, my old habits started to drift away. I no longer reached for a beer when I became frustrated. I no longer needed wine to make cooking dinner more enjoyable. My social habits did not revolve around what was in my hand. I drank more coffee, decaf of course. And I enjoyed my tea. (Unsweet please. Sugar in tea is gross.) But I noticed something even more miraculous.
I have atrial fibrillation. Even though I had an atrial fib ablation surgery 2 yrs ago, I still monitor my heart rate regularly. On January 5, 2020, my average heart rate was 80 bpm. Within 3 weeks of being dry, it had dropped to 70 bpm. The ONLY thing that changed was my alcohol consumption. WOW! Surprise! Surprise!
After January ended, I went out and bought a mixed 6 pack of my favorite beer and my husband bought my favorite wine. That night, I discovered that I was now a “lightweight.” My tolerance for alcohol had dropped terrible low. Dry January had broken me. That night I drank 1 beer. Are you understanding me!? I drank ONE beer while I was preparing dinner. I drank on the same beer during dinner. And I took the same single can of beer with me to the living room to Netflix and Chill. And now it’s May….5 months later and that fact still remains. When I pour myself a glass of wine, it’s the same amount that you would get at a fancy restaurant. (Not much.) And I would sip on that little glass of wine all night along.
But nothing beats the day I decided to have a beer with my sisters at Causal Pint. When I walked in, time stood still. The beer-tenders yelled, “Patricia! Where have you been?” With a simple smile on my face I said, “I did a Dry January thing.....and it broke me.”
I never drank excessively. I drank during social occasions and I drank to destress after a hard day. But Dry January broke me in a way that I don’t want to be fixed. I am now more aware of when, why, and how much I drink. Because even fun has a dark side.
Thank you, Erin.