This year, I decided to participate in Dry January. For those unfamiliar, this means abstaining from alcohol for the month of January.
People do this for a lot of reasons: to get “back on track” in terms of health and wellness after the holiday season’s excesses, to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol, or even just for the sake of a personal challenge.
When I decided to do it, I figured it would be good for my health after the heavier-than-normal drinking that came with the Christmas holidays. But I was also starting to think about my relationship with alcohol in light of the death of my son.
I don’t think I had a drinking problem in any traditional sense, but I was drinking more than usual. I think it was becoming a coping mechanism and that didn’t feel good, so I decided to go dry for a month.
There might have been a few moments near the beginning of the month when it was hard, because pouring a drink after a long day had become sort of a ritual. But it was ultimately pretty easy (which is definitely a privilege that people who struggle with alcohol addiction don’t have; “sober curious” and “sober out of necessity” are very different things).
I haven’t really missed alcohol. In fact, I feel great without it. I sleep better. I’ve lost weight. My mental health has greatly improved. And I think my family dynamic has benefited quite a bit, as well.
What I do miss, is the flavour. There are some great alcohol-free drinks available that aren’t sugar-laden soda and juice. There are non-alcoholic spirits, and both craft and big brand brewers have started to embrace non-alcoholic beer, so “near beer” is no longer the foul-tasting stuff of old. But the availability of these drinks in Canada is still somewhat limited.
We have Seedlip, but not the aperitifs of their sister brand Æcorn (though I’m told they’re coming). Many of the best non-alcoholic beers are only available in Europe or the United Kingdom and, to a lesser degree, the United States. Hopefully, that will soon change. But right now, getting the particular flavours that come with alcoholic beverages in an alcohol-free format can be tough — there’s no replacement for whiskey, for example, although I’m sure someone is working on it.
In light of the unexpected benefits I’ve received from not drinking for a month (the improved mental health being the most notable), I’ve been thinking about becoming a teetotaler — though not a joyless one, I hope. But, for now, I won’t go so far as to say that I’m giving up alcohol. I’m not giving away all the bottles in my liquor cabinet or dumping the contents of my beer fridge down the sink. But I’ll be drinking booze far less often. And when I do partake, it will probably be in smaller amounts and I’ll be much more conscious about when and why I’m making the decision to drink alcohol.
I will be drinking non-alcoholic beer more often than the standard variety. And I’ll reach for Seedlip or Sobrii before I reach for hard liquor. Alcohol will probably continue to be a part of my life. But the role it plays will be much smaller.
I’m not “sober,” but I am “sober adjacent.” I hope you’ll raise a glass to that, regardless of what you decide to fill it with.