Paul's Dry January story: "For me Dry January is an opportunity to press reset."

Paul | March 2021 | 7 minutes

Paul has been doing regular Dry Januaries since 2015 - this is his story.

I first undertook Dry January in 2015 as a challenge to myself. And what a challenge it was. Whilst I can’t say I enjoyed it very much the first time around, I was definitely pleased to have experienced it. If I’m totally honest, I was genuinely surprised at how difficult I found it. It just wasn’t much fun sipping on soda and limes whilst your friends were on the drink. I was determined to stick to it, and I did, but it was eye-opening to notice how much peer pressure there is when it comes to alcohol, as well as seeing how often people choose to drink, almost subconsciously sometimes. Sunday roasts can mean a glass of red, trips to the cinema sometimes includes a quick drink beforehand, without even thinking about it. It was only when I didn’t allow myself to have any that I noticed this. I also realised just how much people’s behaviour changes over the course of an evening!

Another thing I observed was the money I had saved. Whilst I still went out, buying a soft drink was so much cheaper than spending upwards of a fiver on a glass of wine. Then there’s the added costs of food at the end of a night, as well as an Uber if I was feeling lazy. It all added up. One of my abiding memories of my first Dry January stint was the lack of alcohol-free alternatives in pubs and clubs, and where they were more widely available, they were quite bland. There was definitely a gap in the market. Fast forward a few years and there is now a much better range of alcohol-free or low alcohol alternatives which is good to see!

"With the lockdown restrictions in place, I had none of the usual social opportunities or temptations to drink."

Every year since 2015 I’ve (mostly) done Dry January give or take a couple of days. I always feel better for it and love the feeling of waking up at the weekend without a sore head. I did it again in 2021 (ok, I cracked on the final weekend but still, I did 30 days without). Unlike previous years, I found Dry January in lockdown pretty easy to be honest. With the lockdown restrictions in place, I had none of the usual social opportunities or temptations to drink.

I’ve got a big circle of friends and until lockdown I was always out and about, at least a couple of times a week. Drinks after work, dinners, lunches at the weekend, I had a great social life and of course miss those times. I think I would’ve found Dry January much tougher had I been socialising as normal. Of course, drinks over Zoom can be nice but they were just as nice with a glass of sparkling elderflower cordial too. I didn’t really miss drinking in those situations to be honest.

"For me Dry January is an opportunity to press reset, and a chance for the liver to have a proper break."

There were times in January when I did want a glass of white wine in front of the TV on a Saturday night, but it was really lovely waking up each weekend feeling completely fresh. That feeling far outweighed the temporary satisfaction of having a drink at the weekend. I had more energy and was far more productive – who knew that Sunday mornings existed?

I definitely drink more than the recommended limits but I also make sure I have at least four or five days off the booze per week. For me Dry January is an opportunity to press reset, and a chance for the liver to have a proper break. It is also a reminder that there are other ways to relax. The pandemic has taught me the importance of friendships but if anything, lockdown, along with Dry January, have shown me that there are other ways to socialise too.

As we emerge from lockdown, I’m hoping that the walks with friends will continue, and whilst it’s of course ok to go to the pub, it’s also fine just to go for a coffee. So much of our social lives revolve around being indoors and having a drink. That’s fine, but it’s not the only way. I’m grateful that Dry January has reminded me of that.