Let’s start with a text exchange I had last Wednesday Night:
ME: “Do you think buying a bottle of that alcohol-free wine is cheating? It’s called FRE.”
MY FRIEND KELLY: “Yes. Drink a diet ginger ale. 😂”
ME: “Well, I don’t have any of that. I guess I have cranberry and tonic.”
ME: “These snowy nights when the girls are gone and I have to do sucky stuff on the computer are the hardest. Wine makes it better.”
MY FRIEND KELLY: “Yeah, it feels like Groundhog Day these days.”
ME: “I guess we will make it. Ugh. But I shoulda’ gone out for some kombucha today.”
Now here we are on actual Groundhog Day, and it looks like we made it. (GREAT Barry Manilow song!) I observed Dry January. I did it. I completed it. I succeeded. I survived. And contrary to what my title implies, I did not get high as an alternative to alcohol. I am on a natural high because I detoxed my body for 31 days! Something like that.
I did not have Dry January on my radar until I noticed my sister mention it on Facebook at the end of 2020. So without thinking it through, I volunteered to do it, too. I like a good challenge. Then I spent an entire month wondering why anybody would sign up for this?!?
I was my biggest doubter from the beginning. But I was not alone. There were others. Many dear friends and coworkers practically squealed and giggled like toddler girls when I told them I was going to “Try Dry.”
“Are you joking?”
“Are you serious?”
“This should be interesting.”
“Well, that’s sad!”
…These are real things they said.
Everyone laughed. Most people wondered why. Many people wanted nothing to do with this. And I didn’t blame them. I was surprised by my own decision. To give you a sense for how much I enjoy a nice cocktail, I mixed up a nice cocktail as my talent during my family’s virtual Christmas Eve talent show. It was a French 75. I made it; then, then I chugged it right there on the Zoom. (Please try one for yourself if you never have. See recipe below.)
But, after all, my personal word for this year is DISCIPLINE. Of all things, Dry January would provide a great test of my chosen theme. If I could do a month without cocktails, maybe I could do other hard things this year, like my laundry, like exercise, like graduate school…
January was a long and weird month. Early on, January 6th happened in Washington DC, and that Wednesday all of us sat watching that debacle on live television in disbelief. If ever there was a night I wanted to drink last month, that was it. And there were many nights before and after that one that tried my commitment. Especially the numerous times I found myself either home alone and/or cooking dinner in the evening. Those situations triggered me. I guess I never realized how much I adore a big, full glass of wine or a fizzy cocktail when I make food or while I’m binging Netflix solo.
I struggled for the first 21 days. It’s often said it takes about that amount of time to form a new habit or to break an old one. Then, I hit my easiest stretch and stride from about the 21st until the 26th. The final five days came back to bite me, especially with a 5th weekend wedged in there.
Full Disclosure: The teen half of the Precious Pair prevented me from failing when The Night of January 16th happened. At that midpoint of the month, I decided I did not want to endure further dryness. I had made it halfway and wasn’t that good enough? She convinced me otherwise with a great pep talk beyond her years – she often does that – and I’m grateful.
What Did I Drink Instead?
Alternatives and Mocktails. Flavored iced teas, Arnold Palmers, cranberry juice & tonic, other juices , Coke Zero and ginger ale, inordinate amounts of coffee. Hot tea and hot cocoa, too. And water, both still-style and my preferred bubbly varieties. But kombucha was my best discovery of Dry January. (Natural fermentation!)
How Did I Benefit?
Healthwise. – Maybe? I’m sure my liver got a nice sabbatical. I didn’t lose any weight, but I didn’t gain any either. I did not notice any upgrades in my skin, sleep, or general wellness as the Dry January bloggers suggested I would enjoy.
Greater Appreciation. – Definitely. I will approach my libations with more gratitude moving forward. I intend to sip and savor them now.
Lower Tolerance. – No doubt, I’ve become a much cheaper date. I will likely hold myself to imbibing only 1-2 nights weekly or I might even limit myself to special occasions only. This is what my friend Kelly is calling “mindful drinking” and I like that term. I’m stealing it.
Self-Control. – There’s a thin line between our pleasures and our problems. With 2021 as my Year of Discipline, I’m committed to staying in line, on track, and under control in many aspects of my life, more than ever before. Because that’s what a single middle-aged mom with a tween and teen watching does, or at least tries her best to do.
Now What Happens?
It’s February. What kind of February?
….No! It’s Disciplined February.
How Did I Stay Dry?
Most likely, I succeeded because I’m competitive. And my competition was Me. This experience wasn’t easy, but as I often say – Good Things Are Hard. Not always, but I often find this to be true.
The writer in me might have been the most helpful persona throughout this cause. I kept thinking “If I can do this, then I can write about this.” It was similar to the motivation I had last August when I struggled through COVID. I knew once I got through it, I would have something to say about it. What kind of story would I be telling you now if I had quit way back on January 6th? On second thought, I could have told a great story about quitting. Come to think of it, that one might have been better, probably funnier. Well, there’s always next January for failing!
But I conquered Dry January 2021 – as did my sister and Kelly and probably others here reading this. Congratulations! And by sharing this silly story, I mean no disrespect to my friends and family and the strangers out there who have declared Dry for Life. On the contrary, I honor you, support you, and respect you boatloads.
My French 75: Start with ice in a traditional cocktail shaker. Open a bottle of something boozy and bubbly – any champagne, prosecco, or sparkling wine you like. Pour 4 ounces into the shaker and add a shot of your favorite gin – I prefer Aviator or Hendrick’s. Add a tablespoon of simple syrup, which is so easy to make yourself – boil equal parts water and sugar and add a touch of vanilla extract. For something different and extra fancy, add a little St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur instead of the simple syrup. Shake and pour into your glass of choice – martini, champagne flute, or stemless wine recommended. Add a swirly lemon peel twist and/or a stemmed cherry. Enjoy mindfully!
My Dry 75: Replace the champagne with ginger ale and swap out the gin and simple syrup with a nice, natural lemonade or limeade. Voila!