Dry January - Why Do We Bother?!
As we roll into the third trimester of January, all over the country enquiries about social activities are being met with a continuous loop of the same excruciatingly boring response. "Heading out this weekend?";
"Ah no I'm off the sauce for the month",
"Ye mad? After that Christmas? Call me in February",
"No thanks pal, Dry January and all that".
In its various guises, people are saying the same thing; they've ditched the gargle for the first month of the year. Dry January of course has origins as far back as Pagan Ireland when the Celtic Druids would abstain from alcohol in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Wait, no, actually, I made that up, sorry, it's actually a trend that was invented by the internet in England no more than about two years ago and which we have shamelessly nicked, as is our wont to do.
I love a good bandwagon so I was first to hop aboard having emerged wailing from the womb of December after the 10-day consumption labour that was Christmas. "This'll be a doddle" I said to myself as I envisioned my liver praising me in thanks as it evicted toxins like an angry landlord. It was easy initially, probably because I'm what the scaremongerers call a "binge drinker", that is to say one who drinks at weekends. Call me a philistine (no really, do, I'll answer to it) but I don't drink wine with my dinner in the evening, choosing instead to save up my alcohol units to be blitzed all at once for a specific social occasion. So the formula was simple, avoid social occasions thus avoid booze. Me – 1, Dry January - 0.
I didn't, however, legislate for logging in to my Facebook - mere days after proclaiming to the world in a blaze of teetotal sanctimony that I was off the booze - and seeing a notification saying I had been invited to a social gathering on the 23rd of January with the blisteringly candid event title of "Whopper Session". However I had made my non-alcoholic bed and I was going to have to lie in it. Sober. God love those with birthdays in early January, it trumps even the generally regarded astrological short straw of being born in Christmas week.
Though the Dry January concept is a new one, my own uneducated opinion feels that we unconsciously gravitated to it as a means of self-preservation. Whilst Irish Christmases have always borne the reputation of being a challenging few weeks for even the mightiest of imbibers, the recently passed years - where we used to snort champagne for breakfast and buy houses on our lunch breaks just for the lolz - upgraded Christmas to a full blown intervention-worthy blitz of debauched consumption. Something like Dry January was needed to prevent nationwide mass cirrhosis of the liver.
Speaking of which, the mainstream media in the UK has thrown their smug tuppence ha'penny worth in and instead of commending our valiant abstinence, announced that Dry January was a sign of a drinking problem. In true optimistic style one group turned our problem into a solution. The Irish Heart Foundation found a worthy way of harnessing our desire to seek sanctuary from our tippling ways in order to raise funds, which is a definite endorsement for the concept, despite the strong undertones of it being a temporary escape from our deeper addictions.
Despite having adopted dry January from the British, we're no strangers to ceremonial abstinence. Sure didn't Jesus Christ himself look down from the cross on the day he died and tell us to give up drink or sweets or whatever until he came back from the dead? Yes we've all been card-carrying participants of lent at one stage or another. Having to give up cola bottles aged six for fear of incurring the wrath of God, or your granny, or Mrs O'Dea your first class teacher, was the ideal training ground for giving up the actual bottle for the obstacle course of temptation that Dry January represents.
The endeavour is not without its pitfalls, the most common one being what I like to term vice transfer. You'd want to have your will power in good nick not to become a serious chain smoker or to eat yourself into clinical obesity come the dawn of February. One friend of mine has confessed to being deep in the unshakeable grasp of this unenviable side-effect. The Dunnes Butter Biscuit is his current replacement substance of choice and he's currently up to a three-pack-a-day habit. So while his liver is kicking back and looking at brochures for Monart Spa, his pancreas has declared a state of emergency and called in the French Foreign Legion to deal with the blood sugar regulation crisis.
Vital organs aside, I can't imagine the vintners are loving the situation either, but that is mere conjecture based on the presumed economic impact of less people buying booze. I haven't had to hear that straight from the wine-stained mouths of the vintners themselves. However I HAVE been privy to the level 6 disgruntlement felt by the taxi drivers. "CRIPPLED we are" said one, "Loada me BAL**X" said another. I have vowed to stick to public transport until our collective return to the devil's brew has quelled their griping.
Of course, the one thing that would negate any of this would be moderation but I speak for myself and gesture at the rest of the nation without pointing any fingers when I say, that's never been our strong suit. If we didn't live our lives peaking and troughing from extremes of consumption to abstinence then we would have nothing to talk about after nights out.
So whilst January will continue for me unlubricated by the wares of Bacchus, come February I will cast off the ill-fitting cloak of sobriety and allow myself to rejoin the ranks of the social drinkers. It won't be in time for me to attend "Whopper Session" but perhaps that is a blessing in disguise…