I’m Doing Dry January and It’s Giving Me a New Perspective on Alcohol

updated May 3, 2019
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Chris Phillips is one of six people tracking their resolutions with Apartment Therapy in real time. You can read his first installment here.

Let’s play a word game: If I say “gay” and ask you what word comes next, you’d probably say “bar” right? And if I said “British”—my husband is British—you might think “pub.” This is a quick way of demonstrating how drinking alcohol can be so closely connected to our culture, or at least to mine.

It’s easy to say the deep association is a bad thing. I’m sure most of us know people whose lives were ruined (or nearly so) from alcohol. But demonizing alcohol also means dismissing the friendships bonded over a few drinks, or the cool ease that comes with a few beers on a summer night. I often find myself wishing we had a spot here in Brooklyn with the same sense of community found in the country pubs my husband grew up with in England. And I can’t forget that the modern gay rights movement started in a bar—not in a government office and certainly not in a church. When you take time out to deliberately think about it, like I have during this month, you start to see both the joy and terror we’ve bound up in drinking.

Homer Simpson says it best: “To alcohol! The cause of—and solution to—all of life’s problems.”

“When you take time out to deliberately think about it, like I have during this month, you start to see both the joy and terror we’ve bound up in drinking.”

Day 1

We sent off 2016 watching fireworks on our roof, my neighbor’s tremendous fried chicken in one hand and a flute of Pol Roger champagne in the other.

In the morning, I went to church with my son and of course had a tiny sip of communion wine. (Ground rules: this doesn’t count.) On the way home, we stopped at the bar and restaurant we go to every Sunday after church. (They make the best Negroni in Brooklyn.) I was feeling anxious about telling our bartender friend and the regulars we hang out with about Dryuary, but turns out they took the morning off and were still closed. Dodged that one! Instead we went home to put away the champagne glasses.

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Day 2

My husband and I went to see “Jackie” at the new theater that serves meals and cocktails during the movie. I had my first seltzer-and-bitters of the Dryuary challenge and then indulged in a chocolate peanut butter shake. (Does it count as calories if you’re in the dark and doing Dryuary?)

Poor Jackie—she drinks a lot in this movie. I wouldn’t have focused on it if I wasn’t doing the challenge.

Day 3

It’s my first day back in the office. A couple of co-workers say they’ll join me in Dryuary (Spoiler alert: They do not last very long). I began to read about what resolutions the other writers are taking on this January. I would have a much harder time giving up Facebook or coffee than booze. My challenge suddenly seems very small.

Day 5

I sat through a two-hour co-op board meeting, mostly about roof repair. Great red wine was served and I didn’t sip. No one asked me why I wasn’t drinking and I didn’t bring it up.

Day 6

Well, a commenter called me an alcoholic. I knew this would come up. Pretty sure I’m not, but I’m glad we’re going there. Deep dark thoughts like this beat the usual resolution season claptrap that flies around most lifestyle sites in January.

Super annoying time for our Soda Stream to break. Seltzer was my survival plan.

Day 7

Does anyone crave a whiskey more than someone standing in front of a cozy fireplace on a Saturday afternoon with old friends, after trudging through a snowstorm with a bundled up 1 year old in a stroller? I didn’t budge.

Day 9

Some of my co-workers are standing by me, sipping on end-of-the-work-day Proseccos. The smell was strangely tantalizing. Does absence make the nose go fonder?

I’m reminded of a quote: “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” —Oscar Wilde

Day 11

I discovered season three of “Last Tango in Halifax” is on Netflix. Husband and I binge-watched—without booze. I couldn’t believe how late we stayed up and how vivid the show felt. I realized wine sends us to bed earlier, and blurs the edges of the shows we watch.

“I couldn’t believe how late we stayed up and how vivid the show felt. I realized wine sends us to bed earlier, and blurs the edges of the shows we watch.”

Day 13

I’m obsessing over Fevertree Ginger Beer during a conference call at work. I can’t stand paying $5 for a small bottle of it in my local Foodtown, but I wouldn’t think much about paying twice that (or more) for drinks in bars and restaurants. Isn’t it strange how a $14 appetizer or dessert somehow seems so much more expensive than a $14 martini or glass of wine? (Before you kill me in the comments, keep in mind this is NYC—it’s all expensive.)

That night, I ordered some Fevertree and QDrinks on Prime Pantry. Evenings are the time when I really miss a tipple and these will help.

Day 14

We’re snowed in and I’ll admit it was hard for us not to crack a bottle of wine all day. I existed on Nespresso and PG Tips tea, before my husband went out into the snow to forage for a big bottle of seltzer. (Shout out to my husband who’s taking the challenge with me—that makes it easier I think.)

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

How I’m Feeling Halfway Through

I’ve got 16 days to go and I know I’ll make it. If all the frustration and fear I’ve balled up in my brain anticipating the Inauguration doesn’t drive me to drink, nothing will. I find I am sleeping a bit better and have what I’d describe as an overall acuity. The brisk weather creates that sharpness vibe too.

I also want to thank you for the calm, smart comments on my first post. We heard some thought-provoking questions from someone who’s recovering from alcohol abuse and someone who grew up in a dry county and wonders “Why can’t we go back to just drinking at restaurants, parties, weekends, and sporting events?” I was surprised to hear one commenter say we live in a “culture of constant alcohol access.” I’d never thought about New York City life this way, but after typing up this journal it does seem accurate.

See you Dry-ers at the end of the month for my wrap-up!

Chris will be coming back at the end of the month to share the results of his Dryuary journey. Until then, you can catch up with our other writers’ resolutions.

(Image credit: Margaret Lee)

Kicking a Coffee Habit

Checking Out of Social Media

Making Meditating a Daily Habit

Abstaining from Alcohol

Cutting Out Sugar

Using Painting as Therapy