Teetotalism: An impossible feat in Leeds?
Every year, nearly 1 in 5 adults commit to giving up alcohol for the entire month of January. There seems every reason for me to join these people; I’m fed up of hearing about my drunken escapades, my bank account is barren and it’s about time I stopped drunk texting my ex. That’s not to mention the several bouts of tonsillitis I’ve suffered which has not been helped by the lethal mix of antibiotics and wine. Dry January offers a mental and physical detox and for many people, a much-needed break after an indulgent Christmas.
Dry January was started in 2013 with the aim to help people reduce their alcohol intake and to inspire healthier relationships with alcohol. Just a month away from the bottle positively impacts blood sugar levels, one’s liver and many report improvements in concentration and sleep. So, why is it that my Dry January lasted only 13 days? I followed all the advice that I found online and found myself miserable. The first part of Dry January is to have a ‘why?’ Why do you want to reduce your alcohol intake? To quote Lucy Spraggan, “I am fed up with beer fear’. I am sick of hangxiety and my ability to act like I’m not hungover in every seminar is wearing thin. I want to wake up safe in the knowledge that I haven’t phoned someone 10 times or posted 12 strange photos to my Instagram story.
The first thirteen days started off quite well and I hardly missed alcohol being at home. It was easy to refuse a glass of wine in the comfort of my home in London. I was quite happy drinking green tea and whilst Sunday dinners weren’t the same without a glass of wine, Robinson’s Squash was a welcome alternative…kind of. I actually did more work than I’d ever done, my brain wasn’t a fog of vodka lemonade and I genuinely think my liver was healthier than ever.
But, of course, fruit squash does not stand up to the test against the Uni culture that we live in. RPP Tuesday’s would not be the same without a pint and I missed late night trips to Sainsburys in search of another bottle of wine to keep the night going. The entire university experience rendered sobriety fairly tricky. Imagine not being able to scoff a kebab at the end of the night. Imagine trying to flirt without the embrace of Dutch courage. Nobody wants to party with the boring, sober girl (although, arguably my drunk self is not much better). I will not lie, I lasted about 3 hours on a night out before I caved in and joined my friends in their boozy antics.
I thought I’d be disappointed in myself that I couldn’t last more than 13 days without alcohol. I felt instantly like maybe I had a worrying relationship with alcohol and that it was some kind of sign from above to stop seeking solace in the bottle. However, it was none of these things. I have a great relationship with alcohol; the ability to stop whenever I’ve had too much and to stay in control (most of the time). I realised to stop drinking in all the places that I have often associated alcohol with is a big ask, especially in a university environment. It’s not necessarily a temptation, but more of a habit and the desire to join in with friends. I don’t think enjoying being drunk should instantly constitute an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Of course, it goes without saying that if you do have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that Dry January is not the answer. And on reflection, Dry January only set me up for failure. In a month full of exam deadlines, bad weather and failed New Years’ Resolutions, I really don’t need another failure.
On the whole, teetotalism seems nice in theory, but if anything it only made me more miserable. I think for most university students, going cold turkey for a month is unrealistic and actually more problematic than beneficial. Feel free to prove me wrong if you have had 31 days of uninterrupted, blissful sobriety.
I did, however, enjoy reducing my alcohol intake. I’ve realised I don’t need a drink at Terrace after every library session and I don’t need to have a whole bottle of wine on every night out.