What I Learned During Dry January

I’ve always been a fan of drinking. When I finally reached the age where my dad started letting me take more than one Smirnoff Ice to the “parties” my friends used to throw, I would always take any opportunity I could to get at least tipsy and have a good time with my pals.

When I got to the age of 18, where I could legally drink in clubs and bars, I wanted to be out every weekend with my friends. And then when I got to university, I found myself in the bizarre situation of being able to go out almost every night of the week because, and here comes the most frequently spoken sentence in of anyone at university, “first year doesn’t count”.

Drinking for me has always been a social thing. I enjoy it in all forms – going out for fancy cocktails, going to the pub for a pint when the sun’s out, and getting smashed in a club on a Friday (much to the detriment of my hungover Saturday self that was supposed to get up early and go to the library). Alcohol has never posed a problem; I’ve always been able to take it or leave it.

But then again, I never really put myself in a situation where I had to leave alcohol alone until this January. I decided to do Dry January for many reasons: to raise money, give my body a break because I was suffering from really terrible hangovers at the time, to set myself a challenge and to save money.

I managed to achieve all of this during Dry January, as well as learning some other things as well.

  1. Your friends will forget that you don’t drink.

    Within a week of my friends and I getting back to university, three out of the five people I live with had to be reminded that I wasn’t drinking. It became really obvious to me how young adults in the UK often live for nights out and getting drunk – to the point where anything that isn’t included is forgotten about. I enjoyed being able to have a month dedicated to getting shit done. Plus not having a night out bang in the middle of it all to throw me off track gave me a sense of clarity about my week that I really helped me staying motivated.

  2. Alcohol does lower your standard of health.

    This isn’t just about the hangovers that come with drinking – it’s about everything else too. When you drink, the sleep you get is disrupted meaning that you spend the next couple of days needing to catch up on sleep. It also means you spend the next day either not eating or eating everything you can find in your cupboard, which messes up your diet for the next couple of days. Alcohol hurts your throat, makes you more susceptible to colds, and just generally runs your body down (retweet if you cry every time).

  3. Always pre-drink on spirits.

    I always used to pre-drink on wine or cider before a night out, but since going sober for a month – I’ve realised that buying a bottle of gin or vodka is way more value for money. With the money I saved, I “splashed out” on a bottle of gin that lasted me for way more nights out than a £5 bottle of wine would have done. Yes, they cost double – sometimes even triple the price – but wine goes stale after a while, whereas gin can keep forever (maybe not forever, but you know what I mean).

  4. If you want to save money, don’t go on that night out.

    Since going into my third year, I’ve saved so much money week-on-week because I just haven’t been out as much as I used to in my first and second year (first year might not count, but third year definitely does). I can promise you, the fomo that you experience won’t be as bad as you thought it would be and you’ll end up with at least £15 to spare.

  5. If you can’t do a night out without drinking, then don’t.

    People are right when they say that, if a night out isn’t good unless you’re drunk, then it’s not a good night. So you’ve got two options: get drunk and go out, or stay sober and do something else. You can have a lovely night in with a pizza and a film, but if you’ve really got that urge to let your hair down and go absolutely fucking mental on the dancefloor to Shout out to My Ex (which we’ve all had, don’t lie) – then do it.

Luckily, I managed Dry January pretty easily, mainly because I did three weeks of work experience in January and so wouldn’t be drinking anyway. However, just because I found it fairly simple to go without alcohol for a month, that doesn’t mean to say I didn’t learn anything about the substance itself and the culture surrounding it.

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