Denise Calnan: Why I won't be doing 'Dry January'
Can 31 days of a strict no-alcohol regime undo the festive excess of mulled wine, six-packs of beer and clinking bottles of wine?
Of course not.
‘Are you doing Dry January?’ is the question on everybody’s lips as reality returns with a bang, the tree comes down, the box-sets are shoved behind the couch and Christmas revellers return to their daily lives.
Before you ask, no, I’m not ‘doing Dry January’.
It’s not because I enjoy a drink, which I do, it’s because I don’t believe going teetotal for 31 days makes anyone a healthier or better person. I believe in a word called ‘moderation’.
I received a text message from a friend as the festivities came to a close and the gang of school-friends returned to their respective emigrant destinations.
It read: “I’m sick of eating and drinking, I haven’t eaten fruit for the last two weeks. I drooled over a bit of pineapple and mango there this morning”.
I agreed with her – we do over-eat and drink more than usual for the festive period ‘because it’s Christmas’.
But the sensible option is to get back on track come January – eat your fruit and vegetables, start up your fitness regime again, and hey, why not enjoy a glass of wine in the evening?
Starving yourself of one thing you enjoy will never work in the long run, it will only result in a binge before and after your 'dry month'.
How many people planning to do ‘Dry January’ ordered that round too many in the pub or popped open another bottle of prosecco over the festive period, with the excuse of ‘Dry January’?
Did you witness choruses of “Sure we won’t be drinking for January, how bad....” ringing out from pubs and clubs nationwide as yet another tray of Jagermeisters appeared on the table?
People do use the alcohol-free month to come as an excuse. And the truth is there is no such thing as reversing the damage.
Even though Chief Medical Advisor to alcohol education charity Drinkaware Professor Paul Wallace encourages people to take a break from alcohol and ‘reflect on how much and how often you drink’, he does note that having a break from alcohol does not mean that it’s okay to drink in excess for the rest of the year.
But this is what happens. How many people celebrated their ‘Dry January’ achievement with an all out rebound bender on the first weekend of February? Several week’s worth of units before you even hit the pub, but sure why not, because you ‘did Dry January’ right?
There is no such thing as reversing the long-lasting damage several night and day-long benders do to your body over the Christmas period. I’m no preacher – I will admit to getting caught up in the festive period and having that one drink too many, but why not aim for moderation instead?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine in the evening or joining friends in the pub after work for a few beers. And, let’s face it, January is the month you need a little perk to your week, a little enjoyment.
The short days and post-Christmas blues can be monotonous enough without taking away something you enjoy, be it a trip to the cinema, a day of ‘The Good Wife’ or, yes, a chilled beer.
If you’re doing ‘Dry January’ for a charitable cause and you’re sponsored to complete the month, then clearly that’s of benefit to charity.
But you don’t need to take up a challenge to give money to charity - putting money into a box or finding a cause you’d like to donate to without the ‘challenge’ and the self-indulgent Facebook status is acceptable too.
Good luck with ‘Dry January’ if it’s a personal challenge for yourself.
But do be aware, it won’t make up for your Christmas bingeing and it won’t clear the way for a rebound bender in early February.
Moderation is the method I'm aiming for.