Dry January! Yes, in years gone by, I always thought that this was an excuse for self righteous arseholes to look down on people, as they desperately try to fill the void in their soul with quinoa and carrot juice. But this year, either in an act of hypocrisy, or perhaps maturity (I haven’t decided which one yet – could be both), I have decided to take on the challenge of going sober for a month, following the festive blowout of December. This will be especially difficult, considering the unrelenting horror show that was most of 2016.
(This is going to be a four part post, which will be updated each week, as I usually make weekend plans with friends that would probably involve having at least a couple of drinks. I was going to go into a little bit more detail in this first post about why I’m doing this, but I’m going to save it until the end – partly to save me eating humble pie if I fall off the wagon, and also so that people follow this to the last post, obviously. Also, there will be no more talk of superfoods or disgusting blended vegetable drinks from here on in.)
There’s a saying that goes “no man walks alone”, and while I am cringing slightly that I used that quote, I believe that it applies nicely to this scenario. I’ve gone in on this after making a pact with a couple of friends (who, admittedly, don’t drink as much as I do), and as an incentive, we’ve decided to put part of the money saved towards a paintballing trip. For anyone thinking about laying off the booze for a while, I would recommend roping some mates in for some morale support. Again, I say all of this that with limited certainty, because at the time of writing, I am just over one week in, so this could all be in vain.
So, introduction done, here’s how it’s gone so far –
Night one- Saturday, January 7th
Before heading out for the night, a few thoughts passed through my head – What if I didn’t have fun? What if I felt left out while everyone was getting drunk? What if I ordered a pint as soon as I got to the bar, just out of habit? All of these thoughts were clearly products of anxiety, but I was worried that I would either cave after one week, or have the most boring night ever. After a few muddled changes of plan, I went to see a band at a bar in Soho, via Brixton (I don’t really live anywhere near Brixton – like I said, plans were muddled) with a few friends.
As soon as we entered the venue, I noticed how loud the band were, and while I tend to go to gigs fairly regularly, I find it annoying when a pub band are so loud that you can’t even hear what someone is saying to you if they are shouting at the top of their lungs. I’m not sure if I would have been too bothered by this if I’d had a few beers beforehand, and I would be lying if I wasn’t tempted to have one just to loosen up a bit – an urge that was difficult to resist, considering I was offered a drink several times.
While I don’t drive (something I will learn to do at some point between now and the day I die), I tried to behave as I imagine I would have done if had to drive home. I’m surprised how well this worked, considering A) anyone who drives to Central London on a Saturday night is either a cab driver, or an idiot, and B) again, I don’t drive – no amount of mind tricks would change that fact for now. I held out though, and managed to politely decline any beers offered to me, instead, opting for lemonade.
Despite my earlier complaints about how loud the music was, I enjoyed the band’s performance, and there was a bouncy, energetic buzz in the room, but shortly after they wrapped up their set, we decided it was time to make like Ned Stark, and head off*.
Onto the next bar, and I was slightly relieved that we may have been going somewhere a little more quiet so that we could have a conversation, but the optimism was misplaced, as the next venue was a busy, loud cocktail bar. At this point, you might think that I was having the worst night out of my life, but it was far from it – even if I’ve had a few shandies, it takes me a little while to loosen up, and tonight was no different. It may have been the result of getting a sugar rush, or maybe I had made peace with the fact that I would have to shout in order to be heard, but eventually, I found myself acting almost as animated as I would have been on any other night out. It’s quite rare that I get to say this, but I am aware of exactly how much shit I was talking, and was fully in control of my actions. No Regrets.
I’m not sure what time my friends left, but I decided to call it a night before they did, and as I was saying my goodbyes, I realised just how completely shithoused they were. While I can’t say I was jealous of them, I didn’t feel like I was above them either; the simple fact was they were drunk and I wasn’t. I can’t end this part without giving a shout out to the bar staff for making some of the best (and possibly only) virgin mojitos I have ever tasted.
As expected, I woke up as fresh as I would have done any other day of the week, and while Sundays are generally a lazy day by default, it was nice to spend the day without feeling like my brain was going to implode. Another feeling I didn’t miss was the existential hangover dread. This is something that hits different people at different stages in their life – for a lucky few, it may never happen (I haven’t spoken to every single living person who has had a hangover, so cannot confirm that), but most of my friends have experienced it, and I know I certainly have.
Another massive positive – I probably spent less than half as much as I would have done if I had been on the sauce, considering cocktail bars are usually black holes for hard earned cash, regardless of the quality of the actual drinks (and at this particular venue**, they did look incredible). So I’m pleased to say that it’s been a good start, and will (hopefully) have some stuff to report back with at around about the same time next week.
*I would apologise for Game of Thrones spoilers, but it’s Sean Bean. You know how that shit’s gonna turn out.
**For anyone curious, the cocktail bar we ended up at was Soho based El Camion. While I wasn’t exactly adventurous with my drink choices on this occasion, I would definitely come back to try an espresso martini or two.