At the start of each new year since college graduation, I've seen a few friends partake in Dry January — meaning: For the 31 days of January, they abstained from drinking for any reason, including birthday parties, promotions, weddings, and first dates. But for some reason, their temporary sobriety was always something they kept hidden. And every time the subject came up, things would inevitably get awkward.
One year, I met a friend for our annual new year catch up over wine and cheese. As soon as I ordered my glass of wine, she yelped, "I can't have any wine — I'm not drinking." After laughing and asking her why she agreed to meet at a wine bar — instead of, say, a restaurant or a coffee shop — we both changed our orders to sodas and cheese, and continued the night as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Another time, a friend called me from the bathroom during a date in January to ask, "How do I survive a first date without drinking? I haven't told him I'm doing Dry January." I attempted to walk her through how to tell him about the challenge and gave her a few conversation starters to pivot off the topic. (They are married now, and I do take full credit.)
After hearing and reading about so many people's Dry January experiences, including on Refinery29, I decided I would give it a try in 2017. To be honest, there wasn't one big motivating factor for me. Sure, the supposed benefits of better skin, better sleep, and increased energy would all be nice perks, but that's not my aim. I honestly just like challenges.
When I first decided to take on Dry January last month, I thought it would be easy. It wasn't until the end of December that I started thinking about all of the events I had already planned in which I'd normally be drinking, and I got nervous. I may have been a source of wisdom and clarity when I wasn't the one partaking in the challenge myself, but how would I fare as the staunchly sober friend?
So I reached out to my friends who have done Dry January in the past and asked them about it. Half said they cheated at some point, and most admitted that the reason they were so secretive was because they didn't want to be shamed if they failed. I don't like cheating or failing at things, so here's how I'm going to keep myself accountable: Not only am I doing Dry January, but I will be updating this story every day with my progress.
I will let you guys know if I feel like my skin is actually getting better, if I feel more refreshed and energized, and if it's really that awkward to be the only sober person in the room. But, that also means that, if I cheat, I will be letting everyone on the internet know in real time.
Wish me luck.