I am 17 days into my fast from alcohol. I started late but intend to finish bang on time, January 31st. As I write this post I am eating a courgette and chorizo stew, rounded off with a bottle of Beck’s Blue. The stew is spicy and satisfying, the “beer” decidedly less so. By this I don’t mean to disparage the hard working boys in Bremen (or rather Luton as the bottle’s label soberly informs me) it’s just that although it looks like beer, smells like beer and almost tastes like beer, it doesn’t quite pull of the illusion.
By this point you’d be forgiven for thinking: “Of course it doesn’t you moron. It’s got less alcohol in it than occurs naturally in fruit juice” and you’d be right. Indeed, I feel slightly silly to drink non-alcoholic beer and many would question the point. On one hand, it allows a little respite for those who not only love the flavour of beer but all little rituals involving in its consumption: the clink of the bottles in the fridge, flipping off shiny metal tops, a frothy white head settling down as the glass gently perspires…you get the idea. On the other hand, it might set up a dangerous precedent of rewarding yourself for minor triumphs, one which after January you might continue but this time with the real stuff. In this way I’m conflicted on many aspects of Dry January. Pros and cons seem to go hand in hand:
Pro: you spend less money because you’re on lime and soda not G n’ T.
Con: you realise how many of your close relationships are based solely on alcohol.
Pro: you feel fitter and healthier.
Con: no-one cares that you feel fitter and healthier (especially people in the pub).
Pro: you have a clear head and can think about life properly for a change.
Con: you have a clear head and can think about life properly for a change.
On a more serious note (and adding the massive caveat that I am no expert on addiction) the idea of a complete fast from booze is potentially problematic: you might be trading one addiction for another and missing the underlying cause of your drinking. To my mind, someone who is truly in control should be able to have a pint or two and stop without the wild compulsion (to which I often fall prey) to continue drinking well into the night. In this way, serious alcoholics are never exactly “cured” of their addiction; instead they learn to recognise and avoid the triggers that might result in them falling off the wagon. While not an alcoholic, in certain social groups I am known as a seasoned drinker and this is a reputation which, however satisfying on a juvenile level, I do not wish to sustain. Dry January has shown me the benefits of tee-totalling (especially on my bank balance) and my personal challenge for the following months is to have more nights when I have a pint or two and stop, and less nights when I end up with a sore head the next afternoon.