And so once again, the month of January draws to an end – a month of new beginnings, fresh starts and glorious and hopeful resolutions, to which naturally many feel the urge to share and seek praise. I actively applaud and encourage anyone who sees the New Year as an opportunity to challenge themselves, to be all they can be, and strive for better. HOWEVER, the very well established ‘Dry January’ is something that so often falls into these hopes and dreams for a better year, and one that I feel the need to discuss.
Unless you have been living beneath a rock for the last decade or so, you would know that the process of ‘Dry January’ is whereby the willing (and perhaps not so willing) abstain from alcohol for the month of January in a bid for a ‘healthier’ start to the year, and to convince themselves and others, that they are not in fact an alcoholic – which is alarming in itself! In principal, not the worst idea in the world, as naturally the festive season generally sees a spike in alcohol consumption, reaching a climax as the clock strikes twelve on New Years Eve, and the last of your sober dignity is lost, as the chants of “Happy New Year” sound out and you decide that enough is enough, ‘Dry January’ is for me.
So the New Year begins, and you embrace the sobriety of the cause, feeling good about yourself as you go about your daily life resisting the temptations of the sauce. January drags on, and during this time, you have successfully told the entire human planet, that you, [insert name], are doing ‘Dry January’, in the fashion of; “how do you know if a Vegan is in the room? Don’t worry, they will tell you”! Many even log their daily success; with a friend of mine stating on his facebook; “Day 13; and 13 days off the sauce and feeling great” – well actually Mr X, that’s incorrect, as I know for a fact that you were out boozing till the earlier hours of New Years Day, so technically, its day 12.5 – but hey, good for you buddy!
All of this sounds fairly above board, so you may be asking, ‘why the tone of negativity’? Why not give up booze for the month, and shout about it? And who the hell am I to make such statements? To that, I would swiftly answer, that I am nothing more than a concerned England patron, an ambassador if you will, as I feel the concept of ‘Dry January’ is the start of the end.
On a health note, there is nothing healthy about drinking vast amounts of alcohol, ride the January wagon for 31 glorious days, only to summersault yourself off it, into a ‘well-deserved’ drinking binge to celebrate your sobriety. You visit any pub on the 1st of February, and you will undoubtedly find someone there celebrating their achievement by downing cosmic amounts of the local good stuff, and naturally informing all those who will listen, that they did ‘Dry January’. This compares to a marathon runner, who gave up fast food during their training, only to cross the finish line and be greeted to a Big Mac and fries x6 (as well as the customary foil wrap – to keep you and your burger warm, of course!)
Alcohol, like most things in life, is bad for you in large amounts. You eat enough carrots, and you will turn orange, a condition known as Hypercarotenemia, which is not good for you; however, carrots in the correct quantity, is one of the most healthy vegetables on the planet. Dr Kari Poikolainen, a former World Health Organisation expert, goes as far to suggest that it would be better to drink some alcohol than abstaining all together – naturally a heftily debated comment, but worth the mention! The concern of ‘Dry January’ to me is that it promotes the wrong interaction of Joe Public with alcohol. People feel they can drink the volume of a swimming pool, only to take a short break, and be as good as new again.
Outside the health aspect, people often forget the knock on affects of Dry January. So many local restaurants, pubs, bars, struggle as a result of this attitude, as many people choose not to go out at all. English pubs and restaurants are the backbone of English culture, and it would be devastating to see independent venues close; in the same way as the local butcher succumbed to the chained supermarkets.
Alcohol is a fantastic invention of man, and enjoyed the world over. For me, taste is a fantastic sense that should be celebrated, and challenged. Alcohol retains a high quality of flavors, whereas most soft drinks are laden with sugar to give them their taste. Absolutely, alcohol carries risk, (like most enjoyable things in life – sky diving, for example) and one not to be abused, but should be viewed in the same light as food; obesity is in fact a bigger problem in the UK than alcoholism, yet I have not heard of “Foodless February”. We are one of the few nations that get involved with ‘Dry January’, which clearly indicates it’s the UK’s relationship and interaction with alcohol, such as binge drinking, as opposed to alcohol itself – which would be supported by the fact that with the exception of Denmark, the UK has the biggest alcohol problem in the EU.
With the addition of ‘Dry July’ and ‘Sober October’ entering the social nexus, my fears continue to rise. In a society that is ever increasingly regulated, we should change our attitudes, as failure to do so will result in the banning of something that has existed before Roman times, and is a credit to humanity. Last year, a campaign ran that promoted drinking smaller amounts, and having a minimum of 2-3 days off the sauce a week – this is by far a more positive attitude to take than months of sobriety, and one that should be more explored. Education in future generations is key, and I believe ‘Dry January’ promotes the wrong message.
The failure of Prohibition in the USA was a significant achievement of man vs state, and illustrated the desire of the masses, but who knows who would win second time round. Imagine a world without booze? Jesus would have turned water into wine in vain!
If you take nothing more from this casual dialogue, than eating too many carrots turns you orange, then hey, that’s better than nothing. Cheers!