I used to give up alcohol every January; then I realised I only had a limited number of Januaries left and I panicked. What if I got knocked down by a bus half-way through the month? What sort of idiot dies sober, having thrown away a perfectly good fortnight of brain-wetting and belly-laughs? You’d be the laughing-stock of your own funeral.
So this year, as last year, I dug deep and carried on drinking. Sure, it’s tough, but those that know me, know that I’m all about rising to challenges. Having now experienced both types of January, I compared notes with myself over some pints of delicious ale and came to the following conclusions…
Reasons to be tearful
1. It’s January
God, January is grim: Colourless days, cold hands, bleary windows and the constant swooshing of man-made fibre. Any type of mid-winter euphoria is hard to come by so you need all the help you can get. Yes, if there is one, single month that cries out for the succour of booze, it is January. And February.
2. Too much spare time
Being sober gives you a glimpse of immortality, and it ain’t pretty. Barren temporal wastelands stretch to unseeable horizons, particularly when there isn’t a game on. Evenings, in particular, seem interminable and in an effort to fill the void you end up doing things that make matters worse.
Here is a diary extract from the last time I gave up booze in January:
Jan 2nd – Downloaded works of Czech composer, Bedřich Smetana. Played his Piano Trio in G Minor, which he wrote after the third of his daughters died in infancy. Its foreshortened melodies and phrases are a musical memorial to his lost girls. Wept. Felt like a brandy. Went to bed.
Jan 3rd – Fired up Grand Theft Auto and went on a three-hour killing spree. Felt empty. Or was it thirsty? Bed.
Jan 4th – Sat and read of a man who worships Glycon, an Ancient Greek snake god with the body of an anaconda and the head of Paris Hilton. Had a wank. Wept.
3. Your friends are worse
Hemingway famously stated that he drank in order to make his friends seem more interesting and anyone who’s attended parties sober will understand his drift.
Jan 13th – At the party I spoke to [redacted] early on and she told me (as if I needed reminding) that the problem with being sober at parties is that later on people will ‘hang on to you and tell you the same things over and over again’. Some time later, while holding on to my shoulder in order to balance (and blissfully free of all irony), she told me exactly the same thing. Just much more slowly.
4. It’s a waste of pubs
After the Christmas rush when the pubs are full of braying amateurs, January is the month when you get your favourite places back and you can once again lean on the bar and quietly inform the landlord that if he is unable provide you with a line of credit, then you may have to consider taking your custom elsewhere.
5. The name ‘Dryanuary’
This is a new entry in reasons not to go sober in January. Where did this name come from? Look at it, it’s shite. It’s not a pun, it’s not clever word-play, it’s just a lazy portmanteau – the bastard offspring, I suspect, of Stoptober and Movember. FFS, not every month needs a punny name. You’d never catch me cooking up something so crass.
Are there positives to a dry January? Of course there are. One or two.
I did notice an improvement in my ability to concentrate, which was exciting. I mean, generally speaking, if I had a pound for every time I got distracted, is that a pub?
My health improved: My tongue de-furred, all by itself; my breath was less rancid; I no longer snored; my dyspepsia ceased; I lost weight. Plus, I got things done, I felt a sense of achievement, I could walk past a pub like a normal person, I had fun with the kids…
Oh, fucking hell, the list of pros goes on and on.
Let’s just say that a period of abstinence can cheer you up and bring you down at the same time, like a night on crack. The Greeks have a word for this sort of thing – “agathokakological” – but I can’t see that catching on. I prefer ‘shitilliant’.
‘How are you?’
‘Tired, overweight, forgetful, happy…’
‘Very much so.’
Not drinking makes one feel less of a prole, perhaps, but feeling like a normal, able person is a slippery slope to personal admin, goals and Powerpoint. Sod it, you know you’re not special, you’re just another of the lumpen booze-addled proletariat, and all the better for it.