Updated: Aug 31
At the time of writing, I have been dry for 31 days and 18 hours. This was not my first attempt at a prolonged period without alcohol. Last year, my husband Francesco and I missed the January train and decided to do Dry February instead. It lasted 11 days. Then it was Tuesday and we felt that we deserved wine with the newest episodes of Money Heist on Netflix. Any excuse to drink again.
We quite frankly expected a similar outcome this year but here we are. One month in and feeling great.
Thanks to our Sobriety Counter app, support from #dryjanuary, Club Soda, podcasts and inspiring non-drinking personalities, we made it. Yes, I know - I’m making this sound like we hopped across Antarctica on one leg. An almost impossible endeavour. But honestly, it feels like quite an achievement.
Although I have never considered myself an alcoholic, our expat lifestyle combined with my Danish need for hygge means that there is an excuse to drink alcohol almost daily. December 2021 was no exception and when I asked my son and husband on the beach at Christmas whether 11 am was too early for an Aperol Spritz, I realised that a break from the booze might be a good idea.
So, at midnight on New Year’s Eve after an epic free-flow party at Chi and Neil’s house, that was it. The start of what we both thought would be a half-hearted silly experiment.
Two fun facts: peer pressure exists in grown-up circles too and sober shaming is a thing! We have been met with a lot of scepticism over the past four weeks. What people want to know is usually “why”? In the beginning, it was easy: It’s Dry January and we drank too much in December. But 2-3 weeks in, friends would say: “What? Are you still not drinking?”. People’s immediate assumption is generally that we will become the boring couple. Alcohol equals fun. And I get that. It’s what I used to believe. But what has been surprising to me, is how we constantly have to justify the decision to drop something that, when consumed regularly, is bad for us. And yes – I know – there are myths out there that wine is good for you – red wine is packed with antioxidants, a glass of wine a day can prolong your life and so on. All music to my ears until last month. We can drink – and it’s totally justified! We have tried the “everything in moderation” approach that often comes up when we speak about alcohol. But when you’re not strong enough to only drink on weekends, then “in moderation” just doesn’t work. So, I guess the short answer to “why I don’t drink” is “because I have decided not to”.
One of the people that have inspired me the most this month is Janey Lee Grace and her podcast “Alcohol Free Life” presented by The Sober Club. Janey has been working years to normalise the concept of an alcohol-free life and through her, I have discovered books, events, alcohol free drinks and learnt about the tough times and temptation – which will likely occur from time to time.
Janey also opened my eyes to a very interesting concept: when people stop smoking or taking drugs, they get a “well done” and a pat on the back. But if you announce that you’ve stopped drinking, you’re just a weirdo. I sincerely hope that something can be done about that and I will do all I can to help normalising an alcohol-free lifestyle – even if I start drinking again.
Something we have always done when hosting dinner parties at our house, is to hand guests a glass of prosecco as they walk in. No questions asked. Well, when I now arrive at a party, I know that I have to look for alternatives to alcohol. Very often, that alternative will consist of a lukewarm glass of orange juice or some sort of mocktail with grenadine syrup. And even in a predominantly Muslim country like Malaysia, finding yummy non-alcoholic drinks is proving to be a challenge. We can get alcohol free bubbles at Marks & Spencers but it is basically sparkling grape juice with a ton of sugar. Our local supermarket has Kombucha and alcohol-free Heineken beer (kudos to them – I cannot taste the difference, but then again, I’m not a beer lover). We did go to one place here in KL (Bobo KL) where the non-alcoholic cocktails were superbly delicious and creative. I had an amaretto cocktail with an egg white layer like Pisco sour. There is definitely a huge gap in the market for delicious non-alcoholic drinks if you’re tired of the old virgin mojito and Shirley temple – at least in Asia.
February is here. Right now, I'm at an all-inclusive resort on Malaysia’s West coast celebrating the Lunar New Year. I could order a Piña Colada or a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc right this very moment. But I won’t. Because alcohol-free is working well for me. I do not know if I will start drinking again but I know this much: Going off the booze has improved my sleep, given me focus and mental clarity and I never wake up with a clouded mind or aching head.
Finally, the “big decision” is that I will be going Dry Until July - and then we shall see.
In the meantime, I shall be joining in on the fun, seeing alcohol consumption from both sides and approaching the topic with no judgment. Remember, a mere 31 days and 18 hours ago, I had never even tried to imagine a life without alcohol!
One last piece of advice: Do not attempt this alone! I cannot thank Francesco enough for having done Dry January with me. He has also decided not to drink in the near future. Our son Simon also went the whole of January without drinking. However, he has just announced that he is about do start "Wet February" 😁
If our story has somehow inspired you or made you curious, give the dry lifestyle a try and
· Find a buddy to join you
· Start with a month and if you’re up for it, extend to 3 months or 100 days
· Make use of all the great stuff online like #dryjanuary on Instagram and various podcasts
· Give it at least 10 days and notice the shift in how you feel (you can use the Sobriety counter app
to track your milestones)
· Be proud of what you’re doing
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