It’s once again that time of year when some among us, having just barely made it through the holidays, like the smoldering wreck of a car crawling over the finish line of an endurance race, attempt to seek some relief by embarking on what is commonly referred to as “Dry January.”
While it is a common occurrence every year, it never gets any easier. And so I thought, even though the month is half finished, it might be a good idea to address the difficulties of dry January with a quick guide. Hopefully, with my suggestions, you will survive the next two weeks and you will never again have to struggle with the annual difficulties of figuring out just how to react to and behave around a friend who has made the unfortunate decision to abstain from alcohol for 30 days.
First, know that you are not alone. Many other people have gone through what you’re going through and you too will get through your friend’s brief flirtation with sobriety.
It helps to recognize the stages you’ll likely go through upon hearing that a friend of yours will no longer be up for afternoon sessions or might miss four Friday night piss ups. These feelings are not dissimilar to the five stages of grief, to wit:
Denial: “You don’t want a beer? You’re joking.”
Anger: “Just have a fucking drink with me!”
Bargaining: “Oh come on, you can have wine with dinner.”
Depression: “I’m just so sad we can’t go out to the pub.”
Together we’ll get to stage five: Pity.
For while your inclination to mock or berate might come from a good place, you need to understand that your friend has made a foolish, foolish decision and will be missing out, voluntarily, for an entire month. As the great Francis Albert Sinatra once said, “I feel sorry for people that don’t drink because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they’re going to feel all day.” I encourage you to think of these sentiments from Ol’ Blue Eyes when it comes to your suffering friend and also, take heed of these five crucial tips.
1) Avoid asking them if “they miss it.” Depending on how long they have been dry, they are almost certain to tell you that they are surprised to find that don’t miss it at all or, worse, to regale you with tales of how great they feel, how much more energy they have, or how they didn’t realize how much they could accomplish by waking up with a clear head. These sentiments are, of course, bald-faced lies. Your friends don’t really feel all that much better and, instead, they are attempting to trick you so that you will join them in their misery. They face the end of each day in January with nothing more to comfort them than their own insecurities and anxieties. You have the reassurance of a tall pint of lager or an icy tumbler of gin, should you so wish. Of course they fucking miss it. Do them and yourselves a favour and just don’t bring it up.
2) Be considerate when hosting your newly-boring friend. When entertaining a Dry Januarian, in addition to real drinks for normal people, be sure to have interesting non-alcoholic offerings on hand. This is the time to bring up that tetra-pak of juice from your basement, claw the old Clamato bottle out from the back of your fridge, or to dust off that bitters kit you got for Christmas two years ago to add a few dashes of the stuff to club soda. Your sober friend will be so grateful at the effort you’ve made that he or she is likely to pretend the concoction actually tastes decent in order to spare your feelings. Resist the urge to buy non-alcoholic beer. The majority of the stuff on the market in Canada is an attempt to replicate Blue, Budweiser, or Carlsberg and is thus, intolerable. The good stuff, mostly made in Europe where apparently people care enough about teetotalers to market to them, will only remind them that beer is, of course, delicious and will thus likely be seen as an attempt to sabotage their efforts.
3) But don’t be too considerate. Entertaining a friend who is taking a break from drinking can be a dangerous undertaking. Without the effects of alcohol alerting them of the hour, it might be difficult for your friend to know when it is time to leave and you could find them lingering long after the other guests have headed home for spirited, booze-fueled sexual intercourse or a sweet, drunken slumber. Be a little stingy with those non-alcoholic offerings. A guest is much more likely to hit the road if they look down and notice that their glass is empty. And really, what’s the use in filling them up? It is just juice after all. What’s the fucking point? Besides, they probably have to get up pretty early to get a start on feeling holier than thou.
4) Consider meeting at places that don’t revolve around alcohol. Because of the inherent danger of lingering sober friends, it might be a better idea to meet somewhere public. Obviously, the pub won’t do. Try to think of places to meet where your friend won’t feel left out surrounded by people drinking, and that are normal places to meet during the day. Ideally, the spot you choose will have nice coffee or decent food so that, when you have another friend text you with a made up emergency, you’ll feel alert and refreshed and have something in your stomach to duck out and down a few quick pints.
5) Think of the real value of true friendship. When it comes to talking to your friend who has decided to undertake a dry January, consider how important your friendship with this person is. Your friend has made a personal choice that he or she truly believes will improve his or her health and is looking to you for support. This is your friend. If you take sincere and realistic stock of what it is you value most about the majority of your friendships, I truly believe you will find that your best tactic in supporting your friends’ efforts is to offer them words of encouragement near the beginning of January and then, when they’ve come around, to give them a call in February for a few drinks and see how they fared.