Welcome to Dryuary, a five-part series where The Takeout’s Gwen Ihnat navigates the month minus alcohol.
One of the many great lines in Girls Trip is when Regina Hall off-handedly remarks, mid-movie: “I think my liver is broken.” I had the same thought around mid-December. In the midst of a furious social season that kicked off with Halloween, if I’m being honest, my tolerance level was at the same level as some sort of rum-soaked pirate. I had been losing too many Sunday mornings not to worship the lord or attempt sun salutations, but to rehydration recovery efforts. And New Year’s Eve hadn’t even shown up yet, to say nothing of Christmas Day, which always involves copious amounts of chardonnay to deal with various non-linear relatives.
I’m older than most (if not all) of my coworkers here at Onion Inc., and I have heard from many of them—in so many words—that the fact that my husband and I still throw parties and stay out late gives them hope that they could actually have a life when they’re old (like us) and parents. They don’t get it (yet): Parenting is when the real drinking kicks in. You thought you were stressed out in grad school? Ha. You don’t know stress until you’re in charge of keeping small humans—who seem as determined to get hurt as quickly as possible (my son ate gravel, my daughter scaled high chairs)—alive. When my twins were babies, they had a blissful 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. sleep schedule. The second they went down, I lunged for the chardonnay, aiming to process whatever I drank before the 3 a.m. feeding. That was the year I got addicted to American Idol, because it appeared to be on every night. David Cook and white wine got me through that first stressful year. Things didn’t really improve the next year, what with toddler tantrums, so it was either going to be wine, Valium, and/or taking up smoking again: I chose the former.
I live in a fun, super-social Chicago neighborhood (as immortalized by Joe Swanberg in some of his Easy episodes), so even though my alcohol intake had increased with parenting, I hadn’t seen anything until my kids began attending our neighborhood school and we started getting invited to various local gatherings. These people partied like rock stars; I hadn’t been out that much since my twenties. After strings of never-ending weekends wondering how we were possibly going to entertain the kids for 48 hours, an invite for bottomless mimosas and bloody marys to watch some sport on TV I barely understood in sounded like heaven. The kids ran around with their friends in yards larger than ours, and we hung out with our neighbors, clinging to our oft-refilled glasses and long-overdue adult time.
Now, alcohol is the currency I traffic in. I never enter someone else’s house without a red or a white, or frequently both. Brunches, girls’ nights, potlucks: None of these frequent social events are alcohol-free. Plus the fact that drinks seem to be everywhere, even at formerly sober events: I now have favorite beverages at the movies (blueberry cider at my local Davis theater; prosecco at the Music Box art house), and can even drink at the grocery store. (At Mariano’s, a Chicago-area chain of grocers, it’s not unusual to see shoppers kicking back Pinot Gris in the middle of the canned soup aisle.)
So, all considering, Christmas was still a ways away when I started thinking about Dryuary, a refreshing beacon awaiting me in 2018. (It’s also known as Drynuary, but I find that much more difficult to spell/say.) It’s a movement that has its supporters and detractors: If you have a severe problem with alcohol, white-knuckling it through a month so that you can soon start doing Groundhog Day shots isn’t likely to help your problem much. But for people like me, who feel that our imbibing could use a solid break, it seemed like a good time to try. And there are several positive reasons for me to undergo this process, in addition to getting my tolerance level down to that of a normal human’s: The calorie content of these additional drinks is off the hook, so I am now so bloated I look like if you tied a string around my ankles, you could float me in a Thanksgiving Day parade. As I’ve mentioned, both my parents had cancer, and alcohol can be a contributing factor to that; as a parent myself, I also should be trying to be as healthy as I can possibly be. The holiday bills are rolling in, so I’m poor. And my annual physical is on February 4, leading to my yearly mad dash to try to be as fit as possible for that particular appointment.
There’s a Dryuary online movement of sorts that will enable me to keep track of other people on Twitter and elsewhere who are going through the same un-funtimes that I am. (If you are so inclined, please feel free to join me on this venture in the comments.) The Dryuary effort has also received some online slams in the past, like a Vice article last year on “How Not To Be An Asshole If You’re Doing Dryuary,” or a 2016 Business Insider piece by Slate advice columnist Mallory Schlossberg and Kate Taylor on why Dryuary is terrible:
Dryuary is not for people wishing to better their lives. It’s for people who wish to publicly better their lives, and inadvertently shame those who continue to indulge in the semi-frequent glass of wine.
Let me be clear: I am not interesting in shaming anyone except myself for my recent pirate social life. I will absolutely try not to be an asshole about it; my only feeling toward those who are still drinking in January is envy.
To make sure my monthlong abstinence sticks, I have committed to writing five columns about it, one for every week in January. So look for my status here over the next four Tuesdays. I will weigh myself accordingly, and keep you posted on any health advantages and disadvantages I may go through, along with choosing a new favorite non-alcoholic beverage every week (I suspect my beloved LaCroix will be my first selection). I’ll also write about how temporarily permanent sobriety affects my stress levels, and the alcohol-free navigation of certain social situations. First up: The A.V. Club belated Karaoke Holiday Party, an event that no one in their right mind would attend sober. Find out how I survived next week in this space—and a merry Dryuary to you and yours!