We (almost) did it! (Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins toasting in 1943's Old Acquaintance [Photo: Bettmann/Contributor/Getty])

Welcome to Dryuary, a five-part series where The Takeout’s Gwen Ihnat navigates the month minus alcohol.

A friend at work asked me last Friday how Dryuary was going. “Ugh,” I responded. “Five more days.” He laughed. “So that whole ‘getting used to it’ thing never really kicked in?”

Which is sad, I guess, a kind of missed opportunity. I’ve likely spent too much of this valuable month regretting the drinks I didn’t have, instead of really taking this opportunity to reboot and enjoying all the no-alcohol advantages. With only a few days to go, I’d like to go over all the pluses and minuses:

Pluses

Final weight loss tally: 8 pounds! The last time I stopped by the gym to weigh myself, I did a happy gasp. This despite the fact that I’d often replace a drink at a restaurant with a banana milkshake, for example. (Planning on giving up sugar for Lent. It’s a sickness.)

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Higher fitness level: I have only taking the elevator to the 7th floor here at work twice this whole month. I rediscovered yoga, and my gym (and its hot tub). On being advised that my gym is actually right next to a hospital, my husband even reluctantly saw me off as I went back to kickboxing, which was awesome. Definitely going back to that class next week.

Increased wardrobe: All my winter pants fit again; they didn’t right after Christmas. I feel like my body is back to being more concave than convex. That blimp-like bloat I was complaining about pre-Dryuary appears to have dissipated. I no longer look like I should be carrying a sack full of toys for all the world’s children or that my water is about to break at any moment.

Revamped sleep schedule, leading to more energy: Without alcohol to mess up my nights (and subsequent mornings), my sleep schedule seems much more aligned. Although, without that alcohol surge, I am much less fun on a weekend night: ready to leave the bar after a single (non-alcoholic) drink, departing before the final encore at a show. I’m lucky to make it to midnight most nights. Woo!

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Overwhelming support: I heard from so many people, both in real life and online, either supporting me this month and/or setting out on their own Dryuary journeys themselves. This absolutely meant the world to me, and made it easier to stick to the plan instead of caving, along with the threat of public humiliation. Please let us know how you feel at the end of this month in the comments.

Increased sense of presence: This is kind of hard to explain, but I definitely had more of the feeling like I was living in the moment, experiencing everything in (sometimes excruciating) detail, rather than missing out on something.

Minus

Boring: Ironically, I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on something. That concert, that movie, that dinner with friends somehow might be even more fun if I was able to drink. I blame some of this just on the ban setup overall—like if you told me I couldn’t have any gum all month, I would be totally sulky about gum, looking to augment with mints or something, etc. Apparently, I’m 12.

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You really don’t have to have a degree in statistics to be able to tell that the plus column is much, much longer than the shorter one. So why drink at all anymore? I don’t want to stop losing weight. I don’t want to go back to headaches and losing my Saturday mornings. I don’t want to stop being present in my life.

Along with that, the most important thing—too important to be a mere item in the plus column—is that feeling of really being there for my family. You’d have to ask him to make sure, but I think my husband would say I’ve been nicer. I’ve been less on the phone, more in the kids’ faces, with fewer nights out overall.

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This past weekend I found a neighborhood play for some valuable one-on-one time for my daughter and me. I asked her what she thought about my month off from alcohol, if she had noticed any difference. She said: “You just seem to have more time for all your stuff. You seem less rushed.” As usual, she was absolutely right. Maybe it’s that bonus will keep me from reverting back to my pirate ways once this ban is over, still enjoying a night out with friends, but hopefully stopping at one or two. (My daughter also suggested I give up caffeine next. I love her, but there are, you know, limits.)

After all thus hullabaloo, you’d probably expect me to have a ceremonial drink at midnight Wednesday night, much like the final midnight drink that kicked off the month. Instead, I have dinner plans at the friends we dined with a few weeks ago, the night I complained about being cranky because I was the only one drink-free. We figured out that it was likely a night at their house that gave me the idea for Dryuary in the first place—an evening that involved making some (endless) cocktails out of leftover champagne from a party they’d had the week before. So it’s kind of a nice bookend to go back there, this time bolstered by my beloved La Croix to help keep the pirate life at bay.

As January draws to a close, I’m almost nostalgic for the hope that I clung to as I downed that last glass of champagne on December 31, even though this month has surpassed almost every expectation I had. I would definitely do it again, and would try to cool it on the whining and complaining this time. I’ve heard about Sober September, which makes more sense to me, because January in Chicago is miserable enough even without taking away alcohol. Or, making my Dryuary in 2019 February instead. After all, it’s shorter.

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Next week: Epilogue.