How To Win At Dry January

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How To Win At Dry January

Words by Mr Sam Fishwick

4 January 2018

Seven surefire tips to get you through the hardest month of the year without falling off the wagon.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Dry January is an A-road through perdition in heavy traffic. Giving up drinking for the first month of the year makes these four weeks particularly slow going. The directions to this alcohol-free bottleneck are straightforward: they are plastered all over Twitter by UK charities such as Alcohol Concern and earnest friends styling themselves as “Dryathletes”.

You mean well when you sign up: you spent, on average, over a grand on booze last year and want to be able to afford new shoes this year, or you’ve been lured to the promised land of a better night’s sleep and clearer complexion by experts. “Stopping for a month can reset your relationship with alcohol and be the start of good habits”, says Ms Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Communications & Policy at the British Liver Trust, an official partner of Dry January, to which three million of us are expected to sign up for in the UK this year.

Alternatively, you want #goals for 2018, since everyone else has them, but would like to get them out of the way early. Despite the good intentions, January is a difficult month to navigate. The nights are long, the days are cold. You need guidance, you need shortcuts, and so you pull over to MR PORTER’s hard shoulder to try to pick up some tips. You’ve come to the right place – we’ll get you where you need to go. Here’s our survival guide to make the cruellest month more bearable.

“Two out of three people make it through Dry January, and 79 per cent of people save money, which is a good way to incentivise it”, says Ms Madeleine Lawson, communications manager at Alcohol Concern. “Everyone has an idea of January as a month in which they can try and be something new. You have all these possibilities for yourself, and what you can be. But what we say is it’s much easier to make it through if you have support.” By signing up to their free Dry January app, you receive a progress calendar, money and calories saved trackers, as well as supportive messages to get you through any wobbles.

Naturally, there are the sober supremacist types. “Stay inside and Netflix every series everyone has told you is the best ever, do a ranking and post to your friends”, advises one friend. But embracing Dry January has its own rewards. “I found a euphoria in simply not drinking and finding I could still enjoy myself, hang out with my friends, and enjoy music. Then, after the month was over, a drink was just a bonus. The worry was I wasn’t in control”, says Ms Rob Coddold, a tutor, who now does a dry month twice a year. “I’ve done a sober Glastonbury. As soon as you know you can do it, you’re not afraid of addiction. And it’s OK to slip up. People often have a drink halfway through and say: I failed, I give up, and now I can drink as much as possible. Instead, you say: OK, I had a drink, but my motivation is still to give up.”

Exercise control. Without a heavy night, you can get up early, go to a boxing class, go for a run or meditate. “I always kick-start the new year with personal training at least three times a week”, says Ms Mandi Lennard, founder of fashion consultancy Mandi’s Basement, who has already started thinking about London Fashion Week events – and parties – in February. “As soon as you get in the zone, drinking water and eating those greens is the only way to survive.” Make sure to have a strict trainer, though. “Mine wants to know what I had for breakfast, how much water I drank, and how much sleep I had the night before – so if she sees a yawn, forget about it.”

Now you don’t have to be a Mr Alan Turing-level mathematic genius to see the roiling iniquity of buying five pints of beer for your friends when you are drinking soda and lime. It ain’t ever going to add up. But how to avoid it? According to a survey by market research firm OnePoll, one in four people in the UK regularly attempt to avoid their pub round, so these methods are tried, if not necessarily trusted. Drinking so slowly that someone else ends up stepping in to get the next round is the most common way to dodge a turn, followed by holding the door open for the group so you get to the bar last. Other ways to avoid getting a round in include going to the toilet when it’s your turn, pretending to have forgotten your wallet or making an “important” phone call just as everyone’s finishing their drinks. Would you want to be that guy? You certainly wouldn’t want to hang out with him. Honesty is, in fact, the best policy. “The truth is, during this month, never go to a pub in a group”, offers one seasoned Dryathlete. “If you follow this rule, you shall be sober through January. So it is written.”

Be flexible. You don’t have to go cold turkey. “A one-hit, one-month attempt to achieve long-term liver health is not the way to approach it,” says Mr Andrew Langford, former chief executive of the British Liver Trust, in 2011 (a point the British Liver Trust have been repeating annually ever since). The liver takes just 24 hours to recover from heavy alcohol consumption, the Trust says. Furthermore, taking off two or three days a week would mean 100 to 150 alcohol-free days over the course of the year, instead of January’s 31.

Illustrations by Mr Pete Gamlen