Daisy Buchanan reflects on going sober for a month and shares some handy pearls of wisdom
We all love a party, and often alcohol is the chocolate flake in our good times sundae. It’s our off switch for when our brains are stuck on screensaver. It’s the reward for getting results and overcoming difficulties. We use it to bond with, understand and translate each other. Still, most of us know that excess boozing isn’t good for us.
That’s why thousands of people are doing Dry January this year: putting down the bottle and giving their liver a break. I decided to have a crack and, to my amazement, I didn’t run into the arms of Ernest Gallo and Jack Daniel. I did not find myself up Jacob’s Creek without a paddle. Here's what I learned.
The ‘let’s decompress in the pub’ drinks
Boozy bonding with workmates gives you an opportunity to get to know the team, but it also gives your superiors an opportunity to see who can’t handle their house sauvignon. Focus on the fact that by staying sober, you’re winning the work Hunger Games, and no one has even asked you to pick up a spear. Also, the non-drinkers are in the best position when it comes to office gossip. Knowledge is power.
When everyone else is sloshed and indiscreet, you’ll be in a position to listen and remember. Most importantly, you’re not going to wake up the next morning and have a paranoid meltdown. No one is usually as badly behaved as they believe they’ve been when boozing with the boss. But the fear is horrible. If you can avoid that, you’ve won the night.
The ‘but I don’t know anyone here!’ drinks
Is there anything more terrifying than entering a party sober and alone? No there is not, but there are ways to work the room. Find an empty wine glass or champagne flute. Fill it with fizzy water. Having a prop to hold will make you less nervous and you won’t have to open with an explanation of why you’re not drinking. Go and talk to someone who looks like they’re on their second drink. They’ll be in a party mood and probably quite cheerful about talking to strangers. Tipsy people are also easier to impress.
If the party is a sit-down thing, I would encourage lying. Lying is usually a dreadful business that will get you into all sorts of trouble, but when I was sat with a group determined to get as sloshed as possible, it was the only solution I could think of. Claim antibiotics. An imaginary chest infection is dull enough to stop anyone from asking questions. Hopefully everyone else will be so boozy and cheerful that you’ll have a great time anyway, high on life.
If you’re feeling left out, focus on the way you’ll feel when you wake up the next morning, and the way you would have felt had you stayed until you fell off your chair.
The ‘my boss is crazy, my house is filthy, my credit card bill just arrived' drink
The post-work stress vat of rosé is the drink I've missed the most. Social scientist James Clear writes that habits are formed from three steps – the reminder, the routine and the reward.
In this case, the reminder is stress, the routine is opening the wine and the reward is the moment you stretch out on the sofa and say "Ahhhhhhhh!". You just need a new habit.
Replace the wine run with an actual run. You’ll feel the stress-beating effects, but you’ll also sleep better and be fitter. I haven’t quite managed that, but I have replaced the wine with a cracker and a dollop of reduced-fat hummus. Trust me, hummus can be relaxing too.