Week 1: Why I am swapping Dry January for No Hang-uary!
Binge drinking for the Great British millennial is what over-plucked eyebrows were for the 90s: iconic, but ultimately tricky to come back from. Last year, I made the decision to get some eyebrows semi-permanently tattooed back on my head. And this year, I’m thinking about trying to loosen the chokehold that binge drinking has had on my social engagements since that first Strongbow in the park.
Let’s be clear, I don’t want to stop drinking. I mean, I’d hate to lose my edge entirely. It’d be terribly gauche not to be able to ham down 17 bottles of bubbly at a drag brunch when required. But, I want to reassess my drinking so that not every time I have a glass of proseccs the night becomes a blueprint for the next Hangover movie (The Hangover 152: Huns Gone Wild).
A hangover is a sacred thing. Something to be relished after an epic 30th birthday, a wild wedding in the countryside or any night where someone says “I’m just staying out for one”. It’s the perfect excuse to plop your unwashed, headachey self on the sofa, watch an entire series of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and order a sushi platter for 4. (I’ve been told my love of sushi as a hangover food is unnatural, but something about raw fish after ripping through 18 Aperol Spritz just works for me.)
I like to prep for a hangover. I like to indulge in it. But last year, I was basically losing a day a week to the bleary-eyed, dry-mouthed fugg of binge drinking. It’s not a great spot when “hey, it’s a Tuesday” becomes the only prerequisite for a £100 blow out on the savvy b.
Towards the end of last year, I stumbled upon the term “sober curious”, a concept often pitched as the intention to cut down on or build a better relationship with booze without giving it up entirely. I listened to some podcasts, and learned about how alcohol affects your brain chemistry. One poddie actually promised that simply understanding the latter would instantly make you immune to its addictive powers. Knowledge is power, sure. But, like most, my ability to recall salient podcast facts isn’t exactly tip top after 3 spicy margaritas. Ultimately, I just didn’t connect to this ideology, which seemed to be less about cutting down and more like one-cheeky-prosecco-on-your-birthday away from being teetotal.
Enter Dry January. New Year. No booze for a month. No thank you!
First off, January is bleak AF. And if I can’t enjoy a few proseccs with the gals, I will literally die from cold or misery. Secondly, sobriety is not my ultimate goal! So going teetotal feels like a pendulum swing too far.
Dry January isn’t the one for me for two main reasons. One: everytime I give something up for a period of time, it only makes me over-indulge when my proverbial prohibition is over. Two: “I’m doing Dry Jan” is a much easier, and much more socially accepted get-out than “yeh, I’m drinking tonight, I just don’t want another one”. I want to break some serious long-standing habits, which means I need to become a PSHE teacher's literal wet dream and “just say no”. I need to start listening to my limits again and, for me, Dry January is like alcohol ear muffs.
My plan instead - my most genius, brilliant-est plan - is to do No Hang-uary! (Copyright Louise Bastock, forever.) One whole month, no hangovers. No ma’am. For sure it’s incredibly subjective. And almost too clever to comprehend. But, so far, I am loving the combination of a couple of vino grigios without the morning-after Monzo notification that I spent £32.60 at some place called “What A Chicken”.
The key to this method is slowing down and knowing your limits. So, if you’re also in the market for building a less hungover relationship with alcohol, here are a few tips I’ve learned so far.
Only let other people top up your drink. You can top up other people’s (don’t be rude), but waiting for someone else to refill your drink should slow you down. Unless you’re out with super pour-happy pals, in which case, good luck!
If you drink wine, avoid getting into “bottle rounds”. Buying individual glasses is the only way to keep track of what you’re drinking and go at your own pace. It might also save you a bit of cash if you often instigate that final 15th bottle that no one needs.
Avoid buying cigarettes, vapes etc. These are gateway drugs to a “mad one”, and should be avoided at all costs.
If you have a car, drive to social events. Sometimes being beholden to the law is the only way.
Plan fun - sober - activities in the evening. Having fun shit to do the next day has never stopped me the night before. But cutting yourself off at the source with a lovely takeout and movie night in lieu of the pub definitely helps.
Cut off your friends entirely and never go out again.