One drink won’t hurt, right?

Days since last drink: 26 (v.g,) Minutes spent thinking about when last drink was: 5760 (not bad) minutes spent thinking of what first drink of February will be: 21,600 (bad)

What have I learned from partaking in Dry January?

That I really really really like a glass of wine. Or any alcoholic beverage for that matter, but I particularly crave an ice cold, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.

Am I an alcoholic? Absolutely not (I think…).

From this nearly completed month of sobriety, I have learned that there is a lot to be said for a revitalizing glass of wine, or whatever your poison may be.

Everybody knows that multiple studies and old wife’s tales tell that a little alcohol is better than no alcohol. They say that moderate alcohol consumption helps to protect against heart disease, diabetes and it can reduce the chance of gallstones and the common cold. Perhaps moderate consumption is not how I would define my regular drinking habits but for the most part, it’s not too far off. After all, there is no better feeling than arriving home to a crisp wine after a truly rotten day.

But the problem is, that in our current society, or more specifically my generation, most people’s alcohol consumption is through the roof. Every weekend, you click on an Instagram story and everybody is drinking. Cocktails with the girls, beers with the boys, ‘been waiting for this all week’, ‘TGIF’. Thanks to clever marketing and capitalism the weekend are consistently associated with that well-awaited drink as a reward for the tough week that has passed.

Is it possible that today’s alcoholics are not just the stereotype of those old men bent over the bar, slurring their words with a strong stench airing around them, but just simply a twenty-something girl in a bodycon who had one too many sambucas? Or a guy in a Ralph Lauren shirt drinking straight vodka? Is it that person who can’t say no to a night out, leads the party through until the early hours of the morning and is ultimately the last person standing?

Sometimes it feels as though alcohol companies have shrewdly conned us into believing that any time not spent working or working out, should be spent drinking. On top of that, the television shows we watch usually show a dramatic drunken scene at a bar, a few drinks to blow off steam or some witty leading characters with questionable dependency on alcohol, which can also play into our desires to drink. We’re desensitized to it and programmed to think It’s the ultimate de-stressor, the best way to have a good time.

Most of us wake up after a heavy night, swearing to god that will be the last night of drinking, and begging to get through this hangover without being dragged to the depths of bleakness. Never again, we say, laughing over a quick pint to steady the nerves – hair of the dog they say. Best cure. One drink won’t hurt. Just one or two anyway, must head home after that to check off that long awaiting to-do list. Three drinks later, and there’s not much point heading home now. It’s just starting to pick up now anyway. It’ll be a laugh.

Nearing the age of 24 is an uncomfortable feeling. Not because I’m scared to age (well, that is part of it), but because I feel so in between and out of place. Should I still be partying and drinking, or should I be settling down with a good job, a nice collection of plants in my flat, saving for the future? Neither? Both? Somehow, I’m meant to succeed with my career, relationships, and friendships, while simultaneously spending my weekends drinking the nights away, without waking up with ‘The Fear’ and an empty bank account.

I doubt I need to go into great detail to explain the feeling embodied in ‘The Fear’ because I’m certain that the phenomenon is widespread enough that a majority of people can re-live the feeling upon mentioning it. For anyone lucky enough to have escaped it, or perhaps just haven’t got a term for it; ‘The Fear’ is an awful symptom of a hangover that involves one believing they have done irreparable damage to their life and are filled with anxiety and remorse for their actions the night before, even if they have done nothing extremely offending. We’ve all been there, right?.

The problem with this ominous feeling is that increasing numbers of people are drinking to escape feelings of depression and anxiety, or social awkwardness. But following a few hours of stress relief, is an even worse state of emotion than before, thanks to the ‘The Fear’. It’s a vicious cycle that seems indestructible.

It is difficult to wonder where alcohol is meant to fit into this contemporary world. On the outside, are the glamorous parties, the alluring night clubs, the craft beers, the photo-worthy cocktails. But a little further in you see the drunk girls toppling over in their heels, the guy that vomited in the taxi, the bar brawl, the girl who was too drunk to say yes, the wrong choices.

In a world where everything is happening so quickly and advancing daily, where we have triple shot espressos, unlimited electricity, 24-hour access to everything and there is still not enough hours in the day, why do our lives still rely heavily on a substance that slows us down and erases time?

Sometimes I wonder would I still have half my friends if I wasn’t a drinker. When I told them that I was partaking in dry January I got a lot of ‘yeah right’s and ‘why?’s, and I wasn’t even sure why I was doing it at first. Was it to save money? To detox after all the Christmas shenanigans? Or just to prove that I could do it? That I could enjoy my weekends without it revolving around what I’m having to drink.

I think I had hoped that doing dry January would have given me a zen outlook on life in which I no longer needed to put toxic substances in my body to relieve stress and had the peace and serenity to calm myself down when the common stresses of life cropped up.

Apart from the cravings and minor stresses, I can’t deny that an alcohol-free 4 weeks has boosted my energy levels, my productivity, and my positivity. I’ve saved money. I exercise more often, I eat healthier and, in some ways,, I feel more relaxed, more confident. I’ve also learned that there are in fact many enjoyable ways to spend a Saturday night, other than an alcohol-induced one.

Does that mean that come next Friday I should stay away from the liquor aisle or reward myself with what I’ve been craving every weekend since I stopped?

I guess one drink won’t hurt

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