I tried, I really did. Though part of me wants to feel ashamed of failure (even for a self-imposed and somewhat trivial goal), a sweet friend reminded me that it is about my heart posture and what I learned from it. So even though my dry January record was not perfect, I can honestly say I still gained a lot of value and insight into my drinking habits from this undertaking.
I’m not a big drinker, drinking more consistently than deeply. I’m also a major lightweight so my limits are LOW. Prior to my dry January experiment, I rarely said no to a drink offered to me. I may say no to drink number two, three, or four, but definitely not drink number one. If everyone else around me was drinking, that seemed like a perfect opportunity for me. In fact, I would feel out of place and anxious for a drink if I was in a gathering where everyone else was drinking. Every dinner out at a restaurant felt incomplete without a drink to complete the affair. Despite knowing the facts that drinking negatively impacts my sleep, and may cause me to overeat or become dehydrated, I usually prioritized the immediate gratification of an alcoholic beverage over my well-being.
I’ve never dug too deeply into my drinking habits because I didn’t think I drank a lot or too much, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t underlying issues about my motivation or heart behind drinking. Mother Teresa said to “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Therefore, I want even my seemingly innocent, casual drinking to be an act of faith.
January commences. At first, after the rich indulgences and many merry beverages of the holidays, dry January came as a bit of a relief. I realized that I actually didn’t even want a drink, even in social situations, and I had a perfect excuse to say no when offered a drink. And much to my pleasure, I realized that I didn’t even feel like I was missing out. I quickly forgot that I was the only one in the room without a drink and still had fun. Drinking had become such an integrated habit in my social life that I started perceiving it as almost necessary for a satisfactory social event.
Jan 9th. My one year anniversary became my first exception to dry January. I want alcohol to become more of a vehicle for celebration rather than a systematic expectation for any social time or dinner out. It’s also no
fun to drink alone, so I chose to make this exception and enjoy a glass of wine with my husband during our steak dinner to celebrate a year together! No regrets there at all, and I realized that I savored and sipped more slowly in appreciation of the celebratory drink and special time with my husband.
Another week down. It became a comfort to know that I would not be facing the puffy, dehydrated, unrested, and fuzzy brain symptoms of a morning after a few drinks. (Yes, I get these side effects after a night of just two drinks - that’s just me). I noticed I was waking up more refreshed, less dehydrated, and with more positivity, especially on the weekends which is when I have tended to do the majority of my drinking. Sleep became the biggest surprise improvement of the month, confirming what I had previously read in Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker, that alcohol fragments sleep and is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep, causing sleep to be non restorative. I realized I had been living in this crazy cycle where, after working hard during the week, I entered the weekend exhausted and needing sleep and recovery. However, by drinking on the weekends, I was actually diminishing my chances for a full night of recovery sleep, and then I would head into the work week tired, and do it all over again the next weekend.
When you come into your weekend exhausted, don’t depend on a drink to “relax” or “unwind” you - it will only impair your quality of sleep and prevent a full recovery from your taxing work week! I know there will still be plenty of times when I do not practice what I preach here, but the relief of a good night’s sleep free from alcohol impairment is worth skipping out on drinks once in a while.
At the end of January, I made some more exceptions for drinks with friends and while hosting. But at this point, my drinking habits became much more intentional, and I drank slowly and thoughtfully, allowing the drinks to enhance my time with loved ones instead of being just an apathetic and routine ingestion of liquid. I realized that I didn’t even enjoy drinking on a consistent basis, but I enjoyed it more when it was less frequent and more purposeful.
All that being said, I wanted to share my confessions and lessons learned from an imperfect month of dry January. Ultimately, my greatest take away was that I had allowed my drinking habits to be mastered by social expectation and impulsive desire (1 Corinthians 6:12). Alcohol is definitely not something to mess around with, and I would encourage anyone to take time off from alcohol to better understand their drinking habits and potential blind spots. However, alcohol is also a gift from God in that it “gladdens human hearts” (Psalm 104:15). In the gospels we see Jesus drink wine intentionally with purpose to celebrate, fellowship, and offer praise to God for his provision. We can look to Jesus as the perfect example for faithfully enjoying the gift of alcohol in moderation to the glory of God.
Whatever your drinking convictions or habits may be, I hope that you find some nuggets in this blog to strengthen your faith in the way that you choose to drink.
1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”