Drynuary. The reality is as unattractive as the word: An entire month* without alcohol. That means no beer in front of football, no after-work glass of wine. No going out for one too many drinks with that friend you haven't seen in ages but can pick up with like your last conversation was yesterday. No bourbon in your coffee on a Sunday morning.
And yet? It's a thing that many people, including and especially the two people who will be shepherding you through the experience for this-a-here site, opt into willingly. Even joyfully?
So we should introduce ourselves! I am Jolie Kerr; you may know me better as the Clean Person who writes housekeeping advice for Deadspin and Jezebel, or just as That Person Who Isn't Albert on Foodspin. It's worth noting that the primary thing I do for Foodspin, other than defending the honor of the noble pecan against the tyranny of Burneko, is cook up ways in which you can bake with booze. I really, really like The Drink, you guys.
But the real captain of this ship is John Ore, who has been my Drynuary coach for a few years now. He and his wife are on their eighth year—EIGHTH YEAR!!!—of this folly. John is also a fantastic cook and mixologist, both of which will factor heavily into what we'll bring you in the next few weeks. Because it turns out that when you give up The Drink entirely, you have to find other things with which to fill your time. It sorta blows! But it's also sorta great in that every new or different activity is a reward for our monthlong abstemious choice.
That last word is important: This is a choice. We do this willingly, and not as a response to a perceived or demonstrated problem. Because we're responsible people who care, we want you to check in with a healthcare provider, counselor or trusted loved one if you do feel that you have a problem with alcohol before committing to sobriety, short- or long-term. If you choose to join us in Drynuary and, along the way, find that you're struggling not to drink in a way that goes beyond, "Gee, this sorta blows!" please seek out help. OK? OK!
Why? Well, for a lot of reasons actually! For John, it started as a dare, and took on a life of its own over the years. In no particular order: It's a challenge; it's a nice cleanse after the inevitably grossly indulgent holiday season; it's somewhat spiritual but without the religious magic show; it's tradition; there's the weight loss side-effect to consider; abstaining from alcohol brings a measure of clarity that's a nice thing at the start of the year. And we get to blog about it! Which is fun, and it's even more fun when people join us in the Drynuary challenge. [MEANINGFUL LOOKS]
Also the smug factor. But we'll get to that later.
Does O'Douls count? It really depends on who you ask. I, Jolie, would say go for it and have that O'Douls but others, namely John, would say that's cheating. So I, Jolie, abstain from O'Douls, because I hate it when people say I'm cheating. But if I, Jolie, saw you with an O'Douls I'd be all, "Ha! Good for you!"
John would likely have a different reaction. We'll also get to that.
What about cooking with booze? Totally fine. But it has to be cooking. Such that the alcohol is cooked off. You can't, like, drown a pound cake in limoncello and go to town, or drink a beer while making a grilled cheese. That would be cheating.
If it's so hard, doesn't that mean you have a problem? Yes and no. But more no than yes. Think of it this way: If you decided to give up chocolate for a month—or sourdough bread, or Irish butter, or picking at ingrown hairs, or whatever it is that you love most in this world—it would probably suck. You would probably say, "Gosh, this is hard!" Would that mean you had a problem with chocolate or sourdough bread or Irish butter or picking at ingrown hairs? Maybe. But probably not.
What does your doctor have to say about all this? John's doctor supports his annual Drynuary fast. So he's doing it under a doctor's supervision! Neat. Jolie never bothered to ask her doctor because her doctor is useless. Related: anyone got a primary care doctor in Manhattan who accepts Cigna and isn't useless?
Can I do this in February? Or September? My birthday is in January! Sure, do your thing, but that thing is not Drynuary. Not to be parochial, but it happens in January for an important reason. Namely, John is too lazy to come up with a New Year's Resolution every year. And for myriad of other secondary reasons, like "fasting" right after the holidays, no significant birthdays** or sports after New Year's Day, etc.
No but really, why? Yeah no, we know. It's totally nuts. But stick with us for another sec and maybe you'll find our brand of lunacy interesting enough that you'll follow along with us for the next month, or maybe even decide to join us for the fun. (It is not at all fun, you guys.)
Jolie: So! Here we go. It's been a while since we got the Drynuary band back together. A lot can happen in two years. What's the mood like going into Season Eight?
John: Well, there's Drinking To Remember and Drinking To Forget. Unfortunately, 2013 was a pretty ugly year for my family. One of those years where you just can't wait to turn the page on the calendar, yet bad shit keeps happening. If I owned a car, I'd be afraid to start it in the morning. So the annual Drynuary focus on a relatively clean slate has even more significance for me this year. 2014 has GOT to be better, because I'm sick of Drinking To Forget.
Luckily, this is my eighth Drynuary, and eight has good numerology for me (FINGERS CROSSED!) But! I know that 2013 had a significant, celebratory life event for you! Drinking To Remember?
Jolie: Oh dear. Well I'm sorry to hear that! But yes, this year is bound to be better—I was coming off a terribly crummy year the last time I Drynuary'd in 2012 and indeed 2012 ended up being great. I even said to you, "2012 is going to be my year!" And lo, it was. I got a book deal, rekindled a relationship, threw off the shackles of BigLaw in favor of these very attractive Dentonian shackles … all in all a great year. I skipped Drynuary in 2013 because I was finishing up the writing of that book—and this will become important later—and was basically living off of white wine and Carr's Table Water Crackers while racing to finish the manuscript on time. [Spoiler alert: I finished on time.]
My plan was to just start Drynuary a little late but then that fellow with whom I'd rekindled the relationship went and proposed. [Spoiler alert: I said yes.] So Drynuary went entirely out the window. And you know? I missed it.
I'm back on the wagon again this year for a few reasons beyond the usual ones that we enumerated in our FAQ. The first is that, since throwing off the BigLaw shackles and working from home, I've taken to having a glass of wine here or there while I'm working. Which isn't a problem, per se, but it's also a habit that I'd like to curb a bit.
It's also the thing I'm a little nervous about heading into Drynuary this year! Because I write better with a glass of wine in me, and also one of the ways I manage The Shining-type thing that can happen when you work from home is to head to a neighborhood bar to peck away at the old laptop. So this will be a new Drynuary challenge for me, facing work without a drink.
The other main reason is also book-related: Boy howdy, did I ever gain a lot of weight while writing that sucker! I shed most of it last year in a bridal panic, but I've got a few pounds I'd still like gone and the wine is easily my biggest diet buster.
You know, putting those things down on the proverbial paper makes them sound like … I might have a problem? Which sure, maybe a bad habit is a problem. I'm gonna think of it that way.
John: Doing Drynuary doesn't make me an alcoholic or not. You know what keeps me from pouring a rye first thing in the morning? It's certainly not that Society would frown upon it—I mean: Pot meet Kettle. Society gave us Honey Boo Boo and Black Friday and the N.S.A., so Society might want to start with the Man In The Mirror before judging me. Just like the best birth control is other people's kids, having hangovers and toddlers in your 40s are the best advocates for temperance throughout the year.
Jolie: Aha! The old "temperance throughout the year" chestnut! We pledge every year at the end of our monthlong journey that we're going to take lessons away with us. Do we ever really do that? (Don't answer that actually.) Probably not, but it's also part of the process of this thing and we know better by now than to mess with the process.
John: And we don't want to prejudice the experiment for our readers. At this point, we're hardened veterans and know what to expect each year. We've got our routines down, our favorite recipes and diversions [Spoiler alert: COFFEE!], which we'll gladly share here. That's what we're here for! But should we give the newbies a primer on the Four Stages Of Drynuary?
Jolie: We should. We should also note for them that everyone's Drynuary is a little different. Just like the stages of grief!
Generally speaking, Week One is the best of them all. You feel great, you're doing this thing, the challenge is still fresh, you're thinking of all the neat things you're going to do with all the free time not drinking provides, all that good stuff.
John: Going to an Islanders game sober on the first day of Drynuary has a nice ascetic ring to it, doesn't it? Week Two is where everyone's Drynuary becomes personalized. It can take a couple of different directions: perhaps you're coasting on the (surprising!) momentum from Week One or you're starting to fidget because club soda has already gotten boring. Take heart and steel yourselves! We can help guide you but we can't do it for you. Grab ahold of the positives and use them to slingshot your way through the month. Perhaps you're starting to sleep better, maybe drop a few pounds, finding more productivity.
Also! By now, most people will have discovered just how satisfying it is to lord your sobriety stamina over everyone else. We call this the Smug Factor. You're well over a week into your Drynuary, and you've seen the weaker-willed either tap out by now or fail to show up at all. Week Two is littered with the wreckage of souls who couldn't make it through another NFL playoff weekend without a Natty Light. That self-satisfaction is super annoying to your non-Drynuary friends! So awesome. Let it fuel you, because you're gonna need it come Week Three.
Jolie: And how! Week Three is when I usually start casting about for loopholes. Like the year I asked if I was allowed to bring O'Douls to a house party. I revisited those emails recently and oh! The pathos. It seems hard to believe the carrying on I did in pursuit of drinking non-alcoholic beer. Which of course you did not allow, because you are monster.
John: I was just trying to help a friend avoid a tragically awful beverage choice. If you've made it past The Bargaining of Week Three, you're close enough to the finish line to taste the sweet, sweet booze victory waiting for you at the end of Drynuary. You've made it this far, so it would be criminal to auger in during Week Four. This is where you grit your teeth and just soldier on. Because as Shakespeare said: "I am in blood Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
By now, you're all sold on this nutso idea of Drynuary, right? Well, it takes a village, etc. So be sure to follow us here, where in the coming weeks we'll form the foundation of your Drynuary community. And the kids still use that social media, right? Tag your 140-character navel-gazing #Drynuary on Twitter, share your Instagram photos of your best pouty face "enjoying" a glass of cranberry juice in a bar, start a Drynuary Friendster group, go crazy. Remember: it's a marathon, not a sprint. And your nipples will probably get chafed.
*Jolie does a short month, breaking her fast on the 29th for reasons that are too hokey to share with you because you will mock them; John begins his fast on the 2nd—because New Year's Day is the best day-drinking day of the year—and carries through until February 3rd.
**Although he's got a baby due on February 4th, so whichever comes first. (Come on, baby!)
Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, February 25, 2014); more of her natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.
Image by Jim Cooke.