If you are reading this, you've stuck with us through another Drynuary. And you're probably on the cusp of letting Drynuary ride off into the sunset, like we are! Well, like SOME of us. [COUGH! Jolie! COUGH!] Who is probably reading this through rosé colored glasses.
Whether it was your first or your fifth trip on the wagon, the last week of Drynuary can make one giddy with anticipation. What should I drink to celebrate? What's my tolerance going to be like? Should I keep going?
Often the end of this madness is littered with the the remains of those who flew too high and burned up on re-entry. We're not talking about the mythical rabid bingeing that Drynuary truthers would have you believe in. We're talking about Super Bowl parties full of dozing, drooling wrecks who didn't think what two innocent beers before kickoff could do after a month of abstinence. Let's be careful out there!
Jolie: This was my most revelatory Drynuary yet, in an exceedingly good way. I just did not miss booze in the way I have in past years. I'm on the exact same diet I used during my Bridal Panic, which does allow for alcohol consumption, but the weight has FLOWN off without the inclusion of the empty calories in hooch. I'm serene. And I'm never serene. (That's not true: I'm also serene when I'm communing with nature, but at most that happens a few days a year.)
I've also learned that people will absolutely refuse to hear what we're saying about why we do this thing, and insist to us that their views—that we should just drink in moderation (we do), that we must have a drinking problem if not drinking for a month is a challenge (we don't), that we will binge drink in February (we won't)—are entirely correct.
To reiterate our reasons for participating in this folly: It's tradition; it's a challenge; it allows us to hit the Reset button after the overindulgence of the holiday season; it provides clarity that is welcome at the start of a new year. While we encourage moderation throughout the year, none of those things can be achieved by abstaining from a drink one or two nights a week.
John: Serene! I love that. You are spot on about the month-long fast not being something you can replicate by simply claiming to be too hungover to drink some random Saturday night. The thing that I've noticed over the past few years is that while I feel like I can now do Drynuary standing on my head, it's STILL a challenge. The kind of challenge you relish, not just slog through. I look forward to Drynuary! I also look forward to it ending! Those are not contradictory sentiments.
You hit upon that other funny dichotomy that people seem to ascribe to us during Drynuary. The scolding armchair psychologists claim we're unrepentant lushes. The party bros would have our readers believe that we're pearl-clutching teetotalers who wouldn't know a good time if it fell out of the sky, landed on our face, and started to wiggle. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't do Drynuary because I need an excuse to binge or because I'm a no-fun prude. I do it for EXACTLY the opposite reasons! It's called "pumping the brakes." Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.
Jolie: But maybe not that much fonder. Here's a question for the class: Of those of you who participated in Drynuary, who among you is looking forward to getting absolutely obliterated when you break your fast?
Some of you will probably raise your hand. But I suspect that most of you are just looking forward to a drink or two, and I also suspect that those one or two drinks will hit you hard enough that you'll find yourself stopping before ordering or pouring a third.
As for me, oh sure I'm looking forward to a glass of wine. But a glass. Not a bottle.
John: Absolutely. Last year, I tried to go back to, say, Random Saturday Night In October mode right out of the gate. And I'm not talking Jaeger Bombs here: I'm talking a cocktail before dinner, splitting a bottle of BEER with my wife with our meal, and an after-dinner sticky. I almost couldn't make it to a Super Bowl party the next day. I'm Olde.
As I mentioned, 2013 was a crappy year for my family, so I was looking forward to Drynuary because it fit in with my desire—heck, NEED—to hit a massive Reset button. This Drynuary's countdown has also coincided with the countdown to the birth of my second child. So the while the butterflies in my stomach (or are those just seltzer bubbles?) may be thirsty, they also know that quality, consistent sleep is going to be at a premium for the foreseeable future. The classic anticipation of getting my feet wet again is coupled with the knowledge that I need to stay frosty for that 6am trip to the birthing center (yes, we're hippies like that), or the hours of lower back massaging during labor, or the inevitable 3am soothings that newborns require. Thank Buddha there will be hockey on TV. I'm looking forward to celebrating, and a built in moderation goes with the desire to indulge. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Inconceivable.
So, Jolie, what was your first taste of freedom this year? Please use as much detail as possible, there are those of us who need to live vicariously through you at the 11th hour.
Jolie: At the start of our journey, I mentioned that I break my fast on January 29. This is a yearly tradition for me—prior to 2013, it was my anniversary. Then I got married and figured the old anniversary was a thing of the past, until my husband made THE SADDEST FACE IN THE WORLD when I blew off the notion of marking that date. So we're still celebrating it. I did, however, insist that it be a low-key occasion (no gifts, no eating out) so we had steak at home, which means red wine! We also had a bottle of Teresa Guidice's Fabellini that my darling husband ordered for me.
It was pretty good! I caught a wicked buzz off of it, but I think that's a good thing—I didn't have a lot, but I drank it slowly enough that I knew when I was buzzed and stopped before I got drunk.
I ended up having just one glass of red wine with dinner, which was enough. By the time dinner was over, Tre had retweeted me.
So that was a highlight.
It occurred to me as I poured myself into bed that this was the first time I'd broken the fast at home. It made for a different experience, for sure. I think I drank less than I would have if I'd been out, and I certainly drank much more slowly than if I'd been in a bar or restaurant.
That's is so rad, though, and I'm happy for you and a little bit jealous. I think it puts a nice bow on our whole Drynuary philosophy, how personal it is for each of us, and the subtleties of enjoying special occasions with a favorite tipple. We welcome the Prodigal Booze back into our lives not with a ton of fanfare or look-at-me-ice-luge-shots, but with the quiet respect it deserves. "Welcome back, my friend. Here, sit down, make yourself comfortable, and let me have a nice glass of you." You and I have specific milestones to celebrate that mark the end of Drynuary—anniversaries, birthday(s)(!!!)—but the end of Drynuary is cause for celebration in and of itself.
Hey, you know how we recommended a bunch of new activities and recipes to make your Drynuary go a little smoother that you could take with you to enliven the rest of your year? No reason that can't include new ways to celebrate with booze. I've got four cocktails for you that will replace some of your old, boring favorites, just in time for the end of Drynuary. But be careful: these are strong and boozy. So ease into it, willya?
Oh, and to soak it all up? Here's one last Drynuary recipe for oven baked polenta that you can use as a side for many of your Foodspin favorites, and it makes an easy, cool snack for your Super Bowl party.
Jolie: We're not your parents, so we're not here to tell you what to do, but I do want to reiterate John's advice to ease into it. If the thing you've really, really been missing is a Manhattan, by all means have that Manhattan, but my suggestion would be to break the fast with beer or wine, and save the hard stuff for another day. Your tolerance will snap back pretty quickly, but those first few days out it will be significantly diminished, so you should be aware of that and plan accordingly. Also, take the first drink slowly and allow a little time between drinks one and two, which will help you get a bead on where your tolerance is in this brave new world.
John: We're not your doctors either. As we've tried to emphasize all along, this is all based on our personal experience, having gone around the merry-go-round a few times now. Your mileage may vary. This is all voluntary, mostly for a goof and tradition and because we like the recalibration.
I'm heartened by the fact that those in the medical and addiction treatment community seem to be warming to the idea that Drynuary has a place in the responsible enjoyment of alcohol. Another recent piece notes that
"Drynuary may be useful for some people, and because of that it's a good initiative. However, it should not take the place of a qualified addiction treatment program."
We wholeheartedly agree. We started this madness off four weeks ago noting that we—and Drynuary—are no substitute for qualified advice or counsel from your family or medical professional, and we stand by that. But we hope that perhaps it finds a place in your repertoire, and that we've been able to provide some entertainment, distraction, and support as you contemplate your relationship with booze.
Jolie: We also hope to end this all on a high note, so in that spirit (GET IT? Yes, you get it.) we want to give everyone who stuck with it a big ole high five, and for those who at least gave it a go a low five—even if you broke the fast for whatever reason, you tried something new and good for you. Plus, there's always next year! Cheers!
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.