Week Three. The Wall. We warned you that Week Three would be the hardest. The novelty of Drynuary definitely wears off by now, boredom creeps in with a vengeance, and somehow you have to negotiate the interminable two weeks between the NFL conference championships and the Super Bowl without your favorite pastime. It certainly doesn't help that someone threw a holiday weekend into the mix (offer not valid in Arizona).
Week Three is like the second act of a movie: it's long, it's full of subplots, it exists just to set up the denouement, and you have to go to the bathroom. All you really want is for Luke to slamdunk those damn proton torpedoes so you can go get a beer with Chewie.
But, you will prevail! After all, we're more than halfway home.
Jolie: I hate Week Three. Just want to get that out of the way. I hate it for a few reasons: by Week Three I've generally run out of tasks in need of doing around the house (I generally run out of WD-40 around the same time); I've grown bored of tea and tired of not meeting up with friends for after-work drinks. Week Three is when I have to pull the worst mental stunt of the month on myself. I'm not quite ready to talk about that yet though, and I know you have a mental stunt of your own to share. So while you're doing that I'll prepare myself for what I know I have to do.
John: Week Three sucks out loud. However, I've found that it's easier to break up painful endurance events like Drynuary into manageable chunks so that I'm not overwhelmed and discouraged by the daunting monolith of an entire month away from the bar rail. So I break it into, say, weeks or thirds or something similar to give myself smaller, achievable goals that add up to one big Drynuary when all is said and done. Much like when I used to run (LOL!). I'd break a three-mile run into individual miles or perhaps 10-minute chunks, then break those segments down further into things as discrete as the next block or stoplight or tree or round of barfing. Complete enough segments, and your sense of accomplishment could propel you further.
In this way, Day 10 of Drynuary was a neat milestone, because it's double-digits and roughly a third of the way home, and you have a good chunk of actual progress in the bank to fortify yourself in the coming days. After a while, you've banked enough progress that it becomes a motivation in and of itself: I've come this far, it would be a shame to quit now and squander everything I've earned up to this point. You don't want the winning streak to end. (Enough sports metaphors for ya?)
This is one of the reasons that we do weekly installments for Drynuary. We want to be a resource for people throughout the month, give folks something to look forward to, perhaps, and provide some new insight on the dreary topic of Drynuary each week. Unlike—ahem—other Johnny-Come-Latelys who just drop a flaming bag of listicle tagged "Drynuary" at your front door at the beginning of the month, ring the doorbell and run. We're in it for the long haul. With you.
Jolie: Like John said, we're in it for the long haul and we're here for you. Which means that I have no choice but to tell you about the worst mental-stunt portion of Drynuary.
Week Three is when you have to start telling yourself that while Drynuary may not feel that great, failing at Drynuary will feel way, way, way worse.
I know. I KNOW! It's utterly ghastly. It's so smarmy and smug and not even in the Scoccan sense. It's like having your naggiest relative rattling around in your head, wagging a finger at you. But it's also very true and the thing you have to hold onto throughout Week Three if you're going to make it. It's too easy to throw in the towel and tell yourself that two weeks off the drink was a feat, which: Sure it was! Pat yourself on the back for that!
The thing is though … you didn't sign on for two dry weeks. You signed on for a month. Don't blow it—you'll feel like a chump if you do.
John: Exactly! I don't even find that to be a terrible mental stunt (like the "winning streak" analogy). A terrible mental stunt would be lapsing now and convincing yourself it didn't count. Week Three is full of lifeboat-ethics decisions like that. You're bored as hell with Drynuary (and club soda) at this point. So whatever mental gymnastics you have to pull off to make it through the week are A-OK. Week Three is when you're coasting on willpower fumes. Light at the end of the tunnel is the reward in Week Four.
That said, Week Three's not all sackcloth and ashes. (Wow, between the sports and religious metaphors, wonder if ESPN is hiring?) As we've advocated, Drynuary is about trying new things in place of your old habits. New activities, new pastimes, new distractions, new recipes, all of which are useful year-round. So when's the last time you cooked a simple, yet authentic, Puerto Rican meal? Oh? Well, there's no time like the present. If you can get your hands on some green plantains, you're halfway Boricua like me. Sourcing the plantains alone is worth it for the burning of crucial Drynuary time.
Jolie: It is true that Week Three isn't all sackcloth and ashes. (It's also true that the thought of working for ESPN might be the thing that sends me straight to the bottom of a bottle. And this is coming from someone who has survived stints at Sports Illustrated, FoxSports, and, well, Deadspin.)
It's also true (and exceedingly annoying) that focusing on the positive is another one of those mental tricks that will help get you through the doldrums of Week Three.
John: Clinging to the benefits is a terrifically useful device for getting through Week Three. In keeping with the theme, I'm feeling like my clothes fit better, I've got more legs for playing hockey (and I suck, so this difference is negligible and only important to me), and I'm sleeping more soundly. Like, drooling-on-the-pillow. Aside from the increase in zombie-apocalypse dreams, it's a welcome change with a kid on the way. Waking up always sucks, but I feel more well rested now.
In contrast, I did notice someone on Twitter say that they weren't sleeping that well. I wonder how widespread that is. (Tell us in the comments!) Perhaps it's just the body adjusting to the new regimen. I've always heard that drunk sleep isn't good sleep, and it seems like that's because while booze helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply, it actually interrupts the cycles of REM sleep resulting in restless sleep:
"The latest research, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, shows that while a nightcap may get you to doze off, you're more likely to wake up during the night and may not feel as rested following your sleep."
Again, my recent Drynuary experience seems to support this: I'm not having any problems falling asleep, and I'm waking up smack in the middle of stress dreams where I'm pissed off about saving my daughter from drowning because I keep forgetting that my phone is in my pocket. REM sleep!
Jolie: I'm not seeing an improvement in sleep quality this go-round, though in years past I have, but I also suffer from that middle-of-the-night insomnia thing. Which I guess I now know isn't tied to alcohol consumption, so there's that?
However, for the first time in my personal Drynuary history I do notice that my skin is much brighter and rosier. As in years past, my mood is vastly more stable. And I've certainly lost weight—but I am on a severely calorie-restricted diet in addition to not being on the sauce, so.
All in all, this Drynuary has been surprisingly not terrible. Maybe the third time is truly the charm?
John: You'll be celebrating ten years of Drynuary in no time.
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.