Thoughts on dry January...

First off let me wish you all a happy new year. It is always an exciting time at the start of a new year as we think about the things we would like to achieve, building on what we did in the previous twelve months; or perhaps putting them behind us and moving on.

January is always a funny month. The Christmas hangover leaves a glittery hole in our lives, albeit in exchange for space back in the living room and less dangly things to bang your head on. The excitement and excess of the festive period is always a wonderful time of year. People enjoy being around others, seeing friends that they may not have been able to for the rest of the year. However, once the dust settles and that last morsel of the cheese board is consumed many people feel it is time for a drastic change.

New year, new you

For some reason January is the month of extreme, sudden and drastic change. People feel that they should alter their lives in a very immediate way. Choosing to be healthier and fitter is clearly a positive decision. However, how we choose to achieve this goal is far more important than the decision itself. Making a sudden and drastic change to your lifestyle is tough, often setting yourself up to fail. The only thing it will achieve is to make an individual feel wore and revert to previous “bad” behaviour.

Whilst this refers to any sudden change, such as joining a gym or taking up exercise classes, my beef is with the phenomenon of Dry January.

Clearly as someone who co-owns and runs a shop specialising in alcoholic beverages I am going to be anti dry January right? Ignoring that fact that it is damaging to small businesses and the Independent pubs that are struggling to survive in the current economic climate, because it is not the big chains that are going to suffer, my dislike of this phenomenon is not just based on my business interests.

I am not going to criticise anyone for taking part in dry January. You may have your own reasons for doing so, be they financial or health related. What I will say is if you are doing it because you want to drink less and be “healthier” then perhaps you should have a think about your behaviour and habits instead of just diving head first into a self-imposed prohibition.

Behaviour change

I have no qualms in admitting that my alcohol consumption would be considered high by most, but it has been much worse in the past. I used to think nothing of drinking every night during the week and then really hammering it at weekends. I used to enjoy myself, spending time with friends and having a laugh. It was the social aspect that I was enjoying, the drinking was a part of that; although sometimes it would also be the most Important part. The habitual midweek drinking was just that. Habit. I was not engaged with what I was drinking or even thinking about it. I just did it because that is what I was used to doing.

As I have grown older I have changed my habits and my behaviour. Not totally, admittedly, but I have started to engage with what I drink and think about it in a different way. Alcohol is still a part of my life and I enjoy it, but I am more interested in discovering new flavours and experiences than drinking for drinking’s sake. I have thrown more booze down the sink in the last year than I ever thought I would. If I am not enjoying the experience I am not going to finish the drink. I would much rather try something else, find something that I do enjoy, than consume something just because it’s there.

Changing your attitude towards booze and your drinking habits is a far more positive choice for your ongoing health and lifestyle than just giving up for a month and going back to what you did before.

Quality not Quantity

It took a couple years of promising myself quality over quantity as a new year’s resolution for this attitude change to take place. I decided to seek out new beers, wines and spirits and to try things that I knew nothing about. I also decided to learn more about them, this is a journey I am very much at the start of and will be ongoing for the rest of my life. You do not need to study every drink you consume in order to enjoy it. It can have the opposite effect in many cases I find. However, engaging with what is in your glass and taking a moment to really think about the flavour, how it was made and who by gives you a new perspective and appreciation of what you’re drinking.

So instead of dry January, Stoptober and whatever other months of abstinence they come up with in the future, why not just made a conscious decision to change your drinking habits. Instead of picking up two bottles of cheap plonk for £6 from some faceless mass market producer, pick up one £12 bottle from a small family run winery who care about their land and the health of their vines. Rather than that 6 pack of generic European lager, pick up 2 or 3 cans of craft beer from a local producer who puts their heart and soul into every can. You will get to experience new beers styles, taste hops you never knew existed and support small businesses who are trying to put something interesting into the world. You will also reduce your alcohol intake and drink things that have been produced with far less chemical intervention. All of which will benefit your health and wellbeing in the long run.

I know which I would choose, and that is one of the main reasons for us opening Bottle & Jug Dept. in the first place. We wanted to give people the opportunity to purchase and enjoy quality beers, wines and spirits in Worthing. To share in the enjoyment of the alcoholic beverages that we are so passionate about. Make 2019 the year of quality over quantity, of engagement over disengagement and supporting small sustainable producers over profit driven corporations.