A Dry Month Without Benefits - My Story of Dry January

 Photo of Freddy Johnson, by Glenford Jameson

Photo of Freddy Johnson, by Glenford Jameson

When I was in my twenties, I attempted a sugar detox for a month. At the time I worked at a software lab, and sugar was a regular part of my diet. The headaches from fully detoxing from sugar were horrendous. While I couldn’t stay sugar-free for the entirety of that month, I learned a great deal about myself.

That experiment led to major life changes. I learned that sometimes I’m hungry not because I need calories, but because I’m craving sugar. I learned that by keeping a relatively sugar-free diet, I can still have the occasional dessert without worrying about cravings. I also learned very dark chocolate was my key to holding off those cravings.

Because of this, I lost weight and had more energy. And while I enjoy desserts and occasional treats, I watch my carb intake. It’s changed the way I eat. I feel far better for it.

Later in life, I ate a vegan diet for a month. As with when I gave up sugar, I had a few cheat days. I learned that vegetarian meals can be delicious. And while I went back to eating meat, I no longer have the 12 ounce steaks I used to. There’s a bigger focus on vegetables in my diet, and I feel healthier for it.

I’m not a believer in detoxing for the sake of detoxing, but I do believe in challenging habits. In both instances mentioned above, detoxing permanently changed my behaviour for the positive.

That’s the primary reason I tried Dry January. Did it make a difference?

The Habit & Routine of Drinking

Many people view drinking as a way of mood regulation. A glass of wine after a tough day of work is an excellent way to relax. My January was stressful, but I found that without reaching for a drink, the stress dissipated just as easily with a show on Netflix.

There is a comfort in routine, however, and I did miss the habit of drinking. Nicole, my partner, and I often had a drink while making dinner or going out for to eat. I had to forgo this tradition during January. It felt unnecessary.

It’s Tough to “Go Out For Drinks” Without The Drinks

It was worse with guy-friends. There’s definitely an unspoken social-contract between friends that when one goes out drinking, they go out to drink alcohol. Soda water, with bitters, apparently doesn’t constitute having a drink. Your mileage will certainly very with friends, but this wasn’t easy. It didn’t help that many of my friends drink professionally in one way or another.

The Conspiracy of DryJanuary and Puritan Thinking

Dry January got started by a group called Alcohol Concerns in the UK, a charitable organization that is raising awareness. While it’s difficult to summarize what the charity stands for, they believe in the WHO’s global strategy around alcohol with “increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its physical availability, and restricting its marketing.”

This follows the model adapted here in Ontario. It puts the accusation on consumers as being incapable of making decisions for themselves. It puts a burden on consumer to deal with unnecessary nagging difficulties in obtaining alcohol.

As far as I know, there’s not a single country in the world that has eliminated drinking successfully. Furthermore, there’s no country that I know of that has largely removed the public sale of alcohol and also reduced other social issues that are assumed related to alcohol.

Despite Fear Mongering, Drinkers Live Longer Than Non-Drinkers and 'Giving Your Liver a Rest' is BS

Whenever you see articles that state the “10 health benefits of alcohol” there’s a lot of junk science and assumptions that goes into that thinking. However, studies continue to show that moderate drinkers live longer than those that do not drink. Some studies even show that those that abuse alcohol live longer than non-drinkers.

There’s a study out there that can prove anything, and so I don’t mean to place too great of an emphasis on a handful of studies, but there’s some smoke here. There’s also a very direct connection between alcohol abuse and death. The point being, there are no clear answers. When it comes to responsible drinking, however, there is decent evidence that it can be good for you.

Not all doctors are happy with Dry January, either. At least one doctor has specifically stated that Dry January sends the wrong message, and can be bad for your health.

Michael Apstein MD went a step further:

Some people believe that ‘giving your liver a rest’ by abstaining from alcohol for a month or so is beneficial. In fact, there’s no science to support this practice, nor does it make sense physiologically. The liver can metabolise a small and steady amount of alcohol without difficulty.

Going Dry Is a Personal Choice

As with most detoxes, this is a personal choice. I can only offer a summary of my experiences. For me, quitting sugar and meat was far more difficult, and giving up drinking for January was more of a chore than a struggle. Jamie Johnson, co-host of The Whisky Topic, had far more positive results. You can hear our full thoughts on this on episode 45 of our podcast.

For me, I’m back to drinking responsibly and happy for it.