I’ve decided not to stop drinking. But hear me out, please.
Come the first week of January, social media timelines (and specifically my twitter feed) fill up with discussions about the pros and cons of #dryjanuary. The world seems to be split between those who revel in its sanctimony, and those who deride the idea and steadfastly continue drinking – responsibly, of course. I’ve always gravitated more towards the latter position, but more about that shortly.
This discussion gets particularly pernicious within the wine trade (or indeed any part of the drinks/hospitality trade). After all, all those of us involved in the business of buying or selling alcohol for a living are affected if a proportion of the customer-base suddenly abstains. And the movement for increasing abstinence seems to be gaining ground. Now we don’t just suffer #dryjanuary, there is also Go Sober for October (a close cousin to #stoptober). As a writer, I don’t directly sell wine, but I am complicit in its sale. My business wouldn’t exist if people didn’t want to read about all that wonderful wine they’re drinking.
Rather than abstain for a month, I’m going to publicly document every alcoholic drink that I consume.
There are many in the wine trade who pour scorn on dry January and its ilk, citing the lack of scientific evidence that it makes a difference, or noting that those who feel they require a month of abstinence may be the very same people who drastically overdo it for the rest of the year. Many of us just feel it’s the cry of the “no fun” brigade. Yet everyone who works with wine runs the risk of over-indulgence. We are surrounded by the good stuff night and day, and it’s remarkably easy to conceal a steadily worsening level of addiction or dependence amidst the supposed line of duty.
There has unsurprisingly been no shortage of alcoholics in the sector – some more or less functioning and some not functioning at all. The late great John Radford springs to mind, or Tim Hanni, the Master of Wine who famously went teetotal but continues to work in the wine industry to this day.
The challenge is to find a position in the whole abstinence-or-not discussion that is defendable and that doesn’t reek of denial. Siding with the #dryjanuary mob is risky – couldn’t this be playing into the hands of the teetotal lobbyists (an ever stronger body, if the extraordinary remodelling of the UK Department of Health’s alcohol recommendations is born in mind) , and isn’t it exactly the wrong kind of knee-jerk reaction? (Like yoyo dieting or cooling off in rehab). But going against #dryjanuary risks accusations of weakness, or a lack of responsibility. After all, alcoholism is a terrifying and debilitating condition that still affects far too many.
In an attempt to move the discussion on a bit, I’ve decided to go a different route this January. Rather than abstain for a month, I’m going to publicly document every alcoholic drink that I consume.
What is my aim? I have multiple aims actually. I want to be open and transparent about what someone who works with wine actually consumes. Which of us has not lied to the doc about our consumption? Are we all secretly ashamed or do we just feel that society doesn’t want to hear the truth? I’m curious about what will happen if I’m completely open about my consumption for a month. Will I shock some people? Will I shock myself?
I won’t specially attempt to drink less, but at the same time, this might be an inevitable by-product from pledging to make every sip public. Perhaps I will drink less subconsciously, perhaps consciously. We’ll just have to see.
I don’t regard myself as having an alcohol problem, but like many, I have the occasional blowout that could be termed as excessive. And who knows, maybe my reluctance to join the #dryjanuary brigade represents a closet dependence on alcohol? I want to find out.
I’m hoping to demonstrate what reasonably responsible consumption of alcohol looks like – and perhaps to ridicule those UK recommended limits a bit. I have a feeling that according to the UK’s Department of Health I’m a serial binge-drinker on the brink of death. Again, we’ll see.
Rules of engagement
My game-plan is as follows:
– I’ll keep track of everything I drink, including the ABV (alcohol percentage), the approximate time, location, details of what the drink was, and also why I drank it – eg: professionally, for pleasure or just because ‘ I needed a drink’.
– When I’m tasting wine and spitting, I’ll report 1 small glass of wine (125ml) per 21 wines tasted (on the basis that a tasting sample is around 25ml and that spitting removes around 75% of the alcohol from my system, so each taste puts c. 6ml of alcohol into my system)
– I’ll post a daily update on twitter each night (the first will go up later today, 1st January)
– at the end of January I’ll write up a summary here
I’m christening my experiment #MyJanuary (instead of #DryJanuary). It is, after all, a personal exploration. I make no warranties that it will be interesting or edifying for anyone else.
On that note, I raise my glass. Happy new year!