This evening, after an all-day training offsite, I joined a few dozen of my colleagues at a happy hour. Situations like this are normally exciting for me, if only because: free wine!
But not tonight. Tonight, I wrestled my way through the crowd, loudly slapped the bar with an open palm, and called out "Barkeep!" (Ok, I did one of those three things. I'll leave you to guess which one.) When I finally had the attention of the nice man behind the counter, I gave him a beatific smile and asked for a glass of water, no ice. The freshly-cut slice of lemon and two tiny straws? Those were all him. I like a man who cares about his work.
"Ooooh, what's that? A G&T?" one of my colleagues asked me two minutes later in an envious tone, as if surprised to see there was anything included in the company happy hour besides the usual wine and beer.
"It's water!" I responded happily, proclaiming my status as a cheap date to all the totally-not-listening single guys within earshot.
I'm not a big drinker to begin with, but this month finds me close to completing dry January for the second year in a row. I did it in 2015 out of solidarity with someone I lived with at the time, and I couldn't believe how much energy I had at the end of the month, nor how much better I was sleeping, not to mention the money I saved. I even lost weight without trying, thus providing a useful reminder for how many calories we end up drinking without realizing it.
2016 is just me this time, and imagine my surprise to discover that Dry January is actually British! I'd thought it was just something people did to cut down after the excess of the holidays, but it's actually an official, annual campaign by the Alcohol Concern charity in the UK. I'm fortunate in that I've never had a drinking problem, but I do love to challenge myself and prove that I can do things I haven't before.
Tonight, I watched another one of my colleagues - who was also doing dry January - give in. It's January 27th, and he stopped, just like that. "I just want a beer," he said. And that's totally fine. I would never try to convince anyone else to follow my lead, and I certainly plan on enjoying some wine again come February.
But I think my lesson learned here, from this year and last, is that challenges like Dry January actually aren't nearly as hard as I might expect them to be. In fact, they're not hard at all! Think about it: under normal circumstances, if someone asks me whether I'd like a cocktail, a beer, etc., I have to think about it, determine whether I'm up for it/whether I'm driving/whether it's worth the price/hangover potential/etc. But in Dry January, I don't have to think about it--the answer's just a simple, "no, thank you."
In four days I'll be done with it, and perhaps ready to take on a new challenge. I'm not sure what yet, but thanks to this past month, I've now got a bit more energy to figure it out.