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Drynuary: What and Why

Edith Zimmerman: John Ore, Drynuary leader and expert, let’s talk about Drynuary. Which, for the unfamiliar, is not-drinking for the month of January. Although everything besides booze is fair game, right?

John Ore: Correct. Drynuary centers on booze-fasting, so other vices are certainly fair game during the month. Although I’ve heard of folks using Drynuary to abstain from other things, like smoking the reefer. But I feel like you need to tailor the nomenclature if you’re going to do that. “Drynuary” has a connotation that’s very specific to booze.

Participating in Drynuary last year helped me make my brilliant decision to become a smoker. So if you’re easily tempted by other substances, or likely to replace one with another, Drynuary might not be for you. Consult your doctor before you Drynuary! (Not really, though. Probably. Right?) Unless you want to make a replacement?

Wow, impressive! I thought most people became smokers through the gateway of alcohol. Social smokers, and all that. Used to be my excuse. Coffee becomes my vice of choice for Drynuary, and I have no idea why. Something about making a pot of coffee on a Saturday night just feels … wrong. Maybe that’s the appeal. “Oooh, honey (wink wink), want a LATTE!”

How long have you been doing it, and what kind of mental/physical/metaphysical clarity does it bring you?

This marks my 7th consecutive Drynuary. Before we were married, my wife and I started doing this almost on a dare: think we can make it a month on the wagon? It’s since taken on a life of its own, and is something we look forward to every year (in a sick sort of way). After the gluttony of the holidays, it’s a welcome respite.

I mean, cultures have long practiced rites of abstention as a means of observance or purification. Not to get all spiritual, but Drynuary has a Lentan aspect to it, although it’s more meaningful to me than fasting or giving up candy for Lent. Especially since my birthday falls during Lent, and I’m not going dry during March Madness. 

Geez, maybe it’s more like penance?

I understand that, medically, drying out for a whole month may not have specific physical benefits for your liver. But there are plenty of other benefits that I get from abstaining for a month, like feeling healthier, having my clothing fit better, sleeping better, drinking more coffee, and focusing on activities that don’t involve drinking. This year I want to turbo-charge the health benefits by trying to exercise more, even if that just means going for a long walk in the snow. Eliminate the calories, up the voltage on exercise, et voila! I’m a slightly less-shitty rec league ice hockey player.

What’s the hardest part?

Besides the not drinking part? Oh, it’s a cake-walk! After 7 years, we’ve figured out how to modulate temptation and not obsess about the end of the month. But honestly, the hardest part is breaking the association between really good food and having, say, a nice glass of wine. Having lemonade with a perfectly grilled steak makes you feel like someone is pulling a prank on you. It’s really hard to go out and have an exemplary meal while ordering multiple bottles of sparkling water. Something feels off. It’s like sex with a condom on: you understand WHY it’s important, but you know the alternative is much better.

The easiest?

In the interest of full disclosure, January is an easy month for us to give up demon liquor. No significant family birthdays, holidays are just long weekends, no NHL season (ugh!), college football has become a litany of Unwatcha Bowls, etc. Hell, even the Super Bowl is in February. Easy to just hibernate.

In addition, the starter’s pistol for “Drinking Season,” usually associated with the holidays, went off a little earlier than normal this year with Hurricane Sandy. Just sitting around, trapped inside watching weather porn (if you had power/a home), unable to get to work. It’s just like Christmas with the family, so naturally it’s an excuse to get drunk and fat. After that, my wife and I went to Iceland and drank all of the brennevin in Reykjavik, and the next thing you know it’s Thanksgiving. So I’ve been feeling vaguely fluish for the past 10 days or so, resulting in me yearning to tap out and get on with Drynuary. Some years it’s just like that.

What are your thoughts about cheating during Drynuary?

I’m pretty absolute about Drynuary: no booze, not even O’Doul’s. You’re tempted to make an exception — Oh! But it’s so-and-so’s birthday! It’s the NFC Championship! — but that’s sort of the point of Drynuary: living your life, not avoiding situations just because there happens to be an open bar. It gets back to some of the spiritual aspects of it: denying yourself in the name of some greater good. Even if that greater good is just lording your teetotaling over weaker friends.

What should people do / where should people go if they want to participate or otherwise follow along?

As with any risky endeavor, like scuba diving or getting married, it’s best to have a buddy. Find a partner, pinkie-swear to do Drynuary together, and support each other. I’m fortunate in that I’ve had a co-conspirator for all 7 years of Drynuary. And use the Internet! Do people still go on the Twitter? If you do, let’s all share Drynuary stories, best practices, and calls for help using the #drynuary tag. People are already doing it, and for a good cause.

Got an awesome non-alcoholic go-to drink for nights out on the town? Post them to Instagram, tag ’em #drynuary. Then reblog, retweet, and reheat them until the Drynuary signal reaches space aliens, and they decide not to destroy us because we’re “too weird.”

You can also send in any questions/concerns about how to get the most out of your Drynuary to notes@thehairpin.com. We’ll field your questions and check in mid-Drynuary to see how everyone is doing.

How many “Drynuary” tattoos do participants need to get?

Drynuary is an excuse to get more tattoos? Another benefit! This year I’ll be tying Aldous Snow.

Perfect. Did your last drink come before or after the stroke of midnight on December 31/January 1? And what was it?

I actually love New Year’s Day, moreso when Gary Bettman isn’t conspiring to ruin my year by canceling the Winter Classic. New Year’s Eve can be so amateurish and anti-climactic. So I start my Drynuary on the 2nd. Extend until my wife’s birthday on February 3rd (only 31 more shopping days!), which makes a nice milestone to break the fast.

This year, I enjoyed some excellent red wine (Amarone!) on New Year’s Eve, and Pacifico poolside on New Year’s Day. But the last drink before heading to the gallows was a simple finger of Michter’s Rye. Sort of like a cigarette and blindfold.

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