Following the holiday season of merriment and indulgence in all things food, drink and get togethers, I decided to join the 1 in 6 adults in the UK giving Dry January a proper go. After a couple of half-baked attempts at sober October in previous years, I finally decided that my bank balance, physical and mental wellbeing could do with a stint off the drink.
With 4000 people taking part in the first Dry January campaign in 2013, the charity behind it: Alcohol UK, now sees over 130,000 people temporarily banish the booze, and that doesn’t include the thousands or potentially millions more who go sober for the month ‘unofficially’ without downloading the app.
While generation Z are drinking less alcohol than any generation before, I’m of the older (and I’m not sure I can say wiser) millennial crowd who grew up drinking watermelon Bacardi Breezers that turned your tongue pink for three days and crying over boys who drank white lightning cider by the swings. While my tastes for both booze and boys have become much more refined, I thoroughly enjoy having a tipple. I love pairing the perfect wine with my meal, heading out for cocktails with friends or having a post-work G & T date in the city.
I knew a month of no booze would be a challenge and it’s perhaps the biggest reason why I felt it was important to do it.
With weekends free of fuzzy heads, I found myself planning adventures and a way of squeezing as much time out of my days off as possible. No longer having to consider whether my blood alcohol level might still be on the high side from the previous night and often avoiding driving all together, I could take advantage of jumping in the car and going wherever I wanted.
On something of a wholesome streak, on the second Sunday in January, two friends and I took a trip to Gullane Beach in East Lothian where we made a fire, swam in the sea, ate a picnic and rather smugly sipped hot coffee while roasting marshmallows. It was a wonderful day and one that wouldn’t have happened if I’d A. Spent my Saturday night in the pub and B. Didn’t have my trusty Fiona the Fiesta to get me there. On another weekend I visited Tyninghame beach for the first time. It has a lovely forest walk leading to what seems like an endless expanse of golden sand from which you can see the mighty Bass Rock and perhaps some of its resident gannets.
I’ve always viewed driving and owning a car as a thing of pure convenience; it’s never been about a true passion for being behind the wheel and seeing where the road takes me. In the past, I’ve even experienced twinges of anxiety when I’m faced with driving somewhere new. However, the combination of going booze-free and being able to drive more often has allowed my confidence as a driver to grow in a way I didn’t expect. I feel calmer and know that with a little (or a lot) of help from my sat-nav, I can roam wherever I like.
If you’re lucky enough to live in bonnie Scotland, the possibilities for weekend excursions are endless – book your car on a ferry and head across to one of the country’s beautiful islands such Skye, Arran or Islay. Take yourself up to highlands to marvel at the breath-taking and dramatic landscape. Pile your pals in the car and with a kitty for petrol (you could even use the money you’ve saved by not drinking) and the all-important snacks sorted, take yourselves on that road trip you’ve been discussing for years. And if you’re elsewhere in the world, much of the same applies, you can discover your own driving routes and create memories that will last much longer than a hangover ever will.
With more time to enjoy being in the present rather than wishing away the hours before you feel human again, you’ll find your car can be a means to explore countless new places or visit familiar favourites.
January gets a bad rap, and while this one has been dry, the endless possibilities of adventure mean it’s anything but depressing.
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