Some of you may know it: a sudden, and not entirely explicable, onset of sobriety, known in the trade as Dry January.
Looking back now, it’s hard to pin down the thought process behind such an absurd undertaking. I feel as though I was the victim of a stalking radicalisation, so subtle that I didn’t know at the time exactly what was happening. The month was a barren and desolate wilderness but, like root canal treatment, I knew it was just something that I needed to endure.
Similar to the astonishing popularity of Strictly Come Dancing, it is hard to explain where has this recent fad has come from. Is it the latest government advice that walking within 50 yards of an off licence or pub can seriously damage your health? I don’t think so. It has somehow become the social norm to put ourselves through self-imposed agony. Perhaps it is the relative comfort of our lives that prompts us to search for the uncomfortable, the difficult, the painful, even? It is our modern day version of penance, our guest appearance on the 1980s Japanese game show Endurance.
And in a world that screams of our vainglorious achievements through any foghorn we can muster, our next amazing feat has to be heard louder and shriller above the din for people to take notice. No longer is a marathon a significant accomplishment unless you’ve done seven of them in seven days on seven continents. No longer is a vow of silence deafening unless it is maintained for a year. Most shocking of all, no longer is giving up alcohol for twenty hours worthy of note – it has to be extended to 31 days for goodness sake!
But this period of bleak austerity has not been proclaimed. I know that many have joined me on this mission of self-denial, yet none of us have trumpeted our travails on social media or sent round emails of justgiving-ness. This is a very personal grief which we have suffered silently. It can only be spoken about now it is over.
So, do I feel better?
The Wife has reported my face to be less reminiscent of the Michelin Man than in previous months, and my weight has seen a small decline, although I’m still ten pounds higher than when I finished my eighty-day racecourse quest at the end of May. However, my eyes adopted a hollow and vacant stare as I stumbled through the month like an extra from The Walking Dead, and my memory slipped further into a dark, brooding abyss.
Yet, all the same, I am glad to have done it. I still have control, I thought to myself on Monday as I frantically fumbled for the first bottle of beer. I can do it if I really need to, but I really don’t want to any more.
If you have just completed your own Dry January, well done. And if you found it as tough as I did, very well done. However, if the whole ridiculous charade passed you by and you have now been inspired by my heroic deeds then I would urge you not to embark on a Dry February (even though it is three days shorter) unless specifically advised to do so by a medical practitioner, and then only under the closest supervision.
If you have been affected by the themes raised in this blog there is a way you can get help. Copies of the thunderously popular ‘Around The Races In Eighty Days’ are still available and, as well as being a rollicking good read, the book has also been known to produce a wide range of health benefits. Readers have reported the banishing of those January blues with an unusually positive disposition, and have become more interesting and attractive to others. Complement the reading experience by combining it with a bottle of your favourite tipple and settle in for what those in the know are now dubbing Monsoon February.