I've decided that I'm not going to drink any more in 2018. I'm not going to drink any less, either.
Back when I was in the music business, drinking went hand in hand with networking and checking out fledgling bands in bars. After I crash landed in the culinary world, it was easy to rationalize that one had to be intimately familiar with wine and spirits in order to pair them with food. I suspect that if my next career is in concrete, I'll find a logical way to justify why drinking is an integral part of the business. That's because I have always appreciated the taste and restorative effects of a drink – or two.
Despite my appreciation for the fine art of fermentation and distillation, I've seen too many people burn through their party tickets early on in life. Fortunately, in my early 20s, I recognized the dangers of overindulgence in alcohol. In order to avoid flaming out, I decided that I would have to be pro-active. I toyed with several options: drinking on even-numbered days; limiting myself to one drink a day; carrying a spit bucket. I settled on the strategy of abstaining from alcohol for one month of the year.
I picked January because the first week of not drinking after the holidays is like a get-out-of-jail-free card. January also has 31 days, which adds to the challenge. In the 30-plus years that I have abstained for a month, I have only caved once. Shortly after my mother died in 1985, I went to a Club Med resort with my dad to spend some quality father-and-son time. I am not sure if it was the death of my mother, the prospect of spending a week alone with my father, or the faux free spirit of the resort, but on the 29th day of the month, I succumbed to the temptation of a Planter's Punch. It still haunts me that I wasn't strong enough to tough it out for those last two days – and since then, my willpower has been unassailable.
Over the years, many friends and acquaintances have joined the club. Some follow my path, and others make up their own rules – and exemptions. The dedicated succeed and the less committed are taken down by a well-shaken martini or a whiff of a vintage wine. But everyone finds a positive side to the experience.
My appreciation for this annual dry month has grown so much that I actually look forward to it. And at the end of every January, I feel so mentally clear and physically strong that I seriously contemplate quitting drinking altogether. But then I give in to temptation and take my first sip of wine. As the liquid trickles down my throat and the first tingle of a heady buzz kicks in, I become a prisoner in paradise for another 11 months.
If you are on the fence about joining the January Club, here are some of the pros and cons to consider:
- You sleep really, really well, thus requiring fewer hours of shuteye. You also wake up less frequently to pee.
- You have more energy well into the night, you get out of bed with a spring in your step and, by week two, your workouts become more vigorous.
- Clarity of mind means you can unravel unsolved mysteries (who you lent that book to), you never tell the same joke twice and you read more in bed.
- You develop a more optimistic perspective on day-to-day life and experience fewer mood swings.
- You drop pounds without even thinking about it.
- You save money – fancy restaurants become affordable, local dining joints seem like a steal and taxi expenses are non-existent.
- Drinking is far more pleasurable when you start again, and you really appreciate the bouquet of a wine (even if you don’t drink it).
- You see people at parties in a whole new light (and you remember meeting them), and you see in other people what you are like when you drink.
- You prove that you have a modicum of willpower.
- Inevitably, you miss out on at least one amazing opportunity to try something rare and fabulous.
- Without wine, a great steak or cheese doesn’t taste the same.
- You tend to eat sweets (especially at the beginning of the month) to replace the sugar in alcohol.
- Splitting the bill when you eat out with friends really sucks (even if it is payback for all those times you drank at your non-drinking friends’ expense).
- Long flights or functions can seem interminable.
- You can feel socially awkward at parties and gatherings, and some people don’t trust you. You also have to endure other people’s “booze breath.”
- You discover that some of your friends and family are less interesting than you thought they were.
- Major events, such as weddings, can be difficult. Even watching sports with the homeboys can be tough. And blind dates are virtually impossible.
- Every night seems like a Monday night.
Bob Blumer is a Food Network host and cookbook author. He is currently working on a new book, #flavorbomb.