Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Why not try abstinence?... with Dryathlon

As my birthday approached I thought to myself, “what I’d really like to do on the big day… is go on a craft beer pub crawl with two of my very good friends [who we’ll call… Pablo and Veronica]”.

It seemed simple enough until Mrs Cake happened upon their respective FB feeds one day, and discovered they were turning alcohol-free. What? Them? Oh, it’s only for a month – the month of January… but still.

Yes, Dryathlon. It was the first I’d ever heard of it, but it seems representative of the growing trend for doing all kinds of crap for charity. There’s the fun runs, the more serious runs, the sky dives, the bungee jumps… then for the more socially conscious there’s living below the poverty line… while for the wacky there’s moustache growing. And if you didn’t feel you could do any of those, but wanted to at least do something you could stop drinking for a month. A whole month?! The poverty one was just a week, how come you have to quit drinking for a month?

And why the month of January? If there’s ever a month when you need a drink, it’s January. I know, I know, we tend to overindulge through the Christmas and New Year period, and then emerge thinking holy shit, I should probably cut back a bit, but generally two days coming to terms with this is my life is enough to make me forget all that indulgence and be ready for a drink again…

… because January – despite being the month of my birth – is depressing. Returning to work, cold grey mornings… it feels like an interminable drudgery that will go on forever. And it does go on forever, but as the weeks go by the weather tends to get better and then you get used to it – so it doesn’t seem so bad. Then, finally, the clocks go forward (or back, no one really knows which, except it’s the one where you lose an hour of sleep), and you go, holy shit, life is actually ok when there is more daylight. Why must we persist with this bollocks?

So yes, if I was going to have a dry month it wouldn’t be January. It would be… November. Nothing happens in November, no birthdays, no holidays… and it would get me out of having to do that stupid moustache thing (it’s not the growing of the moustache that bothers me, so much as the shaving around it). So will I do it? Come to that, can you do it in November, or does it have to be January?

While the actual Dryathlon event promoted by Cancer Research UK and Alcohol Concern takes place in January, you can arrange your own month of abstinence and Just Giving can help you with that. The official one is apparently aimed at “raising awareness of social drinking” (as if we weren’t aware of it already), and to that end, the website provides a handy calculator to help you determine how much money you would save if you cut alcohol (though not just the social kind) from your diet for a month – like this is something you couldn’t work out for yourself.

Now, as a booze blogger, social drinking actually makes up only a small part of my alcohol intake. I don’t go out on the lash every week, and I don’t tend to buy spirits when I’m out – because the cost would be so prohibitive. Why spend £8 on a double of a good scotch when you can get 14 doubles in a bottle for £35 and often for less?

It wouldn’t save me all that much money then, but it would be something I would find very challenging. I look forward to the “one” midweek drinking night I allow myself, and of course the Friday, Saturday and Sunday that it’s a motherfucking free-for-all. I just don’t think I’d find anything to look forward to. Yes, I could probably do a week, but a month is just… it’s so long. That’s one twelfth of your drinking year written off. It’s always pleasant stuff you have to cut out for a twelfth of your year – why can’t we cut out a month of work, or a month of housework or a month of financial responsibility? Eh? EH?

I don’t know why things are always reduced to monetary benefits anyways. I already know that if I hadn’t bought that bottle of scotch this month I’d have £40 more to play with, but you’ve got to do something with your money, haven’t you? You could easily say that if I gave up golf for a month, I’d save £60 on green fees and however much in fuel it costs to get to the course – but what would be the benefit in that anyway? Yay, now I’ve got £60 that I’m not going to use for any particular purpose. Sure, I  guess some people struggle a little with money, and cutting out alcohol might provide a revelation, but… really?

If I stopped buying my wife Christmas and birthday presents I could save hundreds every year but… the love would surely die and that would be sad. Not that she loves me for my presents!

Don’t go on holiday, save yourself thousands. Live in a hostel, save on them mortgage payments.

Aha, you might say, but when you stop drinking you get health benefits. Well, stop making it about how much money I might save then. Health is no doubt one of the most important things, but on a day to day basis peace of mind and contentment are just as important.

So anyway, how did my friends get on? In all honesty, I was worried that they would feel so much healthier and happier that they might stay on the wagon full time – which would be a massive shame because you can rely on them for wanting a drink, and they appreciate good alcohol. It would also be a great shame for Mrs Cake, as Veronica is [one of] her bad influence friend[s]. Many’s the time Mrs Cake goes out with Veronica for a quick drink after work (I’ll be home by 7.30!), only to be ordering another bottle of champagne at 9 o clock, and come home steaming  drunk around midnight. I’d hate for her to lose that.

Well, they found it difficult. Veronica said she was pleased to be able to announce that she feels just as bad waking up in the mornings when she hasn’t had a drink as when she has. And everything was so boring. It would be, wouldn’t it? What are you supposed to look forward to? What’s supposed to make Saturday evening TV interesting? You’d have to smoke weed for a month, and I hardly think that’s the point…

I already suffer from anti-climax syndrome sometimes – you know, when you spend all week looking forward to Friday, then it comes and you go, oh, is this it? Now what? Imagine if you didn’t even have ‘having a drink’ to look forward to?

Our friends tried to deal with it by buying and drinking lots of fancy teas. I personally wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about that – tea is no replacement for fine booze - but you need something, right?

So, the last day of January slowly came to greet our friends, and they got some champagne in to celebrate. The plan was to pop the cork at midnight, though the boozinal dryness had actually started at 9am on January 1st, so by rights they should have waited until 9am on February 1st. Well, they didn’t even make it to midnight, but who’s counting?

So we arranged to go to the pub with them on the Saturday, and they were resolved never to quit drinking again. Good for them. Lesson learned.
If you took part, well done you.

So how about me? Well, if I do do it, it won’t be in January. Bu-u-u-u-u-u-t… there has to be something else I could do. Mrs Cake would probably end up killing me if I didn’t have my special spirits to look forward to a few times a week.


Hang on, maybe I’ve got something… all these events like to have clever, punny names these days, don’t they? Dryathlon, Mo-vember, Stop-tober… this year I’m going to do… Cock-tober. Instead of abstinence, it’s going to be about indulgence, and it’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be so good, that when it’s over and I have to stop, that is going to be the real challenge. Wish me luck.