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I made it through Dry January. Now what?

It's a good chance to rethink, but it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

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Written by
Tatum Ancheta
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It's the last day of January. If you're one of the many who challenged themselves to 31 days of sobriety, and came through, let's all give ourselves pats on the back – we all made it and came out with flying colours. I usually roll my eyes at people who get off the sauce for the first month of the year, partly because I find it as a whole load of bullcrap – abstaining for a month doesn't negate the eleven months of drinking like a fish – and for the most part, I'm just annoyed at their pompous virtuosity – they have discipline, and they're making me look like I'm all over the place. 

For this year, however, making it through dry January during the pandemic meant a little different. After almost a year of social distancing, working from home, missing most of my loved ones, and not celebrating special festivities of the year, pouring a glass of wine, a cold beer, or a stiff cocktail has been a great source of reprieve. A drink by the end of the day was a way to cope with the stress, isolation, and boredom.

"The pandemic further progressed my excessive relationship with booze."

I can't even count the sacks of empty wine bottles I hauled out of my pad for the past months. For a person who drinks for a living for almost half a decade, the pandemic further progressed my excessive relationship with booze. I used to collect bottles of spirits and wine, which I only open for special occasions, but for 2020, once I bring a bottle home, it always ends up open – and usually, for wine, it's emptied by the end of the day. And even if Hong Kong bars have stayed shut for months, it was still pretty easy to get alcohol in the city. Hong Kong is teeming with more than a dozen online alcohol delivery services whose delivery guys have been the only constant – if not the only – visitors knocking on my door. Bars have pivoted their services to bottled cocktail delivery to make sure you won't stay parched. And with restaurants' dine-in services limited until 6pm, day drinking has become an 'it' thing. So, for those who've been talking about 'prohibition' and lack of places to get a decent drink – hello honey, maybe you should read Time Out more often. 

Anyway, Dry January is nothing new; cutting out alcohol is one thing – and it's not the first time I've cut alcohol in my life, or the longest, as I was able to stay sober before for almost six months – but giving it up during a global pandemic was a considerable feat. And coming out of it somehow made me feel like I've gained a sense of control in my life, especially when so many things are happening beyond our control. 

How did I manage to get through it? 
Tell Camellia's Thailand and CBD Martini I Photograph: Courtesy Tell Camellia

How did I manage to get through it? 

Abstinence requires creativity; for some, it even entails a new hobby or a replacement vice. For a person who frequently covers stories about drinks, it's pretty hard not to be surrounded by alcohol or crave for one, especially when you are writing about yummy cocktails and the latest spirits out in the market. Even at home, I keep a minibar with all sorts of liquor and tipple you can think of, and with the WFH situation, I see these bottles talking to me every day of the week, 24/7. "Come to mama..."  

"Nothing comes close to real alcohol. Non-alcoholic spirits tasted like flavoured sugar which seemed like a waste of calories."

I started to stay off the juice beginning January 1 after waking from New Year's Eve-induced hangover. For me, quitting on something means I have to bring something new in my routine, just like when I went cold-turkey with cigarettes, I drank more coffee, and when I quit drinking coffee, I turned to tea. Now that I was staying off alcohol, I always looked for something else to drink or eat to satisfy my cravings, which led me to explore various non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits. But nothing comes close to real alcohol. The only thing I actually enjoyed was non-alcoholic IPA beers and carbonated hop-flavoured teas, non-alco wines just tasted like carbonated grape juice, and non-alcoholic spirits tasted like flavoured sugar which seemed like a waste of calories. CBD also helped, thank god we are spoilt for choice in Hong Kong as there are so many CBD brands and cafes offering CBD drinks and treats. I enjoyed adding CBD isolate in my kombucha and for someone who doesn't really eat chocolates, I've grown to like Chocobien’s artisanal CBD chocolates (which you can get from this site).  

Since we are already lessening social interaction, the lack of social life is nothing new, not being out and about didn't add to FOMO. We are all in this together, after all. 

Was it worth it?
Photograph: Courtesy The French Window

Was it worth it?

Everyone talks about the benefits of dry January – good for the body, for your wallet, and mental health. But you'd only actually believe it when you have gone through it.  

After a week, I noticed that I wasn't looking for alcohol's bitter taste and didn't need the occasional CBD. I suffer from insomnia, so having a nightcap was usually part of my before-bed routine; eventually, sleep came easy. I would try to stay up watching Netflix but found myself dosing off to sleep. 

"Maybe Jennifer Lopez is right to quit alcohol after all."

In a way, it also reset my body clock. Waking up in the morning has been easier. I would wake up even before my alarm and start the day with renewed energy. I also enjoy Saturday and Sunday mornings now, whereas before, almost half a day would be spent in bed to nurse my weekly hangovers. Generally, I just feel better. I also noticed that my skin was getting brighter, and it looked like I was actually rested. So, I guess the lack of alcohol in my system was paying off. Jennifer Lopez is right to quit alcohol after all, maybe her glowing skin is not just because of her excellent genes or her new product line. Surely, we can all hope.

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What now?
Photograph: Courtesy The Envoy

What now?

Now that I am writing about it and has become one of those annoying Dry January graduates – sorry, not sorry – I feel I have a new sense of liberty. No, I will not celebrate it by opening that tempting bottle of Saint-Émilion wine staring at me right now or that bottle of Negroni that just came to my door – though the thought of it is slightly tempting, I still have a few hours left before January is officially over. Now that my liver had its well-deserved break, I don't feel the need to drink at the first sight of liquor and hammer my system with whisky-soaked debauchery. Since my shot at looking like J-Lo is zero to none, I will definitely not become a full-on teetotaller. I'm too obsessed with the wonderful world of mixology to be ‘off it’ for good, and Hong Kong's bar offerings are too good not to explore. 

"Practice moderation, not deprivation."

Having no alcohol for a while causes alcohol intolerance to reset, so getting back to boozing needs to be taken lightly. I will ease into it gradually and just see how it flows (pun intended) throughout the next month. After all, February seems promising for better drinking prospects, and my next article is definitely going to be about where to go for drinks this CNY and love month

So, if you're thinking of laying off the sauce? Forget Dry January, make Sober February or Sober October the next big thing. Whichever or whenever you decide to reset, know that it will positively affect your overall well-being. But if going cold turkey is not your thing, then it's ok. We live in a period of tremendous challenges, always remember to take in the small things that bring you joy, and if that's a glass of wine, then so be it. Make sure to practice moderation, not deprivation. 

If you're looking for more ways to be happier and healthier this year in Hong Kong, here's a roundup of recommendations. To help you keep up with your wellness goals, visit our Wellness hub for more guides on home workouts, healthy meals and drinks, and self-care ideas. 

Load up on healthy drinks

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