How To Observe Drynuary Politely

Me after a week

Have you heard of Drynuary? Admittedly it is a terrible portmanteau, but it is the act of not drinking for the entire month of January. It’s been around for a while and the reasons to participate are varied, and this year I decided to give it a shot. If anything, it’s a fun experiment in losing water weight while double checking that I can in fact decline a drink.

We’ve already talked about how not to be a dick to your sober friends, but in the few days I’ve participated in Drynuary I’ve noticed how incredibly easy it is to be smug about it. And oh MAN does being smug feel good. You can get drunk off your own superiority! But, like anything, it’s pretty rude to shove your choices into someone else’s face. So here are some tips on how to get through the month without being a jerk.

  1. Talk about it within reason. If you drink regularly, your drinking habits are bound to come up. Someone is bound to notice your refusal of booze at a party or that you’re only ordering Diet Coke with dinner. If you’re a woman, this may even be paired with the assumption that you’re pregnant, lucky you! You can always say “I don’t feel like drinking tonight,” and if you’re with someone you see often, you should feel free to say that you’re not drinking for the month. It’s quite possible you’ll get into a natural conversation about your motivations, but don’t start lecturing anyone. The concept of not drinking is not new, you don’t need to explain it.
  2. Literally no one cares what’s in your glass. I spent my first party of January (a post-NYE hangover party at a friend’s house, with bagels and Advil) drinking seltzer out of a red solo cup. Other people were drinking mimosas. I have to admit, it was very tempting to point out that I was doing Drynuary, either to explain that I wasn’t drinking for a reason, or I guess just to seem different. Neither are good looks. Probably no one noticed I was drinking seltzer, and if they assumed it was a gin and tonic that has no impact on me.
  3. Complaining! There are people who think complaining about any voluntary endeavor is annoying, and those people can die in a fire. Plenty of things we choose to do are also frustrating, like moving and learning how to apply liquid eyeliner and raising kids and keeping plants alive. Venting is necessary! So yes, if you find yourself really wishing you could pour yourself a glass of wine after a hard day at work, text your friends or tweet or instagram like “uuuuugh I wish this ginger ale were champagne.” However, be sure it’s not all you end up talking about. If you’re doing nothing but complaining, at that point you may as well not do it at all. (This goes for eyeliner and children as well.)
  4. Do not compare this to actual addiction and recovery. I have no idea about actual statistics, but I’m sure there have been some people who have tried Drynuary, had a really hard time, and it made them realize maybe they had more of an alcohol dependence than they realize and they sought help. It’s good when people seek help for addiction. The rest of us will likely be returning to a lifestyle that involves consuming alcohol come February 1, so do not act like giving up alcohol for a month is akin to entering rehab or some huge trial.
  5. On hosting. This may be a controversial stance, so please let me know if you feel differently! (Kindly.) If I’m invited to dinner at the home of someone I know doesn’t drink ever, I do not bring wine, nor do I expect to be offered any. If I’m invited to dinner at the home of someone I know isn’t drinking for a little bit, I maybe expect they’ll have some extra beer around I can finish. Maybe not, but if you’re hosting and you know your friends like to drink, provide.

A Few Thoughts On How To Not Be A Jerk To Your Sober Friends

russian-poster-no-drinkingWhen I was a teenager, I considered myself “straight edge.” This basically meant that I was not cool enough to be invited to parties where drugs or alcohol would be present, so I pretended it was on purpose. Then, I went to college, and now drinking alcohol has become a regular part of my life.

However, sometimes I cringe at just how much of a default drinking has become, especially as more and more of my friends have given up substances for one reason or another. Bars are common meeting places for everyone, parties are labeled BYOB, and I’m sure we’ve even said here that it’s a polite gesture to bring wine to a house party. But here are some thoughts on how not to alienate those who do not drink in your life.

Firstly, every reason why someone doesn’t want to drink is valid and should not be pushed. For every person that’s hit rock bottom, there’s another person who has a family history of alcoholism, or is on medication that doesn’t interact well with alcohol, or who doesn’t like being drunk, or who just doesn’t like the taste. Never question or pressure anyone into drinking (or any other drug) who doesn’t want to.

Secondly, do not feel uncomfortable if you are drinking. I’ve seen so many instances of someone saying they’re not drinking, for one reason or another, and the person offering them a drink launches into a long-winded apology or justification of their own drinking habits, or reminding the non-drinker that they “don’t drink that much.” No one cares! It’s good to be aware of your own habits, but if a person who doesn’t drink has knowingly put themselves in a situation where there will be alcohol, chances are they are okay with it and understand the offer is just a polite gesture. Offer them a soda or something else instead, and let it go.

Speaking of soda, make sure there are non-alcoholic options available at any party you host, and that you make it clear which things do contain alcohol. The Caron Foundation says, “While some non-drinkers will drink non-alcoholic beer and wine, most recovering alcoholics prefer beverages that don’t look or taste like the real thing. Stock your bar with sparkling water and cider, soft drinks, and juices.” Also, give a heads up with any food cooked with alcohol.

If only it were as easy as that, right? The people who want to drink get to, the people who don’t won’t, and everybody gets along. As always with etiquette, you need to know your audience, which occasionally will include someone who just isn’t comfortable around alcohol. I’ve come across quite a few forums in my research of people wanting support for having dry weddings, or lamenting that their social life has basically ended because being in a bar is too tempting. This is a good time to maybe reflect on how big of a part alcohol plays in your social situations. Is every get together at a bar? Do you have sober friends and family who are noticeably absent from most gatherings because there is alcohol present? If your sober friends have expressed that they’re uncomfortable, ask them for suggestions and take them up on them!

If you are sober, make sure to make it clear to your friends what you can and can’t handle (i.e. maybe them ordering wine at dinner is fine, but spending every weekend in bars makes you uncomfortable), and take the initiative to plan a few outings that don’t revolve around drinking. Your friends should get the hint, and since they love you and want you to feel comfortable, you can find ways to socialize and enjoy both your lifestyles. And if they don’t get the hint, or refuse to find a compromise, then maybe it’s time for you to reevaluate the relationship.

Phew! Ok, that’s a heavy subject. Let’s celebrate by watching John Mulaney’s bit on giving up drinking because it’s hilarious.