Brow Beat

Two People Who Didn’t Drink Any Alcohol in January Discuss How Delicious Beer Is

Beer is always delicious, but it’s especially delicious when you haven’t had any in a month.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This is the last in an occasional series of posts about Drynuary, the practice of not drinking alcohol in January.

Last month, John observed his ninth Drynuary, and Laura observed her third. Now that our month of teetotaling is over, we chatted about our experiences this year and why, even though it’s annoying, we’ll probably do it again next year.

John Ore: Neither of us was new to Drynuary—we’ve each got a few under our belts. What, if anything, was different about this year?

L.V. Anderson: I hate to start on a negative note, but I have to say this Drynuary was less gratifying than my past Drynuarys. I didn’t feel noticeably healthier or more energetic—I just felt like my normal self, only more boring. Maybe the Drynuary high wears off after the first couple of times you do it. Did anything feel different to you?

Ore: I was surprised at how satisfying this Drynuary was, even after nine years. I definitely felt healthier and more focused, and this Drynuary was kind of a breeze. Although that could be because I had an unfair advantage at the start of the month: being on antibiotics for a sinus infection. Do you think you’ll re-up next year, even if this year was underwhelming?

Anderson: I do. The feeling of satisfaction—and, yes, smugness—at the end of Drynuary is too good to give up. And I think there is value in taking a break just for the sake of noticing all the times I usually default to drinking, and to lower my alcohol tolerance after the booze-fueled holidays. Although I have to say that breaking the dry spell on Sunday, I was still on my feet after two and a half beers, so maybe my tolerance didn’t change much. How did you celebrate the big day?

Ore: I fast-forwarded to the end of Drynuary just a few hours early this year, with a beer and some wine. I didn’t want to go cold into the Super Bowl, so a little warm-up was in order. And I must say, I felt that first beer. It always feels new, there’s so much anticipation, and you never know how it will hit you.

Anderson: Warming up is a good idea! I didn’t mean that I didn’t feel those beers at all. But more than noticing that I felt drunk, I mostly noticed that my coffee porter tasted really good. Beer is delicious! And I probably would take it for granted if not for the forced abstinence of Drynuary.

I know you and your wife have always done Drynuary as a team—did either of you find yourselves talking each other down at any point during the month? Or is it easy for both of you by this point? (Or did the sinus infection and antibiotics make cravings a moot point?) 

Ore: Oh, we had our close calls, for sure. Apart from my usual temptations (read: my hockey team), I feel like the Blahzzard of 2015 was some sort of Biblical test: Our offices were closed, my daughter was home from school, and we’re all cooped up inside waiting for an opportunity to go sledding without the benefit of a nice warming whiskey at the end of it all. There was definitely a Shining feel to it. But you just grit your teeth and realize that you’ve invested too much energy in Drynuary to just fold, especially that late in the month. Maybe we take it too seriously? I feel like we explored some pretty heavy topics this Drynuary.

Anderson: Tell me about it! There was no moment I craved a glass of red wine more than the night it was snowing like crazy and the subway had shut down and I believed that was going to wake up the next morning to a blanket of snow that was taller than I am. Which reminds me of that frequently cited reason not to do Drynuary: that January is cold and bleak, and people need alcohol to get through it. To which my response is: There’s no good time to give up alcohol! It’s always going to be a pain. You may as well get it over with the first month of the year, and then at least February seems comparatively fun.

But I digress. I assume by “heavy topics” you are referring to our conversation with Marc Kern, the addiction psychologist. That was a little heavy! But one of the things I like about Drynuary is that it opens the door to talking about alcohol and its attendant problems in a nuanced way, instead of in black and white. Which is something that you touched on when you wrote about the myriad types of “Drynuary detractors,” who have a hard time seeing Drynuary as anything but a sign of full-on alcoholism. 

This was the first year you wrote about Drynuary for Slate. What did you think of the experience? Did you get different reactions from the ones you’ve gotten when you’ve written for other sites?

Ore: As I stated way back at the beginning of Drynuary (which seems like forever ago), writing about this lunacy is as much a necessary diversion for me as it is an attempt to engage with a community of participants. I’m sure Slate’s commenters will be happy to see this come to an end! 

Having covered a lot of ground over the years elsewhere, I’m glad we tackled some of the more seemingly serious topics. Over the years we’ve seen the conversation change a bit: Now there are professionals actually taking a look at the relative merits of a Drynuary abstention. Sure, not everyone was a fan of what we talked about, but I liked moving beyond the mocktails-and-groaning portion of Drynuary.

But at the end of the day, Drynuary is supposed to be a bit of a hoot. Yes, perhaps there’s some dark moments of self-reflection during our weaker moments during the month, but this whole thing started as a bit of a goof for my wife and I. Nine years later, I like to think it still is. Did you have a favorite moment this month?

Anderson: I have two favorite moments. The first was discovering Hop Soda, which was delicious and not too sweet and almost made me feel like I was drinking beer. The second was learning from Slate’s cocktail columnist that beer can be used as shampoo. However, unsure whether doing such a thing would violate the rules of Drynuary, I held off on pouring a Heineken over my head in the shower until February had begun.

Why Do Some People Hate Drynuary? I’ve Got a Few Theories.
Slate’s Cocktail Columnist Offers Mocktail Recipes for All the Poor Schmoes Doing Drynuary
People Shouldn’t Ask Why I’m Not Drinking—but They Do. Here’s How I Respond.
Why I’ve Given Up Alcohol Every January for the Last Eight Years
What a Psychologist Specializing in Addiction Treatment Thinks About Drynuary
Actually, Not Drinking in January Is a Great Idea