I should clarify that this thought wasn’t spawned by a moment of clarity or from hitting rock bottom. I don’t have a drinking problem. I mean, sure, there’ve been times in my life where I’ve had one drink too many. And yeah, it’s entirely possible that in the past month I may have drunkenly thrown up in an Uber, a friend’s house, an art gallery, the bathroom of a KFC, the bathroom of a Jimmy John’s, the dining area of a Burger King, and a kid’s birthday party. But I don’t think any of that constitutes me having a problem.
It dawned on me recently, though, that I haven’t gone a full month without drinking since I was eighteen. It’s not as if I’ve been binging myself into oblivion for the past nine years, it’s just that booze is fuckin’ everywhere.
Drinks with friends, beers with associates, wine at dinner parties, after-hours cocktails with coworkers. It seems like the one thing that truly unites the bulk of humanity is our shared desire to get fucked up. I mean Jesus, even Orthodox Jews have Purim.
But after years of unhinged quaffing, maybe I should give it a rest for a while. And what better month to try teetotaling than January? After all, on January 1 I’ll be coming down from ringing in the new year; and there’s no better time to swear off drinking than during the first hangover of 2018.
Let’s be clear: The first hangover of the year isn’t the same as your average, run-of-the-mill hangover. This isn’t your standard case of the brown bottle flu where you wake up scared to open your eyes for fear of the crippling pain you’ll suffer once sunlight starts stabbing your retinas. This isn’t the sort of veisalgia where you smoke a little weed, take a nap, and carry on with your life. This isn’t even the dreaded, creeping crapulence that sneaks up on you halfway through the afternoon. This is a New Year’s Day hangover we’re talking about.
This is the kind of hangover where your soul reeks of bile and you dry heave your guts out. The kind of hangover where you’re so dehydrated that lukewarm tap water tastes like a sweet nectar suckled straight from Mother Earth’s bountiful bosom. The kind of hangover where you oscillate between thinking you might die and wishing you were already dead. A New Year’s Day hangover is the kind of hangover where you legitimately believe that you may never drink again.
And if being sick to my stomach from booze on the first day of a new year isn’t motivation enough to convince me to quit drinking for a month, there’s the added bonus of January being more-or-less devoid of holidays.
I almost always use holidays as an excuse to drink. It’s almost like that’s what they’re there for. On the Fourth of July, I pour myself a beer and toast to America. On Thanksgiving, I chug a box of wine in the hopes it’ll help me tolerate my family. Even President’s Day drives me to drink whenever I remember who the actual President is.
But the closest thing January has to a celebratory observance is Martin Luther King Day. And personally, I don't imbibe on MLK Day. Instead, I celebrate by wandering around the city and drinking out of whatever water fountain I damn well please.
There’s also Imani, the last day of Kwanzaa, which is celebrated on January 1. But everyone who celebrates Kwanzaa—that’s right, all twelve of us—knows that you’re only supposed to get blitzed on Kujichagulia. The other six days are dedicated to boosting morale and bettering the Black community; but on Kujichagulia, the sacred Kwanzaa Dashiki demands we drink liquor with a passion.
And according to the internet, National Bean Day – which sounds either very sexy or incredibly gaseous (or both, if that’s your thing) – takes place every January 6th. But that hardly counts as a holiday. After all, more people celebrate Kwanzaa than Bean Day, which means only about two and a half people celebrate Bean Day.
Hangovers and holiday excuses aside, staying sober for a month will ultimately come down to sheer willpower, and such a rewarding exercise in self-control may very well steer me towards a safer, healthier lifestyle that lasts all year long.
But let’s be real: If someone offers me a beer on January 2nd, I’m taking the beer. No amount of willpower or personal health is better than free booze*.
*Unless you’re in AA, in which case: Congrats on your chip. It works if you work it; so work it, you’re worth it.