What #Dry(ish)January Taught Me

As you may remember from my word-of-the-year post, I set myself up with a couple of challenges for 2019, one of which was #DryJanuary. The concept behind Dry January is fairly simple – don’t drink any booze in January.

We were very successful with our quest…until Saturday, January 26, 2019. We were at Disneyland for the day, enjoying the Valentine’s Day + Lunar New Year decorations and events.

The Valentine’s Entrance at Disneyland
Special Lunar New Year Character Meet & Greet at California Adventure

Around lunch time, we decided to wander through Downtown Disney, which is the shopping and restaurants district situated near the hotels and between the two parks.

I remembered that a new restaurant was opening up.

That new restaurant was Ballast Point.

Now, here’s the thing — I am not a big fan of IPAs. I know, I’m a Southern California and this is sacrilegious to say in the craft beer scene around here, but many varieties of hops are not my friend (I am learning there are lots of different types of hops, and some are more appealing to me than others, but some – the ones that are in what I know as traditional West Coast IPAs – are not my friends.) But I do love Ballast Point. It’s probably a bit of a nostalgia thing since their main brewing location used to be down the street from my old office, and my friends and I made many a happy hour (or, heck, lunchtime) trip over there.

So, we decided to go to Ballast Point for lunch. And, at first, we were just going to get food. And we did get food – a delicious pretzel, some Parmesan fries, and vegetarian lettuce cups with a really great faux-meat protein.

But all the tables in the restaurant were booked. Which meant we had to sit at the bar. Which meant the amazing array of delicious taps were staring me in the face the entire time we ate our food (and drank our waters). So, after some discussion – which I’ll share in just a minute, so keep reading! – we decided to call an end to our Dry 26-Days-Of-January and each ordered a flight of four tasters:

I went for the crisp & light options – a blonde, a wit, a gose, and a sour. My husband’s flight (not pictured) was all stouts and porters.

The discussion we had was about what, if anything, we’d learned from Dry January thus far, and if there was really anything else to be learned/gained from continuing for five more days. We agreed that (1) the lessons were strong, and we could carry them forward, and (2) we felt successful and totally fine ending the challenge a little early.

So, what’d we (well, primarily *I*) learn?

LESSON #1: Booze is expensive in restaurants, and kinda pointless.

We sort of unlearned this by having both food and drinks at Ballast Point, but I think the fact that we ate our entire meal before ordering (and consuming) the beers actually does help make this point.

Earlier in January, when we were still in the throngs of our challenge, we’d gone out to eat for a date night. We went to a restaurant in town that is extremely well-known for its craft cocktails, and once again I was seated facing the bar, but I held firm then. We ordered two appetizers, split a craft pizza for our entree, and split a dessert. We both drank water. When the bill came, I was flabbergasted as to how cheap the meal was…and then I remembered. No booze. Booze – even just a single glass of wine for each of us – always adds 50% or more to the final bill. Seeing the total, my husband remarked “You know, if we didn’t get drinks when we went out, we could go out to eat a lot more often.” Um, sold.

So, we made an agreement — we would either go out for drinks (wine tasting, brewery visits, happy hour) and make sure we ate at home before or after, or we would go out for food, sticking with water and maybe coffee/tea (if appropriate), and save “cocktail hour” for at home.

Why do you say it’s “kinda pointless”? People may disagree with me on this, and that’s totally fine, but while I absolutely understand there is great art, skill, and merit in pairing cocktails/wine/beer with food, I’m gonna be honest — I rarely, if ever, perfectly paired my food. So, what I found more often than not is that flavors were getting muddled. When I wasn’t having mimosas at brunch, I was tasting and enjoying the hell outta my food way more than when my tastebuds had been dampened by bubbles. And, drinking those beers at Ballast Point, I was actually able to taste the different notes and flavors they mentioned when I didn’t have a bite of food in my mouth in between each sip.

LESSON #2: We really don’t want to/think about drinking as often as we were drinking

I partially blame the holidays for this one, and I also blame TV. I know I am an “in sight, in stomach” type of person, and my God, sitcom characters toss back a lot of booze. So, yeah, on my fourth episode in to a mini-binge of The Office, I found myself reaching for a beer out of habit (and maybe a bit of fictional camaraderie). But in January, once I had this challenge in front of me, it was easy to acknowledge where this habit had come from and come up with strategies to break it.

Our goal going forward: no more than one drink on one weeknight (Monday through Thursday) — so, if we have a glass of wine on #WineWednesday, then no booze on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday at all.

LESSON #3: I need to chill out, and not with calories

So, this was an interesting thing that happened that I totally didn’t understand until late in the month… But, I realized, I was replacing my glass of wine/whiskey with dessert. A square of chocolate, a slice of cake, a brownie, some cookies, whatever. And I realized I was always doing this around the exact same time every evening.

What I had started doing – probably years ago, when I was still working in an office – was using a cocktail (and then, this January, a dessert/sweet of some kind) as a literal transition from “work day” into “relaxing for bed.” There was this moment of caloric intake that said to me “Okay, your day is really done now. Take a deep breath, unclench your shoulders, and go chill out for a bit.

I still haven’t totally figured out how to make this transition WITHOUT sugar or booze, but now at least I’m aware of it and know it’s something for me to work on.

So that’s what #Dry(ish)January taught me. Did you do #DryJanuary in 2019? Have you done it before? Would you try it in 2020? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, or tweet me at @ThatColette!