Dry January – Week 1: Yoga & Meditation Instead Of Wine?

by Ceylan Kumbarji
dry january, drinking, mindfulness, wine, headspace, yoga, cancer research, cancer research UK Taylor Magazine Minimalist guide to life

 Week One – Dry January 

 I decided to do Dry January after a solid three months of weekend getaways, day-drinking for special occasions and more missed yoga classes due to hangovers than I’d like to admit to. As someone who has been trying to practise mindfulness and commit to daily yoga sessions for a while, I’ve noticed that in all honestly, I probably drink more than I should.
I haven’t always been a big drinker. Even when I hit 18, I wasn’t the first to go to a club and drink copious amounts of weird named cocktails. It was more when I turned 19 that I began to drink a little bit more. A glass of Prosecco turned to two glasses, which turned to three which turned to a bottle (and then some). At the start of my relationship with alcohol, I vividly remember that I couldn’t drink more than one glass without feeling a bit tipsy and not in control of myself. That was weird. Then my alcohol tolerance grew and grew, and I found I loved the taste. I never just drank to get drunk. I drank because I selected drinks that I genuinely enjoyed drinking.
While I do drink often, I don’t think I drink a lot. I don’t drink a bottle of wine every night or six gins before bed. Saying that, I have found that the phrase, “Today was hard! Shall we go for a drink?” has become a common occurrence. It does make a long, gruelling day that little bit brighter. It has helped me feel lighter in situations that previously would have stressed me out to the maximum. It also gives me that ‘fake alcohol’ confidence where I think I’m invincible and have had enough to drink that I’ve successfully escaped reality – until I wake up the next morning feeling like an elephant is tap dancing on my head. Then, I’m kicking myself for not utilising that well-known trick of drinking a bottle of water before bed.
But, it’s a part of life. When I wake up that morning feeling terrible, so do most of my friends. When I ask someone I haven’t seen in a while what we should do when we meet up, it’s very rare that alcohol isn’t part of the equation. And that is definitely seen as normal by most millennials and people I know. I was well aware when I decided to stop drinking for a month that I would probably see my friends less. The most stressful month of the year for a lot of them wouldn’t be the best time to offer them a cup of tea instead of a nice, cold beer. Nonetheless, I decided a break was needed and made the choice to fill my evenings with yoga and ab workouts. I came up with alternative ideas for seeing friends, like the cinema or restaurants.

Why this year?

Well, simply put 2016 wasn’t great. It was easily the worst year of my life to date and this was the case for a lot of people close to me. I used alcohol more than ever before to lift me out of a bad mood and would cancel exercise classes (way too often) in exchange for pub nights with friends. The things that I should have been doing to stay healthy and fill myself with good energy were being ignored and avoided. When I went to see my therapist after day-drinking at a Christmas lunch and didn’t tell her that I was sort of tipsy, guilt kicked in. While alcohol is a normal part of life and makes socialising, connecting and enjoying Sunday lunch even better, it does alter us. And for the first time, I could see that. I noticed people close to me drinking most days of the week in what some had admitted was to mask their feelings and ignore the everyday mess and stress of life.
Personally, I would drink 4+ times a week and most times I wouldn’t wake up with a hangover but with a slightly clouded feeling. I was curious to see what I was like without alcohol. Would it make a huge difference? Would I be the same, but just less bubbly on nights out? Or would I realise I was massively dependent on my end-of-the-day wine and aspire to change that?

The idea of taking a month off from alcohol in my mind was less like a detox and more a chance to go into 2017 with a clear mind. A break from something is also less intense than knowing you can never go back to it. Although I knew it would be difficult, this week hasn’t been easy. I wasn’t really prepared for the lack of red wine at dinner. Or the annoyance when I realised I couldn’t have a beer. Not even just one.

“A month of not drinking won’t be so hard.”

This was my first thought when I woke up on Christmas Day and spent my first ever one with a hangover. But, a week in and I wanted a drink with dinner. I went out for a friend’s leaving drinks and a club environment as a stone cold sober person is not fun – I was yawning by 11pm. Much harder than I thought. I know a lot of people who don’t drink much or at all, including people my age. Believe it or not, there are some millennials (and actual old, grownups) who don’t like it. Whether it’s the taste or how it makes them feel, it’s not for everyone. It once wasn’t for me.
I started to wonder what I could do instead of spending Sunday’s in bed, feeling sorry for myself because I snoozed my alarm and missed pilates for the third time in a row. Would I be super productive on that day? Would I spend more time with family? Would I take up a new hobby or just make time for my existing ones? Instead of drinking being the key way of spending time with friends, would I find better ways to socialise? Perhaps one that didn’t end in 6 martini’s and a very costly Uber home.

My good deed

I decided to try and raise £200 for Cancer Research UK during my Dry January. The donations started rolling in from friends and family when I sent out my message on the 1st of January. Now, 12 days in I’ve already hit 80% of my target. I’m reminded of why I chose to do Dry January for a charity, instead of just for myself. I’ve always believed that we are bigger than just the individual. Sure, doing things for yourself is great and important and needed for a balanced life. But as Joey wisely points out in Friends, “There is no selfless good deed.”
I knew that if I made the month of not drinking about something other than my intrigue and need for headspace, I could actually make a difference and utilise the support of people around me who wanted to donate and be involved. In retrospect, my issues in 2016 were nothing compared to what some people go through. That’s not to minimise my own struggles and hardships but raising money for people with a life-threatening illness who go through such hard times on a daily basis put things into perspective.

I won’t lapse. Not because I don’t have urges and cravings but because already I have exercised more days than I haven’t. I’m eating better, saving money and today is day 5 (in a row) of practicising mindfulness. The money I’m raising is going to a good cause that will hopefully change lives, even if it’s only in a small way. My heart is so heavy with love for people who are supporting me.

For myself, I want to see how/if I change. If my mood is better, if I manage to stick to more exercise, if I feel healthier. Maybe the yoga will replace the glass of wine that I’ve become so used to having (and have probably successfully mentioned five times in this article). Learning and understanding myself better is an on-going process but spending most of 2016 in a weird alcohol-induced haze has made me even more intrigued to see if I can do it and maintain positivity and a better state of mind. 12 days down, 19 to go.

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