Sportswoman with arms up celebrating success

The prospect of a new year is a pretty exciting. It brings with it the opportunity to try something new and different, to better oneself, to improve those family ties after fucking up royally at Christmas or to quite simply give up booze for the month of January.

(Note: if you’re headed to Punta del Este for the new year, realistically you might want to bounce over to February)

The end of the year tends to be one booze fuelled festive shit-show of belligerence and wrongdoing after another. Many seek comfort in the false promise to give up alcohol in the new year only to get to day 5 and say “screw this, i’ll have a pint of vodka”.

If you’re a heavy drinker, 31 days alcohol-free may seem daunting but like anything in life, good things don’t come easily and being prepared and knowing what to expect will make the experience more manageable and hopefully yield a whole lot of awesomeness.

Let’s start with the not-so-obvious positives shall we, of which there are many!

Clarity

In the 18 months following my bow-out from alcoholism, I have changed my profession, obtained a diploma, upgraded girlfriends, set up my own business, saved a fortune and chiselled myself a six pack. 31 days will probably not be enough to achieve all of above but it could be just enough to get you to sign up to that salsa class you so frequently speak of.

Sundays

Open the blinds, delete your local chinese-food delivery from speed dial and forget about the typical 12 hour duration of cringe-worthy flashbacks and festival of dry heaves. For January at least.

Sunday will take on a whole new meaning. It’s a day of pleasure, a day of productivity, a day of rest before the week starts. It’s the best fucking day of the week! Not only will it make the weekend seem longer, it’ll mentally prepare you for the week ahead.

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Better Sex and a more solid performance

You may feel like a champion but i’m sorry to break it to you lads, Alcohol does not turn you into durk diggler, sobriety does (eventually). Giving up the juice even for just a short time will decrease your chance of an all too familiar visit from Mr. floppy. Sex with an unaltered state of mind is a drug in it’s own right. Ladies, while you don’t have to worry about erectile functioning – it is safe to say that both sets of equipment work better when not inhibited by the devil’s drink. Regardless what you’re working with, now that you’ve stopped drinking it’s time to get some!

Better sleep

Sure, you don’t struggle to fall asleep when pissed (or drunk for you norteamericanos), but you don’t sleep well either. This is because alcohol disrupts REM, and in turn, causes daytime drowsiness and poor concentration. Relish in waking up before the rest of the world and enjoy the city in one of its rare and peaceful states.

A trimmer waistline

I think we all know the calorie content of alcohol and for many this would be reason enough to give up the juice for a while. Not only does not drinking reduce calorie intake, it reduces your appetite too. You can still have your 5am kentucky pizza, just make it guilt free and without the hangover that follows.

A fatter wallet

Work out what you spend monthly on alcohol and start spending it on treating yourself. A weekend away would be the perfect reward for your efforts. If you prefer to indulge more regularly, take yourself out for dinner, book a massage, or splurge on that over-priced argentine designer clothing you’ve been eying.

Now with any sort of vice, giving up the firewater even for a short time can bring about a few challenges.

Here’s what to expect:

Awkward / Uncomfortable Social situations

If you’re the sort of person that makes the bar the first port of call upon arrival to any social setting my advice to you is don’t change, just make it a non-alcoholic version of your favorite drink. It’s not the alcohol itself that helps you relax, it’s the belief that it does. Just having a drink in your hand, regardless of what’s in it will help you feel at ease. Bars in the land of fernet and pricey cocktails don’t often offer many mocktail menus, but just order your fav drink minus the booze.

If you truly doubt your ability to make it through a night or even a social situation without an alcoholic drink in toe, lay low for the first week or two. It gets easier over time.

Anxiety

Alcohol is a great tool to cure momentary anxiety but drink too much too often and it will leave you anxious on a daily basis. If you do experience anxiety during the 31 days, that’s all right. It’s perfectly normal. Get yourself outside, do yoga, read a book, masturbate, and if none of the above work, spend all those extra pesos you’re not hemorrhaging on booze on a weekly visit to phycologist. Not only will it help you get through the experience, it might help with other aspects of your life too. If you’re not up for a shrink, try a massage. There is a way to process and let go of that anxiety. It’s just a question of finding what works for you. 

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The dreaded “why aren’t you drinking?”

I get this question repeatedly. Some people are simply offended or feel that you’re simply un-relatable because you choose not to drink alcohol. It makes certain individuals feel bad about themselves. Be prepared, they may challenge you and your lifestyle choices. “But Coke Light is far worse for you than alcohol”. If you’re not up for a debate on the benefits of alcohol consumption, try one of the following responses: I’m on antibiotics, i’m pregnant, i’m a recovering alcoholic. All of which will do the trick and steer the conversation in a different direction.

Built up tension and perceived inability to deal with it.

If you use booze to help you relax. You’re definitely going to need an alternate vice. Again exercise will help massively. I’ve you’re not already an avid exerciser, try being a fitness freak out for a month.  A few new spotify playlists with some cranked up tunes should help take the edge off. Try taking up a fine food fixation, a nightly skype call with a good friend or eat a choripan or two for lunch (You’ll still not be close to the calorie content of a boozy weekend).

Sex helps offload built up stress, as does masturbation and netflix (though not at the same time).

Friends.

There are friends and then there are “drinking buddies”. Your friends will support you. Your drinking buddies will not. They will either be MIA or avidly trying to persuade you to get pissed with them. In which case you know who you’re friends are! Isolate yourself from your “drinking buddies” for the duration of the month… and do so guilt free. This is about you, not what the rest of the world thinks of you.

Now you know what to expect, you can make a more educated decision. For those of you that do choose to embark on the journey of a dry January, I applaud you and wish you all the best. For those of you that don’t, start with a week per month over the first 4 months of the year. Alternatively watch Nicolas Cage try to kill himself with alcohol in the award-winning film, Leaving Las Vegas and quit foreva-eva-eva. Happy 2016!!

Martin Ebner is a certified personal trainer and the proud owner of Ebylife. Born in Scotland, he decided to give up Haggis, Neeps and Tatties to better his biceps and help others to do the same. When he’s not transforming bodies into works of art you can find him coaching clients and friends through life in a foreign country, emotional breakups and awkward sexual experiences.