Why Everyone's Dry January Is Your Lucky Break | Food Feature | Indy Week
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Why Everyone's Dry January Is Your Lucky Break 

The bar at Foundation in Raleigh

Photo by Ben McKeown

The bar at Foundation in Raleigh

Ah, January: the month of fresh starts, freezing temperatures, and crawling out from beneath mounds of credit card debt.

It's also a popular time for a whole heck of a lot of people to go dry.

Maybe you've never heard of this, in which case you've likely never depended on tips for a living. Or maybe you know it by another name. There's Sober October (which I appreciate for the rhyme, I suppose), and February is another popular month for giving things up because it's the shortest. But by and large, it's all the rage to quit drinking in January, just for the month, just to start the year off on the right foot. Some people do it to purge, some people do it to check themselves, and some people do it to save money. Grandma always said the way you start the New Year is the way you spend it, and I can get behind that. But I will never begin it with a dry January.

First of all, I've never been one for resolutions. Starting off a whole year with a promise I'm not likely to keep just feels like setting myself up for failure. Hi, 2018—it's me again, blowing it.

No, thank you.

Secondly, if you make your living in the service industry, when everyone decides all at once to abstain from going out, it can get tricky. One friend jokes that he could take the whole month off and he'd probably make the same amount of money. When I was bartending, Dry January meant scraping through the beginning of a new year on whatever I could manage to set aside during the holiday season. Everyone else deciding to suddenly become frugal created a forced frugality for me, which is fine and good, but, you know, there's rent.

I get it that it's important to take a break. It's important to reset. And if you know other people doing it, it can be a bit easier to join in. New year, new you. But someone out there already likes the you that exists, so why do you need a totally new one? In theory, we should be focused on constant and consistent personal growth, not just setting aside our demons for one little month out of the year to prove that we can. I've seen a lot of people successfully pull off a sober January only to hit it harder than ever once the month was up, and I'm not sure that's doing anyone any favors.

We should focus less on how cutting back on drinks also cuts calories, or how to have fun on a date without booze, and talk more about why so much dialogue at the moment revolves around ways to "get through" a month of being sober. I know plenty of people who don't drink at all, ever, and they're loads of fun. They still go out and enjoy themselves. It turns out you don't have to drink to be an active part of a community.

So, a proposal, if you will: This year, instead of cutting out drinking for a whole month and trying to spend less money by eating at home and pinching your pennies so tightly that your fingers bleed, take advantage of everyone else's resolution to do the exact opposite. Fewer people out means shorter wait times at restaurants and bars and smaller crowds. Maybe you won't have to fight your way through waves of bodies to get a beer for once. Maybe you can finally get a dinner reservation at that place people won't shut up about. The kitchen workers are most likely pretty bored, so there's a chance the food could be better than ever. I've even known some chefs to use the month to test potential menu items as specials, so go on out there and get ahead of the culinary curve. While everyone else is at home sad, eating tubs of ice cream in their pajamas (which I promise is not nearly as fun as it sounds), you'll be in the know.

After dinner, treat yourself to a drink, or several! Have a ginger ale or a mocktail if you're taking a break from booze. The person pouring them is probably feeling a bit lonely and will be glad for the company, and you'll probably have the entire place to yourself. If you've got your own set of resolutions for the year, work them into the game plan. Do some jumping jacks; bring a book to read. Bring a friend and have an actual conversation, because it will be quiet and you'll be able to hear each other for once. Do cartwheels. Sit for five seconds at every single barstool, just because you can. Do you. Later, snuggled up in bed, you'll rest easy from a combination of light calisthenics and knowing that every single one of those pennies you were planning to pinch made a difference for the people who took care of you.

And hey, maybe take the opportunity to get to know your bartenders. Do you even know their names? Honestly, how long have you been going to that bar? Probably start there.


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