Lessons from my Dry January

Rain blanketed San Francisco throughout January but it was dry for me. No alcohol for 31 days. Both easy and annoying. I know many people who make this commitment annually, well-before someone dubbed it “Dry January” (or just #Dryuary).

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I had imagined a cinema-like moment where my right hand would reach for the whiskey bottle and my left hand would slap it away, but the temptation never beckoned. Alcoholism flows in my family and I sure like drinking. My internal deal is that I keep a close watch on the booze. If it ever becomes a problem, I’m going 12-step.

I don’t sink my emotions into the bottle and I don’t indulge in sessions of wine therapy when things get tough. I committed to Dry January because during November and December I ended up drinking a couple of glasses of wine each night. I felt sloppy. I didn’t like where the path was heading.

A few days into 2019, I discovered the land of deep sleep. I felt more focused in the daytime. I got significantly more work done. I sorted out new art projects, I banged out tedious grants, my meetings energized rather than depleted me. I didn’t feel overwhelmed as I often do. I felt clear in my intentions. I felt in balance. The effect cumulated.

And…I missed the socializing. I missed the taste of a French red loaded with tannins. I missed dressing up and going out for a cocktail date. The dinner parties where I was dry, while enjoyable, didn’t have quite that epic feeling of social joy. In January, I holed up and nurtured my introverted side, a smaller version of me. Most importantly, I didn’t feel like my genuine self.

What’s the balance between alcohol and not? I’ve been reading about Mindful Drinking, which seems to have several variations. Feel free to rabbit hole on this search term.

My interpretation is this: before ordering or pouring a drink, ask yourself: How does this serve me?

When I go to an art opening, I often head towards the free wine corral and pour myself a glass, before any social exchange. Alcohol acts as both social lubricant and social crutch. However, I’m a slightly worse conversationalist in this particular situation: with a loose networks of friends of varying degrees of intimacy with a lot of chaotic traffic flow. So, at art openings, probably not.

This Saturday night, I went to a social dance party-thing, where I knew only a few people, other than my date. It’s an intimate circle and I’m new to that community of creative thinkers and warm folks. I feel more rigid without drinking. Perhaps the conversations are better, but my personal vibe feels off. I’m a little less relaxed. Saturday night, I wanted to unwind a bit, smile, laugh and integrate. Two glasses of wine served me well.

How does this drink serve me? Make it a quick question. Answer yes or no and then drink or not. It’s simple, but takes mostly practice and a smidge of discipline.

And, as a good friend of mine points out, if you’re on the fence about having another drink, then the answer is always no.

As a practicing artist, who wants to amplify creativity, when does drinking help? Very rarely. Drinking makes me sloppy and unstructured. Lateral thinking, as opposed to linear thinking is what I need for increased creativity. Drinking certainly shatters linear-thinking, but the resulting journey is a meandering path of randomness.

My next inquiries will be into thinking more laterally and less literally. What are the spaces and mindsets that make this happen? Alcohol is clearly not one of them. The research begins.

Written by

New media artist and researcher. Art + Science Avid book-reader. www.kildall.com

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