Change Becomes You
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Change Becomes You

Dry January: I Didn’t Drink or Use Facebook for a Month. What Did I Gain?

I don’t know how long Dry January has been a thing, but I first became aware of it a couple of years ago when probably one of the biggest daily drinkers I know suddenly announced to our group that he was going to do it. After the initial good natured ribbing from all of us, including laying odds of if he would make it, I have to admit I admired him a little. Just a little. Not enough to actually join him or anything crazy like that, but good for him.

As for getting off Facebook for a month, I first want to say it was not a political statement. I have known others that have done it. I have even laughed when they post that they are not going to post for awhile. I decided to do in back in December but admittedly wanted to get through the Christmas picture season before going cold turkey. Consider it one last binge but I mean, I sure didn’t want to miss all my friends and casual acquaintances in their pajamas posting pictures of their kids new presents.

I will say up front that I did not fully complete either of these challenges, but I came damn close. I logged onto my Facebook account exactly one time in January. My wife told me about a friend of mine that had posted something to my timeline and it was important to me to jump on, read it, thank my friend, and get back out. As for the not drinking part, there was, on a couple of occasions, when a drink was called for, but I stopped at one each time.

Of the two vices, I assume most people would think the drinking would be the greater of the two evils but what I learned made me think I am not so sure about that. I do not consider myself an alcoholic, but I do like to have a night cap with his wife frequently, a drink or two when we go to dinner, and a few socially when we go out with friends. I have been drinking for over 30 years now and some of my best times and some of my worst times have revolved around that consumption. A few times in adulthood I have considered stopping all together, either for brief stints of wanting to lose weight and get healthy or because I thought it was the “right thing to do”. These trivial moments of nobility generally didn’t last more than a week or so. I enjoy having a cocktail and I make no apologies for that.

Facebook, on the other hand, was a relatively new habit. I have been a user for a few years now, but I wasn’t an “early adopter”. I seriously first created an account because my grandmother had one and kept tabs on all of us. I didn’t want to fall behind in the race to be the best grandchild. At first, I was pretty picky about who I “friended” and who I “accepted” as a friend. I remember kidding with one of my pals because of some of the people he had on his “friend” list and he replied simply that he was a “Facebook slut” and would accept anybody as a friend. We had a good chuckle about that. But in time, I accepted people I barely knew or worse yet, people I didn’t even really like.

Over the last couple of years, I found myself following Facebook more and more often. It is on my phone, and I would check it multiple times a day. I would wonder to myself why people were posting while they were at work until I admitted I was checking it at work. Just like a middle schooler, I posted pictures, waited to see how many “likes” I had and who they were. I would look at other people’s post and who was liking them (and who wasn’t). I would get frustrated with people I didn’t agree with and found myself aligning with people I barely knew. The arguments and rude comments are just ridiculous. Then there was the whole jealousy syndrome. I mean almost everyone’s life on Facebook is perfect. How do they afford those vacations, cars, and homes? Basically, while trying to stay “connected” to friends and family, it was slowly making me feel worse about myself. I tried to keep up. I liked to brag on my kids accomplishments and show off pictures of my beautiful wife. I enjoy reading about my friends and seeing what all they are up to but more and more I was scrolling for untold mindless amounts of time and found myself doing less of other things I enjoyed. I wasn’t as active as I use to be. I didn’t read real books as much. I started to wonder if I still had any real friends.

As for the drinking…that original friend I mentioned, does Dry January every year, but instead of doing it by himself, several of us joined him this year. We still took some good natured teasing from the rest of the group, but that is what real friends do. Our group has had regular “google hangout” happy hours because we are spread the country and I look forward to the next one now that it is February. I will make a stiff drink, log-in, and share some stories and some laughs with the same group of people I have been doing that with for over 30 years.

So what did I learn in Dry January? I think what I learned is that it is much more difficult to give up something that brings you joy (drinking) than it is to give up something that brings you down (Facebook). I haven’t missed Facebook at all. I took it off my phone. I don’t plan to close my account because I have a lot of good friends and family and I do want to keep up with them and occasionally share what is going on in my life with the world, but I haven’t missed it. And you know what is humbling? I am pretty sure Facebook hasn’t missed me. If anyone noticed I wasn’t posting they haven’t mentioned it to me, but that is a whole other essay. To be clear, I am not against Facebook. It has a lot of great things (in moderation) and I am not against drinking (also in moderation). But the most important thing is this: Cut out the time sucking crap that doesn’t enhance your life. It doesn’t matter if it is social media or something else, when you spend too much time doing something that doesn’t add value to your life you lose something you never get back. Maybe that is the whole point of Dry January to begin with. To stop doing something that is not good for you! With sincere apologies to those that struggle with alcoholism or have friends that do, drinking was not my problem, but I think what I gained this month by giving these things up is something I really already knew…I would much rather drink with a my wife, my parents, or a few close friends than hang out with a bunch of strangers. That reminder alone was worth the month.

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Dr. Robert Thornell

Dr. Robert Thornell

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As a husband, father of five in a blended family, and an educator for 25+ years, I have seen, heard, and experienced a great life. I just love sharing ideas!