Dry January already? Man, it feels like I've only just sent off my donations for Stoptober and No-fun-vember. These purgatorial "guilt-giving through denial" holidays just fly by...
But seriously, it's January, you're in a reflective, self-improving mood. You want 2017 to be the year you lose weight, gain a six pack and start living life with all the joie de vivre of the characters in a toothpaste advert. I get that. But stop and think for a minute; how does giving up drinking for thirty-one consecutive days actually help you achieve this?
Beyond that, what about everyone else? Don't you want to see your friends, avoid becoming a clean living, straight-edge bore, and support local independent businesses? Well then, here are a few reasons you may want to reconsider flinging yourself wholeheartedly onto the wagon this January.
1. Your bar needs you.
January is a lean month for the hospitality industry. It's cold and miserable; everyone ate, drank and spent too much at Christmas. Although plenty of high-end establishments opt to close down for the whole month to carry out some renovations or just unwind, January can be a hard month to survive at the cheaper end of the industry. It's not as if the average bar can just choose to send all its staff home for an entire month (or that those staff can afford to eat if they do).
Beyond this, the industry as a whole is struggling. People are eating out and drinking less for a whole variety of reasons. Despite a buoyant craft beer and cocktail revival, there has been an 11% fall in the number of venues in the US in the last ten years; in the UK, 20 pubs are closing every week.
If you want your pub to be there when you need it, you need to give some thought to being there when they need you, and January is probably the time they need you most.
2. It's cold and miserable
January is grim. It has worse weather than December and doesn't even have the grace to offer you the warmth and joy of the holidays at the end of it. Everyone is looking for somewhere cosy and inviting to hang out, and where better than the convivial hearth of the bar?
Fine, not everyone's local is the stereotypical country pub, with a roaring fire and fresh roast potatoes on the bar, but you don't have to look far to find an invitingly lit and cosy city centre pub, or a warm and snug basement bar.
At the very least, wouldn't you rather be using their central heating than paying for your own this month?
3. Your friends will be insufferable.
Face it, we all have at least one friend who will be on some super-keen detox month of grim insufferability. They're not going to be any fun to hang out with, certainly not to eat out with, with all that "did you know kale is high in toxic heavy metals," and "seriously, how did you not know that cabbage can cause hypothyroidism?!" Avoid them altogether and go to the pub. No one will judge you for ordering a pint of IPA instead of a carrot-ginseng smoothie.
4. There's no point going to the gym anyway.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of everything in moderation. I eat well, I exercise, I drink in moderation. I just don't like to make a big fuss about it. And have you tried going to the gym in January? It's insufferable. Newbies everywhere, getting in your way, filling up your favourite classes with their enthusiasm, increasing your waiting time for every machine, breaking the equipment, hogging the gear and generally taking up space.
January is a month for comfort eating and taking time out from your regular regime. You can hit the gym in February once it starts getting light at a decent hour again. Your body isn't going to mind a few weeks of semi-hibernation.
5. Tryanuary is fun
Tryanuary is an independent campaign to get consumers out and discovering new independent breweries and venues in January. If the winter months are tough for the well-known spots, think how tough they must be for the little guys.
Why not hit the local bottle shop and try something a little out of your comfort zone? Track down your local brewery and drop by for a chat? Head to the pub and ask them about their local guest ales? Chances are, all of these are hard-working independent businesses will be extra grateful for your support this month.
6. There's no real health benefit anyway.
Now don't get me wrong: I don't want you to think this whole article is an excuse for you to go out and get shitfaced every night until February. I have images now of people lurching out of pubs at closing time, or getting into rows with concerned significant others; "Alex said it was OK. I'm supporting my local brewery".
Far from it.
Drink in moderation. All year round. Drink in moderation in December, and drink in moderation in January. There's no significant benefit to your health of going cold turkey for 31 days at the start of the year if February to December is one long blur of pints, shots and riots. In fact, there is a distinct possibility that if you're teetotal in January you may fall off the wagon with an extra large bump in February.
Although I appreciate that Dry January does do some good by raising awareness of the need for moderation, this message is massively diluted in the counterproductive suggestion that consumption should be a choice between feast or famine.
Your liver does not need a detox, your liver is your detox, and any benefits of a month off will be rapidly undone by a week of unhealthy drinking straight after.
Take a few nights off each week, not 31 nights off a year, and you'll get all of the health benefits while keeping the industry in good spirits, not being the bore at the party, and still being able to sip a local craft beer by an open fire in grey January.
As for the sponsorship? The charities will take your donation: You don't even need to tell anyone.