• Jon Matthews

Dry January (part one)

I've never really been one for these month long fads before but for reasons of self-improvement and as a bit of a social experiment I have decided that through 2018 I am going to undertake a series of month long challenges.

First up is one that everybody seems to be doing: Dry January.

After the excesses of Christmas and New Year it does seem logical to take part in a period of temperance and it is often combined with dieting and renewed enthusiasm for the gym. Being the 57.15kg cowboy, dieting is not for me, but a month without alcohol is probably a good thing for everybody. Alcohol is bad for the liver, the pancreas and causes all sorts of digestive problems. The chemicals it breaks down into in our bodies also damages our DNA. It is the cause of all kinds of social problems which cost the tax payer millions of pounds every year. It has often been said that if alcohol was a new drug there is no way it would be legal.

That said, I do like a nice pint of cider.

My friends often mock me for drinking slowly and the reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, being a cider drinker instead of a larger drinker, what I'm drinking actually tastes nice and I want to enjoy it. Secondly, being a cider drinker instead of a larger drinker, what I'm drinking is actually a lot stronger than what you are drinking. So shut the fuck up! (Who said alcohol makes people aggressive?)

I have given up alcohol for similar periods of time before, though not in several years and not since I've started comedy. For a lot of people giving up alcohol in January, they are able to easily avoid temptation by avoiding pubs and bars. For me, unless I take a month off comedy (no), that is simply not possible, as the vast majority of comedy gigs occur in an environment where alcohol is readily available.

Many comedians will drink when they perform, maybe one before as relaxant and one after as a celebration. Though I sometimes do have a drink or two when I perform I can easily go without and often do, choosing to eat wine gums or fruit pastels and drink water instead. When I do drink I try to avoid too much before I go up, as I don't want the alcohol to lessen the quality of my performance – though sometimes it is nice to have one to get into the spirit of things, especially if I want to enjoy watching the other acts. The social element of having a drink and hanging around afterwards, is for me a far bigger temptation that any kind of 'loosen the nerves' drink beforehand. That said, in the past I have been more than capable of socialising on a night out without alcohol. When I was going to a lot of metal nights, many moons ago, I would often drink squash and this is perhaps a habit I should embrace at comedy nights.

I like having a drink from time to time and I believe that the pub trade is an important one to support in this country and I don't feel the need to alter my leisure drinking habits long term, as I don't really think of myself as a big drinker. However, if there is something I can achieve through Dry January, I would like to break the habitual link between alcohol and comedy and become more able to resist the temptation of a post-performance pint. Last month (on my birthday no less) I performed in a cafe and afterwards I treated myself to a hot chocolate and a bit of cake and I probably enjoyed it just as much as I would have enjoyed a pint of cider.

I'm sure that there will be challenging moments but as Dry January is fairly popular, I don't anticipate finding myself under pressure to drink at all and anticipate it being a good start to my monthly challenges. I will post again at the end of the month how I found it, especially from a comedy point of view, and anything the experience has taught me.

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