WELLNESS: Why A Dry January?

By John (J.R.) Richards

So I went in for my annual checkup with the doctor.  I am now at the age where my doctor is a little younger than I am.  I figure that is a good investment because I will be able to retain him for longer as I get older.  We share some of the same enthusiasm for exercise and fitness.  He is more of a runner.  I enjoy jump rope and boxing for cardio stuff.

Doctor visits can be awkward when you are fifty.  They start examining you in new places that are just strange.  So the subject matter of the doctor visit can be uncomfortable.  I just go with it the best I can.

Another subject that came up during that visit was alcohol consumption.  My doctor asked me how much I drink.

Four to five years ago, I fell into the habit of having a beer or a glass of wine most nights of the week and then more on the weekend.  Honestly, it eventually turned into 2-3 most nights.

“It just helps me know who’s boss.”

Our jobs as attorneys are stressful.  We all know about the elevated situation with attorneys and substance abuse.  After talking to the venerable Greg Dorst a few times, it does not take long to realize that the substance abuse problems in the legal community are real, like REALLY REALLY real.

It is not fake news.  It is not even a Tik Tok rumor, which seems to be how my kids get interesting facts to share.

You see, we as attorneys are masters of arguing and deception.  We are good at hiding our weaknesses.  By the time our (the hypothetical us) problems come to light, they are a wound so gaping that absolutely nobody could deny it.

My doctor, instead of lecturing me about alcohol or substance abuse, merely stated that he takes a dry January every year.  “It just helps me know who’s boss.”

The inference I gathered is that alcohol is tough.  It is really hard to know if it has you or it has you.  The lines are gray.

A dry January was my test.  Let me tell you how it went.

The inference I gathered is that alcohol is tough.  It is really hard to know if it has you or it has you.  The lines are gray.

Actually before I start, I have dozens of friends that get inspired and declare they too are having a dry January.  These friends then last like one or two days.  I am not joking.  Not everyone can do it.

The first 1-4 days are honestly jarring.  Your body is sending you signals that things are not right, like there is an itch that needs scratched.  It reminds me of that Kurt Vonnegut book where the used car salesman used to drink until he heard a “ping” sound (Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut).  Your body just wants to hear that “ping.”  Or something like that.

These are the toughest days.  Your anxiety and stress are heightened. You have to be a sort of zealot.  It is comparable but much easier than quitting smoking.

Pour yourself into exercise.  The more cardio the better.  Drink TONS of water.  Do you yourself a favor.  Do not hang out in social situations where you would be tempted to drink.  Do not try to quit more than just booze.  Keep it simple stupid.

Around day four to five, your body starts to feel better.  The only way I can describe it is that you feel clean and…hydrated.  I know that sounds strange but alcohol dehydrates you.  You will feel more energetic.  Take advantage of it.

Also, on the flip side, from day five through ten, you will get a type of panic attacks.  I am not sure if it is physical or psychological or both.  But they will happen.  You will want that fix for booze.  I have the last two years at that stage.

“Well, you need to ask yourself why you feel the need to go dry.”

I recommend checking off a calendar and cheer each day of sobriety.  Depending on your circumstances, it can be a true achievement.  If it was easy, you should still cheer at your success.  Why?  Because you are still the boss.

I remember as a kid, it was not uncommon to hear people being checked-in to the Betty Ford Clinic.  Substance abuse has been around a long time.  It is common, even with very capable people.  It can and does happen to people just like you and me.

Oh, did I mention that alcohol has mad calories and makes you fat.  Stopping drinking is a great way to get those calories in order too.

After the tenth day, staying alcohol free just becomes easier and easier.  You will continue to feel that extra energy boost.  If you are exercising, you will learn to pour your anxiety into the Peloton or  punching bag.  It is truly exhilarating.

You will fall in love with being sober.  Food will taste better.  There will be less lags and lulls to the day of work.  Alcohol will start to feel like a foreign concept, unneeded.

When the end of January rolls around, I usually wonder if I should just keep going.  The first time I did a dry January, I stayed off the booze for another three months and lost a total of forty pounds.

Oh, did I mention that alcohol has mad calories and makes you fat.  Stopping drinking is a great way to get those calories in order too.

Last year, I had put off several happy hours and nights with friends.  I ended up jumping back in at the end of January.  I was still able to pace myself with one or two nights a week.

Anyway, I have done a dry January the last two years.  I love it.  It has been a great way to get rid of my Dadbod and progress to a healthier life.  I would not say I am perfect at it but going dry has really helped me.

I had an attorney friend go one year without any booze.  I did not even know.  What a way to defeat COVID-19.

So I have become friends with Greg Dorst.  He is a consultant with the “Other Bar.”  I had the pleasure of interviewing him not very long ago.  He and David Mann are both former attorneys AND former substance abusers.  They counsel attorneys who have alcohol and substance abuse issues.  You should check out the Other Bar.  They provide a great service.

I once told Greg about my dry January and the fact that I was very proud of it.  He said, “Well, you need to ask yourself why you feel the need to go dry.”

It was a sobering reality.  Maybe I feel the need to go dry because alcohol is already interfering with my life in an unhealthy way.  Maybe it is just a health-check, like my doctor mentioned.  Maybe it is just a personal goal.  I do not think it really matters.  Going dry has helped me in several ways.  I highly recommend it for all people, including attorneys.  We could all use a good shot of health and wellness.  Just look around at your fellow attorneys next time you are in court (should that day ever come) and ask yourself, “are we healthy people?”

A Special Focus on Health and Wellness

Share Your thoughts! Leave a Reply