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How to Not Be an Asshole if You’re Doing Dryuary

Quitting booze for one month a year doesn’t make you a hero.
Photo via Flickr user Orin Zebest

I, like many others who went far too hard on the rum and eggnogs in December, will be ringing in 2017 with Dryuary, aka Drynuary, the annual tradition Urban Dictionary describes as "the art of not drinking alcohol for the entire month of January." And it's an art indeed.

This is my third year doing Dry January, and it hasn't gotten any easier, particularly when going out. I wouldn't say I'm a big-time drinker, but I am a big-time extrovert, so not going out is not really an option for me. Plus, people have birthdays in January, and I'd be a shitty friend if I ditched them for a night of Netflix on the couch.


So I've tried to continue going out during my sober month, contrary to what some Dryuary observers suggest. But for anyone who hasn't gone to a club or a bar without any intoxicants, I'll tell you that it can be straight up horrifying. You notice things that you wouldn't when you're wasted. Like, your once delightful female friend now has makeup smeared all over her face and is moving around like one of those air dancers at a car dealership. Your buddy is making you deaf in one ear and spilling his drink.

Even in dive bars where drunk you usually digs the décor, sober you needs to plug your nose from the pungent stink and wonders how long that chewed up piece of gum has been there.

But do you know what the worst part about Dryuary is? You can act like a judgmental asshole, as I just sounded above. Now that I realize how much of a prick I was, I wondered what other ways I might come off as an asshole on Dryuary, so I asked around for some advice for how not to be an asshole while being temporarily sober.

Treat your bartender well.

Sabrina Martin has been doing Dryuary for six or seven years and she doesn't have the option of just staying in because she works in a bar.

"Serving drinks all night, being in that atmosphere… you can't avoid it like most people do when they do a dry month," Martin told me.

The nine-year bartender says her clients don't take too kindly when she tells them she's doing a sober month.


"The hardest part is when people offer me drinks and insist all evening. If I say no, they really get upset if I don't drink with them even after I explain. It's like they see it as a challenge to make me drink."

But, that's exactly the reason she does it.

"[I don't do it] so much for the detox but for the personal challenge. To see that I can do whatever I want and that alcohol doesn't control my life even though I am surrounded by it all the time."

If you're going out to the bar sober, Martin's advice is to still order something. For her, sometimes it's a non-alcoholic beer, which helps you avoid the whole Dryuary conversation. Otherwise, a Sprite or a Coke with lime can fool anybody that you're drunk like the rest of the hot mess around you.

"I always do free refills for DDs (designated drivers) and people that don't drink if they explain it and are nice to me, but I definitely get annoyed if you order nothing at all," said Martin. "Just get a bottle honestly. You are still taking up my seat and I still have to make sales or my managers get mad at me."

Whatever you do, make sure you tip your bartender, whether you're drinking booze or not.

Do other stuff.

Twenty-four-year-old Gabe Gilker is doing Dryuary this year and has some experience since she did six-months sober a few years back [full disclosure: she used to write for VICE Canada]. Gilker told me that sobriety never stopped her from going out, but it was tough.

"I was definitely more conscious about my own body and how it was positioned," she said. "I found it really hard to appear comfortable in the bar when I was sober. I also started to notice that all my cutie bar crushes might have been slightly influenced by beer goggles. It was slightly horrifying."


But Gilker says she has found other things to do instead of getting wasted and actually decreased her FOMO.

"The fear of missing out begins to subside when you go to bars sober and realize that the same thing happens every night. And instead I found myself having productive and awesome hangs at my house which ended up being way more beneficial for my health."

When I asked her about how not to be an asshole during Dryuary, she said the warning should be sent to people who aren't doing it instead.

"Personally, I tend to think that it's the drunk people that are being assholes towards the sober people, constantly asking them 'why' or 'what the fuck?' or even outright calling them 'pussies' or something else ridiculous," she said.

So the advice I take from Gilker is to go have a board game night, go skating or out for a walk—there's other shit to do besides turning into a drunk zombie. And most of all, ignore your douchey friends who try to peer pressure you.

Don't be a lazy dater.

Your cuffing season partner is probably gone by now because you realized you can't actually stand each other, so you're probably back to swiping. As a matter of fact, January 8th, is the most popular day of the year to swipe, according to Tinder.

So what do you do on a first date if you can't go to your favorite dive bar and drink some liquid courage?

"Believe it or not, there are alcohol-free environments out there; escape rooms, which are bundles of fun, for example," said Laura Bilotta, a Toronto-based dating coach who has been helping people hook up for 13 years.


Bilotta also recommends tourist attractions, museums, haunted tours if your city has one and plain old cafes.

"It's not where you go or what you do that concerns you, it's how you can manage to be yourself and appear interesting when you don't have that liquid courage to quell your inhibitions," she said. "Realize that everybody has some form of dating anxiety and that your sober self would be 'exposed' eventually, if you get past the first date."

Be creative, Dryuary shouldn't make your dates dry, too.

Don't be preachy.

So you're taking a month off drinking—good for you. Dryuary is not really better for your health. Just like a diet, you'll probably just return to binge drinking three nights a week like you did before. A better idea is probably to just cut down on the nights you get shitfaced.

And how much do people like it when vegans and fitness nuts preach their healthy life gospel? Yeah, that's what I thought.

On the flip side, Dryuary haters need to give it a rest, too. Even if it's better to give up drinking, or drink less, obviously taking a month off is something of a feat. People that do Dryuary are definitely going to save some money and might even shed a few pounds. Heck, they're challenging themselves to step outside their comfort zone and that's cool in and of itself.

And those dad jokes about drinking "dry" gin/beer/wine instead of doing the sober month? Just don't.

So Dryuary people, here's my last piece of advice to you. Pretend like you're drunk or do whatever you have to do and enjoy the fact that you're saving money for the month.

Now good luck, you'll need it to drink the rest of the year.