Somewhere in a busy life, someone says ‘try something new’. The someone is me, telling myself ‘Slow down, look around at what you see and think hard about what the next decade could bring – do life differently’.

I am now the age that my mother was when she died, and that sure brings mortality into focus. Last year, three friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, and over drinks the questions come about lifestyle risks. Too easy to say ‘well, only 30% of breast cancer after menopause is related to lifestyle’, too difficult to say ‘let’s make the next one a soft drink’*. 

January is my month for reflection about all things healthy – mind and body and that includes drinking. Forget New Year’s resolutions’ this is time to identify resolutions for a new decade! I’ve ‘done’ dry January, for six years in a row and it gets easier, more people take part and even the industry now provides support (as well as making profits). It is relatively easy to substitute the alcoholic drink, but what is it we really need to substitute ? What is it that alcohol gives and how do we replace that ? 

The answer to that question takes me down a whole other road. For me, drinking is about relaxing, switching off, free flow conversation, being generous of spirit, culinary adventures and sharing good times with friends and family. Dry January gives me licence to explore new ways to achieve these without alcohol. 

Challenge number 1 – Staying dry whilst others drink – not because you miss the booze but because you can actually see/hear what folk look like as they get drunk. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always human.

Challenge number 2 – Relaxing on a Friday night at the end of a mega tough week. I’ve rediscovered the habit of taking a deliciously long bath -with carefully selected music, audible book or my nearest and dearest attending to my back (!)

Challenge number 3 – Dining out and selecting the wine to match. As it happens jasmine tea tastes lots better with Chinese food.

Challenge number 4 – Hearing the conversation stop when you say the words Dry January.  Only momentarily as I pick up the threads about the joys of discovering a new lens on the world which includes a clearer brain for longer in the day and waking refreshed every morning

Challenge number 5 – Being the host for a conference dinner. So, we agreed to a set wine ratio, if people wanted more, they paid. Strangely enough the food tasted good.

Challenge number 6 – Seeking a treat. I’ve long ago given up chocolates and cakes so the fun then is what might I get with money I am saving. Complete indulgence has come in the form of six new houseplants along with the retrieval of a long-forgotten book on things to grow indoors and a visit to a fab café/plant shop …who needs to find a new bar ??

Challenge number 7 – facing the end of January. Comes around every year …. and so too does a new habit …. I’m keeping the Friday night baths (with the new plants to keep me company!). February brings Valentine’s day and I see the gin companies are promoting pink gins alongside floral blooms – in readiness for those leaving Dry January behind- that’s one we could definitely live without – #dontpinkmydrink

Actually, one of the best things about Dry January  is reminding myself that I do have some will power. Setting a goal (whether its alcohol free for a day, week, month or longer) and achieving it feels great. Getting older won’t always be fun with less energy (or cash) to do new things but if cutting alcohol helps me enjoy the next decade that little bit more then count me in!

Annie Anderson, Co-Director SCPN

*for more about alcohol and cancer in Scotland see Alcohol and cancer risk – a guide for Health Professionals

Images: Unsplash