I never, ever thought I would be the kind of girl to participate in dry January. Ever. In fact, I didn’t even know that “dry January” was even a thing until my friend Lisa told me about it about five years ago. (Before I turned 30 and shit got real).
“Babe. I’ve been drinking sooo much. I think I’m going to do ‘dry January’ this year,” she slurred to me, her English accent still managing to somehow sound posh and lyrical, as she slugged back the remains of her blood-red wine.
“What the hell is ‘dry January’? Does it mean you’re going to rehab in the desert or something?” I asked hopefully because, at the time, I was obsessed with the star-studded A-list rehabs peppered across California, and I knew if anyone was going to spend a month in a chic rehab it would be posh English Lisa. She would probably be roommates with Lindsay Lohan.
“No. It means you’re not drinking for the month of January.” She said, giggling, exposing her wine-stained teeth. “It’s an American thing. You should know.”
“Well, I’m half English so I suppose ‘dry January’ got lost in the thick of the rest of the American gimmicks that I choose to ignore. Why would one do ‘dry January’ anyways?” I spat whilst gazing romantically at the pretty pink bubbles floating around my champagne glass. They sparkled in the moonlight. “Drinking is so much fun.”
Lisa rolled her almond-shaped green eyes. “Wait until you turn 30, babes.” She pushed away her empty wine glass and sighed, wistfully. “Then we’ll talk.”
Whatever. I thought to myself, annoyed. When did Lisa get so boring?
On this particular day, I’m sitting at Bo’s bar on West 24th street, alone, waiting for my best friend Ruba to meet me. I gaze down at my fingers. They look foreign, like they don’t belong on my body. It’s very disorienting.
When did my fingers turn into sausages? I think to myself, shuddering.
Ruba finally arrives, wrapped up in a floor-length fur coat. Her usually bright eyes look vacant. Dead. Like no one is home.
“Where the fuck did you get that coat?” I ask her. “Is it real fur? I thought you gave up real fur after you watched the documentary ‘The Cove’?”
Ruba takes a deep breath. It’s a heavy pregnant sort of breath. She pulls a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of her pocket.
“Since when do you smoke?” I feel my eyes expanding and beginning to pop out of my head as they’re wont to do when I’m in shock. “You can’t smoke in here, girl. Sheesh. Are you awake right now?”
“Oh, right.” She haphazardly stuffs her cigarettes into her beat up Chanel bag. “I’m a mess.”
“I got wasted at The Woods bar in Brooklyn and ended up with this coat. I’m shame spiraling.”
“Well, my fingers look like f*cking sausages if it makes you feel any better.” I shake a bloated finger in her face.
“Damn, they do look swollen. It’s the booze. It’s all the booze. We’ve been on a December Bender and we need to get it together. We’re 30-year old women, now.”
“I’ve drank so much white wine this month I can literally feel sulfates pumping through my blood. It’s disgusting.”
“I’ve been on a white wine diet, honey. My face is puffy, I’ve been smoking cigarettes and wearing fur. Who am I?”
Wait until you turn 30, babes. I hear Lisa’s voice purr inside of my head. Then we’ll talk.
I suddenly understand exactly what Lisa was talking about that fateful night a few years back.
“I have an idea!” I squeak with as much enthusiasm as one can possibly muster in late December when one has been partying for twenty-two consecutive days. “Let’s do dry January!”
Rubes gazes into the distance like she’s looking at something far, far away. (Maybe it was her shameful drunken past. Maybe it was a bleak future. Maybe it was just sheer vacancy as all the boozing had slowed her brain down. Whatever it was, I couldn’t have predicted what my party girl in crime said next.)
“Let’s DO IT!” Ruba shouts so loudly the bartender whips his head around and glares at us.
I glare back at him. “What’s his problem?” I look at Ruba and smile nervously. “Do you think we can actually do it?”
“I’m not sure. But I’m down to try.”
“Me too.” We sip our wine in silence.
Cut to the present: It’s now mid-December, I’m 31, and I can’t wait to do dry January again. Not only did my lush-y best friend and I survive dry January, it changed our lives. I liked it so much, I’m considering doing it for life. In fact, it changed my entire relationship to alcohol and opened me up in ways I would’ve never expected.
I learned so many things during dry January, but it wasn’t easy. Maybe it’s easy for the girl who occasionally sips a glass of chardonnay at a work function…but for those of us *true* party girls — for those of us who regularly pregame with a bottle champagne to the head — for those of us of who inhale “personality drinks” before group dinners — for those of us who are worried they just might be crossing the line and stumbling into the dark side….dry January can be an emotionally loaded experience.
But you’ll get through it. Hell if I can, anybody can. So here are my non-expert, party girl to party girl tips on surviving dry January.
Embark on an entire health reset.
We party girls like to do things in extremes, right? We’ll take the best champagne in the world or no champagne at all. We’re clad in head-to-toe designer or head-to-toe ripped leggings and stained flannel (which, for the record, is a very chic look when executed properly). We’re either wildly flailing around the city or we’re tucked into bed with the latest feminist manifesto, dead asleep by 9 PM.
I know this all too well because I’m a party girl who gets high on the drama of extremes, myself.
In order to make “dry January” feel exciting, it’s imperative that you do an extreme health reset in every aspect of your life. Not only does this make “dry January” more challenging (and what’s more challenging is more stimulating to the easily-bored party girl brain), it helps to speed up the fabulous results of a dry lifestyle.
Drink all the ginger-turmeric-sea-salt-cayenne-cardamom-charcoal juices one can drink without dry-heaving. Ingest gallons of water a day to “flush the system” (that system of yours desperately needs to be flushed of a lifetime of sins, girl). Go to yoga. Treat yourself to a designer pair of leggings from one of those annoyingly pretentious athleisure brands, like Lululemon. Meditate. Go to group therapy. Start reading articles on Goop. Get into the whole Gwenyth Paltrow/Blake Lively bougie-hippy lifestyle and have fun with it.
Do all of the ridiculous antics that the rich beauty gurus recommend like brushing your teeth with charcoal and getting cupping done on your back. You can even document it all on social media the same way you would document all those sinful downtown parties you frequented last year.
Accept that you’re going to learn some pretty brutal life lessons.
One of the strangest, most amazing, yet most harrowing things about sobriety is how jarringly clear everything suddenly becomes. You’re going to feel as if you’ve been walking around the world with blurred vision, only to suddenly wake up one morning with HD glasses on.
You’re going to notice beautiful things you previously ignored, like how the trees sway poetically in the wind in Central Park during a rainstorm and how epically *golden* the light is right before the sun sets in the West Village.
But you’re also going to notice some things that might be hard on your eyes. After all: You can’t open yourself up to all the beauty in the world, without opening yourself up to the darker things too.
You’ll notice how self-absorbed your best friend Mary is and how flaky your good friend Mark is and how mean-spirited your sister is. You might realize that you’re not entirely happy with your job, and that you’ve just been sort of “floating” through the days and you might even question your entire career path.
You might notice things about your relationship. You might notice things about yourself that scare the shit out of you. And you might have some terrifying life epiphanies that you weren’t expecting at all.
These are all good things, I promise! I know it’s scary to face reality when you’ve been lost in the shimmery glitter of the party for so many years, but sooner or later you were going to fall off that pink cloud and land on the cold pavement, anyway. What comes up must come down, it’s a law of gravity. We can’t live up in the sky, no matter how much I wish we could sometimes.
At least you’re walking on the solid ground without having been thrown on to it. Take pride in that you chose the pavement without it choosing you, be strong, and understand that all of this real-life stuff you’re experiencing is you crawling through the mud to get to the other side.
And the other side is brighter and clearer and while it’s not a place in which you’ll find the quick-but-empty fix of chemical happiness, you’ll find something better than any artificial buzz in the world: Authentic happiness. The kind of happiness that’s real. That kind that lasts.
Embrace the feels.
You don’t realize how numb you are when you’re living the majority of your life either hungover, drunk or furiously working. There is no time for feelings when you’re skipping from party to office to party to office. Whether you want to accept it or not, the truth is your choice to embrace the party girl lifestyle could be rooted in fear. Fear of feelings.
I’ve always been terrified of feelings; as if feelings are these evil monsters that would surely tear into my bedroom and murder me. When I was a teenager I figured out the perfect way to avoid them: Drinking and socializing and dating. When I was doing any of those three activities, I was free of the underlying sadness that forever tugged at my weary soul, I was free from the soul-crushing anxiety that made my heart feel like it was going to leap out of my chest and run away forever, and I was free from the terrifying memories that followed me around like a bad habit.
When I entered my late, late teens I discovered working. I was an actress and no one worked harder than I did. I memorized scenes for the mere fun of it (dark I know). So when I wasn’t drinking or on a date (or having sex with a toxic stranger) I threw myself into work.
I didn’t feel anything at all for many years.
When I cooled down on the partying and throughout this last year of *relative* sobriety, the feelings that had been festering deep inside of me, were overjoyed. They had been locked inside of my body for so long and now that they actually had time to run around, they were over the moon. They ran rampant over the entirety of my being.
I was hit with emotions I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid. In fact, I felt a multitude of feelings I had forgotten even existed. Visceral happiness. Visceral grief. Childlike excitement. Nerves! Not anxious nerves, but nerves that are equal parts excitement and equal parts dread. Every feeling was so vivid and so nuanced.
I decided not to run from the feelings this time around. Really, I didn’t have a choice. Being sober gave me no choice but to feel, feel, feel (there are only so many hours in the day that you can stare into a computer screen without your eyeballs giving out on you). Instead, I embraced the feels. I got into bed and snuggled up with them. I learned to enjoy them, in a bizarre way. Even the dark ones. The dark ones gave me newfound inspiration and they fueled me with heaps of content that allowed me to connect with my readers on a deeper level than ever before. Most of all the truly dark feelings gave me the precious gift of experiencing — truly experiencing — the joyous ones.
I learned to appreciate each unique feeling, but most importantly I learned that feelings weren’t monsters that would slit my throat in my sleep. I learned that feelings don’t attain the ability to physically kill me, no matter how pressing and how dire they feel at the time. I learned that the only thing that could kill me would be continuing to run from my feelings. Running from them by numbing myself into spiritual (or god-forbid literal) nothingness with booze and drugs.
So party girls who are contemplating dry January, I strongly encourage you to do it, babes. And I’ll be there right alongside you! We can still gleam like the most highlighted cheekbones in all of Hollywood, we can still adorn ourselves in sequins and we can still be our fab, eccentric, albeit messy selves. In fact once you take away the one thing that you think you need, a whole new side of yourself emerges. You’ll find the party girl fire that lives within you will burn even brighter than ever before. Message me if you need encouragement.
If you’re struggling with substance abuse, there is professional help. You are not alone. Here are some resources.
Zara Barrie is the Executive Editor of GO Magazine. She’s consumed by style, sexuality, women, words, fashion and feelings. She identifies as a “mascara lesbian” and lives beyond her means in Manhattan. Stalk her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.