Teetotally on Trend: Are alcohol-free challenges the new black?
Raise your hand if you are finishing up Dry January this week. Chances are hardly any of you raised your hand as you read this, not because you think it’s weird to put your hand in the air for a computer or phone screen, but rather because not a lot of Louisianians are down with putting down their favorite libations the first month of the year. Hello, it’s the start of Carnival, people!
A lot of Americans however have embraced the public health campaign that originated eight years ago in the UK. In fact, Forbes reported that, according to surveys from Attest Surveys, Morning Consult and YouGov, approximately 15 percent of Americans planned to give up alcohol in January. That said, for the younger set, it’s not just a Dry January thing. In 2019, Business Insider reported findings from a 2018 study from Berenberg Research indicating “respondents in their teens and early 20s were drinking over 20 percent less per capita than millennials — who drank less than baby boomers and Gen Xers — did at the same age.” This trend toward less is more for the later generations continued in 2020 and, as with every trend in the social media age, is echoed by the rise of sober influencer accounts on Instagram. Meanwhile, countless press releases I’ve received about Dry January and the good people of the Pelican State indicate that we’ll continue setting records in the booze buying department in January and beyond, thank you very much.
Any other year, I’d be right there with you. For me, Carnival season means marching, champagne in hand, through the French Quarter with my beloved, bubbly swilling Mardi Gras krewe The Merry Antoinettes in the Krewe Bohème parade and hosting or attending boozy bashes throughout the season. This is no regular season however and not only did I do Dry January, but also, I haven’t had a drink since the start of Dry July.
Yes, you read that correctly, I’m nearing the seven-month mark of abstinence and no one is more surprised by this than me.
During the 2020 Carnival season, I was already considering participating in the Ochsner Eat Fit NOLA #AlcoholFreeFor40 Challenge. It would be my second time since the founding of the initiative in 2016, so I knew from experience that I’d be ready for a booze break by the time Ash Wednesday rolled around. Little did I or anyone know that not too long after the Lenten season began, the entire world would be in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meaning, unless I leapt off the wagon, I’d be teetotal while seemingly everyone else around me was getting teetotally tipsy in epic proportions to cope with the uncertainty, boredom, monotony and stress of pandemic life. Left and right friends gave up on giving up, but nevertheless, I persisted sipping mocktails all the way to the finish line. From Easter to Fourth of July, I resume the drinking arts, but with a serious reduction in appetite for alcohol. So much so, that I decided to do Dry July. Then I just kept going and going and, welp, here we are with me 156 days away from 365 days of abstinence. Who even am I?
Now, I’m not saying that this formerly fervent tippler, hopelessly devoted to sipping champagne is reformed, but the benefits of just saying no to America’s legal drug of choice were just too plentiful for me to go back to my wicked ways right away. The sweet, sweet elixir of improved sleep, better skin, energy and clarity have been more powerful than the pull of a pull of bourbon. I’ve been enjoying it all so much that, like so many others embarking upon a #SoberNotBoring adventure, I started an Instagram feed dedicated to offering tips and inspiration to other folks doing alcohol-free challenges or working on moderation. I might of course change my tune the minute the marching bands, dancing krewes and floats start rolling again in 2022, but for now, I’m content to lean into this sober curious thing for a little while longer. Which means yes, you’ll see me hanging out in the Eat Fit NOLA #AlcoholFreeFor40 Facebook group again this year, starting Feb. 17.
Raise your hand if I’ll see you there.