Columnist, Jeni Harvey: Do Dry January - but do it quietly

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock - or at the bottom of a bucket of Beaujolais - you can’t fail to have noticed that Dry January is doing its thing once again.

But, judging by the completely unscientific method of scanning my Facebook and Twitter feeds, the annual booze-free fundraiser seems to have rolled around this year in a distinctly quieter and less braggy way.

A couple of years ago, every other person in the street seemed to have declared themselves a “Dryathlete” and be demanding sponsorship. However, in 2016 there just seems to be a handful of people embracing the concept – or they’ve realised the silliness in boasting about being sober for a month.

Good. Being alcohol-free for a month is undoubtedly a fine idea, as it saves money, can lead to the loss of extra festive pounds, is proven to improve sleep and – perhaps most importantly – can remind people you don’t need to be merry to have a good time.

Dry January also raises cash for Alcohol Concern, surely a better place to direct money that might otherwise have been spent on Stella.

But while people staying dry for 31 days is all well and good, it’s the social media boasting I can’t stand. Around nine per cent of men and four per cent of women in England show signs of alcohol dependence, according to the NHS.

Chances are, the person craving praise for their strength in buying an alcohol-free Erdinger rather than craft beer isn’t one of them.

Dry January, for me, falls into the same bracket as those old clichés of January gym-joining.

People wanting to improve their health is great thing, but you can’t really expect friends to care much– especially when they suspect that, come February, the chia seeds will be festering at the back of the cupboard, the trainers dumped by the back door, and you’ll once again be spending your evenings watching Netflix documentaries with a bottle of red.

I fully acknowledge my scepticism might be, in part, due to my being sober since ast May due to having a baby on board. One month is nothing, so-called Dryathletes. Come and talk to me when you’ve done nine months of it, while carrying the equivalent of several bags of potatoes around your middle.

As a budding expert in sobriety, I also have a little tip for dry Sheffielders this January – drop into Fermental, in the Moor Market. It’s a new stall specialising in fruit wines and spirits, but also does a very fine range of alcohol-free cocktails. 
Which, if you are genuinely struggling with staying off the drink, might make those wine-free evenings taste just that little bit sweeter.