Luke Blackall: Better a moderate year than a dry January

The cold, short days of the new year call for home comforts and cosiness
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The Independent Online

There's a standard exchange that occurs at the few parties that actually take place this month. "Glass of champagne?" a party-goer will be asked. "No, thank you, I'm not drinking," comes the reply. The non-drinker then feels compelled to tell whoever is nearest, proudly and loudly, they are "having a dry January."

Almost everywhere you turn, you encounter them. Perhaps they hope that if they tell enough people, their heroic restraint will be recognised in the Queen's Birthday honours.

I've long been sceptical of steering clear of the bottle for the first month of the year. In fact, I have a theory is that it could actually do more harm than good. After the almost invariable excess of Christmas and New Year, the last thing the body needs (or so my theory goes) is a shock to the system by giving up what has been sustaining it for so long. The cold, short days of the new year call for home comforts and cosiness. Which means gentle continuation, not radical abstention.

Remember, bears don't drag themselves out of hibernation just because the year's started, and nor should we. Sure, my suggestion might be a touch ill-thought-through, and no, it has probably no basis in science, but that makes it just as valid as the equally nonsensical theories of "detox" which are thrown our way at this time of year.

Like an alcoholic's exhortations that they can "give up for a week", expecting us to be impressed, the cold-turkey approach is no good if you know that you'll be getting stuck into the juicy stuff a short while into the future.

The British Liver Trust has recently criticised the concept of a month off, echoing the House of Common's science and technology committee's suggestion this month that we avoid alcohol two out of every seven days. This does not mean, however, that you can accrue all those booze-free days at the beginning of the year, just so that you can satisfy your bacchanalian urges for the remaining 11 months.

Besides, we already have a time to give things up, which lasts longer than a month and has served us well for centuries. It's called Lent. Whether you are religious or not, spring is a good moment for renewal.

But if I try to share my theory at parties, it's greeted with scepticism. You see, for many of these post-Christmas abstainers, a moderate year would be far harder than a completely dry January.