Keeping January Wet
As 2018 dawns and many of us wake up a little less attractive than when 2017 began, perhaps feeling a special self-loathing due to the excesses of the now departed holiday season, an idea begins to creep forward from the back of everyone's minds: maybe if I don't drink for a month, I'll become a better person! The truth is, your pants are never going to fit again, giving $5 to Wikipedia does not make you a philanthropist, and you can never have those hours you spent watching "How I Met Your Mother" back. That said, there is a path to self-betterment that doesn't come via self-deprivation, and by replacing "dry January" with general moderation in our pours we can be toasting right into 2019 without [even more] shame.
The idea for dry January seems to have first caught on in the UK before being imported to the US as the most recent in a slew of bad ideas we've adopted from the British, albeit ranking lower than unequal taxation and global imperialism. Along with doctors' surveys that judgmentally/nonspecifically ask "how many drinks do you have in an average week?" and nightly news programs that tell us that one glass of wine a day is good for our hearts but two glasses of wine are roughly equivalent to a lethal injection of liquid AIDS, dry January suggests there is a hard line between having a sip of fine port and being a violent boozehound, and that locating that line is next to impossible, hence the only solution is complete abstinence. Worst of all, rather than saving our livers from ourselves, it has been noted that dry January often leads to "wet February"--that is, it engenders an ongoing binge and purge relationship with alcohol. One of the many reasons Prohibition in the US failed miserably is because turning off the tap doesn't work if you're an alcoholic, and if you're not, creating a cycle of gross over-indulgence and puritanical severity is a fast way to lose your friends/electorate.
As a practice that can instead last all year, every year, instead of drinking less, just drink better. By selecting beverages that aren't as likely to appear in a commercial tile cleaner as they are in your cup, and trying not to drink them like a parched yodeler, you'll do yourself the double service of avoiding a brutal hangover and creating a memorable experience. If drinking isn't perceived as an obstacle en route to drunkenness, but as a pleasure in itself, it swiftly becomes significantly less dangerous. Quality wine and spirits have provenance and character: they're worth consuming not because they'll save you from bacteria-infested water or animal-tested sugar substitutes, but because they have stories to tell that make them fun and interesting, in addition to intoxicating. You can use a glass of good wine/a well crafted beer/a finely composed cocktail to find out about a place you've never heard of, or to share something about yourself with someone else (something that isn't your vomit).
This January, drink something unusual and exciting, and spend some time enjoying it without the goal of polishing it off in record time. Then do the same thing in February, March and right on through to December. This way, when next January arrives you can once again celebrate the new year with a new drink to your own good health and the demise of British political-cultural dominance!