Phantom hangovers, lock-ins and mocktails: one man’s struggle to stay sober for charity


Ever woken up with a hangover so bad you look to the skies in agony and make the declaration? You know exactly the one I mean, the defeated, exhausted declaration that the pain suffered this morning was not worth the fun of the night before. I AM NEVER DRINKING AGAIN. The declaration of defeat. The declaration that is broken only hours later when you realise what a tantalising prospect a cheeky whiskey is at 3pm. I AM NEVER DRINKING AGAIN, well, until this hangover goes away.


On one particular late December declaration, I had heard about this “Dryathlon” malarkey. 31 days, no drinking – “Dry January”. I knew this was the detox my body needed to recover from a very enjoyable (hazy) Christmas. It is not a new concept; New Year’s resolutions and health kicks and diets and unused gym memberships are what makes January January. However Cancer Research UK have hijacked the month as a fundraiser. If you are going to put yourself through this torture, why not raise a bit of money in the process? So when I declared I AM NEVER DRINKING AGAIN, I actually did stop drinking.


I was working at the Brown Cow on New Year’s Eve and celebrated with a few drinks after work until 6am. I wandered to McDonald’s, had a McMuffin of some description, sat down at home at around 7am to my final drink of 2013. A stiff Jack Daniel’s and ice. The perfect accompaniment to a McDonald’s hash brown. I fell asleep knowing that this was my final drunken doze, the last time I would crash on the sofa and wake up in fully-clothed regret.


After a few days allowing my body to adjust, I got restless at home. I was bored. My housemates weren’t home yet, I needed to go out. Across the city of Lancaster, everyone is aware I am now sober; and I have challenged the cumulative bartenders of Lancaster to create the perfect ‘mocktail’. You see, cranberry juice gets awfully boring after a while. My personal favourite is the innocent combination of passion fruit, pineapple juice and orange juice. My vitamin intake has gone through the roof this month.


Why was I bored? Was it because the disappearance of alcohol in my life created a vacuum called “where the fun used to be”? No, not at all. I was bored because it is actually quite an easy challenge when you are at home, I don’t really like drinking at home. So I went out to test myself. I am out pretty much every night and temptation is everywhere, I had Bartender’s Eve sober, staff Christmas Do sober, Lonsdale Re-fresher’s week (including Lonsdale Drunkenness Day) sober, pub quizzes, lock-ins and football matches sober. The hardest part of the month is trying to find something witty to do for my bloody video diary I stupidly agreed to do.


The one setback with going out and not drinking is the late nights. I still roll in to my house at 4 in the morning, to the point where I am so tired the next morning I suffer from phantom hangovers. My head hurts, my body can’t move and I can barely speak. Too many pineapple juices the night before.


The ‘Dryathlon’ is a fundraiser for Cancer Research UK, and when I was at school I did a lot more to raise money for charity than I have at university. I am very selective over which charities I support; Cancer Research UK is one of the leading cancer charities around the world. I hope to live another seventy-odd years on this Earth and I genuinely believe one day before I die there will be a new declaration, they will be able to look to the skies in ecstasy, and say: WE HAVE FOUND A CURE FOR CANCER. It won’t happen overnight, it won’t come from my sobriety, it definitely won’t come from my useless videos. It will come from any donations supporting the sober dryathletes this month.


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