Every year more than three million Brits give up booze for January, but it isn’t without its challenges – the biggest one being other people nagging you to drink or going to events where everyone else is inebriated.
Health psychologist at University College London Dr Stephanie Stanton-Fay believes instead of being a malicious desire for someone to fail, this sabotaging comes from resistance to change.
‘We all fear change to some extent that’s thrust upon us, and when people do challenges such as Dry January etc they risk provoking a longer-lasting effect that changes the social norm of what’s acceptable in terms of normal everyday drinking – which affects everyone in that social group.
‘It’s this change that others may be resistant to, and want to prevent by sabotaging the quitter’s attempt, even if they don’t see it as such.
‘Some people may even become hostile to anyone threatening the status quo and openly try to make them fail as a result.’
Read on to find out the reasons why your friends seem so unsupportive of your efforts to have a booze-free start to the year.
Every year more than three million Brits take part in Dry January – but many of those taking part say their friends, co-workers, or strangers have tried to sabotage them (stock image)
They’re worried about their own drinking habits
‘I would say that the majority of these people might see “dry January” as a prompt to reduce their own drinking, by setting a new social norm of non-drinking, Dr Stanton-Fay explained.
‘These people might be unwilling to attempt to cut down themselves partly because they worry that they might not be able to do it – which causes anxiety that their drinking might not be under their control as much as they’d like – and partly because January can feel a particularly hard month to be sober with post-celebration and winter bleakness.
‘It does raise questions of whether feel they “need” alcohol to perk them up, rather than just adding enjoyment that they can easily go without for a month.’
They don’t like ‘sober witnesses’
Dr Stanton-Fay thinks friends and co-workers who are drinking may feel uncomfortable if there are too many sober people around to pick up on embarrassing behaviour.
She added: ‘Within an office, or peers of the same age, there definitely might be this perception and the feeling that everyone’s fun will evaporate if there are a couple of sober “witnesses”.
‘If the critical balance of sober to merry people tips too far, as happens when a social norm changes, the drinkers can feel more uncomfortable.
‘Similarly, labelling sober people as boring is another attempt to make dry January unappealing and discourage others from following, thereby protecting the drinking status quo.’
Friends may try to pressure you into drinking because they feel judged on their own drinking habits (stock image)
They feel judged
Dr Stanton-Fay said: ‘Creating a new social norm (of not drinking, or drinking less) makes those not conforming to the norm uncomfortable.
‘Whether they actually are being judged, they are likely to feel sensitive about it, particularly with our current societal focus on health and being.
There’s a generational difference
‘There might be a generational difference where slightly older generations (e.g. gen x), who grew up with ladette culture, might strongly associate drinking with having fun and be quite alarmed at the decline in drinking in younger generations (millennials and below).’
Have YOUR friends tried to sabotage Dry January?
Kyle Sowden, who lives in Stockport, Greater Manchester, says his friends refused to buy him a pint of coke at the pub and tempt him with booze. He hasn’t managed to complete Dry January, despite trying three years in a row
Kyle Sowden, 23, Stockport, Greater Manchester
Kyle Sowden has attempted the challenge for the past three years in a row – and failed every time, in part because his social circle aren’t joining him in giving up the booze.
Kyle, who works as a marketing executive for Mens Pharmacy, says his close friends are the ‘worst offenders’ for sabotaging his attempts.
He told Femail: ‘We enjoy meeting up for a pint or a night out quite frequently, so if I tried to suddenly stop this or suggest an alternative I’d hear “It’s freezing out, let’s go somewhere warm” or “One won’t hurt”.
‘I’ve been to the pub during dry January and ordered a pint of Coke, but during rounds friends or colleagues would come back with a pint of lager stating “I’m not ordering a coke”. ‘To still refuse takes more willpower than I have.’
Tom Bourlet, 31, Brighton
Tom Bourlet, who lives in Brighton, says his friends will say anything to get him to drink during Dry January
Tom Bourlet took part in Dry January in 2018 as a way of trying out a healthier lifestyle in the new year.
As a blogger for SpaghettiTraveller, Tom attended plenty of events with alcohol present – and described it as an ‘absolute nightmare’ for temptation.
His friends were generally supportive, until they had a few drinks themselves and began to tempt him with booze.
Tom, who is the head of marketing for British beauty brand Procoal, said: ‘If you’re meeting a big group of mates then this can be the hardest thing in the world.
Patricia Ehrmann, pictured, says her friends, co-workers, and even strangers, told her to take a break from the challenge for her birthday – despite her raising money for charity
‘My friends normally were supportive at the start, but once they were a couple of drinks in, their reactions drift into being the devil on the shoulder, offering to buy my favourite drink or leaving one in front of me as a tempter.
Patricia Ehrmann, 32, London
While Patricia didn’t find finishing the month without drinking particularly hard, plenty of people – including strangers – questioned her decision to stay away from booze for the whole month, even during her birthday.
The comments – which she found annoying and condescending – motivated her to stick to not drinking even more.
She added: ‘I think they did not understand how – even for charity – someone could NOT drink. I don‘t associate alcohol with a good night, at least not as a prerequisite, so for me it wasn’t that hard.’