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Originally published Monday, December 27, 2010 at 10:00 PM

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Nicole Brodeur

A good time to dry up

I'm turning 50 in a few months, and thinking a lot about aging well. A clear head seems like a good place to start.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Nothing awful happened.

No near-misses or massive hangovers. No things I couldn't remember saying, or shouldn't have said at all.

I'd just like to have a Dry January. Not a drop of wine or beer. Not a single martini or glass of wine with dinner.

Sparkling water, though, sure. I should probably buy a case.

I'm not sure how it settled into my head. I have friends who have lost and won battles with the bottle, and there have been times when I have lost count of my cocktails.

It's just that my mind has been pausing on words like "exfoliate" and "vinyasa." I'm turning 50 in a few months, and thinking a lot about aging well. A clear head seems like a good place to start.

My friend, Kerri Harrop, has been having a Dry January for six or seven years.

No single event brought it on, she said. It's her job. Harrop is a music and club publicist who lives in a world of backstages and open bars. Lots of bottles and ice and lime wedges.

"By the time December rolls around, there have been a hell of a lot of parties in the last 11 months," she told me. "I've had enough liquor. I'm good."

But how do we define "good"? U.S. government health experts consider moderate drinking to be no more than two drinks a day for men, and one drink per day for women. Binge drinking is considered to be more than five drinks for a man and more than four drinks for a woman, generally, over a two-hour period.

Consider that while considering a Dry January.

The first week is always tough, Harrop said, because it forces you to see how much and how often you drink. Wine with dinner. Cocktails with friends. It adds up.

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What's hardest is the urging of your peers to have a drink.

"They get so unsettled by you, they almost take offense," Harrop said.

She drinks soda water with lemon and bitters, which has a trace of alcohol, "But it helps out and people don't know that you're not drinking."

As a result, she said, you will "instantly" lose weight. ("Ten pounds in booze, easy.")

If you're on a roll — and a practicing Catholic — you can extend your Dry January into giving up alcohol for Lent, Harrop added.

There's a "Dry January" Facebook page with 39 members. It was started last year by a guy named Paul Cave, who lives in Malta and whose "inspirations" include Keith Richards, of all people.

Cave started the Facebook page as a support system for others "who might want to lay off the booze for a bit after the excesses of what you ex-colonials appear to call the 'holiday season,' " he told me, via e-mail.

It also encourages the self-control required, he said, and the sense of achievement that can carry you through the year.

The Facebook group is categorized as "Just for Fun — Totally Random," but the posts are not.

"Is anyone in this group actually on the dry?" one woman asked. "5 days in and ive been in 5 diff pubs but not a drop passed my lips. boo yeah!"

Said one man: "Sorry I've got to leave this group. I've not gone more then [sic] 48 hours without a drink this month."

He said the experience had caused him to search out an Alcoholics Anonymous Facebook group, instead.

One guy said he might try a Dry February, rather than January. February, he pointed out, has three fewer days.

But Harrop says stick with January, a quiet time for taking stock of what's ahead.

"I love Dry January; it's a real good thing," she said. "You sleep better, you wake up fresh, your mind is sharper, your jeans aren't so tight.

"And then February comes around, what the hell, have a drink."

You can decide then what to put in it.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She's putting the lid on Ketel One.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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