Ah, January. It’s a welcome calm after a very busy holiday season. Scientists say the days are getting longer but how we feel is more important than fact and the days still feel damned short. Still, the lousy weather and handful of gray daylight hours ease the guilt of marathon sessions on the couch. Since I bought myself a PS5 for Christmas, the hours fly by.

Several years ago, I designated January as a month of sobriety and I’m glad to say it’s a tradition I’ve stuck with. The only time I’ve made an exception was when, two weeks into the month, I lost a job and several other things went to shit. I decided to call an end to Dry January… and everything got better. I don’t mean that I felt better, I mean they actually got better- within two days I had an interview for a new job and started a week later. I don’t want to say it was thanks to alcohol but you couldn’t fault me if I did.

Another semi-annual tradition in January is depression. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, or the after-effects of two solid months of eating too much food, or (but hopefully not) the sudden lack of alcohol in my bloodstream, but all too often I’ll encounter at least a full week in January feeling like absolute garbage. Fortunately it didn’t happen last year and, so far, 2023 is looking good, so fingers crossed!

I also decided a few years ago to designate January as month when I only speak Swedish at home. I figure that, if I do that for a month, I can spend the rest of the year speaking as much English as I want, guilt-free. It’s the same reason I’m sober for a month, in fact.

What I’m trying to say is that January is the most boring month of the year.

Not to glorify booze, and not that I’m usually hammered on a daily basis, or even ever, but I certainly enjoy a glass of wine or two or a few cocktails now and then. Unfortunately, “now and then” became “every day” too long ago. Before standup, I rarely drank at home, but when I was grinding and out five nights a week, drinking more often became the norm. I’m not much of a beer guy and it’s rare that I drink it at home, but it’s even more rare that I drink anything other than beer when I’m out in the clubs, primarily due to the high price of booze in Sweden. I honestly don’t know how anyone can afford to be an alcoholic in this country and I’m perplexed by how many succeed anyway.

Besides cutting out the expense of alcohol this month – a welcome savings after holiday spending – it’s also reassuring to me how easy it is to not drink every day. It’s just a bit dull, especially when I’m doing standup. I don’t like to perform with even a buzz on as I’ve had a few disastrous sets after drinking too many beers beforehand, but I have noticed that, the times I’ve made a point to not drink even one beer before a set, I didn’t do well. It’s not sobriety to blame, it’s taking it too seriously. I simply do better when I’m more relaxed. Unfortunately, I’m also a superstitious person, so now I have to drink a beer before I go on stage. On the bright side, alcohol-free beer seems to work just fine.

It used to be the norm for most clubs, if not all, to be closed in January, because everyone was burned out from the holidays and attendance was too light to make the shows worth it. That, of course, made it even easier to take a month’s vacation from the bottle. While some clubs still take the month off, more are open now and attendance is surprisingly high. It’s nice as a comic to not have to take an enforced break from the stage, but this past weekend I spent two nights on stage, sober, in front of a few hundred people all enjoying too many drinks. That’s less fun for me. Not that I’m a big fan of being around drunks, I’m even less so when I’m sober.

I wish I could tell you that I feel sharper on stage without beer or that I feel better every day because I’m not drinking, but I don’t enjoy any benefits beyond my wallet and state of mind. Scientists have even proven that a dry month has zero health benefits, although I have to believe that the far fewer calories I’m imbibing is good for my waistline. Still, I’m glad to keep this annual tradition and it will make the gin and tonic I’ll drink on the first of February all the sweeter. And no, I won’t be drinking it at midnight.

“But Ryan,” I hear you ask, “why not make February sober? It’s a shorter month!” That is a rookie mistake. If there’s just one month in Sweden we need booze the most, it’s February. Besides, Valentine’s Day is also when I get naked on stage each year and I’ll be sure to need a little liquid confidence.