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Devil's Advocate: Is it possible to have a 'Dry January' in St Andrews?


Christmas and New Year were once a time of childhood magic. Now, they pass as a hazy blur of G&Ts and Baileys Irish Cream. Whilst I advocate for “everything in moderation,” only so long as that imperative applies to moderation itself, I perhaps overindulged in vin rouge a little too much this time. “Dry January” was therefore an opportunity to do myself (and my liver) some good.

As a student, refraining from alcohol is difficult. But refraining from alcohol in general is difficult. In Western society especially, alcohol consumption is not merely normalised, it’s encouraged. When everyone around you is drinking, it is hard to say no. Arguably the whole point of “Dry January” (enormous health benefits aside), however, is to exercise one’s willpower; to test how well one can resist the intoxicating urges of temptation, and stick to one’s principles. Being a student does not mean you are biologically inhibited from sticking to your guns and resisting booze. In fact, in a town as riddled with academic perfectionists and high-achievers as St Andrews, I imagine willpower is in even greater supply than average.

True, alcohol is especially central to student life. Crowded around the familiar — if questionably sticky — tables of Aikmans’ cellar, you may fear attracting the retribution of your friends by opting for non-alcoholic beer. Peer pressure is real — but c'mon. You’re not fourteen anymore, being forced to smoke a stale Marlboro Red of dubious origins in a field by your much more worldly mate (who’s recently dropped out of Oxford Brookes and contracted an STD, by the way). Your friends will make a couple of comments and then forget about it. If they don’t, they’re probably not all that pleasant, so “Dry January” will have usefully alerted you to the suspect characters you’re surrounding yourself with. Besides, if you’re really that terrified, say your Coke is a vodka Coke. No one has to know — but get a grip, seriously.

Perhaps you’re worried about missing out on the fun. St Andrews’ nightlife is hardly renowned for its variety or quality. Without several pints of Tennents, I’m not sure I would have found “Olivia Boprigo” entertaining, either. Like most pleasurable things, however, alcohol is subject to the law of diminishing returns. No one’s night improves after a sixth glass of wine, I promise. In fact, with sober clarity, you will probably realise how distinctly un-fun very drunk people are. Have a lovely time in your friends’ company, and leave them when they start crying about the boys they’re currently sleeping with. FOMO solved!

If anything, it’s quite easy to avoid alcohol in St Andrews. This is not Newcastle: most students do not go out four nights a week. You can still enjoy a dinner party without alcohol. You can still enjoy the pub without alcohol. It’s the small community, and the people you are close with, who will make your St Andrews student experience — not the number of times you wake up with a headache and crippling “hangxiety”. There are plenty of ways to have a fulfilling student experience in St. Andrews without alcohol for a month. Why not become even more insufferable and make cold-water swimming your whole identity? St Andrews may not be home to the “Geordie Triple”, but it is the home of golf, so throw your newfound energy into playing the Old Course instead!

If I can manage Dry January, so can you. (I gave up two days in. Don’t make yourself miserable!)


The adverse reaction I had to this question, and the speed with which it came, are either testament to the ensuing claims or cause for concern — probably a bit of both. Of course, St. Andrews is home to its teetotallers who, for whatever ridiculous reason, commit not only to ‘Dry January’, but also to dry lives. If members of our student body — and indeed the wider world — can handle an entire earthly existence without so much as a sip of booze, the idea that St Andrews might be any different is gratuitous, to say the least. Clearly, ‘Dry January’ is theoretically possible. But I can assuredly and unerringly, without stutter nor pause for deliberation, attest that it is practically impossible to commit to ‘Dry January’ as a St Andrews student.


St Andrews’ lifeblood is booze. There is a reason why this town sustains so many thriving drinking establishments, and why all too often I find myself hopping over puddles of puke en route to the library. We are a town of three streets, a handful of golf courses, and far too many seagulls. There is little else to do besides getting pissed. Most of the activities one can enjoy, such as playing golf, are arguably much more fun drunk anyway. Furthermore, the entertainment we do create for ourselves, such as our ‘Illustrious Event’ calendar, is utterly unbearable without considerable hip-and-lip loosener. Booze also has the helpful side effect of memory loss, which will facilitate the forgetting (albeit temporarily) of the extortionate price you paid for it, as well as anyone with whom you might have eloped. Even smaller affairs are incentivised by booze. At the time of writing, my Facebook feed was graced with an event entitled ‘Drink and Draw’ — drawing while drunk cannot be conducive to good art, surely…


Secondly, as the name might suggest, ‘Dry January’ takes place in January, which is by far the most depressing time of the year. Darkness descends on the land at an obscenely early hour; it’s almost definitely raining, and it’s definitely freezing. Staying off the sauce is not easy at any time of the year, but it is certainly harder in January. If you’re not drinking to pass the time or keep warm during this cost-of-living crisis, then what the hell are you doing?


Lastly, since no one else is doing ‘Dry January’ — owing to the above reasons and no doubt a host of others — you’ll likely be on your own in this endeavour, which will present difficulty. Moreover, you’ll be pushed on the question of why aren’t you drinking, which is probably asked with genuine concern for your welfare. You, being an honest (and likely irritating) individual, will divulge your abstemious, ascetic calling while looking a little sheepish, when in actual fact you’re begging to blurt: “I AM BETTER THAN YOU!” We all know that you’re itching to detonate your decision at every opportunity, anticipating a mushroom cloud of approval. Well, sweetpea, you have most certainly come to the wrong part of the world for that. We’re in the Kingdom of Fife, a mere stone’s throw from the heroin capital of the world, and frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

If I may offer some sage advice: reduce your yearly drinking, rather than going cold turkey for a month. Otherwise, you’ll most likely end up rapidly making up for what you missed out on — especially in this town.

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