What happened when one Aussie took up the personal challenge to not drink for a month?
“I can have fun sober,” I thought, “I have a lot to do tomorrow,” I thought, “I don’t even want to drink anyway,” I thought…
The issue is, all of these thoughts occurred before ‘the moment’. That critical moment just after your friend has asked you what you want from the bar and you have replied with “I’m not drinking tonight”. That is ‘the moment’. A sea of disappointed faces suddenly surrounds you. You get bombarded with people saying; “oh, come on”, “But it’s my birthday!”, “Just have a few”, “But we haven’t been out together for ages!”. For me it is that moment that is make or break. It isn’t that the thoughts I had earlier are no longer valid or that I suddenly have an urge to drink, it is just that I am a people pleaser and I do not want to disappoint my friends.
That moment is the reason I am doing Dry July. For those of you who have never heard of Dry July, I should explain that I am Australian. We do all kinds of weird and wonderful things in our country that I wouldn’t bother trying to justify to others (vegemite and avocado on toast- it’s AMAZING!). However, Dry July is one thing we do that is well worth a mention. It all began in 2008 with 3 friends who had all suffered through losing a loved one to cancer. They decided to go dry for the month of July to raise money for adult cancer patients. News got out about their campaign via the local radio station and the response was phenomenal with over 1000 people taking the pledge with them. Since then, Dry July has become a well known event that continues to grow across Australia and New Zealand. Over the years 90 000+ people have signed up to be a part of Dry July raising more than $20 million for cancer services. I would like to be able to say that I am doing Dry July to raise money for much needed cancer research and support but, in all honesty, my reasoning is much more selfish. I am making a real effort to look after my health. Over the last few months I have been eating well and exercising daily, I have reduced my alcohol consumption to next to nothing and I have been feeling great! But, even when I am feeling really good within myself and have such a clear view on what I want (I’ll take an early morning run around the lake over a late night greasy kebab and a hangover any day!), I still struggle with ‘the moment’. So, I have used Dry July as a safety blanket against that moment and the outcome has been astounding.
During the month of July I have had many events involving alcohol from Friday afternoons to engagement celebrations to birthday drinks and I have been completely dry at all of them. To me this hasn’t been a challenging experience at all, in fact it has made life so much easier. I am no longer concerned about what I am going to say when people ask why I’m not drinking. I went to a party at the local football club last weekend (and trust me, this is not the type of party you don’t drink at) and, although the fact I wasn’t drinking was still met with some disappointed faces, the comments changed tone to “Dry July- good on you!”, “well done!”, “keep it up”, “Can I get you a water or soft drink?”. It is as if Dry July is this magic ‘trump all’ card that makes all of the pressure in that moment go away.
I have definitely noticed the health benefits that not drinking has had on my mind and body. I have felt happy, energetic and clear headed. I can’t say that any of these things came as a shock to me as I have known about the benefits all along. What I have learned though, is a lot about myself. If you had of spoken to me in June I would have confidently told you that I was not one to get ‘sucked in’ by peer pressure. I said no to things I didn’t want to do and stood up for what I believed in. I have said no to drugs on multiple occasions or refused to get into cars with people who are drinking. If you had come back to me with “What about alcohol and feeling pressured to drink?” I would have replied “Yeah, but I am making that decision myself not out of pressure” (and believed it). Yet, the amount of relief I felt just by being able to tell people I am doing Dry July proved just how pressured I was. The difference to me is that this is a pressure put on to us by society and by our culture. This isn’t one of your friends pressuring you, this is you pressuring yourself because it’s what you have always known. Having an event like Dry July which is valued higher in society than getting drunk with your friends is a truly refreshing thing.
So, what happens when July finishes? We will have to wait and see.
For more information on Dry July visit https://au.dryjuly.com/.