Dry July: The perfect excuse to abstain without feeling left out
Dry July may have turned into another campaign to raise funds for cancer sufferers, but fundraising was not behind the creation of this teetotaling month, and nor is it the prime motivation for most people signing up to this entire month without booze.
Kiwis are big drinkers, and that’s a fact. It’s a fact we’re usually quite proud of too, with it not being uncommon to hear people (even grown-up professionals) laughing about their weekend benders. Curiously, we’re not the only nation of people ready to stick their chests out and detail their drinking efforts – the Argentines will tell you how they love their beer, the Russians have vodka for breakfast and even the ever-healthy Norwegians will pull out their aquavit at the oddest of occasions. Ensuing debates about who actually does drink the most are as amusing as they are curious and pointless.
Why would we (I include myself here) boast about the excessive consumption of a drug that includes such undesirable side-effects as going home with someone you were sure was actually attractive, finishing the night texting with one blood-shot eye closed and the loss of an entire sunny Sunday because you’re too shattered to move?
The more serious consequences actually deserve consideration. It’s estimated that 600-800 New Zealanders die every year from alcohol-related causes every year, and alcohol is a risk factor in more than 60 different health disorders. For a country that talks a lot about putting star or traffic light ratings on food labels, eating this type of fat or that type, grains or no grains, decreasing alcohol consumption is probably a simple step that would save people a lot of (literal) heart ache. In addition, 13% of us are binge drinkers, 300 alcohol-related offences are committed every day and the cost of alcohol on New Zealand society is put anywhere between $735 million to a whopping $16 billion, although it’s probably closer to $5 billion.
The real reason many people have signed up to Dry July is that they’re guiltily conscious of drinking “more than [they] should” and appreciate a decent excuse to actually detox. Having a break from alcohol is like trying to cut back on cakes or *gasp* eat Paleo. People tend to look at you with one eyebrow raised, demanding an answer to their blunt question of “why?!”, all the while thinking that you’re boring and probably won’t stick to it anyway and “oh, come on, one’s not going to hurt”. This literally happened to me last week at work when everyone stared at me when I was spotted as the only one without cake and bubbles. Never mind that I’m doing my best to lose weight and reverse a health condition. That’s far too wordy to explain when turning a gentle shade of pink in front of my colleagues.
“I’m doing Dry July”, however, is a concise, widely-understood and accepted explanation for turning down a drink.
“Having a drink” has become a ritual for most of us, a ceremony that underpins many of our social occasions – meeting up with a friend after work, relaxing after a long day, enjoying dinner at a restaurant, visiting mum and dad that one weekend a month, congratulations on the promotion, it’s Bob’s birthday, and it’s Friday or Sunday or…
There is certainly nothing wrong with having a drink every now and then, but you must ask yourself why we need to turn to an event like Dry July to justify and actually execute the healthy break that our bodies really need. Why has alcohol become such a common part of our almost-daily lives, and why do we find it so uncomfortable to not join in when everyone else is drinking?
I’m doing it for precisely this reason. My liver needs a rest (and the bank balance too), and I find it difficult to resist the odd wine or three (or four) when I’m with my friends. Tell me I have weak resolve, but I’m not alone and I know that a campaign being embraced by thousands of people across Australia and New Zealand is going to strengthen my determination and give me a seemingly-more solid excuse to abstain.
The fact that cancer organisations will receive decent donations is just a very lovely side effect.