This week, Australians from all walks of life will embark on a month without alcohol in support of Dry July, an initiative to raise money for cancer alongside remarkably similar campaigns such as FebFast and Ocsober.But it’s not all beer and skittles: there is an active debate about the long-term effectiveness of these programs. A number of limitations from a public health perspective include a lack of long term support for the behaviour change process, and confusing people with an “all or nothing” message about alcohol. The option of buying a “golden ticket,” for example, allows the purchaser to take a night off from the challenge and is considered by critics to encourage binge drinking. In terms of cultural change, seeing a brief period of abstinence as an inherently monstrous task probably serves to reinforce the importance of alcohol in our lives and proves ultimately ineffective, if not destructive.
But don’t get us wrong: it’s great to hear the volume increasing when we talk about alcohol consumption. We’re here to help you use movements like Dry July as steps towards a more conscious drinking culture, and change your own relationship with alcohol.
How to use Dry July to change your relationship with alcohol
Feel good about it Some of us feel fine about our relationship with alcohol. However, it is only when we take a break and realise how our bodies and minds feel without it that we begin to second guess ourselves. This realisation can be the first stepping stone to delve a little deeper and become a more conscious drinker.Find support during the challengeLet’s not kid ourselves: entirely avoiding alcohol for a month is an arduous task, and support goes a long way. Whether you have some mates doing the challenge with you, or turn to the Hello Sunday Morning community, knowing that others are with you can make all the difference. Many members of the Hello Sunday Morning community have done similar challenges and felt empowered by their achievement.New PerspectivesWhen members of the Hello Sunday Morning community have taken a break from alcohol in the past, their understanding of how we use alcohol in our social lives has evolved. According to our app data, attending a wedding sober and celebrating without alcohol, are most likely to lead to a change in your relationship with alcohol. Dry July similarly encourages participants to realise that alcohol is not a necessary component of socialising. No doubt over the month, those partaking in the challenge will be attending social events, entirely alcohol-free. For some people this may well be a first. ApproachMost importantly, you should approach a challenge like Dry July mindfully. What does not drinking for a month mean for you? For your identity, for how you understand your relationship with alcohol? This also means allowing yourself to feel empowered rather than restricted during the challenge. By consciously reflecting on the process, you can reframe any ‘missteps’ as part of your journey, rather than as failures.
Dry July is a great opportunity to start changing your relationship with alcohol and say “Hello” to more Sunday mornings. We’re here to help.
CHECK IT OUT: A month ago, on May 31st, I decided to take June off of drinking. My body, spirit, bank account, etc. all needed a break. The longest dry period I had gone before this month (other than childhood) was about 2 weeks for surgery and recovery (and they gave me great drugs for that, so that made it easier :D).
I did check with an MD first and we went over all the warning signs of withdrawal symptoms and all that. Today, being the last day of June, I made it through my 30 days. Honestly, 5-6 weeks ago, that feat would seem completely impossible. But honestly, it wasn’t as big of a deal as my mind made it out to be.Here’s why:
1. First and foremost – I treated my mental health issues. I think that I was definitely self-medicating. Now that I’m being treated by an actual doctor, a day without wine is, at most, an annoying inconvenience, not a devastating prospect.
2. It wasn’t giving it up forever. I had tried that before and it just seems too final! A month is a very doable amount that won’t seem like forever (ok, sometimes it might) but it’s definitely long enough to change your ways and build some healthy habits!
3. It was my only non-negotiable goal. I also tried to eat healthy, work out and be an all-around super hero, but I rarely got all that together in one day. But the one thing that I had to make happen was being drink-free – when I did that, I also had to celebrate and know that that day was a success. Even if I plowed down a bunch of late night snacks, or totally blew off exercise, I still had to be proud of myself for that day because I didn’t drink.
IT WON’T BE PERFECT…I found myself feeling tired a lot. I didn’t always feel a magical sense of accomplishment. I missed my special treat at the end of the day. I wasn’t instantly fit and gorgeous. My house still isn’t spotless. I’m still broke.
IT WILL BE FANTASTIC…as a counter to all of those: I slept like a baby (although I did stay up WAY too late without the sleep-inducing effects of wine). I’m pretty excited to have made it all the way. I found new treats for the end of the day and am still working on finding more. I am 15 pounds lighter and my clothes are way looser – plus, if I may say so, my face looks amazing lol – much less puffy and much slimmer. My house is a lot cleaner. I actually spent my money on worthwhile, lasting things (even if that is just my bills, it’s nice to work on my credit).
AND THE #1 MOST AMAZING side effect of all this? IT COMPLETELY CHANGED THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT ALCOHOL. I know now that I can do it. I can go long periods without it. I know that I can enjoy some drinks and then go back to abstaining. It’s just not that big of a thing anymore. But, don’t think about that right now. You’re not worried about forever, or even all month, just worry about making it through tomorrow. I know you can do it! I promise you can – and my best advice would be, don’t go it alone! Talk to your doc and make a plan! Your August 1st self will owe you BIG TIME! 😀