Alcohol-free months like Dry July and Feb-Fast have much to teach us about willpower and the benefits of healthy living. Unfortunately, they might also be a crash course on the undercurrents of peer pressure with our mates urging that having just one drink isn’t going to matter. Actually, I believe that it does because it sends the message that alcohol is an indispensable part of our lives and also because one drink leads to another.
However, anyone who’s ever abstained from alcohol for a month is sure to have noticed that the benefits of not drinking include sleeping better, spending less on socialising, thinking more clearly, being more productive and generally being present. For those who drive, there’s the added freedom of being able to take your own wheels to social events without worrying about an RBT on the way back.
The only real downside is having to constantly explain to friends and family why you’re not drinking, while also avoiding their misguided attempts at sabotage. Non-drinkers make drinkers feel nervous because they may have perfect recall.
Anyone who’s ever abstained from alcohol for a month is sure to have noticed that the benefits of not drinking include sleeping better, spending less on socialising, thinking more clearly, being more productive and generally being present.
You may also hear that it’s un-Australian not to drink because boozing is so ingrained in our culture. It’s our national security blanket.
Interestingly though, we’re not the most sozzled nation on earth, per capita of population. According to research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that dubious honour belongs to the Eastern European nation of Belarus where the average consumption of alcohol is 17.5 litres of alcohol per person, per year. Next are Moldova, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary and The Czech Republic. France comes in at 18th for the highest per capita consumption of alcohol and Australia follows close behind at number 19. We’re chased by Ireland at the 21st most sozzled nation per capita on the planet.
Maybe there are more opportunities to drink in Australia? We’re a nation of sport lovers but we like to guzzle alcohol while we watch it. Having a coldie in the bar or at home in front of the TV is how we de-stress after work and then there are all those occasions to socialise, which start with a drink or two.
I grew up with alcohol in my early teens as part of my family’s cultural traditions. If we had guests and we were sitting at the dining table, we would toast the occasion with wine and I’d find a splash of it in my own glass.
By the time I’d started my first writing job as an advertising copywriter in the 70s, working was just something that happened in between visits to the pub and long, group lunches. I was probably drinking daily with my colleagues and had started to believe that being buzzed made me a better writer.
Alcohol was actually a constant in my life until six years ago when I suddenly stopped on Boxing Day. I’d just woken feeling weary and bloated, deciding on the spot to start dieting, which of course meant no alcohol. Perhaps, not the best time of the year to attempt to forgo the booze, because New Year’s Eve felt particularly dull. I was at a party and the bloke on the couch next to me suddenly vomited all over the floor and it wasn’t even 10 o’clock. I took it as a sign from above to stick to my diet and lay off the booze.
By the time I’d started my first writing job as an advertising copywriter in the 70s, working was just something that happened in between visits to the pub and long, group lunches.
My weight loss goal at that time was 30 kilos and I told myself, I would start drinking again when I was down to a size 10. Unfortunately, this took far longer than expected (when you get to a certain age, the kilos just don’t fall off like they used to do). As a consequence once I’d achieved my goal, I lost the taste for alcohol and, despite the array of drinks that I’ve tried ever since, it’s never returned. (Admittedly I’m secretly happy about this because I find not drinking much more intoxicating than even the best bottle of champagne).
There are so many benefits from not drinking, which for me are mostly around being productive and on a more even keel. Meanwhile, the weight has never come back on again because I no longer binge eat fast food on the back of a bad hangover.
Of course, it’s been difficult because, without the numbing effects of alcohol, one has to take full responsibility for actions. I’ve also shrunken my social circle because I’m no longer a reliable drinking partner. But it’s a small price to pay for always feeling good. These days I don’t make a point about not drinking, often accepting a glass at a cocktail party because those around me will feel more relaxed. Odds are, they won’t even notice though that I haven’t taken a sip.
So for all of you out there, who’ve made it through Dry July without taking a sip, I encourage you to do something even more radical, try to get through to spring alcohol-free and then you’ll go bouncing right into the festive season.