Lessons from a whole month without alcohol

I went dry this July for Dry July. Along with 43,017 other well-intentioned heroes.

Two factors were key in deciding to go without the booze for 31 days. Firstly, I was into my second day of an epic red wine hangover. And secondly, we had a sincerely close friend battling cancer.

“Sure,” I thought, “it’s the least I could do”.

I did raise a decent chunk of money for Redkite, a wonderful cause and a previous employer of Mrs DD. Plus, as you will see outlined below, I did come to realise staying sober might be a pathway to saving over $5,000 every year.

“I don’t really drink that much anyways, and I could use the health kick.”

Neither of the two above thoughts eventuated, it turns out that I do drink rather often and there was no healthy boost in my lifestyle at all.

Going without ice cold beers in lovely glass bottles was a challenge. (Credit: Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com)

In fact, looking back now, nearly every preconceived idea I had about undertaking Dry July was incorrect. I was way off the mark, however it was undoubtedly an enlightening experience in many ways.

Kicking the habit

Drinking alcohol is a habit for me above all else. It is the cold beer when I get home after work on a Friday or the rum and dry with fresh lime while I watch the footy. July 2019 illustrated that there are other things (apart from a six pack) that you can take over to a mate’s place and not all restaurant meals need a wine to taste great. Much of the alcohol I consume is done without much thought being invested, just because.

Amounts to nothing

Another lesson I learned about my own alcohol consumption is that most of the time when I have a drink it is only one or two. Long gone are my days of buying rounds until the pub closed, when the only thing standing between myself and a cab ride to my bed were the blurry lights of a stinky kebab trailer. When I do have a grown-up drink it is rarely followed by intoxication, more commonly I find myself stopping at one or two to ensure I can safely drive home or adequately parent in the morning.

Long gone are my days of buying rounds until the pub closed, when the only thing standing between myself and a cab ride to my bed were the blurry lights of a stinky kebab trailer…

Society sucks

Almost immediately after I signed up to commit to Dry July and subsequently sprouted off about it via my social media channels, the boozy invitations creully and coincidentally started pouring in. Three main social events rose to the surface quickly: my Mum’s 60th (which I had obviously known about for some time), my annual state-wide work conference and an unexpected VIP invite to the V8 Supercars. All in the month of July! In a funny way, in reality, all three occasions revolved around the ritual of drinking alcohol. Life looks a little odd when you start to see things that way.

Odd one out

When you live in Australia (especially in the tropics) and it is July and the weather is stunning and the drinks are free and you are not consuming alcohol you need to be capable of explaining yourself. You are the weirdo, I was that guy, or at least I was worried about how to handle being in that awkward situation. Yet as I explained above, heading into Dry July I had some preconceived ideas about how things would eventuate, I was wrong about this one too. Everybody was incredibly inquisitive and supportive, I had people I did not know grabbing me water and lemonades! It is a worthwhile cause and a clever fundraising initiative that reaps the added bonus of spreading awareness, largely as a result of all of these conversations taking place across the country.

A whole month of no drinking beers when out and about. (Credit: ELEVATE on Pexels.com)

Walk in the park

The other component of Dry July that I got wrong was the scale of the struggle, it was not very difficult. Speaking from my own experience I did not find it a taxing challenge to spend the whole month without alcohol. It was not nearly as arduous as many of my friends and family imagined it would be, which probably says something about their perceptions of me! I surprised myself, which is nice to do every now and then even after turning forty. In fact, the times when I most felt like caving were the moments when my children were at their most prickly. This identified another strong trigger for me, or a realisation of what pulls me towards booze, sometimes in life it is nice to feel like an adult and remind yourself that you still have the power of choice.

When the music stopped, I looked around and saw there was no chair for me, my glass remained empty, but I was loaded! Flush with funds, for one month at least.

Compensating for something

I had several instances, OK there were many times when I substituted something else for alcohol. Maybe that is why Dry July was less of a struggle that I envisioned? For example, strangers bringing me lemonades, I never partake in soft drinks during any other month. I believe I excused myself a few extra sweet treats too, rather easy to justify when being such a legend and going without the grog! Bottom line is my waist line did not shrink, it was not the health kick I was hoping for. This is not a new concept, speak to anyone who has quit smoking or just committed to a vegetarian lifestyle. We need to cut ourselves some slack and recognise that we deserve some tasty joy, whatever it might be – as long as it is NOT the one thing we gave up.

This is what greeted me when I arrived at our VIP suite above the pits at the V8 Supercars. (Credit: Downunder Dad)

Dollar bills

I did not lose weight but I did save money. In fact, going one month without alcohol was eye-opening, I was made aware of just how much thoughtless money I was spending on drinks. I estimated I saved avoided spending approximately $400 across the 31 days, which included four weekends. That is just for me, as an individual, not Mrs DD and I as a couple. I abruptly stopped the day-to-day buying habits on 1st July. Instantly there were no more bottles of wine on the way out to gatherings, no slabs of beer in the boot once the last stubby was gone, no more choosing a beverage from a menu at all, no more standing at the bar deciding on which tap to have pulled. When the music stopped, I looked around and saw there was no chair for me, my glass remained empty, but I was loaded! Flush with funds, for one month at least.

What could have been

  • Annual work conference, after party drinks $60
  • Mum’s 60th brunch and dinner drinks $90
  • V8s post race drinks $80
  • Three dinners at restaurants (3x $16) $48
  • One slab of beer $50
  • Two bottles of wine $30
  • Two six packs of some variety (2x $20) $40
  • TOTAL $398

Here is the section of the blog post when I should write that based on the above numbers I am giving up alcohol forever! I am re-targeting the money to now take the form of regular contributions to my ever-growing investment portfolio of ETFs or LICs so I can retire early and buy a yacht. However, I am not going to bullshit you like that.

Dry July is top shelf

Wow, I was consistently and significantly impressed by the Dry July product. They do a fantastic job for a wonderful cause. That’s where it started actually, during registration you can select your preferred cancer charity, which was a nice touch. They provided social media wording and images to spread the message. During the first week they notified all participants of a deal they had negotiated with BWS which was just six dollars for six packs of Carlton Zero, CUB’s new non-alcoholic beer. There were regular words of encouragement, stories, competitions, statistics, scientific facts, healthy lifestyle motivations, infographics and much more. Like a fine wine Dry July is getting better as it ages.

Above all else, I think Dry July reminded me that there are people struggling with some serious shit, families have had their worlds turned upside down without fault or reason.

During July I learned all of the above and conscious control, that I can give up alcohol. I highlighted to myself that much of my personal consumption in this developed, privileged and modern society of ours is completely unintentional, almost subconscious. I learned that I like drinking booze when my kids are giving me the shits and I learned that I am not a socially awkward, boring twat without a beer in my hand.

I also learned that thirty-one days is a long time to be without alcohol, especially with bratty children – but it is nothing compared to chemotherapy or cancer.

Above all else, I think Dry July reminded me that there are people struggling with some serious shit, families have had their worlds turned upside down without fault or reason. I learned to be a little more grateful by being a little less tipsy. I learned that taking things for granted is its own form of sinful intoxication. I learned that I am thankful, I feel lucky to have a family I adore even more than my favourite brand of beer which has been chilling in the back of the fridge for a month.

And on the first of August – I learned that I could have both!

In 2019, Dry July raised nearly $11m.
To learn more about Dry July simply click here.

Q. Should Downunder Dad focus on a different cause in 2020?
Simply comment below…

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’d actually never heard of Dry July but really enjoyed this read! I have stopped drinking alcohol a couple of times for diets like Whole 30 and to avoid migraine triggers, and I agree, it’s a really good exercise. But tonight, I’ll likely open a bottle of wine :). Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, hope you enjoyed the wine. It is a funny relationship between grown-ups and alcohol, generally speaking. Going without and proving that you can creates an conscious level of control that is important, I believe. It is about the ritual not the substance or the taste, for me. Thanks for reading.


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