July has never been my favourite month; it’s the coldest time of the year and means we’ve already slid into the second half of 2021.
At the rate time seems to be flying past, Christmas will be here before we know it.
There is a redeeming feature about July that began back in 2008. The initiative is called Dry July and it was started by three mates Brett, Kenny and Phil, who wanted to take a break from drinking so they agreed not to imbibe for the whole month of July.
They decided to give themselves even more incentive to last the distance, given they chose a month with 31 days, by asking friends and family to sponsor them. Their hope was to raise $3,000 to buy a TV for their local hospital’s waiting room.
Broadcaster, author and math genius Adam Spencer took part in this first Dry July and often spoke about the challenge on-air when I regularly debated topics with him on Channel 7’s The Morning Show way back then. With Adam’s involvement, he helped them raise a massive $250,000.
Since then, over 200,000 participants have taken part in Dry July resulting in around $60 million being raised and used to help fund and support 1200 projects through 80 cancer organisations.
Putting this important charity aspect to one side, Dry July is equally important as an awareness campaign, a thought-starter and even a conversation-starter about how much alcohol you drink and how often, especially since the sales of alcohol have massively increased since the Covid outbreak and all the lockdowns. Sadly, domestic violence has increased substantially too and I’m sure there is a direct correlation between them.
Alcohol consumption in Australia has always been the socially acceptable cornerstone to most celebrations and cultural events and in many cases, it’s become a regular part of our daily routine as a way of unwinding.
I’ve noticed that the effect alcohol has on our personality and demeanor is often simply a magnification of the real you. Too much alcohol can turn you into a happy drunk or a nasty drunk or someone in-between.
I drink to make other people more interesting ― Ernest Hemingway, US Author
Drinking alcohol at harmful levels is one of our biggest, preventable, health issues and linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, injury to ourselves and others and premature death.
What would your reaction be if you were asked to embrace Dry July and abstain from drinking alcohol for an entire month?
Would you agree in a heartbeat and find it easy to implement? Or would you struggle to remain sober for even a week?
According to the latest figures and data provided by the federally funded Australian Institute of Health and Welfare;
- 4 in 5 (79%) adults consumed alcohol in 2019
- 1 in 5 (21%) Australians aged 14 and over reported being a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2019. This has declined from 26% in 2013
- 34% of clients sought treatment for alcohol as a principal drug of concern in 2019-20, the most common principal drug of concern
- 1 in 7 (15%) people have consumed 11 or more standard drinks at least once in the previous 12 months
Binge drinking is on the rise, and I’m told by younger Aussies that alcohol is getting so expensive now, especially in nightclubs and bars that they will gather beforehand to pre-load and get drunk at home on cheap booze and then top up with more alcohol when they’re out.
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Many people use alcohol for all the wrong reasons like to self-medicate instead of facing their fears or seeking professional help to sort out their issues.
My Dad was a case in point. He was a Holocaust survivor, who drowned his sorrows, which these days we know better as ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, by downing a bottle of brandy a night after the war ended and that heavy drinking only stopped when Dad, Mum and my eldest brother Leon came to Australia as refugees.
Growing up I can count on one hard the amount of times I saw Dad get a little tipsy and he only drank if it was a very special occasion but I never once saw him rolling drunk. Dad made a conscious effort not to mask his past demons by marinating in alcohol and as hard as that was for him, we were all the better for it.
Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness — Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher
Being Polish, Dad always kept a bottle of vodka in the freezer and I remember when my eldest brother Leon, as an underage teenager, wound up in a whole world of trouble when Dad busted him for drinking his prized vodka.
Leon was puzzled as to how Dad could have found out as he’d carefully topped up the vodka he’d taken out with equal amounts of water before putting it back in the freezer. The fact is; if he had listened more in science class, he would have realised his big mistake was actually adding the water, because it didn’t take Dad long to notice all the ice crystals forming inside the bottle and as alcohol doesn’t freeze he knew something was awry. My other brother Eddie and I were only in primary school and far too young to have done it so it didn’t take Dad long to find the culprit.
Getting into pubs when we were underage never seemed to be an issue as photo ID didn’t exist, not even on a driver licence and it wasn’t until RBT (random breath testing) came into force decades ago that motorists became accountable for drinking and driving.
Police started breath-testing motorists in December 1968, with an allowable blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 but drivers could only be tested after an accident or a driving offence. That limit dropped to 0.05 in December 1980
In NSW, random breath-testing trials started in December 1982 and became law in 1985. According to the Centre for Road Safety, since then, trauma from fatal crashes involving alcohol has dropped from about 40 percent of all fatalities to the 2017 level of 15 percent. NSW police alone conduct about 5 million breath tests each year with every police car now equipped as a mobile RBT.
It can be very difficult to keep track of how much alcohol you’ve consumed as one alcohol beverage doesn’t always equal one standard drink.
- What is a standard drink?
DrinkWise Australia, the social change organisation created to bring about a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia, has a very comprehensive and helpful list of standard drink measurements on their website DrinkWise.org.au.
For instance 30ml of spirits (containing 40% alcohol) = 1 standard drink, however, a 375ml can of pre-mix spirits (approx. 5% alcohol) = 1.5 standard drinks.
375ml can of full strength beer (4.8% alcohol) = 1.4 standard drinks
And while 100ml of red or white wine equates to around one standard drink, the average restaurant wine serving size is 150ml, which is more like 1.5 standard drinks.
If you’re counting drinks and not their size, it can be easy to think you’re still under the limit and able to drive, when you could actually be far from it.
- How much is too much alcohol consumption?
Many doctors agree with what medical surveys have revealed about drinking one glass of alcohol a day being beneficial to our health. But most people rarely stop at just one and the more we drink the more damage alcohol does to our physical and mental health and well-being.
There are two schools of thought on how early you should let children taste alcohol. The law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from drinking alcohol, however, there are lots of European families for example who choose to give their children a sip of alcohol if they ask for it to take the fascination away. The theory is their children won’t see alcohol as something taboo where they’d want to try it behind their parents’ backs and often to excess to see what the fuss was about.
However, research from DrinkWise shows that parental provision of alcohol to underage teens does not protect them against increased alcohol consumption later in life. In fact, there has been evidence to show early introduction may lead to increased binging and alcohol-related problems later in life.
Always do sober what you said you’d do when you were drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut! — Ernest Hemingway
Australia does seem to have a different drinking culture to other countries around the world. I remember how surprised I was on my first trip around Europe in my early twenties to see that you could get an alcoholic beverage at the railway station in Germany and they serve beer in a glass when you go to the movies.
It seems we can no longer be trusted to drink out of glass here anymore and beer is only served in plastic cups now at sporting events and concerts. I’ve even noticed some big Clubs switch from serving drinks in glasses to plastic cups later in the night.
That sounds more like harm minimization than the responsible service of alcohol (RSA), which doesn’t always seem to be tightly policed.
What I find the saddest thing to see is how many young women are now joining their male counterparts and drinking to excess and embarrassing themselves while intoxicated in public.
As an alcoholic, you will violate your standards quicker than you can lower them — Oscar winning actor & comedian Robin Williams, Weapons of Self-Destruction
Support is slowly on the increase for a rise in the drinking age of Australians from 18 to 21, like it is in the US and in some cases there are even calls for it to be higher and not allow anyone under 25 to consume alcohol.
I remember how divided opinions were wherever I discussed this topic with my talk-back radio listeners. Many believed if you can vote and go to war at the tender age of 18, then you should be allowed to drink alcohol, while others wanted to err on the side of caution and believed today’s medical evidence about the disruption that drinking alcohol has on brain development during crucial phases of growth in teens and early twenties. This can affect vital areas needed for learning, memory, planning, thinking and mental stability.
- Alcohol is much higher in calories than Carbs and Protein
In case you need another excuse to try and cut back on your alcohol consumption, then think of it in terms of alcohol having almost twice as many calories (kilojoules) as carbohydrates and protein.
Protein and Carbohydrates have around 4 calories (almost 17 kilojoules) per gram, while Alcohol has 7 calories (29 kilojoules) per gram, only slightly less calories than Fat, which has 9 calories (37 kilojoules) per gram.
If you add a sugary mixer to your spirits then the calories increase even more. These days I’d much prefer to eat my calories than drink them.
While alcohol affects each of us differently, DrinkWise offers these simple steps to help us moderate our drinking;
- Set yourself limits and stick to them.
- Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Drink slowly.
- Try drinks with a lower alcohol content.
- Eat something while or before you have an alcoholic drink.
- Dilute your alcoholic drink by adding water or ice.
I would like to add another tip to that list;
- Try not to drink alone and I’m not talking about having a wine over dinner or while you’re cooking.
After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world — Oscar Wilde, Irish poet & playwright, on absinthe
The Dry July Foundation recently released research showing that 86% of Australians believed they would benefit from less alcohol and that is being reflected in the rapid and massive growth in non-alcoholic beer sales alone. According to some of the big Australian non-alcoholic drink manufacturers, around 50 percent of their customers are Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996).
If Dry July doesn’t work for you then there is always FebFast, Parched March, Alcohol-free April or August or Sober October to choose from or anytime in-between.
The important thing, whenever you do have an alcoholic drink, is that its purpose is for your enjoyment.
Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable — G.K. Chesterton, UK Writer dubbed Prince of Paradox
Take care and stay strong and safe.
Author, TV & Radio broadcaster