Happy New Year! My Twitter news feed is full of diet ideas and people solemnly swearing to start lunging everyday but there is one recurring theme; donation pleas for #DryJanuary.
Dry January is a new initiative from Alcohol Concern encouraging people to give up booze for the 31 days of January 2013. Now I am all for raising money for charity and think only good can come from shining a light on alcohol issues but these Twitter pleas fall flat with me.
It shouldn't be that noteworthy to abstain from alcohol for 31 days; has society become so defined by the 'binge drink' that it is a struggle to go without it for 8.3% of the year? An impressive accomplishment for charity is running 26.2 miles, trekking a jungle or growing a wispy moustache mid-puberty for male cancers. Should I be asking for sponsorship every time I give up chocolate or biting my nails?
This campaign reminded me of a 24 hour sponsored fast my sister and I did when at school in the Ethiopian Famine supporting 1980s. Like all campaigns it had the noble aim of educating us and raising funds. We awoke with the best intentions on the Saturday morning but then did 3 hours of dance classes and in a light-headed state of panic begged our Dad to take us to the nearest newsagents for a packet of Skips. We learnt more about the plight of the Ethiopians at that time by watching Newsround not by getting hungry. I think we still sent off our sponsorship money though.
Perhaps it is called "Dry" January because our bank balances have become arid deserts post Christmas and only dowsing will find an elusive £5 to sponsor a mate to cleanse their liver. Any oases of cash are sadly being put towards my tax but I will always actively support anyone who wishes to cut down on or cut out alcohol.
I know many people whose lives are infinitely better 'sans booze' and they made that decision quietly and without asking us for cash. I am not against the ethos of Dry January more the constant "Day 3, phewf this is hard I could murder a pint," outbursts through social media. I can only imagine how emotional and desperate these tweets may become by day 20 - "Day 11, it's Friday, home alone whilst work colleagues are having the post work drink, I'm eating the wallpaper," "Day 20 one smiley Grandma for sale, 75% discount with a bottle of Pinot."
Judging by the photographs gracing the newspapers on New Year's Day to abstain from booze for a month should be a no-brainer. The mini-skirts laced with vomit and blood-stained faces were like remnants of the Apocalypse where only football hooligans on a free all-inclusive holiday in Falaraki survived.
I would compel anyone who wishes to raise awareness for Alcohol Concern to attend an Al-Anon meeting and see the effects of alcohol abuse on the families and loved ones of alcoholics. An alcoholic isn't just someone who drinks as soon as they wake up, alcoholism comes in many, surprising forms and one hour of your time would be much more effective than jump starting your weight-loss with this Media led campaign.
So yes, please do clean up for a month and take a moment to consider alcohol consumption but don't ask me to pat you on the back for surviving 31 days without a drink because I sure as hell won't pat you on the back when you down 31 glasses of wine on February 1st.