Dry July - Is This The Abstinence That Every Kiwi Needs?

If there’s one thing that points to the essence of New Zealand’s drinking culture it’s the fact that you’re more likely to be questioned about why you don’t drink as opposed to why you do. Ever noticed that? While Dry July is a fantastic initiative, it also leads to kiwis having some much needed candid conversations about drinking.

Started in 2008 by three well intentioned blokes in Aussie, Dry July asks people to stop drinking alcohol for the month of July to raise money for cancer as well as raise awareness around drinking culture. Launched here in New Zealand in 2012 it has since raised over $7 million by encouraging thousands of kiwis to abstain from alcohol.

While we are not advocating you throw in the towel and never have another drop (as we do drink) we’re just emphasising the importance of having conversations with our friends and families about how much we are drinking and why we are drinking.

Recently journalists, Guyon Espiner and Patrick Gower both talked openly about their relationship with alcohol. Patrick Gower also held a live television debate about the alcohol industry in Aotearoa and New Zealand’s approach to drinking.

Gower’s debate mentioned that a lot of people were drinking due to how they were feeling. No doubt at some stage your moods been low or you’ve had a tough day at work so you’ve reached for a glass of wine… and then maybe another. Lottie Dan spoke about the stress of motherhood and the 5 o’clock wine that made dinner and getting children to bed a lot easier. She documents her journey in her book and also has a website that provides tools and tangible things you can do to reduce or even stop drinking.

What we are finding is that we often drink to help us cope with something – feelings of overwhelm, or stress or a way to wind down. Maybe it helps make social activities easier or more enjoyable for you or it might just be the way you end your day. What we don’t realise is that drinking becomes a habit and sometimes we forget to look at why or how much we are drinking. This is why Dry July is a great way to check in.
As was highlighted in Patrick Gower’s special – it highlights that those who are struggling (as so any of us are) are drinking to escape their everyday. This makes it a societal problem. Alcohol and excessive drinking exacerbates social inequalities (which we see in the saturation of liquor stores in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods). It takes away from families that are struggling to make do on minimal wages in this cost of living crisis.
The book Quit Like A Woman is another great resource if you are participating in Dry July or want to look at your alcohol consumption. The author highlights the way the alcohol industry has made drinking a normal way to cope with life, and how it’s deemed as a socially acceptable way to alter our behaviour.

The intention of this blog isn’t to lecture you, we just wanted to encourage open conversations about drinking. Is this something you have already put thought into? Do you feel strange not drinking alcohol at a social event? Our culture really questions why we are not drinking opposed to why we are. Which makes it hard if you have made the choice to reduce or stop drinking – as you must consistently justify your decision.

If, upon a bit of reflection, you do find that you’re using alcohol as a bit of a crutch, there are so many wonderful healthy ways to support your nervous system. You can read about some of those below!

So, while Dry July is a fantastic initiative, perhaps this concept should stretch to more than just one month of your year.

Like Dry July there are some great no alcohol initiatives such as “No beers who cares” and Living Sober. The variety of non-alcoholic options on the market now also gives you more exciting options than coca cola or water if you've decided not to drink!

Here’s a delicious recipe for a Liver Bitter Spritz if you’re in need of a non-alcoholic option this Dry July, or any month:

  • 1 cup soda water 
  • 2 ml Wild Dispensary Liver Bitters
  • ½ teaspoon Manuka Honey
  • 1 orange 
  • 1 fresh ginger root
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Ice Cubes
  • An assortment of fresh sprigs of herbs and edible flowers
  1. To make flower and herb ice cubes place small sprigs of herbs such as rosemary, mint or thyme and edible flowers such as calendula and borage in the bottom of an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze until solid.
  2. Peel orange rind into ribbons using a vegetable peeler.
  3. Bruise whole ginger root with the flat side of a knife, this means the ginger will release more juices and flavour. Thinly slice ginger root.
  4. In the bottom of a tall glass, mix liver bitters with honey, top with soda water and stir, add ice cubes ginger slices and orange peel ribbons. Serve.

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