As if we haven't gone through enough hardship this year, Dry July is upon us.
Fine, at this stage, why the hell not?
Because I'm nothing if not supportive, I'm going to embark on the sad Dry July bandwagon to support my partner. It shouldn't be that tricky, since, in fairness, drinking near someone who is trying not to drink doesn't really sound like my idea of a fun time anyway.
Also, I've taken plenty of alcohol breaks in my life, for things like antibiotics, pregnancy and bouts of beer fatigue and firmly believe you don't need to be an alcoholic to want or even sometimes need to stop drinking alcohol. In fact, taking a break from it just made me enjoy it more when I did have a drink again.
Ultimately, Dry July is, above all, a campaign to raise funds and awareness for an important cause - and if that's not a good reason to hold off from drinking for a bit, then you've got to check your priorities.
But if, like me, you struggle with the idea of not having a drink through what promises to be another absolute dumpster fire of a month, here are some tips I've gathered over the course of my many attempts to drink less.
1. Pour your juice or your kombucha or flavoured water into a wine glass.
I know it sounds desperate - and that's because it is - but it works. Drinking is not just about the actual flavour of the drink you're consuming. It's about everything else to do with the act. The people you're drinking with, the place, etc. This trick is particularly helpful if you have absolutely heartless friends who choose to drink in front of you and make you wish you could join them. Well, you sort of can. Take a leaf out of every socialite's book and just "appear to do something" and you're halfway there. In all honesty, my brain falls for this trick every time. Try it, maybe you're brain is as weak as mine. Lucky us.
2. Tell people you're gonna do it so they guilt you into doing it.
Accountability is a wonderful tool to help you get stuff done. Telling your friends in advance that you're going to do this thing will set up an expectation and will also avoid having the same conversation at the pub every single time for the entire month.
3. Go full Marie Kondo and unsubscribe from things that don't help you reach your goal.
Everyone has certain triggers that lead them to drinking and these can be really subtle. In many parenting groups, for example, there's a seedy "wine mum" culture. During my breaks, I unfollow some groups where alcohol is often mentioned so the posts don't appear in my timeline when I'm mindlessly scrolling social media with my wine glass filled with apple juice in hand. I don't leave those groups because my drinking break is just temporary and I do get a lot of value out of them but I do take a temporary break so I don't get strayed from my more immediate goal. Of course the drinking culture is well too normalised and pervasive online to be possible to eliminate with the touch of an unsubscribe button but the fewer posts you see about drinking, the less tempted you feel. "Out of sight, out of mind" is a saying for a reason, and the reason is some of us have lizard brains that get rattled at the mere sight of the wine glass emoji.
4. Rope friends into doing it with you.
When you're doing something hard, nothing better than guilt tripping your most gullible friends into joining you. Misery loves company and you'll have an easier time staying off the booze if you know you're not the only one doing it tough!
5. Keep track of how well you're doing
When working towards a goal, there's no better motivator than having visible, tangible proof of how well you're doing. For me, one big motivator to not drinking is how much money I save when I don't do it. To help me visualise that particular impact of my booze break, every week I estimate how much I would normally have spent on alcohol for those days (taking into account how many non-alcoholic drinks I had that would probably have been beer), and I transfer that amount into my little savings account. Seeing that number grow keeps me motivated to stay off the booze.
The other great advantage of tracking your alcohol savings is that, when you get to the end of the month, you can choose to use those savings to reward yourself for accomplishing your goal, by buying, for example, a nicer bottle of wine than that piss you'd have been drinking all month.
However you choose to do this, just know that you've absolutely got this. Orange juice is nothing but a virgin mimosa, this month is going to fly by.