I stare into the rations of a ginger beer on the rocks, the commotion of a bar evolves around me, friends share amplified conversations as they brim with liquor lathe lip service, trying to compete against the amplified sound of a live band in the apposing room and the echoed conversations of this overcrowded venue. One month ago I would have been the boisterous one on the end of this table, sculling the remains of my vessel, nudging others to join me in the smoking area or accompany me to the bar for another hit. Yet somehow this observational composure, this sober juxtaposition of me one month ago, brings a gratified smirk to my recently reacquired cheek dimples.
On Sunday June 30th 2013, my Dry July obituary read. Partial to Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon and Old Mout Cider pre communal restaurant dinner, party, event or night of bar debauchery. Likely to devour Long Island Ice teas in courtyards, exit conversations intermittently for shots of tequila at the bar and let loose to shameful pop music on an overcrowded dance floor, while balancing a vodka on the rocks or gin and juice. Commonly the last one standing, a frequent flyer at Hungry Jacks on Hoddle street at 5 a.m., often spotted completing the walk of shame home past morning breakfast goers with his alcohol ailed bags acting as invisible sunglasses and breathing secondhand smoke upon morning fitness scenesters, highly envious of their fresh morning vitality.
I chose to undertake Dry July for three reasons, firstly to support the Royal Melbourne Hospital for charitable reasons, secondly to test my perseverance and remain sober for 31 days with my relatively active social life still in tact, and thirdly because I received slightly elevated liver function test results in early June, a first in my 28 years on this earth. While initially sipping on Coca-Cola pre-meal at a restaurant felt a little like I was ten years old again at a smorgasbord and rocking up to a party with a four-pack of Guava Bundaberg’s and a 1.5 litre strawberry and dragonfruit infused Lipton Tea Daiquiri bottle, did nothing to heighten my masculinity. What I have discovered this month is the five stages of sobriety and how 28 days later with three days of my challenge still remaining, life beyond the alcohol haze is actually much more satisfying than spending 2 hours of your life watching Sandra Bullock in a rehabilitation clinic.
Stage 1: “Yeah she’s a gold digger way over town, she take my money when I’m in need” – Kanye West, Gold Digger
Whether you’re on a monthly, weekly or fortnightly pay cycle, we all often arrive at those weeks when we’ve got a limited amount of coin to fund our living costs. Sure it’s usually due to excess spending and unexpected bills, yet from undertaking Dry July and avoiding the five page long drinks menu for non-alcoholic offerings, my bank account has received an unexpected resuscitation of epic proportions. Upon comparing my bank statement from June 2013 to my July 2013 online statement, I discovered that instead of spending $1328.40 on alcoholic social accompaniments. I’ve invested a minimal $190.00 into non-alcoholic social consumption. While I did expect that undertaking Dry July would be a rather inexpensive challenge, seeing the amount of money I spend on booze each month and how economical sobriety is, has really made me question where I could be, if socially sober shades became a new regular attire within my monthly calendar.
Stage 2: “Children wake up; hold your mistake up before they turn the summer into dust” – The Arcade Fire, Wake Up.
Given that improved health was one of my main motivations behind Dry July, I knew I would come out of this 31 days a little fitter or at least receive improved liver results on my next bloods. What I didn’t expect was to find joy in waking up at 6.30 a.m. five days a week, to run the Abbotsford trail. Initially I began running a few days a week with Kayla completing 3 – 5km runs both on the trail and through the Fitzroy gardens. Yet quickly I began to complete these fitness routines alone too and now five to six days a week I complete a 7km run along the Abbotsford Trail every morning. This run is now my morning wake up call, it’s my endorphin inducing motivation for the day, its reduced my niggling nicotine addiction to an after midday indulgence and its become my new release for any frustrations personal or professional. On that trail accompanied by Kayla or alone with my music pulsating my strides, it’s as if I’m punching in a dream against the old me, the one who would be sipping from his morning coffee mug and chugging back a cigarette as he looks upon the day ahead with smug dismay. It’s also shown me that endorphins are a pretty addictive energy, how beneficial they are to my mental well-being and overall health, and that running is one infectious habitual fix that I will not be giving up post Dry July.
Stage 3: I’m giving it my all but your not the girl I’m taking home, I keep dancing on my own – Robyn, Dancing on my own.
We’ve all been in that moment when a great track comes on at a party and we really want to go and get our groove on to it. But we fear we’re too sober and will probably dance like an awkward douche in the sea of coordinated groover’s dominating the d-floor. My biggest fear about Dry July was my social stamina, I thought I’d be exiting social events as early as possible, waking up with chocolate smeared pillow cases or that I would become a regular fixture in the window booths of every fast food joint North of the Yarra at 11 p.m. each weekend. Surprisingly though when out at bars and events, I managed to carve up the dance floor fueled by ginger beer, non-alcoholic espresso martinis and citrus mocktail’s until dawn. I still managed to share early a.m. kebab encounters with mates and at house parties worked the room with conversational vigor, as I interacted with anyone and everyone within my orbit, whether they were a friend or a new face. Yet it wasn’t until my childhood mate Dev’s birthday at Ding Dong’s last weekend, when I was loosing myself to dance and getting low and dirty to Daft Punk, that I caught my reflection in a mirror and beamed back an elated smile. This person, this guy who probably looked like just another tanked lad on this dance floor, I actually liked him, because he could confidently dance on his own and groove to his own beat, high on nothing more than the company he was in.
Stage 4: “Too much of something is bad enough, but something’s coming over me to make me wonder, too much of nothing is just as tough” – Too Much, The Spice Girls.
Without realizing it especially this year, I think I’ve been living my waking life in a slightly excessive alcohol infused haze. This is not to say that I drink everyday, but my recreational drinking has definitely been higher than usual this year. From undertaking Dry July I’ve released this increased consumption of liquor hasn’t just been affecting my health and finances, its also been limiting my cognitive clarity, comprehension and creativity. In July I’ve managed to complete the second draft of a script project that I’ve been avoiding for months, I preformed live at a poetry ‘Word Slam’ in Fitzroy and I even managed to get a PR article piece about myself as a creative, featured in the 100 days, 100 individuals project. Although each of these creative projects outside of my normal professional 9-5 could have happened in any month and the timing of them may just coincide with Dry July, I firmly believe that its been from my renewed drive, healthier outlook and increased energy that I’ve been able to find a new found source of after hours productivity beyond the hangovers of 2013.
Stage 5:“Your lips taste like a night of champagne, now everybody asks me why I’m smiling from ear to ear, finally you put my love on top” – Beyonce, Love on top.
Alcohol whether we’d like to admit it or not, is a common aphrodisiac for love, or at least the fumbled motions of lust and lovemaking. A few drinks in and we have the balls to approach that guy or girl from across the room, whose gaze is one that we want thrusted upon us behind closed doors. Dry July has afforded me the opportunity to indulge in weekend dates where the haze of the night before isn’t top shelf scented, I’ve had brunches at French Creperies followed by weekend shopping for nieces and nephews with charming suitors and spent Saturday’s exploring public arts and architecture events, and I’ve even discovered a resurgence of passion for daylight hours spent running with my very own McDreamy followed by bedroom hours of extravagant delight. Somehow beyond the stem of a red glass wine my desires and my personality have shone a more attractive version of me to the objects of my affection and the satisfaction that I have found in the arms of McDreamy, together and stone cold sober as one, is a sensation I plan to continue to preserve.
So now on day 28 of Dry July and with three days of sobriety remaining, while I may sound like some born again sober advocate. I’ve come to the realization that me without alcohol is actually a guy who I respect and in a lot of ways prefer. Introspectively I feel that while I still have the same sass, smirk and swag that I strut with a red wine glass in my hand. The person I am when tipsy and intoxicated is actually quite a horrible person, not in a nasty way, but my confidence and pride in who I am and what I stand for, definitely fleets post a few drinks. I’m not going to deny it next weekend when Friday night arrives I will be celebrating the end of the week with a glass of wine, but I’ll be sipping on it as I savor its familiarity and the next time I’m seen on a dance floor, I’ll probably have a ginger beer in my hand in between rounds too. Because after experiencing how much more life can be lived once excessive indulgences are reduced, I no longer want to let my weekends transpire beneath hung-over hues.
Written by Samuel Elliot Snowden