Dry July: can you control your drinking?

I can’t.

The only way I can control it is by not having any.   A lesson I finally got on top of over six years ago.

Dry July is a campaign to encourage people to give up alcohol for a month in an effort to raise money to support cancer patients.

The fundraising programme began in Australia in 2008 and expanded to New Zealand in 2012.

Money raised goes to hospitals throughout the country, mainly to provide more comfortable spaces for patients and their families.

The Cancer Society has also received funds from Dry July for patient transport services.

For several years, Salvation Army Bridge, the organisation’s drug and alcohol addiction programme, has seen an increase in people seeking help throughout August, September and October.

Addiction Services national director Lynne Hutson suspects those participating in Dry July are reviewing their drinking behaviour after a month of abstinence from alcohol.

Three to 10 per cent of the adult population, “depending on the method of diagnosis”, are moderately or severely dependent on alcohol, Ms Huston says.

The Ministry of Health’s 2014/15 national health survey shows 18 per cent of adults are “hazardous” drinkers, meaning that their drinking affects relationships or risks physical or mental health.

Dry July “gives participants the chance to pause and take stock of their drinking behaviours”, Ms Hutson says.

The Salvation Army is encouraging people to contact their doctor or addiction treatment services if they are concerned about their alcohol consumption.

“Taking early action can avoid a great deal of heartbreak, illness and even catastrophe,” Ms Hutson adds.

Dry July begins today. More information is available at www.dryjuly.co.nz.

I envy people that can have a glass of this or that and leave it at that.  It’s nice enough to relax and kick back.  But for people like me, that was never the end of it.

Others think that they are in control, but by the time you “must” have that drink, just one, I’m not an alcoholic, one is just fine, I got this, you may very well be down the slippery slope.

If you find yourself in a position where you hate yourself for drinking too much, yet the need to continue seems to be greater than the need to stop… if you are someone who, on the way home, pops into the bottle store, even though there is part of you that actually wants to drive straight home…

…Nothing wrong with a drink here and there.  Or even some every day, in principle.  But who is in control?

I know from painful personal experience that you can’t ask someone to stop if the battle between their two halves hasn’t progressed to the point where it actually works.  I know of someone who drank themselves into the grave.  He knew he was doing it.  He was institutionalised.

For people who can control it, this seems hard to understand.  They think of it as lack of willpower, lack of self control, lack of self-esteem.  Perhaps a victim mentality.   “Just stop”, they will think.

I have always taken full responsibility for my drinking.  Nobody forced me to.  And yet I couldn’t stop.

I’m not the Alcoholics Anonymous type.  I certainly wasn’t going to beg a god that I don’t believe in for help.  None of that claptrap.  It was my problem, I had to dig my way out.

One day, after some pretty severe self loathing, I did some more reading on the Internet.  Were there non-religious programs to get off alcohol?

I read, and I read, and suddenly the light came on.

No matter what program or method you chose, it all had a very basic first step in common:

Admit you are not in control of it, and you need help

That flew into the face of everything I believed to be true.   All I had to do was stop.   Harden up and stop.

But at that stage I was in my third relapse, and looking back, I realised that this was true.  It gave me permission not to feel responsible for my own actions.  Oh, how that grinds my gears!!!   Me?   Not responsible for my own actions?  What sort of victim mentality is that then?

And then something really strange happened.   Even though I don’t identify with a god like you may do, I actually followed the first instruction of ALL these programs:  I admitted to… someone, something… outside of myself, that I had no control.  That I was not capable.  That I needed help.

That was six years, 2 months and a week or so ago.   And I haven’t touched a drop since.

More importantly, I do not credit myself with this recovery.  Clearly, had I been able to do it myself, I would have succeeded earlier.

Over the last six years I’ve faced enormous setbacks in my life.  Deaths, financial and external threats to my general wellbeing.   I’ve been in worse places over the last six years than the ones that caused me to drink in the first place.

And I have never been tempted to take it up again.  Not even close.

I thank whatever “it” is for its help.  Be that god, or whatever.

But it appears there is a reason that step is common to all alcohol (addiction) recovery programmes:  you must admit you are not in control, and you need to ask for help.

Do with that what you will.


If this piece resonates with you, it is because I wrote it for you.  After all this time, perhaps now you are finally ready.  And perhaps, not yet.   I guess you’ll find out next time you need to re-stock on the demon drink.  But if your self-loathing and feelings of being trapped have gotten to the right point, perhaps it is your turn to admit it is something you can not control, and that you need help – wherever that help may come from.  In my case, I did it all by myself.  You and others will benefit from external assistance.  I have become convinced none of it works unless you admit you are powerless, and the help comes to you externally.   It makes no sense to me.  But I figured that there was a reason it was such a common step in all recovery programs.  So I tried, and it worked.  Even though I don’t believe in it.  Weird eh?

Don’t tell me you are proud of me.  I didn’t do it.  I’m just deeply humbled and very grateful.


– Pete,  Angela Woods, NZ Herald

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