Dry January In Booze Britain?

The Merry Drinker by Frans Hals.

Now that the Christmas excess has more or less subsided, all the Merry Drinkers amongst us are considering their New Year’s resolutions. At the turning of the year Alcohol Concern is asking us all to join their Dry January Campaign. A noble and worthwhile cause in anyone’s book…

It’s something which will probably be supported by numerous individuals but I wonder, how many of those who really should try drying out will actually take part?

In last year’s campaign (2013) the charity reported a “fantastic response with huge media coverage” and applauded the fact that “over 4,300 people” had taken part. Commendable for all those individuals who actually gave it a go however; as an actual percentage of the alcohol consuming British people, I would (metaphorically) suggest the number of participants was merely small beer!

Dry January …banish the booze this January and make a healthy start to the new year. By taking on the challenge you’re sure to lose a few pounds while saving a few quid. And with no hangovers you’ll find time and energy you never knew you had, oh and your skin will look nicer too…(alcoholconcern.org.uk)

Checking the campaign website this New Year’s Eve, 7628 people were “getting ready” for Dry January 2014. The figure was already approaching double that of 2013 but it is still a rather miniscule number. By any calculations it can only realistically be seen as a drop in the nation’s alcohol ocean but, from small acorns grow large oak trees I suppose?

As ‘the leading national charity’ working on alcohol issues Alcohol Concern aims to “improve people’s lives through reducing the harm caused by alcohol.” They also proclaim “an ambitious long-term aim to change the drinking culture in this country” (their words not mine). Good luck with that one!

As I’ve espoused on numerous previous occasions (see here for example, or just use ‘booze’ as a search term), alcohol education is only one part of the overall process. Coupled with that education, there has to be a robust level of enforcement of the existing legislation in this area. Laws which were drawn up to combat the negative impacts of excessive drinking. That said, due to continued cutbacks in policing, along with politically instigated budgetary constraints for local authorities, effective enforcement is sadly all too non-existent in many areas these days.

There is no doubt that any substance consumed in excess is likely to be harmful to our health. I understand the health issues involved, I also fully understand the financial impacts upon our society as a consequence of those issues of excess. Finally, I’m also fully conversant with the anti-social behavioural issues and criminality associated with the after effects of too much booze.

This is one of my main reasons for saying; personal health risks of drinking to excess not without standing, my greater concern has always been the negative impacts of irresponsible drinking on our society, i.e. the so-called Booze Britain culture.

I’m grateful to all those who work in the field of alcohol addiction/abuse and provide support and education to those who need it. Some people will never fully understand the risks and dangers of what they are doing without the assistance of professionals, and to a great extent, their peers. People who experience personal difficulties with excessive consumption often can’t reduce/stop their intake without the support of others. Indeed, once you reach certain levels of consumption it can actually be dangerous to cut back, without medical intervention.

However, any desire to change has to be one that is self-generated. All the advice, coaxing and guidance rarely achieves the desired results, until the individual makes their own conscious decision to change.

Because I like beer and always have, my personal level of alcohol consumption is likely to remain relatively static throughout January. I have no desire to change my drinking habits. My educated, sensible and social consumption of alcoholic beverages is something of a family tradition, it forms part of my psyche.

But I learnt at a very young age that I didn’t like being ill because of booze. I also disliked my senses being numbed or distorted due to drink. I don’t like not being in control of my faculties or, being unaware of what is going on around me. Most of all, I consider the impacts of my actions on others. Consequently, my consumption has rarely caused a problem for anyone else. Then only during my formative drinking years, we’re all entitled to be young and daft once!

Until we reach the point where excessive drinking and drunkenness is once again seen as totally unacceptable in our society, as opposed to the de rigueur consequence of alcohol consumption in many social settings (particularly amongst the young), it’s likely we’ll continue to see limited results from the Consumption ‘Stasi (self-appointed or otherwise) in our Nanny State!

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