Sunday 23 October 2016

Dr Ciara Kelly: Dry in January and waiting for wet February

Dry January may have its merits but it's only a sop, masking our real national problem with alcohol

Ciara Kelly

Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30

Ciara Kelly
Ciara Kelly
Booze nation: Ireland has one of the highest consumptions of alcohol per capita in the world, and we consume most of it in a binge setting. We drink like fishes. Across the board

I've been looking with some interest at the stuff on social media about Dry January lately. Dry January being the name for people going off alcohol for the month in order to balance out the excesses of Boozy December. People are getting bored. They want it to be over. They can't remember why they went off the drink.

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Sure December was months ago now.

One account I saw said they were heading out for dinner and a movie but they were 'sick of quiet nights.' Lots of others were bemoaning how they had no social life - which was apparently ok immediately after Christmas when they had no money, but now a pay cheque had come in it was intolerable.

A huge amount of what I've seen revolves around the fact that basically without alcohol Ireland thinks it's social life is crap. Which raises the question - why do we feel we need alcohol so badly to have a good time?

There is some merit to Dry January in that it does let our livers and our heads recover from the beating we give them in the festive season. But it doesn't do much to address the actual issue of drink being our national pastime. And I guess that's the point - we don't really want to address that.

This small act of sobriety will do us nicely instead. And then of course come February - or in some people's case they hold out until the Six Nations - we go back to the exact same pattern as before. Being dry precludes us from having any fun it seems - so I know several people who are going dry this month - and therefore doing absolutely nothing else.

A month isn't a very long time. So it doesn't allow us any space to actually develop any non-alcohol related outlets or interests. So this merely defers 'having a good time' until we're all allowed get pissed in February. Business as usual.

But here's the thing if you are one of those people on Facebook or Twitter who are finding 'The Dry' hard going - maybe you need to ask yourself why that is?

The expression 'I can stop any time I like' is one of the great cliches that alcoholics use. That along with 'I know loads of people who drink way more than I do.' But if now you've stopped - you're finding it tough - then maybe stopping isn't that easy for you. And if stopping isn't easy what does that say about your relationship with alcohol?

Ireland has one of the highest consumptions of alcohol per capita in the world. We drink the majority of alcohol consumed here in a binge setting. Which belies the notion that is the minority of us who have a problem with drink while the majority of us are temperate in our alcohol consumption.

We drink like fishes. Across the board. And you know what? It is boring. We think we're amazing craic - drunks often do. But in reality, we repeat ourselves. Slur our words. Fall over on the way home. Puke in the street. And piss in the wardrobe.

And we are, of course, in total collective denial about this; but while it's still more socially acceptable to do all of that than to be a non-drinker in this country, we will continue to have a problem.

Fair play to those of you who did attempt Dry January; it's not a bad way to start the year in terms of your health and indeed your wallet. But if you are struggling or indeed if you've aleady fallen off the wagon, it might be time to ask yourself if Wet February is really in your best interest. @ciarakellydoc

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