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Why I won't sponsor someone to do a Dryathlon
Being a Dryathlete
In the last couple of years there has been surge in Dryathlons in the UK. A Dryathlon is when you sponsor someone to abstain from alcohol for a month, typically the 31 days of January.
Cancer Research UK raised nearly £4million in 2013 through the January Dryathon, but it makes me wonder - exactly how dangerous is our relationship with alcohol as a society that we have to have a financial incentive to give it up for a month?
Questions and Answers on AA Sponsorship
Alcoholics Anonymous began with sponsorship. When a member, only a few months sober, felt a powerful urge to drink he realised that he needed someone who totally and utterly understood. A sponsor. A reciprocal relationship where one person needs the other just as much.
Usually when joining an organisation you need a sponsor, someone who vouches for you, backs up your application and helps you become a member. In AA the only requirement for joining is the want to not drink again. Essentially, the process of sponsorship is this: An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A. (source www.aa.org Questions and Answers on Sponsorship leaflet.)
Here are a few facts from www.drinkaware.co.uk
1. In 2011 there were 8,748 alcohol-related deaths in the UK.
2. Up to 17 million working days are lost each year due to the effects of alcohol.
3. Drinking four double gin and tonics per day will make you gain 4lbs in four weeks.
Health Charities encourage drinkers to abstain from alcohol for 31 days
We are being told constantly by health organisations, the media and our government that we drink too much, we are becoming obese and are generally very unhealthy as a nation.
Various organisations get behind the annual Dryathlon and promote it as a healthy thing to do, the Guardian for example is championing the Dryathlon as a healthy way to start the year. UK organisation, Alcohol Concern, is encouraging people to avoid alcohol for 31 days and wants us to "get talking and thinking about our drinking". No one can deny that less alcohol means you sleep better, eat better, save money and lose weight. Often people don't realise, until its too late, that a few drinks after work has actually turned into a habitual problem, but how much good can a dry month actually do?
I see each year, and not always in January, people giving up alcohol for a month, I read their struggles of how hard it is not to reach for that glass of wine, how difficult it is to have a soft drink at the local and can identify four very clear stages of the dryathlon.
Stage One - Oh My God This is so Hard!!! You're feeling sluggish and hungover after festive season, the first day or two is easy, you feel a bit better, I can do this! The first invitation to dinner comes along. Arggh what to do? Go and be "boring" (being dry does not equal boring), stay for a little while and then make excuses to leave? Sit staring at someone else's drink, seeing them enjoy it, wishing it was yours - its too much to bear!
Complain excessively on Facebook about how much you want a drink. Ask for donations to 'get you through'.
Stage Two - Smug and Energised. Congratulations you've made it to 10days! Woop woop! Theres more money in your bank, you may even feel a little slimmer and you've had some great sleep.
Tell everyone how great you feel on Facebook. Ask for more donations.
Stage Three - The Final Countdown. The end is in sight, you start to plan where you will go and what you'll have to drink on the 1st February. Tesco delivers a case of wine. Social planning takes over and the excitement is unbearable. Go to the pharmacy and stock up on hangover cures because you know its going to be a big one!
Give everyone a countdown in 'sleeps' to your first drink on Facebook. Ask for more donations to get you to the end.
Stage Four - The worst hangover of your life. Get totally and utterly blasted, so so very proud of yourself until you vomit all the way home and pass out on your doorstep because you can't get the keys in the door.
I, of course, exaggerate, but it's not that far fetched and I actually see evidence of this on my Facebook feed every year. Alcohol is a tricky mistress and I can't help but feel this new-ish trend of Dryathlon's is starting something that could be dangerous.
I think its ridiculous to call someone who has stopped drinking for a month a 'Dryathlete'. Its very insulting to anyone who is actually an athlete and trains incredibly hard to get to the stage they are at in their sporting career. Giving up booze does not an athlete make, I know why the charities are doing it, everything needs a marketing campaign, and they want people to sign up but I find the term insulting to any real athlete.
Is it actually dangerous?
I am concerned that this new trend of giving up alcohol for one month a year may be dangerous. Some people may think that because they managed a month they don't have a problem, its easy to forget how hard it was to give up, but they got through the month so obviously there's no addiction there, right? Some people may think that because they are dry for one month a year then the rest of the year is fair game, that over the festive season (because you know you're going to give it up for a month straight afterwards) you might as well make the most of it. I would be interested to find out whether alcohol related hospital admission rates rise at the beginning of February. Dryathlons are being hailed as a healthy thing to do, but I'm so sure they are.
Alcohol Concern are quoted in the Guardian article as saying "We're challenging people to take part in Dry January and try giving up booze for 31 days, and if it sounds like a big ask you're exactly the person we want to join us and have a go." How are they sure they've got the right kind of person, if they have got the kind of person that finds it a big ask then aren't they potentially getting the type of person who will binge drink before or after their Dryathlon and cause further harm to their health?
Scientific evidence suggests that binge drinking is so very dangerous, and I think that the Dryathlon, whilst not meaning to or wanting too, can encourage that behaviour. Perhaps I don't have enough faith in human nature, maybe its because of where I live (London) and the job that I do (Theatre) where drinking is as natural as eating. Maybe there are people out there who are capable of stopping for month and then re-evaluating their drinking habits and also not getting blasted before and after the dry month, and, to those people I say good luck and well done but I;d rather sponsor a person to do something truly remarkable.
Raising Money for Charity
I am running the Bath Half Marathon on the 2nd March this year and I am raising money for Wood Green Animal Shelter from where we got our most recent addition to the family, Cleo the cat. It is an excellent charity, smaller and less funded that the other larger animal charities in the UK, who really need every penny they can get and I feel that I should do something special in order to raise that money for them.
As a consequence of training for this I will have to cut down on my alcohol intake - you can't run on a hangover! I wont totally stop, I'll still enjoy a glass of wine with a meal but that's the thing right there, everything in moderation - a healthy diet and exercise. I don't want people to sponsor me to stop drinking, I want them to sponsor me for pushing myself to a level that I've never reached before. Surely that's more worthy of sponsorship rather than just not opening a bottle?
I will not sponsor someone to give up booze, I will sponsor someone to do something truly remarkable.
I won't sponsor someone to not have a drink. The thing that you do for sponsorship should be difficult, sponsorship rolling in should help to motivate you, to make you determined to reach your goal. However, if that goal is simply not doing something I don't think it warrants sponsorship.
Things I will sponsor:
Sports and.....well, yes in fact sport does just about cover it. Marathons, Half Marathons, a 5k (if you've never run before). Jumping out of a plane, abseiling down a huge building. Cycling, swimming, endurance races, speed races in fact anything that challenges you to the max and something that you've never ever done before, and may even scare the living daylights out of you, yes I'll sponsor that.
If giving up drinking for a month is so difficult that it scares the living daylights out of a person then I suspect a dryathlon is not the way to go and they may need an entirely different kind of sponsor.
Could you do it?
Could you give up alcohol for 31 days?
© 2014 mooboomoo