Experts in the Media

Sarah Rusbatch – The Canberra Times

‘Grey Area Drinking’ coach

Embracing sobriety should last longer than just Dry July.

Every year thousands of Australians choose to take part in Dry July, taking a much-needed break from alcohol.

But why aren’t we delving deeper into our country’s drinking culture to understand why this pause is only socially acceptable during one month of the year?

With Australia recently being named the biggest binge drinking culture globally, and alcohol abuse being linked to a range of chronic conditions, why can’t we embrace sobriety throughout the year, without peer pressure or ridicule?
Surely it’s time to normalise not drinking and promote alternative ways of socialising beyond alcohol-centric environments?

While alcohol falls into the same carcinogenic category as tobacco, our cultural attitudes to abstaining from alcohol don’t reflect this. Tell someone you’ve stopped smoking and they applaud you. Tell someone you’ve stopped drinking and they criticise you.

I believe it’s high time we challenged sobriety being confined to a single month.

In 2023 when there are advancing alcohol-free drink options at bars, we should be respecting people’s decisions not to drink, and exploring new avenues for socialising that don’t solely revolve around pub culture. By embracing sobriety beyond Dry July, Australians can develop healthier relationships with alcohol and reduce the health risks associated with excessive drinking.

We know that sales of alcohol-free alternatives are increasing at a rapid rate but this still isn’t being reflected by what drinks are available in most pubs and restaurants.

And it is still rare to find an alcohol-free alternative behind one mediocre Alcohol-Free (AF) beer or wine on any menu in Australia.

By expanding the selection of alcohol-free drinks, establishments can accommodate a wider customer base and encourage a more balanced and mindful approach to alcohol consumption.

Respect plays a vital role in fostering a supportive environment for those who opt for sobriety. It is essential to recognise and honour a person’s decision not to drink, refraining from pressuring or ridiculing them.

By promoting an inclusive atmosphere where everyone’s choices are respected, we can create a culture that values personal preferences and promotes healthier habits. This shift in mindset encourages a greater sense of empathy and understanding within Australian society.

Relying solely on pub culture for socialising can limit opportunities for connection and engagement.

We need to be encouraging activities such as outdoor adventures, creative pursuits, fitness-oriented gatherings, or cultural events that can provide people with diverse and fulfilling experiences.

By broadening the scope of social opportunities, Australians can discover new avenues for connection, personal growth, and wellbeing.

Dry July is a valuable initiative that allows Australians to reflect on their drinking habits and take a break from alcohol.

It’s essential to extend the dialogue beyond a single month and challenge the norms of Australian drinking culture.

By normalising sobriety, offering alcohol-free options, respecting personal choices, and diversifying social experiences, we can create a healthier and more inclusive society.

Let’s empower people to make decisions that prioritise their well-being and a balanced lifestyle and encourage our society to embrace sobriety as a year-round choice.