How Dry July Made Me A Better Person

I started Dry July with lofty ambitions to quit drinking for a month and stop smoking for good. I had my moments of weakness, which I readily admitted, but there’s no doubt the experiment has had a huge impact on my life. But my boss had to get involved.

In the days following my last progress report, staying off the booze and smokes became markedly easier. I stopped thinking about cigarettes altogether, and not going out on weekends made it a hell of a lot easier to not drink. But having the option of drinking taken away from me was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever faced, even though there are many times in real life where I probably wouldn’t drink given the choice. It put me in a foul mood most weekends. And in July there were five of them!

It wasn’t until today that I started appreciating all the good things abstinence in July did for me. My team has raised nearly $1000 for cancer support services. I saved at least $80 in cigarette money, and I saved hundreds more by not going out, not drinking myself silly, and not catching cabs home. My boyfriend stopped using me as an excuse to smoke, potentially saving himself from some horrible disease later on in life. I haven’t had to use my asthma inhaler for weeks, and I don’t wake up in the middle of the night because I’m wheezing and struggling to breathe. I’ve even committed myself to participating in a half-marathon with my colleagues in September; I bought my first pair of running shoes since high school and started training five days a week. I’m sleeping better as a result, and I’m also consciously watching what I put in my mouth.

In the final week of July, I started getting worried about what I would do on August 1. I felt like celebrating with a beer and a cigarette. I claimed to everyone that Dry July was twice as hard for me since I was quitting two vices at the same time. My non-smoking friends didn’t hesitate to shoot me down, quickly and harshly. They said I could have two drinks — one in each hand. Absolutely no smoking.

On August 1, I ignored the butterflies in my stomach and handed over $16 to the cashier at the corner store for my usual pack. The first cigarette made me dizzy, and each one after that made me feel nauseous. I figured that I might as well finish the packet since I already had it, but I did make up my mind quickly that it would be my last packet; not necessarily for the rest of my life, but at least until I ended up in a situation where resisting a cigarette would be difficult, like at a pub. As I headed out to lunch yesterday with my colleagues, my boss offered to buy me my packet of cigarettes with a $50 Dry July donation. Unlike the last time that offer was put to me, I didn’t hesitate to accept. My cigarettes were taken off me, crushed and thrown in the bin. But I hardly noticed as I was too stunned with myself for being able to do that without batting an eyelid.

Telling me that smoking and drinking is bad my health was never going to make me stop. That’s not enough of an incentive for me. But what is motivation for me is being held accountable to other people — a firm but kind gesture from my boss, friends who believed in me and donated to the cause, the relief written all over my parents’ faces when I told them I was trying to quit, the strangers who followed my cause and cheered me on.

Dry July is accepting donations until the end of August. If you want to show your support for adults living with cancer, you can do so here.

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