Why Dry July Will Change My Life Too

Why Dry July Will Change My Life Too

I signed up for Dry July about a week ago without thinking too much about it. Raise money for charity and not drink alcohol for a month? It sounded so easy, I decided to give myself the extra challenge of not smoking for the whole month as well. Now that it’s almost July, I’m starting to worry.

No smoking/alcohol photo by Chi.

The Dry July Foundation was started up by a bunch of people who saw a novel way to raise money for adults living with cancer and get healthy at the same time. They provide full disclosure on their website that 80 cents in every dollar raised goes straight to its beneficiaries, and so far it’s been really fun thanks to its tight integration with Facebook and Twitter. Last year, over 9500 Australians took part to raise over $2.45 million.

It’s a noble cause, and one that’s close to my heart. One of my best friends, whom I lived with for four years, deteriorated rapidly with undiagnosed prostate-related complications. For months and months he tried to “be a man about it” and endured excruciating pain until he ended up at a GP’s office and broke down in tears, saying that he’d rather die than live with the pain.

It was at that point that the doctor decided to send him for a CT scan – and just in the nick of time. The scan revealed that his tumour-riddled prostate was preventing his bladder from emptying properly, causing the normally fist-sized organ to balloon to the size of a rugby ball. He would be dead within hours if he didn’t present himself to emergency immediately.

After he was admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, he learnt that the prostate was the least of his problems. His bladder was dead, his kidneys had zero function, and he would have to self-catheterise five times a day to empty his broken bladder for the rest of his life. In hindsight, the symptoms were so obvious, yet the NSW public health system failed him. I’m sure many of you have a similar story to tell.

As well, Dry July will be my first concerted effort to try to quit smoking. I’ve been a smoker for about five years now. Over the last year or so I’ve been consciously telling myself that I should quit, but I’ve never really made the effort to do so. Not even two bouts of bronchitis – commonly referred to as smoker’s cough – could stop me. I’m not a heavy smoker – maybe a pack a week – but there are situations where I really feel that I can’t do without a cigarette: after a meal, when I’m around friends who smoke, when I’m drinking, when I’m studying, when I’m bored. My biggest challenge will be to break that power of association.

Will I be able to do it without nicotine patches or drugs like Champix? I think so, but I won’t be unrealistic about it. I’ve stopped smoking for days at a time before without realising it, so with willpower, I’m confident that I can say I’ll have my last cigarette ever on June 30.

I know that it’ll be a much tougher gig trying to do it alone, and this is what sets Dry July apart from other online fundraising initiatives. You can sign up with friends, so that you can work as a team to successfully make it through the month. Having close friends also abstain from drinking will make my effort to quit smoking so much easier, since I often use them as an excuse to light up another one.

If you want to sponsor me and my team in my month of abstinence, you can do so here. I’ve chosen the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation as my beneficiary, since my friend is being treated there, and they’ll need every spare cent looking after 4000 cancer patients a year. My only request is that you don’t buy any of us a “Golden Ticket”, which will give us a hall pass for one day in the month to drink alcohol. The last thing I need is a drink to tempt me to smoke and derail my progress.

Are you getting involved in Dry July, either as a participant or a sponsor? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.


  • Being some one who doesn’t drink at all, I actually think this is a nice campaign. I do have friends who tried to stop drinking for a while but never found a good time and cause. I hope I get them signed up for Dry July!

  • Be careful with the Champix. It’s supposed to be some type of wonder drug but after watching my father-in-law’s mental state descend into borderline Schizophrenia, we threw the drugs in the bin. (Plus he still didn’t quit)

      • I did that for four or five years – I’d have a gradually increasing amount of caffeine to stay as alert as I liked, and then spend a week every 6 months or so completely without to bring my tolerance back down. In the end, I decided the withdrawal-week was just too unpleasant to warrant the rest.

        My current system: the equivalent of two coffees a day (or less if I’m feeling fine), and I skip all caffeine on weekends/public holidays/whenever I’m not actually at work. It’s working well – the off-days help prevent building a real tolerance, and the low levels taken mean I don’t go through any noticeable withdrawal.

  • I did it last year for the first time, after many years as a very heavy drinker… my people are also very heavy drinkers. within our group, i was the only one who did dry july.

    forgoing the booze was very easy, but i found it difficult to settle in and socialise for the extended lengths i’m used to. after an hour or two i get bored/fidgety and head elsewhere.

    this year i’m also giving up cigs with the booze. so i’m there with you. good luck, elly!

  • I’m not sure the summary of your friend’s ordeal properly indicates how the NSW public health system failed him…
    Unless, prior to the mentioned GP visit, he had been given lax medical advice, or if the damage to his bladder was due to inadequate treatment in hospital?
    (I’m not trying to sound insincere)

    • What I didn’t include in the article is that he had been seeing a urologist for many years prior to the urgent situation I mentioned above. He went on a regular basis and was told every time that going in to have a look would potentially cause more harm than it was worth. This lazy urologist called it “watchful waiting”.

      • I find it hard to believe this guy was seeing a urologist for years. A prostate so full of tumours as to obstruct the bladder and a grossly enlarged bladder itself are easily recognised with a simple physical examination. If that really is the case, at least your friend can have the satisfaction of suing him for a couple of trillion dollars (still no substitute for his health).

  • It’s a noble cause, and I wish you well.

    That said, the fact that a “give up alcohol” event can exist, I believe, is an indictment on Australian society.

    It’s treated as if it’s something that we need to have in order to exist.

  • Hi Elly
    I am the CEO of the Prince of wales hospital Foundation and cant thank you enough for being a part of this. I am sorry to hear about your friend, cancer does not discriminate but more and more the treatments are giving fantastci outcomes. Did you see also our Dreams 2 live 4 program which DRy JUlY funds support, where we give patients with me secondary cancer a Dream. we have some wonderful stories of those dreams. I think the doctors all the staff here at the prince of wales hospital are the best!I am joining you in this month of not drinking and this will be my third year… Hmmm!
    and I commend you for giving up the cigarettes as well what challenging month you have
    good luck

  • I wish I had heard about this earlier… I’m due for a break on the booze (a few big events over the past month have kept me pretty well toasted) and for charity is just a bonus! Is it too late to sign up?

    As for quitting the smokes, it’s all crap, I was a heavy smoker for about 14 years and the missus almost as long and when we started going out, having two smokers in the house nearly killed us. We both quit cold turkey and have been off for nearly a year. All I can say is, forget the pills, patches and gimmicks, you really need a REASON to quit, if you don’t have that reason then you will fail.

  • 1 month is nothing. I randomly do that when i just don’t feel like drinking (i still go out). Then again i had an accident when i was 18 which meant medically i could not drink for 2 years so i can see why a month is nothing for me. I also don’t smoke so if i think i was going to do something like this it would have to be internet or coffee

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!