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.