Abstinence makes the ritual healthier

Dry July
Dry July
Off the booze: Bligh Twyford-Moore, left, and Jack Colwell. Photo: Jon Reid

Off the booze: Bligh Twyford-Moore, left, and Jack Colwell. Photo: Jon Reid

It has become the secular Lent. Dry July and other charity-themed months are evolving into observations of abstinence and fasting for personal wellbeing rather than the betterment of society or religious practice.

No longer restricted to alcohol, the winter chill now signals a time to give up chocolate, cigarettes, soft drinks – the list of perceived vices that need renouncing for a limited time is endless.

Brett Macdonald, Dry July co-founder and executive director, said the changes in societal norms were a growing challenge.

Movember, Ocsober and Dry July were built on the shared communities that inhabit Facebook and Twitter to drive fund-raising campaigns. However, the adoption of the rhyming campaigns into the wider popular lexicon has left behind their social media home.

''I guess these names roll off the tongue and become an entity in themselves quite quickly,'' Mr Macdonald said.

''We formed seven years ago as a foundation to raise awareness and support cancer services. We are going well this year with 30,000 on Facebook and 19,000 registered online. But I know there's a lot more people doing it than ever before who don't want to commit publicly

''It's like Dry July has become the new financial year's resolution, as a friend described it to me.''

Good friends Jack Colwell and Bligh Twyford-Moore, both 24, of Newtown, are among a group of 10 friends going without grog without the fund-raising commitment, even holding weekly catch-ups with like-minded souls to help each other survive the month.

Their motivation is more personal than being part of an online community.

''This is my first Dry July where I abstained from alcohol and the party scene,'' Mr Colwell said.

''For me it wasn't about taking the challenge for a month, not about money, even though those foundations are rewarding. It gets to a point I wanted to improve my life. I had to make a decision how I was going to live my life. Dry July was personal in that way.''

Mr Twyford-Moore said he was wary of hitting up friends for money.

''My motivation is different,'' he said. ''I don't have a negative relationship with alcohol.

''But I liked to kick back into good health in the belief that the alcohol was probably interrupting your normal cycle of growth and repair.

''It does shift your world view; you do feel more positive.''

Mr Macdonald laughed ruefully at the evolution of the rhyming phenomenon he helped create.

''Well, I don't think Cape-ril [where for the entire month of April participants wear different capes in day-to-day activities] has any of these issues,'' he said.

This story Abstinence makes the ritual healthier first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.