Like so many others, one of my new year’s resolutions is to do dry January. Today, new recommendations on reduced alcohol consumption will no doubt encourage more people to drink less. One of our supporters has set himself a sponsorship challenge to go six months without a drop of alcohol, which got me thinking: what could I do to make dry January a really positive experience?
Going sober till summer
Our supporter Danny Blackburn has set up a JustGiving page, asking friends and family to sponsor him for his #SoberTillSummer challenge, with all proceeds donated to us to help support the world’s poorest women and children.
Danny explains: "I've done dry January a few times, so wanted something a bit tougher this time. I'd been considering doing a physical challenge - like a marathon or triathlon - but I do that kind of thing anyway. So instead I'm going to give up something I really, really enjoy for a bit, to support ActionAid." If you'd like to support Daniel then please visit his JustGiving page.
Giving up drinking for six months might require too much willpower for some (like me, especially since this is my first attempt!), so instead I’ve decided to just do dry January, but to make a monthly donation of the equivalent of a few pints.
Motivation is key
Why? Well giving up alcohol, or even drinking less, is hard. It’s a comfort (even if a temporary one), it’s fun, and it’s social. I’m only a couple of weeks in and I'm already struggling to say no. But I certainly don’t ‘need’ it. So when I think about how much money I waste on booze, compared to the value that the same amount could give to someone else, it makes it a lot easier.
Right now, there is a devastating amount of actual need in the world. Millions of families are still homeless, especially after emergencies like the Nepal earthquakes. Mothers are desperately struggling to provide for their children. And millions of refugees are struggling to survive freezing winter temperatures with no assurance of when in the future they might eventually have somewhere safe to call home.
What a fiver can buy
I’m a cider drinker myself. In London, £5 can only buy me one pint of cider. And lets face it - I’ll enjoy drinking it in the space of about an hour, probably have a couple of extra laughs with my friends, and maybe that extra confidence boost to chat up that nice bloke at the bar. But essentially that’s it. That’s the extent of the benefit. And my liver definitely won’t thank me for it once I've had two or three.
Whereas if I chose to spend that £5 a bit differently, it could go a hell of a lot further: the equivalent of one pint could pay for a coat to keep a homeless child like Ilna (pictured top) warm this winter. Two pints could equip a refugee family with the basic essentials they need, like nappies and soap. And three pints could give a new mother without a home a place for her to breastfeed and care for her baby in safety.
It’s a no-brainer really.
So rather than feeling sorry for myself about how hard it is to resist that glass of Pinot Grigio or that delicious bottle of Rekorderlig down the pub with my friends, I’ve decided to give £15 a month to ActionAid’s Winter Homelessness Appeal. It’s not much, and it's certainly not as impressive as Daniel's #SoberTillSummer challenge, but I want my giving up alcohol to actually benefit someone else, and not just for January but for the long term.
Do you want to make your new year's resolution count too? Then why not join me and give a monthly donation to ActionAid?
Photos: Anna Pantelia/ActionAid, George Makkas/Panos Pictures/ActionAid