How I got through Dry July with a little help from my (famous) friends

Andrew McUtchen sheds light on getting through Dry July and pointers on what helped him along the way.

Joining Up For Dry July

By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late. I had posted on Instagram and secured sponsorship – exceeding my modest target in a day. Next, I started a WhatsApp group called “Alcohol-Free Anonymous”. I had even stocked the fridge and pantry with enough alcohol-free beverages to last a Victorian lockdown, which, sure enough, happened about a week later.

I was all set to embark on what has been one of the weirdest months of my life.

But let’s go back to the group. My thinking here was that to go fast, you go alone, to go far, you go together. And there was no way this next month was going to just fly by. I was set to exclude something which – perhaps insidiously – had become more a part of my daily life than ever before. Thanks for that, 2020.

Addicted

The first thing you will notice when you go off the booze with a bunch of buddies is that a natural spacing opens up between people, from most addicted to least. I know that’s a jolting word – addicted – but we should be honest with each other. Alcohol is addictive.

Despite its cosy permissibility, alcohol is considered by the American Addiction Centre to be a podium finisher for its addictive qualities, with only cocaine and heroin ahead of it. To continue the sporting metaphors, it’s just like we were taking on a marathon as a team, and some had trained, and some had not. At the back of the line are those grumbling and struggling. At the front are those talking, laughing, comparing their ultra-hydrated skin.

The Group

And ours was an unnaturally cheerful group if I’m honest. Our “doctor” – who else but actor Rodger Corser – kept the gags coming from day one, airing his concern that “alcohol was the only thing keeping his liver functioning”. Lucky then, that the self-diagnosis was not from a health professional!

Our Olympian, Michael Klim, didn’t need fancy alcohol-free (AF) replacement therapy, he opened his account on WhatsApp with a shot of a slab of sparkling water – “keeping it simple” – and quickly followed up with a video of him powering through a Sydney cove in a kayak.

The pots-and-pans man in the mix, Ben Cooper, head chef of Chin Chin, seemed to cook his feelings, and commenced a month-long onslaught of mouthwatering home cooking creations.

There were, by the way, a cohort of less famous people in the mix, too. Lucy Feagins, founder of Australia’s most popular design blog The Design Files, and a good mate, Charles. Our contributions were mostly pictures of a cornucopia of AF drinks, usually with a witheringly critical review attached. Lucy’s all looked perfectly styled, with elegant shadows and accessories. Ours were usually snapped in front of a TV screen of either footy, or later Olympics, and occasionally a barbecue when we dared risk the wrath of Ben.

The Game Changer in Getting Through Dry July

But pictures and light relief aside, the group was a godsend. A culture of openness was set early. We shared our wobbles, our “leave passes” (a genius stroke by the Dry July folks whereby you can pay $25 to have a night off not drinking) and the things that were helping get us through. Lucy shared a book recommendation that changed the game for me in the difficult first 10 days: This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.

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Dry July may be over but you can still check out This Naked Mind. Dive into the science behind why we drink and learn how to break free. Download the first 40 pages for free now!