Why I’m giving up booze - and how to survive Dryathlon

Celebrating an anniversary at Loch Fynne in Sheffield
Celebrating an anniversary at Loch Fynne in Sheffield

Put down the prosecco and step away from that scotch.

Tonight is the last night that thousands of people across South Yorkshire will enjoy a tipple - for a month, anyway.

For tomorrow marks the start of Dryathlon, a one-month charity fundraiser that collects vital cash for Cancer Research UK.

Last year the initiative was taken up by 6,673 people in Yorkshire, who between them raised a whopping £437,373 just by going sober for 31 days.

This year I will be one of those people staying off the sauce - and it is likely to be a bigger challenge than finding a pint for under £3.

As a food reviewer and wine writer alcohol features more prominently in my life than it probably does for most.

Wayne Wall, who gave up drinking for a year, drinks a coffee in a nightclub at 3am in Blackpool

Wayne Wall, who gave up drinking for a year, drinks a coffee in a nightclub at 3am in Blackpool

There’s little point eating the most authentic sushi on offer at a new Japanese if the sake has to be left behind.

And it’s a tough job, but someone has to describe the merits of a pinot noir versus merlot for our readers.

Outside of work there are only a few social occasions or celebrations that haven’t involved a glass of fizz - usually only those involving a pregnant friend or prior to noon.

After all there are few greater pleasures in life than a bottle of red on the sofa after a long week at work.

But that’s all going out of the window.

Firstly it is in the name of health - with my wedding coming up later in the year, every pound off counts.

Secondly it is in the name of wealth - for who isn’t counting the pennies in January?

Thirdly the cause it will help, as like everyone, I have family and friends who battled or lost their lives to cancer.

Finally it is about the challenge itself.

It goes without saying that it will be tough.

For a start there’s a 30th birthday party of a close friend coming up on January 30 and that stockpiled prosecco in the cellar for our wedding reception...

I’ve also known friends or colleagues who described the month as tedious, spending far too much time desperately cleaning to fill in the hours they would normally spend on a Sunday afternoon at their local.

However the experts at Cancer Research UK insist going dry does not have to be boring.

One man who knows that better than most is Barnsley grandad Wayne Wall, who gave up alcohol for a full year.

He lost almost three stones in weight, raised £2,500 for the cause, and still lived life to the full.

The 44-year-old, who took on the challenge to mark the year between his 42nd and 43rd birthdays, instead made it a challenge to discover new non alcoholic drinks and even review them.

Drive Wayne said: “I went to Benidorm for a week and to Blackpool with the lads. I didn’t change my social habits at all really, that would have made it a chore.

“There is a picture of me in a nightclub in Blackpool at 3am with a pot of coffee!

“There were benefits to it, I lost just shy of three stone and I didn’t change the way I ate at all, if anything I ate more.

“It was a bit tricky at the start because my birthday is in November so I was straight into Christmas but once I had got my head around it it was quite easy.”

Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK spokesman for Yorkshire, said other dryathletes had learned to knit or got fit as a result.

She added: “Despite what people might think - going dry doesn’t have to be dull.

“We’re asking people to give up the sauce, not their social life, and there are plenty of fun ways to enjoy 31 hangover free days.”

“When we call time at the bar this January 1, we hope people will proudly put down their pints and get ready to take on a month of fun and frolics without the morning after regrets.”

Dryathletes who pledge to ditch the drink raise the cash either through sponsorship or by donating the money they would normally have spent on alcohol for the month.

There is also a ‘tipple tax’ penalty of £20 for those who really can’t help but fall off the wagon for a big event, so all is not lost.

To sign up, or for more details, visit Dryathlon

Seven tips to survive Dryathlon

Stock up on soft drinks you like, Dryathlon isn’t meant to be a punishment

Offer to be the designated driver on nights out

Make a list of things to do on Saturday mornings, that you are usually too hungover or tired to get up and do, and actually do them

Find out where the money saved will go. The main part of Dryathlon is to raise money for Cancer Research UK, so visit their website and be inspired to find out how your contribution will help in the fight against cancer.

Grab a non-drinking buddy for strength in numbers

Set yourself a January target. Take your mind off drinking by setting a goal, any goal, to complete by the end of the month.

Recognise your success. There may be moments when you want to give up, but realise how far you’ve come and reward yourself.