Can you go sober for a whole month?

Macmillan Cancer Support hopes many people will become 'Sober Heroes'
Macmillan Cancer Support hopes many people will become 'Sober Heroes'
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It can make us happy, it can make us sad. It’s a feature in most of our lives, whether we are celebrating a special occasion or whether we simply want to drown our sorrows.

But whatever a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a bottle of bubbly means to you, do you reckon you could steer clear of the stuff completely for a whole month?

This October, much-loved charity Macmillan Cancer Support has thrown down the abstaining guantlet and invited people to collect sponsorship to bin the booze for 31 days.

Participants will have to enjoy a fruit juice rather than beer at friends’ birthday parties, swap wine for water at the family Sunday lunch, and find alternatives to vodka on the rocks after a fraught day at the office.

But making the change will be worth it.

The charity says the benefits include increased energy levels and higher productivity, clearer skin, weight loss and a fresh way of thinking about how much we actually drink.

This is, of course, added to the feel-good factor of doing something good for your body while raising money for a good cause.

Indeed, the charity equates this altruistic act of sobriety to heroic proportions.

Hannah Redmond, head of national events marketing for Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Those Going Sober for Macmillan this October can not only expect to see the financial and health benefits, as well as feeling rather smug, but also know that they are raising vital funds to help ensure that no one faces cancer alone.

“Almost 100,000 people signed up to Go Sober last year and we can’t wait to support the Sober Heroes of 2015.”

It’s fair to say that while this sort of self-deprivation may be harder for some over others, it seems that having a serious look at our drinking habits could be a good idea.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that over a third of Scots admitted to binge drinking.

According to a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 36 per cent said they drank eight units of alcohol during a “heavy drinking day”, exceeding ‘safe’ limits of three to four units a day for men, and two to three units for women.

This kind of news is not completely new.

The Scottish Government has deemed “Scotland’s alcohol problem” significant and “unhealthy” for some time, so much so that it wants to implement a minimum pricing per unit policy.

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act was passed in June 2012, but a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association has put the brakes on the Act becoming law.

But pressure groups are continuing to raise awareness of the possible dangers, with one keen to stress a link between alcohol and some forms of cancer.

Jennifer Curran, acting deputy chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “We welcome any initiative which encourages people to reduce their drinking, and to assess the role that alcohol plays in their life and in our society. “For some people, giving up alcohol for a month can help them realise that they are in the habit of drinking too much too often, and lead them to cut down their drinking and lead a healthier lifestyle in the future.

“For others, once the 31-day challenge is finished, they may drink even more as a ‘reward’ and then carry on drinking as much as they did before the challenge.

“It will be interesting to see how these initiatives succeed in changing attitudes to alcohol and subsequent drinking behaviour over time. “Alcohol is a well-established risk factor for cancers of the breast, liver, bowel, mouth, throat, voice box and oesophagus, but public awareness of this link is worryingly low.

“A recent public opinion poll found less than half of Scots associated alcohol with increased cancer risk, and less than a third associated alcohol with increased risk of breast cancer.

“Alcohol is responsible for around 12,500 cases of cancer each year in the UK.”

But writing off everyone who lives north of the border as a big drinker is also far from fair.

Scotland has a relatively high number of teetotallers, with around 21 per cent telling ONS researchers they never touch the stuff.

So while campaigns like Go Sober for October may not be for everyone, the fact that it has raised over £6 million to provide emotional and physical support to those with cancer cannot be sniffed at.

The money, which supports people, however their cancer was caused, is still much needed and can be used to provide an enormous amount of comfort to sufferers and their relatives.

To get involved in Macmillan’s fundraising challenge, visit www.gosober.org.uk.