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Dry July is followed by Alcohol August, Sloshed September, Overdo-it October

As Dry July draws to an end, Fairfax Media Columnist Alan Stokes has generously allowed GrogWatch to publish his piece encouraging parents to look seriously at what kind of impression their drinking may be giving their children.

I am going to sue the blokes behind Dry July.

They negligently established a no-alcohol event to coincide with the final State of Origin match on a Wednesday night in which NSW tried valiantly but fell short of achieving a clean sweep against Queensland for the first time in 14 years.

What’s more, the grog-free hospital and cancer fund-raising extravaganza is being held in a month that includes July 4 – American Independence Day – and a nice dinner with friends. It’s been cold, too, so a warmer-upperer each evening is essential. The days have been quite nice as well, so you need a beer to cap off a good surf. Then you have to reward yourself for getting through the last financial year without going broke. And let’s celebrate one of only seven months with 31 days! The kids are on holidays, too, so there has to be some nice little crisp white pay-off at the end for the day for that, surely. Then there’s Christmas in July, Wimbledon, the World Cup and the Tour de France. Cheers.

Did I mention the need to celebrate the anniversary of the first time out of six that you successfully completed Dry July?

Even worse, this year the Dry July conspirators are expecting the likes of me to give up the booze just as British research proves general practitioners can easily establish which of the 19.8 per cent  of us are lifelong problem drinkers.

All the GP has to do it ask two simple questions. Just so you know when to start screaming and run out of the surgery towards the bottle-o, here’s what to listen for: “How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?”; and “as a result of your drinking or drug use, did anything happen in the last year that you wish didn’t happen?”

If you answer incorrectly, the GP will ask on average 1.3 more questions. Then he or she will know, with 90.9 per cent accuracy, that you are  a problem drinker.

Something needs to be done because, according to the research published in the latest British Journal of General Practice, only 10 per cent of GPs reported doing a brief intervention regularly with patients to try to diagnose alcohol problems and 50 per stated they used the questioning approach occasionally.

“Studies conducted in the US, UK, Australia, and Finland indicate that clinicians frequently do not screen for problem drinking, and fail to address the problem in at least one-third to one-half of cases even when the diagnosis is known,” the researchers found.

They reviewed 15 tests of individual questions for diagnosis identified in six publications  and two tests of two-question approaches, involving 5646 individuals.

The conclusion was that two questions plus follow-ups worked very well in blowing the cover of heavy drinkers like me who like to show out kids we can stop whenever we like – such as in Dry July.

So when I win the case against Dryish July, I will sue those British researchers, my doctor, my therapist, the alcohol companies and Woolworths for inventing Dan Murphy’s.

Then I’ll sue Fairfax Media for putting the City to Surf 10 days after Dryish July. No-one can be expected to run 14km after such a booze-filled month.

Then I will give myself a stiff upper cut and ask the questions so many fathers dread asking: when will my children divorce me for my exposing them to my bad habits or alcohol-sodden genes? And will that day arrive before I succumb to my fatal flaws?

Plenty of partners in marriages and de facto relationships divorce their other halves due to drinking problems.  Those who stay together often do so for the kids. Sometimes it works out and the drinker gets help. Most time it does not and only the scars survive.

Yet as children mature, they know there’s a problem with mum or dad.

As such Dry July is a godsend; a great excuse; a month when you can prove to your kids you are strong and in control. You even refuse to accept “golden tickets” that allow a drink or two in return for some extra donations.

Don’t get me wrong. Dry July raises money for a wonderful cause – cash-strapped hospitals and the people who need to use them. For the vast majority of people who enjoy a glass or two a week – although there are few of them given one in 10 Australians consumes more than the risky level of 29 standard drinks week, or four a day – a month off the booze is great.

But for so many of us Dry July is followed by Alcohol August, Sloshed September, Overdo-it October, No Idea what went on last night November, Doo-doo-doo-doo-da-da-da-da- December and Just six months to Dry July January.

You make up the rest – and if you are like me, know you drink too much but won’t admit it, and you love your kids, see your doctor.

Such is life …

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