Dry January

By Vivian Collings

We’re a week past “Blue Monday” now; the supposed hardest day of the year.

Although we were gifted with a beautiful sunny day last Monday, I understand why “Blue Monday” is in January.

We still have a week left of the month, but it feels like it’s dragging. I hate to be a downer, but February usually isn’t much better.  

It’s cold, dark, and snowy. We start to see the light of spring by the end of March, but that’s still about eight weeks away.

Again, sorry to be a downer.

To keep in the spirit of health-related New Year’s resolutions that many and to address the January blues, let’s do a January health check-in.  

Last week, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released new alcohol consumption guidelines.

Talk of these guidelines has been muttered around town since; only two alcoholic drinks a week? That’s the new maximum to avoid health risks?

That’s a bit of a scary reality.

Of all the people I know who drink, I don’t know many that only have one or two a week.

One or two a night seems to be the norm.  

But, according to CCSA, if you have as little as three to six drinks per week, you have an increased risk of developing cancers such as breast and colon cancer.

Seven drinks a week, your risk of a heart attack or stroke increases drastically.

Any additional drink after that exponentially increases any alcohol-related health risk.

“No matter where you are on the continuum, for your health, less alcohol is better,” read the CCSA website.

On the Government of Canada website, there were approximately 15,000 preventable alcohol-related deaths. That’s about three times Haliburton’s population.

90,000 Canadians could’ve avoided hospital visits if they consumed the recommended two drinks a week last year. Compared to non-drinkers, drinkers have a life expectancy that is about six years less. Last fall, myself and other members of Rotaract Haliburton Highlands cleaned up our section of road on County Road 21. We do this as a club twice a year, and each time, we are astounded by the amount of empties.

We collected one extra-large garbage bag full of empty beer cans or bottles last fall alone. That’s one kilometre of road. And that’s only one road in the county. And all of those cans were tossed out car windows between June and October.  

It goes without saying; drinking and driving is really horrible. Nearly 12,000 people died last year in Canada from alcohol related accidents.

But on top of putting yourself, your passengers, other drivers, and walkers at risk from driving while intoxicated, you’re also potentially shaving 6 years off your life if you do it regularly.

Is that worth it?

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it disrupts our mental health, too.

Someone told me recently that they were doing “Dry January,” which means no alcohol for this month, and they said it helps set them up to be more considerate of their alcohol consumption for the rest of the year.

This stuck out to me when maybe it shouldn’t have. After learning about these statistics, it’s scary to think that I’ve only heard one person in the past month say they aren’t drinking.

Maybe it’s worth it to try and cut back on regular alcohol consumption all the time. It seems that our health depends on it.