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What Does It Mean to Live a "Damp" Lifestyle?

Alcohol and Health

It is no secret that consuming alcohol can have negative effects on your mind and body. Frequent or large-quantity alcohol consumption can cause damage to the liver, brain, stomach, and virtually all other organs within the human body. And yet, despite this common knowledge, there are many who frequently partake in alcohol and even sing its praises. According to the US 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6 percent of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.

During the periods of lockdown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, many people who felt stuck at home with little else to do started drinking more frequently, or in larger quantities, often in the effort to combat boredom, loneliness, or any number of difficult feelings which may have arisen.

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As the world slowly started to reopen, many people took their reemergence back into society as an opportunity to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. Some may have continued drinking regularly, others may have opted for a fully sober, also known as “dry,” lifestyle. However, it seems as though there were countless numbers of those who wished to reduce their alcohol consumption, but were not open to giving up alcohol entirely. These individuals often did not meet the criteria which may classify someone as an ‘alcoholic’ or exhibit any true characteristics of addition, but yet, they still struggled to manage their alcohol use.

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For those in this camp, it may have been difficult to figure out how to best approach reaching this goal. Majority of alcohol treatment programs, most notably ones like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), require absolute abstinence from alcohol and all other substances rather than exploring any use-reduction strategies. Additionally, AA infamously infuses their methodology with religious, typically Christian, rhetoric, which can be off-putting to any who may not subscribe to that particular belief system.

If someone wanted to simply improve their relationship with alcohol, where would they start?

Sober Curious

In her 2015 book, author and journalist Ruby Warrington coined the term “sober curious” after she found growing numbers of people like her were concerned about their relationship with alcohol, but not mired in dependence or addiction. Being ‘sober curious’ means that you have not fully made the decision to give up alcohol entirely, but rather means you are taking a closer look at your relationship to alcohol and what motivates you to drink. This has also become known as living a ‘damp’ lifestyle, a play on words relating to its contrast to ‘dry’ living.

The idea of a “damp lifestyle” has only entered the modern lexicon in very recent years. Previously, movements like ‘Dry January’ or ‘Sober September’ which first started taking off in 2013, encouraged participants to abstain from alcohol entirely for the whole month in order to reap the countless health benefits of sobriety. While these movements grew exponentially over the last few years, there were obvious drawbacks once alcohol was reintroduced at the end of the month-long abstinence.

Quit Like A Woman

This is where the notion of the ‘scarcity principle’ comes into play. This principle states that deprivation of a particular thing can lead to an increased level of importance or value placed on the removed thing by the abstainer. In short, the idea of ‘we always want most what we can’t have,’ could lead to bouts of binge-drinking or an increased desire for alcohol after it is reintroduced.

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Additionally, there is speculation that full abstinence from something may be easier to handle than a reduction of usage, and this is not necessarily a good thing. For some, eliminating an item completely may be easy as they know they simply won’t partake and are fully prepared to say ‘no’ under all circumstances. However, if you are planning on reintroducing alcohol to your system at a later point, this does not teach necessary self-control. It is significantly harder to practice knowing when, and how, to say no, as well as knowing when it may be alright to say yes, rather than solely responding with ‘no’ as a default reply. This being said, if long-term or permanent abstinence from alcohol is something you are seeking, full abstinence can be a completely valid approach to take – just be sure to do your research regarding benefits and risks as well.

Wellness Movements and Alcohol

The idea of a damp lifestyle really gained momentum in the later 2010s, when a noticeable cultural shift towards prioritizing wellness and health took root in the minds of primarily younger generations, and was widely spread across the globe through the increased use and accessibility of the internet. Many of the Gen X, millennial, and Gen Z age groups who may have spent at least part of their youths partying and binge-drinking, now shifted their focus towards improving mental health, cultivating healthy dietary habits, and concentrating on overall physical well-being.

This shift created the ideal atmosphere for the inclusion of a damp lifestyle into many people’s way of life. By only partaking in alcohol under certain conditions, or at certain times, a person can, in a sense, ‘practice’ sobriety. In the last few years, a new wave of sober-curious individuals began exploring damp or fully dry lifestyles, particularly those who may have developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol while stuck in lockdowns during the pandemic.

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By ‘practicing’ or ‘experimenting’ with sobriety, it becomes much easier to recognize what triggers or factors might contribute to the desire to consume alcohol. In doing so, it allows for the opportunity to participate in events and activities during which alcohol is usually a major factor, while staying sober, and evaluating how that feels.

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution to alcohol misuse, but with the increasing popularity of alternatives such as damp living, new opportunities are created every day to explore what type of lifestyle fits you the best.

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Resources

In the US, more than 14 million people admit to struggling with alcohol use disorder. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, there are many useful resources on SAMHSA’s National Helpline | SAMHSA, or you can call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for a free, fully confidential, 24/7 information service.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Kay Plumeau

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