Dry February kicks off in Czechia


In the UK and US, people attempt a month without drinking alcohol under the banner of Dry January, but in Czechia, February is the nationally recognized month for abstaining. Suchej únor (Dry February) is now in its 11th year, and this time is being held under the slogan ‘Not Drinking Is An Art!’

Photo: Suchej únor

Suchej únor launched in Czechia in 2013, the same year that Dry January launched in the UK, and has only increased in popularity since then. Last year, 13.5 percent of the adult population in Czechia participated in the event – and according to a survey, more than half of those who participated were still drinking less than previously even four months later.

And some continue their abstinence even longer. Honza is 30 and hasn’t drunk alcohol in the last five years, despite having a drinking problem as early as high school. He describes how even a month without alcohol motivated him to continue.

“Every time I felt like drinking, I looked at the app I had on my phone and I saw how many hours, days and weeks I hadn’t drunk and that was a kind of motivation for me to keep going. The worst was the first three days, then it was a week, and after a month it already felt like a shame to stop.”

Petr Freimann | Photo: Adéla Paulík Lichková,  Czech Radio

This year’s slogan is meant to inspire people to do something creative with the time when they would have been drinking, says Petr Freimann of the non-profit organisation behind the campaign.

“With the slogan ‘Not Drinking Is An Art!’ we want to encourage people to substitute their drinking with something creative, something that will allow them to get to know themselves and discover their limits. It could be any form of creative activity, be it painting or riding a bike or anything else.”

Illustrative photo: Michael Discenza,  Unsplash

The awareness campaign is intended to help reduce excessive alcohol consumption – something fairly commonplace in Czechia, one of the countries with the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the world. According to the National Monitoring Center for Drugs and Addiction, more than a million people in Czechia are on the verge of what they term ‘risky’ or problematic drinking. Petr Freimann says that the figures have shown for a long time that Czechia is one of the countries where people drink the most.

“If we take data from the World Health Organisation, we have long been ranked among the top three global consumers. Some 14 litres of pure alcohol are consumed per person per year in this country, which is an enormous number. And that's after deducting tourist consumption.”

Photo: Suchej únor

Although some criticise Dry February as preaching to the choir and having no effect on the long-term reduction of alcohol consumption, Freimann says the positive feedback he and his organisation have received are enough to convince him that the campaign is worthwhile.

“We have tens of hundreds of stories from people telling us how it helped them, how it made them become aware of their relationship to alcohol, how in some way or another they started to do things differently. This is of course something that confirms to us that the campaign is necessary and that it makes sense to people.”