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Rugby fan tackles the Dry January challenge

Stephen Parsons, centre, who is tackling the Dry January challenge

Stephen Parsons, centre, who is tackling the Dry January challenge

Posted 19/01/16

Amateur rugby player Stephen Parsons is tackling a different kind of challenge this month as he takes part in Dry January.

The 29-year-old, who plays and coaches for Morpeth Rugby Club and is a keen supporter of Newcastle Falcons, signed up to Alcohol Concern’s Dry January after being set the challenge by some of his teammates and encouraged by colleagues at Northumberland County Council.

Now, halfway through the month-long challenge, Stephen, from Morpeth, is already experiencing a range of benefits associated with cutting out the booze including being more awake during the day, having more energy and saving money.

Stephen said: “I decided to give Dry January a go mainly because drinking is a large part of the social culture around rugby and I want to tackle my own attitude to it. I don’t drink every day, but on a Saturday I will often have at least three or four pints when I’m watching the match or after playing a game.

“I was also keen to see if I could see the challenge through and to start off the New Year on a healthy note. I had some basic health checks before I began, including blood pressure, weight and measurements, so I will be able to track exactly what effects a month off the booze will have.

“Even after just two weeks, I already feel a lot better. I am starting to feel the trousers get a little looser and I seem to be a lot more energetic over the weekend, with no hangovers. I’m also starting to see the benefit in my pocket, with the money I’ve saved going towards a summer holiday.

“The biggest challenge of the month so far came when the Falcons won their first match of the season. I very rarely watch a game at Kingston Park without indulging in a drink, but despite some stick from friends, I saw the celebrations through without any alcohol.”

Dry January, which is regionally partnered by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, aims to get people thinking and talking about their relationship with alcohol by abstaining for a month. It’s hoped the benefits of the experience will encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles through the rest of the year.

Last year saw more than two million people nationally try and abstain from drinking during January, with the North East leading the way in Dry January sign ups with one in four coming from the region.

Stephen is now urging fellow Dry January participants across the region to stick the challenge out and encouraging anyone thinking of trying to cut back to sign up for the last two weeks of the challenge.

Stephen added: “I know it can be tough but I’m sure everyone who has been dry since January 1st is already starting to feel the benefits – and for anyone considering cutting back, it’s not too late to sign up and give it a go.”

Mary Edwards, Programme Manager Alcohol Treatment at Balance, said: “New Year is a natural time to want to take stock of our health and make a fresh start. It’s great to hear Stephen is doing so well during his first attempt at tackling the Dry January challenge.

“The campaign aims to get people thinking about how much they drink and in doing so be able to make informed choices about their drinking in future, which is just what Stephen is doing. Dry January is all the more important given the new alcohol guidelines, which highlight the link between alcohol and cancer even when alcohol is consumed at relatively low levels.

“We often don’t realise how much we are drinking and how it can impact on our health until we take a step back. I hope that other people across the region are having as much success as Stephen with Dry January and look forward to hearing how he feels at the end of the month.”

Stephen is blogging about his month off the booze at

To find out more about the campaign and the benefits that come with cutting back on your alcohol intake, visit the Dry January website at