We’re already eight days into October, and a few people on social media have declared their Ocsober participation. Others have said this is too challenging a campaign for them. Understandably so, considering Olivia Pope taught us that a giant glass of merlot at the end of a long day is the way to go. However, a myriad of problems arise from this seemingly harmless habit. This is why some South African Olivia Popes, Annalise Keatings, and Mary Jane Pauls are attempting Ocsober this month.


So, what is Ocsober?

Ocsober – A portmanteau combining the words October and sober. More importantly, a campaign created to highlight the dangers of alcohol abuse, during the month of October. It might be a convenient coincidence that this campaign runs in the month launching us into summer festivities, as some consider it a cleanse preempting the calamity their livers are about to be subjected to during the festive season. All banter and jokes aside, though – Ocsober draws our attention to the fact that alcohol remains the most widely abused drug in South Africa.

South Africa’s alcohol problem

According to a BMC Medicine report, in 2015, 170 South Africans died per day from the effects of alcohol. ‘In total, this added up to 63 500 South Africans, and of this number 60% were classified as poor and only 15% as rich,’ the report cited. Moreover, South Africa has double the regional average of alcohol consumption in Southern Africa. This can partially be attributed to the fact that young professionals can afford to drink more often to ‘take off the edge’ (for lack of a better term), compared to our greater unemployed population that is more likely to engage in binge drinking over the weekend. Both are harmful. Soul City identified drinking as one of the biggest problems facing South African university students. Perhaps this is why the habit is continued after university.

There is a misconception that alcoholism is always an overt display of drunkenness and one’s subsequent downward spiral into an abyss at the bottom of the bottle. Truth is, alcoholism doesn’t always look like your dishevelled drunk uncle. High-functioning alcoholics often don’t exhibit any visible signs.

‘First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes you.’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Signs of high-functioning alcoholism

TV shows tend to portray successful women of colour as high-functioning alcoholics. But what is with this narrative of ‘the black, powerful, successful woman having an alcohol-dependence problem’ in certain television series?  Olivia Pope (Scandal), Annalise Keating (How to Get Away with Murder) and Mary Jane Paul (Being Mary Jane) are highly successful women in their respective fields, but their hamartia is alcohol.

The fictional portrayal of this problem may be slightly toxic, but it’s not far removed from the reality of many South African women of all races, who drink far more than their African counterparts. So how do you know if this is you?

Here are 6 signs, according to Ashwood Recovery:

  1. You consume alcohol to cope
  2. You drink alcohol for every situation
  3. You consistently drink alcohol on your own
  4. You drink too much too often
  5. Drinking increasing amounts of alcohol as you gain tolerance
  6. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms from alcohol

To read full explanations for each of the symptoms, see more from Ashwood Recovery here.

‘Lately I’ve been drinking like there’s a message in a bottle.’ – Drake

How to Ocsober

So this is the fun part – going booze-free for the month of October (and maybe even beyond). It may be difficult for some people to ditch the bottle completely for various reasons, but you can take on Ocsober, one less sip at a time.

For those going 100% clean; here’s how to make sure you don’t fall off:

  • Do it with a group of other committed people
  • Get rid of any temptations that may still be around at home
  • Enforce penalties for every time you slip up
  • Substitute alcohol with its non-alcoholic variations if it’s the taste you’re after (mocktails, virgin G&T, and 0% beer)
  • Delete your Bottles app