Carol

As some who gets hangovers lasting a week, Carol never drank too much - Once she got to a sensible age! However as a patient with an auto immune illness, since she was a teenager she has to drink very little. So she really understands how Irish society makes this very difficult. Carol is responsible for all aspects of Lifewise operations that Valerie and Angela do not cover.

Courses by Carol

I’m a social drinker (Sofun)

You’re a social drinker and you crack open a nice bottle of wine after a hectic booze free week.

If the above applies to you, then you may be in trouble.
Doctors are now seeing women who have terminal liver disease which had little or no symptoms.

In just 15 minutes find out how you can continue drinking and avoid problems in the future.

Posts by Carol

Padraig’s top four tips for managing the drink


Padraig wrote about his tips for managing the drink recently and here they are.


1.Allow twenty minutes when you feel the urge to drink

Accept that you will get triggers to drink as it has become a very strong habit.  So your brain will say,

“Don’t you always have a glass of wine when you’re making dinner”?

So you feel a very strong urge to drink. This is normal so Padraig recommends waiting 20 minutes. For more tips on triggers click here.

2. You are not the only person not drinking

It’s easy to feel you’re the only person managing the drink and everyone else is having a fantastic time. Surprisingly though nearly 20% of Irish adults don’t drink it all.

Also reports from England show more and more young people are not drinking – apparently because they don’t want to look stupid on social media.

So think of yourself as part of a new hip modern trend.

3. Distract yourself from the arguments in your head

It’s normal to have arguments in your head about whether you need to do this managing the drink thing at all. For example

“How can it help your quality of life not to drink?”

So rather than carry on this argument stay focused on the reasons for managing your drinking and make sure you replace drinking time with nice experiences.

4. Read about the experiences of other people

Padraig recommends the

Tired of thinking about drinking blog from Belle Robert

And Julian’s Vales book Kick The Drink Easily

There’s also plenty of people telling their stories on our Lifewise website from Valerie to Sinead.

We also like Soberistas  and Club Soda where you can ask questions and share your stories.

Managing the drink- everybody’s different

Our own tip on managing the drink is everybody’s different. What works for one person may not work for another.  Listening and talking to other people can be very helpful but you need to find out what approach works for you. I like this video showing how two different dogs approach the same problem.  Two very different approaches but each approach works.  So find the approach that works for you.

You can read more from Padraig here .

Ruby says alcohol was holding her back

Ruby Warrington had it all, but felt something was holding her back. The former features editor of the Sunday Times Style magazine, founder of a digital platform called The Numinous was part of the in crowd. She hung out with celebrities and superstars drinking cocktails and champagne.

Everyone else was drinking

Ruby says she drank because everybody else was drinking and alcohol was presented as a tool to help her deal with life. From the age of just 15, Ruby says she was teaching her brain that she needed alcohol to cope.

My head hurt from drinking

Ruby never hit rock bottom or had any major life event. She just found on Sundays her head hurt, her stomach was sore, her tongue felt furry, and her hair felt both greasy and dry with her breath sour. On Sundays she felt like there was a hollow where her heart should be.

She decided to quit for a while

She decided alcohol was holding her back and quit for a while. She found she had more energy and motivation. Her relationships got better because she felt she was now connecting on a real human level not just through an alcohol haze.

It’s terrifying

Ruby says if we’ve been drinking our entire adult life, it’s a big part of our lives and giving up drink is terrifying. She believes as long as we hold a belief that alcohol just brings pleasure and joy, it remains in our lives. We agree. It’s why it is so important to understand our beliefs about alcohol and the pros and cons of our drinking.

She believes moderation does not work. We don’t agree, as everybody is different. See why here

Ruby’s useful tips

Ruby says don’t make a big deal of not drinking when you’re out. Offer to get the first round in and then you can buy yourself a soft or alcohol free drink without fuss. A useful tip.

She also suggests not to lie about why you’re not drinking. She tells people it makes her feel like crap and this works for her. Personally, I find it does not work for me, even though I had a major life threatening illness. People still want you to drink.

 Maybe it’s part of our Irish culture.

Sober curious

Ruby has written a book called

Sober Curious, the blissful sleep, greater focus, limitless presence and deep connection awaiting us all on the other side of alcohol”.

It’s getting good reviews and now she’s running a retreat in the US.

What is sober curious?

Apparently calling yourself sober curious means you know alcohol doesn’t make you feel great and you don’t drink it often, but you’re not willing to put an all-or-nothing label on yourself. So you only drink on rare occasions when you actually want to drink.

I like this idea of sober curious because it’s not black and white. It allows people to choose when and where they drink rather than drinking all the time or not drinking at all.

Where celebs go others follow

It’s good to see another celeb talking about their relationship with alcohol holding them back. Ruby joins other celebs not drinking like Nigella Lawson, Natalie Portman, Demi Lovato, Shania Twain, Jennifer Lopez to name just a few. Hopefully they are starting a trend that others will follow. Would n’t it be lovely if it was socially acceptable to just say I’m sober curious and leave it at that?

Alcohol Free pub opening in Ireland

So incredibly an alcohol free pub is planned for Dublin. It’s opening up in February. Amazing news. They have a couple of alcohol free pubs in England, but this is the very first time in Ireland that a whole pub is dedicated to being alcohol free.

It’s a real alcohol free pub

Apparently it will look like a real bar and have a real pub atmosphere. It won’t be just another coffee shop. Unlike a normal bar, they don’t need a security guard and closing time is a strict 11pm.

They’ll have beers, wines, and cocktails which are all alcohol free.

Cocktails anyone?

 Cocktails will include

 Virgin Mary,

Made from tomato juice, a Dublin made hot sauce, de alcoholised white wine, lime, celery pickle, Virgin Mary spice mix.

Tiki Street

Made from pomegranate molasses, hibiscus, de-alcoholised red wine, allspice, vanilla, lime black cardamom,

Dessert, Anyone

Made from seedlip spice, date, tahini, rose, oat milk, dark chocolate.

These look really interesting and not your usual boring old mineral waters or fizzy drinks.

 The name is a problem

Maybe it’s just me as a lapsed Catholic, who has also worked with a service for survivors of clerical abuse, but I really hate the name of this alcohol free pub. It’s called the Virgin Mary.  This country has suffered so much from a church with distorted toxic attitudes to sexuality. A church which praised virginity while married women after childbirth had to be “cleansed” before going back to Mass. And if you were not married and became a parent you were sent to what was an effective prison. (If you were a woman, of course- nothing happened to men)

So while the founders may think the name is catchy and attention grabbing, (which it is) it is very insensitive to women and blind to our sad and tragic history.

Price of drinks

Apparently the price of drinks will be the same as alcohol drinks. It will be interesting to see whether this will put people off. Recently in the Irish Times Nollaig O’Ceallaigh, complained about a pint of smithwicks being €4.90, while a small bottle of non-alcoholic heineken was €5.90! We’ve also had people emailing us on this price issue.

Alcohol free pubs everywhere?

So last year we talked to the Vintners Federation of Ireland asking why there were not cheaper and more alcohol free drink options available for people. They said people expect non-alcoholic drinks to be cheaper than alcoholic drinks. Also pubs will only stock drink where there is huge demand. As we know huge demand is driven by big marketing and advertising campaigns and these are only starting to happen. So at the moment your regular pubs are not interested in stocking a wide range of alcohol free drinks.

 So will this alcohol free pub be successful?

It’s being led by one of the founders of Funky Seomra, the alcohol free pop up nightclub so they certainly have the right experience. They are also good at getting the news out there. But ultimately it will come down to getting enough paying customers in the door so hopefully this will happen. We’ll certainly be trying it out and we’ll report back.

We wish this alcohol free pub the very best of Irish luck. Hopefully this is just the start of a new drinking culture in Ireland which will make it easier for us all not to drink as much.

If you’d like to read more about this pub we found out about it here in the Sunday Business Post. (Subscription needed)

A top tip if you’ve broken your new year resolutions

So all those New Year resolutions feel like a huge weight around our necks as we try to keep them going. Or maybe we’ve already broken them and feel like a total failure.

 

It’s impossible to keep New Year resolutions

It’s easy to feel it’s impossible to change. There are just so many things working against us- stress, too much pressure, drink cravings, not feeling able to go out with friends. Fear of upsetting people, because they see us not drinking or not drinking as much, as a threat to them. We feel like we’ll never succeed and our egos are hurt. All we feel is despair.

If you’re feeling like this, then this tip on hope will help.

 

Have the right type of hope

Joanna Macy  believes there are two types of hope. One is hope is based on outcome

So may be your new year resolutions look like

I will control my drinking”

“I will be a size 10,”

“I will get promoted in work”

 And so on. You hope you will achieve these New Year resolutions.

The problem with these type of New Year resolutions is it is easy to get “blocked” when you feel under pressure or don’t rate your chances of success too highly.  It’s much harder to keep going because human nature means we’ll only really act when we feel we succeed.

 

Hope based on your intention

By focusing on our intention though we’re more likely to succeed in our new year’s resolutions.

By focusing on our intentions and letting that be our guide we remove a lot of pressure on ourselves. We allow ourselves to see our actions as being part of learning about ourselves and our mistakes are part of our learning. We no longer label ourselves as failures when we don’t succeed first time.

 

We never know how things will turn out

We really don’t know how things will turn out. We cannot control what happens in our life. All we can really control is how we respond to it. If we have intentional hope it helps to makes us stronger. So we don’t know whether we’ll succeed. But if we accept even making a new year resolution, is a step in the right direction then we’re more likely to be successful.

 

Think Lord of the Rings

In this epic book and film, the little three foot high hobbits, Frodo and Sam were up against a huge evil army and power. They knew the chances of success were so small as to be non-existent, but because they had an intentional hope they succeeded. Their much more able and powerful friends fell away but they just kept going. Despite all the hardships and problems, they never lost hope in what they were doing. They just kept travelling on, accepting it was very difficult.

 

 Praise yourself for your intention

So instead of blaming yourself for struggling or breaking New Year resolutions, remind yourself that you’re a work in progress. You have the right intentions and you have hope you’re going in the right direction.

So set goals, make New Year resolutions but make them with hope that you are going in the right direction rather than actually getting to that size 10.

You’ll be surprised the difference it makes.

This post was drawn from an article in the Irish Times which you can read here.

 

Is Blue Monday really so blue?

The idea that Blue Monday, the 3rd Monday in January is the most depressing day has taken hold in the last few years. Even though the science behind blue Monday is highly suspect!  Many people do find the 3rd week of January   depressing- the New Year’s resolutions have been broken or it’s very tough going and money is very tight until the end of the month.

So we thought we’d cheer you up by looking at some of the really positive things that are happening.

 

#Metoo movement

This was a major story in the last few years. Women standing up for themselves and calling out those in power, abusing that power by sexually assaulting women. It became a topic of conversation at tea breaks over lunch and for the first time many men became aware of the level of intimidation many women must face every day.

 

Change is happening at ground level

One highlight for me was a coffee break where one man stated woman were exaggerating about unwanted  sexual innuendo. Every single woman from women in their 20’s to their 60’s put up their hand to say yes, they had been subjected to unwanted sexual remarks or  physical contact at least once. The man was visibly shocked and hopefully he has a new take on the issue.

 

Women’s voices are becoming stronger

We had the horrific Belfast rape trial followed by further horrible questioning in a Cork trial where a woman was asked about the underwear she was wearing, showing rape myths are alive and well.

But now women are standing up for themselves.  There were protests after the Belfast trial and  Cork Trials. Jena Keating a Cork woman stood alone on Patrick Street in her underwear, with her mouth taped and ‘this is not consent’ written all over her body.

People starting hugging her (click here  for video) and she really got the point across.

 

Brave Campaigners

Brave Vicky Phelan has changed the face of Irish medicine and how women are perceived with her decision to campaign on cervical cancer screening.

Louise O Neill’s book on sexual consent was turned in to a searing sold out play and Lynn Ruane’s book about her life won an award.

We also had the campaigners for repeal persuading the people of Ireland to vote for abortion. Whatever your views about abortion, it always disturbed me that in a country which banned abortion we did not have a decent child care system and children often have to wait years for health treatment. Maybe now we’re a little less hypocritical.

Another highlight for me was seeing Emmet Kirwan’s video showing one woman’s life, it covered so many different important topics. (click here)

 

The backlash against alcohol begins

At long last, we’re beginning to see more people starting to question our attitude to alcohol

There was

The well-known commentator Adrian Childs documentary talking about his relationship with alcohol.

BBB news talking about resisting “drink pushers” during the festive season

The Irish media even got in on the act saying Merry Christmas cards showing alcohol give the wrong message about alcohol.

 

A pub without alcohol

We even have Ireland’s first ever permanent pub without alcohol coming. Hopefully opening in February.

Imagine that!

There’s also a few other pubs. All In Dublin as far as I know, but they just have alcohol free sessions. Now if they could just reduce the price of alcohol free drinks!

 

Addiction services starting to change

Finally the horrible practise of bullying and insulting people with alcohol problems is now  starting to be challenged. This article appeared in the Irish Times.  This practise has no benefit in treatment so  avoid any treatment that includes this approach.

 

Public Health Alcohol Bill

A major achievement was the passing of the Public Health Alcohol Bill. Despite powerful lobbying the bill finally passed. Now the Government just has to implement it.

 

Blue Monday is not so blue

So yes, we’ve still a long way to go, this Blue Monday  but finally Irish society is beginning to change. so don’t give up hope. Change is always possible. If you’re feeling a bit Blue Monday why not look back on the last year and see if you can find five memories or events that made you happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are childhood experiences making you drink too much alcohol?

In our last post we wrote about  adverse childhood experiences   (ACE) and the  big role it plays when  people drink too much alcohol. It can get worse around Christmas when there ‘s so much pressure to play “happy families” . How the experts see ACE is shown below.

drink too much alcohol

In this post we’ll go through how to find out if this is a possible cause of an alcohol problem.

Was your childhood mostly ok or pretty difficult?

A good question to ask yourself was your childhood ok or was it pretty difficult?  Are your first childhood memories mainly happy or mainly sad? Do you even have many childhood memories? Many people block out difficult childhood memories.

Make sure you separate out how your parents treated you, from how you actually feel. As we talked about here, you may feel your parents provided all the basics. However if they did not allow you to talk about your feelings, this is now seen as childhood emotional neglect and counts as adverse childhood experience.

Take the quiz

To see whether ACE was a feature of your childhood try this quiz here. The top score is 10 so the nearer you are to 10  the more likely  ACE is a problem when you drink too much alcohol.

No one has ever mentioned ACE?

30 years ago we did not talk about ACE and we just described people with a drink problem as a heavy drunk or as an alcoholic. Society saw them as wicked people. Now we know people don’t drink too much from wickedness they do it out of woundness. (Link here)

Many  mental health services ask

“What’s wrong with you” 

rather then

“what happened you”

As we saw from high flyer Emma’s story, she blamed herself and none of the services she got asked  about the sexual abuse she had a s a child.

So knowing you have ACE, the key thing is to forgive yourself for the problems you may be causing in your life.

“You can’t give what you have not got.”

Dealing with ACE

Awareness is key. Accepting  it’s more difficult to make good decisions when ACE is involved. So treat yourself with more compassion. Living life with ACE is a bit like running a race when everyone else starts ahead of you. So even being in the race is an accomplishment.

The good news is once we become aware that our childhoods were difficult, and our drinking is a response to it, it becomes much easier to control our drinking.

Does ACE mean I will always drink too much alcohol?

The answer is a very definite NO. There are people with high ACE scores who do really well in life generally. Very often there was one single person in their life who loved them unconditionally or they developed awareness of the impact of ACE.

Don’t give up

So if you’re feeling low, or you drink too much alcohol don’t give up.  Be kind to yourself and recognise that even reading to the end of this email is progress.

If you’ve found this post  useful you might also find Lynn‘s Ruane book “People like me” which is raw and honest about her own adverse childhood experiences and how she overcome them. It recently won the An  Post Irish Book award for best non fiction book.

I’m just a bum, a heavy drunk

I’m just a bum, a heavy drunk.

Maybe that’s the way you’re feeling after Christmas? Despite your best intentions you drank too much. Too many hangovers. Too much making a fool of yourself.

Or maybe you got through Christmas without drinking too much but you found it lonely and depressing? Yep, you’ve got the home, the relationships, and the job. But something’s wrong. All that pressure to be happy, when you’re really not happy?

 

There‘s a common cause

Before Christmas, I was at two very inspiring events both of which focused on a problem that could explain both why we drink too much and why we’re not happy. In fact they could explain many of the problems in our lives.

 

Adverse childhood experiences 

How we were brought up can explain a lot about how we act now. We’ve written before how we may not even be aware that our childhood is still having an impact on how we behave. While it’s obvious if we were physically beaten as a child, it’s not so obvious if we suffered from childhood emotional neglect.

The experts call this issue adverse childhood experiences, or ACE. You can see how the experts look at these in the picture below.

heavy drunk

 

What does ACE do?

So the experts say the more ACE you had in your childhood the more likely your brain development has changed. This is because your brain has produced more cortisol which activates the fight/flight/freeze response.

The fight/flight/freeze response switches off the thinking part of the brain to ensure all our energies goes into dealing with a threat. So when we’re feeling a threat, we literally cannot think.

 

How ACE affects us

For example, an angry looking dog approaches me looking like it’s going to attack me. My brain quickly goes into fight/flight/freeze as I decide whether to fight the dog, run away or just freeze hoping the dog will ignore me.

My brain forgets about everything else. I don’t remember the childhood experience that has made me scared of dogs. I can’t even see the dog is actually looking at a 2nd dog behind me and is no threat to me at all.

 

Everything else gets forgotten about

So while the dog is there, I remain on high alert. I’m no longer thinking about getting home or collecting  my daughter as I promised. My whole focus is on survival. I don’t have time for anything else.

This lovely YouTube video spoken by kids explains how our brains freeze beautifully.

 

The long term impact

If you’ve experienced a lot of ACE then your brain’s  ability to deal with the normal up’s and downs of everyday life is less than other’s people. You’re either on high alert when you react to everything or you simply shut down anytime you feel overwhelmed or triggered. So making good decisions and following through on them is much harder for people with ACE.

People with ACE are much more likely to have problems with drinking. Their brains are more likely to be   in survival model which means they can’t think and make good decisions.

So if you’re labelling yourself as a heavy drunk, it worth’s looking at your childhood to see if this is causing you to drink too much.

 

Be kind to yourself, don’t label yourself a heavy drunk 

So if you’re feeling down after Christmas, don’t despair. Don’t label yourself with negative words such as heavy drunk.  If you’re read this far you’re making progress and  in a future post we’ll look at ways of dealing with the ACE that may be the cause of  drinking  too much.

Happy New Year!

Taking action on your Christmas drinking triggers

Last week we wrote about identifying your Christmas drinking triggers, in this post we talk about taking action on Christmas drinking triggers.

As regular readers, will know it’s all  about the  planning.

Why is planning so important?

In our alcohol obsessed culture where drink is everywhere it’s very easy to drink too much. So it takes effort and advance planning to make sure we’re don’t get sucked down into the glug glug of boozy Christmas drinking.

Everybody’s different so what works for one person may not work for another. So thinking about what will work for you is really important.  Once you know what’s going to be  your Christmas drinking triggers you can take action. You might find these tips helpful.

 

Create an advent calendar

Creating an advent calendar covering those days which are most stressful for you can be useful. Lidl sell a range for just €4.99  were  you fill each day yourself. You can  use this to write little notes or reminders to yourself for different days. Or maybe even put in little gifts to help you stay focused.

To get you started, here‘s a calendar we came across that many people liked. It focuses on happiness.

christmas drinking triggers

 

Office Christmas parties

These can be a real killer as a Christmas drinking trigger. Everybody out to have fun, relax and in many workplaces there’s a free bar.  Not drinking means you can be seen as a real killjoy.

One way to avoid this pressure is to ring the venue in advance and see will they be serving no or low alcohol drinks. These can often look like the real thing. So you  look like you’re drinking when you’re not actually drinking.  Sneaky huh! For suggestions on low alcohol drinks see this post.

For even more tips on office parties click  here.

 

Family events can be real Christmas drinking triggers

If you’re part of a family where socialising consists  entirely of sitting around drinking, this can be very tough. It’s easier to take part then sit watching as the conversation gets more and more boring as people start slurring their words.

Also there’s usually one toxic family member present. I’ve heard one woman say we’re all encouraged to cut toxic people out of our lives, so why do we all feel the need to meet up with toxic family members at Christmas? It’s strange all right. So very important to keep our expectations of enjoying toxic family events low!

Here’s a few tips for family events we’ve heard you might find useful.

 

Arriving late

Not really good manners, but when the event is going to be a long drinking session, arriving late means you cut the amount of drinking time you spend there. And managing your drinking is much more important.

 

Bring any kids in the event for a short walk in the fresh air

I know we’ve been minding kids all year, so going for a walk in the cold, does not sound appealing. But I’ve found even a little break from the event does wonders.  It freshens me up, the kids can be really funny and I always go back in better humour. The other adults always appreciate you more as well.

(Did anyone see the wonderful Toy Show, I’d love a walk and  chat with so many of those lovely kids in particular Scott and Grace)

 

Make a bingo card

In Club Soda, one lady suggested making a bingo card. The bingo card has a range of different tasks on it. Like count the number of people at an event, or talk to someone who is not drinking. Or count the number of times someone mentions a particular word or phrase. Crossing off the bingo card when no one was watching made the event much more interesting.

 

Line up a friend

So  you know an event is really going to be full of   Christmas drinking triggers. For example, you’re going to feel really lonely in that crowded room because you’re the only one not drinking. Your sister in law will be making snide comments about your kids, while the brother boasts on and on about his new car.  So plan ahead and line up a friend that you can text or WhatsApp when you go to the bathroom. That way you can get a bit of moral support to help with  those lonely feelings.

 

Christmas is not perfect

So make your plans, but remember despite all the pressure around us to have the picture perfect Christmas it really is just another few days and we don’t have to be perfect or even to actually enjoy it!

What are your triggers for the Christmas drinking season?

Yep, that time of the year again, the Christmas drinking season is on us. When you’re trying to reduce your drinking or even not drink at all, it can be a very tough time.

 

Christmas is not a happy time for everyone

Memories of past Christmases can make life difficult. Loved ones that are now gone. For me, Christmas means the day services are closed. So I’ll be spending more time looking after my Mother who has Alzheimer’s and needs 24 hour care. I love her dearly but after eight years of care it takes a toll. For the first time ever, my daughter won’t be home from England, so can’t even enjoy her company. So I’m definitely not looking forward to Christmas and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

 

What does Christmas mean to you?

I find not pretending Christmas is a happy time really helps. The times when I do meet up with friends, or go out with my other daughter are more enjoyable because they know how I feel and we don’t pretend. So it’s useful to understand for yourself what does Christmas mean for you and not pretend it’s a happy time if that’s not right for you.

 

Are triggers an issue?

We’ve heard from many people who say the Christmas drinking season is the toughest time to control their drinking. All that pressure to be happy, all the parties and meeting ups. The feeling that if you don’t drink you’re an outsider and weirdo.

So identifying your specific triggers for the Christmas drinking season is really helpful

 

What are your triggers?

What are your specific triggers?  Could it be work Christmas parties, or is it particular family members, or putting up the Christmas tree. Even specific Christmas decorations can be triggering. I always find a Christmas decoration with all our names painted on it makes me feels really sad. I can’t bring myself to throw it away. So now I just put it in a separate box which I never open.

Is spending too much time with family a trigger? Or maybe tiredness after too many late nights or not sticking to your usual daily routine.

 

Start planning for the Christmas drinking season

So write down all your likely triggers by the 1st of December and then you can start planning how you are going to deal with them. That way you get to control your drinking and actually enjoy the Christmas drinking season.

In the next post, we’ll give some tips on dealing with these triggers.

You can also see more advice on Christmas drinking here.