<p>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.</p>

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

Sexy wine, sleepy beer and angry spirits

Brian Boyd has a really interesting article headlined  “ Sexy wine, sleepy beer and angry spirits” describing  a new study published on the effects of different drinks.

It looked at drinking in 21 different countries surveying 30,000 people. It was a self reported study. This means people themselves reported how they were feeling, rather than their friends and families.

We all know drink affects our moods but do different drinks create different moods?


Different drinks create different moods

The study found that different drinks changed people’s moods differently.

For example, people drinking red wine reported higher feelings of relaxation at 53% than people drinking spirits who only felt feelings of relaxation 20% of the time.

While spirits scored higher in feelings on confident and sexy (42%) it also scored much higher on people feeling aggressive (33%).

We’ve summarised the key feelings below for each drink.

sexy wine


 Where we drink affects our feelings

According to the study, if we drink outside the home we’re more likely to feel energised than if we drink at home.

I wonder is this because we’re more likely to be drinking with a group of people when we’re out?

We’re much more likely to feel relaxed when we’re drinking at home.


Women more emotional when drinking

Women are much more likely to report feeling all emotions apart from feelings of aggression.  This make sense as men are more likely to be involved in alcohol related violence.


The range of feelings can indicate a problem

An interesting finding was the higher the range of emotions, (sad,relaxed, confident etc)  a person felt,  the more likely  the person was to have a physical dependence on alcohol.

In particular if people felt aggression they were much more likely to report problems with drinking.

Where people drank did not affect whether they were likely to have problems with drinking.


Sexy wine is not so sexy

I’ve always found red sexy wine not only gives me a very unsexy hangover but also makes me feel really low the next day.

If can be really useful to understand how different drinks affect you and to choose your drinks accordingly.

For example, if the last time you drank vodka you ended up in angry argument, it might be worthwhile asking yourself if this happened because you drank vodka. If the answer is yes, it might be worthwhile avoiding vodka in the future. Here’s an interesting  few ways you can get rid of any vodka in the house without throwing it in the bin!

If you’d like to read the full  research article you can find it here. 

If you’d like some tips on preventing hangovers  please click here.

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

Planning Christmas drinking prevents that sinking feeling

It’s that time of the year again when Christmas drinking takes off

All the Christmas ads are already appearing on TV.  The junk mail coming in the door with special offers on Christmas drinks. The invites to sessions and office Christmas parties. All of us trying to control our drinking can find the pressure to take part in Christmas drinking tough.

We’re much more likely to wake up with that sinking feeling of yet another hangover.


Fail to plan and prepare to fail

As Roy Keane famously said

“Fail to plan and prepare to fail”

So our Christmas job list should always include a task to plan how we’re going to manage our Christmas drinking.


What works for you?

A big problem is the perception there is only one right way to control our drinking that works for everybody. So not drinking at all seems to be the only option. That can work for some people.

For other people the pressure of not drinking means they actually end up giving in. Then they drink too much and end up with a hangover.


The only right way is the way that works for you personally

This is different for everybody so we need to understand what works for us.

Good questions to ask are

Should I cut out Christmas drinking totally or can I drink a little?

When am I most likely to drink too much?

Who am I with when I drink too much or am I drinking on my own?

How do I feel when I start drinking too much?

When I’ve controlled my drinking in the past what did I do?

You might find our course Janus useful if you’re finding it difficult to decide.


Decide what you’re going to do

Once you’ve decided whether you are going to drink or not, start planning exactly what you’re doing to do. For example

  • Practise saying no
  • Have one drink and then a glass of water
  • Have a drink that looks alcoholic but is n’t. e.g. alcohol free wines (check out with the venue in advance if they have these)
  • Stick to alcohol drinks with low levels of alcohol
  • Organise a supportive friend to ring you at the Christmas party at a set time saying your child/pet is sick so you have to go
  • Bring your car with you if you know you won’t drink and drive (plan your exit though if you don’t want to drive boozy pals home)
  • Only have alcohol free drinks in your house
  • Plan some enjoyable alcohol free activities with supportive pals


Focus on the positives

Because we’re brainwashed by advertising into thinking alcohol makes us happy. It can be a really difficult time with all that Christmas drinking.

So every day it’s really important to take five minutes every day to think about the positives of controlling your drinking.

Don’t think about it in a negative way as that does not work as well.

e.g. It’s better to think

“I’m going to really enjoy catching up on the soaps in peace and quiet tomorrow morning”

Rather then

“I don’t want to have a hangover in the morning”


Brainwash yourself into understanding you’re not the problem

As we’ve previously written we’re all brainwashed into thinking drinking is normal. So we need to hear opposite views.

I find short videos poking fun at our drink culture really help me to realise I’m not the one who does not enjoy drinking.

Good videos included

The Irish intervention


I don’t drink poison

Every time I watch these, they really make me laugh. They also make me realise just how mad our drinking culture is.

So plan your approach to Christmas drinking and avoid that stinking feeling.

For more tips on Christmas drinking click here




10 tips if your feelings are making you drink too much

In previous posts we explained how childhood emotional neglect can make you drink too much. We  also described  how to recognise the signs of childhood emotional neglect.  This week we give some tips from Dr Jonice Webb on how to recover from childhood emotional neglect.


 1.Ask yourself regularly how are you feeling?

Very often people brought up in families that did not openly discuss emotions don’t know how they feel. During the day stop and ask yourself how are you feeling? Initially this may be difficult so just ask yourself are you feeling positive or negative?


2.Accept your feelings

Don’t judge or criticise yourself. Just accept the feeling. Becoming aware of your feelings and accepting your feelings is a major step towards resolving your childhood emotional abuse.  Once you start accepting your feelings and not criticising yourself it’s easier to not drink too much. The need for the emotional crutch alcohol provides is reduced.


3.Identify your own needs

Very often people who experienced emotional neglect as children don’t know what they want or don’t feel they deserve to have their own needs met. So imagine you have a magic wand and could immediately grant yourself three wishes. What would those three wishes be?


4.Imagine a kind person helping you

If you still find identifying your own needs  difficult, don’t despair. You might be a successful first class honours graduate from Trinity with an amazing career and family. However if your feelings have not been acknowledged as a child, and it was all about career success, this can still be really tough.

It helps to recognise that you’ve grown up with a belief your feelings are not important. But this belief is not a fact and it’s not true. So imagine a really kind person who loves you no matter what. Some people find imagining themselves as a young child works. Imagine that kind person or child gently telling you what you need. What would they say?


5.Ask yourself questions

Asking your self questions about your feelings can also be helpful

For example

What’s wrong?

How do you feel?

What do you want?

What are you afraid of?

What are you worried about?

What’s making you angry, sad, hurt, etc.?

The answers to these questions will help you to start unlocking and understanding your feelings.


6.Small steps work

Adults who experienced emotional neglect as children often have difficulty  looking after their own needs (self-care). Frequently.they look after everybody else but themselves. Often they are carers in very stressful situations who then hit the bottle at night to keep going. So be very gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself with compassion and kindness as if you are talking to a small child.

For example, Instead of saying

“I drink too much because I’m lazy, stupid and can’t cope”

Try saying

“I’m in a really stressful situation and that’s why I’m drinking too much. But I’m becoming more aware of the need to manage my drinking”

You’ll be surprised how even this very small change in thinking will help.


7.Be Patient

It takes time to unlearn old ways of behaving. After all if during your entire childhood your feelings were ignored, you are not going to change this overnight.

As the Japanese proverb says

“Fall seven times, stand up eight is success.”

8.Use these tips when you’re feeling bad, sad etc.

While these tips are really simple, they really do help.  I find when I’m feeling numb or bad just becoming aware I’m feeling like this really helps. In my case, it’s often because I have a very unrealistic belief that everything I do must be perfect.


9. Accept we drink too much for a reason

As Valerie says

“You don’t wake up & go ‘I’ll drink a litre of vodka and destroy everything around me’,”

In Valerie’s case, she was was treated for 10 years for alcohol abuse, before finally post natal depression was diagnosed. So we drink too much for a reason.

If you’re finding it difficult to cut back on your drinking, try and identify the reasons why rather than just blaming yourself. If it’s childhood emotional neglect, these tips will really help.

You might also  find our short course on the pro’s and con’s of drinking helpful.


10. Read the book

This material has been drawn the book

Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

We’ve  recommended this book to a number of people who have all found it very useful. So worth reading.

7 signs your emotions are making you drink more alcohol

In our last post we described childhood emotional neglect and how it can make you drink more alcohol

While we may come from a loving caring family, very often our parents never learned to acknowledge our feelings. or emotions. Because this is something that did n’t happen, we’re often totally unaware.

This lack  of  parental support for feelings is called childhood emotional neglect.

As we described previously if we’ve experienced childhood emotional neglect we tend to blame ourselves for whatever is wrong in our lives.  Often  we tend to  drink more alcohol to make ourselves feel better.

Dr Jonice Webb PhD a leading expert in this field lists 7 signs of growing up with childhood emotional neglect.


1.Feelings of emptiness

Some people just feel numb. Others have an empty feeling in their belly, or chest or throat.  The feeling may not be there all the time, it may come and go. Often people drink more alcohol to make the feeling go away and feel better.


2.Fear of being dependent

Some people find they never want help from anybody. This is not a normal healthy need to be independent but a total unwillingness to let anybody help.  These people find the thought of being dependent on anybody really frightening. As they get older and maybe they get less physically able they tend to drink more to push away the fear of becoming dependent on others.


3.Unrealistic self-appraisal

Some people find they don’t understand themselves very well. They don’t understand their strengths and weakness or know what they can do well. They tend not to have a clear purpose in life or even understand what they like or dislike.


4.No compassion for yourself, plenty for others

Some people are always helping their friends and colleagues, listening to their problems with empathy and compassion. They provide lots of practical support to their friends. Yet they find it hard to be kind themselves and won’t discuss their own problems with friends and family. They often berate themselves for not doing more or for needing time out to relax because they are totally exhausted.


5.Guilt, shame, self-directed anger and blame

Guilt, shame, anger and blame; The Fabulous Four.  People with childhood emotional neglect direct a lot of this at themselves.  They do something minor wrong and become very self-critical. For example being 10 minutes late for an appointment means a day or two  spent criticising themselves for being lazy and unpunctual.

Or a daughter gets poor marks in school and they blame themselves for not helping enough with homework.

So the glass of wine becomes a great ally for numbing these painful feelings.


6.Feeling fatally flawed

This often feels like other people don’t like you. It’s an underlying sense that

“I’m flawed”

“Something is wrong with me”

“I’m not like other people”

Many people drink too much to push these feelings away.


7.Difficulty feeling, identifying, managing and/or expressing emotions

Often people feel they can’t speak out on what they actually feel. This can be because they don’t feel they have the right to speak about their feelings or because they don’t actually have the right words to describe their feelings.

They often feel confused about what other people do or even what they do.

They may feel very uncomfortable when people talk with emotion e.g. people talking with anger or sadness.


Do any of these signs ring  a bell with you?

The more of these signs you can identify with, the more likely it is that you experienced childhood emotional neglect.

This is not saying that our parents did not love us, but they did not have the skills to help us deal with our feelings or emotions.

So the less in touch we are with our feelings the more likely it is we’ll turn to drink to make ourselves feel better.


What to Do?

If you’re feeling childhood emotional neglect applies to you, don’t panic. By simply being aware of it you’ve just taken a major step towards fixing this problem.

In a future post we‘ll look at how to get more in touch with your feelings and deal with the effects of childhood emotional neglect.


Are your feelings making you drink more alcohol?

If you’ve experienced childhood emotional abuse, you’re not alone if you’ve taken to drinking more alcohol.   So try not to constantly criticise yourself as this is more likely to encourage you to drink more. If you find it impossible not to constantly criticise yourself, you may find support from a counsellor helpful. Our tips for finding the right counsellor for you can be found here

Or you may find Dr Jonice’s book “Running on empty”  helpful.


Is emotional neglect making you drink more?

The term childhood emotional neglect is becoming better known and understood. It refers to a failure by parents to respond to a child’s feelings on a regular basis.


Ciara  is emotionally neglected

Ciara’s  friends gang up on her on in the playground.  She comes home from school feeling sad. Ciara’s parent’s don’t notice her sadness. Neither says,

“Ciara are you OK?” or

“Did something happen at school today?”

They help Ciara with her homework and then bring her to Irish dancing.  They tell her she is a smart kid and great at the dancing. No one seems to notice that anything is wrong. Ciara says nothing about feeling sad.


Emotional neglect is not a once off event

Now if it’s just one time, that Ciara’s parents don’t notice her sadness, it won’t do any damage to her development. But if it keeps happening then Ciara learns that her feelings are not important. She learns not to acknowledge or accept her feelings.


Emotional neglect can be invisible

It’s much easier to see if there is physical neglect or if a child is not getting enough to eat. It’s much harder to see emotional neglect. It’s a failure by parents to do something, so it is much more invisible.

Think about something that happened yesterday. Now try and think of something that did not happen yesterday. It’s a lot harder to do this.


But my childhood was very happy

Angela often finds that clients tell her their childhood was very happy. They had loving parents, who were always there for them, with a nice home and plenty of support. It’s only later on in the counselling process they begin to realise their parents did not help them to deal with their feelings. The support was always for practical things like dinners, homework help and driving. Feelings however were rarely  discussed.

If feelings are rarely discussed, then we believe feelings are not important. Yet all the research shows that being aware and accepting our feelings is a really important part of mental health and happiness.


Parents can only give what they have

This is not to blame parents. If our parents  were not brought up to deal with their feelings then it’s unlikely they can help us  deal with our feelings. So without outside help or self-development the cycle of emotional neglect continues.


We’re more likely to drink too much if we have emotional neglect

The research suggests that women who fail to learn how to handle feelings like anxiety and depression are much more likely to drink too much.  They are also much more likely to get pregnant earlier

In his  Irish Paradox book, Sean Moncrieff thinks the reason we all drink too much is so we can share our feelings and not have them reported back to us the next day. We Irish are funny. we don’t do feelings.


Drinking too much?

If you’re drinking too much and finding it difficult to control your drinking, childhood emotional neglect may be a cause.

A really important point is not too berate yourself for failing to control your drinking. People with childhood emotional neglect tend to be very self-critical. Instead tell yourself you’re trying and that’s a big start.  Every time you drink too much, try and learn from what happened, rather than criticising yourself. As you can see from the wheel of change picture  below, failing is an important part of changing behaviour.

emotional neglect


How do I know if I have childhood emotional neglect?

People with childhood emotional neglect often ask themselves

“I have it all, why don’t I feel happier?”

“I have this empty feeling which only drink takes away”

“I feel like I’m an outsider.”

“What is wrong with me?”

“Why do I struggle so much with controlling my drinking?”


There are 7 key signs of childhood emotional neglect and we’ll describe these in a future post.

If you’d like to read more on this topic now, Dr Jonice Webb has a really good questionnaire on identifying childhood emotional neglect.  Click here for the questionnaire

An Irish alcohol intervention will make you laugh

Alcohol  intervention is the term  used to describe when families and or friends come together to try and persuade someone they care about that they are drinking too much. Often when they are very confrontational they have the opposite effect and just push the person into drinking more. So we’re not big fans of alcohol  interventions. We believe people drinking too much need support not criticism.


Does the person know they have a drinking problem?

It’s really important to know what stage the person is at. Do they have even a little  awareness they have an alcohol problem or are they totally unaware they are drinking too much?

A very useful tool is the Wheel of Change (shown below) which shows the various stages people go through when trying to make any type of change whether big or small.

alcohol intervention


The wheel of change can really help

Psychology research suggests supporting the person according to where they are in the wheel of change is more helpful.

So if somebody is not on the wheel of change, they have not  yet realised they are drinking too much. Confronting them in an alcohol intervention to “make them see the truth” is unlikely to help. It could even make matters worse.

Instead provide simple factual information as to why reducing drinking may be helpful. It should be relevant to the person.

For example, if the person drinking too much is sad or is anxious, information showing the links between drinking and anxiety may be useful. You can find useful facts on this   here or South Lady’s story here  may be helpful.


Alcohol interventions can cause more problems

While many treatment services recommend alcohol interventions to “break down the person’s resistance” we are not fans of an approach which is often  based around active confrontation and frequently creates resistance.

But onto an alcohol intervention which we definitely like.


A funny  Irish alcohol intervention

Foil, Arms and Hog are Irish comedy geniuses. They do sketches and weekly videos poking fun at  Irish life and culture.

One of their videos  now has over 3 million views. It’s about an alcohol intervention. But an alcohol intervention with a difference. This intervention is  for  an Irish boy who does not drink.

It’s really funny, mainly because it shows just how much alcohol is a part of our lives and you can actually see this type of thing  happening in real life.

Some of the comments on the video bear this out

“I’m a Irish teetotaller. Spookily accurate believe it or not. I’m a disgrace.” 

 “defo think this is what my mates are like with me when I don’t drink on nights out hahahahaha or my family with me at the wedding not drinking haha”


“You’re pregnant, my friends said when I stopped drinking

Many of our writers say the same thing, their family and friends don’t like it when they don’t drink.

Sinead writes about “You’re pregnant, my friends said when I stopped drinking

MSBG writes about “how living in Ireland made her  drink more to be accepted by Irish Friends

Irvine says “  he can’t live in Ireland as he drinks too much.

Siolta writes ” on her fears of  being seen as no craic ” if she does n’t drink

Beanyneamy writes ” on drinking away the irish stereotype ”

My own experience of giving myself a hangover headache

So this video really  nails our approach to drinking. The social pressure to always drink.


Make the change

If you’d like to change our attitudes to alcohol, sign our petition here to support the alcohol public health bill. Big Alcohol have pulled out all the stops  to kill  this bill and our Government is listening to them and putting big alcohol profit before public health.


Make sure to watch the video here, you’ll get a good laugh. And go see Foil Arms and Hog, it will be a great night out.



Irish Government trying to cancel Christmas

Irish government trying to cancel Christmas

The Irish Government are trying to cancel Christmas. At least that’s what you think if you listened to Big Alcohol.

Big Alcohol have produced a very expensive looking video showing the impact of the long awaited public health bill on that iconic Guinness Christmas ad. You can see it here 


Cancel Christmas, we can’t advertise Guinness the way we want 

Big Alcohol see the proposed law (called a bill as it goes through our parliament)  as an attack on their ability to associate Christmas with drink.

So the new ad looks all sad and mournful and would not entice you to drink Guinness. So cancel Christmas. You can’t have Christmas without Guinness say Big Alcohol.


Duh, that’s the point

That’s exactly the point. Advertising encourages people to drink more and creates these wonderful fictitious stories and beliefs about alcohol as we’ve explained here. That’s why it can be so difficult for people to drink less.

We need this new law to stop adults and young children being targeted by drink companies. ( Click here for details on how Big Alcohol targets children )

As Alcohol action Ireland say about the new law.

“No longer will the Drinks Industry be able to hijack our every moment, reflect every emotion or share every success.”


Big alcohol are trying to stop this  bill

We’ve written before about the tactics Big Alcohol are using to stop this bill becoming a reality. (Click here)

The government are due to bring the bill back before the Seanad next week. So Big Alcohol are now really ramping up the pressure on our politicians.

In the period May to August alone, 8 different groups phoned, met or presented to many TDs, Senators, Civil Servants and Ministers  giving misleading facts about the bill. You can check their lobbying efforts  here.

This lobbying is having an effect. As you can see below some  TDs have already decided to put profit before people’s health.

cancel christmas


The sky’s falling in, cancel Christmas

The message Big Alcohol are giving is if this bill is passed it will ruin the advertising industry, jobs will be lost, tourists won’t come, and the government will lose taxes.

In short, the sky will fall in. Cancel Christmas if this bill passed. All because a small minority of people abuse alcohol.


Will the sky fall in?

Although we’ll lose some  excise duties and possibly jobs in the brewing industry this will be more than offset by the reduction in the cost of alcohol harm. Currently this runs over €1 billion per year to us the tax payers. Click here for details

It may be difficult for people in Big Alcohol initially but this change is not going to happen overnight. People working in the brewing industry are very skilled and in an economy reaching full employment, these people will be able to get jobs elsewhere . Click here for details Or they can concentrate on selling non alcoholic drinks.

Also the Vintners Federation is in favour of the bill as they see more people returning to their pubs if selling alcohol below cost is banned.

cancel christmas
Below cost selling


Tourists don’t come here for the drink

Oh and tourists don’t list drink and pubs in their top 7 reasons for coming to Ireland. (Click here for details)

Also those wonderful creative minds in the advertising industry can still create ads for alcohol but in a different way.

And finally, this bill is not required because of a small minority of people who can’t control their drinking. A HRB study shows that the vast majority of people who drink are harming themselves.

cancel christmas


Watch out for “fake news” about the bill

Though big alcohol say this bill won’t work, they keep spinning misleading facts to prevent the bill passing.

Ireland unlocked, a volunteer twitter account put together some short videos to show this. They  highlight  just some of the  misleading statements from the Clare Byrne live show. The’re not as slick as Big Alcohol videos (they don’t have a big advertising & design agency ) but they do expose Big Alcohol fake news

False: Big Alcohol says alcohol does not cause cancer

False: Big Alcohol says our regulations are the strongest in Europe

False: Big Alcohol says most people drink moderately

False: Big Alcohol does not target children

So you can see how Big Alcohol are misleading people with fake news and disputing facts.


Where do you want your taxes spent ?

Would you rather your taxes out of your hard earned income were spent

  1. Subsidising big alcohol profits?
  2. Making sure your elderly Dad or Mother does not die on a trolley bed in a hospital corridor?
  3. Getting that special needs assistant for your child?

If it’s 2 or 3 you should support the bill. You should also support the bill if you want to pay less taxes.


You can make a difference

People power stopped St Arthur’s Day.

People power can get this bill passed.

Please take just 5 minutes to email your TD’s here saying you support the alcohol public health bill.

Or if you don’t have five minutes, just take a minute to sign our petition and share it with your friends. Click here

Maybe future Christmases for those  270,000 children living with families who misuse alcohol will be happier as a result of this bill.

Future generations will thank you.

So please, don’t delay take action now.


Parliamentary forum looks at mental health but not alcohol

I was at the very first parliamentary forum in Dublin castle on mental health this week. It was an event organised by the Ceann Comhairle (speaker) of the Oireachtas. (Parliament) You can see the introductory video here and a video on the proceedings here.


Alan Quinlan gets personal

It was a really interesting and informative event. Alan Quinlan, the ex-Irish international professional rugby player gave an excellent and moving speech about his struggles with anxiety and how always having to be perfect made him ill. He was lucky and he got help. He was very open about how he still how to look after his mental health to make sure he stays well.  I think it’s the same for all of us

parliamentary forum

June Shannon got personal as well

From the floor June Shannon, the well-known journalist described her own experiences and how private health insurance was essential for recovering. She also described the lack of mental health support for pregnant women during and after pregnancy very well.

Many speakers criticised the unfairness of private health insurance being necessary for quick access to mental health services.

There seemed to be general agreement there is still a lot of stigma around mental health issues. So kudos to  these speakers for going public on their mental health issues.

We’re making progress

It is terrific to see the progress being made on mental health. I can’t imagine a parliamentary forum on mental health taking place even a few years ago.  Such a forum gives more importance to the issue of mental health. It was great to see a good turn out by the Minister for Mental Health and TD’s.

Praise to the Ceann Comhairle (speaker)  Séan Ó Fearghaíl TD for organising and speaking at the event.

parliamentary forum

What no alcohol?

What was disturbing though was only one speaker very briefly mentioned the impact of alcohol on mental health. The research shows clear links between poor mental health and alcohol.

Alcohol can cause depression. Also, because it reduces inhibitions people become more implusive and do things they would not do if they had not drunk alcohol.

In one study in Cork over 50% of men who died by suicide had drunk alcohol before death.

Click here for a link to research on alcohol and mental health by Alcohol Action Ireland.


Some personal stories

Our Lifewise writers often describe how their drinking and mental health influence each other.

You can find some of their stories below.

Lucy describes how she stopped being a stress head when she gave up drinking

South Lady describes how her anxiety and depression drove her into drinking too much.

Ashton describes how not drinking helped her to relax and be more peaceful

Cindy B describes the impact of alcohol and how we Irish have a toxic relationship with alcohol


Is alcohol misuse hidden?

While Alan and June get great support for being open about their mental health problems, we think the same openness does not apply to those of us who misuse alcohol.  Most people stay silent on their alcohol abuse due to stigma. There are some notable exceptions like singer and Senator  Frances Black who now campaigns on the alcohol public health bill. Or our  very own Valerie Farragher.

Stigma is a major reason why people don’t ask for help. It’s why you don’t have to give a real name or address when you sign up for any of our courses.


What about a parliamentary forum on alcohol?

While mental health is coming out of the shadows, alcohol misuse remains firmly in the dark.

Instead of a parliamentary forum for alcohol  we get the alcohol public health bill tied up for years in our parliament as TD’s listen to big alcohol. (More details here)

parliamentary forum

Does Mental Health get a parliamentary forum because there is a very active and effective  campaigning group on mental health  Mental Health Reform ? (Disclosure, we’re strong supporters and we were  invited to the forum  via MHR).

Or because in mental health,  there is no powerful lobby  against  measures to make life better?  I suspect the later  is more important.

If you’d like to change this situation why not email the parliamentary forum at

or send a tweet to

Twitter  use hashtag #parlforum

or you can sign our petition here.

Tell our politicians they can improve our mental health by simply passing the Alcohol Public Health bill.

No tax payers money needed!

Pancreatitis and alcohol. My painful story

Pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or alcohol. Many people are aware that too much alcohol can cause liver damage. However most people are unaware that alcohol can also cause pancreatitis. A  really painful life threatening condition which I’ve have the misfortune to have.


A gallstone wreaks havoc

Regular readers will be aware of my trip to the Emergency department in an ambulance, which I wrote about here.

Turned out I had pancreatitis caused by a tiny little gallstone (which I did not know I had) travelling into my pancreas and wreaking havoc to the extent bits of my pancreas starting dying off. (Called acute necrotising pancreatitis)


Is the pancreas important?

Yes is the short answer. It converts the food we eat into fuel cells. If you can’t digest your food, without medical help you will die. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas which reduces or stops the pancreas ability to process food. So the pancreas is essential.


I can’t breath

As well as the really severe stomach pain (think labour pains if you have ever gone through this), I now can’t breathe. This is really scary as I’ve never had lung problems.  Even after major operations, I’ve never needed oxygen for more than a couple of hours. So now I get oxygen through a tube in my nose.  An unwelcome partner to the drip stuck in my arm.


There’s no magic bullet treatment for pancreatitis

There’s no quick fix for pancreatitis. Treatment supports the functions of the body until the inflammation in the pancreas dies down. In my case blood tests were taken every day and depending on results, extra supplements are put in the drip.


Smelly diarrhoea

With strong pain relief, I’m able to think about eating again. The dietician explains the  low fibre diet I now need. But even sticking to this, every time I eat, about 10 minutes later, I end up in severe pain on the toilet with nasty, vile smelling diarrhoea. Then an hour or two lying on the bed totally exhausted and only for the oxygen drip, I would not be able to breath.


They won’t treat the diarrhoea

The doctor says that although they can stop the diarrhoea, they need to make sure I’m not suffering from malnutrition so they won’t give me anything to stop it. So they start me on Creon tables which replace the enzymes my pancreas is no longer producing.


Learning how to breathe again

The physio starts teaching me how to breath properly again. Apparently the pain and inflammation means  my stomach organs are now pressing on my lungs. I’m breathing far too shallowly and that’s why I’m so out of breath. They give me what looks like a child‘s toy and I have to breath into the tube and try and make the balls go to the top. (See picture above) The first time I can lift one ball a tiny little bit before collapsing.


Despite not being able to breath, I’m told get out of bed.

The doctor tells me, I have to stay out of bed as much as possible and walk at least four times a day. This is vital to me getting better.  All I want to do is lie on the bed. However  I force myself. Between the diarrhoea and total exhaustion I  walk and also use the ball toy at least once every hour.


I feel really sorry for myself but think of Joanne

I feel really sorry for myself, but use a lot of visualisation.  When I walk, I try to believe I’m no longer in a hospital corridor full of beeping medical equipment and really sick people. I imagine myself strong, healthy and walking  in the beautiful Dublin mountains with the wind in my face and  the unique smell of gorse bushes.

I also think of 21 year old Joanne O Riordan  the young campaigner born without any limbs. She’s such a strong, funny, positive, feisty person. She has already helped change people lives by helping to reverse cuts to disability payments. If she can rise above the obstacles in her life so can I.


It takes two weeks

It takes a while before the right Creon dosage is reached. I still have to stay on a low fibre diet.

In total I was in hospital for two long weeks, before finally I was well enough to come home. Even then I can’t  drive. I’m too weak and exhausted.

I go back in 6 weeks later  to have the cause of my misery, my gallbladder removed. They only do this when the inflammation dies down. Otherwise as the surgeon says it’s like vacuuming up bits of confetti and surgery is much more complicated. In my case it was keyhole surgery and an absolute doodle compared to the pancreatitis.


8 months later

8 months later, I still have to take tablets to eat. I’ve improved as I no longer have to take a tablet for a dry snack.  But any meals I have to take two tablets.  Although I‘ve moved off the low fibre diet, I know certain foods will set off the diarrhoea again. No more spicy Indian meals. Even too many chocolate raisins and I’ll be rushing to the toilet.  I hate being so particular about what and where I eat and having to take  tablets in public when I’m in a restaurant.


The doctor tells me I’m doing really well. The mental impact will take a little longer to heal though.


Good medical treatment

I’m lucky that I got really good treatment, doctors, physios, nurses, dieticians are terrific. When I move to the private hospital, the catering manager even discusses what meals will work for me and tells me to scribble whatever I want on the daily menu, they will make it up especially for me. They all play an essential part in my recovery. But it’s sad that private health insurance is essential to treatment dignity, eating and sleeping properly. As I mentioned here I was unable to sleep in the public hospital ward due to staff testing equipment at night.


The future

The doctor says I may have to stay on these tablets for the rest of my life. Most people with a severe case like I had generally do. If I want to come off the tablets, there’s no exact formula and it’s trial and error. He recommends waiting another 2 months before even trying to reduce the dosage.

I also still find I get exhausted really quickly. But for the GP Chinese medicine specialist, I saw I don’t think I’d even have this level of energy.



Things that make a difference

I’m still optimistic, it will just take time and effort. I’m trying to do all the things that make a difference. Like sticking to a mainly healthy diet, exercise, plenty of rest, chinese medicine,  and saying no to work opportunities.

I’m minding my mental health with regular mediation and remembering to remain “mindful”. I try to stay away from negative people and don’t listen to the news as much. I only watch happy or light TV programmes.

It seems to be working and it strikes me that these things are all very  relevant if you’re trying to reduce your drinking.


What about alcohol though?

It’s frustrating the way the same certain questions kept getting asked over and over again. We’re all familiar with different health care professionals asking the same questions 6 or 7 times.

Only once though do they ask about my alcohol use. Even though too much alcohol causes about 25% of pancreatitis cases. As we’ve mentioned before, drinking too much alcohol is not taken seriously in our health care system.

I don’t dare drink alcohol. I don’t miss it. The memory of my illness is still too vivid. Despite my very serious illness, one or two of my friends still don’t like the fact that I don’t drink. I don’t let it get to me.


Got gallbladder stones?

Many middle aged women have gallstones. Some like me don’t even know they have them, because they have no symptoms. Gallstones are the biggest cause of pancreatitis.  After that too much alcohol is the next biggest cause.

So if you have gallbladder stones, staying within the recommended drinking limits is really important.

You can find out more about these limits in our free course here.

If you want to know more about pancreatitis this link here to the NHS is good.