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

Brian’s ability to control drinking destroyed by his beliefs

I wrote previously about beliefs and how the meaning we take from events, influences our ability to control drinking. It may seem like beliefs have nothing to do with taking control of our drinking, when in reality it can be the key to not just drinking too much, but to leading a happy life.

Brian’s story shows how our beliefs can even be a matter of life and death.

Brian’s story

I knew Brian as a sensitive, gentle, intelligent man. Despite leaving school unable to read, he now enjoyed reading and poetry. Patrick Kavanagh was his favourite. He could discuss politics and any kind of music you’d mention. Because of his rough time at school and home, he was really scared he was

“A bad person who was going to hell.”

In all his time in the mental health services, this belief had never been challenged or addressed. It’s easier to throw drugs at people, despite it costing more in the long term.

 

Impatient Boss

When the boss changed in work, Brian could not cope with the new boss’s style, he got too stressed and he left on disability. Life went downhill from there. His kidneys failed and he went on kidney dialysis.

He was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. Brian had no health insurance. However because the doctors thought it might be TB, they put him in a private room to prevent other patients being infected.

We all thought this was terrific, because now he had peace and privacy and would be able to sleep at night without noises and interruptions.

 

Let him die

But then Brian became unconscious. He stopped talking. Drips were inserted. Even when he was brought down for his regular kidney dialysis, Brian never appeared to wake up. The Doctors called a case conference, where we all came together to discuss Brian. At the case conference, the Doctors suggested nothing more could be done. They wanted to stop kidney dialysis which meant Brian would be dead within the week.

 

Natalie saves the day

We were all so upset, nobody could talk. I could not get any words out.  I wanted to ask how somebody who walked into a hospital with a chest infection just two weeks earlier, could suddenly get so ill, and be allowed to die. But I was too upset to talk.

Luckily we had a friend, Natalie, with us who was able to ask that question. So the doctors decided they would do more tests and keep going with the kidney dialysis.

 

Brian wakes up

The test for TB is clear. Brian is moved from the private room into the main ward. Next day he wakes up and starts eating breakfast. He gets up and walks around. Soon he is well enough to be released home. It really feels like a miracle.

 

None of this made sense

I asked Brian what had gone on. How come he had been so ill in the hospital and then got better?

His answer, to use a cliché “made my blood run cold”.

When he was put in the private hospital room, he assumed he was put there because he was dying. So he decided he might as well get on with it. He always knew he would die young.  It was one of the reasons he drank too much.Then, when the doctors put him back in the main ward, he realised he was not dying and decided to live.

 

His beliefs nearly killed him

I was horrified and in shock for days after hearing this. None of us had even thought to explain to Brian why he was in the private room. We assumed the doctors or nurses had told him. We also assumed he would like it. It brought home to me how powerful our beliefs are and how they can control our physical bodies. Brian’s belief that private rooms were for people who were dying, nearly killed him.

 

Beliefs about alcohol

Which brings us onto our beliefs about alcohol and our ability to control drinking. All around  us we’re surrounded by messages that drinking is essential to a happy life. We’re conditioned to believe, that every event needs drinking, every time we’re stressed we need drink, every time we’re happy we need a drink and so on. Advertisements are all around us linking drinking to happiness.

We even believe that becoming an adult is all about having your first drink.

 

What are your beliefs about alcohol?

So when we’re surrounded by all these messages, is it any wonder we find it difficult to control drinking?  So  a good tip is to identify your beliefs about alcohol.  What does alcohol mean to you?  For example

  • Drinking helps me to relax
  • Drinking means I’m less nervous meeting people for the first time
  • Life would be boring without drinking
  • I’d have no social life without drinking
  • People would not like me if I’m sober

 

Control Drinking by looking at your beliefs

Once you’ve listed your beliefs on a sheet of paper. Then you can take action. Challenge these beliefs. Would life really be boring without alcohol, or would you start doing new more exciting activities? Sky diving anyone?

control drinking

Take action

Are there other actions you can take which help meet the needs drink currently satisfies?

For example, developing a social life which does not involved drinking. You’ll find some suggestions here.

Or maybe using meditation to relax.

 

Control drinking by changing your beliefs

So a key part of your control drinking toolkit is changing your beliefs about alcohol. Then it becomes easier to actually control drinking. For many people there’s also a second part to beliefs. The beliefs they have about themselves. For example, I’m not good enough.

We’ll deal with this in a future post as these can also really impact on people’s ability to control drinking.

Photos by Loïc Fürhoff on Unsplash   

And  by Kamil Pietrzak on Unsplash

How will the Alcohol bill affect Irish drinking?

Last week we described how the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which aims to reduce Irish drinking was delayed yet again.

 

Good news at last

Well the good news is this week, after another long winded debate the bill actually passed thought the Dail. There was even a round of applause after the bill passed.

A small number of TD’s attempted to delay the bill yet again. Many with personal connections to the alcohol industry.

 

Reducing Irish drinking

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said:

“This is the first time in the history of our State we have endeavoured to use public health legislation to address issues in relation to alcohol. It is therefore a ground-breaking measure.

“For the very first time in our history we are legislating for alcohol as it affects our health and it is right and proper that we do that.

“We know that we have a relationship with alcohol in this country that is not good, that damages our health, harms our communities, and harms many families,” he said.

“The measures in this bill will make a real difference to change the culture of drinking in Ireland.”

 

How will this affect me?

So how will this affect drinkers?  Well, there will be health warnings on alcohol and alcohol will have to be sold in a separate part of the shop.

The biggest impact though is something called minimum unit pricing.

What this means is the price of alcohol will be related to how strong the alcohol is.

To set the minimum price for a particular alcohol product, you find how much the drink weighs in alcohol strength and multiply it by 10 cent. The Bill uses a specific formula.

 

A bottle of wine will be €7.10

So taking a bottle of wine of 750ml with 12% strength.

That would give

750 *.12 * .789 (figure specified in bill) which gives 71.01.

Multiply this by 10 cents and it gives a price of €7.10

So retailers won’t be able to sell this bottle of wine for less than this. It will mean selling wine below cost  as a discount sales offer can’t happen.

 

A bottle of vodka will be €20.71

Taking a bottle of vodka say, 700 ml and 37.5% strength. This would give

700 * .375 * .789 giving 207.11.

Multiply this by 10 cents gives €20.71.

So this will be the minimum price of vodka. While vodka’s normal price is €25 and upwards, there are often special offers which reduces the price below this. You can even get it free sometimes as seen below.

irish drinking

Check out your tipple of choice

So using the formula you can now calculate how much minimum unit pricing is going to affect you. If you drink mainly in a pub or wine bar it’s unlikely to have any effect. If you normal pay €12 euro for a bottle of wine, you won’t pay more. However all those special deals for low priced drinks will disappear. No more €4 euro bottles of wine which were €12 euro.

 

Minimum unit pricing is pretty clever

A basic law of economics is the lower the price the more people will buy. (Except when it’s something like a designer handbag which has appeal because it is so expensive and exclusive)

So what minimum unit pricing does is encourage people to buy alcohol with a lower alcohol strength because it will be cheaper.

Young people tend to buy the cheapest alcohol because they  have less  money. People with a drinking problem tend to buy the cheapest alcohol because they drink so much.

So now  these groups will tend to buy lower strength alcohol as it will be cheaper. Lower alcohol strength means less harm. So minimum unit pricing is pretty clever as unlike excise duties it targets people who tend to drink too much.

 

Can the minimum unit price change?

The aim of the bill is to reduce Irish drinking to levels suggested by the World health Organisation.

irish drinking

So if  Irish drinking  does not fall, the Bill gives the Minister the power to review the minimum unit price in 3 years’ time.

 

A final word

We got some fairly aggressive emails for our support for the bill.  Shows the level of support for our alcohol culture. But we also got some lovely emails thanking us for campaigning for the bill. So thanks to those people. You know who you are.

 

 

 

Bad week for the Public Health Alcohol Bill

The Public Health Alcohol bill which we wrote about here was back in the Dail this week. It’s now 1,000 days since the bill was first proposed. In that time over 3,000 people have died from alcohol related harm.

 

Alcohol kills more people than suicide

As we’ve written before alcohol harm kills more people than illegal drugs and suicide.

Public Health Alcohol Bill

So you would think the bill which is aimed at reducing these deaths would be treated urgently. But no, two other bills, the Good Friday Pub bill and Craft brewery opening hours bills  have been introduced after the Public Health Alcohol bill and  are now law.

 

The Public Health Alcohol bill came back into the Dail

It was hoped the bill would be approved by the Dail on Wednesday. The debate started in the evening and ran for over 4 hours. A small number of deputies kept talking with total misinformation.

Michael  Healy Rae- Yes- he of the publican family, that thinks overgrown hedges kills more people, thought the bill was aimed at young people only.

In fairness, Stephen Donnelly, the Fianna Fail spokesman on health withdrew his amendment as he did not want to delay the bill. He also admitted to now being aware of the links between alcohol and cancer.

Louise O Reilly also proposed a useful amendment to start detailed tracking of alcohol related harm.

 

The Bill does not pass

With all the hot air, though the debate ran out of time. As one commentator said

“Listening to the filibustering and misinformation in the Dail by a handful of Deputies.

We have been apple picking in orchards in childhood and down the Wild Atlantic Way”

You can watch the full dispiriting debate at this link here- (pick Wed 27th Sept)  if you have masochistic tendencies, or you can pick up the speeches here.

 

The media role

The media did not cover themselves in glory either. Disgracefully, Virgin Media asked Michael Overgrown Hedges Healy  Rae to present a current affairs programme dealing with the Public Health Alcohol bill. Healy Rae missed a Dail vote to do this. There was no mention of his conflict of interest. However Senator Frances Black did a great job defending the bill. You can see a clip here.

Gerry O Sullivan, questioned Healy Rae ‘s appearance as a current affairs presenter on Kerry Radio and got a lot of abuse for his troubles. Link here.

On Twitter, the political editor of the Irish Times, Pat Leahy said he could only watch the debate with a half bottle of claret. (Smart Pat, you’re not binge drinking ). This generated multiple  replies mainly along the lines of

“It would drive you to drink, all right,”

and

You’re going to die, we’re all going to die.”

Very few of the replies were active supporters of the Public Health Alcohol bill.

 

Alcogenic Culture?

So if you’re trying to manage your drinking, our alcogenic or drinking environment does not help. All the messages are drinking is fun, sexy, entertaining and that life without drink is boring and uninteresting.

It can be very hard not to absorb these messages. It makes trying to reduce drinking very difficult as  discussed here  and here.

 

It’s changing though

There are signs of change though. 92% of the public do support the bill.

Public Health Alcohol bill

 

Minister Simon Harris has committed to bringing the bill back into the Dail next Wednesday. Hopefully the Government will stand up to alcohol industry pressure.

So just keep reminding yourself, your thinking is more informed than many of our TD’s and media. You know alcohol is a problem.

 

Motivation wavering?

And if you feel your self-belief or confidence weakening try reading some of our writer’s stories on our blog. For example

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

Or just watch the very funny Irish intervention.Over 4 million people have enjoyed it so far.

 

Is everything we know about treating drinking harm wrong?

The more I learn about treating drinking harm, the less I think I know. In health care, the debates about what is the best way to solve drinking harm rage on. Is not drinking at all better than moderation? Do people have to reach rock bottom before they get better? Does medication have a role in treatment?

 

Which treatment?

There’s a wide range of services for treating drinking harm most of which are underfunded and under pressure. There’s AA, private and public residential services, community services, psychotherapy, counselling, housing first, etc.

Each of these services for treating drinking harm have their own approach and can offer anything from 12 steps treatments, medications, cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational interviewing, peer support groups, psychotherapy, occupational therapies, exercise therapies, anger management to neurofeedback and EMDR.

We wrote about choosing a service here.

 

Which service for treating drinking harm work best?

So which treatment for drinking harm work best? The answer to this is we don’t know for sure. We know some treatments work for some people but not for others. I get really frustrated by the lack of regular up to date reporting on success rates. Services make claims about treatment success rates, but we don’t even have one standard definition of what success is. Is it about not drinking at all?  Is it about  drinking less? Is it someone being happy and fulfilled in their life?

 

There is no look back to see what works

At this stage, I’m sure everyone knows about the cervical cancer screening scandal. We wrote it about here. But if this type of scandal happened in alcohol treatments nobody would know. Because there is no routine clinical audit in alcohol treatments. Unlike mainstream medical treatments where there is a culture of looking back on what treatments worked and which did not , alcohol treatment services don’t do this. You see if the treatment does not work, the tendency is to blame the person with the problem- not the treatment. People who fail are told.

”You did not work the system hard enough”

 

Pat Bracken throws some light

So when I first came across the writing of Pat Bracken, some years ago, it was a light bulb moment for me. It was really helpful in making sense of why some treatments work for some people and not for others.

Pat writes that what is most important is looking at the values, meanings and relationships in our lives. We should prioritise

  1. Understanding the power and relationships in our lives
  2. Understanding what is the meaning and context of our lives
  3. Understanding what are our values and our priorities.

In these areas, we are the experts. We are the most knowledgeable and well informed in our own lives.

Pat argues that the role of therapy, treatment models, research are all secondary or subservient to these three issues.

 

You are the expert

In Pat’s approach, the role of the health care professional changes from being an expert “fixing” the person drinking too much. Instead the health care professional becomes a trusted ally helping the person drinking too much to make sense of their lives. The person drinking too much is the expert in fixing their own life.

 

Sounds crazy?

Maybe this sounds crazy. And, yes there are many crazy approaches to treating alcohol harm. (The scientologists are even setting up in Ireland, but sin scéal eile) But Pat is most definitely not crazy. He worked as a HSE consultant psychiatrist in West Cork for many years and introduced many new and novel approaches there which are gradually being adopted nationwide.

 

Try it out

So why not try it out?  Ask yourself these questions

  1. Do you understand who has power in your life? E.g. you, your partner, your boss, your parents, siblings, friends
  2. Do you understand the relationships in your life e.g. are they supportive, critical, nurturing, toxic etc.?
  3. What is the meaning and context of your life e.g. Do you know what your purpose in life is? If yes are you happy with that purpose
  4. What are your values and priorities e.g. Do you know what your values are. Are you living a life consistent with these? What are your priorities? Do you feel you are making progress on your priorities?

 

These questions can help

Asking yourself these questions could be the first step in getting your drinking under control. In a future post, I’ll talk about a real story, where someone I loved nearly died, as a direct result of the meaning they placed on something that happened in their life.

Note

If you found this post useful you might enjoy these as well

Can an alcohol counsellor help you?

Rehab when is it useful?

 

 

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Lynn Ruane shows the way to success

Lynn Ruane grow up in a loving and working class family in an area known for poverty. She did not know she was “disadvantaged”. She just knew school did not suit her. You were not allowed to be yourself, it assumed everybody learned in the same way. She became disruptive and rebellious.

 

Tragedy strikes

At just 13 years old, Lynn Ruane saw her friend die in a road traffic accident. She realised she might not live long enough to fulfil her dreams. To ease the pain and escape reality, she started drinking. Then she was onto cocaine and ecstasy. She got hold of heroin. But  in the local library she learned she would become addicted, so she flushed it down the library toilet. At that stage, she was robbing shops and cars to buy drugs.

 

Pregnant at 15

Lynn became pregnant at 15. Her dreams was to be old enough to get the lone Mother’s allowance and get a house. But she also wanted to be a good role model to her unborn child. She begged the school to take her back and did her junior cert when eight months pregnant.

 

A new beginning

The social welfare department told Lynn she could go to An Cosan  which is a centre providing a different type of education. Lynn describes it as a place where you could be yourself, it was holistic and allowed her to heal. Crucially the centre provided child care.

 

Fighting against the system

Lynn broke new ground getting the Institute of Technology in Tallaght to change their policy so she could be considered a mature student at just 18! She became a homeless and addiction project worker and changed  the services there.

 

Filling the gap

Lynn introduced a new way of treating drug harm. Most services concentrate  on the mechanics of addiction. How to deal with triggers. Lynn believes talking about triggers is in itself a trigger. Lynn focused on “filling the gap”, moving towards activities which make life worthwhile and enjoyable. She believes education and learning is a key part of escaping drug harm. An important point for anybody trying to reduce their drinking. We‘ve often written about this. (Link here)

 

Funding cuts means go to college

When addiction services were devastated by funding cuts during the austerity years, Lynn realised she did not have the power or words  to defend her service. So she went to Trinity College becoming the president of the Student’s Union. Lynn began to realise she was a victim of bad policy, her experience of education, the fact the school system was unable to help students deal with a bereavement. Her lack of understanding of what life could be in her early years.

 

Meeting Lynn Ruane

With my Dual Diagnosis Ireland hat on I met Lynn some years ago. I was very impressed. She used her terrible experiences to energise herself and make a difference to other people’s lives. Her insights into our very dysfunctional society and alcohol treatment systems were crystal clear. What struck me most of all was her honesty about her life and the mistakes she had made. She “owned” her mistakes but did not dwell on them. She was not ashamed of them. Another key point for anyone trying to control their drinking. Accept and learn from your mistakes. But don’t keep punishing yourself or being ashamed for drinking too much.

 

Lynn goes public about her sex life

In the middle of all the scandal and media coverage about women being forced into having sex, Lynn wrote a powerful article for the Irish Times. I flinched when I first read it. It was so honest and raw. Would her family be hurt by it? I knew she was bound to get criticism and boy did she get it.

In the article which you can read here, Lynn admitted to losing her virginity at just 13. She states she just did not know how to say no.

“From that point onwards, sex was an activity that I felt was expected of me”

 “On many of those occasions, I was way too intoxicated to even remember the encounter”

Again showing the role of alcohol in unwanted sexual contacts. as we discussed here.

Thanks to Lynn, Trinity College have now introduced mandatory sexual consent workshops.

 

Lynn becomes a Senator

Lynn decided to run for senator and again beats the odds. Rarely does someone succeed on her first attempt. She also unseats a serving senator, which hardly ever happens. She has been very active in the Seanad speaking on a wide range of issues.

 

Publishing a book “People Like Me”

Lynn Ruane has now written  a book “People Like Me” which is due to be launched Tuesday the     18th  of September. Over 400 people have said they will attend and the event is booked out.

We’ll be there to help her celebrate. At just 33 years old Lynn is an inspiration. Not just to women who drink too much but too many Irish people.

 

Remember Lynn

So if you’re struggling to get your drinking under control, use people like Lynn Ruane to inspire you. If Lynn can succeed against all the odds so can you. You can have a happier life.

Drinkers like me is worth watching

TV documentary, Drinkers Like Me was well worth watching. It follows respected TV broadcaster Adrian Chiles as he discovers he has a problem with drink.

 

Adrian drinks a bit too much

Adrian knows he drinks a bit, but believes he’s just a “nice regular drinker”. The programme follows him as he discovers he drinks an incredible 60 to 100 units (UK measurement). Well over the UK low risk guidelines of 14 units a week.

Initially he thinks he’s ok. Liver blood tests are normal. Then he discovers he has fibrosis of the liver which leads to cirrhosis of the liver. This is often fatal.

 

Why was Adrian’s drinking not picked up?

What was interesting, Adrian also mentioned he had despondency, anxiety, high blood pressure and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach). In passing, he mentioned he’d seen a counsellor in the past.  So it appears, none of his health care professionals asked him about his drinking. Despite the fact he had symptoms which are often related to drinking too much alcohol. We’re not really surprised, as we mentioned here and here,  this often happens as the health care system does not take alcohol harm seriously.

 

All Adrian’s friends drink too much

Apart from people who labelled themselves as “alcoholics” and had given up drink, all Adrian’s friends drink too much. One friend, despite being aware she was drinking over low risk limits, declared

“She was not a vomiter”

So she did n’t have a problem. His friends make statements like

“We’re addicted to it without being alcoholics”.

Adrian realises they are all drinkers like me.

 

Adrian feels like an idiot

Very bravely on screen, Adrian pours out his feelings. He realises he’s always lied to himself about his drinking. He always linked the good times to alcohol. That he saw the world as beige without alcohol.  After seeing a therapist he goes on another massive session. Personally I think I’d have done the same.  I though the therapist was very confrontational and the TV segment did not show much kindness.  Adrian berates himself.

“What was he thinking, feeling like an idiot”

But he’s not alone, as he discovers, many over 50’s drink too much.

 

2 months later

Two months later, Adrian has cut his drinking down to 25 units a week. Still too high, but a massive improvement. He realises  he never liked himself  and perhaps that was one of the reasons he drank too much. He now hates the phone app he uses to track his drinking.  But it helped to reduce his drinking. Tracking your drinking is a great way to control your drinking.(More here)

 

Drinkers like me is worth watching

Drinkers like me is a really important programme in exposing our alcohol culture. It’s hard not to feel both sorry for Adrian and inspired by his honesty. He comes across as very likeable. Perhaps, because he’s still struggling, much of the commentary is very positive. He’s not seen as sanctimonious or preachy.  Hopefully he’s started a serious conversation on attitudes to drinking.

 

Let’s blame the person

The only issues drinkers like me does not really cover is just how much the alcohol industry brainwashes us that drinking loads is ok. As a result of industry lobbying, we don’t even have warning labels on bottles and cans.  Also  the healthcare system does not do enough to  warn people about the risks. It’s much easier to blame individual people for being reckless and stupid.

Hopefully Adrian will do another programme on this.  In the meantime, don’t miss  drinkers like me. For the next 24 days you can watch drinkers like me here on the BBC player.

Photo courtesy of BBC.

 

PS

If you’d like tips on reducing the harm caused by alcohol click here.

Rose of Tralee finalist “confesses” addiction problem

Like it or loath it the Rose of Tralee, gets plenty of media attention with one headline stating

“Startling confession from Carlow Rose wows the nation”

the confession refers to an  addiction problem.

 

Rose of Tralee confesses addiction problem

This headline caused much controversy on social media with comments such as this

from Amy Lynam

“Another disgusting headline. 

Confession: the act of admitting that you have done something wrong or illegal @IrishTimes you are contributing to addiction stigma, please stop”

The headline was eventually taken down.

 

What’s the problem?

Well Amy is right.  Confessing to an addiction problem is seen as something shameful. We don’t “confess”  to breast cancer or a wonky elbow.  Why?  Because we don’t blame people for their breast cancers or wonky elbows.

However, you’re probably thinking, unlike addiction, people don’t cause their own breast cancers or wonky elbows. They are responsible for their own drinking though.

 

Drinking is a risk factor for breast cancer

Facts are though some breast cancers are caused by drinking and some wonky elbows are caused by falling on a tennis court.  But thankfully we don’t label these separately and decide the poor sufferer is to be shamed and blamed. So why do we do it with drinking?  It stops people looking for help when they do have a problem with their drinking. Making it worse, not only do we shame people who drink too much we also shame people who are trying to control their drinking.

 

We shame people who try to control their drinking

We’ve a great acceptance of people who drink too much, once they do not admit to having a problem.

“Sure she’s great craic”

“She’s the life and soul of the party. “

But try to control your drinking or not drink at all, and you feel  labelled as boring or you feel pressured to drink to please friends. Or you even  get asked if you’re pregnant. Our atittudes towards drinking are a  total paradox!

 

Rose of Tralee opens a new chapter

So the Rose of Tralee’s bravery was rightly admired and she was even made favourite to win. (She did n’t, that would be a step too far!) You can see her wonderful interview here. However she did not have an addiction problem, her parents had the addiction problem.  She just sadly grew up with it.  So the headlines were even more misleading and no wonder commentators were annoyed and right to be concerned about the poor reporting.  All the media mentioned her parents had a heroin problem, very few of them mentioned they had an alcohol addiction problem first.

 

Don’t let stigma get to you

Whether you just have an occasional problem with alcohol or whether you have a physical dependence on alcohol, it’s really important not to let society’s shaming attitudes towards alcohol  bring you down. It’s not easy as the now sadly deceased social justice campaigner Dara Quigley eloquently puts it

That is one of the unseen struggles of recovery from addiction. A constant battle between what you know is true, a desire to make it out the other side, pitted against a society which views addicts – particularly women addicts – as moral hazards to be contained and controlled.”

Dara’s full  article  can be found here

 

Tell yourself you deserve a better life

As Dara says,

“Tell yourself you deserve a better life”

So if you are struggling with alcohol, beware the constant messages from society  you are less than other people. You are a person who deserves compassion and respect as you deal with a problem.

Every single day, tell yourself  you deserve a better life.

 

Photo courtesy of RSVP

Think Jigsaw for controlling your drinking

As regular readers will know, we believe “no one size fits all” for controlling your drinking. Yet alcohol treatment services often give people the wrong idea by sticking to a very rigid, regimented schedule of treatment approaches. For example in AA, it’s follow the 12 steps and if you fail (ie drink at all) it is your fault. You have not worked the 12 steps hard enough. Now AA has helped  lots of people, but it does not work for everybody.

 

Think jigsaw is a better approach

In reality, unless we put all the pieces of the jigsaw together in the right order, we’re unlikely to succeed in controlling our drinking.  For every person, the pieces of the jigsaw are different and will need to be put together in a different way for success.

 

What are the pieces of the jigsaw for controlling your drinking?

Well there are many, many pieces and for everyone these pieces are different. For example, physical exercise is really important. However some people drinking too much may already be exercising on a regular basis, so exercise won’t be part of their drinking jigsaw. However it’s important they continue to exercise as it creates those happy endorphins in our brains.

 

Deciding whether to stop drinking or reduce drinking

In our drink soaked culture, it can be really difficult to not drink at all, because of the reaction of friends and the  impact on our social life.  So some people will find it easier just to drink less, others will find it easier to not drink at all. So this is a very personal decision in your jigsaw.  You’ll find some useful questions to help make your decision here.

 

Looking at feelings around drinking

Another important jigsaw piece is understanding your feelings around drinking. Comparing how we feel when we do drink, to how we feel when we don’t drink is useful.  Lucy found when she acknowledged her feelings she was better able to control her drinking. Her story is here.

Some people have difficulty identifying their feelings, they just feel numb. If this is you, this post  here will be useful.

 

The trigger jigsaw piece

Understanding the things that make us drink more is another big piece in the jigsaw. These are called triggers which  make us want to drink. This post explains  more

 

The practical jigsaw piece

The other big piece is looking at all the practical things we can do which help. From drinking low alcohol drinks (more information here), not having drink in the house, to relationships with friends (more information here)

 

Controlling your drinking using the jigsaw approach

So there’s lots of jigsaw pieces to consider when controlling your drinking. We’ve just mentioned a few of them. So next time you feel you are failing, just think of the jigsaw. Keep going until all the pieces from the jigsaw box are on the table and in the right place. Might take a bit of time and organising getting there, but once we do controlling our drinking becomes a lot easier.

Have a break, have a brainwashing

Leading journalist Jennifer O Connell likes brainwashing herself when she’s travelling home on a train. She pretends she’s travelling first class as she orders her cigarettes from the trolley and starts smoking. She might even have a packet of peanuts as she plugs in her earphones and she starts relaxing in the crowded train.

You’re probably horrified that Jennifer has been so brainwashed into liking cigarettes,  she’s still smoking cigarettes on a crowded train.

 

Nadine loves her surf holiday

Meanwhile over in the Sunday Business Post, another leading journalist Nadine O’ Regan writes about her super healthy surfing holiday, in a fabulous five star hotel in Fuerteventura. She loves the way the hotel offer her favourite cigarettes at breakfast time from the breakfast menu. All included in the cost.

 

Melissa thinks her job is in a “blokey space”

Sorcha interviews taste expert Melissa about women smoking cigarettes in the Irish Times. Often Mesliisa gets asked

“Are you sure you want that big pack of cigarettes”

“I know from experience that many women are uncomfortable about working in or smoking cigarettes. It’s bro culture.

Things are changing for the better though. This weekend Melissa is the key speaker at a first ever festival in Cork to celebrate women and smoking.

It has not been advertised much. But then with  free publicity in leading newspapers,they probably don’t need to advertise.

 

Horrified?

Do you think this is crazy?  Women celebrating their smoking. We all know smoking kills and no advertising or smoking in public is allowed. In fact Ireland took the global lead in introducing the smoking ban. A lead that many countries followed.  So you probably believe  Jennifer and Nadine should not be smoking in public places and the Irish Times should not be giving free publicity to a smoking festival.

 

Brainwashed out of smoking

So attitudes to smoking have really changed since our Government rightly took action  way back in 2004. The Government estimate over 3,000 lives were saved in the first 10 years of the ban.

Next month, is the last time you will see cigarette boxes with branding, colours and logos.  After that colourful cigarette boxes are banned.  Most people think this is a good idea. Attitudes towards smoking have changed as a direct result of Government action. Smoking is not “cool” or socially acceptable  anymore.

 

Brainwashed into drinking

So now in the stories above, replace smoking with alcohol. Jennifer enjoyed a 25cl bottle of wine on the train. Nadine liked the option of the bottle of prosecco with her breakfast and Melissa wants to sell more beer to women.

As we reported previously the alcohol industry is targeting women and these three examples show their efforts are succeeding. All around us we see alcohol shown as a simple harm free relaxing joy. We’re been influenced maybe even brainwashed by marketing that alcohol is just a normal everyday item.

 

Alcohol is more harmful than smoking

Yet according to the prestigious Lancet medical  journal, alcohol does more harm to the person and people around them. In fact a group of experts concluded that alcohol is the number one most harmful drug. Smoking is only in 6th place.

brainwashing

You can see the full report at this link. So all the action on smoking,  yet alcohol does not even have to be labelled as harmful!

 

Don’t be fooled by the brainwashing

So give yourself a break. Don’t be fooled by all the brainwashing. If you find the thought of smoking revolting, next time you’re tempted into drinking too much, replace the image of that lovely tipple with an image of a revolting half smoked cigarette dripping ash. And if you’d like our Government to take action and stand up to the alcohol industry, support the public health alcohol bill here.

If you’d like to learn more about low risk drinking, click here.

 

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash