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

 Be kind to yourself if you’re drinking heavily

In this St Valentine’s week we thought it might be useful to talk about loving yourself if you’re drinking heavily. Many people drinking heavily are unware. They don’t know they are harming their health or causing problems in their lives.


A vicious cycle

The really hard time is when we realise we’re drinking heavily.  We try to cut down but fail to control our drinking. That’s when the self-blaming and the awful sense of shame starts. Combined with a hangover this makes us feel awful. Perhaps our family and friends start giving out to us.

Often this starts a vicious cycle which ends up with us literally hating ourselves because we can’t control our drinking. We end up drinking heavily to bury these feelings.


Society’s attitudes towards drinking don’t help

So many of our writers describe how attitudes towards drinking really don’t help people drinking too much. Examples include

You’re pregnant, my friend screamed when I stopped drinking

Beanyweeny on how she felt forced to drink

Lucy says heavy drinkers fit in better

Do our friends make drinking less easy?

As a society we venerate alcohol, but once people have a problem with alcohol they’re shamed. Women who have a problem with drugs (which alcohol is) are  seen as having a personal failing as Dara describes so well here


HealthCare Professionals may make us feel worse

Valerie felt so bad she went into residential treatment. Four separate times.  None of which worked. This was n’t because Valerie was a hopeless case, but because she did n’t get the right treatment. It was all about confrontation and acknowledging how badly she had behaved. Valerie ended up feeling worse. Eventually she  tried to kill herself. Her 18 year old daughter Louise screamed in the Emergency Department they were n’t leaving until Valerie saw a psychiatrist. It then turned out Valerie had post-natal depression for 10 years which had never been picked up.

Once she got the right treatment, Valerie made a full recovery. She even wrote a book about her experiences  (Available here).  Lifewise would never have happened without Valerie. Valerie shows  no matter how bad your drinking is, there is always hope.


Be kind to yourself if you’re drinking  heavily

It’s difficult not to get caught up in unhealthy self criticism when drinking too much. But as Valerie shows this is just not useful. Our thoughts and feelings influence us so much. If we feel good about ourselves we’re less likely to drink heavily.

If we keep harshly criticising ourselves then we’re less likely to be successful in life generally.

So next time, be kind to yourself when you have a blowout.


Be a kind friend to yourself

Imagine you have a best friend Mary  who you love dearly. Last night she drank way too much and made a fool of herself. She’s now feeling ashamed and mortified and wants to talk to you.

As she talks you would n’t tell her

Yes, you’re a stupid useless twat who always make a mess of things”

As a kind friend you’d listen to what Mary has to say. Maybe it’s about

“She was feeling really anxious about the job situation, so she drank to ease the anxiety. so she could relax”

So  you’d discuss how Mary could avoid this situation in the future. There’s plenty of possible solutions. Because of your kindness and willingness to listen, Mary is able to talk  and come to a decision about how she is going to deal with this in the future.

The point is if your best friend Mary is feeling ashamed and mortified, you don’t give out to her. She knows she drank too much. So you are patient  and help her to find a solution to drinking too much.

So if you would do this for your best friend because you love them, why not do it for yourself?

So instead of criticising yourself for drinking too much, try treating yourself as if you were a kind friend. You might be surprised at the impact it has on your drinking.


“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash






Saying no when friends want you drinking

Last week we wrote about Irish society encouraging us to drink all the time and how hard it is  saying no to drink. This week we give some thoughts on how to say no when under pressure from friends to drink.


What situations will put you under pressure to say no?

It’s much easier to say no when you’ve thought about the situation when you’re going to be under pressure to stay no.

Every situation is different but what is really important is that you have confidence in saying no.

So practise at home how you are going to say no.


Try out different ways of saying no

“No, thank you. I’m not drinking this evening.”

“No, thank you. I don’t drink.”

“No, thank you. I have to drive my friends  home.”

“No, thank you. I have to drive myself home.”

“No, thank you. I’m not thirsty at the moment.”

“No, thank you. I am still recovering from a cold.”

“Thanks, but I’m pacing myself.”

“Thanks, but I’m still hung over from last night.”

“Thank you for the offer, but I’d really rather not.”

“Thank you, but no. Perhaps another time.”

“I’m fine right now, I may take you up on it in a little bit,”

At this time of the year you can even say

“No you’re grand, I’m off it for Lent.”


Avoid long explanations

Don’t get sucked into long explanations of why you’re not drinking unless you find it helpful to talk about your drinking. You’re more likely to give in to having a drink if you start debating your choices.


The broken record strategy

 Many people find the broken record strategy is useful.

This is where you just keep repeating yourself. You might say something like,

“I hear you but no, perhaps another time.”


Make a joke about not drinking

Often humour can be a great way to avoid getting caught in an argument. Examples  include

“I don’t need to loosen up. I just got it together.”

“I’m saving my brain cells for science so I can’t.”

“I have to perform brain surgery in the morning”

“I’m pregnant with Benedict Cumberbatch’s baby”

More examples include

“No thanks, the last time I drank, I stole the person’s wallet who served it to me!”

“No thanks, I’m allergic to drink…I break out in handcuffs when I drink”

Or as Lady Nancy Astor said

“One reason why I don’t drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time”


More help available

We’ve more helpful suggestions in our  free podcast on saying no, which you can listen to here.

Do our friends make drinking less, easy?

People often tell us how difficult it is  drinking less in Irish society.  Sinead  was screamed at

“You’re pregnant”

by her friends.   Beanyneamy was told

“You’re Irish and you don’t drink?”

So our friends can make drinking less, difficult. But are things changing?


Is our drinking culture changing?

For a few years, it appeared there was a trend towards drinking less. Our alcohol drinking was going down from the crazy highs of the Celtic Tiger. But in 2016 our overall drinking went up by nearly 5%.

drinking less


These figures are from the Revenue Commissioners so they don’t show whether the number of people not drinking at all are going up. More Irish people seem to be going public on not drinking at all though.


Aoife McElwain’s story


drinking less

Aoife wrote about her crippling hangovers and anxiety which finally convinced her to remove alcohol from her life. She had a job and relationship and did not see herself as an “alcoholic”.  But she felt her life would be better without it. She found the first year very difficult and saw a therapist. But 5 years on she sees it as the most  important life change she has made and her life is so much better.  You can read her story here. Fair play to you Aoife.


Alison Canavan’s story

drinking less

Alison Canavan the well-known model went public on her alcohol problem last year.

She states

We’re kind of brainwashed into thinking we need alcohol in social situations and to have any kind of personality at all.  The whole thought of giving up alcohol to me when I knew it was a problem was, do I have a personality?  Party Ali was a real identity, especially abroad.  It was a badge of honour, ‘Canavan is Irish, and she can drink us under the table’.”

Alison said she never connected her drinking to the depression and anxiety she was suffering and the medication she was taking for those illnesses.

Although she found giving up alcohol very lonely, now Alison runs events to help people be happier in their lives and would never go back to drinking.

You can see Ali’s inspiring video where she talks about giving up the alcohol here and find out more about Alison  here.


Aisling Keenan’s story

drinking less

Aisling Keenan has never drunk. It never appealed to her. She finds it tough being a non-drinker. People look at her a “little bit peculiar”. She gets very personal questions from strangers. They ask her why she does not have a drink in her hand. These strangers have to find a reason why she does n’t drink.

“Is she mentally unwell or is she a former alcoholic?”

They become suspicious of her. Maybe she’s listening to them too closely. She might remember what they said when drunk and throw it back at them the next day.

It’s well worth while listening to Aisling’s insighful radio interview here


Do friends make drinking less, easy?

From what we’re hearing the answer has to be NO. Our attitudes towards drink, encouraged by advertising mean we see booze as essential to happiness. We dislike people  drinking less unless they’re pregnant or “alcoholic”. So if you’re thinking you want to drink less, be prepared for friends reactions. Next week we’ll have a podcast on this.


Will we look back in horror?

Future generations will look back in horror at our current attitudes towards alcohol. Recently we were all horrified at the way Joanne Hayes was cruelly  mistreated at the Kerry babies tribunal 30 odd years ago. The Government has now apologised to her.

In the future we will be scandalised we allowed such a dangerous drug to be advertised and sold with no health warnings despite 3 people a day dying from alcohol harm. Will we apologise to the 270,000 children suffering every year as a result of parents drinking?

Hopefully it won’t take 30 years for change. Brave people like Aoife, Alison and Aisling are  leading the way.


Be part of the change

Next week we  have the Public Health Alcohol bill coming back before the Dail. While this bill won’t solve all our alcohol problems it will help change attitudes. As we wrote here the Alcohol industry has been out in force and already the bill has been watered down.

So if you want to tell future generations you tried to change things, sign our petition or email your TD’s directly here.

Our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would like you drinking more

Our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would like us drinking more. At least that’s what you would think looking at Goverment actions. This week the Dail passed a new  law. This bill  allows drink to be sold on Good Friday. Now whether or not you’re in favour of the law it really shows Government does not get the damage alcohol is doing. This Good Friday  bill was passed into law in just 340 days.


The Public Health Alcohol bill is waiting over 781 days

Another bill, the Public Health Alcohol bill is now waiting over 781 days. Rather than encouraging people into drinking more, this bill has a number of measures to encourage people to drink less. Three people a day are dying from drinking too much so it’s badly needed. Over 1,500 people have died since the bill was first drafted. The bill will reduce pressure on our health care, child care and legal systems.


Hospital trolley crisis gets worse

Alcohol harm means 1,500 people occupy hospital beds every night. So reducing alcohol harm should be a top priority. This week people waiting on hospital trollies have reached their highest levels ever. 688 people are on hospital trollies this week. If we reduced alcohol harm by just 7%, 100 people  suffering  on trollies  today would not be there.


Reducing alcohol harm should be a priority

Whatever your views on Good Friday drinking, surely a bill which will reduce alcohol harm should be implemented before  a bill encouraging drinking more?

Are people on trollies not a higher priority than the profit of big business? Or the 270,000 children suffering as a result of their parents drinking?

drinking more


Government action does work

We know Government action works. For example, the Workplace Smoking ban reduced smoking by 7%. Now we have more quitters than actual smokers.  However, the Alcohol industry have learned from this ban  and are using every trick they can to prevent this bill passing.


Alcohol lobbying never stops

The pressure from the alcohol lobby to block the Public Health Alcohol bill is relentless. In 3 months, just one alcohol lobbyist, lobbied

Six Cabinet Ministers,

Five Ministers of State,

The Taoiseach’s chief of staff Brian Murphy,

Six special advisers,

Assistant secretaries in the Department of Transport and Department of Agriculture,

15 TDs,

21 Senators,

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly

Three county councillors.

There were meetings with 14 Government Ministers and Ministers of State and 10 special advisers about the Public Health Alcohol Bill. See more details here


Alcohol lobbying is working

The fact that the alcohol industry is so active on lobbying, shows they are worried this bill will work and reduce their profits. Their lobbying is working. The debate in the Dail shows some politicians do not understand alcohol harm. They made statements like

Most people in Ireland drink moderately. False. 

The majority of Irish people who drink are harming themselves with binge drinking the norm. More details here.

drinking more


They said tourists visit Ireland for our pubs. False. It’s not even  in the top eight reasons according to Failte Ireland.


Are we drinking more because drinking all the time is so normal?

Would managing our drinking be easier if drinking at every occasion, nights out, parties, christenings, and funerals was not so normal? Many people feel isolated and excluded when they don’t drink.  I described my own experience here of drinking because I did n’t want to upset my friends. It would be easier to drink less if more people knew the harm that alcohol causes.


We need to change the culture around alcohol

The Public Health Alcohol bill won’t solve all our problems with alcohol. It will start denormalising alcohol with health warnings. It will no longer be possible to display alcohol as if it was just another ordinary product. It contains a range of measures shown to work in other countries to reduce the amount of alcohol we drink.


You can make a difference

Our politicians need to hear from people like you who understand the damage alcohol is doing to our society. So please email our Taoiseach to tell him you are disappointed  he is prioritising alcohol over people’s health.

You can also use Alcohol Ireland’s easy email facility to email your local TD’s here. You can even edit the suggested text.

So please take a minute to show you care about alcohol harm.  Send an email.

Useful tips on managing the booze

At this time of the year, many people are looking at their drinking again and trying to come up with new ways to managing the booze. So we thought putting together a list of our most popular blogs  would be useful.

I’m not sure if I if I have a problem?

As a society, so many of drink in way that harms us that it is actually difficult to know if we have a problem in managing the booze. So you might find these posts useful if you’re unsure.

Check out whether you have a problem here.

Compare your drinking to other people


Should I give up the booze altogether or just reduce?

Everyone is different, for some people giving up the booze altogether works for them (known as sobriety). For other people reducing what they drink works better. (Known as harm reduction) While the most common approach is sobriety, reducing drinking works for many people as well. These posts will be useful if you’re trying to make a decision.

What is the best approach for you?

Lisa’s story on how sobriety did not work for her.


I’ve decided I’m managing the booze, where do I start?

It’s really important to plan how you will manage the booze. Here’s a few things to consider.

One simple tip that really helps

Why you should set a target for your drinking

What to do if you get cravings

Will alcohol free drinks help?

Understand your pros and cons of drinking


What to do after a blow out

Most people will have set backs. They’re a normal part of trying to make any change. Think of the little toddler trying to learn to walk. Initially they just keep falling down. They may cry or hurt themselves but that does not stop them trying again. So these posts  help you manage setbacks.

Why failure is a step on the road to success

How to get back on the wagon


I need more help

If you’re finding it really difficult  managing the booze on your own, then help is available.

There is an online community originally set up in England where you can talk to other people. While the main approach is sobriety there’s lot of useful support from other women. Find out more here

Or if you think you need one to one  support  these posts will be useful.

Would a counsellor be useful?

Key questions to ask an alcohol counsellor

Do I need a residential rehab?

You can find a complete listing of all services that can help you manage the booze here.

Don’t despair if you’ve failed to stop drinking in dry January

So perhaps at this stage you’ve failed to stop  drinking in dry January. So now you’re feeling very low and know you’re a failure. This is often called “stinking thinking” because it’s a way of thinking that means you think you’re a failure at everything.


You are not a failure

The very fact that you actually tried to stop  drinking in dry January means you’re on the right track. Unlike the vast majority of Irish people, (see picture below) you’re actually aware you need to manage your drinking. So give yourself brownie points for knowing this and actually trying to manage your drinking.

stop drinking in dry january

The road to success is paved with a thousand failures

Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb had 1,000 failures before he finally succeeded. His teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything. He kept going because he told himself every failure was a step on the way to success. No stinking thinking for him. So see this failure to stop  drinking in dry January as a step on the road to eventual success in managing your drinking.


What’s your next step?

So to avoid stinking thinking, your next step is to figure out what you can learn to help you manage your drinking. So think back to the time before you drank too much.


Were you thirsty or hungry?

If you were thirsty or hungry this can lead us into drinking too much. So make a plan to always have tasty drinks or snacks easily available.


What were you thinking?

What were your thoughts when you started drinking?  Were you thinking a drink would make you feel happier?  Or often if we’ve been drinking too much, when we stop, we start remembering past events. We may have done or said things we’re ashamed of, so in order to get away from these thoughts it’s easier to drink.  Remember though only bad people don’t feel guilty or ashamed of things they do. So that’s not us.


Take action to change things

Once you’ve identified what you were thinking, you can then take action. For example, you can put a post- it reminder in a place where you’ll see it saying

“You’ll feel happier when you lose 2 pounds this week”

It works better if it’s a positive reminder rather than a negative. So no to

You’re too fat, manage your drinking!


How were you feeling?

Ask yourself how were you feeling before you drank?  Very often we drink too much because of our feelings. We can even be so numb we can’t understand what we’re feeling. Here’s 10 handy tips if this is you.


Did you have a craving for drink?

When we give up alcohol we can often feel a craving or urge to drink. These are caused by triggers. Valerie has some great tips on managing triggers and cravings here.


Don’t despair if you’ve failed to stop drinking in  dry January

It takes a lot of time and energy and action to manage our drinking. We live in a society which says alcohol is essential to being happy and then blames anyone who feels they have a problem with drink. (Read more here )

So once you learn something from Dry January, you’re on the path to success. That’s what Tara found. You can read her story here.

7 reasons why Dry January is worth trying

In England, a massive 5 million people take part in Dry January. It’s where people give up drink for the month of January and give the money they save to charity.

Benefits include

1.Weight loss

We’ve written previously about the calories in alcohol. If you give up alcohol and don’t eat more food you will lose weight.


2.Healthier eating

When we drink we have more cravings – those late night takeaways seem irresistible. Not drinking means less crisps in the pub, less takeaways and an opportunity to understand what foods we really like.


3.Better sleep

Alcohol disrupts your sleep as we describe here. No alcohol means better sleep.


4.You’ll save money

Dry January means you’re not spending money on drink. You don’t have to donate the money you save to charity, you could spend it on a nice treat for yourself.


5.Your mood will improve

Alcohol acts as a depressant for many people.  If this is you, then giving up alcohol will help you feel happier.


6.Many health problems will improve

Researchers found that people giving up the drink for dry January had lower blood pressure and cholesterol. But very often over worked doctors don’t have time to give advice on drinking.

Lucy wrote how health care professionals  ignored the impact of alcohol on her health.

My own experience was doctors did n’t tell me  how medication use can be impacted by alcohol.

So if you have existing health problems, you may be surprised how they improve  by giving up alcohol for a month.


7.Pressing the pause button can help

Dry January, allows us to take a break and actually see what life is like without alcohol. We can see whether life is better without alcohol. Alternatively we may begin to realise that alcohol is a big part of our life and maybe we have a problem with alcohol. Either way doing Dry January can help us gain greater understanding of our drinking.


Planning how you manage dry January is vital

Planning Dry January is essential. Here are some tips that can help.

Top tips for managing alcohol cravings

How to fill the bottle shaped hole

Exercise can help

Why people fail the challenge

Also make sure you don’t have a physical dependence on alcohol. You can find out more about physical dependence  here

Padraig O Moran also has some good tips. He describes how social events can be a real challenge, when we’re not drinking. One of his good tips is if you‘re dreading an event because you won’t be drinking then remember

“If it’s no good without alcohol, then it’s no good”


So it’s not too late to try Dry January. You can download the free dry January app here.

Frances delivers an early Christmas present

On Friday,there was an early Christmas present. The Public Health Alcohol Bill finally passed all stages in the Seanad. It’s not law yet it has to return to the Dail next.

Senator Frances Black is a key person who has constantly driven and supported the bill.


Finding out you have a drink problem

Frances Black is from an ordinary working class family.  A very talented musical family but ordinary in most ways.  Apart from the number of talented singers they produce. Frances herself is a well-known singer.

Many years ago she discovered she had an alcohol problem. Although she was a successful singer she was very shy, felt overweight and very lonely and uncertain in her role as a Mother. She used drink to get rid of all these problems.

She was still parenting and working away when one day she read an article. It opened her eyes and made her realise she had an alcohol problem.


Life after an alcohol problem

Frances has successfully stayed off the drink for many years now. While still performing as a singer she  trained as a counsellor.  She also   set up the RISE foundation to help families of people with substance use problems.

She became so concerned about the problems of society she successfully ran as an independent Senator.

She is really helping to reduce the stigma people with alcohol problems can feel. People with alcohol problems are just like you and me and are not “bad” people.

Frances also shows that life after an alcohol problem can be meaningful and enjoyable. She has turned her problem into a passion to help other people.


Little actions  count

While lots of people and organisations have been involved in campaigning for the new bill, Frances has been a key figure. I was down in Cork and bumped into Frances handing out leaflets. She was asking Cork people to contact the Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin. He is based in Cork and she wanted voters to tell him they support the Public Health Alcohol Bill.

There was no high powered big team of people. No experienced campaigners. Just Frances herself on her own gently asking permission to hand out leaflets. She’s not a politician, but she figured out what was needed.  She took a small action, yet a very  important one.

In making changes whether it’s big societal changes or little changes in our personal lives it’s all the little actions that count. Often we can’t see the effects of all these little actions until much much later. But they count.


Christmas party drinking season in full swing

In the current mad Christmas drinking period it can be hard not to get caught up in it. Gin seems to be the in drink the popular people are drinking this year. Interesting to see the various gin marketing campaigns have definitely worked. Gin has changed from being an old person’s drink to  being young, hip and trendy.

But before you join in, maybe consider one small action you can take that will help you control your drinking and give yourself an early Christmas present.

It could be

Drinking a lower alcohol strength wine

Drinking a glass of water between every drink

Deciding not to drink and drive to the party

Drinking a non-alcoholic drink

Going for a walk

Using mindfulness

Look up the low risk drinking guidelines each day

Find a small action that works for you. You’ll be surprised at the difference it will make. Think of it as a nice Christmas present to yourself.

For more tips on getting through Christmas click here.

Frances will be singing at a number of concerts in January and you can find details here.



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