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

The top danger signs we’re going downhill into depression

With life so different these days, it is really easy to go downhill into the blackness of depression. Signs to watch out for include

  1. Changes in sleeping pattern- for example lying awake for long periods during the night
  2. Feeling unmotivated to do anything
  3. Stopping the things we used to enjoy
  4. Taking longer to recover after something annoying happens
  5. Every little thing causing extra work becomes a heavy burden
  6. Food is no longer enjoyable
  7. Not having any patience, being irritable and snapping at people
  8. Feeling more anxious
  9. Feeling sleepy or tired a lot of the time
  10. Turning down invites from friends and family whose company you would usually enjoy
  11. Finding it difficult to concentrate
  12. Drinking more than usual

Drinking more than usual

Drinking more than usual can actually make depression worse as Southlady found. Initially it numbs our feelings but it then it comes back to bite us afterwards. So if the signs on checklist above, ring a bell with you, it might be worth considering not drinking at all for two weeks to see whether your mood improves.

What to do if this is you?

Well the good news is recognising these symptoms is a really good start, because it’s really easy to be depressed without knowing we’re depressed. This was me for years!

So being aware of the symptoms means we can do something to help ourselves.

Recognise what we can control

Understanding what we can and can’t control is vital. So we can’t control this COVID crisis or when things will get back to normal, but we can control how we respond to it.

We can take action, if we recognise any of the changes listed above.

Chatting to a trusted friend about how we’re feeling can help. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends, the Aware help line  can be contacted at 1800 80 48 48 from 10am to 10pm seven days a week.

Other supports

If you don’t like chatting, going for a walk every day can really help.  There are also more supports available here

One of the good things coming out of this COVID crisis, is better awareness of mental health. So you’re not alone, if you’re feeling down.

Photo credit

Take a friendly attitude towards yourself

Taking a friendly attitude towards yourself is really important according to Pádraig O’Morain.  As the wear and tear of COVID continues, it’s important to be kind to ourselves. The research is very clear, a friendly attitude towards ourselves really helps our mental health.

Easy to underestimate the strain of COVID

It’s very easy to underestimate the strain of COVID. Cooped up all day with people, or maybe being totally alone. Zoom calls replace face to face meetings and while great for keeping in touch, they are incredibly tiring. After an hour long meeting I feel drained. I have one friend who gets really bad migraines after long Zoom calls.

Critic in our head

So it’s important not to start berating ourselves when we don’t get as much done as we want. That little voice in our head, kicks off saying we’re not good enough, or we’re lazy or we never do anything right. So then it’s easier to hit the bottle to silence the critic in our head. Yet, we would n’t speak to our best friend so critically, so why do we speak to ourselves like that?

Notice your internal voice

So it’s really important to notice and be aware of that voice in your head. What is it saying? Every time that harsh little voice kicks off

You should have done this” or

you should have done that

imagine yourself putting tape across the mouth of that voice and, silencing it.

The voice is so strong, it’s hard to hear

For some people, this voice is so strong and such a part of them, it can be really hard to actually hear the negative messages. Imagine if you’ve always lived in darkness, you can’t understand what living in the sun is like, because you’ve never experienced it.

For people who have grown up with an internal critical voice or family  trauma, it can be really hard to see the sun. Science shows their brains have a different less effective way of dealing with life.

Listen to your body

So if this is you, start paying more attention to how your body is feeling. Are you feeling tension in a particular part of your body? Many people feel tension or fear in their stomach. Becoming aware of this tension and taking a couple of deep breaths as we described here can help release this tension

Relaxing like this, then allows the thinking part of your brain to hear the critical inner voice and challenge it.

It takes practise

Many people who are drinking too much become very self-critical.  Society does not help either as we’re sold misleading stories about wonderful alcohol but then blame people who drink too much. So it takes lots of practise to be aware of how our bodies are feeling and to silence that inner critical voice.

Take a friendly attitude

So if at first you don’t succeed or are finding it tough, take a friendly attitude towards yourself. Tell yourself you’re great for trying and keep practising. Eventually you’ll succeed.

Drinking increases in COVID19 pandemic

We’re all experiencing much lower satisfaction with life in the COVID19 pandemic. That’s according to a social impact of COVID study, from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) this week.

Last month, just 12% of people rated their overall satisfaction with life as high. A major drop compared to 43% of people in 2018. So if you’re feeling down you’re not alone.

Alcohol consumption during the COVID19 pandemic

Men and women both showed a similar increase in alcohol drinking at 21% and 23%. But very few women have managed to decrease their alcohol drinking (9%) compared to men at 26%.

Older people were less likely to report increased alcohol drinking with the biggest increase in drinking happening in the 18 to 44 years age groups

Is our Wellbeing affected by alcohol?

As you can see in the picture below, the study found that people who were feeling more downhearted or stressed tended to increase their drinking more.

covid19 pandemic

But are people who are more downhearted or stressed likely to drink more or do we drink more because we’re downhearted and stressed? The old question of which comes first the chicken or the egg?

The research is very clear. Alcohol is a depressant. Initially we feel better, when we drink, but then the effects wear off and we end up feeling worse. Red Lady’s story shows how this made her feel.

A similar trend can be seen when people are stressed about staying at home. They tend to drink more as can be seen below.

covid19 panedemic

Look after our well being

So what all of this shows is looking after our mental health and well being is a great way to manage our drinking.

So don’t nag yourself, if you’re drinking more than you’d like in this Covid19 pandemic, look after your mental health instead.

Lots of ways to look after yourself

There are so many ways to look after yourself. The simplest is to go for a walk in nature- even if it’s just a green area near you.

We’ve lots more tips for looking after your mental health here.

If the family are driving you round the bend, Mental Health Ireland have a very nice family tool kit here

Most of all remember, we can’t control this COVID19 pandemic situation, however we can control how we respond to it. We can look for any positives, such as no long commutes or more time with family?

You can read the full CSO study here

Photo credit

Meeting friends again makes us happy even without drink!

So with the easing of restrictions, I met some friends and family in their back gardens, observing social distance of course.

We’d kept in touch via Zoom, which was good but just not the same. It’s hard to read body language, we’ve got to focus more, and it’s more difficult to take turns in talking without interrupting. So the joy of just seeing my friends physically again was amazing.

Are we over the worst of it?

I was so happy and content that maybe we’re over the worse of it. Three of my friends have lost parents, with two of them, not able to be with their parent in their last hours because of the nursing home restrictions. We could not go to the funerals. It is just such so cruel and contrary to everything that is good about our Irish way of sharing and comforting each other in the sorrow of death.

We got drenched

The first day we all met, the heavens opened and rain soaked us as we sat under umbrellas. Still we sat there listening and talking in the rain. It was like we’d been starved of something vital. Relaxed and enjoying the intense physical presence of people we love around us. No alcohol drink involved. I came away feeling high and happy.  A memory that will stay with me for a long time.

We need human connection with friends

As human beings, we’re hardwired from our very first moments as babies to connect with other people. The tragic case of Genie a young baby maltreated, locked away  and denied human contact for years shows how important human connection is to our development

Alcohol kills human connection

If our only connection to people is alcohol drinking sessions, it’s not the real vital emotional connection we so badly need. If we only ever meet with family and friends when drink is involved, we’re not getting the nourishment we need.  Worse as Lucy found when she stopped drinking, she found she had nothing in common with her drinking buddies.

Meeting people without drinking

There’s no doubt in Ireland, it’s difficult to socialise without drink. But with alcohol increasing our risk of contracting COVID19 maybe now is a good time so to tell friends, you’re reducing your drinking, so you reduce your risk. And if your friends have a problem with this, we’ve lots of suggestions to help. Click here and here

Emily’s relationship with alcohol was like a friend with benefits

Emily Hourican says her relationship with alcohol was like a friend with benefits, but never a soul mate. She started young at just 14 years. Even though her Mother did n’t drink, she allowed her children to have a half glass of wine at Sunday lunch.

The inoculation did not work

Emily says her Mother’s theory, was this kind of drinking would act as an inoculation, protect her children from heavy drinking. However, the research says the younger we are when we start drinking the more likely we are to have a drink problem.  

Her mother’s theory did n’t protect Emily. She would drink a bottle of Martini Bianco on the way to the school disco, getting paralytic drunk. Then her Mother found out. Years later, the women who ratted her out, told why they had to tell her Mother. They were just so worried about her safety. It shows the value of a caring community, who believe drunk children should be helped not ignored.

The drinking explodes

In a gap year in Florence, Emily learned “nice girls” just have a small glass of wine and then went for ice cream. In UCD though, nice girls did drink. Or as Emily says the “fun ones” did. They drank plenty and this continued into work life.

A bad hangover

It was normal to turn up late and theatrically dying to weddings, christenings, and family lunches. She says

“A bad hangover, was pretty much my favourite accessory, along with smudged eyeliner and boasts of only 3 hours sleep.

A change of heart

Then her Mother’s example of not drinking became more attractive. She became sick of being exhausted and missing so many days. She loved her job and wanted to do well.

So she cut back.

She still drank a couple of glasses of wine every night. She now saw alcohol as a friend with benefits, but not a soul mate. However, even this level of drinking is not recommended as it’s above the low risk guidelines.

Pregnancy interferes

Then Emily got pregnant and wisely decided not to drink at all. With 3 children who were each breastfed, she got out of the habit and found she did n’t miss it. Not that she had much of a social life anyhow.

Social Drinking becomes the norm

The odd occasion, she would have a glass of wine to celebrate. Generally only one glass, very rarely two.  But it was nice to know she could have a glass of wine when she needed it.  At the end of a very bad day, or to celebrate something- maybe a good 10 k run.

Alcohol was a friend with benefits

So Emily saw alcohol as a friend with benefits, but it was only a small part of her life. Her story shows how alcohol is so dominant in Irish society and that we have a really high tolerance for drinking too much.  Emily’s story also shows how a caring community and good role models can help influence how we view alcohol. And lastly how our relationship with alcohol can be altered- even if we’re drinking every day, we can still change.

Emily writes so beautifully and the full article can be seen here. There’s a really shock kicker at the end and now Emily can’t drink at all, so do read it for the full story.

Drinking in lock down ‘I excused myself saying it was medicinal’

The Irish Times did an interesting article on drinking in lock down last week. There was a wide range of stories.

Caitriona Scully: ‘I drank every evening in the first week or two of lock down’

Caitriona drank every evening from a store of prosecco bottles she’d saved for a friend’s hen party. But then she realised how damaging that was so now she’s drinking in a more considered way.

Kevin Feeney: ‘I am a little concerned about this new habit’

Since lockdown started, Kevin is drinking more due to boredom. But he has now cut back to only drinking four nights a week. He aims to cut back once this COVID crisis is over. Otherwise he leads a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and healthy drinks.

Jean Watson: ‘I have not had a drink in five weeks’

While Jean was never a big drinker, she did enjoy a glass of wine of two at the weekend and would open a bottle of wine if she was at home. She decided to use COVID time for some self-care. She has not had a drink in five weeks. She’s eating healthily   and walking lots. She can now sleep nine hours in a row and has never felt so well. She does not miss the drink and will be more conscious of what she is drinking in the future.

Orla Purcell: ‘What I really missed was the social aspect of drinking’

Initially, Orla drank a little extra wine to calm her nerves at the start of the restrictions. She excused herself saying it was medicinal! Then, she realised it was the social aspect of drinking she missed so she stopped completely.  She’s now sleeping better, and feeling better. We’ve seen this so many times, drinking impacts our sleeping and our anxiety

Gerry Gilligan: ‘I’m looking forward to pubs opening’

Gerry’s usual routine would have been four or five pints of Guinness on a Saturday evening with friends in local pub. On Wednesdays after golf, he’d have one pint of mid-strength Guinness. Once or twice a month he’d have a few pints on a Thursday afternoon. He’d probably have a bottle of wine a week too, and occasionally a glass of Cognac. Since cocooning started, he’s had a bottle of beer with his evening meal.

Sadly, Gerry probably does n’t know that he’s increasing his risk of getting the COVID virus. He’s drinking above the low risk drinking guidelines and is also binge drinking.

So lots of different stories about drinking during the lock down and good to see so many people are managing their drinking so well.

You can read the full article here.

Nature can help us cope

So the Taoiseach announces minor changes with restrictions still in force. But we can travel a little further and maybe get into nature. People are getting irritated. But at least a phased plan to get back to a new normal has been announced. The extensions to 5km means we can go a little further. So more people can visit the parks, mountains and sea side.

Missing nature

I’m missed my once a day walk outside for the last 12 days. Down to Covid testing and being told to stay indoors. I’m used to going walking every day so it’s been really tough.  I knew the daily walks was good for me, but the last 12 days made me realise just how much I need it. We’re lucky to have a green space nearby and I had made good use of it.

A dreadful week

So after a really rotten week marked with kindness and awful official cruelty (I can’t even write about what happened at this point, because this post will never get finished, as I’ll dissolve onto the floor ) I was delighted to test negative for COVID.  I just have a plain old respiratory infection treatable with antibiotics. Our new normal, delighted to have a mild respiratory infection so I can go back walking. Obviously I’ll still be doing all that physical distancing stuff.

NATURE heals

So I was really pleased to see a number of groups have put together a lovely graphic called NATURE which is full of useful tips on using nature to make this time a little less stressful. It’s really important to plan some contact with nature very day. It does n’t have to be a park, even just taking time to admire some small item in nature is proven to help reduce our stress levels. And when our stress levels are down we tend to drink less.

Nature tips

  • N-Notice
  • A-Active
  • T-Time
  • U– Understanding
  • R-Revisit
  • E– Energise

It has plenty of lovely suggestions as you can see below.


So why not start using these tips to-day? It can really help. You can even take pictures and post your pictures here 

For more useful COVID content, click here.


There’s an international study to look at the impact of COVID on our drinking. Be great if you could take 10 minutes to complete the survey here. I’ve done it already.

Happy stories during Covid lock down

We’re all getting tired of this COVID lock down.  Listening to the endless sobering reports and wondering will life ever get back to normal? So this week we thought we’d bring you some happy covid lock down stories.

First of all there was John Burns who recovered from COVID

The 69 year old told his amazing story on Liveline. In hospital for 4 weeks, on a ventilator for two of those, given less than 24 hours to live when his bowel collapsed. However he made a miraculous recovery. So miraculous, the doctors asked his permission to send his medical records around the world.  You can listen to it here on Liveline. It’s an 8 minute segment around three quarters of the way in.

Then there’s Foil Arms and Hogg

Our firm favourites, they have a great video slagging off Irish drinking culture but now they’ve produced more comedy classics from the teacher trying to do a quarantine class to ringing your parents during COVID lock down.

Older past pupils of Catholic schools  will enjoy the Catholic Confessions where too much drinking gets an online discounted abstinence

Mary Lou on the Late Late Show

Wasn’t  Mary Lou brilliant on the Late Late Show talking about her experience of COVID and how she recovered?  It’s great to see such a powerful woman. Yes, I have a soft spot for Mary Lou. Because years ago she contacted us about Dual Diagnosis and we went to meet her. She was very kind, intelligent and compassionate. She even talked us into going around the country to speak about Dual Diagnosis and what needs to change.

On the platform with Mary Lou

So we had around 100 people at each event, which were very emotional, raw, outraged and passionate. This tends to happen when people are dying. But Mary Lou managed it so well, showing empathy & consideration, but not letting people take over or speak too long. I was surprised to see her at the Cork event, (picture below) because the Stormont parliament had collapsed that week and she’s the party leader.

Covid lock down

When I said it to her, she just laughed and said “

“Sure, why would they want me there, they’re falling over their own feet up there”

I told her I’m not a Sinn Fein voter, but I’d love to see her as Ireland’s first female Taoiseach. Again, she just laughed and said I did n’t have to be a Sinn Fein fan, but we would work together to solve the Dual Diagnosis problem. And in fairness, Sinn Fein have continued to work on solving the Dual Diagnosis problem. So seeing the charismatic Mary Lou recovered and back to herself is a good news story.

 Bravo Charlie Tango – Bikers Coming Through

There are over 400 volunteer bikers picking up personal protective equipment and delivering it all over the country.  You just email them with what you need and they do their very best. I needed some for the wonderful carers in my parents’ home, so I contacted them and they responded straight away with a delivery two days later. Find out about them, they appear at 1 minute 16 seconds in this video here.

Is volunteering for you during this Covid lock down?

When I thanked Merv, the lead biker he said he was just delighted to be able to help. It strikes me one way we can get through this is to help others. I’ve helped out a couple of Covid activities myself and it really gives me a lift and provides much needed distraction.

Now you may already have too many commitments like work, caring or you may be you’re too ill and that’s ok. Self care must come first. But if you’re feeling bad and drinking too much, with some time on your hands, one way to feel better is to help others.

Lots of opportunities to volunteer

We’d love a few new writers. You could write on how COVID is affecting your drinking.   Find out more here. Or check out Volunteer Ireland. There’s lots of opportunities and you can do as little or as much as you like.

So stay safe and don’t forget there is help available if you’re feeling down. Click here for more details.

Janet Devlin opens up to her fans

A kind reader sent me a link to a very raw powerful video from Janet Devlin. The Irish  singer is just 25 years old.  She participated in X factor and while not winning, did enough to win a recording contract. It seemed the world was at her feet.

 I hate the word “alcoholic”

She opens the video with an emotional “I am an alcoholic”.  I really hate that word, because frequently when people label themselves an alcoholic, they hate themselves. And sure enough for much of the video, Janet describes how she really hated herself and the tortured life she led. She inflicted a lot of damage on herself and others. She felt so weird and empty and could only cope with her new found celebrity by drinking too much.

Does the  alcoholic label mean self hate ?

I found the video really hard to watch, because Janet is so raw and so hard on herself. She still seems to really blame herself for what she did. She has very little compassion for herself. This is so common  and we see it so often. It’s like a hamster wheel. People hate how they feel, so they drink to block the feeling. Then they hate themselves. So they drink more, to block the self hatred and  the drinking cycle continues.

Now Janet Devlin loves herself

You’d love to give Janet a big hug, tell her she’s amazing and so very brave. It’s only towards the end of the video, that Janet finally admits that she had to learn to love herself. She appeals to all her listeners to learn to love themselves too and stay away from the booze. A very inspirational young woman.

Become aware of your feelings

A key part of learning to love yourself is to become aware of your feelings. As we’ve discussed before, we’re not taught to listen to our bodies and become aware of our feelings. Until we understand what our feelings and bodies are telling us, it is very difficult to control our drinking.

The COVID crisis can  make it worse

In this COVID crisis, all of us are experiencing a range of feelings from numbness, fear, anxiety to exhaustion.

With feelings so strong, it’s no wonder many people are hitting the bottle to cope. It’s too difficult to tackle these feelings, so easier to hit the bottle. But there are alternatives to help us feel better.

A 60 second hack

One alternative is this really simple 60 second hack, I really like this tip , because it’s based on neuroscience principles and helps us cope with the current  lack of physical human contact which is such a basic human need.  The Doctors say it also boosts our immune system, which is very important at this time. We can also do it with our kids and our friends and they’ll enjoy it as well.

It’s basically a special way of hugging ourselves, which activates unique receptors in the skin. I won’t describe it here, because I can’t do it justice. Take a look at the short video which shows you how to do it.


Thanks to Dr. Iolanda Tiedt, Dr. Lisa Connellan , Dr. Yvonne Hartnett of Mind the Front Line.  They’re a group of Irish Psychiatrists who’ve put together a great range of tips and tools where I found this 60 second hack. While their website is aimed at health care professionals on the front line, it’s very simple and easy to follow. Well worth your time.