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

Proud grandmother has first brandy in ten years

We’re all so happy to see Shane Lowry winning the Open. An incredible achievement and one to be celebrated. Sadly though, all the images I’m seeing take place in a pub with lots of talk of filling the claret jug with alcohol and drinking brandy.

Grandmother has first brandy in ten years

Yes, “Grandmother has first brandy in 10 years“, is an actual headline from our national news broadcaster here  on the RTE news website.

In a terrific interview with Shane’s lovely Granny Scanlon, when she spoke about how proud she was of her Grandson, our national broadcaster highlights alcohol.

Mrs Scanlon mentions she had two brandies when she had not drunk for ten years. She was honest enough to admit the brandies “nearly killed her”. Now, we’re not criticising Mrs Scanlon, suggesting she has a drink problem or she should not drink.

We’re criticising our national broadcaster for once again celebrating alcohol to generate a good headline. Ignoring all the other lovely stuff, Mrs Scalon said, any of which would have been interesting. For example, Shane eating the turf.


A woman drinking her first brandy in years is a news headline. The RTE headlines reflects a toxic culture that celebrating always means alcohol.

Philly Mc Mahon calls stop

Philly Mc Mahon disagrees. The talented Dublin footballer and Gym owner does not drink. He believes Irish people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, He states Irish people believe

Ah sure, we’re Irish we like to drink, we still glamorise the whole culture around it, without realising it still destroys whole families.”

Last year, when Philly was on the Late Late show and alcohol was mentioned, there was a big cheer. Unlike most people Philly was offended. Philly has worked to try and change this and I’m looking forward to reading his book “The Choice”.

A long way to go

Despite Philly’s and many other people’s efforts, as we can see from a headline celebrating someone drinking, we’ve still a long way to go to change drinking culture. The media do not help and could do so much more.

Instead of colluding with the alcohol industry to keep us believing that alcohol is harmless, they could warn us about alcohol harm.

Now days the media always end reports on suicide with

“If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme you can contact the following helpline numbers….”

So if they can do it with suicide, imagine if the media ended all reports on alcohol with

“Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that can kill, if you’ve been affected by alcohol harm, you can contact the following helpline numbers…”

A seductive red

So imagine after every wine review, talking about a

“Very seductive, soft, sweet, strawberry, Pinot Noir,

Or every article talking about new gins

 “A funky orange gin that will be especially popular in the rebel county”

(Both recent quotes)

The article or interview had a warning

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that can kill, if you’ve been affected by alcohol harm, you can contact the following helpline numbers….”

It would be an initial start to reducing the passion of our toxic love affair with alcohol.

Not convinced?

Until the media stop selling the idea, that alcohol is this harmless party drug and instead have to warn people that alcohol is a psychoactive drug, we’ll continue to see too many people being harmed by alcohol.

After all, when we stopped allowing cigarette advertising and put warnings on packets we started to see attitudes towards smoking changing. Now smoking is not cool, and for the first time ever we now have more ex-smokers than actual smokers.

This all happened as part of a big public health campaign but it shows it is possible to change attitudes with good leadership. The media has a major role to play in this.

Ignore the hype

So it’s difficult to avoid the hype that celebrating means we drink. However, just be aware, that’s all it is- hype. It’s possible to enjoy ourselves without alcohol. And as Mrs Scanlon found alcohol can take away from the enjoyment of happy occasions.

Is perfectionism robbing you of pleasure?

An interesting article by Padraig O Morain on perfectionism recently. He states perfectionism robs us of pleasure in our own successes. We’ll always find the extra thing we could have done, so we focus on that, rather than what we’ve achieved. It also stops us starting or finishing things because we can’t guarantee it will be a success.

Perfectionism starts early

Padraig uses the example of the child coming home with 90% in their assignment and the parents joking- asking

“What happened the other 10% per cent?”

If this is constant the child learns they need to be perfect to receive love.

Social media does not help

The constant feedback from social media of people with perfect lives and perfect bodies does not help. People socialising, who can drink as much or as little as they want without hangovers or making a fool of themselves.

Perfectionism is the enemy of managing our drinking

Nowhere is the enemy of perfectionism more obvious than in our approach to alcohol. Most approaches focus on not drinking at all. For some people, this is exactly the right approach, (for example Mc D– though he does not blame or criticise himself when he drinks) but for others it’s totally wrong, for example Lisa, found it did not work for her and even made her drinking worse.

I’ve had one so might as well go the whole hog

One drink is seen as failure. So once one drink is taken, sure might as well go on a binge.  So instead of praising ourselves for reducing or not drinking over the last while, we give out to ourselves for drinking. Unlike Mc D we don’t see it as an opportunity to learn.

Padraig quotes the psychologist Aaron Beck who states

“All or nothing thinking is an unhelpful habit- this is the attitude that if one thing is wrong, everything is wrong”

Demanding perfection makes us miserable

We’re never going to be perfect. We’re human not machines. So demanding perfection is just going to make us miserable.

Perfectionists find it difficult to relax

Perfectionists also makes us less enjoyable company. It’s much easier being around people who accept their own imperfections and don’t try to be perfect all the time.

I always remember returning to Dublin after a work trip and the boss suggesting a cup of tea in her house. When we went in, the house was untidy, there was a clothes dryer with underwear in full view. But she just moved it out of the way, laughing and we had a relaxing and enjoyable chat over a cup of tea.

 The perfectionist in me would have been embarrassed and apologising for the house not being tidy.  I would have been unable to relax. So the chat would not have been as enjoyable. So I learnt a lesson. It’s ok when your house is untidy to have visitors. I do not have to be perfect.

So praise yourself, you’re making an effort

So if you’ve read this far, accept you’re making an effort. You might never have the perfect life. But that’s ok.

As Padraig quotes

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have and looking for it where they will never find it”

So in managing your drinking, strive for progress not perfection.

You can read Padraig’s full article here.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

An Alcohol free hen party can be great fun

Your friend is getting married soon and she’s wondering if an alcohol free hen party is a good idea. She’s  struggling with alcohol and trying to stay off the booze  until after the wedding. She’s dreading the hen party as she’s worried she will drink and make a fool of herself.  You know that a hen party free from alcohol  would avoid potential problems.


Alcohol free may be essential

The bride to be may be very stressed out, so have a discussion with her to agree if  an alcohol free hen  party is a good idea. Let her know, you will keep her informed, discussing all suggestions and ideas with her. 

Plan, Plan, Plan

A person close to the bride  to be, should meet with her privately to find out the triggers that are likely to cause her to drink. Triggers are things such as smells, activities, people that might cause a problem. Find out more about triggers here.

Know the triggers

Once you know what the bride’s triggers are you can plan to avoid them. Certain people may cause a lot of anxiety and stress to the bride so it might be worthwhile chatting to these people to avoid problems or even leave them off the list entirely.

Avoid stress and anxiety

Planning the hen party well in advance can help reduce  stress and anxiety.  Stress and anxiety are  common triggers for drinking too much, so plan activities that encourage relaxation. Understanding what activities the bride and friends are will  enjoy is important.

Decide  what you’re telling  the guests

Agreeing what the bride will say  about her drinking is important. Is she confident enough to simply state this is an alcohol free hen party as she’s not drinking?

Or is a cover story easier? Perhaps  the bride is taking metronidazoleA+ for bacterial vaginosis which means she can’t drink. This cover story can also be great for a laugh!

Or perhaps it’s a hen party where as well as having fun, all monies saved by not drinking will go to a charity of the Bride’s choice.

The key is to let all the guests know what to expect  in advance of the party and making sure they’re ok with the format.

Or maybe a hen party with a difference ?

You can even take it a step further, by combining the hen party with doing something rewarding and helping people.

For example Access Earth is a free online platform offering mobility information for anyone who needs it. e.g which restaurants have wheelchair access. The hen party guests  can help feed into the data this platform provides. Guests are  broken into teams and set loose to try to win the top spot on the leader-board, by mapping as many places as possible.

Or you can help clean up the coast, paint in a hospital or take part in a dragon board race. More details of lots of  different activities   here.

Make sure hen party attendees are  on board

Some people may complain so this is why being clear on the agreed message is vital.

If the Bride has given permission, explain the Bride is trying to stay off alcohol.  She will find it much more difficult not to drink if other people are drinking.

If  the friends still keep complaining  make it clear  that if people can’t drink for one event, to support their friend, then it is sending a message they do not value the friendship. Perhaps it would be better if they did not attend?

After all if a friendship is only good in alcohol is it a real friendship?  Lucy found many of her friendships were based on alcohol and were toxic.

Alcohol free drinks?

If  money is available and it does not bother the bride you may be able to have a selection of alcohol free drinks available, including mocktails. You can find out more about alcohol free drinks here.

Even more party ideas

  • An old-fashioned sleepover, complete with facials, manicures, pedicures, films , and popcorn. Make sure the bride gets a good night’s sleep as sleep deprivation can be a trigger, especially in the early days.
  • Throw a dinner party at someone’s home. Make it as fancy or simple as you want.
  • If the bride enjoys board games, you could have everyone bring their favourite game to play, complete with popcorn and fizzy drinks. You could also do this with movies.
  • Set up a treasure hunt (like geocaching ).
  • If the weather is likely to be dry, go to a free event. For example, an event  in the National Gallery then picnic in the park.
  • Drive somewhere with a great walking trail and plan a hike together. Pack a special picnic and break the treats out after the hike.
  • There are places where you can make a craft, do-it-yourself style for a relatively small fee. Going home with a piece of pottery or jewellery would be a fun way to remember the night.
  • Escape room type games might be a good bonding experience.
  • Funky Seomra run alcohol free dance events.

Is a fun alcohol free hen party possible?

Is a fun alcohol free hen party possible? Absolutely! It just takes  planning, organising and a little bit of creativity.

Are you affected by “Silent Voices”?

Silent Voices, is a new campaign which aims to show how Ireland’s toxic relationship with alcohol hurts so many people.

This campaign is not about blaming people, or pointing fingers. Silent Voices want to stop the cycle of damage repeating and repeating across generations. As Father Peter Mc Verry says

Hurt people hurt other people”.


Marion, Barbara and Carol are 3 brave women

The 3 brave women leading the campaign have spoken out about the impact of their parents drinking on their lives.

Marion Rackard has been acutely aware of the silent stress including feeling powerless to do anything about it.

Barbara Whelan had feelings of anxiety and depression throughout her life. She began to realise the impact it had on her and sought professional help.

Carol Fawsitt found her self-esteem was “shot”. She felt different to everyone else, always on the outside, never being good enough, always feeling inadequate.

By setting up this campaign, these brave women are helping to start a much needed conversation about the harm alcohol does.

 Fergal felt shame was like his second skin

The celebrity BBC TV presenter Fergal Keane grew up with alcohol misuse. He felt shame all the time. It was like a second skin. The other big feeling he has is grief, because he never had a normal childhood.

In the video launching the campaign, Fergal talks about his own misuse of alcohol. He also makes the really important point that his parents did not wilfully set out to harm him. Useful to remember if you’re a parent drinking too much and feeling ashamed of the impact on your children.

Fergal’s book a memoir of his life called  “All of these people” is well worth while reading and is available from libraries or online

Are you more likely to have a problem with alcohol?

The research on whether children with parents who misused alcohol are more likely themselves to have problems with alcohol is mixed. Some studies report there is a higher risk of such children going on to have problems with alcohol, other say it is less likely. It seems to be generally accepted though that children affected by alcohol harm are more likely to have mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression etc. as adults. Silent Voices has more information here.

Everyone in Ireland knows some affected 

Since the early 1960’s our average drinking per person has gone from 4.9 litres per person to a high of 14.3 litres in 2001. The Health Research Board report that over 1.3 million people drink too much and the Silent Voices group estimate over 400,000 adults have been affected by parental drinking

silent voices



Are you a silent voice?

Are you an adult child affected by your parents’ alcohol misuse?

Well half the battle is to acknowledge that alcohol harmed your childhood and this harm may still be affecting you to-day. It might even be affecting your own ability to manage your drinking.

You might find it useful to read the stories of other adult survivors which you can find here.

You might also find our tips here on coping with emotional neglect useful.  Click here for details

More Irish people coming out about their drinking problem

The stigma around drinking too much is still there. It stops people from getting help because they are afraid of been seen as bad people. It also means treatment services are not as good as they can be. For women in particular, there is a real fear they will lose their children if they admit to a drink problem.

It’s changing

It’s changing now though with more and more people going public about drinking too much. So in this post we look back on the stories of some of people who have gone public about living with an alcohol problem.

Emma was a high flyer with a drink problem

Emma had a degree and was well on her way to qualifying as an accountant with one of Ireland’s top accountancy firms. Click here for Emma’s story.


The Rose of Tralee “confesses” to an addiction problem 

Did she really have an addiction problem though? Click here for her story.


Alan was a successful entrepreneur with a drink problem 

Yet no one noticed he was drinking too much. Click here for his story.


Valerie could never stop drinking

Until she found out why she was drinking too much. Now she helps other people. Click here for Valerie’s story


SouthLady drank to drown out her anxiety 

She did not realise her drinking was making her anxiety worse. Click here for her story

Lucy saw herself as one of life victims 

But she was a feminist  so how could she be a victim?
 Click here for Lucy’s story

It’s good these brave people are going public. But there is still a long way to go before society’s attitudes towards alcohol become healthier.

5 top tips to handle the social stigma of not drinking

An interesting study on young Finnish and Australian people who don’t drink and want to avoid the social stigma of not drinking was published recently. The study listed the things young people in both countries do to avoid the stigma of not drinking

So here are 5 top tips the young people used to avoid the social stigma when they were trying not to drink.

1. Hiding non-drinking

The young people hide or denied their non-drinking status to avoid explaining their non-drinking to other people. We explain how to use the

No I’m not drinking”

approach to avoid social stigma here.

2. Take the focus away from alcohol

The young people tried to go to social gatherings which took the focus away from alcohol. So they did baking or went to sports events.  We give some examples of alcohol free social events here.

3. Finding non-drinking friends

They tried to hang out with groups of people who did not drink,  so there was no social stigma. We’ve some suggestions on finding friends who don’t drink here.

4. Being active and having fun

They tried to be active and have lots of fun. In Ireland, we’ve seen a huge increase in healthy activities like Park Runs. (where you can actually walk) There’s even an Irish website now where you can find all about health activities for your age group

5. Not blaming others for drinking

These young non-drinkers did not blame others for drinking as they saw their choice as an individual one that was right for them

6. Seeing themselves as morally superior to other people

Some young people saw themselves as morally superior to other people for not drinking. This made them feel better about themselves.

Not sure I’d recommend this tip. In Ireland, I’d lose a lot of friends if they saw me being “morally superior” about not drinking. It’s a lot easier to blame my hangovers for not drinking. 

Plus in Ireland, most people see women who don’t drink as either pregnant or alcoholic.

Avoiding Social Stigma

It’s so weird that we have to apologise for not drinking. So it’s good to see there are groups of young people on different sides of the world deciding not to drink and using the same tactics to avoid stigma.

You can see the full research article here.

When is drinking too much our fault?

Last week, we wrote about drinking culture  raising the issue of is it really our fault if we drink too much?


What do the experts say?


The experts look at three things, they call Structural, Community and Individual.

fault




What’s the structural issue?


Structural looks at stuff like legal systems and regulations. So in Ireland, we licence pubs and we allow alcohol advertising. Until the new Public Health Alcohol bill is actually implemented alcohol can be sold below cost as a loss leader by big supermarkets. Makes it very cheap and easy to buy.


What the bill won’t do is stop sports accepting alcohol advertising. So we’ll still have the ridiculous situation of leading sport heroes like Johnny Sexton accepting the “Heineken Man of the Match award”

So in Ireland, structural factors are still stacked in favour of drinking alcohol.

What’s the Community issue?


The community aspect is how people as a society actually work and live together. The GAA is a big part of our community. They’re more aware of the damage alcohol does as they don’t accept alcohol sponsorships and they train club staff to provide help for people who drink too much. (Click here for details)


So they are well ahead of the rugby gang. However so many of the local clubs depend on alcohol sales to stay afloat and the range of alcohol free drinks in club bars is generally poor.

Communion and Confirmation season


With communion and confirmation season on us, we can really see how everything resolves around drink. So often the Communion party is the bouncy castle in the garden, where all the kids play outside while the adults sit around for hours drinking. Not just one or two glasses of wine, but a bottle or two. Kids grow up to see this as normal and then repeat the cycle when they are adults.

So the community we live in is still very much stacked in favour of drinking alcohol.

Does the individual have a part to play?


So is it any wonder we drink too much given the pressures to drink all the time? Is it our fault? This is where it’s useful to separate out fault versus responsibility.

Fault versus Responsibility


So if your partner cheats on you, it’s not your fault. If you grew up in a household where drinking too much was normal, it’s not your fault.
However it is your responsibility to figure out how you are going to deal with it. Because as the actor Will Smith says it’s


“Your heart, your life, your responsibility to be happy”.

So as we wrote last week, knowing the game is rigged against you helps. It is not your fault, drinking less is so difficult. It however your responsibility to decide how you are going to deal with the obstacles placed in your way.

It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility

So when things go wrong, like you discover your partner is cheating, or just a really rough day in work and anxiety levels are through the roof, it’s your responsibility to choose how you will deal with this.

Have a bottle of wine, or just a glass, or maybe just head out for a walk? It’s not your fault, you’re having a rough time, but it’s your responsibility to choose how you will deal with it.

Will’s video is well worth watching and you can see it here.

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Does drinking culture affect our drinking?

Well, had an amazing holiday travelling to Australia, New Zealand and Dubai and the chance to see how different drinking culture changes how much we drink.

Mardi Gra in Australia 

Landed in Sydney, the weekend of the Mardi Gra. So Saturday night hordes of happy chirpy characters wandering around in costumes from Little Bo-Peep to tiny little G-strings which left absolutely nothing to the imagination. I really enjoyed watching the parade and unlike Dublin city centre on a Saturday night there was no air of menace just people strutting their stuff and having fun.

Australians drink a lot but they’re behind us in the drinking stakes at 9.4 litres per person.

Chilled out New Zealand

Next to Wellington, New Zealand. Fantastic country with wonderful chilled out people.  They drink around the same as Australians at 9.4 litres.  The Kiwi’s I met did not drink much at all- one or two drinks on a night out. It was also lovely to be able to walk home from the city centre and feel totally safe.

Both Kiwis and Australians are drinking less now but there are concerns about the damage caused by drinking with the older age group doing most damge to themselves.

Drinking in Dubai

Stopped off in Dubai on the way home. A massive culture shock.  Public drinking is only allowed in hotels and restaurants. A licence is needed to buy alcohol in shops. Alcohol advertising is not allowed in Dubai. They bleep out words which refer to alcohol in songs played on the radio. At 3.8 litres per person their alcohol consumption is really low.

The Muslim religion forbids the consumption of alcohol. Muslim people are not allowed to work or support the alcohol industry in any way.

If we had not been staying in a hotel where alcohol was part of the package it would have been very easy not to drink.

While there are serious human rights issues in Dubai we could learn something from their approach to alcohol.

Drinking culture does affect how much we drink

So after an incredible holiday, sadly arrived back to Dublin. On one of my first nights out with friends drank more than I intended to. Again!  Never had that problem while I was away on holidays.

It’s just so easy to drink more than we want too in our drinking culture. Our society makes it very difficult to cut back on drinking. We drink more than any of the countries I visited at a massive 11 litres per person.

What to do?

So we can’t change how society views alcohol overnight. But we can help ourselves. Simply accepting that some of our drinking issues are caused by problems beyond our control can help us cope with them. Or as the Nagoski sisters put it

Just knowing the game is rigged can help you feel better straight away”

A thought that certainly made me feel better and not so stupid with my hangover.

Padraig’s top four tips for managing the drink


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


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

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

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

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

2. You are not the only person not drinking

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

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

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

3. Distract yourself from the arguments in your head

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

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

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

4. Read about the experiences of other people

Padraig recommends the

Tired of thinking about drinking blog from Belle Robert

And Julian’s Vales book Kick The Drink Easily

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

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

Managing the drink- everybody’s different

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

You can read more from Padraig here .