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

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.

.

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 .

Ruby says alcohol was holding her back

Ruby Warrington had it all, but felt something was holding her back. The former features editor of the Sunday Times Style magazine, founder of a digital platform called The Numinous was part of the in crowd. She hung out with celebrities and superstars drinking cocktails and champagne.

Everyone else was drinking

Ruby says she drank because everybody else was drinking and alcohol was presented as a tool to help her deal with life. From the age of just 15, Ruby says she was teaching her brain that she needed alcohol to cope.

My head hurt from drinking

Ruby never hit rock bottom or had any major life event. She just found on Sundays her head hurt, her stomach was sore, her tongue felt furry, and her hair felt both greasy and dry with her breath sour. On Sundays she felt like there was a hollow where her heart should be.

She decided to quit for a while

She decided alcohol was holding her back and quit for a while. She found she had more energy and motivation. Her relationships got better because she felt she was now connecting on a real human level not just through an alcohol haze.

It’s terrifying

Ruby says if we’ve been drinking our entire adult life, it’s a big part of our lives and giving up drink is terrifying. She believes as long as we hold a belief that alcohol just brings pleasure and joy, it remains in our lives. We agree. It’s why it is so important to understand our beliefs about alcohol and the pros and cons of our drinking.

She believes moderation does not work. We don’t agree, as everybody is different. See why here

Ruby’s useful tips

Ruby says don’t make a big deal of not drinking when you’re out. Offer to get the first round in and then you can buy yourself a soft or alcohol free drink without fuss. A useful tip.

She also suggests not to lie about why you’re not drinking. She tells people it makes her feel like crap and this works for her. Personally, I find it does not work for me, even though I had a major life threatening illness. People still want you to drink.

 Maybe it’s part of our Irish culture.

Sober curious

Ruby has written a book called

Sober Curious, the blissful sleep, greater focus, limitless presence and deep connection awaiting us all on the other side of alcohol”.

It’s getting good reviews and now she’s running a retreat in the US.

What is sober curious?

Apparently calling yourself sober curious means you know alcohol doesn’t make you feel great and you don’t drink it often, but you’re not willing to put an all-or-nothing label on yourself. So you only drink on rare occasions when you actually want to drink.

I like this idea of sober curious because it’s not black and white. It allows people to choose when and where they drink rather than drinking all the time or not drinking at all.

Where celebs go others follow

It’s good to see another celeb talking about their relationship with alcohol holding them back. Ruby joins other celebs not drinking like Nigella Lawson, Natalie Portman, Demi Lovato, Shania Twain, Jennifer Lopez to name just a few. Hopefully they are starting a trend that others will follow. Would n’t it be lovely if it was socially acceptable to just say I’m sober curious and leave it at that?

Alcohol Free pub opening in Ireland

So incredibly an alcohol free pub is planned for Dublin. It’s opening up in February. Amazing news. They have a couple of alcohol free pubs in England, but this is the very first time in Ireland that a whole pub is dedicated to being alcohol free.

It’s a real alcohol free pub

Apparently it will look like a real bar and have a real pub atmosphere. It won’t be just another coffee shop. Unlike a normal bar, they don’t need a security guard and closing time is a strict 11pm.

They’ll have beers, wines, and cocktails which are all alcohol free.

Cocktails anyone?

 Cocktails will include

 Virgin Mary,

Made from tomato juice, a Dublin made hot sauce, de alcoholised white wine, lime, celery pickle, Virgin Mary spice mix.

Tiki Street

Made from pomegranate molasses, hibiscus, de-alcoholised red wine, allspice, vanilla, lime black cardamom,

Dessert, Anyone

Made from seedlip spice, date, tahini, rose, oat milk, dark chocolate.

These look really interesting and not your usual boring old mineral waters or fizzy drinks.

 The name is a problem

Maybe it’s just me as a lapsed Catholic, who has also worked with a service for survivors of clerical abuse, but I really hate the name of this alcohol free pub. It’s called the Virgin Mary.  This country has suffered so much from a church with distorted toxic attitudes to sexuality. A church which praised virginity while married women after childbirth had to be “cleansed” before going back to Mass. And if you were not married and became a parent you were sent to what was an effective prison. (If you were a woman, of course- nothing happened to men)

So while the founders may think the name is catchy and attention grabbing, (which it is) it is very insensitive to women and blind to our sad and tragic history.

Price of drinks

Apparently the price of drinks will be the same as alcohol drinks. It will be interesting to see whether this will put people off. Recently in the Irish Times Nollaig O’Ceallaigh, complained about a pint of smithwicks being €4.90, while a small bottle of non-alcoholic heineken was €5.90! We’ve also had people emailing us on this price issue.

Alcohol free pubs everywhere?

So last year we talked to the Vintners Federation of Ireland asking why there were not cheaper and more alcohol free drink options available for people. They said people expect non-alcoholic drinks to be cheaper than alcoholic drinks. Also pubs will only stock drink where there is huge demand. As we know huge demand is driven by big marketing and advertising campaigns and these are only starting to happen. So at the moment your regular pubs are not interested in stocking a wide range of alcohol free drinks.

 So will this alcohol free pub be successful?

It’s being led by one of the founders of Funky Seomra, the alcohol free pop up nightclub so they certainly have the right experience. They are also good at getting the news out there. But ultimately it will come down to getting enough paying customers in the door so hopefully this will happen. We’ll certainly be trying it out and we’ll report back.

We wish this alcohol free pub the very best of Irish luck. Hopefully this is just the start of a new drinking culture in Ireland which will make it easier for us all not to drink as much.

If you’d like to read more about this pub we found out about it here in the Sunday Business Post. (Subscription needed)

A top tip if you’ve broken your new year resolutions

So all those New Year resolutions feel like a huge weight around our necks as we try to keep them going. Or maybe we’ve already broken them and feel like a total failure.

 

It’s impossible to keep New Year resolutions

It’s easy to feel it’s impossible to change. There are just so many things working against us- stress, too much pressure, drink cravings, not feeling able to go out with friends. Fear of upsetting people, because they see us not drinking or not drinking as much, as a threat to them. We feel like we’ll never succeed and our egos are hurt. All we feel is despair.

If you’re feeling like this, then this tip on hope will help.

 

Have the right type of hope

Joanna Macy  believes there are two types of hope. One is hope is based on outcome

So may be your new year resolutions look like

I will control my drinking”

“I will be a size 10,”

“I will get promoted in work”

 And so on. You hope you will achieve these New Year resolutions.

The problem with these type of New Year resolutions is it is easy to get “blocked” when you feel under pressure or don’t rate your chances of success too highly.  It’s much harder to keep going because human nature means we’ll only really act when we feel we succeed.

 

Hope based on your intention

By focusing on our intention though we’re more likely to succeed in our new year’s resolutions.

By focusing on our intentions and letting that be our guide we remove a lot of pressure on ourselves. We allow ourselves to see our actions as being part of learning about ourselves and our mistakes are part of our learning. We no longer label ourselves as failures when we don’t succeed first time.

 

We never know how things will turn out

We really don’t know how things will turn out. We cannot control what happens in our life. All we can really control is how we respond to it. If we have intentional hope it helps to makes us stronger. So we don’t know whether we’ll succeed. But if we accept even making a new year resolution, is a step in the right direction then we’re more likely to be successful.

 

Think Lord of the Rings

In this epic book and film, the little three foot high hobbits, Frodo and Sam were up against a huge evil army and power. They knew the chances of success were so small as to be non-existent, but because they had an intentional hope they succeeded. Their much more able and powerful friends fell away but they just kept going. Despite all the hardships and problems, they never lost hope in what they were doing. They just kept travelling on, accepting it was very difficult.

 

 Praise yourself for your intention

So instead of blaming yourself for struggling or breaking New Year resolutions, remind yourself that you’re a work in progress. You have the right intentions and you have hope you’re going in the right direction.

So set goals, make New Year resolutions but make them with hope that you are going in the right direction rather than actually getting to that size 10.

You’ll be surprised the difference it makes.

This post was drawn from an article in the Irish Times which you can read here.

 

Is Blue Monday really so blue?

The idea that Blue Monday, the 3rd Monday in January is the most depressing day has taken hold in the last few years. Even though the science behind blue Monday is highly suspect!  Many people do find the 3rd week of January   depressing- the New Year’s resolutions have been broken or it’s very tough going and money is very tight until the end of the month.

So we thought we’d cheer you up by looking at some of the really positive things that are happening.

 

#Metoo movement

This was a major story in the last few years. Women standing up for themselves and calling out those in power, abusing that power by sexually assaulting women. It became a topic of conversation at tea breaks over lunch and for the first time many men became aware of the level of intimidation many women must face every day.

 

Change is happening at ground level

One highlight for me was a coffee break where one man stated woman were exaggerating about unwanted  sexual innuendo. Every single woman from women in their 20’s to their 60’s put up their hand to say yes, they had been subjected to unwanted sexual remarks or  physical contact at least once. The man was visibly shocked and hopefully he has a new take on the issue.

 

Women’s voices are becoming stronger

We had the horrific Belfast rape trial followed by further horrible questioning in a Cork trial where a woman was asked about the underwear she was wearing, showing rape myths are alive and well.

But now women are standing up for themselves.  There were protests after the Belfast trial and  Cork Trials. Jena Keating a Cork woman stood alone on Patrick Street in her underwear, with her mouth taped and ‘this is not consent’ written all over her body.

People starting hugging her (click here  for video) and she really got the point across.

 

Brave Campaigners

Brave Vicky Phelan has changed the face of Irish medicine and how women are perceived with her decision to campaign on cervical cancer screening.

Louise O Neill’s book on sexual consent was turned in to a searing sold out play and Lynn Ruane’s book about her life won an award.

We also had the campaigners for repeal persuading the people of Ireland to vote for abortion. Whatever your views about abortion, it always disturbed me that in a country which banned abortion we did not have a decent child care system and children often have to wait years for health treatment. Maybe now we’re a little less hypocritical.

Another highlight for me was seeing Emmet Kirwan’s video showing one woman’s life, it covered so many different important topics. (click here)

 

The backlash against alcohol begins

At long last, we’re beginning to see more people starting to question our attitude to alcohol

There was

The well-known commentator Adrian Childs documentary talking about his relationship with alcohol.

BBB news talking about resisting “drink pushers” during the festive season

The Irish media even got in on the act saying Merry Christmas cards showing alcohol give the wrong message about alcohol.

 

A pub without alcohol

We even have Ireland’s first ever permanent pub without alcohol coming. Hopefully opening in February.

Imagine that!

There’s also a few other pubs. All In Dublin as far as I know, but they just have alcohol free sessions. Now if they could just reduce the price of alcohol free drinks!

 

Addiction services starting to change

Finally the horrible practise of bullying and insulting people with alcohol problems is now  starting to be challenged. This article appeared in the Irish Times.  This practise has no benefit in treatment so  avoid any treatment that includes this approach.

 

Public Health Alcohol Bill

A major achievement was the passing of the Public Health Alcohol Bill. Despite powerful lobbying the bill finally passed. Now the Government just has to implement it.

 

Blue Monday is not so blue

So yes, we’ve still a long way to go, this Blue Monday  but finally Irish society is beginning to change. so don’t give up hope. Change is always possible. If you’re feeling a bit Blue Monday why not look back on the last year and see if you can find five memories or events that made you happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are childhood experiences making you drink too much alcohol?

In our last post we wrote about  adverse childhood experiences   (ACE) and the  big role it plays when  people drink too much alcohol. It can get worse around Christmas when there ‘s so much pressure to play “happy families” . How the experts see ACE is shown below.

drink too much alcohol

In this post we’ll go through how to find out if this is a possible cause of an alcohol problem.

Was your childhood mostly ok or pretty difficult?

A good question to ask yourself was your childhood ok or was it pretty difficult?  Are your first childhood memories mainly happy or mainly sad? Do you even have many childhood memories? Many people block out difficult childhood memories.

Make sure you separate out how your parents treated you, from how you actually feel. As we talked about here, you may feel your parents provided all the basics. However if they did not allow you to talk about your feelings, this is now seen as childhood emotional neglect and counts as adverse childhood experience.

Take the quiz

To see whether ACE was a feature of your childhood try this quiz here. The top score is 10 so the nearer you are to 10  the more likely  ACE is a problem when you drink too much alcohol.

No one has ever mentioned ACE?

30 years ago we did not talk about ACE and we just described people with a drink problem as a heavy drunk or as an alcoholic. Society saw them as wicked people. Now we know people don’t drink too much from wickedness they do it out of woundness. (Link here)

Many  mental health services ask

“What’s wrong with you” 

rather then

“what happened you”

As we saw from high flyer Emma’s story, she blamed herself and none of the services she got asked  about the sexual abuse she had a s a child.

So knowing you have ACE, the key thing is to forgive yourself for the problems you may be causing in your life.

“You can’t give what you have not got.”

Dealing with ACE

Awareness is key. Accepting  it’s more difficult to make good decisions when ACE is involved. So treat yourself with more compassion. Living life with ACE is a bit like running a race when everyone else starts ahead of you. So even being in the race is an accomplishment.

The good news is once we become aware that our childhoods were difficult, and our drinking is a response to it, it becomes much easier to control our drinking.

Does ACE mean I will always drink too much alcohol?

The answer is a very definite NO. There are people with high ACE scores who do really well in life generally. Very often there was one single person in their life who loved them unconditionally or they developed awareness of the impact of ACE.

Don’t give up

So if you’re feeling low, or you drink too much alcohol don’t give up.  Be kind to yourself and recognise that even reading to the end of this email is progress.

If you’ve found this post  useful you might also find Lynn‘s Ruane book “People like me” which is raw and honest about her own adverse childhood experiences and how she overcome them. It recently won the An  Post Irish Book award for best non fiction book.