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.

Posts by Carol

I gave myself a hangover headache

My friends had organised a night out to celebrate my birthday.  I wanted to have a few beers in the new restaurant we were going to. So when  we went to a cocktail place first  I had a really nice non-alcoholic cocktail. My friends know I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol and can’t mix drinks so this was n’t a problem. They know I get bad hangover headaches even when I don’t drink too much.


My hangover headache lasts a week

We got to the restaurant which we were visiting for the first time. Great atmosphere, just one problem. They only had a wine license. No beer. This was really embarrassing for my friend who had thoughtfully organised the night out in my honour.  All my close friends know I can’t drink wine because I get a massive hangover headache the next day. Red wine is particularly bad. A nuisance in many ways, but I believe my hangover problem has stopped me from   having serious problems with alcohol. When your hangover problem lasts a week (yes, that’s my record) and makes you feel severely depressed with constant nausea & vomiting you tend to drink less.

But when I saw my friend’s upset face, that she had n’t checked the restaurant served beer I decided to have a glass of wine. Knowing I was only having a single glass,  I said go for the red wine.  My  friends prefer red wine. So good humour restored, we had a really  lovely  enjoyable night.


I gave myself a hangover headache

The following day, after just a glass of red wine, I had a hangover  headache which needed painkillers. I cursed myself for deciding to take the glass of red wine just so I would not  upset my friend. I had n’t even enjoyed it. If I’m being honest, knowing my friend, once she saw me enjoying myself, her upset would not have lasted long and the slagging would have started.  But like many women do, I went into people pleasing mode.


Why are n’t you drinking?

The following Friday, another big night out for a friends 50th birthday. (Yeah I’m at that stage now) I told another friend I could pick them up as I was driving. I was faced with a barrage of questions

why are n’t you drinking”.

Because of the previous week’s lesson with the hangover headache, I did n’t go into people pleasing mode. That plus the fact I had a lot to do on the Saturday meant this time  I stood my ground.

But it really struck me. How much alcohol is part of our lives. I don’t think any of my friends have an alcohol misuse problem. None of us are heavy drinkers. Yet, even in this group, I find myself constantly justifying not drinking.


Why are n’t you using grass?

Alcohol is the only drug in the world where, when you stop taking it, you are seen as having a problem. The only drug in the work that you have to justify not taking”. (From Jason Veale) Nobody ever asks you why you are n’t using grass or ecstasy when you go out. Yet the harm  of alcohol abuse far outweigh the harm of   these other  illegal drugs.


Should I just give up drinking?

Would it be easier if I just tell everybody I’m giving up drinking altogether?  But I do enjoy an occasional beer, particularly with a meal so why should I?

I think I’ll try out a few of those non-alcohol beers, Lucy recommends and then decide.


Social life can make it hard to reduce drinking

So if you’re thinking of reducing your drinking, it’s really important to consider your social life.

Does your social life involve getting together over a few drinks and nothing else?  For many of us Irish, that’s the entirety of our social life. So you may need to plan different social activities which don’t involve drinking.


We’ll have a course on this shortly so sign up here, if you’d like to know when it comes available.




Conor Mc Gregor Budweiser ad is banned

Yesterday, the advertising standards authority of Ireland  (ASAI) ruled the  Conor Mc Gregor Budweiser ad should be banned. Talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.


The Conor Mc Gregor Budweiser ad should never have aired

We went through the  6 reasons why the ad should be banned in detail in this post.  These range from the younger children are when they are exposed to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to drink at a younger age, to linking drinking to success. The major reason is   Conor Mc Gregor is a role model for young people.  Even though he does not consume alcohol in the ad, the message in the ad is clear. It links consumption of Budweiser to achieving your big dreams like Conor has.  The ASAI have banned the ad on the grounds that Conor  is a role model to young people.


Voluntary regulation does not work

What this ad campaign shows is that voluntary regulation of  alcohol advertisements does not work. I understand  the marketing people had submitted the ad for pre-clearance to the industry watch dog known as Copy Clear.   This industry  agency  stated the ad complied with the voluntary code. Perhaps they would like to explain how they found the campaign was ok, when another non alcohol industry agency found otherwise?


The Mc Gregor Budweiser ad was very successful

After  the campaign’s  competition entry date has passed, the ad has now been banned. It appeared on most main TV channels, billboards and social media. It  featured on leading websites such as and  Interestingly  is leading a terrific  campaign to improve  our mental health.  The links between alcohol misuse and mental health problems is  well proven at this stage. Obviously though not widely  understood.

The ad  was  however  banned by RTE which in turn attracted even more publicity. Most people  felt RTE were wrong to ban the ad.  Commentary ranged from “nanny state” to  “hysterical”  to  “dreaming big banned in Ireland”. The reaction shows how far we have to go in understanding  both the role alcohol marketing has  in driving higher alcohol consumption and accepting we have a problem with alcohol.  Alcohol Action Ireland have done some great work here, explaining  how alcohol marketing works.


Another generation of young people groomed to become drinkers.

In the  1960’s we drank a lot less.  Just under 5 litres per person compared to the nearly 11 litres we drink now. While changing lifestyles is part of this, alcohol marketing is a big driver. One study of Irish  primary school children asked  what it means to be Irish. The vast majority of them replied drink was an essential part of being Irish.  Why is being Irish now associated with drinking?  We need to change this dangerous  belief and reducing children’s exposure to marketing will help.


Support the alcohol public health bill which will reduce alcohol marketing

We’re not anti  alcohol. We drink ourselves.  We just want to reduce the harm alcohol is doing to Irish  society. The human misery – the €3 billion in cost terms every single year. The research evidence shows regulating alcohol marketing  is part of the solution.

The proposed alcohol public health bill has already been watered down as a direct result of lobbying. It is not a high government priority.  If you’d like to tell your TD’s you support the bill, please click here.

Finally, If you’re interesting in top tips to reduce alcohol hangovers you might find this blog post or  free mini course useful


Rehab, when is it needed?

Rehab means different things to  people. When my youngest daughter’s friends‘ parents started giving me funny looks. I realised, my daughter had said I was in rehab.  So the parents  thought my rehab was about alcohol.  It was actually rehab to help me walk again. Although I had not wanted to stay overnight it proved to be a good option because I was just so exhausted after  each day’s programmes. It also meant  nice  meals were served up to me . I slept well as I had a private room. All important issues if you’re considering a residential rehab.

The Parent’s reactions though really brought home to me the stigma  about  saying you  need help for alcohol misuse. That’s why our online courses are run on  first name or user name only.


Rehab is different depending on where you go.

In alcohol treatments rehab often  means staying in a residential treatment centre.   Different centres have different entry criteria and you stay there for different lengths of time.

For example, some centres insist you do not take medications such as anti-anxiety drugs.

Centres offer different treatments and have different approaches. Many centres operate a strict Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step approach based on not drinking at all.  These centres do not offer harm reduction approaches which help people to reduce their drinking to low risk limits.

Many centres do not deal with mental health issues such as depression. Now if alcohol is causing your depression that may not be a problem. But if you’re misusing alcohol because you are depressed then that service may not be helpful for you. A service which provides counselling to help you deal with your depression will be more useful.

In Ireland, there is no statutory regulation or monitoring of treatment centre  outcomes, so you will need to ask questions to make sure the treatment centre is right for you.


All people with an alcohol misuse problem need a residential rehab.

The notion that all people with an alcohol problem need a residential rehab is a myth. Research shows the majority of people abusing alcohol do not need a residential  treatment. Situations where a residential stay  may be useful include

  • Your life is totally chaotic and out of control
  • You need “protected”  time  from your usual responsibilities to focus  solely on your recovery
  • You’re a danger to yourself e.g.  actively suicidal, or consistent  drink driving
  • You’re unable to reduce your  problem drinking to low risk limits  despite  help from expert programmes
  • You have a significant mental illnesses which is not well controlled.  Confusingly in Ireland though, the majority of residential  centres do not accept people with mental illnesses.

A key thing to look for is support for when you leave the centre. Some centres offer this support which is often called “after care”. You may have to pay extra for this aftercare.


Do I need a residential rehab?

Whether you need a residential stay or not is really an individual decision, based on your needs and the services available in your area. Assuming the factors above do not apply to you, the following supports may be helpful

Educating yourself about alcohol misuse and how to reduce alcohol misuse. You can use the courses on this website or find a suitable community based programme on

Joining a peer support group which can be online or face to face meetings. For example our partner Soberistas  is an online group. Groups  such as  AA,   or  Life ring hold meetings in physical locations. Peer support groups do differ in how they operate. So find one that matches  your needs. It should support  both  your drinking goals and your  personality.

Coaching or counselling from an experienced or qualified counsellor can be helpful.  We’ll expand on this in a future post.

What do you think ? We’d love to hear your views in the comments below.

6 reasons to ban the Budweiser campaign

Budweiser and Conor Mc Gregor have put together a really impressive & creative campaign around “Dream Big”.

I really like the way he encourages people to dream big. It was filmed in Crumlin where I lived for a while and it was great to see Crumlin being seen in a positive light for a change. This Budweiser  campaign has been generating huge interest and is now also being targeted at women.

I was delighted however when RTE refused to screen it. Social media comment was very critical and there were accusations of “Nany state” “hysterical” and sure he is n’t even drinking in the ad.

Here are the reasons I believe the entire Budweiser campaign and all alcohol marketing should be banned.


1.Conor Mc Gregor is a role model for young people

Conor Mc Gregor is a role model to many young people and this ad is very appealing to them.  All the evidence shows the more exposure young people have to a brand the more likely they are to both start drinking and drink dangerously at a younger age. The younger you are when you start drinking the more likely you will have an alcohol misuse problem. Just seeing a brand name is enough, the drink itself does not have to be shown.  Click here  for the  evidence.


2.Young people are exposed to the Budweiser campaign

The Budweiser campaign is being heavily promoted on social media and young people are being exposed to the campaign even if they do not click through on the ads.


3.Linking success to Budweiser

Conor Mc Gregor’s success in achieving   his big dreams is now being linked to the Budweiser brand.  You too can achieve your big dreams if you drink  Budweiser and enter the competition. The irony is the more Budweiser (or any alcohol) you drink, the less your chances of achieving your big dreams.


4. Being Irish means drinking

One study of primary school children asked them what it means to be Irish. The vast majority of them replied drink was an essential part of being Irish. Yet in the 1960’s we drank just under 5 litres per person compared to the nearly 11 litres we drink now. Why is being Irish now associated with drinking?  We need to change this dangerous   belief and reducing children’s exposure to marketing will help.


5. Marketing works

All the evidence shows marketing works in encouraging more drinking.  If it did n’t do you really think big profit seeking multinationals would spend so much money on it?  There were more than 40 contacts made with government in just 3 months. The proposed alcohol public health bill which restricted marketing was watered down. Why was so much effort put into changing the proposed law, if alcohol marketing did not work?


6. People are more important than profits

The profits of multinationals are not more important than public health. 1,500 of our 11,000 hospital beds are occupied by people with an alcohol related illness. Remember this next time you’re waiting for days with a loved one in an emergency department for a hospital bed. If we reduce alcohol misuse by 25% we could solve the trolley bed problem.


We are subsiding the alcohol industry

In a future post I’ll look at the arguments of the alcohol industry as to why marketing should not be banned and why these arguments are incorrect.

A key thing to remember is we the tax payer are subsidising the alcohol industry. Alcohol related costs are higher than the taxes and employment they provide by approximately €1.6 billion every single year.

If you liked this post you may find the 7 myths of alcohol advertising interesting.

UPDATE 24th May

The ad has now been banned. See details here

Alcohol can cause insomnia


Sleep is so essential to both our physical and mental health. So much so studies show  shift workers who work  night shifts long term  have an increased risk of health problems. Severe insomnia can also lead to mental health problems, while mild insomnia can contribute to low mood, stress, fatigue and irritability.

So if you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle, looking at how well you sleep is important.

Many people believe  a drink before bedtime helps them to sleep.  They’re right. Alcohol acts like a sedative that can often help you fall asleep.

Unfortunately though it’s not the right type of sleep. It often prevents you going into the deeper stages of sleep that are so essential to  you waking up full of energy in the morning. One study showed that even drinking alcohol six hours before bedtime has an impact on the quality of sleep.


No more sleeping like a baby

As we get older, our sleeping patterns can change and older people tend to wake up more. The deep sleep we often see in  babies starts to disappear and it becomes rare to sleep through the night.

Alcohol increases this waking up effect and research shows it makes getting back to sleep harder. So the insomnia gets worse as you wake up more and find it harder to get back to sleep. Some people start upping their night time tipple to overcome this, but this usually makes  the insomnia worse.

The more alcohol you drink the worse the insomnia gets and studies that people who have a long time physical dependence on alcohol can really  have problems with sleeping.

If you’ve been drinking heavily every night for a long time, and suddenly stop, it can actually  make insomnia much worse. Medical support may  be needed. You might find this link helpful if you have any concerns that you may be physically dependent on alcohol.


Jasmine tea is a natural sedative

A good natural alternative to using alcohol as a sleeping pill  is Jasmine tea. This is widely available and is often sold as Jasmine green tea.

Make the tea with boiling water and simmer gently in a saucepan for 15 minutes. You can make enough for three days as it will stay fresh in the fridge. Reheat gently on the hob not in a microwave.


Other Tips for helping insomnia include


  • Take exercise you enjoy
  • Make a list of things you need to do the next day
  • Keep a notepad beside your bed. If you do wake up thinking about all you have to do, you can jot it down on a notepad
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool and tidy. Clutter in the bedroom affects your mental state
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable.
  • Use meditation techniques. You can try out a well known programme for free.


  • Drink caffeine late in the evening
  • Eat a large meal late in the evening
  • Watch violent or disturbing programmes just before you go to bed. Ideally stop watching TV and hour before you go to bed
  • Use electronic devices  just before going to bed

Alcohol Poisoning – not a laughing matter

Judging by Irish google searches, alcohol poisoning is on our minds a lot as it’s one of the top Irish alcohol search terms. Not surprising though when you know alcohol was implicated in 1 in 3 (137) of all poisoning deaths in 2013, more than any other single drug. Alcohol poisoning alone claimed one life each week.

So what is alcohol poisoning?

If you drink a lot of alcohol over a short space of time, such as on a night out, your body does not have time to process all the alcohol and the amount in your bloodstream, known as your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, can become too high.

When this happens, it can have a serious effect on the mental and physical functions of your body. Alcohol affects the nerves that control automatic actions like breathing, your heartbeat and your gag reflex (which stops you from choking).

Too much alcohol can slow or even shut down these functions, causing you to stop breathing and become unconsciousness.

What to look out for

The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • confusion
  • vomiting
  • seizures (fits)
  • slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • pale, bluish skin
  • cold and clammy skin

In severe cases, alcohol poisoning can cause unconsciousness.

Dial 999 if you suspect alcohol poisoning

If in doubt and you suspect alcohol poisoning, you should dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Hospital staff will need to monitor you until all the alcohol has left your body. In severe cases they may also need to pump your stomach, help you to breathe and give you fluids and vitamins via a drip.

Most people recover, especially if they are cared for properly and taken to hospital. However, in some cases, poisoning can lead to accidental death. For example, you can choke on your own vomit.

If in doubt, always go to the nearest accident and emergency department.

Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning

You don’t have to be an alcoholic or even go over the recommended weekly low risk drinking limits to  suffer poisoning.

Binge drinking which for women is drinking more than 6 standard drinks in one drinking session can cause alcohol poisoning.

If you would like to find out more about reducing alcohol harm check out our short free  mini course.

Remember the 7 myths of alcohol advertising

On St Patrick’s Day, our annual festival of binge drinking, we’re surrounded by the 7 myths of alcohol advertising  that drinking  is sexy, desirable and harmless.
Research shows that Irish children as young as 8 years believe  drinking is part of being Irish. This  was not always so. In the 1960’s on average each person drank half of what we drink now.
The alcohol industry has had a key role in promoting increased drinking and has created these 7  myths about drinking.

1.Drinking is a risk free activity that does not harm

Ads  tell us it  is all right, to be obsessed by alcohol, to consume large amounts of it on a daily basis and to have it be a part of all our activities. At the same time, all signs of trouble and any hint of addiction are erased.

2.You can’t survive without drinking

In general, advertising is expert at making the celebration of drinking itself – not a holiday, festivity or family event – a reason for imbibing. It creates a belief that alcohol is essential for life, it is essential to help us connect to other people. We’ll be condemned to a lonely, grey and two-dimensional wasteland, a half-life if we don’t drink.

3.Problem drinking behaviours are normal

A shot of a sunset-lit bridge, captioned “At the end of the day, even a bridge seems to be heading home for Red,” is actually advertising not just Scotch, but daily drinking. Often symptoms of alcohol, such as the need for a daily drink, are portrayed as not only normal, but desirable.

 4. Alcohol is a magic potion that can transform you

Alcohol advertising often spuriously links alcohol with precisely those attributes and qualities – happiness, wealth, prestige, sophistication, success, maturity, athletic ability, virility and sexual satisfaction – that the misuse of alcohol destroys.
For example, alcohol is linked with romance and sexual fulfilment, yet it is common knowledge that drunkenness often leads to sexual dysfunction. Less well known is the fact that people with drinking problems are seven times more likely to be separated or divorced.

5. Sports and alcohol go together

Alcohol consumption actually decreases athletic performance. However, numerous sponsorships like Leinster’s rugby official drink of Guinness, wrongly imply that sports and alcohol are safe complementary activities.  The importance of these sponsorships to the alcohol industry is demonstrated by the approximate forty times in just three months our Government was contacted when they proposed to ban these sponsorships. The proposed  legislation has now been watered down.

6. If alcohol was that  dangerous the media would tell us

The drinks industry spend a lot of money with the media so they are often reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them.  Although many media feature occasional stories about alcoholism, they usually treat it as a personal problem and focus on individual treatment solutions. Reports that probe alcohol’s role in violence and other chronic problems are rare. For example when discussing the hospital  trolley bed problem, there is never any mention of the fact that 1,500 of our 11,000 hospital beds are occupied by people with alcohol related illnesses. The role advertising plays in encouraging alcohol use are  almost never discussed.

7. Alcohol companies promote moderation in drinking

Campaigns say, “Drink sensibly”” as opposed to “Know when to say no.” In the guise of a moderation message. This slogan actually suggests to young people that drinking alcohol is one way to demonstrate their control. It also perpetuates the myth that  people abusing alcohol are simply people who “don’t know when to say when,” irresponsibly engaging in wilful misconduct. Rather than people who are suffering from a problem,  that afflicts at least one in 10 drinkers.

A recent Irish campaign promoted “Don’t see a great night wasted”.
Sadly the research shows that many young people actually go out to get wasted so this ad could actually encourage more drinking.

See yourself as some one with more insight

While we all have a personal responsibility for our alcohol misuse, knowing & understanding these myths are important.  It  enables us to understand how brainwashed we are into believing that alcohol is essential to a happy and fulfilling life and why it is so difficult to manage our drinking.  When we talk to our clients about this, many of them get so angry because they’ve seen their alcohol misuse as a very  personal failing, rather than a result of a  society in denial about our drink problems. One comment says it all.

 “Only in Ireland, would the person with the  mineral  be seen as pregnant or an alcoholic”

So this  St Patrick’s day,  try not to  feel isolated and lonely because you’re not drinking the way the rest of society does. You’re not taking Jameson’s advice to “be  orignal and pick a whiskey to match your  Paddy’s day celebrations”!
Maybe see yourself as some one with more knowledge and  insight into the damage alcohol does than most people.

We’ve drawn much of this article from the excellent work of Jean Kilbourne and if you’d like to read more on this topic please, click here.

A  happy St Patrick’s day to you all.

Top tips for avoiding the dreaded alcohol hangover

While I don’t encourage heavy drinking, here are some do’s and don’ts for reducing the damage caused.
The classic alcohol hangover symptoms include a pounding headache, nausea, exhaustion, thirst and dizziness. If your hangover is particularly bad, you will be sweaty, your hands will shake and your pulse will race.
Unfortunately, so far there is no 100%  hard evidence on the solutions  for hang overs apart from not drinking but here’s a few do’s and don’ts that might help


Do keep hydrated

Alcohol reduces fluids in your body which in turn causes those horrible hang over.
Drink a pint or so of water before you go to sleep and keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake up during the night.
Dioralyte which can be bought over the counter from chemists is specially designed to replace fluids quickly. So take this before you go to bed or even set your mobile phone alarm to go off early in the morning, drink the Dioralyte and go back to bed.


Do plan your drinking

Plan in advance how you will manage your drinking.
For example if you are going to a wedding, every 3 rd drink could be water and you could plan to spend time on the dance floor after every 2nd drink- without a drink in your hand!
Keep a bottle of water, a banana or light healthy snack and Dioralyte in your hotel room.


Do choose drinks with less alcohol

The number of standard drinks is based on the volume of alcohol in the drink. In wine it can range from 18% to 8% so drink a wine with less alcohol.



Drink Carbonated (fizzy) drinks as it speeds up alcohol absorption
Use pain killers like paracetamol because it puts more strain on your liver and aspirin can upset your stomach.  Antacids may help your stomach if it’s upset
Eat nibbles which are spicy or salty as they encourage you to drink more.
For more tips on reducing alcohol harm why not listen to our short  audio or take our free lesson

Alcohol can harm even when you don’t drink too much


Thirty odd years ago I went from active sports mad teenager to some body unable to walk across a room due to unbearable pain. Thankfully good health care, heavy duty drugs and private health insurance means I have a good quality of life.


My drinking is not checked regularly

So every few months, I get blood tests to make sure the drugs I take have not affected my liver. I even take other drugs to protect my liver, but only once in 30 years have I had a decent alcohol drinking check , where I actually had to confess what I drank! Given my serious liver risks, I would have thought my drinking would be checked regularly.

We all know alcohol affects the liver. Our good friend, addiction counsellor Rolande Anderson tells us , there used to be a GP screening programme for alcohol, but funding cut backs means it no longer exists.


Nobody ever tells us about the impact of alcohol

So we never really get informed about alcohol and the impact it has on our health until too late. We think we have to be a raving alcoholic before it can do harm to us. In Ireland the youngest woman diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver was just 18 years old.
Alcohol causes and worsens so many illnesses. Over 1,500 beds of our 11,000 hospital beds are occupied by people with an alcohol related illnesses, every single night. Most of these people are not alcoholics.


Did you know alcohol can cause high cholesterol ?

For example, did you know alcohol can cause high cholesterol which in turn causes other health problems?
Alcohol also does not work well with a common drug used to treat high cholesterol -atorvastatin
Alcohol can also cause many problem with a wide range of other drugs from warfarin, to antidepressants.


You don’t have to drink too much to have an alcohol health problem

So before you tell yourself, I’m ok, I don’t drink much,

  • check out the safety leaflet on any tablets, even over the counter tablets you may be using to see if alcohol should not taken
  • check out our short video highlighting the effects alcohol has and see whether you have any of these side effects. Remember once you start reducing your drinking, you reduce these side effects. Every little helps!