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

Marian Keyes a national treasure- had a little drink problem

Marian Keyes, the book author is leading the way towards a kinder Irish society. Recently she was described as a “National treasure” at an event in the National Concert Hall, where her fans gathered to celebrate her latest book “Grown ups”.

A card carrying liberal

Marian told the audience she is

“A card carrying bleeding heart liberal, “I am really happy to pay much more tax if I knew it was going to get people off waiting lists or to build social housing. I think the young people of this country have been stiffed the most. I think it’s appalling the way it is impossible to find somewhere to rent and I think it’s appalling that there has not been an underground built in this traffic-choked city”

Marian takes action

Marian does not just talk she also takes action. Recently she appeared in a video supporting the campaign to treat drug use as a health rather than criminal issue. You can see it here

She was also a leading supporter of the Together for Yes campaign, actively campaigning and matching donations to get the poster campaign started. She got a lot of abuse for this.

Her book “The break” had a middle aged married woman travelling to London for an abortion.

Her books are not just “chick lit”

Marian Keyes books are often put down as just being “chick lit”, a term used to slag off books aimed at women.  Part of our charming misogynistic culture when women’s literature, interest and lives are valued less than men’s.

Her books as well as being entertaining, actually help people. For example,  “Saved by Cake” was written when she was suffering from depression. I’ve watched as one person I love, worked their way through the book and yes, it did actually help their depression

Rachel’s Holiday

Fans are delighted she’s announced a sequel to Rachel’s Holiday. This book describes Rachel going to what she thinks is a holiday resort for people with a little addiction problem, which turns out to be a really tough boot camp.

We often recommend the book for people who have a drink problem but also for people who want to know all that’s wrong with our addiction treatment services. It’s a beautiful moving, uplifting, insightful story.

Follow Marian on twitter

I’m obviously a fan and I follow Marian Keyes on Twitter. She is hilarious, kind and really witty and I’ve often laughed out loud at her tweets.

Here’s just one

I’d like to carry a sign saying, “I’M 56, STOP ASKING ME TO BE THIN, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE!”

Old Vumman gives Marian a hard time

Marian often tells about her Mother who she calls “Old Vumman”.  Here’s one example.


Old Vumman: Hay-loh

Me: its me!

OV: What NOW?

Me: Graham Norton likes my book! …………….. ……………..

OV: Graham Norton off the telly?

Me: Yes!

OV: …how do you know?


OV: It probably wasn’t him AT ALL! He could have been HACKED”

This type of put down from Old Vumman is pretty constant. Being lucky enough to have a Mother, who once I reached adulthood thought I was wonderful and could do no wrong, I often wonder what impact it has on Marian. Must be tough having a Mother who rarely praises you. Marian sometimes seems very vulnerable when she’s doing her videos and tweets.

Marian Keyes is honest

What I admire most of all about Marian, is she is so honest about her own problems with alcohol. She has to stay off alcohol entirely. By being so honest, she’s helping to reduce the stigma around drinking too much and showing people with alcohol problems are talented, creative, kind and sensitive. They are not horrible, nasty people, labels society often places on them.

Marian can help if you’re feeling down

So if you’re feeling down in this peak Christmas drinking season, have a read of Rachel’s holiday, it’s available in public libraries.  Or listen to Marian on Desert Island Discs here.

Marian will also be speaking at an event in the National Concert Hall in February and you can book here.

So for an enjoyable evening go along to listen to this national treasure.

PS If you’d like more tips on managing your drinking click here.

What are your drinking Cons?

Last week we talked about the pros of drinking, so this week we’re talking about drinking cons or disadvantages of drinking. Looking at your drinking cons can help increase your motivation to control your drinking, in this our annual peak drinking season.

Drinking Cons

  • I throw up when I drink
  • Drinking gives me a hang over
  • I am on medication which means I have to stop/reduce my drinking
  • Drinking brings back bad memories/old hurts for me
  • My Drinking is causing me to take too much sick leave
  • I cannot remember everything the next morning
  • Drinking costs a lot of money
  • My drinking is giving me a weight problem
  • My drinking leads to unwanted sexual contact
  • Drinking is bad for my health
  • I seem to get myself into trouble when drinking
  • My drinking causes problems with others
  • I have broken the law e.g. drink driving
  • I’m not drinking while I am pregnant
  • I have physical health problems as a result of my drinking
  • I’d like to get pregnant
  • I am losing the trust and respect of my co-workers because of my drinking
  • Having to lie to others about my drinking bothers me
  • I am losing the trust of people I love because of my drinking
  • Some people close to me are disappointed in me because of my drinking
  • My Drinking interferes with how I work
  • I regret texts, I send when drunk
  • I have less energy
  • I find my drinking makes me too emotional
  • I am worried I am getting too dependent on alcohol
  • Drinking interferes with my life at home
  • Some people try to avoid me when I drink
  • Drinking is affecting how I look e.g. my face is red & bloated
  • It is hard to get going in the morning
  • I get into arguments more often
  • I find I am less fit as a result of my drinking
  • I could accidentally hurt someone because of my drinking
  • Drinking makes me feel very low
  • I lose my stuff- for example- my mobile   phone when drunk
  • I wake up with injuries e.g. bruises, I do not remember happening
  • I’m worried I could have health problems in the future. E.g. too much alcohol can cause dementia
  •  I am setting a bad example for others with my drinking e.g. My children
  • Drinking interferes with my ability to parent e.g. I’m snapping at my children
  • My drinking is giving me money problems

Ring a bell with you?

So how many of these cons ring a bell with you? Maybe you have other reasons for taking more control of your drinking. Some people find it useful to make a list of their own reasons for drinking less and they put it somewhere they see it regularly. On their bathroom mirror or keeping the list in their wallet or handbag.

Use your mobile phone

Some people search for an image on the internet which helps remind them why they are not drinking. They then set this image as their mobile phone screen saver. So any time they feel tempted they can simply look at their phone. It can really help increase motivation not to drink too much.

Why do people drink too much alcohol?

As we head into peak drinking season, looking again at the reasons why people drink too much can help us stay in control as it increases our motivation to drink less.

We’ve listed some of the reasons why people drink too much below

  • I can sleep better
  • I feel less physical pain
  • It gives me a reason to go out with my friends
  •  I feel less anxious
  •  Drinking helps me to have fun and socialise
  •  Drinking helps me deal with problems
  •  I am less bored
  • Drinking makes me more of a fun person
  •  I feel less emotional pain
  •  My drinking helps give me energy and keeps me going
  •  I am more sure of myself when I am drinking
  • People seem to like me better when I am drinking
  •  I feel calmer
  •  It is very easy to buy
  •  I feel less sad
  • Drinking helps me to loosen up and express myself
  • I like myself better when I am drinking
  •  I can relax more easily
  • Without alcohol my life would be dull and boring
  • I am less troubled by shaking or feeling sick
  •  It gives me a nice warm feeling
  •  Not drinking at a social gathering would make me feel too different
  •  It is very cheap to buy in supermarkets
  •  I am more creative

Don’t worry if you’ve ticked all the reasons

Don’t worry if you feel you’re ticking all the reasons. Valerie ticked  yes to nearly every box in the list and she still managed to get her drinking under control.

There may also be other reasons not listed above why people drink too much so list these reasons as well.

Take action

Looking at your pros, think about how you can get these benefits of drinking in a less harmful way.

For example, if you think life is boring without alcohol, could you take up a new activity that interests and excites you? Skydiving maybe!  

If drinking helps you sleep, there are other ways to get a good night’s sleep without the downsides of alcohol.

If dealing with feelings make you drink more, you might find talking to someone useful and we’ve some suggestions here.

People drinking too much can help themselves

Understanding the reasons you drink too much, is a big step forward in reducing your drinking to low risk levels. So try listing your reasons for drinking as this will help you to take action to manage your drinking. In our next post we’ll look at the cons of drinking too much.

Swapping alcohol for a running high

Swapping alcohol for a running high sounds a little extreme. But this week people are talking about it as the film Brittany runs a marathon is released.

Based on a true story

Brittany is 28 years old, a heavy drinker who is overweight and does not feel good about herself. She visits her doctor hoping to get some Adderall tablets, but he tells she is unhealthy and needs to lose 55 pounds.

Self-sabotage is so common

Brittany tried to join a gym, but it’s far too expensive. She finds a pal with the same unhealthy lifestyle and they start running or is it walking! In one scene, a crowd of toddlers pass them by. Eventually they decide to run the marathon but Brittany keeps doing stuff that stops her reaching her goals. It’s called self-sabotage. This is very common amongst people who drink too much and often have low self-esteem.

A death in the family

It becomes clear that Brittany is still grieving the death of her Father. She has never come to terms with it. So it’s a major reason why she’s living such an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s often struck me that our modern fast paced lifestyle does not allow much time for grieving. We expect people to get on with it far too quickly. So people often numb grief with alcohol.

Catriona spent 10 years grieving

Jenny Valentishe describes how Caitrona Menzies-Pike saw herself as a “gin addled bookworm” who used to eye runners with suspicion as she nursed a latte and hangover. Then it struck her that she spent the 10 years grieving after the sudden death of her parents focused on distance (running away) and endurance (drinking lots). So perhaps the actual answer was running which requires the same qualities.

Swapping alcohol for running

The running helped her process her parent’s death and she started to sleep better and drink less. If there is only one thing you can do to manage your drinking, physical exercise is the one to choose. There are just so many benefits to do it as we mentioned here.

Park Runs are all round the county

You don’t have to be super fit to be a runner, or even look like a runner in all the figure hugging gear. If you go to Park Runs  available in 93 locations around the country you’ll find people of all levels of fitness and body sizes. There’s a very friendly atmosphere and park runs are free. Many people even walk the route. So why not visit a park run to see for yourself whether swapping alcohol for running works for you?

Or to get yourself in the mood, why not go see the film? The reviews are good. You can see a trailer below.

David versus Goliath or should it be Davina versus Goliath?

A David versus Goliath event took place this week. An important day because it was to mark new restrictions on advertising. A wide range of interesting mainly female speakers spoke.

David versus Goliath

Norah Campbell, associate professor of critical marketing spoke about the astonishing detail, tools and techniques, alcohol marketing uses to get us to buy alcohol.

As human beings we have an overwhelming need to feel connected to others. Alcohol marketing creates these stories or myths which draw us in by creating the illusion we are connecting to others by drinking their brand.

Look Mammy, that lady is having so much fun

Norah also gave the real life example of her toddler pointing to an alcohol ad and shouting,

“Look Mammy, that lady is having so much fun”

Norah’s speech alone justified the event title of David versus Goliath

Irish people drink to connect to others

HSE research found the major reason why Irish people drink is to feel connected to others.

Perhaps this is why, coming up to Christmas, it becomes more difficult to manage our drinking. All the pressure to be happy and socialise. So it’s really important to start planning social events with like-minded friends who are conscious of their drinking and won’t binge drink.

The EU is led by big alcohol

Fiona Godfrey, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance spoke about what is going on at EU level. For the last 20 years, the EU has caved into pressure from the alcohol industry. Instead of protecting society from alcohol harm they adopted alcohol industry views.

This is called”regulatory capture”. When the Regulator takes the industry view rather then protect ordinary people. It’s what led to our terrible banking crisis.

Biggest nanny of the year

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, former Minister of State for Health Promotion made the audience laugh describing how she won the “nanny in chief” award from an industry pressure group. She even went along to accept it. She’s taking some abuse trying to reduce deaths from alcohol harm.

It was good to see so many strong and powerful women speaking and taking a lead on reducing alcohol harm.

The Christmas rush has started

But, I was brought back to earth, when I got home. I found Tesco’s specials offers on an alcohol leaflet in my post box. A bottle of beer is now cheaper than a bottle of mineral water when you buy a slab of beer. At my local SuperValu, people were complaining the store had already run out of wine on one of their special offers. A very nice 4 bottles of wine pack for €30. Both of these advertising offers encourage you to drink more alcohol by buying more.

Start thinking ahead

We find December is usually a very quiet month for us as people get sucked into to all the Christmas drinking and Christmas activity. So it is really important to plan ahead to avoid drinking too much.

For example, If going to a pub or restaurant ring ahead to make sure they have some alcohol free options available. Have some low alcohol drinks in your home. Make a plan to talk to friends who are also trying to manage their drinking. Take time to do things you’ll enjoy. Find what works for you.

Deborah admitted she used alcohol as a prop

As someone who uses alcohol as a prop myself, I can see there’s a problem.

So says the well-known English journalist Deborah Orr who died recently. There were lots of tributes. From

She was formidable, magnificent and funny as hell, she was a lioness in a world full of mogs.”


“One of the cleverest, most unconventional, most fearless people on the planet”.

A star talent who used alcohol as a prop

Despite a reputation for putting people down she was known to be warm and supportive of up and coming journalists.  She wrote on a wide range of topics from politics, feminism, modern life, social media and mental health. Many years ago, long before it became more acceptable, she wrote about her own drinking   and societies attitudes to drinking with some fantastic insights. She helped expose our very troubled relationship with alcohol.

The state of our heads

In one report she wrote about how everyone knows there’s a line beyond which drinking stops being a prop and becomes self-destructive.  She argued the focus on units is not helpful and we should focus on what’s going on in people’s heads or their lives.

An excellent suggestion, but still not the norm in many of our treatment services

Don’t blame the women

After one lurid headline, where women like Zoe Ball were blamed for leading women into temptation she talked about her own drinking and the double standards that apply to women. She spoke about how as a younger woman. drinking binges were an easy release from tension with very little effort. Only now did she become aware, that there was an emptiness, she was trying to escape from.  She posed the very important question, why are we blaming women, when they are using alcohol as a prop?  Why are we not asking the question why do so many women want to get off their heads!

This is a great question, all people trying to manage their drinking should ask themselves.

Raw unflinching honesty

Ms Orr also spoke about her own personal life. One time she asked on Twitter

 ‘My ex wants to divide up the contents of the former marital home by coming round, when I’m not there, putting a red dot on absolutely anything he wants, then getting me to organise it all into a place where he can have it picked up. Anyone else had this?’

Her responses to the comments on this tweet were laugh out loud funny. She had such a wicked sense of humour.

A drunken lunch

She had a complicated relationship with alcohol which she was totally straight about. She would write about Britain drinking too much and describe a drunken lunch she had. Here’s one extract

“It’s pretty dreadful, screwing up your work for the sake of a drink. It’s really awful, screwing up your responsibilities to your children for the sake of a drink. I’m not proud. Except I made that up, too. I am proud. I regret nothing. It was a golden afternoon. We may not have been officially worshipping gods, but for one day, we were both Ferris Bueller and we both had a day off. The memory still gladdens my heart. That’s how much I needed a day off.

She was also very open about her difficult childhood which is covered in her book which will be published in January. Early reviews are positive. Once again it shows the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and difficulties in later life.

Rest in Peace

Deborah Orr was just 57 when she died of breast cancer.  As well as her many other achievements she helped shine a light on the stigma that many women who drink too much face. By the way she lived and the way she was so open about her own life she helped change how we view women. May she rest in peace.

Vicky Phelan gets apology, but don’t you expect a similar one any time soon

A great week for Vicky Phelan and the other brave cervical cancer campaigners. They got an apology from the Taoiseach in the Dail. He apologised for a litany of failures in how cervical screening operated in our country over many years.  The apology was gracious and long over due.

We owe thanks to Vicky Phelan

Thanks to the strength and courage of Vicky Phelan and her fellow campaigners, major changes have taken place in cervical cancer screening. They have shone a much needed light on how our health care system operates and forced through much needed change. You can’t but admire them. The amount of time and energy that has been focused in this area is amazing. But it really does show the incredible double standards we have on women’s health.

Were you ever screened?

The double standard is so big no one seems to see it.  Yes, the cervical cancer screening programme had major flaws and treated women disgracefully. Yes, it was right there was outrage. But where is the similar outrage over the flawed alcohol screening programme? 

Because alcohol harm kills nearly as many people in just one month as cervical cancer does in a year.

vicky phelan

The alcohol screening programme was terminated

The World Health Organisation recommends all patients be screening annually for potential harm. They even produced guidelines on how to do it.  So Ireland introduced an alcohol screening programme. The HSE and the Irish College of General Practitioners had a pilot programme  way back in 2006. It got good results but it was not funded and it came to a halt. There was no outcry in the media over the lack of support for alcohol screening.

The Elephant in the room

When it comes to alcohol, society has been so brainwashed we just can’t see the absolute scandal   in our attitudes to the psychoactive drug that is alcohol. We can’t see the costs to ourselves and the cost to our children.  In Irish society , alcohol is a drug you have to apologise for not taking.

Maybe we need a few Vicky Phelans in alcohol?

We’ve had people just as talented and formidable as Vicky Phelan try to raise the alcohol harm issue. Many of them brave women who have suffered from alcohol harm..

Our own Valerie Farragher featured in a full length TV programme and continues to campaign. Emma went public on her experiences as did Aoife McElwain and Alison Canavan.   We’ve also had John Higgins who lost his son due to alcohol harm.

Senator Lynn Ruane and Senator Frances Black have raised the alcohol harm issue in the Oireachtas many many times.

The President refuses to go to the GAA final

Dr Michael Loftus, now in his 90’s and previously a GP in Mayo, was a long time campaigner against alcohol. He became President of the GAA and at one stage refused to go to All Ireland finals because the GAA at that stage accepted alcohol sponsorships. (Thankfully the GAA no longer do this)

We’ve had the comedian Des Bishop do funny, entertaining, insightful documentaries about alcohol.

So it’s not for lack of high profile campaigners that we’re still drowning in alcohol harm.

Paschal’s Pilsner

The cervical cancer campaigners don’t have a big well-funded skilled effective opposition group distorting the facts. This opposition group use every possible tactic to ensure we see alcohol harm as just a few irresponsible people who can’t control their drinking.  

They’re so good at lobbying.

Just one example, in this year’s “austerity Brexit” budget they got to keep a tax relief costing €5.8 million. So now they’re giving our Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue his very own beer, called Paschal‘s Pilsner. See the Irish Times report below.

An apology?

So I don’t think we’ll be getting an apology any time soon for the lack of alcohol screening. Screening that would help people recognise alcohol harm before it actually happens. Screening that helps prevent people becoming addicted to alcohol. Screening that would signal a major change in our attitudes towards alcohol.  Since the initial screening project stopped over 10,000 people have died from alcohol harm.

So an apology would show a belated recognition that our Government has been too friendly to the alcohol industry and not listened enough to health care professionals and alcohol harm campaigners.   

PS “Overcoming” the new book by Vicky Phelan is now available and so far I’m finding it a great read.

We can’t avoid stress but can we reduce its impact on us?

We all know modern life is full of stress.  Long commutes, pressurised jobs, financial pressures, keeping children safe, looking after sick parents. The list goes on. Is it any wonder so many people have mental health problems and drink too much?

Is modern life toxic?

Modern life is toxic -especially for young people.  So many people can’t hope to own their own home. They rent homes at very high prices with little security about how long they can stay there. They have zero hour contracts or unpaid internships.

Stress is constant

For people brought up in high stress households, stress can be a lifelong problem. Studies have shown high stress levels in pregnant women can make their children more easily stressed after birth. It also takes these children longer to calm down. So it’s useful to accept that we may have an inbuilt tendency towards stress. (Click here for more details)

Stress can be managed

It’s easy to solve this constant stress by drinking too much. It provides temporary relief.  But it is also possible to reduce stress without the hangover.

Some studies suggest up to half our stress is caused by external factors outside our control, stuff like work demands, job insecurity, financial pressures etc. So that means up to half our stress can be controlled by us.

Too stressed to help yourself?

This gives us hope that the situation can change. Even though, it’s difficult to break the cycle of being stressed, drinking, and then being hungover. But some simple tips can help.

Recognise the stress

So the first step in changing this pattern, is to develop awareness of actually feeling stressed. Sometimes we’re not even aware of how stressed we are because we’re so busy trying to keep all the balls in the air.  So simply taking a moment to recognise

“Yes, I’m feeling stressed,

Can help us hit the pause button on stress.

The 5 minute trick

Using the 5 minute trick can also help.

This is a very useful tip given to me. Put your mobile phone on airplane mode, and set the timer to 5 minutes. Find somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Then sit down comfortably with your hands by your side. Put your tongue gently to the roof of your mouth and become aware of your breathing.

Now the next 5 minutes is all yours without interruptions. Imagine any thoughts coming in at the top of your head and travelling down through your body out your feet. You’re just observing these thoughts, not deciding, not taking action, not forcing, not rushing. Imagine the thoughts literally floating peacefully through you. You don’t have to do anything in this 5 minutes but sit and observe. You know the timer will go off, so you won’t fall asleep.

Sitting on the toilet

The great thing about this tip is you can do it anywhere and at any time. At home, in the office, travelling. Even in our busy life, time for going to the toilet is still allowed. All you have to do is find a toilet, pull the seat cover down, put some toilet paper sheets on the toilet cover and you have a clean seat to relax on for 5 minutes.

If you’re going through a really stressful time, doing this a few times a day, can really make a difference. If you’re feeling pressure to drink, simply relaxing in this way for 5 minutes can help reduce this pressure.

So if you’re constantly feeling very stressed, or in a very stressful environment where you’re likely to drink too much, why not try this trick?

For more tips on managing stress, click here.

Photo by from Pexels

Jennifer Zamparelli on Sober October

Sober October is on this month.  RTE’s Jennifer Zamparelli covered the topic on Radio 2 this week. Jennifer is also a very talented actress playing the very funny Bridget in “Bridget and Eamon”, a TV soap I always laugh at.

Jennifer gives up alcohol

Early this year, Jennifer was interviewed on why she gave up alcohol. She was a host on “Dancing with the Stars” and her work schedule was just too busy.  She said:

‘I knocked drinking on the head for a while. I know, I’m a boring b*****d. I don’t drink on the Sunday with the lads.”

Very sad.  Our Irish culture has taught Jennifer to believe when she’s not drinking she’s boring.  It shows just how much our culture revolves around and adores alcohol.

No regrets

The interviewer says

“Despite her busy schedule and having to give up alcohol, Jennifer said she has no regrets joining Dancing with the Stars.”

So again, it’s such a sacrifice giving up alcohol. There’s no emphasis on the the great things in Jennifer’s life and that life without alcohol can be happy and satisfying.

Jennifer is not doing Sober October

Our own Valerie Farragher was invited onto RTE2 with Jennifer to discuss Sober October. When Valerie asks Jennifer does she have a hangover, Jennifer replies not today, but laughs I’m glad you did n’t ask me that yesterday  So it appears Sober October is not for Jennifer. She is back on the alcohol.

As an interviewer she covers the topic well with lots of people texting in and gives plenty of time to Valerie.

Valerie gives good advice

Valerie talks a lot of sense about our attitudes to drink.  She thinks “harm reduction” rather than abstinence is much more helpful for people trying to manage their drinking.

A really good tip is listing all the reasons you like drinking and then all the reasons you don’t like drinking. (Click here for more information)

You can listen to the full interview here on Sober October 2FM