Southlady

Southlady was born in 1973, the youngest of 4 children, she immigrated to Ireland in 1999 after marrying a Co. Mayo man. After many years working as a Computer and Life Skills Trainer she currently works as a stay at home mum to 3 very busy children. When she is not child-wrangling and wrestling the TV remote off her button-happy husband, she spends her time writing her book.

Posts by Southlady

Does alcohol abuse run in families?

As an adult child of a Mother who drank too much I was no stranger to the effects alcohol abuse had within my family.  My childhood experience of my mother was marred by her daily drinking and punctuated by short lived periods of sobriety.

 

There was no history of alcohol abuse

It is important to note that my mother did not have a history of alcohol abuse in her family.  She developed chronic depression after the death of my sister in 1973. And after years of struggling to cope with her death and being told

“that is was Gods will”

and she

“needed to get over it”,

she succumbed to alcohol abuse in a bid to cope with that loss.  My mother was first introduced to alcohol at a work function.

 

My Mother was a high performing sales manager

Contrary to popular belief, my mother was not an unemployed fall-down-drunk.  She worked as the sales manager for a publication firm.  She was what I later learned to be  “a high functioning Alcoholic”.  In fact, in my mother’s 30-year long career she rarely missed a day of work because of her drinking.  She was a master at hiding her love affair with alcohol to the outside world.

 

At home, however…

A memory that sticks out in my mind as a child was watching the bus-stop across the road from our house while waiting for my mother to come home.  When she came in she was the Mother I wanted to spend time with. I wanted to be seen and loved by this beautiful lady, and for a brief hour before she pulled the cork out of that bottle in the drinks cabinet, she was all that, elegant, refined, witty, and kind.

 

My heart would sink

The minute I saw her reach into that oak cabinet, my heart would sink, it was when I knew that the evening was destined to go horribly wrong.  I would feel my belly flip, my mouth go dry with worry, I was acutely aware of the glug glug glug of the gin spilling out into a crystal tumbler.  Every evening I would try my best to distract her, fighting for her attention, and each time was always sent away to play with the words

“later darling, mommy needs to relax”.

 

It became futile to try and talk to her

After a while it became futile to try and talk to her. She slid further and further away from me with each glass. I would be engulfed with worry and sadness.  A short while later my Dad would come home.  At first, he wouldn’t say anything, but myself and my three brothers knew! We just knew my Father was disappointed and that potentially there would be an argument, a dinner ruined, crying, doors slamming and horrible tense silences.

 

The Elephant in the room

No one dared challenge my Mother, not while she was drinking and most certainly not the next morning.  We would tell her what she said and what she did.  We were told that we were lying and she would cry and we felt responsible.  My dad would shout, call her names, and us? We would take cover in the bedroom at the end of the hall and try and distract ourselves from the arguments, the banged doors, the futility of it all.  Not only were we not allowed to discuss my mother’s drinking with her, we were not allowed to let anyone outside of the home know what was going on behind closed doors.

 

I became my Mother’s carer

I became my Mother’s carer. While she was drinking, I would make sure she wouldn’t hurt herself.  I became her confidant, her friend, her Mother.  We were all affected by my Mother’s drinking. My brothers all reacted differently.  My brother Ciaran became rebellious and angry, Brendan was the clown and Dara, poor Dara the quiet one. It is fair to say that due to my Mother’s depression and subsequent alcohol abuse my Mother for those years was emotionally unavailable and absent to us.  My Father had lost his wife too and I remember him being a lonely man.  We had to grow up fast.  Emotional hostages to something we neither understood or could fix.

 

Editor’s Note

SouthLady beautifully describes the impact a Mother’s alcohol abuse often has on families.  But once again we see the pattern of pain behind the alcohol abuse. If Southlady’s Mother’s had received loving support and empathy around the pain of losing a daughter, her alcohol abuse would probably have stopped. She was most likely using alcohol to numb her grief. (Often called self-medication)

 

Are genes to blame?

While some types of genes have been linked to alcohol abuse, the exact process is not fully understood.

Pain and grief in families  is very common factor in  alcohol abuse. But it is not inevitable. It appears the more “adverse childhood events” or “ACE”  we have  the more likely we are to have a physical or substance abuse problem.

While SouthLady herself had an alcohol abuse problem, she made a full recovery because the pain behind her alcohol abuse was tackled.

 

Don’t blame yourself

So don’t blame yourself if you are finding it difficult to reduce your drinking. Instead focus on your mental health. Ask yourself if depression, past events or trauma in your life may be affecting your desire to drink?

You might find our Janus course useful which helps to identify the pros and cons’ drinking useful.  Or if you think a counsellor might be helpful, here’s some tips here on finding the right one for you.

Us Irish don’t need an excuse to drink

As you well know, us Irish don’t need an excuse to drink. Plenty of opportunities present themselves on a weekly basis. There is almost always inevitably a funeral or some such sort or event taking place as our neighbours seem to be dropping like flies, failing that a hen-do, a wedding, 21st, 18th, 60th or a christening or just a plain Saturday night.  You name it, even if there isn’t an event to attend, drink is cheap and widely available at most service stations and supermarkets.

 

It’s nearly impossible to get away from it

It’s nearly impossible to get away from it. In fact, it has become socially acceptable to have prosecco at a work function as part of our networking strategy. We smooge our way around the room chugging wine out of long stemmed glasses to beat-the-band and talk all things work related or to help us decompress after a hard day or week at work.

 

Facebook bombards us with funny wine posts

We need only log into our Facebook to see our news feeds bombard us with posts sporting funny wine memes, drunken selfies and work function photos riddled with clinking glasses, smiling faces and glazed looks.  Indeed, it has become more socially acceptable for women to drink in Ireland. It’s almost expected, if you don’t drink you are instinctively asked if you are on antibiotics, pregnant or have had a major health scare. What’s all that about? We now need an excuse to drink non alcoholic drinks?

 

The alcohol industry is actively targeting women

The biting reality is we have seen a rise in the number of women drinking over the last 2 decades in Ireland. The alcohol industry is aggressively targeting women in their marketing campaigns.  Book and wine clubs are springing up like mushrooms and we are made to believe that it is a risk-free way to relax.  It is not uncommon to find wine packaged in cardboard cartons inscribed incredulously with the words “mommy’s juice box” gracing the aisles in Tesco’s. While we may find this smugly amusing it is by no means a laughing matter.

 

We don’t need an excuse to drink!

Drink is everywhere! There is no escaping it, and in our bid to be more socially acceptable we are drinking more and more to fit in or to tune out which begs the question. How much is too much?

 

10 signs you may be drinking too much

  1.  When alcohol starts stealing time away from things that are important to you e.g. Your family friends or things you enjoy.
  2.  Increased tolerance. (needing to drink more and more each session to get “an effect”).
  3. Drinking more frequently.
  4. Becoming pre-occupied with alcohol and creating opportunities to drink.
  5.  If your family, friends, or co-workers have hinted or flat-out told you that they’re worried about your drinking habits.
  6.  When you using alcohol as an emotional crutch or because you have trouble coping with challenging feelings.
  7.  You feel guilt and shame the next morning.
  8. You have started to drink secretively e.g. Needing to have a drink before you get home from work, or alone away from prying eyes.
  9.  Started to hide the amount or when you drink from your spouse or other loved ones (hiding alcohol at home)
  10. Inability to cope the following day due to feeling unwell, hungover.

If you find that your drinking is becoming increasingly unmanageable, it is time to ask for help.

If you’re still unsure whether you have a drink problem or you  use any excuse to drink, you can check out whether you have a problem anonymously on our website with  3 quick questions here.

You can also anonymously do our free course on reducing alcohol harm or learn more about low risk drinking.  Both these courses are totally free and no personal details are needed.  They don’t take long and you can start right away. If you only have 5 minutes right now you can save and finish when it suits you.

Your GP or Mental Health practitioner can provide support and information and look at ways to help you manage your drinking by identifying triggers and mental health issues that are contributing to your problem drinking.

Finally this website contains details of  services which specialise in treating alcohol abuse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is my drinking really the reason I’m getting so fat?

Is my drinking really the reason I’m getting so fat? Yes! Extremely likely! Said no one ever!

We constantly hear pop culture bombarding us with the “health benefits of a glass of wine”.  We all cheer silently to ourselves. We share the good news on our Facebook wall, followed by those mental “notes to self”, that insist on the mandatory bottle of wine (or two) on our way home from work. Because not only is it high in anti-oxidants and will stop me developing heart disease and possibly cancer, it will help me decompress and relax.

(Editors note, see here for report showing earlier studies showing benefits to drinking alcohol were wrong)

 

It’s a modern miracle I have n’t killed anyone

Because let’s face it! With the week or day I have just had it’s a modern miracle I haven’t killed my colleagues, customers, suppliers, other road users, my spouse, children, or basically the whole of humanity. So, you think to yourself! I deserve a break! I work hard for what I have! I never do anything for myself!  Why shouldn’t I have a glass of wine during the week? And on and on and on and on….

You have it all planned out, run a lovely bubble bath, light some lush scented candles, pour a lovely glass of Chardonnay in one of your expensive elegant long stemmed glasses, all very civilised and voilà!  Much needed “me-time”.

 

It makes total financial sense

Inevitably, this is never as straight forward as it seems, we arrive at Tesco’s, Supervalu or the likes and see the great deals on wine, 4 bottles for €20.00! And being the modern frugal professional women or supermom tell ourselves that 2 bottles will work out the same as 4 bottles, of course! It makes total financial sense!  We avail of the offer and head to the nearest checkout.  This is where things are destined to go down-hill.

 

Ah go, go on, go on says the Mrs Doyle in your head

We arrive home, pour a glass of wine (nope, we don’t measure, we simply pour) we cook dinner, (pour another glass of wine to have with dinner) and before you know it the bath goes out the window and you settle for a hot shower and sit down in the living room, comfy jammies and fluffy socks on.

“Ah go on go on go on”

hangover headache

says the “Mrs Doyle” in your head.  So we give in to a 3rd glass while we catch up with the soaps. Often times we reach for the Pringles, chocolate or other snack foods and “nest in for the night”.  A lot of women can drink a 750ml bottle of wine no problem and on the odd occasion have even dipped into the second bottle.  And because we have those extra bottles in the house we inevitably end up doing it more often in the week than we care to admit.

 

We’re having “the craic”

Friday rolls around and we head out for a few drinks after work with the girls. Saturday night, a few drinks in the local with the hubby (on average in Ireland most people drink around 3 or 4 standard drinks in one sitting, realistically it is probably more if we were honest about it).

It is important to remember that most pub measures are anything but “standard” unless you order a small bottle (which is a staggering +/-200 mls each). All the while we are having “the craic”.  Ordering peanuts with reckless abandon to mix through our bag of cheese and onion Tayto, we are piling on the pounds. That is the insidious thing about alcohol, no one tells you the down side of a glass or 3, so here is the so fat face of it:

so fat

(Note, calories vary according to alcohol strength)

 

Four Pina Colada’s is your entire recommended daily calorie intake

Cocktail hour will not only cost you a bomb, but will add to your expanding waist line.  There are too many to list here but to give you an idea, a Pina Colada is a whopping 490Kcal per 256mls and will cost you upwards of €14.00 a pop. You definitely won’t feel like dancing in the rain after a few of these bad boys. You will most probably head straight for the nearest ATM to assess the damage. And those calories! All those calories. Just four Pina Colada’s would be your entire recommended daily calorie intake for an average adult and that before you make your way to Supermacs.

 

A VIP pass to fatness

When you are happily chugging back your glass of wine, it enters your body and is handed a VIP pass at the front door. And no, it doesn’t mean your body is getting what it needs from Alcohol.  Good stuff like Anti-oxidants, a healthy heart or preventing you from getting cancer.  (Editor’s note, Alcohol actually causes cancer, see our video for more details)

Instead, it is absorbed more quickly than solid foods.  Your body processes the alcohol you have consumed straight into fat.  Yes FAT! It’s then your unfortunate liver’s turn to process what’s left over into a substance called acetate.  Your body uses this as fuel, and in doing so doesn’t burn your existing fat stores.

 

Do the Maths

One bottle of wine translates into 625Kcal per week which in turn translates to an average 4 to 5 miles on the treadmill a week. This does not include the extra calories we consume during and after a night out from takeaway curry’s, Chinese, burgers, kebabs, snack-boxes, pizza slices etc. etc. and not to forget the Irish hangover cure the big fatty fry-up!  Chalk up all those calories and things go “arseways” literally!

 

What to do?

Plan when and how much you are going to drink per week in advance (if you are trying to lose weight remember to keep a calorie diary).

Only buy what you intend to drink on any given day.

Alternate your drinks with soda water, water, and diet soda or fruit juice.

Not only will it be better for your wallet but also your waist line won’t be so fat!.

 

Editor’s note

For more help on reducing alcohol harm try out our free top tips to reduce alcohol harm course

A glass of wine did wonders for my anxiety

  

Which is worse anxiety or depression?

If someone were to ask me if I could choose between my anxiety and depression, I would have to answer that I would much prefer to be depressed.  Anxiety for me was so much harder to cope with.  It’s that feeling you get when you are stepping off a pavement or walking along and slip or trip and suddenly find the ground rushing up to meet you, But instead of lasting 5 seconds the feeling lasts months on end.

 

I was so stressed

I spent so much time, obsessing! About my work commitments, my children, my marriage, my housekeeping, finances, friends, health; expending huge amounts of energy trying to meet the needs (as I perceived them) of others, I had effectively scheduled myself out of my own life.  After a while I started to become convinced that all this stress was going to give me cancer, or a heart attack or a mental breakdown and that I was sure to die young.

 

I had bouts of anxiety

Over the following weeks and months I was to go through bouts of anxiety. And coupled with depression it nearly drove me round the twist!  Just when I thought I was safe and that everything was going to be ok, anxiety would rear its ugly, snarling, spitting, frightening head and threaten my sense of well-being and sanity.

 

I was exhausted all the time

Then followed the chronic relentless fatigue and I couldn’t tell if the tiredness I felt was more mental tiredness, or was I just physically tired? Night time didn’t bring reprieve, no matter how exhausted I felt.  I could not sleep, it was like having a movie projector showing me a combination of my worst fears being realised and the stresses of the day, playing over and over again in my head until I was sure I was going mad or having a breakdown of some sort.  When I did manage to fall asleep I would be jerked awake by nightmares.   My heart would be beating out of my chest, every muscle in my body ached, nights were punctuated by a restless half-awake-half-asleep slumber, my days filled with constant worry.  The anxiety constantly bubbling away in my stomach.

 

A glass of wine did wonders

Now, I never considered myself much of a drinker  per se, but in the end found a glass of wine a great antidote against my anxiety.  At first it “took the edge off”, gave me energy, lifted my mood, helped me relax and even helped me sleep.  Soon the glass of wine became 2, then 3 and before I knew it, it became a bottle. I seemed to need more and more of the stuff as time went on to get the same effect.  And while it helped at first; the anxiety always came back, and when it came back it did so with a vengeance.  Not to mention also being the proverbial slippery slope towards problem drinking. It served only to compound the existing problem and in itself was starting to affect my personal and professional life, amplifying my anxiety even further.

 

I had a full blown anxiety attack

Over time the anxiety become worse and worse until I experienced a full blown anxiety attack.

The first time this happened was on my daily commute to work in Cork.  As I approached the first round-about I suddenly felt sheer panic consume me, my heart beating wildly out of my chest. With a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel the sheer panic rising with every car that proceeded in turn onto the round-about, my breathing became short and erratic, the sensation of pins and needles ran down the length of both arms and lower jaw, I wanted to jump out of the car and run for help,

 

I ‘m going to die

I felt trapped, akin to the same feeling one gets when jumping off the high diving board at the local swimming pool.  “Dear God! It’s finally happening! I am having a heart attack! I am having a heart attack and I’m going to crash the car and kill someone, I’m going to die”.  But of course I didn’t die, I got through the round-about telling myself to breath, to concentrate and to hang on. I knew that something was very wrong and that I was in serious trouble, I felt as though my life was unravelling before my eyes.  I needed to get to my office and ring my GP and tell my boss I needed to go home.

 

The flood gates opened

That same afternoon after the worst of the attack had subsided, I drove home and found myself in my doctor’s office later that afternoon telling her what had happened.  It was like a flood gate had being opened and I broke down crying, telling her everything and asked her what the hell was wrong with me?  She told me that I had had an anxiety attack and reassured me that I was going to be ok.  She gave me a prescription for Xanax and told me to take one and get some rest, she also sent a referral letter to Adult Mental Health and I received an appointment letter from them the following day

 

I was self-medicating with alcohol

At my mental health appointment I told the psychiatrist that my life was “simply not working!”  That my anxiety was making me miserable and my life was becoming intolerable, and something needed to be done!  I admitted to her that I was self-medicating with alcohol.  I was referred to see an addiction councillor which shocked me, I mean, was I an alcoholic?!  I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and prescribed medication, and told not to mix my medication with alcohol and told to attend mental health on a weekly basis at first so I could be monitored.

 

I’m better now

Anxiety can be both frightening and debilitating for even the strongest amongst us, but with the right support from Adult Mental Health, your GP and organisations like Aware we can find a way to manage and work through its effects on our daily lives.

 

Should this life sometimes deceive you,

Don’t be sad or mad at it!

On a gloomy day, be humble:

Have faith – cheerful days will come!

 

The heart lives in the future,

Yes, today is gloomy;

But everything is transient, and passes;

When it passes, it will be dear!

Pushkin (Russian translation)

Editor’s Note

Southlady’s story shows how it is important it is, to understand the reasons why you may be drinking too much. By tackling the reasons you are drinking too much, rather than blaming yourself you are more likely to be successful in managing your drinking. You might find our Janus course useful for identifying your reasons for drinking. Click here for details.