Lynn Ruane shows the way to success

Lynn Ruane grow up in a loving and working class family in an area known for poverty. She did not know she was “disadvantaged”. She just knew school did not suit her. You were not allowed to be yourself, it assumed everybody learned in the same way. She became disruptive and rebellious.


Tragedy strikes

At just 13 years old, Lynn Ruane saw her friend die in a road traffic accident. She realised she might not live long enough to fulfil her dreams. To ease the pain and escape reality, she started drinking. Then she was onto cocaine and ecstasy. She got hold of heroin. But  in the local library she learned she would become addicted, so she flushed it down the library toilet. At that stage, she was robbing shops and cars to buy drugs.


Pregnant at 15

Lynn became pregnant at 15. Her dreams was to be old enough to get the lone Mother’s allowance and get a house. But she also wanted to be a good role model to her unborn child. She begged the school to take her back and did her junior cert when eight months pregnant.


A new beginning

The social welfare department told Lynn she could go to An Cosan  which is a centre providing a different type of education. Lynn describes it as a place where you could be yourself, it was holistic and allowed her to heal. Crucially the centre provided child care.


Fighting against the system

Lynn broke new ground getting the Institute of Technology in Tallaght to change their policy so she could be considered a mature student at just 18! She became a homeless and addiction project worker and changed  the services there.


Filling the gap

Lynn introduced a new way of treating drug harm. Most services concentrate  on the mechanics of addiction. How to deal with triggers. Lynn believes talking about triggers is in itself a trigger. Lynn focused on “filling the gap”, moving towards activities which make life worthwhile and enjoyable. She believes education and learning is a key part of escaping drug harm. An important point for anybody trying to reduce their drinking. We‘ve often written about this. (Link here)


Funding cuts means go to college

When addiction services were devastated by funding cuts during the austerity years, Lynn realised she did not have the power or words  to defend her service. So she went to Trinity College becoming the president of the Student’s Union. Lynn began to realise she was a victim of bad policy, her experience of education, the fact the school system was unable to help students deal with a bereavement. Her lack of understanding of what life could be in her early years.


Meeting Lynn Ruane

With my Dual Diagnosis Ireland hat on I met Lynn some years ago. I was very impressed. She used her terrible experiences to energise herself and make a difference to other people’s lives. Her insights into our very dysfunctional society and alcohol treatment systems were crystal clear. What struck me most of all was her honesty about her life and the mistakes she had made. She “owned” her mistakes but did not dwell on them. She was not ashamed of them. Another key point for anyone trying to control their drinking. Accept and learn from your mistakes. But don’t keep punishing yourself or being ashamed for drinking too much.


Lynn goes public about her sex life

In the middle of all the scandal and media coverage about women being forced into having sex, Lynn wrote a powerful article for the Irish Times. I flinched when I first read it. It was so honest and raw. Would her family be hurt by it? I knew she was bound to get criticism and boy did she get it.

In the article which you can read here, Lynn admitted to losing her virginity at just 13. She states she just did not know how to say no.

“From that point onwards, sex was an activity that I felt was expected of me”

 “On many of those occasions, I was way too intoxicated to even remember the encounter”

Again showing the role of alcohol in unwanted sexual contacts. as we discussed here.

Thanks to Lynn, Trinity College have now introduced mandatory sexual consent workshops.


Lynn becomes a Senator

Lynn decided to run for senator and again beats the odds. Rarely does someone succeed on her first attempt. She also unseats a serving senator, which hardly ever happens. She has been very active in the Seanad speaking on a wide range of issues.


Publishing a book “People Like Me”

Lynn Ruane has now written  a book “People Like Me” which is due to be launched Tuesday the     18th  of September. Over 400 people have said they will attend and the event is booked out.

We’ll be there to help her celebrate. At just 33 years old Lynn is an inspiration. Not just to women who drink too much but too many Irish people.


Remember Lynn

So if you’re struggling to get your drinking under control, use people like Lynn Ruane to inspire you. If Lynn can succeed against all the odds so can you. You can have a happier life.

Drinkers like me is worth watching

TV documentary, Drinkers Like Me was well worth watching. It follows respected TV broadcaster Adrian Chiles as he discovers he has a problem with drink.


Adrian drinks a bit too much

Adrian knows he drinks a bit, but believes he’s just a “nice regular drinker”. The programme follows him as he discovers he drinks an incredible 60 to 100 units (UK measurement). Well over the UK low risk guidelines of 14 units a week.

Initially he thinks he’s ok. Liver blood tests are normal. Then he discovers he has fibrosis of the liver which leads to cirrhosis of the liver. This is often fatal.


Why was Adrian’s drinking not picked up?

What was interesting, Adrian also mentioned he had despondency, anxiety, high blood pressure and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach). In passing, he mentioned he’d seen a counsellor in the past.  So it appears, none of his health care professionals asked him about his drinking. Despite the fact he had symptoms which are often related to drinking too much alcohol. We’re not really surprised, as we mentioned here and here,  this often happens as the health care system does not take alcohol harm seriously.


All Adrian’s friends drink too much

Apart from people who labelled themselves as “alcoholics” and had given up drink, all Adrian’s friends drink too much. One friend, despite being aware she was drinking over low risk limits, declared

“She was not a vomiter”

So she did n’t have a problem. His friends make statements like

“We’re addicted to it without being alcoholics”.

Adrian realises they are all drinkers like me.


Adrian feels like an idiot

Very bravely on screen, Adrian pours out his feelings. He realises he’s always lied to himself about his drinking. He always linked the good times to alcohol. That he saw the world as beige without alcohol.  After seeing a therapist he goes on another massive session. Personally I think I’d have done the same.  I though the therapist was very confrontational and the TV segment did not show much kindness.  Adrian berates himself.

“What was he thinking, feeling like an idiot”

But he’s not alone, as he discovers, many over 50’s drink too much.


2 months later

Two months later, Adrian has cut his drinking down to 25 units a week. Still too high, but a massive improvement. He realises  he never liked himself  and perhaps that was one of the reasons he drank too much. He now hates the phone app he uses to track his drinking.  But it helped to reduce his drinking. Tracking your drinking is a great way to control your drinking.(More here)


Drinkers like me is worth watching

Drinkers like me is a really important programme in exposing our alcohol culture. It’s hard not to feel both sorry for Adrian and inspired by his honesty. He comes across as very likeable. Perhaps, because he’s still struggling, much of the commentary is very positive. He’s not seen as sanctimonious or preachy.  Hopefully he’s started a serious conversation on attitudes to drinking.


Let’s blame the person

The only issues drinkers like me does not really cover is just how much the alcohol industry brainwashes us that drinking loads is ok. As a result of industry lobbying, we don’t even have warning labels on bottles and cans.  Also  the healthcare system does not do enough to  warn people about the risks. It’s much easier to blame individual people for being reckless and stupid.

Hopefully Adrian will do another programme on this.  In the meantime, don’t miss  drinkers like me. For the next 24 days you can watch drinkers like me here on the BBC player.

Photo courtesy of BBC.



If you’d like tips on reducing the harm caused by alcohol click here.

Alan feels the stigma of drinking too much

There’s so much stigma about drinking too much. We tend to label people who drink too much as down and out. They’re the old man on a park bench, clothes tied together with string, smelling bad, drinking from a paper bag and shouting abuse at people passing by. This stigma of “being an alcoholic”  stops people admitting they have a problem with alcohol and need to drink less.


The secret entrepreneur

That’s why I was so pleased to read a recent series of columns by the Secret Entrepreneur, in the Sunday Business Post. This was written by a young man, who set up his own  business – a start up,  here in Ireland. He raised substantial funding and for a while it looked like the sky was the limit. The company was in over 100 cities. We’ll call the Secret Entrepreneur, Alan.


Family history

Alan had a family history of drinking too much. His Grandfather died from alcohol and it contributed to the early death of his Father at just 49.

At 24, a year or so into his start up, Alan realised he had a problem with drink. He lasted about a month without drinking. then his relationship broke up. Several times he tried to control his drinking- without success.


Work did not help

The start up culture has a heavy alcohol influence. Many start up’s see providing a fridge of beers with a gumball machine as normal. At the end of a a long day, it’s a way to relax and socialise together. A reward for employees going above the call of duty. Or to celebrate big events like the first major customer. Not taking part in drinking isolates people from the team and feeling connected.(more details here)


Friends did not help

Alan  found people “did not get it”. When he complained of hangovers, they said stuff like

“Ah, sure, have another one, hair of the dog. It’s the only way”.

People often  don’t know what to say when you admit to hangovers or drinking too much. There’s just so much stigma about drinking too much.


The Americans think we’re a nation of drunks

When Alan relocated to the States, he found his American colleagues only had 2 or 3 drinks a night.  To them that was a “mad night out”.  Alan felt the pressure to be the life and soul of the party. Visitors loved meeting him for a few drinks- a good night out. But while that was one night for them, it became three of four nights for him. Whenever he made a fool of himself the Americans would say,

“Oh you’re Irish, its okay

Beanyneamy tells a similar story about the Irish being seen as drunks  here.


Despite the drinking, success continued

Despite all the drinking, 10 years later, Alan succeeded in selling his company to a major multinational, who also gave him a job. However it turned out to be a dead end. His drinking got worse and he ended up in a really humiliating position after another drunken night.


He quit alcohol

So Alan quit the booze. He put his energies elsewhere. Into writing a book about his Father. He took up playing football again. Each week he made small tweaks to his lifestyle. The most important thing he did was tell himself giving up alcohol was the best decision he had ever made. It was a positive decision rather than a negative decision.An important tip for anyone trying to manage their drinking, as we describe here.


What’s in the future?

Alan’s no longer with his start up his start up. He  got made redundant a few months after giving up the booze. But because he was mentally prepared to deal with it, he was ok. He does not miss drinking at the moment and he’s not saying he’ll never drink again. He’s just living for each day as it comes and enjoying life.

Alan’s story is well worth reading here. (A subscription to the Sunday Business Post is required)


Let’s reduce the stigma about drinking too much

I admire Alan for telling his story so honestly. Even though, he’s not disclosed his name publicly, in the start-up community he will be known. The more people like him Francis, Alison, Aoife and Valerie come forward and tell their stories the more we reduce the stigma about drinking too much. Instead of labelling and blaming people as “bad” or “alcoholics” we start seeing real decent people with feelings and emotions just like you and me. People who need help not judgement. We’ll also start challenging our culture which encourages people to drink too much and stigmatises them when they do.


What’s your story?

Everyone’s story is unique. Does n’t matter whether you’re a cleaner, a top Entrepreneur like Alan or a Mother who works in the home. You are not alone in being someone who struggles with drinking too much. Don’t let the stigma about drinking too much get to you. Just like Alan, you too can have a brighter future, no matter how dark it appears at the moment.

If you”re starting to control your drinking, you might find this post here useful.

If you’d like to quickly check if you have an alcohol problem you might find this post here useful. (No names or email address needed)


Lucy’s beliefs about alcohol were holding her back

Are your beliefs about alcohol making you miserable?  Lucy talks about how unhappy she was, when she first stopped drinking.

The way she saw  it,

“I was different now. I was weird, a failure – a social outcast”


There were no positives for drinking less

She could n’t see any of the positives of reducing her drinking. She’d grown up in a culture that adored alcohol, so not participating in that culture was really hard.

She had decided not to drink at all as she could never have just one or two. But she really wanted to drink. She saw it a part of a fun and happy life. Yes, there were health gains, but who wants to live longer if life is so rotten?


Lucy’s beliefs about alcohol were making her miserable

The problem lay in Lucy’s beliefs about alcohol. She believed

1)    Alcohol makes you attractive

2)    Alcohol makes you successful

3)    Alcohol makes you cool

4)    Alcohol provides you with a better social life

5)    Alcohol transforms you into a rebel

6)    Alcohol helps you deal with stress


Lucy’s beliefs about alcohol were wrong

When you look at each of Lucy’s beliefs you can see they are actually incorrect. Lucy realised they were lies. For example

  • Alcohol does not make you more attractive. In fact who has n’t been turned off by a drunken approach?
  • Alcohol is much more likely to get in the way of your success. Whether it’s about being a successful parent (who needs a hangover when dealing with an energetic toddler or driving the teenager to GAA practise.)  Or an important early morning business meeting when you’re tired because you stayed up drinking.


A better social life?

You can argue that in Ireland, social life does revolve around the pub. If you don’t drink it’s get absolutely boring listening to other drunken conversations. But do you really want your social life to revolve around drunken conversations? There are other options, which we’ve written about here


What are your beliefs about alcohol?

So if you’re going to be in control of your drinking, it’s really important to be aware of your beliefs about alcohol and see if they are true. Writing these down can be really helpful. You might also find our course here useful  in identifying your pros and cons of drinking.

Lucy’s full post is well worth reading and can be seen here .They also have a really nice range of clothing  and goods for people who want to show they are in control of their drinking. Click here for their shop.

Stephanie asks did drinking give me breast cancer?

Stephanie discovered she has breast cancer. There was no family history of breast cancer, nor was she overweight. She thought she was doing all the right things. Breastfeeding her children, a good diet, regular exercise. At 47 and a  successful journalist she was very curious to know. Why her?


It’s impossible to know for a single person

Stephanie soon discovered it’s impossible to know exactly what caused her breast cancer. She says it’s like trying to prove that a single weather event was caused by climate change.

One doctor told her

You know who’s at risk for getting breast cancer? People with breasts!”

(Yes, men do get breast cancer too!)


Most of the health risks did not apply to Stephanie

Stephanie even used BPA free bottles for her filtered water. She had regular medical checks  with the Doctor. The only warning given was not to put cream into her coffee in case it blocked her arteries. (the link between these is now discredited though)


She was a social drinker

Stephanie has always put down her drinking on her medical forms. But no one ever said anything other than nod approval that she drank socially. She’s not a heavy drinker, but like most women she knew she had drank a lot of alcohol in her lifetime.


Alcohol causes cancer

Stephanie quickly learned that whether it’s in Everclear or a vintage Bordeaux, alcohol causes cancer. It is carcinogenic. She discovered that in 1988 the World Health Organisation declared alcohol a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it’s been proved to cause cancer. There is no known safe dosage in humans, according to the WHO. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, but it kills more women from breast cancer than from any other. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that for every drink consumed daily, the risk of breast cancer goes up 7 percent.


Stephanie is  shocked

As a journalist Stephanie is pretty shocked. She always stayed up to date on health news. She’d written articles or read articles on everything that could possibly cause cancer. She believed (incorrectly) red wine protected her heart. She discovered there was a good reason for her ignorance.


Malign Alcohol industry influence

Seeing what happened to the tobacco industry, big alcohol worked hard to brand alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle. The only people who were harmed by alcohol were those who drank too much. They’ve encouraged the stigma of being an “alcoholic”- a person who can’t control their drinking.

Us “nice normal drinkers” can’t be harmed by alcohol. People who drink moderately or  don’t fall down blind drunk are not at risk.

Big alcohol funded research centres who produced flawed research and TV documentaries making claims about alcohol being healthy which have been disproved. (Stephanie goes through this in detail here)


Stephanie’s doctors did not her warn about alcohol risks

After she had surgery Stephanie went to see the  dietician recommended by the cancer specialist. The dietician went through all the foods and drinks Stephanie should avoid. Cream in her coffee, eat more vegetables, and avoid processed foods. Not once did the dietician tell her to avoid alcohol. Neither did any of her doctors!


Preventing breast cancer

Drinking less means you reduce one of the key risks for breast cancer. The less you drink the more you reduce your risk.

There are however many risk factors for breast cancer. You can find out more here here

Just this week, the leading  Lancet Journal  in a review of 83 studies  reported that drinking more than one bottle of wine per week increases health risk. Most countries recommendations for low risk drinking are actually higher than this!


Your doctor may not tell you!

So your doctor may have told you your drinking is fine or has not mentioned your drinking.  But that does not mean you should ignore what you are  drinking. You are simply not getting the most up to date picture. My own GP told me, GP’s simply don’t have the time to talk to patients about drinking, when they come in with another problem. The only time he discusses alcohol risks is when a patient comes in and looks for help with their drinking.


This blog post is based on Stephanie  Mencimer’s article in Mother Jones. The full article is well worthwhile reading. You’ll be appalled at how little is being done to protect people from alcohol harm.   Click here to go to the article

If you’d like some quick tips on reducing alcohol harm, click here.

How to find your deal breaker

Last week, I talked about all the reasons why I found it so difficult to actually stop smoking and drinking and how I needed to find my deal breaker.

In this post, I tell you how I actually found my deal breaker.


I wrote down where I spent my time

I wrote down how I spent my time. Sounds simple does n’t it? This is how I found my deal breaker. Get a notebook or use your smart phone to record where you spend your time. If it’s possible take the next 7, 30 or 90 days to track what you are doing.  So many of us think we know what we do on a regular day to day basis. Believe me though, you probably miss big chunks of time that you don’t know about and what you do during those chunks of time.


I didn’t realise how much time I was wasting

For example, when I calculated how much time I spent smoking it had a much more significant impact on me than how much harm it was doing to my health. Why? Because I realised that it took me about ten minutes to smoke each fag. I puffed away about 20 a day. That meant I was sitting and smoking for about 3 hours a day.


I was wasting three hours every day

What was I doing during those 3 hours? Just sitting there, looking out the window. Wishing I wasn’t doing it. All the energy I was putting into making my family’s and my life better and healthier. However I was taking 3 hours every day to undo or destroy it!


I needed money

But here’s the truth about why I stopped smoking. I needed more money. It was that simple. I wanted to get my business off the ground and needed funding.

So one day I was standing in the kitchen. Leaning against the solid fuel stove warming my arse and smoking a cigarette. I asked myself

“where the hell am I going to get the money I need to launch a business.”

I knew the answer would feel uncomfortable as the first thing to go in any financial need is luxuries. Smoking wasn’t a necessity, it was a luxury. If I wanted my business to work and get that money, then the smoking had to stop.


Something had to be different

This time I knew something had to be different, and I had to decide how to to do it. I’d already tried the usual ways as I’d mentioned before. Nothing was working, so this time I had to get psychological about it.


This was going to be the last cigarette

I knew the cigarette I was smoking was going to be the last one. Even though I had about 15 left in the box. So I stood there and enjoyed every last second. Smoking until my fingers burned. I decided there and then there was going to be no big drama. No fanfare about how great I was for not smoking. I wasn’t going to tell a soul I was stopping. It didn’t matter. Anyway, to be honest, I think I would have only got the rolling eyes look from my hubby anyway lol…


I was going to do it, no matter how bad I felt

I just had to decide I was going to do it regardless of how deprived of shit I felt about it.

I walked to the back door and flicked the butt across the yard, watching it fly in the air, then hit the ground, all the while knowing I’d never do that again.


Stop thinking about the hard stuff

Then I got a piece of paper and started writing. My whole family was hanging around. Even my mother was visiting us for a few weeks. At that time, she was a smoker so I hadn’t picked the best time. But I had made the decision, so I was going to stick to it. I needed that money.


I wrote it all down

I filled the page with words that described the images in my head. The money I was saving by not smoking was going to get spent. A new laptop, software and other bits I needed.


My new life existed

I also wrote about what my life is now going to look like as a non-smoker. Playing with my children without being out of breath or having stinky breath. I wrote about my beautiful smelling home with no ashtrays and clean, fresh clothes. I wrote about spending those extra three hours a day gained doing online study and lots of other incredible things that were going to happen.


Everything is created twice

Everything is created twice. The chair you sit on to eat at the table was once a thought in someone’s head, the great thing about visualising anything is

“If you can dream it, you can see it. If you can see it, you can do it.”

So I got pictures of my new life on my kitchen noticeboard. It became a vision board. But I hadn’t heard of a vision board at that time though!  I told myself, if I looked at it every day, it would help me remember why I’m doing it. Guess what happened.


I’ve never smoked since

I’ve never smoked a cigarette since then. It has been many years now since I smoked. Hopefully, I won’t be ever wanting or needing a cigarette again. I have the technology I need to keep my thriving business going. When I wake in the mornings, I can breathe. My husband’s still in my bed but sure you can’t win ‘them all ha!


Find your deal breaker

My deal breaker was both my need to find money and the time I was wasting. Your deal breaker is probably different to mine. The important thing is to find what works for you. So track how you spend your day. Then start writing about the life you would like to have. Finally draw or find some pictures that represent your new life. Keep this somewhere, you’ll see it all the time.


PS If you find this difficult you might find our Pros and Cons of drinking course helpful.

Feck the bread situation, I’m nearly out of wine

Feck the bread situation, I’m nearly out of wine.

Well the snow is making life very different at the moment. Our fantastic front line people still turning up for work. The run on bread. The funny cartoon and memes. I so enjoy our crazy Irish humour. Yet  I noticed so many of our jokes are about drink.

The snow gauge made from a bottle of wine.

The ongoing jokes about having all the essential supplies in with a picture of  bottle of wine.

All the snowmen holding a bottle of wine or a beer can.


Our drinking culture is everywhere

Despite the fact it’s a drug which kills 3 people every day, we treat drink as part of the craic. It’s a product on the same level as bread. Running out of wine is worse than running out of food. Anyone who does n’t drink is seen as no fun and antisocial. It’s part of the reason why it’s so difficult to cut back on drinking


Do you find it difficult to change your drinking?

Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself

“I have to stop doing …

It could be anything from cutting down on how much coffee or alcohol you’re consuming. Or giving up alcohol or cigarettes. Or getting out of a bad relationship that you keep going back to.


This is my last one

Are you like most of us?  You say it again and again.

“That’s it!

This is my last time/one”,

 and every time you say you start you hear yourself say,

“That’s it finally I have this,

I don’t care what happens I’m never going back to doing that again”

only to find yourself back there sooner than you did time beforehand!

Yep, that’s the way I was too (sometimes I’m still like that!)

I’m was like most women, always trying to change my poor habits and improve my life…but often only in my head.

I never actually succeeded in the “change my habits” process for years. For example when I tried to stop smoking.


I had this crazy internal battle with myself

I was always repeating the same words over an over again year after year

“what’s wrong with me,

why can’t I just do this”

I always thought it was the way I was going about it.

The more grief I got from my husband and children about smoking in the kitchen the more I smoked. The more agitated I became.

I did the usual bouts of stopping on Monday, not smoking till afternoon and then finishing my last cigarette before seven pm.

Telling everyone

“I’m quitting.That was it. No more smoking for me, from Monday on I’m going to be a non smoker”

I’d wash all my ashtrays and put them away.


I’d smoke more

About this time I’d start smoking like tobacco was going to be made illegal. My cigarette intake would almost double!

My husband (who’s also an ex-smoker so should have known better!) would start the comments like

”You’re only making it harder for yourself.”

My theory for doing this was

“If I give myself enough of a sickening, I’ll never want to smoke another cigarette again for as long as I live.”

Then on the day, I was to give up I’d always wake with a sore throat, chest and stomach pain. All due to the amount I had smoked over the weekend.


I’d spend hours thinking of excuses

I’d then spend hours trying to think of an excuse to stay smoking. They ranged from.

Today is a busy day, I haven’t time to do it”,

“I’ve been asked to Marys party, I’ll stop after that”  to

“My mood is very low, I don’t want to put too much strain on myself”.

To me these  were all very valid reasons. So I could justify staying smoking.


Right back to square one

So I’d find myself right back to square one again. Feeling completely frustrated. My cough was getting worse. I was very conscious of the tightness in my chest in the mornings that could eventually turn into cancer. It scared me thinking I would die and have so much of my life undone.


I’d already stopped drinking why could I not stop smoking?

So where was I going wrong? I had every reason to stop; I had already quit drinking years beforehand. I had support, nicotine patches, gum, and lots of people I could turn to like the smoker’s helpline.

The Nicorette patches would go on and stay there sometimes for a few days and sometimes for a few hours but eventually come off. The gum I didn’t like and the smokers’ helpline I never phoned. Why? Probably because if I called them, it might mean they would check up on me and then I’d have to lie.


What’s  your  reason for change?

The very first thing you have to do before deciding to change any habits is to understand your reasons for changing. Because that helps you stick to your decision.  Yes, I know that on some level you have made a decision. If you are doing something active and thinking about it but until you actually understand your reasons for change, you’re wasting your time. With me I was was trying to give up smoking for health reasons.


That was the wrong reason for me

But for me personally, the health reason was the wrong one. It was too far off in the distance- even though I was coughing. I needed something different to help me succeed.

Everybody had different reasons for why they want to change some aspect of their lives. It can be smoking, drinking, weight etc.

The trick to success is to make sure your reasons for changing are big enough for you. That they are your deal breakers. Next week I’ll tell you  how I found my deal breakers and succeeded in giving up smoking.

But here’s one last joke courtesy of @WillLeahy


“Ah the irony of a Thursday night in March and all the pubs are closed.

You do realise that this is God’s revenge for that Good Friday drinking malarkey”


Till next week.

Ten clever ways to calm down your stressed out brain

Your stressed out brain is screaming. We’ve all been there. You’re at your desk trying desperately to meet your deadlines. But your mind is like a pinball machine and bouncing from one manic thought to another.

Or your seven-year-old just threw up on the carpet while you’re on the phone trying to reorganise mortgage repayments. At the same time. your teenager walks in excited about the (expensive) school trip to Paris. You haven’t even thought about what’s for dinner yet!

Women are great multi-taskers, but bejaysus sometimes it feels like there is a demanding crying baby with two pans and a dirty nappy, screaming and banging around inside our skulls!


That bottle of wine looks tempting

Some of us will be aware of the bottle of wine in the fridge. We ride out the clock until an appropriate time to open the seal and have a glass or two to calm down our minds. This isn’t the best of ideas.  Alcohol has better effects and is more enjoyable if drunk when your mood is good and you’re not overstressed.

So what do the “sober” women of Ireland use  when they don’t drink alcohol as a relaxant?


Top ten tips

Here are my top ten tips that I’ve used myself (more than once!) to stop myself gaining bald patches or doing prison time for murdering my husband ha!


1.Lay off the Coffee

I use to think at desperate times if I drank coffee like a builder (hot and strong) it would help me focus and finish the task at hand. Coffee is great for getting you started in the morning. But drink too much, and all that happens is you get a tired body and overactive brain and heart. A scary situation if you’ve never had heart palpitations before!


2.Take ten deep breaths if you’re stressed out

At first, I thought, ya, meditation is trendy, and I love doing it in groups. But I always struggle to do it by myself on a regular basis and stick to a routine.

So I started with just ten deep breaths before breakfast. I slowly did more and more, and now I can’t start working without doing it!

So try taking a minute and just take ten deep breaths when you’re stressed out and you feel like your brain is about to explode.


3.Carry a little notebook

As sure as the sky is blue you can count on remembering things or coming up with your best ideas at 4 am. Or while you’re in the middle of cooking dinner. I used to get so annoyed at myself because later when I would try to remember what I was thinking, I’d remember….…nothing.

That would always leave me wrecking my head and trying to backtrack my thought pattern to try and remember what it was. Now, I usually have a notebook nearby. I keep a school copy beside the bed with a few pencils and biros. That way when a thought comes I can write it down and forget about worrying as I know it will be still there in the morning.

It’s the same reason I carry another little notebook in my handbag and glove compartment.

Or if you don’t want to use a notebook try using a note app on your smartphone. There’s lots of free note apps available.


4.Share what’s bothering you

“A problem shared is a problem halved”

Talking to some one you know like and trust can be really helpful.

Just be careful who you tell. Because as soon as you tell someone your problems you’re giving them permission to provide feedback and help with a solution.

Do you really want Janice from accounting, who you’ve only met twice, to know you want to tell the boss to shove her documents where the sun don’t shine!


5.Use a mindfulness app

I like headspace. This is something you can download onto your smartphone. It has been a lifesaver for me, especially on long car journeys with my family when I sense a disagreement about to erupt. I plug in my earphones and listen, oblivious to the arguing going on. It also teaches my kids to sort out their own arguments.


6.Sit on the loo

Listen to your mindfulness app. If that’s not possible stick loo paper in your ears and listen to the sound of your blood pumping around your body.  Count the swooshing sounds and don’t come out until you’ve counted to at least one hundred.


7.Use Grandma’s remedies

Horlicks, warm milk, a bowl of warm soup, stew, or potato mash. Anything that is recognised as old-fashioned comfort food. Modern day comfort foods like fast food pizza or chocolates will not help calm your mind. And every time I reach for modern day comfort foods because I’m stressed out I just feel worse afterwards!

Sure I feel rewarded for the few minutes the food is going down. However the ingredients in some modern foods can make you even more hyper and anxious.


8.Bake, sew, knit….

Just do something repetitive that needs some concentration. You will find getting your hands into some flour (licking the cooking dough from the spoon or bowl) will change your thought patterns.

Or the clicking of needles can be really soothing. Making something using our hands can really help us to relax and soothes our racing minds. Useful when you’re sitting in the car park waiting to pick up child number two from GAA and worrying whether your elderly Mother took her medication to-day.


9.Get up and move

Go for a walk. If you’ve small children put their coats on and pop them in the pram. Or if you’re at work tell your boss you think you’ve left your car lights on.

You’d be amazed how just breathing in the air (cold Irish winter air) can give you something else to think about. I promise you’ll feel great when you get back into the heat!


10.Play your favourite playlist

I stumbled on this once, when I was looking for piano music to go with a video. I checked out Spotify and left it playing. It’s my go-to playlist now when  I’m writing. It stops  the ping-ponging in my mind. Once you’ve choosen the type of music you like Spotify will then create suggested playlists for you. I use “Music for concentration” on Spotify. There’s playlists for different moods or you can create your own playlists.


Hope you find these tips useful. If alcohol craving is making you stressed out, we have some tips here.

Pancreatitis and alcohol. My painful story

Pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or alcohol. Many people are aware that too much alcohol can cause liver damage. However most people are unaware that alcohol can also cause pancreatitis. A  really painful life threatening condition which I’ve have the misfortune to have.


A gallstone wreaks havoc

Regular readers will be aware of my trip to the Emergency department in an ambulance, which I wrote about here.

Turned out I had pancreatitis caused by a tiny little gallstone (which I did not know I had) travelling into my pancreas and wreaking havoc to the extent bits of my pancreas starting dying off. (Called acute necrotising pancreatitis)


Is the pancreas important?

Yes is the short answer. It converts the food we eat into fuel cells. If you can’t digest your food, without medical help you will die. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas which reduces or stops the pancreas ability to process food. So the pancreas is essential.


I can’t breath

As well as the really severe stomach pain (think labour pains if you have ever gone through this), I now can’t breathe. This is really scary as I’ve never had lung problems.  Even after major operations, I’ve never needed oxygen for more than a couple of hours. So now I get oxygen through a tube in my nose.  An unwelcome partner to the drip stuck in my arm.


There’s no magic bullet treatment for pancreatitis

There’s no quick fix for pancreatitis. Treatment supports the functions of the body until the inflammation in the pancreas dies down. In my case blood tests were taken every day and depending on results, extra supplements are put in the drip.


Smelly diarrhoea

With strong pain relief, I’m able to think about eating again. The dietician explains the  low fibre diet I now need. But even sticking to this, every time I eat, about 10 minutes later, I end up in severe pain on the toilet with nasty, vile smelling diarrhoea. Then an hour or two lying on the bed totally exhausted and only for the oxygen drip, I would not be able to breath.


They won’t treat the diarrhoea

The doctor says that although they can stop the diarrhoea, they need to make sure I’m not suffering from malnutrition so they won’t give me anything to stop it. So they start me on Creon tables which replace the enzymes my pancreas is no longer producing.


Learning how to breathe again

The physio starts teaching me how to breath properly again. Apparently the pain and inflammation means  my stomach organs are now pressing on my lungs. I’m breathing far too shallowly and that’s why I’m so out of breath. They give me what looks like a child‘s toy and I have to breath into the tube and try and make the balls go to the top. (See picture above) The first time I can lift one ball a tiny little bit before collapsing.


Despite not being able to breath, I’m told get out of bed.

The doctor tells me, I have to stay out of bed as much as possible and walk at least four times a day. This is vital to me getting better.  All I want to do is lie on the bed. However  I force myself. Between the diarrhoea and total exhaustion I  walk and also use the ball toy at least once every hour.


I feel really sorry for myself but think of Joanne

I feel really sorry for myself, but use a lot of visualisation.  When I walk, I try to believe I’m no longer in a hospital corridor full of beeping medical equipment and really sick people. I imagine myself strong, healthy and walking  in the beautiful Dublin mountains with the wind in my face and  the unique smell of gorse bushes.

I also think of 21 year old Joanne O Riordan  the young campaigner born without any limbs. She’s such a strong, funny, positive, feisty person. She has already helped change people lives by helping to reverse cuts to disability payments. If she can rise above the obstacles in her life so can I.


It takes two weeks

It takes a while before the right Creon dosage is reached. I still have to stay on a low fibre diet.

In total I was in hospital for two long weeks, before finally I was well enough to come home. Even then I can’t  drive. I’m too weak and exhausted.

I go back in 6 weeks later  to have the cause of my misery, my gallbladder removed. They only do this when the inflammation dies down. Otherwise as the surgeon says it’s like vacuuming up bits of confetti and surgery is much more complicated. In my case it was keyhole surgery and an absolute doodle compared to the pancreatitis.


8 months later

8 months later, I still have to take tablets to eat. I’ve improved as I no longer have to take a tablet for a dry snack.  But any meals I have to take two tablets.  Although I‘ve moved off the low fibre diet, I know certain foods will set off the diarrhoea again. No more spicy Indian meals. Even too many chocolate raisins and I’ll be rushing to the toilet.  I hate being so particular about what and where I eat and having to take  tablets in public when I’m in a restaurant.


The doctor tells me I’m doing really well. The mental impact will take a little longer to heal though.


Good medical treatment

I’m lucky that I got really good treatment, doctors, physios, nurses, dieticians are terrific. When I move to the private hospital, the catering manager even discusses what meals will work for me and tells me to scribble whatever I want on the daily menu, they will make it up especially for me. They all play an essential part in my recovery. But it’s sad that private health insurance is essential to treatment dignity, eating and sleeping properly. As I mentioned here I was unable to sleep in the public hospital ward due to staff testing equipment at night.


The future

The doctor says I may have to stay on these tablets for the rest of my life. Most people with a severe case like I had generally do. If I want to come off the tablets, there’s no exact formula and it’s trial and error. He recommends waiting another 2 months before even trying to reduce the dosage.

I also still find I get exhausted really quickly. But for the GP Chinese medicine specialist, I saw I don’t think I’d even have this level of energy.



Things that make a difference

I’m still optimistic, it will just take time and effort. I’m trying to do all the things that make a difference. Like sticking to a mainly healthy diet, exercise, plenty of rest, chinese medicine,  and saying no to work opportunities.

I’m minding my mental health with regular mediation and remembering to remain “mindful”. I try to stay away from negative people and don’t listen to the news as much. I only watch happy or light TV programmes.

It seems to be working and it strikes me that these things are all very  relevant if you’re trying to reduce your drinking.


What about alcohol though?

It’s frustrating the way the same certain questions kept getting asked over and over again. We’re all familiar with different health care professionals asking the same questions 6 or 7 times.

Only once though do they ask about my alcohol use. Even though too much alcohol causes about 25% of pancreatitis cases. As we’ve mentioned before, drinking too much alcohol is not taken seriously in our health care system.

I don’t dare drink alcohol. I don’t miss it. The memory of my illness is still too vivid. Despite my very serious illness, one or two of my friends still don’t like the fact that I don’t drink. I don’t let it get to me.


Got gallbladder stones?

Many middle aged women have gallstones. Some like me don’t even know they have them, because they have no symptoms. Gallstones are the biggest cause of pancreatitis.  After that too much alcohol is the next biggest cause.

So if you have gallbladder stones, staying within the recommended drinking limits is really important.

You can find out more about these limits in our free course here.

If you want to know more about pancreatitis this link here to the NHS is good.