How will the Alcohol bill affect Irish drinking?

Last week we described how the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which aims to reduce Irish drinking was delayed yet again.

 

Good news at last

Well the good news is this week, after another long winded debate the bill actually passed thought the Dail. There was even a round of applause after the bill passed.

A small number of TD’s attempted to delay the bill yet again. Many with personal connections to the alcohol industry.

 

Reducing Irish drinking

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said:

“This is the first time in the history of our State we have endeavoured to use public health legislation to address issues in relation to alcohol. It is therefore a ground-breaking measure.

“For the very first time in our history we are legislating for alcohol as it affects our health and it is right and proper that we do that.

“We know that we have a relationship with alcohol in this country that is not good, that damages our health, harms our communities, and harms many families,” he said.

“The measures in this bill will make a real difference to change the culture of drinking in Ireland.”

 

How will this affect me?

So how will this affect drinkers?  Well, there will be health warnings on alcohol and alcohol will have to be sold in a separate part of the shop.

The biggest impact though is something called minimum unit pricing.

What this means is the price of alcohol will be related to how strong the alcohol is.

To set the minimum price for a particular alcohol product, you find how much the drink weighs in alcohol strength and multiply it by 10 cent. The Bill uses a specific formula.

 

A bottle of wine will be €7.10

So taking a bottle of wine of 750ml with 12% strength.

That would give

750 *.12 * .789 (figure specified in bill) which gives 71.01.

Multiply this by 10 cents and it gives a price of €7.10

So retailers won’t be able to sell this bottle of wine for less than this. It will mean selling wine below cost  as a discount sales offer can’t happen.

 

A bottle of vodka will be €20.71

Taking a bottle of vodka say, 700 ml and 37.5% strength. This would give

700 * .375 * .789 giving 207.11.

Multiply this by 10 cents gives €20.71.

So this will be the minimum price of vodka. While vodka’s normal price is €25 and upwards, there are often special offers which reduces the price below this. You can even get it free sometimes as seen below.

irish drinking

Check out your tipple of choice

So using the formula you can now calculate how much minimum unit pricing is going to affect you. If you drink mainly in a pub or wine bar it’s unlikely to have any effect. If you normal pay €12 euro for a bottle of wine, you won’t pay more. However all those special deals for low priced drinks will disappear. No more €4 euro bottles of wine which were €12 euro.

 

Minimum unit pricing is pretty clever

A basic law of economics is the lower the price the more people will buy. (Except when it’s something like a designer handbag which has appeal because it is so expensive and exclusive)

So what minimum unit pricing does is encourage people to buy alcohol with a lower alcohol strength because it will be cheaper.

Young people tend to buy the cheapest alcohol because they  have less  money. People with a drinking problem tend to buy the cheapest alcohol because they drink so much.

So now  these groups will tend to buy lower strength alcohol as it will be cheaper. Lower alcohol strength means less harm. So minimum unit pricing is pretty clever as unlike excise duties it targets people who tend to drink too much.

 

Can the minimum unit price change?

The aim of the bill is to reduce Irish drinking to levels suggested by the World health Organisation.

irish drinking

So if  Irish drinking  does not fall, the Bill gives the Minister the power to review the minimum unit price in 3 years’ time.

 

A final word

We got some fairly aggressive emails for our support for the bill.  Shows the level of support for our alcohol culture. But we also got some lovely emails thanking us for campaigning for the bill. So thanks to those people. You know who you are.

 

 

 

Thomas’s top tips if your partner is drinking too much

Thomas is Valerie’s husband. Here are his top tips if your loved one is drinking too much.

Try to understand why

Don’t question the drinking too much, question the reasons behind it.

 

Seek a middle ground

Never demand “you ‘re drinking too much, you need to quit drinking.” It’s easier to seek a middle ground.

 

Don’t hide or throw away drink

Don’t drive yourself crazy looking for bottles in hiding places.

Don’t bother throwing the drink down the sink. It makes it worse. Trust me.

 

Don’t argue when your partner is drunk

Never argue with your partner  while s/he’s drinking or hung over. Mate, you’re flogging a dead horse if you try.  Just let her/him sleep it off first

 

Not all residential rehabs offer mental health care

Stay away from residential rehabs that offer religion in their care plans.

Stay away from  rehab services  that don’t provide mental health care delivered by mental health professionals. (Editor’s note see “rehab, when is it needed“)

 

Trust your own judgement

Trust your own judgement. You know your partner longer than any doctor or specialist. If it looks like they are trying to convince you to do something, you don’t feel is right for you, then don’t do it.

 

Get help with your children

If necessary have a family member move into the home to watch your  children.

If  there’s no family member available, as a very last resort check out the social services.  Preferably with some one who has recently  used your local social services.  Don’t assume they know what they are doing though. I’ve heard both good and awful stories.

 

Get help at work

Talk to your boss if things get bad.  But only if you know, he/she will be willing to give you time off if needed..

Say it’s a mental health problem, not a drinking problem. Bosses are more sympathetic to you going home to care for your mentally ill partner than your drunk partner!

 

Protect your partner from verbal abuse

Your partner  is not an emotional punching bag.  No matter what arguments ye have don’t allow others to speak to him/her like he/she’s worthless. You know he/ she’s not well.  If  he/she had cancer, you wouldn’t allow family members to insult or upset him/her. Addiction is no different and insults will only make things worse.

 

Don’t change your drinking habits to control your partner

If you usually wouldn’t drink at home then don’t  agree to drink with him/her. You might think  you will change his/her drinking pattern. You won’t.  He/She’s emotionally drinking and getting drunk with her/him won’t fix that!

 

Harm reduction can be useful

Look at harm reduction (reducing the drinking)  as a starting point. He/She gets to address her drinking, which often is an  emotional difficulty.  He/She isn’t forced to quit, and you get to take a breath.Win, win.

AA doesn’t work for everyone. That’s only real in the movies or tv soaps. So don’t force it on him/her.

 

Try to agree what is not ok

Try to come to an agreement about what’s not ok.  Drinking and driving. Drinking and calling you or other people. Drinking and getting on facebook talking about their family life, etc

 

 

Editor’s Note

If you liked this, you might enjoy how Thomas coped with Valerie’s drinking.

If you’re a family member affected by a loved one’s drinking you might find the  links below useful.

The Rise Foundation and Family Support Network provide support for families.

A helpful book called Living with a problem drinker from counsellor Rolande Anderson

Valerie, Thomas and their children tell their story of recovering from alcohol misuse in their book

“Come back when you’re sober”

 

 

 

How my husband coped with my drinking

We never thought we were the divorce type.  However alcohol misuse does crazy stuff to your marriage.  The word DIVORCE comes up a lot.

Let’s get honest here, many marriages fail. They fall apart now more than ever for a variety of different reasons. But when you add an alcohol misuse problem to any marriage you have trouble on your hands.

So when I (Valerie) started drinking to numb my depression, it didn’t take long for cracks (that may have already been there) to burst wide open.

 

Drinking is different for women than men

The consequences are different for women who use alcohol to numb or cope with life. We usually drink in a different way. The ladies choosing to drink more at home, while men tend to be more “pub and pals drinkers.”

If you’re a married or in a long-term relationship and you have children, your drinking becomes a problem earlier. Family members are more likely to speak to you quickly about your alcohol misuse than if you were a man. Why?

 

Main caregivers who drink bring everyone down with them

Well, for us it was because I was the main caregiver to everyone in the house.  My drinking brought me down.  I also  brought everyone else down with me, whether they wanted to or not.

When it came to my husband (Thomas), he came kicking and screaming!

 

Thomas says

“It’s so hard for men to know what to do when it comes to their wives drinking. We’re often torn between;

1) trying to understand why she’s drinking like this

2) trying to make sure the family is ok

3) trying to make sure nobody finds out what’s going in in his home.

The pressure to seek a fix to the drinking problem overwhelms our lives. There’s little or no space for us to catch a breath. Having a wife with a drinking problem was like getting a kick in the stomach every day

Fear consumed me daily

Fear overwhelmed me. Fear of looking weak. Fear of losing my wife and children in an accident. Fear of losing my job because I could n’t concentrate properly.  Fear of answering her calls because I was listening to her drunken voice.  Or even worse fear of losing my mind. Was this going to be how it was for the rest of our married life?

 

There is no manual to follow

No manual explains what do when your wife gets drunk on a regular basis.The self-help books only covered men becoming alcoholics. There was never a mention of the woman drinking. How was I suppose to react to the women I shared my life with. Had I done something or missed something that I was expected to do or see. What in the name of God was happening? So when Valerie started to seek help, I was so relieved because soon it would be all in the past and we could get back to normal.”

 

Getting help for my alcohol misuse just made things worse!

Little did we know that seeking help was going to be the start of more problems. In the beginning, it was ok. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Thomas was just happy I had stopped drinking. Four months in, he started to relax and put the whole drinking issue behind him.  He felt confident.  I had found the solution to my drinking problem and it would never return. But it did return and with a vengeance. It came back simply because I was getting help for an alcohol problem when I had a depression problem. It’s a little like giving a cough mixture to a lung cancer patient. It might ease a cough, but the cancer is still growing and spreading.

We didn’t find this out until ten years later.

 

Thomas coped by slowly and silently going insane

“Living with a problem drinker will slowly and quietly drive you crazy. If you’re a man, it will do things to you. It will make you feel and think things that you never thought you were capable of.  It’s the loneliest road you’ll ever travel.

It’s not like you can go to a group and talk it through with other men.  That’s a women’s thing. Women can sit there all night thrashing out whatever it is that’s annoying them. Then they come home feeling all better and heard. It’s not like that for men. We just  take it and get on with it. Well, that’s the way I am.

 

You don’t have time to talk to any one

Anyway, when your wife is drinking a lot you don’t have time to talk to anyone. You’re too busy managing the kids, doing homework, organising dinner. Trying to keep your boss off your back.  Trying to make sure your farm doesn’t run itself into the ground. Sitting in a group talking and listening doesn’t get any of those things done.”

 

Letting go was hard but worth it

When I finally started to get well, it was a slow painful process. I had to start demanding my life back.  Thomas had taken control of everything from the running of our home to money.  It was hard for him to trust me and let go of the control. However the longer I stood up for myself and took back my power the better Thomas’s life got. Soon the pressure of doing too much was taken from him.  Now  he had time to do other things he enjoyed. The fear started to subside.   He cautiously and slowly began to get hopeful about a future for us.

 

Editor’s Note

If you’re a family member affected by a loved one’s alcohol misuse you might find the information below useful.

The Rise Foundation provide support to families.

Living with a problem drinker. a book by counsellor Rolande Anderson.

 

In a future post Thomas will give his top tips for coping with a partner  that drinks too much. Make sure you do not miss it by signing up for our email list here.

Alcohol calms my feelings

People pleasing. Not wanting to miss out on the fun. Restlessness. Overthinking. Scared to be me in company. Scared to be me alone. Frightened of offending someone. Feeling on the periphery of everything. Alcohol calms my feelings and makes it easier.

 

Alcohol softens the awkwardness

For these and many other reasons, I used to consider alcohol a convenient and acceptable drug. I used it to soften the abject awkwardness I experienced in certain social situations, and to feel less lonely during evenings at home when I couldn’t face human company and yet struggled to feel content in my own skin.

 

Realising I was different helped

There have always been aspects of the world that I don’t understand and that have resulted in me perceiving myself as different, slightly askew from the norm. I have, through trial and error, worked out that I am not what you might call ‘mainstream’. Somebody recently described me as ‘eccentric’ – a label that I would never have used but one that triggered a light bulb moment. It dawned on me that others might see me in this way too, and perhaps the perennial doubt I’ve always had about fitting in wasn’t just in my head after all. I was silently relieved.

 

A round peg in a square hole

For a very long time – too long a time – I tried desperately to squeeze my metaphorical foot into the glass slipper, a round peg in a square hole, moulding my personality to suit the requirements of others. But I never found it very easy unless I was drinking. Booze is a highly effective leveller and  alcohol calms my feelings.  And so subsequently, when I stopped drinking five years ago, I discovered that all the characteristics I’d taken for granted as being inherent to me – social butterfly, chatterbox, party animal – simply vanished like a puff of smoke.

 

Nights out with people I’d nothing in common with

Reflecting on all the things I’ve done throughout my life, there have been many occasions when I haven’t been true to myself, and many nights out that I’ve endured with people I had nothing in common with and who I didn’t, truth be known, actually want to spend time with. What I really love to do, the stuff that makes me feel like me and fills me up with excitement and reassurance that I do fit in somewhere – is the stuff that nowadays I aim to seek out wherever possible, instead of just waiting for it to land on my doorstep.

 

Be selective

It has dawned on me that there is a way to experience contentment and happiness on a fairly constant basis; it requires having one’s ‘rubbish filter’ turned up to the maximum setting. Don’t subject yourself to things that annoy you or make you feel uncomfortable. Do subject yourself to stuff that you love, that makes you feel amazing, that draws you close to like-minded people who reflect your own values. Be selective: the world has far too much to offer for any one person to experience it all, so don’t try to. Just pick out the best bits – for you.

 

Editor’s note

In Ireland, we find many clients report  “alcohol calms my feelings”  and this makes it hard to cutback on alcohol. We’ll have a  course on this soon, so sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out.

I once felt drawn to other big drinkers

Quitting drinking may result in you radically reassessing the people you want to share your life with. Of course, there is a big MAY in that sentence, and removing booze from your daily existence might not impact on your choice of partner or friends. But it could do, and it definitely had that effect upon areas of my life.

For me, quitting drinking turned out to be so much more than just living alcohol-free. Becoming sober was ultimately a truth mission. Alongside the eradication of my almost daily habit of getting wasted came an absolute need to cut out all the rubbish from my life. Sober, I could no longer lie to myself about what, or who, was making me happy.

I’ve shed a few friends over the last four years

I’ve shed a few friends over the last four years, but I’ve also gained some. And the friendships that I’ve made whilst sober are real, deep and enduring. They have cast a light on some of my older relationships that now appear fickle and shallow, bonding that emerged entirely out of a shared love of liquor and little else.

Friendships that arise out of alcohol-free association are, essentially, formed in truth. Shared interests and beliefs are crucial as social glue because there is no longer anything present to smooth away deep incompatibilities.

Dull when you are sober

Socialising with people who enjoy getting drunk is

a) dull when you are sober and

b) dangerous in terms of pulling you back into a heavy drinking lifestyle.

I was lucky in that my partner when I became alcohol-free mostly refrained from drinking in the house, and even when out socialising did not drink to excess. But I’m certain that I would’ve found those early weeks and months more of a challenge should I have been confronted with drunkenness routinely and at close proximity.

I once felt drawn to other big drinkers

Notably (and helpfully) just as I once felt drawn to other big drinkers, now I seem to have a finely tuned radar for seeking out people who are either completely booze-free or who don’t drink to excess.

I have come to realise in the last few sober years that as human beings we are such intricately woven creatures, with incredibly accurate instincts and intuitions. Alcohol, when consumed regularly and in large volumes, obliterates our sense of emotional balance and internal order, and consequently renders us incapable of making rational judgments in our lives. We pinball, make bad decisions, act unreasonably, and often lack the ability to behave appropriately in given situations, and all of this impacts on our relationships. Conversely, when sober, relationships can be nurtured with thought and consideration, and are built upon solid foundations of true feelings. We are far more likely to be pulled towards people with whom we are truly compatible and who allow us to act in a manner that is uncontrived and real.

Shedding dead wood

Becoming alcohol-free may require the shedding of some dead wood in terms of our social and personal lives, but this is a reflection of a more honest approach to responding to who we really are and what we, as individuals, fundamentally want out of life.

 

I was one of life’s victims

For many years I perceived myself to be one of life’s victims. In my mid-teens, I rather warmed to the notion that men were drawn like magnets towards women who were a little emotionally fragile. I was physically weak as a teenager too, often allowing days on end to pass by with barely so much as an apple going down my neck in the name of sustenance (together with numerous pints of beer, of course). But, even once I’d resumed normal eating patterns the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, the victim mentality remained a constant in terms of my non-physical self.

I never found the guts to confront my problems head on

I never found the guts to confront my problems head on, but instead relied on the boyfriend I had at any given time to bail me out. Flat tyres, falling-over drunk, running out of money, encounters with violent and destructive men. Whichever disaster I happened to be caught up in, I could not seem to muster the courage to deal with it myself. Heavy drinking was a further manifestation of my deep-seated desire to be protected. Becoming so inebriated that I was no longer able to exercise self-care meant that those around me were routinely forced to pick up the pieces.

I started soul searching

This cycle of negativity continued throughout my adult life until the first year I spent as a non-drinker, a period in which I finally began to conduct some much required soul-searching in an effort to put things right.

Aged thirty-five, I was acutely aware of how little self-reliance I possessed. As the alcohol-free months turned into years, I steadily built up feelings of self-belief that had been so clearly lacking previously. When I re-examined my past romantic encounters and (with brutal honesty) assessed my own patterns of behaviour that had frequently wandered into ‘mentally fragile’ territory, I could see how unsettling and miserable those relationships had been.

I thought I was  a feminist

In my late teens and early twenties I was downing pints and playing pool in the pub on an almost daily basis in the misguided name of feminism. I truly believed that succumbing to such activities propelled me towards equal status with the men. And in some ways, maybe it did – but rather than elevating me to a positive position of parity with the opposite sex, my behaviour merely dragged me down to the low expectations and restricted lives of men who had become defined by their alcohol consumption. It was not feminism as I see it today.

I’m no longer frightened of my own  strength

Now I’m forty. I’ve come a long way from the insecure, unhappy and confused girl I was at sixteen. A striking difference in who I was then and who I’ve become is that I’m no longer frightened of my own strength; the strength it took to conquer a dependency upon alcohol; the strength it took to plough through the mire of divorce; the strength it took to be a single parent for many years; the strength it took to beat tenacious demons that undermined my self-confidence and frequently led to me hating myself; the strength it took to finally regain control of my life; the strength it took to truly like myself.

These days, I don’t overly rely on anyone. Yes, I have wonderfully supportive friends and family who I can count on, but at the end of the day, when the proverbial hits the fan, I am my own rock. It’s who I am now.