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.

 

PS

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

Rose of Tralee finalist “confesses” addiction problem

Like it or loath it the Rose of Tralee, gets plenty of media attention with one headline stating

“Startling confession from Carlow Rose wows the nation”

the confession refers to an  addiction problem.

 

Rose of Tralee confesses addiction problem

This headline caused much controversy on social media with comments such as this

from Amy Lynam

“Another disgusting headline. 

Confession: the act of admitting that you have done something wrong or illegal @IrishTimes you are contributing to addiction stigma, please stop”

The headline was eventually taken down.

 

What’s the problem?

Well Amy is right.  Confessing to an addiction problem is seen as something shameful. We don’t “confess”  to breast cancer or a wonky elbow.  Why?  Because we don’t blame people for their breast cancers or wonky elbows.

However, you’re probably thinking, unlike addiction, people don’t cause their own breast cancers or wonky elbows. They are responsible for their own drinking though.

 

Drinking is a risk factor for breast cancer

Facts are though some breast cancers are caused by drinking and some wonky elbows are caused by falling on a tennis court.  But thankfully we don’t label these separately and decide the poor sufferer is to be shamed and blamed. So why do we do it with drinking?  It stops people looking for help when they do have a problem with their drinking. Making it worse, not only do we shame people who drink too much we also shame people who are trying to control their drinking.

 

We shame people who try to control their drinking

We’ve a great acceptance of people who drink too much, once they do not admit to having a problem.

“Sure she’s great craic”

“She’s the life and soul of the party. “

But try to control your drinking or not drink at all, and you feel  labelled as boring or you feel pressured to drink to please friends. Or you even  get asked if you’re pregnant. Our atittudes towards drinking are a  total paradox!

 

Rose of Tralee opens a new chapter

So the Rose of Tralee’s bravery was rightly admired and she was even made favourite to win. (She did n’t, that would be a step too far!) You can see her wonderful interview here. However she did not have an addiction problem, her parents had the addiction problem.  She just sadly grew up with it.  So the headlines were even more misleading and no wonder commentators were annoyed and right to be concerned about the poor reporting.  All the media mentioned her parents had a heroin problem, very few of them mentioned they had an alcohol addiction problem first.

 

Don’t let stigma get to you

Whether you just have an occasional problem with alcohol or whether you have a physical dependence on alcohol, it’s really important not to let society’s shaming attitudes towards alcohol  bring you down. It’s not easy as the now sadly deceased social justice campaigner Dara Quigley eloquently puts it

That is one of the unseen struggles of recovery from addiction. A constant battle between what you know is true, a desire to make it out the other side, pitted against a society which views addicts – particularly women addicts – as moral hazards to be contained and controlled.”

Dara’s full  article  can be found here

 

Tell yourself you deserve a better life

As Dara says,

“Tell yourself you deserve a better life”

So if you are struggling with alcohol, beware the constant messages from society  you are less than other people. You are a person who deserves compassion and respect as you deal with a problem.

Every single day, tell yourself  you deserve a better life.

 

Photo courtesy of RSVP

Have a break, have a brainwashing

Leading journalist Jennifer O Connell likes brainwashing herself when she’s travelling home on a train. She pretends she’s travelling first class as she orders her cigarettes from the trolley and starts smoking. She might even have a packet of peanuts as she plugs in her earphones and she starts relaxing in the crowded train.

You’re probably horrified that Jennifer has been so brainwashed into liking cigarettes,  she’s still smoking cigarettes on a crowded train.

Nadine loves her surf holiday

Meanwhile over in the Sunday Business Post, another leading journalist Nadine O’ Regan writes about her super healthy surfing holiday, in a fabulous five star hotel in Fuerteventura. She loves the way the hotel offer her favourite cigarettes at breakfast time from the breakfast menu. All included in the cost.

Melissa thinks her job is in a “blokey space”

Sorcha interviews taste expert Melissa about women smoking cigarettes in the Irish Times. Often Meslissa gets asked

“Are you sure you want that big pack of cigarettes”

“I know from experience that many women are uncomfortable about working in or smoking cigarettes. It’s bro culture.

Things are changing for the better though. This weekend Melissa is the key speaker at a first ever festival in Cork to celebrate women and smoking.

It has not been advertised much. But then with  free publicity in leading newspapers,they probably don’t need to advertise.

Horrified?

Do you think this is crazy?  Women celebrating their smoking. We all know smoking kills and no advertising or smoking in public is allowed. In fact Ireland took the global lead in introducing the smoking ban. A lead that many countries followed.  So you probably believe  Jennifer and Nadine should not be smoking in public places and the Irish Times should not be giving free publicity to a smoking festival.

 

Brainwashed out of smoking

So attitudes to smoking have really changed since our Government rightly took action  way back in 2004. The Government estimate over 3,000 lives were saved in the first 10 years of the ban.

Next month, is the last time you will see cigarette boxes with branding, colours and logos.  After that colourful cigarette boxes are banned.  Most people think this is a good idea. Attitudes towards smoking have changed as a direct result of Government action. Smoking is not “cool” or socially acceptable  anymore.

Brainwashed into drinking

So now in the stories above, replace smoking with alcohol. Jennifer enjoyed a 25cl bottle of wine on the train. Nadine liked the option of the bottle of prosecco with her breakfast and Melissa wants to sell more beer to women.

As we reported previously the alcohol industry is targeting women and these three examples show their efforts are succeeding. All around us we see alcohol shown as a simple harm free relaxing joy. We’re been influenced maybe even brainwashed by marketing that alcohol is just a normal everyday item.

Alcohol is more harmful than smoking

Yet according to the prestigious Lancet medical  journal, alcohol does more harm to the person and people around them. In fact a group of experts concluded that alcohol is the number one most harmful drug. Smoking is only in 6th place.

brainwashing

You can see the full report at this link. So all the action on smoking,  yet alcohol does not even have to be labelled as harmful!

Don’t be fooled by the brainwashing

So give yourself a break. Don’t be fooled by all the brainwashing. If you find the thought of smoking revolting, next time you’re tempted into drinking too much, replace the image of that lovely tipple with an image of a revolting half smoked cigarette dripping ash. And if you’d like our Government to take action and stand up to the alcohol industry, support the public health alcohol bill here.

If you’d like to learn more about low risk drinking, click here.

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

Enjoy your summer drinking without the hangover

Hope you’re enjoying this pretty special hot weather run as we finally see the media start to cover the serious downsides of summer drinking.

 

Ryanair encouraging Summer drinking

Ryanair came under criticism for their ad which suggested getting drunk on holidays is a rite of passage.

Summer drinking
“To all #LeavingCert and #ALevel students: plan your dream summer holiday now so you have something to look forward to,”

Then rather cynically and hypocritically they made a call for booze to be banned from airports. As one headline put it

“Booze up on holidays, but not on our planes”.

It really shows how big companies don’t have our interests at heart. It’s all about making profit no matter what the cost to us.

 

Boozing in the Barge

There was also coverage of a problem in Dublin’s Portobello with crowds of people drinking around the Barge pub leaving rubbish behind and urinating in public. Residents took to barricading the street. More details here.

 

Summer Drinking, Drinking, drinking

RTE Prime Time did a show on balconing in summer climates. This is where a person climbs from one balcony to another or dives from an apartment into a pool. In Majorca alone, this month five people died. Usually the person doing the jump or dive has been drinking  alcohol. You can see the RTE trailer  here with some very disturbing videos

 

Leaving Cert Summer Drinking

This was followed up by a big report  in the Irish Times on that summer drinking rite of passage- the Leaving Cert holiday. One teenager described a day’s  drinking. Starting on the 4am bus to Dublin airport, 4 pints,10 plus local beers, a litre of vodka, a  cocktail bottle and Sambuca shots were consumed. Obviously this teenager was unaware of the dangers of alcohol poisoning or the longer term alcohol harm. With this type of drinking it’s no wonder the youngest Irish person diagnosed with alcohol related cirrhosis of the liver was a young girl aged just 18.

 

A chink of light

In this alcohol soaked culture, one good piece of news though, is the Public Health Alcohol Bill has finally got through the committee stage of the Oireachtas. (Irish parliament) Now it goes to Report and final Stage, hopefully in the autumn. This bill is the first step in changing the culture around alcohol. For the first time, alcohol will have clear warning labels about the risks to our health. if you’d like to sign a petition to support the bill, click here.

 

So how to control that summer drinking?

A key thing is to make sure you drink plenty of liquid of the non-alcoholic type. At a friend’s event last night, they produced an ice cold jug of water with mint leaves and it was really lovely. Mint is very easy to grow in your garden – preferably in a pot as it can take over.

 

Alcohol Free cocktails

If you’d prefer something with a bit more zing, Lucy has some good suggestions. From a citrus iced tea, to Pina Colada and Virgin Mojito. Full recipes here.

You can also find suggestions on lower alcohol drinks here.

 

Planning an alcohol free holiday?

If you’re going the whole hog, and decide you’re not drinking at all then Lucy’s tips for planning a happy alcohol free holiday will be useful. Click here.

 

Valerie’s top tips on holiday drinking

Or maybe you just want to cut back on your summer drinking. Then Valerie’s tips on controlling your drinking will come in handy and allow you to enjoy your drinking without the hangover. Click here for details

 

Finally a key thing to remember is just like drinking and driving don’t mix, neither do drinking and swimming.

PS

Telling people you’re going swimming later is also a great way to avoid pressure to drink.

 

 

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)

 

Low alcohol drinks can help reduce your drinking

We previously looked at using low alcohol drinks in this post here. In this post, we’ll look at some of the low alcohol drinks actually available.

As regular readers will know we’re big fans of each person understanding and picking the right approach for them. So whether low alcohol drinks will work for you will depend on your individual health, lifestyle, work and social factors. Your own feelings  and enthusiasm for change are also really important.

So whether cutting out all drinks with alcohol or drinking low alcohol drinks is right for you is a decision only you can make.You might find these questions here helpful for making your decision.

Here’s a selection of some of the low alcohol drinks available

 

Alcohol free wines

First up is Torres Natureo White which has 0.5% ABV 

Price is €7.95 – Available at O’Briens WineWineonline.ie, SuperValu , Tesco

Gaby served this wine to her friends without telling them it had no alcohol and they thought it was lovely. She says it is

Fruity and mild, it has flavours of nectarine, yellow plum and a floral touch”

Gaby also reviews a range of low alcohol wines in her very interesting post here. These include

  • Flight Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate
  • Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato
  • Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
  • G.D.Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015

Gaby also tells you how much these wines cost and where you can buy them, so well worthwhile looking at her post here.

 

Aldi Featherweight range

Aldil launched the  Featherweight range which include a choice of Pinot Grigio or White Zinfandel in Irish stores in January. These wines retail for just €4.49 and have half the calories of other wines. Unfortunately they’ve just been withdrawn, I’m not sure why.

 

Alcohol free Beers

Alcohol free beers have come a long way. New beers are launching regularly. However many of them are not available in Ireland. Some beers still taste awful and most people believe they don’t taste like the real thing. But if you’re under pressure to be seen drinking they might be an option. I like  alcohol free Erdinger(alkoholfrei ) but it is very gassy so I can never drink more than one.

Some of the newer beers are getting better reviews.

Heineken recently launched the Heineken 0.0 which has no alcohol.

Also launched recently is a lager- Pure Brew from Diageo which has 0.05% volume. They claim

In independent taste tests, over 70 per cent of people were surprised to discover that they were trying a non-alcoholic beer after tasting it.”

The recommended pub price is €3.50 a bottle.

 

 Other low  alcohol drinks

If you can’t find any low alcohol drink that you like, you might want to try the Alcohol Free shop. They’re getting great reviews online. They sell a wide range of low alcohol drinks including beers, wines, spirits and cocktails. They ship to Ireland with a minimum order of 6 bottles which can be all different. They’ve  put together mixed cases so you don’t even have to choose. Click here for their website.

 

Low alcohol drinks can be a good option

There is certainly still some way to go before the range of alcohol free drinks matches their alcohol versions.  In England there’s a much wider range available with lower prices.

However the newer drinks are worth trying and can be a useful part of your tool kit for reducing your drinking.

If you’d like to find out more about reducing alcohol harm please click here.

Is it your fault if you drink too much alcohol?

Most people believe if you drink too much alcohol, it’s your own fault. While we’re great believers in taking personal responsibility for ourselves, this approach totally ignores the role of society and advertising in influencing us. If society in general took the issue of alcohol harm seriously maybe we would not have been brainwashed.  We would not have grown up with the belief that  drinking alcohol is a normal and essential part of an everyday happy life.

 

The brainwashing starts  when we’re children

The research shows the brainwashing starts early. The majority of Irish children at just eight years old, think being Irish means you have to drink

drink too much alcohol

 

So from a very early age, we see alcohol as being a normal, everyday part of our lives. As we wrote last week, there are no warning labels on alcohol. So we see it, as just a safe every day product. After all, if it was that toxic we’d be told.

 

The pressure to drink is everywhere

Every occasion involves drinking. We see it in the media all the time. Last Monday’s Irish Times front page shows a big photo. The winning Leinster rugby team in the dressing room spraying each other with beer and drinking cans of beer.

All those birthday cards encouraging you to drink more on your birthday. The Prosecco parties for yesterday’s  royal wedding. The communion drinks while the kids play on the bouncy castles.

 

Not being able to drink is a problem

This week, I was talking to a woman going on an important business trip with potential customers. With a heavy cold she said she would not be drinking. Her work manager and colleagues insisted the customers might not enjoy the trip as much. So, she had to be sure to have at least one!

 

People who can’t control their drinking are the problem

So our society loves alcohol and we’re pressurised into drinking. Anybody who attempts to drink less or not drink at all are stigmatised. They are seen as the problem.  To make this situation even worse, as people who realise they have a problem discover, finding help is very difficult.

Despite numerous reports over many years, services to help people manage their drinking are underfunded and have long waiting lists. There is also no independent regulation of alcohol treatment services to make sure they are actually helping people. No clinical audit or look back for them.

 

The cervical cancer screening scandal

Which brings us to the cervical cancer screening scandal. Nowhere is the contrast between our attitudes to alcohol and other health problems more obvious than in the reporting and reaction to the cervical cancer scandal.

Heroic, brave courageous women like  Vicky Phelan    and  Emma Mhic Mhathúna  have come forward. They’ve  rightly called for accountability in how they were treated in the cervical cancer screening. It’s been a top news item for nearly four weeks now. Already the Government has promised action with parliamentary hearings and supports for women affected.

Now imagine if these heroes have come forward and said their terminal breast  cancer had been caused by too much alcohol but this had been missed on screening. It would not be news. There would be little or no sympathy. They certainly would not be seen as heroic.

 

Women who tell their alcohol stories are not interesting

Women like  Senator Frances Black, Alison Canavan and  Valerie Farragher  who have told their alcohol harm stories simply don’t generate the same interest. They‘re not terminally ill. But they speak for the hundreds of  people who are now dead as a result of alcohol harm.  When they speak, there’s an initial newspaper article or two, maybe a radio interview or even a documentary. But then silence. No legislation, parliamentary inquiries or extra supports for them. It’s their fault. They drink too much alcohol.

 

In one month alcohol kills the same amount of  people as  cervical cancer does in a year

We rightly have a cervical cancer screening programme. Cervical cancer kills 89 women a year. In one month alone, alcohol harm kills 88 men and women. Yet there is no alcohol screening programme.

So alcohol harm kills  the same  amount of people in a month than cervical cancer does in a year . Yet we have no screening programme for alcohol. Nor is anybody calling for one.

drink to much alcohol

Would you drink too much alcohol if you knew?

If you had known when you were younger, about all the health risks of alcohol would you be drinking as much?

If your GP asked you about your drinking, when you went for an antibiotic last time,  would you be drinking as much?

So next time, you’re feeling ashamed about the fact you  drink too much alcohol, show yourself some compassion. We’re all influenced by what goes on around us and we grew up in an alcohol obsessed culture.  So it will most likely be more difficult than it should be to get your alcohol drinking under control.

If you’d like to know more about how we’re conditioned into drinking too much, click here.

If you’d like to support a petition to change our culture around alcohol please, click here.

if you’d like to know more about reducing alcohol related harm, please click here.

 

Finding drink friendly friends

It’s difficult to find drink friendly friends. As we’ve often discussed, Irish social life revolves around drinking with friends and family. When we reduce our drinking we can find friends and family  don’t like it.  Most people are unware  we’re all drinking  so much as you can see from the image below.drink friendly friends

So it can be difficult to find drink friendly friends. Friends  who are okay when you drink less and don’t nag you into drinking more.

 

What do you need?

There’s more opportunities if you can be around people who drink themselves, but are not concerned  how much  you drink. However depending on your own situation, this may be too difficult in the early days of reducing your drinking. If this is you, then staying away from pubs/drinking buddies is a must. It’s probably  only temporary, until you feel stronger saying no. So understanding what’s right for you at this point in time is critical.

Meeting people away from pubs or nightclubs, you are more likely to find people who drink less.

 

Volunteering anyone?

Volunteering can be a great way of meeting new people without going into a pub.

If you have children, getting involved in the local school parents committee can be a great way to make new friends.

On Volunteer Ireland and Boardmatch Ireland you’ll find lots of opportunities. These range from working online at home (useful if you’re a carer or parent with young children) to organising or supporting events or even office work.

At Activelink, you can sign up for a weekly e-zine of volunteer opportunities.

Volunteering in an area you like can be a great way to build a happy life, develop new friends and get experience of a new area. The research shows people who volunteer tend to be happier.

 

Learn a new skill or hobby?

It’s never too late to learn a new skill, take up a hobby or return to education. Many community colleges offer short night time courses.

Aontas is a great starting point for Irish adult learners. There’s also lots of free online courses available from the likes of Alison and Coursera. Many of these online courses have online discussion groups which can provide great social support.

 

Alcohol Free events

A new alcohol free social scene is developing in Dublin and is moving throughout the country. Funky Seomra has alcohol free dance events in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Sober slice can be found  here

 

 

Join a choir

Research shows joining a choir can improve your mental and physical health and helps make new friends. The new type of community choirs means you don’t even have to have a perfect voice just be able to hold a note. There are even choirs for people with Parkinson’s disease. If you don’t think this works check out RTE’s choir of the ages.

You can find a listing of choirs in your area  here

 

Meetup.ie

Meetup.ie  is a very useful website for  bringing groups of people together in real life. There’s groups for different interests, like Yoga or cooking or even over 40’s singles and separated. You can even start your own drink friendly meeting group.

Girl Crew has lots of social events throughout the country, helping women to meet other women.

 

 

Do Irish people make it difficult to be friends?

I read somewhere that Irish people are very friendly on the surface but actually getting to know Irish people is very difficult. There’s some truth in this according to an Iraqi friend. So you will need to have patience and realise it takes time and lots of meeting up before people actually become friends. Also don’t rely on just one or two people. Try to develop friendships with different groups of people.

 

Friends from abroad

I’ve noticed that people who have moved here from abroad are more available to go out and be friends. Possibly because they don’t have the same extended family here to keep them occupied?

Friends from abroad are generally more drink friendly.They don’t have the same drinking culture, which is another added bonus. I still remember my Iraqi friend’s wedding. No drink at all, but the craic was mighty.

 

Take action

If you do have to stop seeing drink toxic friends, it’s really important you develop a drink friendly group of friends. After all if you’re having fun with friends, it makes it easier not to drink too much. It will take energy but it’s well worthwhile making the effort.

 

 

When toxic friends make for toxic drinking

Have you ever had a really bad toxic drinking experience as a result of a toxic friend? You’ve been trying to reduce your drinking, but allowed yourself to be seduced into drinking as I was here?

Many people who have tried to reduce their drinking probably have had this experience. We’re told we’re

“No fun”

“You’re boring, for not drinking”

 

Living in a toxic allogenic culture

The reason we get this harsh attitude from friends is we’re living in a toxic alcogenic culture. Alcogenic means heavy toxic drinking is normal.

As Ann Dowsett Johnston says

“We live in an alcogenic culture, awash with cheap liquor, where drunkenness is normalised..

We’re swimming in an ocean of cheap alcohol. Our children are in trouble. Women are too. We’re medicating what ails us with our culture’s cheapest drug. And as a culture, we’re in deep denial.” (Link here)

This culture is so strong that even at events for doctors and nurses on public health, you can buy wine at the welcome receptions.(Link here)

 

Paddy’s Day makes it worse

Paddy’s day makes this sense of being an outsider for not drinking heavily worse. The level of drinking has got so bad the Gardaí even issue warnings not to spoil the day.

Thankfully we’re seeing some chinks of light in this toxic culture. Examples include

Nation currently caught between embracing drunken stereotype or only having a few

Public told to re-evaluate Paddy’s Day Piss up Plans in Event of grand slam win

Young Michael Fry’s Sean Nos send up. The Minster for Cans denying that he does not like drinking

Foil Arms and Hogg’s video at the Patrick’s day parade with the 10 year old being told to drink.

 

We need to feel connected

After air, food and liquids, the need to feel love- to feel connected to other people is essential. We know that loneliness- not having regular connections to people is a greater risk factor for poor health then even smoking. In England they’ve even appointed a Minister for loneliness.

This is why it is so difficult to go against the social norms which is to drink heavily. So looking at the comedy links above can help us feel less isolated when we feel lost from our friends for drinking less.

 

Friends may not like us drinking less

We’ve talked previously about how to say no when friends keep pressuring you to drink. But maybe the problem is bigger than simply saying no. What if the only thing you have in common with your friends is drinking as Lucy discovered?

This is pretty tough. At the very time we’re trying to get our drinking under control, we find our friends don’t want us to have a healthy lifestyle. It can really feel like rejection. If we’re also feeling guilt or shame about drinking it can leave us feeling pretty low.

 

What to do?

Ask yourself a few questions

  • Have you anything in common with these friends other than drinking?
  • Do you enjoy their company when not drinking?
  • Are they likely to keep nagging you if you’re not drinking as much as them?

If most of your answers are no, then sadly you may have to accept these people are not able to provide the friendship you need.   Don’t blame yourself for this though. The problem is with your friends not you.  Allow yourself to grieve and feel sadness over this, that way you’ll be able to move on.

 

What next?

After you’ve accepted the loss of your friends, it’s time to take action. After all, those hours spent toxic drinking now have to be filled as well. Lucy has some tips on this.

In our toxic alcogenic society it can be hard to find other friendships. So next week we’ll have some tips on this.