Saying no when friends want you drinking

Last week we wrote about Irish society encouraging us to drink all the time and how hard it is  saying no to drink. This week we give some thoughts on how to say no when under pressure from friends to drink.


What situations will put you under pressure to say no?

It’s much easier to say no when you’ve thought about the situation when you’re going to be under pressure to stay no.

Every situation is different but what is really important is that you have confidence in saying no.

So practise at home how you are going to say no.


Try out different ways of saying no

“No, thank you. I’m not drinking this evening.”

“No, thank you. I don’t drink.”

“No, thank you. I have to drive my friends  home.”

“No, thank you. I have to drive myself home.”

“No, thank you. I’m not thirsty at the moment.”

“No, thank you. I am still recovering from a cold.”

“Thanks, but I’m pacing myself.”

“Thanks, but I’m still hung over from last night.”

“Thank you for the offer, but I’d really rather not.”

“Thank you, but no. Perhaps another time.”

“I’m fine right now, I may take you up on it in a little bit,”

At this time of the year you can even say

“No you’re grand, I’m off it for Lent.”


Avoid long explanations

Don’t get sucked into long explanations of why you’re not drinking unless you find it helpful to talk about your drinking. You’re more likely to give in to having a drink if you start debating your choices.


The broken record strategy

 Many people find the broken record strategy is useful.

This is where you just keep repeating yourself. You might say something like,

“I hear you but no, perhaps another time.”


Make a joke about not drinking

Often humour can be a great way to avoid getting caught in an argument. Examples  include

“I don’t need to loosen up. I just got it together.”

“I’m saving my brain cells for science so I can’t.”

“I have to perform brain surgery in the morning”

“I’m pregnant with Benedict Cumberbatch’s baby”

More examples include

“No thanks, the last time I drank, I stole the person’s wallet who served it to me!”

“No thanks, I’m allergic to drink…I break out in handcuffs when I drink”

Or as Lady Nancy Astor said

“One reason why I don’t drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time”


More help available

We’ve more helpful suggestions in our  free podcast on saying no, which you can listen to here.

Do our friends make drinking less, easy?

People often tell us how difficult it is  drinking less in Irish society.  Sinead  was screamed at

“You’re pregnant”

by her friends.   Beanyneamy was told

“You’re Irish and you don’t drink?”

So our friends can make drinking less, difficult. But are things changing?


Is our drinking culture changing?

For a few years, it appeared there was a trend towards drinking less. Our alcohol drinking was going down from the crazy highs of the Celtic Tiger. But in 2016 our overall drinking went up by nearly 5%.

drinking less


These figures are from the Revenue Commissioners so they don’t show whether the number of people not drinking at all are going up. More Irish people seem to be going public on not drinking at all though.


Aoife McElwain’s story


drinking less

Aoife wrote about her crippling hangovers and anxiety which finally convinced her to remove alcohol from her life. She had a job and relationship and did not see herself as an “alcoholic”.  But she felt her life would be better without it. She found the first year very difficult and saw a therapist. But 5 years on she sees it as the most  important life change she has made and her life is so much better.  You can read her story here. Fair play to you Aoife.


Alison Canavan’s story

drinking less

Alison Canavan the well-known model went public on her alcohol problem last year.

She states

We’re kind of brainwashed into thinking we need alcohol in social situations and to have any kind of personality at all.  The whole thought of giving up alcohol to me when I knew it was a problem was, do I have a personality?  Party Ali was a real identity, especially abroad.  It was a badge of honour, ‘Canavan is Irish, and she can drink us under the table’.”

Alison said she never connected her drinking to the depression and anxiety she was suffering and the medication she was taking for those illnesses.

Although she found giving up alcohol very lonely, now Alison runs events to help people be happier in their lives and would never go back to drinking.

You can see Ali’s inspiring video where she talks about giving up the alcohol here and find out more about Alison  here.


Aisling Keenan’s story

drinking less

Aisling Keenan has never drunk. It never appealed to her. She finds it tough being a non-drinker. People look at her a “little bit peculiar”. She gets very personal questions from strangers. They ask her why she does not have a drink in her hand. These strangers have to find a reason why she does n’t drink.

“Is she mentally unwell or is she a former alcoholic?”

They become suspicious of her. Maybe she’s listening to them too closely. She might remember what they said when drunk and throw it back at them the next day.

It’s well worth while listening to Aisling’s insighful radio interview here


Do friends make drinking less, easy?

From what we’re hearing the answer has to be NO. Our attitudes towards drink, encouraged by advertising mean we see booze as essential to happiness. We dislike people  drinking less unless they’re pregnant or “alcoholic”. So if you’re thinking you want to drink less, be prepared for friends reactions. Next week we’ll have a podcast on this.


Will we look back in horror?

Future generations will look back in horror at our current attitudes towards alcohol. Recently we were all horrified at the way Joanne Hayes was cruelly  mistreated at the Kerry babies tribunal 30 odd years ago. The Government has now apologised to her.

In the future we will be scandalised we allowed such a dangerous drug to be advertised and sold with no health warnings despite 3 people a day dying from alcohol harm. Will we apologise to the 270,000 children suffering every year as a result of parents drinking?

Hopefully it won’t take 30 years for change. Brave people like Aoife, Alison and Aisling are  leading the way.


Be part of the change

Next week we  have the Public Health Alcohol bill coming back before the Dail. While this bill won’t solve all our alcohol problems it will help change attitudes. As we wrote here the Alcohol industry has been out in force and already the bill has been watered down.

So if you want to tell future generations you tried to change things, sign our petition or email your TD’s directly here.

Don’t despair if you’ve failed to stop drinking in dry January

So perhaps at this stage you’ve failed to stop  drinking in dry January. So now you’re feeling very low and know you’re a failure. This is often called “stinking thinking” because it’s a way of thinking that means you think you’re a failure at everything.


You are not a failure

The very fact that you actually tried to stop  drinking in dry January means you’re on the right track. Unlike the vast majority of Irish people, (see picture below) you’re actually aware you need to manage your drinking. So give yourself brownie points for knowing this and actually trying to manage your drinking.

stop drinking in dry january

The road to success is paved with a thousand failures

Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb had 1,000 failures before he finally succeeded. His teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything. He kept going because he told himself every failure was a step on the way to success. No stinking thinking for him. So see this failure to stop  drinking in dry January as a step on the road to eventual success in managing your drinking.


What’s your next step?

So to avoid stinking thinking, your next step is to figure out what you can learn to help you manage your drinking. So think back to the time before you drank too much.


Were you thirsty or hungry?

If you were thirsty or hungry this can lead us into drinking too much. So make a plan to always have tasty drinks or snacks easily available.


What were you thinking?

What were your thoughts when you started drinking?  Were you thinking a drink would make you feel happier?  Or often if we’ve been drinking too much, when we stop, we start remembering past events. We may have done or said things we’re ashamed of, so in order to get away from these thoughts it’s easier to drink.  Remember though only bad people don’t feel guilty or ashamed of things they do. So that’s not us.


Take action to change things

Once you’ve identified what you were thinking, you can then take action. For example, you can put a post- it reminder in a place where you’ll see it saying

“You’ll feel happier when you lose 2 pounds this week”

It works better if it’s a positive reminder rather than a negative. So no to

You’re too fat, manage your drinking!


How were you feeling?

Ask yourself how were you feeling before you drank?  Very often we drink too much because of our feelings. We can even be so numb we can’t understand what we’re feeling. Here’s 10 handy tips if this is you.


Did you have a craving for drink?

When we give up alcohol we can often feel a craving or urge to drink. These are caused by triggers. Valerie has some great tips on managing triggers and cravings here.


Don’t despair if you’ve failed to stop drinking in  dry January

It takes a lot of time and energy and action to manage our drinking. We live in a society which says alcohol is essential to being happy and then blames anyone who feels they have a problem with drink. (Read more here )

So once you learn something from Dry January, you’re on the path to success. That’s what Tara found. You can read her story here.

7 reasons why Dry January is worth trying

In England, a massive 5 million people take part in Dry January. It’s where people give up drink for the month of January and give the money they save to charity.

Benefits include

1.Weight loss

We’ve written previously about the calories in alcohol. If you give up alcohol and don’t eat more food you will lose weight.


2.Healthier eating

When we drink we have more cravings – those late night takeaways seem irresistible. Not drinking means less crisps in the pub, less takeaways and an opportunity to understand what foods we really like.


3.Better sleep

Alcohol disrupts your sleep as we describe here. No alcohol means better sleep.


4.You’ll save money

Dry January means you’re not spending money on drink. You don’t have to donate the money you save to charity, you could spend it on a nice treat for yourself.


5.Your mood will improve

Alcohol acts as a depressant for many people.  If this is you, then giving up alcohol will help you feel happier.


6.Many health problems will improve

Researchers found that people giving up the drink for dry January had lower blood pressure and cholesterol. But very often over worked doctors don’t have time to give advice on drinking.

Lucy wrote how health care professionals  ignored the impact of alcohol on her health.

My own experience was doctors did n’t tell me  how medication use can be impacted by alcohol.

So if you have existing health problems, you may be surprised how they improve  by giving up alcohol for a month.


7.Pressing the pause button can help

Dry January, allows us to take a break and actually see what life is like without alcohol. We can see whether life is better without alcohol. Alternatively we may begin to realise that alcohol is a big part of our life and maybe we have a problem with alcohol. Either way doing Dry January can help us gain greater understanding of our drinking.


Planning how you manage dry January is vital

Planning Dry January is essential. Here are some tips that can help.

Top tips for managing alcohol cravings

How to fill the bottle shaped hole

Exercise can help

Why people fail the challenge

Also make sure you don’t have a physical dependence on alcohol. You can find out more about physical dependence  here

Padraig O Moran also has some good tips. He describes how social events can be a real challenge, when we’re not drinking. One of his good tips is if you‘re dreading an event because you won’t be drinking then remember

“If it’s no good without alcohol, then it’s no good”


So it’s not too late to try Dry January. You can download the free dry January app here.

Frances delivers an early Christmas present

On Friday,there was an early Christmas present. The Public Health Alcohol Bill finally passed all stages in the Seanad. It’s not law yet it has to return to the Dail next.

Senator Frances Black is a key person who has constantly driven and supported the bill.


Finding out you have a drink problem

Frances Black is from an ordinary working class family.  A very talented musical family but ordinary in most ways.  Apart from the number of talented singers they produce. Frances herself is a well-known singer.

Many years ago she discovered she had an alcohol problem. Although she was a successful singer she was very shy, felt overweight and very lonely and uncertain in her role as a Mother. She used drink to get rid of all these problems.

She was still parenting and working away when one day she read an article. It opened her eyes and made her realise she had an alcohol problem.


Life after an alcohol problem

Frances has successfully stayed off the drink for many years now. While still performing as a singer she  trained as a counsellor.  She also   set up the RISE foundation to help families of people with substance use problems.

She became so concerned about the problems of society she successfully ran as an independent Senator.

She is really helping to reduce the stigma people with alcohol problems can feel. People with alcohol problems are just like you and me and are not “bad” people.

Frances also shows that life after an alcohol problem can be meaningful and enjoyable. She has turned her problem into a passion to help other people.


Little actions  count

While lots of people and organisations have been involved in campaigning for the new bill, Frances has been a key figure. I was down in Cork and bumped into Frances handing out leaflets. She was asking Cork people to contact the Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin. He is based in Cork and she wanted voters to tell him they support the Public Health Alcohol Bill.

There was no high powered big team of people. No experienced campaigners. Just Frances herself on her own gently asking permission to hand out leaflets. She’s not a politician, but she figured out what was needed.  She took a small action, yet a very  important one.

In making changes whether it’s big societal changes or little changes in our personal lives it’s all the little actions that count. Often we can’t see the effects of all these little actions until much much later. But they count.


Christmas party drinking season in full swing

In the current mad Christmas drinking period it can be hard not to get caught up in it. Gin seems to be the in drink the popular people are drinking this year. Interesting to see the various gin marketing campaigns have definitely worked. Gin has changed from being an old person’s drink to  being young, hip and trendy.

But before you join in, maybe consider one small action you can take that will help you control your drinking and give yourself an early Christmas present.

It could be

Drinking a lower alcohol strength wine

Drinking a glass of water between every drink

Deciding not to drink and drive to the party

Drinking a non-alcoholic drink

Going for a walk

Using mindfulness

Look up the low risk drinking guidelines each day

Find a small action that works for you. You’ll be surprised at the difference it will make. Think of it as a nice Christmas present to yourself.

For more tips on getting through Christmas click here.

Frances will be singing at a number of concerts in January and you can find details here.



Planning Christmas drinking prevents that sinking feeling

It’s that time of the year again when Christmas drinking takes off

All the Christmas ads are already appearing on TV.  The junk mail coming in the door with special offers on Christmas drinks. The invites to sessions and office Christmas parties. All of us trying to control our drinking can find the pressure to take part in Christmas drinking tough.

We’re much more likely to wake up with that sinking feeling of yet another hangover.

Fail to plan and prepare to fail

As Roy Keane famously said

“Fail to plan and prepare to fail”

So our Christmas job list should always include a task to plan how we’re going to manage our Christmas drinking.

What works for you?

A big problem is the perception there is only one right way to control our drinking that works for everybody. So not drinking at all seems to be the only option. That can work for some people.

For other people the pressure of not drinking means they actually end up giving in. Then they drink too much and end up with a hangover.

The only right way is the way that works for you personally

This is different for everybody so we need to understand what works for us.

Good questions to ask are

Should I cut out Christmas drinking totally or can I drink a little?

When am I most likely to drink too much?

Who am I with when I drink too much or am I drinking on my own?

How do I feel when I start drinking too much?

When I’ve controlled my drinking in the past what did I do?

You might find our course Janus useful if you’re finding it difficult to decide.

Decide what you’re going to do

Once you’ve decided whether you are going to drink or not, start planning exactly what you’re doing to do. For example

  • Practise saying no
  • Have one drink and then a glass of water
  • Have a drink that looks alcoholic but is n’t. e.g. alcohol free wines (check out with the venue in advance if they have these)
  • Stick to alcohol drinks with low levels of alcohol
  • Organise a supportive friend to ring you at the Christmas party at a set time saying your child/pet is sick so you have to go
  • Bring your car with you if you know you won’t drink and drive (plan your exit though if you don’t want to drive boozy pals home)
  • Only have alcohol free drinks in your house
  • Plan some enjoyable alcohol free activities with supportive pals

Focus on the positives

Because we’re brainwashed by advertising into thinking alcohol makes us happy. It can be a really difficult time with all that Christmas drinking.

So every day it’s really important to take five minutes every day to think about the positives of controlling your drinking.

Don’t think about it in a negative way as that does not work as well.

e.g. It’s better to think

“I’m going to really enjoy catching up on the soaps in peace and quiet tomorrow morning”

Rather then

“I don’t want to have a hangover in the morning”

Brainwash yourself into understanding you’re not the problem

As we’ve previously written we’re all brainwashed into thinking drinking is normal. So we need to hear opposite views.

I find short videos poking fun at our drink culture really help me to realise I’m not the only one who does not enjoy drinking.

Good videos included

The Irish intervention


I don’t drink poison

Every time I watch these, they really make me laugh. They also make me realise just how mad our drinking culture is.

So plan your approach to Christmas drinking and avoid that stinking feeling.

For more tips on Christmas drinking click here

Bigger wine glasses are making us drink more

Are bigger wine glasses encouraging us to drink more?

Yes, according to a study carried out by the University of Cambridge

They found that people drank nearly 10% more when they drank from larger glasses. They’re not sure why, but think it might be because our view of what we’re drinking changes and we drink faster.


Wine glasses are getting bigger

300 years ago the average size for a wine glass was just 65ml, now your average glass size is 450ml which is a massive 500% increase.

Most of this increase occurred in the 1990’s.

Wine varies in alcohol strength but assuming 12.5% alcohol, a 100 ml wine glass would be one standard drink.

So the old smaller wine glass was less than one standard drink. But now if you fill your average 450ml glass with wine, you’re drinking three standard drinks from one glass of wine.


Wine glasses design

Wine experts believe the shape of wine glasses influence the taste of the wine.

For example, a wider glass is suggested  for red wine as it strengthens the smell of the wine and  a narrower glass is advised for white wine to keep  the white wine  cold.

I took a look at my own glasses and found my small champagne flutes hold 200ml.  but the red wine glasses come in at a shocking 640 ml. I knew these glasses were big. I just loved the design when I bought them but never copped the quantity they hold.


Just one glass and I’m binge drinking

So a full glass of these 640ml monsters and I’m binge drinking. I’m  also encouraging my friends to binge drink whenever they visit because one glass is never enough.

Binge drinking is six or more standard drinks and  these glasses hold six standard drinks.

Now we never fill up these glasses totally, but even if we only half fill them, two glasses in, we’re binge drinking and creating likely health problems for ourselves  in the future.


A quick tip to reduce your drinking

So, I think I’m going to have to stop using these glasses. It seems to be hard to find smaller wine glasses though. So maybe we’ll just use the champagne glasses and accept the differences in taste. None of us are wine experts anyhow.

If you’re trying to cut back on your drinking, why not measure out the wine glasses you’re using at home and see what size they are.

It might help to drink from a smaller glass and put the wine bottle firmly out of sight and reach of the chair you’re sitting in.  That way any time you want a refill it’s more of an effort to get out of the chair and this slows down your drinking.

If you’d like more   quick tips on reducing your drinking click here


PS Know your Bottle sizes as well

The quarter bottle of wine, (187 ml) you buy in the pub is nearly 2 standard drinks depending on the alcohol strength.

The standard bottle of wine (750ml) from the supermarket or off licence can range from six to eight standard drinks.

Interestingly in England some of the supermarkets are now selling bottles which have just  single servings of sparkling wine as reported here



Alcohol free social events becoming popular

If you’re hanging out with friends who drink a lot, alcohol free social events might be just the ticket. I wrote here about how I ended up with a hangover because of pressure to drink and the research shows we tend to follow our friends behaviours.


 One won’t hurt

But if your whole social scene is about drinking with friends, it’s difficult to cut back on the drink. How often have we heard?

“One won’t hurt”

Or “you’re no fun without drinking”

Or arrived back at the table to find another yet drink beside your already full glass.

Or as Sinead found when she stopped drinking

“Are you pregnant?”

The pressure to drink from friends can lead to us drinking more.


A social life without drinking is difficult

So having a social life without drinking can be difficult, and as Irvine found he was much more creative when he did n’t live in Ireland, because he drank less. But things are changing.


Alcohol free social events becoming popular

Alcohol free events can be useful to get you started in developing a new social life without the hangovers and meet a new bunch of friends who like you want to drink less.

And no, it does n’t  mean joining AA. A whole new alcohol free social scene is developing in Dublin and is moving throughout the country.

Some examples include


Funky Seomra

Funky Seomra has alcohol free dance events in Dublin, Cork and Galway. Over 37,000 people have attended events so far. They have no events planned at the moment, but sign up for their newsletter  to hear about their next event.


Sober Slice

Sober slice can be found here. They welcome all types of people, male, female, Irish, International and the aim is to do fun activities sans alcohol.

They do everything from Yoga, interactive cinema where the audience gets to direct the story and board games.


Club Soda

Well established in England, Club Soda is a mindful drinking movement which has many Irish members.

Dublin member Kathryn is hosting their very first lunchtime event in Dublin on the 3rd of September. More details here

Now it can be intimidating going to these events on your own, but the very nice Club Soda people will arrange to meet you in advance so you don’t have to walk in to the venue on your own.

Their website has great help on managing your drinking –everything from low alcohol beers and wines to drink suggestions. Worth checking out. You can also sign up for their newsletter here.


Irish culture is changing

Irish culture is changing, alcohol free social events are  now becoming popular.  So you don’t have to become a social outcast if you want to reduce your drinking!

Finally check out our anonymous  free online course to see if you’re a social drinker or if you’re drinking in a way that will harm you.

Irvine likes a couple of beers, but can’t live in Ireland as it’s too difficult

Irvine Welsh the celebrity film director of Trainspotting likes a couple of beers. He’s in the news again because he’s just produced a new novel “The Blade Artist” and a sequel to his famous movie Trainspotting.

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Irvine recounts his time spent taking a range of drugs and six happy years living in Dublin.  He apparently spent a lot of time flushing drugs down Dublin toilets. Trainspotting fans kept giving him drugs as the film is about drugs! At that stage after three transitions he was no longer taking drugs.


 Irvine likes a couple of beers

Irvine is  now into healthy living, he works out and eats well. Except when he’s in Dublin or Scotland. He finds when he’s in Dublin or Scotland he drinks too much. And he gets less work done.

He told the interviewer

“In Chicago when friends say “Let’s go out for a couple”  They mean a couple of beers, as opposed to a couple of days. They mean two beers and then you go home.”


Binge drinking is normal in Ireland

Irvine’s views are supported by the research. According to the Health Research Board we have the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world. Over 75% of the alcohol we drink is drunk in a binge drinking session.


What can we do to reduce binge drinking?

First, be aware of the number of drinks which are binge drinking. Six  standard drinks or more as you can see in the image below.

couple of beers


Second, sit out a round, make every second or third drink a glass of water.

Third, choose drinks which have less alcohol in them.  For example Low alcohol beers or wines with less alcohol.

You can find plenty more tips on reducing alcohol harm in our free online course here.


Yeah, I’m happy with my place in life

So Irvine now lives in Chicago, it’s

“… Great for me, because it means I get on with more work and drink less”

And he says he’s happy with his place in life.

“If you’d offered it to me back then, I’d have taken it”


We’re losing out

So Ireland loses a great talent because our culture does not accept normal drinking as a “couple of beers”.

Wonder how many other great talents are wasted because we’re drinking too much?


You can see the full interview with Irvine here. (Subscription required)