LoSo, Understanding your safe drinking limit

Understanding your safe  drinking limit

By the time I had got to the end of my drinking career the only thing that a  safe drinking limit meant to me was

“Not getting caught with the vodka filled water bottle that I carried around in my handbag!”

I knew about units.  That a person shouldn’t drink any more than “x” amount of units but I didn’t understand it.

I had left school with a very limited ability to do math. I feel I was about 5th class level in 5th year. For anyone who isn’t in the Irish system I had the maths ability of a 10-year-old when I left school.


It was confusing, like looking at a foreign language.

So, rewind to when my drinking started. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me it was very confusing because there was so many numbers involved.  I could look at a page in a magazine or on a poster in my doctor’s waiting room. It  told me how many units of alcohol I should stay below in a week but it was like looking at a foreign language.

There was numbers, units, glass sizes, bottle sizes, different units in different alcohol drinks. Some of the more detailed charts gave numbers involving how long it took a women of a certain age to absorb alcohol, body fat percentages etc. This combined with   your drinking  to avoid causing damage to your body.


It overwhelmed me

It was all too mathematical and it overwhelmed me.  Whenever I looked at those charts I felt that I was stupid because I didn’t understand them. If they were out in public for everyone then everyone else must be able to understand them…right? …..WRONG!

I have since discovered that women around my age (47) or older that went through school often left with low maths skills. I think  this happened because it was believed that many young country Irish girls would never need much maths.  We were going to be wives and mothers and so long as we had the basics then we were allowed to pass through from class to class.

So understanding alcohol unit charts posed a big problem for me.


The sex in the city syndrome

Remember my drinking started at a time with a lot of misinformation and mixed messages were coming at me from all sides.

There might be a TV advert telling me to cut down to a certain level of alcohol per week. This was shown while I was watching a soap programme where all the ladies drank a lot all the time. They   still worked and lived in fabulous houses with partners. Or I’d watch   a movie where ladies had cocktails most nights at dinner and always had great waistlines, great hair and makeup and awesome careers.

I now call this sex in the city syndrome!


Mixed messages

I would hear mothers at the school gate talking of women who drank too much. Then I would hear other women in a different group making light of heavy drinking at the weekend and how it’s good for us to let our hair down.  So with so many different messages and the need to do maths was it any wonder I was confused?


No talk of liver disease

Oddly enough I hardly recall any talk of liver disease as this was considered a “mans” condition. The thought of damaging my liver never crossed my mind. I went through about 8 years of rehab, hospitalisation and AA but I was rarely told that I could have liver disease because I drank too much.

The one and  only time I was confronted with the possibility that I could have liver damage was in my last rehab when 2 jars were passed around the room.  One containing a healthy liver and one an alcohol damaged liver.  When I heard that they were from two women I was shocked!

That was in 2005 and since then liver damage has continued to rise in Irish women at an alarming rate. The Health Research Board recently reported a huge increase in liver damage

safe drinking limit

Luckily for me I escaped the liver damage. I’m not sure how or why because the way I drank did my liver absolutely no favours but here I am, still alive and with a functioning liver….at least for now!


Units are gone, standard drinks are in

Anyway going back to the units and a safe  drinking limit I still never understood them until I started working side by side with Carol at LifeWise. She totally understood my difficulties around maths, units, measurements and all other number related images and she took that on board designing the easy to read charts in the video that follows this introduction.  Units are now gone and it’s now all about standard drinks.


There is no safe drinking limit

The other big thing is the experts are now saying there is no such thing as a safe drinking limit. There’s only low risk drinking limits. This is because earlier studies showing there were benefits from a daily glass of wine were wrong.  Aargh….

These drinking limits can also be lower if you have problems like high cholesterol and depression.

Carol explains more here


This  video makes it easier

Now I suggest that you watch the video once a week for several weeks so you become familiar with the words and images. These are the latest recommended limits from the World Health Organisation and the HSE.   If you can become familiar with knowing how many drinks is ok at dinner or out with your friends, then you will start to retrain your mind with new healthier drinking patterns.

Remember also you are a role model if you have children or younger  people that live with you. You can have a positive influence on them if you are aware and practicing to the best of your ability low risk drinking habits. Enjoy the video and I’ll see you in the quiz section afterwards.


Key Takeaway

There’s no such thing as safe drinking, only low risk drinking.

Up to 11 standard drinks is the maximum recommended for women, with no binge drinking and 2 alcohol free days.


PS Do the quiz it really does help

Don’t worry the short quiz is totally private and confidential. You’re doing it to help you really understand the  drinking limits.  Unlike school  there is no pass or fail mark reported. Answering the easy multiple choice questions  help you  to understand low risk drinking and research shows it really does help

Lesson tags: standard drink
Back to: Know your safe drinking limits (LoSo) > Low risk drinking

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