Monthly Archives: November 2013

Day 60

My heart is smiling at 60 days.  To mark the occasion my ‘f**k you wolfie’ bracelet arrived today.  It is now firmly in place on my right hand wrist, which is my drinking hand, just  in case I mistakenly picked up an alcoholic drink 😉

Edited to add a picture of said bracelet

d--temp-fuckyouwolfie1

Jumping up and down on my soapbox!

You’ll have to forgive me as I am a little fired up today and am about to express a bit of a rant!  I’ve spent the day in smoking cessation training, which is the UK public health universal health promotion programme implemented in 2011, aimed at encouraging and supporting all people to stop smoking.  It is a fantastic resource that is promoted in all health environments whether hospitals, GP surgeries or community and supermarket pharmacies.  I should know how good it is as this was how I finally quit the weed – with the use of nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural change support.

So many of the tips and tricks I learned when giving up smoking have been invaluable in quitting the drink.  And therein lies the rub.  If I want to give up smoking I am inundated in support options from the NHS whereas with drinking there is very little health promotion or support options until my drinking becomes very problematic and basically a physical addiction.  There are excellent targeted support services once that happens but nothing to support me to stop it reaching that point.  I am pretty sure that all the alcoholics I cared for on the ward where I worked didn’t take their first drink and intend to end up where they did.  It is such a ubiquitous substance which is perceived by most as benign and almost healthy (the benefit of a glass of red wine a day for decreasing risk of heart disease springs to mind).

It would be relatively easy to use all the materials, staff and services that have been developed to support giving up smoking for supporting drink reduction too as so many of the principles are the same because they are both harmful addictive substances.  Smokefree, the UK programme, is aimed not at harm reduction but at complete stopping which is understandable seeing as tobacco is associated with most cancers.  The equivalent alcohol programme needn’t be an abstinence policy but a health promotion harm reduction policy.

What I have to bear in mind though is that Sir Richard Doll established the link between lung cancer and smoking in 1950 and it has taken until now for public health to get almost fully behind this known fact – so only 60 years!  Is it going to take as long again for the risks and harm of alcohol to be addressed in the same way?  I hope not as I have young children and am optimistic that things like the internet will speed up awareness, sharing of knowledge and the change process.

Day 59 and rant over 🙂

Monday Morning you sure look fine!

As a Fleetwood Mac fan this song just fitted the bill today.  Although we were up late talking and the alarm clock felt like it went too early – this morning felt great.  In my old life I would have over-indulged with said friend over dinner and would be regretting it this morning and using caffeine to kick start my brain and paracetamol to dull the hangover.

This struck me more this morning than any other time so far as although there have been other social events that we have attended as non-drinkers, this was the first one at home.  I was someone who preferred to drink at home as then there were no breaks on how much I quaffed.  When out socially I was always aware of my drinking and so would moderate or try to anyway!  Although there have been big milestones along the way already this felt like a really big deal on day 58 🙂

Who was I trying to kid?

So the last post could have suggested that I only drank to manage anxiety but that would have been a big fat lie!  I needed no reason or excuse to drink and tonight is a point in case.

We have a friend coming to stay and will be having dinner later.  Now in my old life the thinking would have been ‘okay so it’s technically a school night, with work tomorrow, but hey we’ve got said friend staying and it would be wrong not to have a beer before dinner and wine during and after’ – justification made, end of.

I would drink if I was happy, sad, pissed off, bored, it’s a Wednesday, I’m on holiday, it’s someone’s birthday, it’s Christmas (oh and of course if I’m anxious) – you get the picture!  I self-medicated for life pretty much and even when I was sick would use the excuse of it being medicinal to justify putting alcohol into my body.

Jeez the level of self-delusion was staggering.  But that was then and this is now.  Friend staying for dinner will be offered Belvoir mulled winter punch as a warming non-alcoholic aperitif and elderflower cordial and soda water for with dinner followed by herbal tea.  He is a good friend who is abstaining for the night in support of our cause – god love him 🙂 Day 57

Self-medicating to manage anxiety

Last week-end was a really good lesson in what makes me crave BADLY for a drink.  Mrs D at the time asked me what was going on that might have triggered the craving and that insightful question led me to the answer.

I was anxious, as I knew the publish date for my piece, and was ruminating and stressing about it.  The negative internal critic had a ball dressing me down and laughing heartily at my foolhardiness of putting my head above the parapet – and about drinking of all subjects!  What did I know about it, who would be interested in what I thought, it was just luck that I had snagged the agreement to publish from the editor, on and on and on and I just wanted it to stop.

Before when that voice started up I would drink as the liquid poured down my throat would drown it, literally, as I drowned myself in alcohol in the process.  The next day I would have forgotten the initial anxiety provoker as then I would have had anxiety at the amount I had drunk, the things I had said and done and the internal critic would rag me on that subject instead.

I had forgotten just how damning that internal critic could be when my fear was high and it felt backed into a corner to try to protect me from myself.  Like the drinking was a maladaptive coping mechanism that internal critic was also now maladaptive.  Maybe my self-sabotaging self thought that if I had a drink then that would undermine my success – would make it hollow.  Who knows the answer but I need the time sober to figure it out.  I owe that to myself. Day 56.

The Doner Kebab effect ….

In my drinking life a Friday night was never better than finished off with a Doner Kebab.  They always tasted so good after a heavy night on the sauce.

I spent the day with a Diabetic Nurse Specialist yesterday and now I know why.  Alcohol is pure sugar so initially it drives your blood sugar up – my appetite used to disappear once I started to drink.  Then it drops it into your boots as the body has to muster large amounts of  insulin to process all the sugar as it is broken down and carbohydrates is one way you fix a low blood sugar or ‘hypo’.  The human body is a beautiful and genius thing and knows even when you are three sheets to the wind that you need to eat!  It also explains that carb craving you get with a hangover as the body needs a full English breakfast to mop up all the sugar from the alcohol.  Ever wondered why people swear by iron-bru, lucozade or flat coca-cola as a hangover cure?  It’s how you treat low blood sugar too.

Anyway not something I’ll have to contend with tonight or tomorrow morning and no fight club in my head this Friday night 🙂 Day 55 feels good …

What goes up – must come down ….

Usually alcohol was my disclaimer, as in, ‘oh but I was drunk’ or ‘oh but I was hungover’ like it excused all behaviours and explained it somehow.  It allowed me to externalise many things that I did and said without me having to take responsibility or minimised and denied the experience of the associated feelings.

Now I have no alcohol and haven’t done so for 54 days.  I can’t blame it for any feelings that I have which means I have to take responsibility for them which is something that I am not comfortable with.  That’s why I drank ……..

So I have to own the high I felt yesterday at being published and the low I feel today post the event.  It’s uncomfortable and something I want to stop from happening but I just have to sit with it in the knowledge that it will get easier day by day.

Something I wrote was published in the Guardian today

We are staggering blind past the danger of excess alcohol

If we are to combat the UK’s growing drink problem, we must update the NHS’s misleading unit guidelines and ban alcohol advertising

I spent four years working as a nurse on an alcoholic liver disease ward in a city hospital on the south-east coast. It was the mid-2000s, and at that time we saw more men than women, from all social strata, with the youngest I remember being a woman in her mid-30s who died of alcohol-induced cardiac failure. Their ages always felt so shockingly young to be at such an advanced stage of the disease.

I now work in public health for a community trust in East Anglia. Latest statistics from child and adolescent substance use services across England show an 11% increase in alcohol misuse this year, with one in five dependent drinkers being diagnosed at 18. This still remains more of a male than female problem, at a ratio of 3:2.

Current NHS alcohol unit guidelines, which were originally published in 1995 and are now woefully out of date, confuse and mislead. They say that one unit of alcohol is equivalent to 125mls of 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) wine, half a pint of 3.5% ABV beer, or 25mls of spirit. Yet most wine is now 12-14% ABV (only Weightwatchers wine is 8%), many beers are closer to 5% ABV and most bars use 35ml spirit measures. So, these guidelines need urgent review.

The last alcohol and public-health position statement, published by the Faculty for Public Health in 2008, stated that “a reduction in alcohol consumption at population level is needed, together with focused programmes aimed at specific risk groups such as young binge-drinkers and older harmful drinkers”.

Public Heath England offers a free NHS health check to people aged between 40 and 74, which looks for type-2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart-attack and stroke risk. If it recognises that a specific risk group is older, harmful drinkers why is this population not screened for liver disease? It is just another simple blood test that could be done at the same time.

During pregnancy women are told that after the first three months they are allowed to drink one glass of wine a week. If you drank a 250ml glass of 12% wine, which seems standard today, you would actually be drinking more than three units. Within antenatal clinics there are many posters warning of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy but very little information regarding drinking.

Raising awareness through education in schools and clear public health guidelines are paramount. This is bigger than alcohol pricing, “drunk tanks” and fines.

Statistics suggest we are staggering blindly into potentially the biggest public health issue since smoking.  Tobacco advertising used to make smoking appear just as glamorous as alcohol advertising makes drinking look today. Yet now the health risks of smoking are well publicised and cigarettes are hidden from view in supermarkets and advertising has been banned.

Conversely, shops and supermarkets are filled with cheap alcohol. It is an addictive substance just like nicotine and we need to put alcohol and the industry under the spotlight in the same way that we did with cigarettes.

Many of us do not realise that we are drinking too much, particularly when it seems so socially acceptable. Yet there are online resources, such as the youth-driven campaign website, It’s the Drink Talking and communities including Soberistas and Tired of Thinking about Drinking that can help raise awareness. But it’s not enough.

Why is it that the Stoptober – smokefree October – campaign encourages smokers to give up for the month with the aim of stopping permanently, whereas with Dry January, the challenge is only to go booze-free for 31 days and no more?

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/13/excess-alcohol-unit-guidelines-ban-advertising

Day 53 🙂

Synthohol is not the answer

So I’ve been doing some thinking and researching about Professor Nutt’s alcohol solution and I am definitely not convinced.  Firstly this is not a new story as digging round on the internet the quote below is taken from an article posted in 2010.

‘By harnessing benzodiazepines like diazepam, the chief ingredient in anti-anxiety med Valium, Nutt sees a future of drinking without becoming addicted, belligerent or — and here’s the kicker — intoxicated. Using one of thousands of possible benzos, researchers are working to tailor a colorless, tasteless synthetic that could eventually replace the alcohol content in beer, wine and liquor.’

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-01/synthetic-alcohol-gives-drinkers-pleasant-buzz-without-hangover-addiction

Secondly benzodiazepines are highly addictive, and interestingly are one of the drugs used to manage physical alcohol dependency withdrawal symptoms (I used to work on an alcoholic liver disease ward).  In the 1950’s benzos earned the nickname “mother’s little helper” for the boom in prescriptions of these anti-anxiety pills to over-stressed and tired housewives across America (http://www.lifetimerecoverycenters.com/benzodiazepine-addictions/).  So potentially rather than having an addiction to alcohol you may end up with an addiction to this pharmaceutical instead ….

And how exactly would that be better?

Edited to add: 24th September 2016

‘Hangover-free alcohol’ could replace all regular alcohol by 2050, says David Nutt

Just read this in the UK Independent

Scientists are developing a drug which mimics all the positive effects of being drunk without any of the health risks, addiction – or hangovers.

The “serious revolution in health” is being pioneered by the former Government drugs advisor Professor David Nutt, and has been described as doing for alcohol what the e-cigarette has done for tobacco use.

It targets neurotransmitters in the brain directly, giving the taker feelings of pleasure and disinhibition that are in some cases “indistinguishable” from the effects of drinking. Yet because it acts directly, it can also be immediately blocked by taking an antidote – with “drinkers” potentially able to then drive or return to work straight away.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/getting-drunk-without-the-hangover-or-health-risks–scientist-seeks-investment-for-alcohol-substitute-drug-8931946.html

Big fan of Prof Nutt but not sure how I feel about this.