Monthly Archives: April 2014

Psychosocial stress

We all have days where we feel stressed or low and what is important is to learn to recognise what is your normal ‘ups and downs’ and the early warning signs.  For me if I notice a change that goes on for longer than a week then I would become more watchful and mindful.  These changes might be in my:

  • Mood/feelings
  • Thoughts/beliefs
  • Sleep pattern
  • Eating habits
  • Personal care
  • Socialising/relationships

There are some life events that we cannot control and we have to learn to live with them without falling prey to the drinker’s reflex of picking up a drink to cope.  This is not always easy but the longer time goes on the easier I find it to not resort to this old coping strategy.

Things to consider would include:

  • New job/promotion/redundancy
  • Moving house/leaving home
  • Relationship/friendships/family – loss/divorce/death
  • Holidays/social events/outings
  • Birthdays/anniversaries/Christmas/New Year
  • Health issues
  • Major news events

You can reduce your risk of relapse by:

  1. Changing the things you can change
  2. Learning to recognise your sources of stress
  3. Learning better ways of coping with the things you can’t change

Are there any other life events that are stressful that I’ve forgotten that I need to watch out for too?


Coping Strategy Enhancement

We all have ways of coping when things aren’t going well in our lives or when we feel stressed.  For me one of those coping strategies was I used to drink.  I used to do other things too like run, read, escape into a film or music, talk to friends and I still do all of those things now – except the drinking 🙂

I didn’t realise that drinking was an unhelpful coping strategy, in fact it had a habit of making the situation feel worse, but it was a habit that I had got used to and I had never tried to find a more helpful way of managing my stress.

So for me getting drunk in the short term was helpful because I was able to forget about the problem and it would allow me to feel relaxed and confident.  But if I overdid it I would feel sick and dizzy, I would do things that would embarrass myself, I might feel more angry or depressed and that would lead to me getting what my friend would call ‘tired and emotional’ i.e. crying, or getting into fights.  I would have a hangover and spend too much money that I could ill afford to spend.

And long term it became an over used coping strategy leading to dependence, it created minor health problems, I offended friends and family, fortunately I never got in trouble with the police (but more by luck than judgement) and it caused money troubles.

So what I needed to do was ‘beef up’ my non-drinking strategies to counter-balance the choice of not drinking!

So I developed new strategies, such as this here – my sober blog.  I also connected with other sober people both real and virtual, I focused my attention on other activities that didn’t revolve around drinking, like the cinema, going for walks, meeting for tea not beers.  You need to think creatively about how you spend your time and where you focus your energies and attention.  You can look at each of your coping strategies and create a decision table to help you decide if what you are doing is positive and helpful or negative and unhelpful, both in the short term and long term.

When you are feeling negative about not drinking I found I had to work really hard at it, and at times it felt like a slog, but ‘faking it till you make it’ does work!  Connect when you don’t really feel like it, reach out when you don’t want to.  My wanting to withdraw was ALWAYS a sign of a relapse in the making.

What coping strategies have you used that I could benefit from? 🙂

Relapse signature

Working on our early warning signs is one way of avoiding a complete relapse.  They are a set of symptoms that can occur in a specific order, over a particular period of time, that indicate a relapse is possible and impending.

You need to think about what changes that you experience in your thoughts, perceptions, feelings and behaviour prior to your last bout of drinking, whether you were moderating already, or had stopped completely .  It is also helpful to identify events which might trigger these sorts of changes and I’ll cover those in more detail in another post

The early warning signs can take place over a period of several weeks or months and are usually noticeable between four weeks and two days before a relapse and include:

  • Subtle changes in thinking – in terms of the way you think and what you think about.  For me this is getting wistful about drinking, the cravings being rekindled and becoming preoccupied with the thought  of drinking again.
  • Change in the way you feel.  So I get this sense of ‘f*ck it’ that gets stronger and stronger.  I can almost taste the booze in my mouth.
  • Changes in the way you behave.  So I start to look for, or provoke, reasons to drink or I withdraw.
  • Changes in relationships with other people.  I might pick a fight to enable me to storm off to the off-license because I’m upset and I deserve a drink now.  I might stop reaching out to the communities that would challenge these thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

If you were to look back you could almost pin-point the moment when you went from happily not drinking to unhappily not drinking, from happy sober person to dry drunk.

So if you find yourself experiencing what feels like early warning signs you can practice asking yourself questions such as:

  1. “What am I thinking about?”
  2. “How am I feeling?”
  3. “Is this my usual way of thinking/feeling?”

I usually out myself to Mr HOF or you guys 😉  What was your relapse signature?

Relapse Prevention

This series of posts is drawn from my day job experience and has been reworked from information to do with a relapse in mental health specifically.  However I perceive alcohol dependence, or substance misuse, as a mental health issue so it is as relevant as any other information I have come across.

Relapse prevention is a practical approach designed to help you learn a wide range of strategies to help reduce the risk of having a relapse, so for me, that means drinking again.

Before a person relapses there is a period of time when a number of different things may start to go wrong and if you can alter the way you think and behave during this time you can prevent a relapse.  By enhancing coping strategies you can do more of what you know that already helps and less of what doesn’t.  This in combination with learning new relapse prevention skills usually works best.

What I’m going to do is talk about my:

  1. Early warning signs or ‘relapse signatures’
  2. Coping strategy enhancement
  3. Life events that might trigger a relapse
  4. Relapse prevention plan

Why is a relapse prevention approach important?

  • To help you understand and feel more in control
  • To help to reduce the risk of you relapsing in the future
  • To help you feel less depressed and more hopeful about what the future may hold

The impact of a relapse is not to be underestimated as it may:

  • Leave you feeling demoralised, thinking ‘is it worth it?’
  • You may feel stigmatised – that the people around you think less of you
  • You may think it means that you have ‘failed’
  • It may stop you taking part in, or you may withdraw from, the activities and communities that you would usually use to help you
  • It may leave you feeling distressed
  • It may also impact on your relationships with family and friends

I would regularly make deals and ‘rules’ with myself about how and when I would and would not drink.  I would then feel, think and do many of the things listed above when I broke my own ‘rules’.  How ’bout you?

Palcohol anyone?

This story broke over the Easter week-end and I had to check the date of the article to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.  But no, this is genuine.

A new brand of powdered alcohol – designed to be mixed into a drink or sprinkled over food – has been signed off by the US government and will be available in autumn of this year

Yep you read that right.

The article continues with some of the marketing content taken from the companies website prior to the approval which reads that this product is seen as a solution to the increasing cost of liquid alcohol.

“What’s worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip. Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost,” the product’s promotional material read.

The site also suggested that users add Palcohol to their food: “Sprinkle Palcohol on almost any dish and give it an extra kick. Some of our favourites are the Kamikaze in guacamole, Rum on a BBQ sandwich, Cosmo on a salad and Vodka on eggs in the morning to start your day off right. Experiment.

So you can add powdered vodka to your breakfast, rum to your lunch and a different spirit on your dinner!  Perfect for the drinker who worries about whether they have a problem because they need a drink first thing in the morning.  Now they don’t because they aren’t technically drinking it!

The Guardian chimed in on Monday with their coverage of the story here

A portable solution for busy boozers who want to drink while going about their daily activities

I don’t see any problem with this idea at all do you?  Seriously words fail me ……….

Let’s play the ‘how badly could this play out?’ game – I’ll start.  Teens thinking this is a really cool way to make school more fun and adding it to their water bottles.

Edited to add: Thanks to Sharon who pointed out that the label approval has been rescinded.  I found this news piece here but within the piece this is stated:

The Palcohol website comments on the rescinding of the label approval: “[T]here seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag. There was a mutual agreement for us to surrender the labels.”

It continues, “This doesn’t mean that Palcohol isn’t approved. It just means that these labels aren’t approved. We will re-submit labels.”

Further on in the piece was this line that still bothers me:

No matter that Federal approval was reeled in. The genie is out of the bottle,” says Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory in the sociology department at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Clearly, we are heading rapidly toward a convenience-store approach to getting high and getting wasted,” says Dr. Agger, whose made his comments via e-mail.

The genie is indeed out of the bottle (excuse the pun!) and I guess we just have to watch this space and hope the US govt sticks to its word.

Edited to add 5th May 2016:

Eater (USA) – Powdered Alcohol Preemptively Banned in 31 States
Powdered alcohol, arguably a very bad idea, has been banned in a majority of U.S. states before ever even hitting the market. A press release from industry watchdog group Alcohol Justice says “31 states have now legislated or regulated complete bans on powdered alcohol.”

Hangover Heaven

Happen to see this news story and had to post it up here!

Hangover Heaven is a new service being offered in Las Vegas and those boys from the film ‘The Hangover’ would probably have appreciated this a whole lot!

What is it?  It’s a mobile medical service staffed by a team of 25 doctors and nurses and was started by Las Vegas anaethetist, Jason Burke.  They can pick you up from your hotel and treat your hangover on the bus or take you to one of their nearby clinics and if you can’t make it out of your bed they’ll provide a VIP service where they provide the service in your hotel room.  Jason says that it has become so popular with British tourists that they are in talks to bring the service to the UK.

Here is their price list and you can read the full article here



  • One litre of hydration fluid
  • Vitamins and antioxidants

REDEMPTION 2.0 – £77

Everything above plus:

  • Your choice of nausea medicine or headache medicine
  •  Glutathione


  • One and a half litres of hydration
  • Nausea Medicine
  • Headache Medicine
  • Vitamins and Antioxidants
  • Anti-heartburn medicine
  • Antioxidant and vitamin pills to go


  • One and a half to two litres of hydration
  • Nausea Medicine
  • Headache Medicine
  • Vitamins and Antioxidants
  • Anti-heartburn medicine
  • 30 minutes of oxygen
  • Super B shot (similar to a B12 shot, but five times better)
  • Potent mix of Amino Acids to combat inflammation and fatigue
  • Antioxidant and vitamin pills to go

So a hangover cure that will cost you more than it cost you to drink yourself into the state requiring their services in the first place!  And more importantly, that innocent glass of social lubricant has this kind of impact that requires an extraordinary and expensive level of intervention to put your body straight again afterwards.

Just imagine what you could spend the money you spent drinking, and recovering from drinking, on instead?  Hell, that £142 would buy me a really nice spa day locally with massage, facial and 3 course meal included, and still have change for a bit of retail therapy!  What would you splurge this on instead?

Wine habits

Wine is rarely out of the press these days here in the UKs so I read this infographic with interest.  To summarise; we have 35% saying they will drink more and 65% saying they will drink less (but sometimes better quality wines) and 54% spend under £6 a bottle.


And I did read this and smirk a bit:

But the bargain-hunting habits of Brits are putting a real strain on wine producers, who are making virtually no profit on wines sold for less than £6 a bottle.

One supplier, who did not want to be named, said: “The fact is, it’s hard to make any money in Britain, but it’s a great market if you want to get rid of bin ends or if you’ve got tanks to empty for the next harvest.

“You chuck it in the UK’s direction because there they’ll suck in cheap wine.”

I used to think I was such a wine connoisseur but let’s face it when you’re past the first bottle you could be drinking paint stripper and not know it.  Because by then it isn’t about the bouquet or the roundness of it, it’s about pouring more booze down your neck.  It’s not about the pleasure of the taste but the effect.

And at 215 days without Mr HOF & I have saved a whopping £2550 smackers 🙂  How much have you or could you save?

Britain’s Binge Drinkers

This programme was aired on ITV on Thursday 17th April at 19.30 as the Easter Bank Holiday kicked off here in the UK.  This used to be a drinking fest for me as you could drink from the eve of Good Friday all the way to the end of Easter Monday if you wanted to.  One of our locals holds an Easter Beer Festival Week-end with bands and guest beers running and I’m sure they are not the only one.

Jonathan Maitland takes a look at Britain’s binge drinking culture and the impact it is having on the health of young people including premature liver disease.  If you would like to watch it you can find it here:

It makes grim viewing particularly the group of 4 students who are followed before and after a regular night where they are seen pre-loading (or prinking as my neice informed me) and then out on the town consuming anywhere between 26 and 48 units in one night!  It also covers the stories of one teenagers death from alcohol poisoning in one night, a teenager who is now a recovering alcoholic and a man in his early twenties who died of liver failure caused by drinking.  Plus plenty of experts sharing their opinions and views.

Easter hiatus

Apologies folks for the interruption in service over this week-end.  As I mentioned in a previous post I am doing some work to my blog which involved moving servers and so some functionality was lost for a few days.  Thank you to those of you who emailed me to let me know about the 404 error messages and those who sent text messages to make sure I hadn’t drowned in a vat of wine,  you know who you are  😉  It hadn’t gone dark because I was off drinking – more like tearing my hair out as my luddite technology skills were severely challenged!!

Anyway I am happy to say that the normal daily blog service is now resumed 🙂

And with some news too.  In a couple of weeks I am going to do a Skype interview with Veronica Valli from Recovery Rocks.  If anyone would like to submit a question for Veronica then please let me know on email in the next two weeks.  I am planning on posting the interview up on Monday 12th May.

Here is her bio:

Veronica has worked as a therapist and life coach specialising in addiction for over ten years; her experience includes working with young people in the criminal justice system, primary care adult treatment, outreach services and private practice. Veronica has also worked in local government, delivering local drug and alcohol strategies.

As a recovered alcoholic, she has personal experience of what it takes to recover. Veronica struggled with alcoholism through most of her twenties. Never a daily drinker but a binge drinker, she was aware for some time that something was wrong but was unable to define what it was; a chance meeting led to her finally getting help and turning her life around.

At the height of her drink problem, Veronica was unable to go to work without the aid of a drink; her life and confidence were in tatters. She got sober in 2000 at the age of twenty-seven. She now uses this experience to help and inspire others. She fully believes that all alcoholics and addicts can recover if they have access to the right kind of help, and that they can then go on to live life to the full.

She is committed to educating and informing the public on problem drinking and addiction and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire as a specialist guest. She has also appeared on the Lorraine Kelly show on ITV, and an ITV programme entitled The Truth About Binge Drinking; she has also appeared in national magazines and publications, discussing recovery from alcoholism.

Her book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom’ is available on

Veronica is married with a young son and is currently working in private practice.

2013 How to Stop Cover 960x1280

If you have a question you would like to ask an addictions specialist then drop me an email.  Or maybe you’d like to ask a question of me as a nurse?  Whatever we’ll try to accommodate and are really looking forward to it!

Pregnant pause

Maybe it’s just me but since I stopped drinking I find myself reflecting on my past and what bought me to the here and now.  Everything happens for a reason right?

And whenever I reflect I wonder about times that my drinking wasn’t a problem – like when I was pregnant.  Now I’m not saying this as a joke because in the UK you can still have a drink during pregnancy whereas in many other countries they recommend not to.


So why is it, this wasn’t difficult for me?  Was it because during the first three months you feel sick and the thought of wine makes you want to vomit?  Did that 3 months almost count as a 100 day challenge and I just got used to it?  Why could I have my one glass of wine on a Saturday night and not want to inhale the whole bottle?  Was it because I knew that drinking more would be harmful to my on-board passenger?  I do remember in my first pregnancy being very vigilant but with my second was a little more laissez-faire and I found it more difficult to give up the booze but of course I did.

I guess if I’m honest part of me is still wrestling with the idea of ‘forever’ and looking for chinks of hope to draw from in the past.  Wolfie whispering ‘see you did it then and it wasn’t a problem.  You could go a whole week and only have one glass on a Saturday night and that was fine’.  I do remember being resentful that I could only have one, second pregnancy round.

I appreciate that this is a post of more questions than answers and maybe you want to chime in too?  What’s your recollections and thoughts?  I’d love to know 🙂