Monthly Archives: June 2014

To sleep, perchance to dream


Sleep can be an issue for the young people I see too and so I end up giving quite a bit of advice about sleep hygiene.

Apart from when I was depressed I have thankfully never struggled to sleep.  As a nurse used to doing years of shift work I can sleep standing up in broad daylight!    I know that booze used to help me get off to sleep sometimes so in case this is an issue for anyone reading this I thought I’d put up this post.

The biggest thing we tell our young people is that in today’s high technology world we are never far away from a screen – whether it’s your phone, tv, games console, laptop/tablet or some other device.  The lights and activities on these stimulate the brain and so you need to have at least an hour with no technology before bed.  That applies to us adults too!

Other tips that Mind give are:

Making your bedroom a calm space

Trying a breathing technique

Notice what you eat and drink because caffeine, alcohol and sugary foods can disturb your sleep

Check for a physical cause and your medication and change if necessary

Keep a worry diary if you need to – write down all the things that keep you awake before you go to bed to empty them out of your head

Keep a sleep diary so you can track and identify what the difficulties are and change them

Having a bath before bed not only helps you unwind and relax but also, as research has shown, raising your skin temperature enables you to fall asleep faster and then shift you into deeper sleep.   So two hours before bed, soak in the tub for 20 or 30 minutes, recommends Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine. “If you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep.  Plus for me bath, plus luxury bubbles and candle = sober treat 😉

I hope that this gives you a few more sweet dreams 🙂

93 days to go

Polite ways to pass on booze

The question that I dread the most and keeps me hiding out at home still is this one.  What to say when people ask you what you want to drink and when you ask for a non-alcoholic option and the questions then follow what’s your ‘go to’ response?

In some respects having young children has really helped me as I don’t have much of a social life!  When I’ve gone to parties I’ve taken alcohol free beer such as Becks Blue and that has avoided this question being asked but I would really like a killer line, ya know.  Witty, yet deflective and maintains boundaries, particularly mine in this instance!

One that they shared in the Almost Alcoholic book that I talked about before here which I really like is this one:

“Thanks, but I drank my whole life’s quota of alcohol by the time I was forty, so I’ll pass”

The person who used this was a nurse and she said that many people responded with a smile or a laugh and no one ever frowned or pressed her to take a drink.  I like that and may co-opt this for myself 🙂

The one that feels most comfortable for me right now is that ‘I don’t drink anymore because for me life is so much better without it’.

What’s worked for you when dodging booze that I could also try?

94 days to go

PS Completely unrelated but I just had to mention as a nurse and employee of the NHS that yesterday it was voted the best healthcare system in the world by an international panel of experts.  “The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” the fund’s researchers conclude in their 30-page report. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less.  We don’t often get an opportunity to toot our horn and this is my blog so three cheers for the NHS!!! 🙂

Childline calls about parental drink use doubles in last year

I work with children and young people and my experience reflects this headline.

You can read the full article here but these are my edited lowlights:

The 24-hour helpline received 5,323 calls – more than 100 a week – from children scared by their parents’ behaviour, a staggering rise on the 2,509 calls it fielded the year before.  Most of the children turning to the NSPCC-run service were between the ages of 12 and 15, but a substantial minority – one in 10 – were aged 11 or under and still at primary school.

In a stark warning, the charity said thousands of children live in fear of being on the receiving end of their parents’ anger, with one in six saying they had fallen victim to physical violence by their mum or dad when they were under the influence.

The emotional trauma of their parents’ substance abuse (either drugs or alcohol) combined with their chaotic home lives is driving many children to depression, self harm and even suicidal thoughts, the NSPCC said.

One child, who cannot be identified, told ChildLine: “My dad has been drinking and taking drugs a lot recently – it’s ruining our family.

“He gets angry when he has been drinking so he says nasty things to us like we are stupid and worthless. I’m finding it difficult to deal with because underneath it all I know he’s a really good dad.”

Tom Rahilly, head of services for families affected by alcohol and drugs at the NSPCC, said: “What we hear from children is that they are concerned that their parents are using drugs or alcohol to blot out worries in their lives around jobs, money and housing issues.  The charity warned the figures were just the tip of the iceberg, and estimates that three in 10 children live with at least one binge-drinking parent.

However, he warned against stereotyping and said that children from all walks of life, including middle class families, were affected by the problem.

This strikes close to home for me as a parent who worried about the impact of my drinking on my children.  We need to be addressing this issue culturally and socially in this country otherwise the problem continues inter-generationally and we do not need another generation of children sharing this kind of experience.

95 days to go


Research findings on UK TV alcohol advertising

This research was published last month in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

The research question was:

Do UK Television Alcohol Advertisements Abide by the Code of Broadcast Advertising Rules Regarding the Portrayal of Alcohol?

How very interesting I thought.

Here are some more details:

The aim of the study was to assess the extent to which members of the UK general public perceive television alcohol advertisements to comply with the regulatory code governing these: the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code). The Code provides a general principle and 16 rules to prevent such adverts implying, condoning or encouraging immoderate, irresponsible or anti-social drinking.

Quota sample of 373 adults, representative of the UK population aged 18–74 years in terms of age and gender, were recruited at a train station. Participants were shown one of seven advertisements that had been broadcast in the previous month on the two leading commercial television channels, and then completed a questionnaire with 40 statements representing the BCAP Code rules.

Overall, 75% of the participants rated the advertisements as breaching at least one rule from the BCAP Code. Breaches were observed for all the seven advertisements, ranging from 49 to 91% non-compliant. Rules regarding alcohol being presented as contributing to popularity or confidence, and implying that alcohol is capable of changing mood, physical condition, behaviour, or as nourishment, were seen as being breached by over 50% of participants.

The research concluded that a clear majority of the UK general public perceive alcohol advertisements to breach the BCAP Code, suggesting that the current regulatory system for UK television alcohol advertisements is inadequate.

Now it could be argued that this is a small sample size and needed to be more widely researched but that does not take away from the fact that they were breaching rules as perceived by 75% of those asked.

Why is nothing being done about this?  Why is this being allowed to happen?  What could we do to change this?  Any suggestions?

96 days to go

Alcohol problems in the Armed Forces

I seem to be following a bit of a theme here.  Crime and booze, politicians and booze and now armed forces and booze.  They call it an ‘equal opportunity’ addiction ….

This article was in the Independent in the last few weeks:

Record levels of alcohol abuse in Britain’s armed forces have led to more than 1,600 service personnel – the equivalent of several infantry battalions – requiring medical treatment in the past year.

New figures obtained from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) under Freedom of Information laws show that the number of service personnel falling victim to alcohol abuse is at its highest since incidents first began to be collected centrally by the Defence Medical Information Capability Programme in 2007.

Heart problems, alcohol poisoning, liver disease and alcoholic psychosis are among the conditions which the system records. And the numbers needing medical help for drink-related problems soared by 28 per cent between 2012 and 2013.

But the official figures do not reflect the true scale of the problem: “The numbers presented for UK armed forces personnel with psychoactive substance abuse for alcohol should be regarded as a minimum,” the MoD said.

More than 4,000 service personnel have been “disciplined for being intoxicated” since 2009, most of whom will have been on duty at the time, according to defence officials.

Drink is a far bigger problem in the Army than drugs, admitted General Lord Dannatt, a former chief of general staff: “Abuse of alcohol has long been a chronic problem in the Army – more so than misuse of drugs which is dealt with very severely.

Defence minister Anna Soubry has pledged to take action against a culture of “drinking to the point of oblivion” in the armed forces. The commitment was made during an evidence session before the Defence Select Committee two weeks ago, in which MPs called for an end to subsidised drinks in military bars.

I’m not meaning to pick on the military.  They have a difficult stressful job to do and I could not do it.  The article closes with a more accurate reflection of what it is about:

And Eric Appleby, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern, commented: “It’s not surprising that the armed forces struggle to identify and deal with alcohol misuse – it’s a reflection of wider society and the difficult, complex and all too often destructive relationship we have with alcohol.”

97 days to go

Edited to add 02/02/16:

Alcohol support for former soldiers

A new service is being launched in Liverpool to help military veterans affected by alcohol problems. Figures show addiction is far more common in those who have served in the army. Partner organisations in Liverpool have now been awarded a 4 hundred thousand pound grant to help veterans detox and recover | ITV, UK

Edited to add 13/10/16:

The army has a trauma problem, and it’s costing soldiers’ lives – video

Across Britain, soldiers’ lives are at risk because they can’t find the right treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, says Matthew Green, author of the new book Aftershock. He argues that the government must be honest about the huge gaps in the current system of care, and embrace pioneering new therapies. Only then, he says, will real change happen | The Guardian

Edited to add 10/12/16:

Military bosses are planning to install alcohol advisers in every unit of the Army from 2018 to offer advice and support on how to cut back on drinking. The move comes after a string of incidents involving drunk and disorderly soldiers – Express. Earlier in the year a crackdown on boozing in Scottish Army barracks was reported in the Daily Record

Moderation – the drinker’s Holy Grail?

There was a great post and discussion over at Belle’s blog recently about moderation.  This has, once again, been swirling around in my mind for consideration and it must be because I’m coming up to 9 months and any major milestone seems to stir up ‘drinking again’ questions.  What is it about moderation that feels like my siren song?  I laid in bed this morning thinking about it and trying to unpick what is going on.

See this is the thing.  For me it is the idea of having a drink that I miss.  In the same way that I used to miss the idea of having a cigarette and what that meant to me – a pause as Prim put it recently.  Drinking was a pause on life, checking out of responsibilities,  “ME time”.  The thing I learnt from giving up smoking though, from the numerous quit attempts, was that if I caved in and smoked it tasted disgusting and I immediately wished I hadn’t.  So I carry this thought forward to drinking.

And not only that but to moderate that would mean staying within the UK govt recommended guidelines of 14 units a week, so 3 units a day with a few days off a week.  The idea sounds great but I’m not being truthful with myself.  3 units would be 1 large glass of wine.  In my old drinking life this was me just limbering up, the prelude, an appetiser, foreplay – call it what you will.  So to have to stop at that point would feel disappointing, a let down, frustrating, like I’d missed out somehow.  I’d only whetted my appetite not satiated the desire.  And this is how it would always be.  If I can’t drink within the normal limits and be happy with that then I have a problem.

Justanewme nailed it in the comments on Belle’s blog post when they said ‘Not drinking gets easier –”moderation” can only get harder’.  That’s it in a nutshell and I need to get it tattooed somewhere! 😉

How bout you?  What keeps you wondering about moderating?

98 days to go

PS Sorry talk of the Holy Grail and I come over all Monty Python!


Alcohol and Football

It seems appropriate to talk about booze and football today seeing as England have their first match in the FIFA World Cup 2014 today.

From Alcohol Concern:

Alcohol Concern have release a briefing today about the increasingly entwined relationship between alcohol and football.  It highlights that while pubs and off-licenses are already prepared with their football-themed alcohol promotions, the police and A&E departments will also have to prepare for the World Cup.

Research is growing around how the consumption of alcohol during previous World Cup tournaments has been associated with significant spikes in demand for emergency medical treatment and domestic violence.  This is while the drinks industry continues to work hard to align itself with the healthy image of sport in England.  As an aside: official alcohol sponsorship or partnership deals were held with 17 of the 20 Premier League clubs in the 2013/14 season, with high levels of exposure to alcohol adverts despite widespread viewing amongst children.

The briefing highlights the rise in demand on emergency services over previous World Cup tournaments.

  • In 2010, the FIFA World Cup 2010 tournament was associated with a 37.5% rise in assault attendances across 15 hospital emergency departments on England match days.
  • It’s also been reported that incidents of domestic violence increased by up to 30% on the days of England’s fixtures during the World Cup in 2006.
  • Research examining data from a police force in the north west of England across the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups found the risk of domestic violence rose by 26% when the English national team won or drew, and a 38% increase when the national team lost.

Tom Smith, Policy Programme Manager at Alcohol Concern, said: “Alcohol and football is becoming increasingly entwined. The fact that FIFA has pressurised Brazil to overturn domestic law so that World Cup venues will now sell alcohol shows the power the drinks industry has already had on the FIFA World Cup 2014.   Again to complete the picture : FIFA has a long-term, multi-million pound contracts with AB InBev for Budweiser to be the official beer of the World Cup. It states similar pressures are already being placed on authorities for the Russian World Cup in 2018 and Qatar World Cup in 2022 who also have bans on alcohol sales in and around stadiums.

“We want everyone to have a great time enjoying the World Cup, but there are so many forces encouraging people to drink too much.

“Alcohol marketing around the tournament is rampant and Government has effectively over-ruled local commonsense on opening hours.  As earlier this year the Coalition Government announced its decision to relax licensing hours nationally during the World Cup owing to late UK kick off times. The decision followed controversy after the Home Office had previously appeared to have ruled out the option and leave it with local authorities, but the Prime Minister ordered a “re-think” soon after.

“Let’s make this a tournament to remember and not score an own goal by drinking too much.” the briefing concludes with.

Booze and football are hand in glove in this country.  I’m sure we’re not the only country and this the only sport where this is the case?  Rugby is no different and I am guessing that baseball and American Football are the same.  What other spectator sports where booze is not only normal but encouraged have I missed?

99 red balloons – sorry days to go! 😀

17/06/14 Edited to add: it was reported that for the opening England game 1 million fans filled 32,000 late opening pubs for the 11pm kick-off and drank 17.5 million pints.  So that’s 17.5 pints each per fan.  And Alcohol Concern asked that people didn’t drink too much!!

100 days to go!!

So when I started this journey  it started with a Day 1.  And then I cobbled together 37 days on my own.  During those early days I was lucky enough to find Soberistas and Belle and then I began to share my journey with all of you here and I became a member of Team 100.

My involvement in the online sober blogging community grew, my daily blogging continued and then I graduated from Team 100 to Team 180.  During that time my sober connections turned from virtual to real with lunch and coffee shared with 3 other fellow sober bloggers.

There were up days and down days, emotional overwhelm days and ‘meh’ days but I did not drink.  I graduated again from Team 180 to Team 365 and found more online sober communities.  Thanks to other sober bloggers I found the Booze Free Brigade on Yahoo, the ‘Being Dry’ thread on Mumsnet and my sober community extended again.  So many people all doing the same thing and supporting each other in the process.

And here I am at Day 265 and it seems only right that I now count down to day 365 when I will have achieved one whole year without booze!!  I will not falter at this point and it seems only right to count down the last 100 days in the same way that I counted up those first 100 days 🙂

So my counter at the bottom of my post will reappear so I can mark the importance of this most amazing milestone.  One I never in a million years thought I would reach.  But I’m not there yet …….

100 days to go 😉

UK politicians’ drinking

This story was covered in the Huffington Post in the last two weeks.

The House of Commons spent more than £1.4 million on alcohol to sell in Palace of Westminster bars in 2012 and 2013, according to reports.

As the government continues to ponder the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol for the general public, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that parliamentary authorities bought nearly 50,000 bottles of House of Commons sauvignon, more than 26,000 of house merlot and more than 33,000 pints of guest ale.

Only 498 bottles of alcohol-free lager were bought.

Additionally, as the rest of the nation suffers under the burden of austerity, more than 8,500 bottles of champagne were purchased alongside over 2,100 bottles of Speaker John Bercow’s whiskey.

Most of the alcohol will have been drunk by the 650 MPs, 760 peers, and thousands of staff and parliamentary workers in the Palace of Westminster.

Spending in Commons bars has gradually increased over the past three years, from just over £222,000 in April 2011 to more than £249,000 in the year to April last year – but this may reflect rising prices.

However further on in the article it says this:

According to the Times newspaper, Commons authorities say bar prices are comparable with a major pub chain, but the House subsidises its catering and bar operations by about £5 million a year.  They have reportedly refused to reveal the cost of individual items on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

So I would argue that this probably doesn’t reflect rising prices as they acknowledge that bar operations are subsidised and the refusal to reveal costs suggests prices are being supported not just by the House but the drinks industry also.  Why else wouldn’t you say?

The article continues:

The most recent figures may lead to further questions over Parliament’s supposed drinking culture, which was laid bare in the trial of Tory MP Nigel Evans, who was cleared of sex offences.  Shocking revelations at the end of the trial revealed that a third of young aides claimed to have been victims of drunken MPs.  The exploitation of vulnerable young parliamentary researchers by predatory MPs is being “brushed under the carpet” by the main political parties, one of Evans’ alleged victims claimed.  He accused the parliamentary authorities of ignoring a problem that was widespread at Westminster.

Remember that saying I mentioned: You only have a drink problem if you drink more than your GP or your MP.  Well is it any wonder that alcohol is only up for the most superficial of political debate and then agreements made are kicked into the long grass?  It would seem that it isn’t just the exploitation of vulnerable young parliamentary researchers that is being “brushed under the carpet” …….

Edited to add: 17th March 2016

Parliament splurges £1.2m on alcohol in two years

Bars in the House of Commons saw alcohol sales of £1.2m over the past two years, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

Are you one of the thousands drinking too much?

This was the headline on the front of the East Anglian Daily Times this week-end.  Why am I interested?  Because I live in Suffolk and 9 months ago I would have been one of the statistics included in this latest report.

The news piece goes on to say:

More than 20,000 people in Suffolk are dependent on alcohol, while one in seven put themselves at risk by drinking up to 50 units a week, claims a new report.

It is estimated that the social and economic cost of excessive drinking in Suffolk is now £143 million – a combination of lost working days, the cost to the NHS, and crime.

The Suffolk Alcohol Strategy also reveals two increasing trends – that of people “pre-loading” on alcohol before a night out, and a rise in alcohol-related illnesses affecting older people.

Now the Suffolk Alcohol Strategy 2014-2022 is looking at ways of tackling the issue, aiming for an “enlightened” approach to it.

It has been compiled by the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, and chairman Joanna Spicer said the group was calling for a fresh look at the county’s relationship with alcohol.

She said: “This heralds a new, and what I believe to be a more enlightened approach to our collective relationship with alcohol as a county.

Sounds promising doesn’t it?  I hope so.  You can read the full article here

I hypothesised in a post here that 1 in 6 people in the UK have a drink problem and sadly this report shows that in my county I wasn’t far wrong.  There does seem to be a change afoot though with this being on the front of the leading regional paper.  Let’s hope it maintains momentum and gains some traction for my children’s sake 🙂