Monthly Archives: March 2015

Why am I doing this?

So recently I caught up with one of my nursing friends who was present at one of my last drunks.  We hadn’t seen each other or spoken since then what with lots going on in both of our lives.  And to be honest I’ve been ashamed and embarrassed to discuss my stopping drinking with many of my old friends – partly because I have to acknowledge there was a problem and secondly because many of my friends are drinkers and so I don’t want them to think I’m some born again teetotal preacher.  She was supportive and kind but I felt shame as I spoke – I’m learning that my armpits tingle when the feeling is upon me!

But it reminded me of another drinking event around the same time of the one where she was present that also was a pivotal moment in the run up to me stopping.  I was at a 40th/Halloween party in my old spiritual home of Brighton.  I was carousing with all my old alcoholic liver disease ward nursing buddies and it was a party night of drugs, alcohol and fags.  It was in a private room of a pub just off the seafront so going outside for a fag was a blowy and cold affair.

I remember going outside to have a fag and was wired from lines of coke and fuzzy from copious g&t’s.  And the thought struck me ‘why am I doing this?’.  I wasn’t feeling any pleasure from it and it all felt pretty pointless.  I’d had my first alcoholic drink when I was sixteen, dropped my first pill at 21 and here I was at 44 still doing the same thing.  Over half of my lifetime spent chasing the high of drugs and booze and something needed to change ……

So here I am over 18 months in to the recovery journey and the memory of this thought came back to me tonight.  Why it took me so long to figure out that change was needed is beyond me but there is no point lamenting the past as I am where I am.  I don’t regret any of it as it made me who am I and I stopped when I was ready to stop.  Maybe you’re reading this and this is your moment to stop?  As I said to my friend earlier, this is the best decision I’ve ever made.  Maybe it will be your best decision too 🙂



Heavy Drinking at Middle Age Increases Stroke Risk by 34 Percent

This news story was featured in Tech Times in February looking at how heavy drinking in middle age can increase the risk of stroke by as much as 34 percent, according to a new study.

Consumption of large amounts of alcohol by people in middle age was found to increase the risk of stroke by a greater degree than diabetes or hypertension.

The study examined the records of 11,644 subjects in the Swedish Twin Registry. Investigators found a significant difference in stroke risk between those who consumed differing levels of alcohol in middle age.

People who consumed two or more alcoholic beverages each day during midlife had twice the rate of experiencing a stroke between 60 and 75 years old, compared to those who drank half a glass a day.

Strokes also began five years earlier among heavy drinkers than among those who consumed little alcohol.

“Individuals consuming more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day are putting themselves at a significantly increased risk of stroke, particularly in their early old age, when they should still be active and productive,” Pavla Kadlecová of St. Anne’s Hospital in the Czech Republic said.

Alcohol was found to provide the greatest increase in risk of stroke in patients under 75 years old. For those over that age, diabetes and high blood pressure were the dominant factors. Earlier studies had shown that alcohol consumption can play a role in increasing the risk of stroke. However, this was the first major investigation that examined the effect of age on alcohol consumption.

Records examined in the research included twins born between the years 1886 and 1925. Each subject was labeled as a non-drinker, or light, moderate, or heavy consumer, based on self-reporting conducted during that time. Follow-up research covering 43 years of hospital records found that roughly 30 percent of subjects experienced strokes.

The smallest stroke risk was found among those patients who consumed half an alcoholic drink each day or less. When one twin was a heavy drinker at midlife and the other was not, the study found the sibling who consumed more alcohol was more likely to suffer from strokes.

“For mid-aged adults, avoiding more than two drinks a day could be a way to prevent stroke in later productive age (about 60s),” Kadlecová said.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than one alcoholic drink each day, and men limit themselves to two drinks. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to health problems, including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac arrest.

Research into the role of excessive alcohol consumption on health risks were published in the journal Stroke.

This is a robust study as it has a good sample size and is a longitudinal twin study so looking at the records of people with the same genetics over a 43 year period.  So much for booze being good for heart health …….

Edited to add: Thank you to subscriber no 1000 – your free Udemy course place awaits you!  The 100th person from here gets the next one 😉

Edited to add 10/10/16:

Heavy drinking could raise stroke risk

Alcohol-free beer more popular with millennials than older drinkers

This was an interesting article featured in The Drum at the end of December looking at the company AB Inbev and how they were responding to study findings that alcohol-free beer is more popular with millennials than older drinkers.

Budweiser brewer AB Inbev has expressed an interest in using alcohol-free beers to win over health-conscious younger drinkers as part of wider efforts to overcome volume declines fuelled by shifts in demographics and consumer preferences.

The brewer already produces Beck’s Blue, which it claims is the UK’s most popular alcohol-free beer, and believes there is an increasing normality of drinking these types of brews as an alternative to consuming alcohol. While there is no imminent announcement regarding the trend, AB Inbev pointed to the success of its Beck’s variant, which saw volume sales climb 16.4 per cent and 11 per cent in the off and on-trade respectively, as a sign of promise.

British adults feel that alcohol-free beer is more socially acceptable than it was five years ago, the brewer claimed. The insight comes from a Comres study, commissioned by AB Inbev, of 2,061 adults earlier this month, which found that the sub-category could be key to propping up sales in a quarter usually hampered by people curbing their drinking habits to offset the excessiveness of the festive period.

The millenial generation – those aged between 18 and 34 – are eight times more likely than over 65s to choose alcohol-free beers instead of alcohol in January, found the report, with only one in 100 of the elder generation prepared to do the same thing. Twice as many younger drinkers as over 55s “expressed likelihood of drinking alcohol free beer” over Christmas and the New Year.

Three in ten (29 per cent) of those who drank alcohol free beer over the festive period chose the beverage to create a good impression – either with in-laws or work colleagues – the report added. For those drinkers who said they were cutting their alcohol intake over the next month, almost one in five (18 per cent) admitted they would consume alcohol-free beer. 

Nick Robinson, marketing director at AB InBev UK and Ireland, said the brewer was “excited” by the findings and the potential gains it uncovered in being able to offer a wider breadth of brews. Robinson joined the company in October from Coca-Cola as part of a senior management reshuffle.

AB InBev is reportedly funnelling more marketing resources into targeting younger drinkers as it looks to rev up sales while balancing its responsible drinking efforts with shifting drinking preferences. Millennials are increasingly health conscious and looking to curb alcohol consumption, a behavioural shift that has pushed brewers to turn to innovation to uncover new opportunities.

The shift was reflected in AB Inbev’s earnings during its latest quarter when volumes dipped 9.8 per cent.

The downturn has seen the brewer try to tap into the craft beer explosion in the US with its own alternatives, while in the UK it is banking on the sweeter taste profile of its rum-flavoured Cubanisto to pull younger drinkers to the beer category.

Digital is also set to play a key role in the brewer’s attempts to push its beers to younger drinkers. Stella Artois became the first beer brand to use Instagram’s advertising tools in the run up to Christmas and the brewer also trialled a mobile click and collect service in bars in London earlier this year.

It’s an interesting peek into how they are responding to the market drivers and how their competitors are trying to engage young  people.  Plus it shows that there are more and more of us out there who are choosing to drink less booze 🙂

The secret history of Special Brew

I read this article with interest because my Dad drank Carlsberg Special Brew which was called ‘Charlie’ in our house when we were growing up.  The irony of that nick-name is not lost on me.  I hated the stuff, tasted vile but he loved it – just a little too much …..

This was the BBC UK News piece that was written about it in January.

Long associated with problem drinkers, Special Brew could now have its alcohol level reduced. But will it alter the super-strength lager’s reputation, asks Jon Kelly.

It was first brewed in honour of Winston Churchill. Today “Spesh” or, as it is often referred to in headlines, “tramp juice“, is most commonly associated with getting drunk incredibly cheaply. Now Special Brew – which at 9% ABV contains 4.5 units of alcohol per can – will become less potent in 2015. Brewer Carlsberg says that it will sign up to a UK government-led pledge that no drink should contain more than four units, a man’s maximum recommended daily intake.

It would be an ignominious fate for a beer whose tin proclaims that it comes “by appointment to the Royal Danish court”. Carlsberg says Special Brew was first brewed to commemorate Churchill’s 1950 visit to Copenhagen, incorporating “cognac flavours among its tasting notes” in deference to the wartime prime minister’s fondness for brandy. The novelist Kingsley Amis was also a fan, mixing it half-and-half with regular Carlsberg pilsner and praising its ability “to create goodwill”. It was also immortalised in a top-three hit for ska-pop band Bad Manners.

The brand enjoys 37 million UK off-trade sales each year, says Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel. But recently super-strength lager has come under fire for its social impact. One homeless charity compared such drinks to crack cocaine and, in an effort to tackle anti-social behaviour, shopkeepers have agreed not to stock them in parts of Westminster and Suffolk. Spurred by such complaints, the government raised duty on beers over 7.5% in 2011. InBev, manufacturer of Special Brew’s rival Tennent’s Super, has already said it will reduce its cans from 500ml to 440ml in order not to exceed four units.

No decision has yet been taken on whether to shrink the cans or ABV of Special Brew and Skol Super, also brewed by Carlsberg UK, but Bruce Ray, the company’s corporate affairs director, says it wants to create a “responsible drinking environment”. The pledge offers an opportunity to reshape the brand’s image. But although the craft beer boom created a market for artisan high-ABV drinks, trends in alcohol sales indicate that, increasingly, “most drinkers want something a little less strong”, says Wisson. Who knows what Churchill, an enthusiastic consumer of Pol Roger champagne, would make of it all.

So to reduce it’s alcohol level no they are not considering reducing the strength of these super strong lagers to comply with the ‘responsibility deal’ they are part of – they are REDUCING THE SIZE OF THE CAN from 500mls to 440mls in order to not exceed 4 units.  Good grief Charlie Brown ………..

There  has been a further news story about super strength lager in January too with this one in The Grocer: Special brew to be removed from sale after complaint upheld with retailers being told not to order high ABV 500ml cans from March 31st.



Alcohol Ads Linked To Underage Drinking

There is more evidence that alcohol advertising on television does indeed contribute to underage drinking and binge drinking, with the publication of a new study, titled “Cued Recall of Alcohol Advertising on Television and Underage Drinking Behavior,” in JAMA Pediatrics.

The article is based on longitudinal surveys of 2,541 U.S. adolescents ages 15-23, conducted in 2011 and 2013 via telephone and Web.

The researchers showed study subjects images from beer and spirits ads aired in 2010-2011 that had been digitally edited to remove branding, then assigned them a score for ad “receptivity,” based on a number of factors, including whether they remembered seeing the ad and were able to correctly identify the alcohol brand in question. The researchers also asked underage subjects when they began drinking for the first time, and binge drinkers when they began binge drinking for the first time.

Underage subjects were only slightly less likely than other participants to have seen alcohol ads (23% for subjects ages 15-17, versus 26% for subjects ages 21-23). Further, their ad “receptivity” score was found to predict the onset of drinking — meaning subjects who could remember alcohol ads better were more likely to start drinking sooner. The same was true for the onset of binge drinking and hazardous drinking behavior.

Co-author James D. Sargent tells “It’s very strong evidence that underage drinkers are not only exposed to the television advertising, but they also assimilate the messages. That process moves them forward in their drinking behavior.”

Last year, a study from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that underage adults (ages 18-20) are heavily exposed to alcohol ads in magazines.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that underage drinking results in around 4,500 deaths per year from causes including traffic accidents, homicide, suicide, and alcohol poisoning, among others.

From the point of view of the robustness of the research – it is, with a good sample size and longitudinal approach.

When are we going to start taking any notice of the evidence that is building about alcohol and actually do something about it from a public health approach?

Veronica and I discuss (11) steps 6 & 7

What are character defects? Why do we need to get rid of them? We discuss how character defects such as fear and selfishness block us form becoming the best version of ourselves.

The full list of character defects are: selfishness, self-seeking, dishonesty and fear.  As Veronica says ‘this is the beginning of a shift in our perception’ because these four things are limiting to us and block our growth.

This is all about ‘if you love something let it go’ and being NATO – not attached to the outcome – two things I really struggle with and have to work very hard to manage invariably muttering the serenity prayer under my breathe at the time! 😉

Veronica Valli is an Addictions Therapist and the author of Why you drink and How to stop:…

2013 How to Stop Cover 960x1280


Week 6 of sugar free for Lent!

Bradley Cooper

Weds – well in the words of my Dutch friend feeling – this is NEW! 😉  Went shopping at Aldi and rather than urges for sugar and chocolate I had a craving for …… southern fried chicken.  What the hell is that about?  So that’s what I had for tea – a home cooked KFC.  Made more flapjacks – ate more flapjacks and powerballs.  Two weeks to go tomorrow – not that I’m counting it down or anything …… 😀

Thurs – I’m noticing that I’m not very good at feeding myself when it’s just me.  Breakfast and dinner with the kids and family no problem – but lunch I am TERRIBLE at eating properly.  I’ll snack – on savoury stuff currently, but I suspect it used to be sweet.  I have to REALLY make myself cook something for myself.  Is it laziness or do I think I’m not worth feeding …….  Ate more flapjacks and powerballs.  Have cut the flapjacks up smaller to make them last longer but then I just eat twice as many!!

Fri – no feeding myself proper lunch again!  Savoury snacking continues and found myself eating almost a whole large bag of prawn crackers with my AF beer prior to dinner this evening.  More flapjacks and powerballs – will there be one day of this whole Lent where I don’t eat them!? 😀

Sat – made new batch of powerballs as was feeling twitchy at the idea of having no way to indulge in some form of cocoa!  I know it’s a psychological thing but it doesn’t stop me feeling it anyway …. Flapjacks and powerball snacks galore but that’s okay it’s not processed sugar and so on I go.

Sun – had Club Soda social and 2 of us present were sugar free-ing it so made it easy to avoid sugar although am finding that it’s absence doesn’t bother me quite so much as long as I have an alternative available to have as a treat.  I was saying  that my taste buds are much more accustomed to savoury choices now, which was always my preference as a drinker – what with all that sugar in wine!  It’s weird how so many of us go from being savoury snack drinkers to sweet snack non-drinkers and then struggle to find an equilibrium.  I’ve learned a lot through this process.

Mon – volunteering day and flapjacks taken in with me as my sweet treat.  Watched that show ‘The Truth about Sugar’ on BBC1 and was happy to hear that fruit is not included in the recommended 6g of sugar a day that the WHO recommend.  Time to eat more fruit then! 😉

Tues – edited to add: oops sugar free has fallen off my radar sufficiently that I forgot to add how yesterday went.  I was busy during the day and didn’t feed myself lunch properly (again) so in the middle of a supermarket doing the shopping came over all hungry.  Headed straight for the bags of nuts and fruit without a further thought – progress!  Didn’t eat any flapjacks either – though I may have had a powerball but the amount is definitely decreasing ……

Maybe I’ll get comfortable and just about crack it in time to be able to go back to eating it – or will I go back to eating it? 🙂

Self-compassion break

So as my time at Cambridge draws to a close for this academic year I thought I’d share a technique I was taught while I was there called a self-compassion break.  The day that I typed this blog post I really needed one …..

As Kristin Neff explains:

“Self-compassion is a relatively new psychological construct derived from
ancient Buddhist contemplative psychology.   Self-compassion has three main components: (1) self-kindness, (2)a sense of common humanity, and (3) mindfulness.  Self-kindness entails being warm and caring toward ourselves when things go wrong in our lives.  Common humanity recognizes the shared nature of suffering when difficult situations arise, rather than feeling desperately alone. And mindfulness refers here to the ability to open to painful experience (“this hurts!”) with non-reactive, balanced awareness.” (source: germer-neff_-trauma)

When you notice that you’re feeling stress or emotional discomfort, see if you can find the discomfort in your body.  Where do you feel it most?  Make contact with the sensations as they arise in your body.

Now say to yourself, slowly:

This is a moment of suffering – that’s mindfulness.  Other options include:

  • This hurts
  • This is tough
  • Ouch!

Suffering is a part of living – that’s common humanity.  Other options include:

  • Other people feel this way
  • I’m not alone
  • We all struggle in our lives

Now, put your hands over your heart, or wherever it feels soothing, feeling the warmth and gentle touch of your hands.

Say to yourself:

May I be kind to myself – that’s self-kindness.  See if you can find words for what you need in times like this.  Other options may be:

  • May I accept myself as I am
  • May I give myself compassion that I need
  • May I learn to accept myself as I am
  • May I forgive myself
  • May I be strong
  • May I be safe


If you’re having  trouble finding the right language, sometimes it helps to imagine what you might say to a dear friend struggling with that same difficulty (pause)

Can you say something similar to yourself, letting the words roll gently through your mind?

If you are struggling to find self-compassion for yourself related to your drinking and would like help to quit I run an online course you can do and by using the link here you get a 25% discount 🙂




No alcohol in (early) pregnancy – updated

ATLAST!!  From the BBC News website this news piece looking at no alcohol in early pregnancy was released a month ago.

Women trying for a baby and those in the first three months of pregnancy should not drink any alcohol, updated UK guidelines say.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) had previously said a couple of glasses of wine a week was acceptable.

It now says abstinence is the only way to be certain that the baby is not harmed.

There is no proven safe amount that women can drink during pregnancy.

The updated advice now chimes with guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

In the US, experts say there is no safe time to drink during pregnancy.

But the RCOG highlights around the time of conception and the first three months of pregnancy as the most risky.

Drinking alcohol may affect the unborn baby as some will pass through the placenta.

Around conception and during the first three months, it may increase the chance of miscarriage, says the RCOG.

After this time, women are advised to not drink more than one to two units, more than once or twice a week, it says.

Drinking more than this could affect the development of the baby, in particular the way the baby’s brain develops and the way the baby grows in the womb, which can lead to foetal growth restriction and increase the risk of stillbirth and premature labour, says the advice.

Philippa Marsden, of the RCOG, said: “For women planning a family, it is advisable not to drink during this time. Either partner drinking heavily can make it more difficult to conceive.

“During early pregnancy, the safest approach is to abstain from alcohol and after the first trimester keep within the recommended amounts if you do decide to have an alcohol drink. The same applies for women who decide to breastfeed.

“If you cut down or stop drinking at any point during pregnancy, it can make a difference to your baby. However, in some instances, once the damage has been done, it cannot be reversed. If you have any questions or concerns about alcohol consumption talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor who can offer support and advice.”

Dr Simon Newell, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “There are lots of mixed messages when it comes to alcohol advice so today’s guidance is a welcome and reliable source of information for women who are thinking about trying for a baby and for women who have already become pregnant.”

He said about 6,000 babies a year in the UK are born with some form of damage as a direct result of alcohol.

“It is impossible to say what constitutes a ‘safe’ amount of alcohol a mother can drink as every pregnancy is different, so our advice to mothers is don’t take a chance with your baby’s health and drink no alcohol at all,” he said.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, was concerned that the advice might cause some women undue anxiety.

“This guidance takes a precautionary approach to women drinking alcohol in pregnancy. It may be wise to avoid alcohol when planning a baby, but the fact is many pregnancies are not planned.

“We should reassure women that if they have had an episode of binge drinking before they found out they were pregnant, they really should not worry. It is very troubling to see women so concerned about the damage they have caused their baby they consider ending what would otherwise be a wanted pregnancy, when there’s no need for such anxiety.

If it comes from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists then there is no debating this in my mind.  Good news 🙂

Edited to add: 22/06/2015

Pregnant women should not drink any alcohol, BMA warn

British Medical Association call for stricter Government advice and “more explicit” warnings of the risks of alcohol to developing babies | Telegraph, UK

Edited to add: 10/07/2015

Further research coming in thick and fast on this subject now:

Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies

Our study goes beyond measurement of alcohol use during pregnancy with just one cohort or one measurement method, but examines prevalence and predictors using different measurement techniques in similar populations | BMJ, UK

With the conclusion that:

Our data suggest that alcohol use during pregnancy is prevalent and socially pervasive in
the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. New policy and interventions are required to reduce alcohol prevalence both prior to and during pregnancy. Further research on biological markers and conventions for measuring alcohol use in pregnancy is required to
improve the validity and reliability of prevalence estimates.
Edited to add: 08/10/2015

Pregnant women ‘should be advised to totally avoid alcohol’

Pregnant women ‘should not touch a drop of alcohol’

Doctors say women should be told to have no alcohol during any stage of pregnancy, because no level is safe, experts write in the BMJ

Pregnant women don’t ‘deserve’ a drink – not even Prosecco

Edited to add: 22/09/16

WHO report on preventing harm from alcohol use in pregnancy

Alcohol Drinks Journal

So this website and tool was brought to my attention recently and I’m not one for re-inventing the wheel!  If you are moderating and were looking for an online alcohol drinks journal then here you go!

Download Help4Addiction’s Online Alcohol Journal.

If you’re unsure how many units of alcohol you’re consuming, the Journal will eliminate the guess work.

Read our guide to learn more information on the alcoholic unit.

Help4Addiction’s Online Alcohol Journal

Help 4 Addiction is a professional addiction referral agent referring patients into drug and alcohol rehab centres throughout the United Kingdom.

At Help 4 Addiction we have over 30 years combined experience working in the fields of Addiction, Counselling, Stress, Anxiety and Rehabilitation.  We offer an independent addiction service throughout the UK.  We are dedicated to providing you with all the relevant information and treatment options for a wide range of addictions, including; alcohol addiction, drug addiction and gambling addictions. We understand mental wellbeing can play a huge part in an addicts life, including; depression, anxiety and stress, our aim is to help you find the support you need to target the cause of your addiction and overcome it.

We have strong relationships with clinics and specialists around the world enabling Help 4 Addiction to provide a comprehensive and successfully proven service.

The team includes:

  • Psychotherapists
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming Therapists
  • Counselors and Consultant Psychiatrists

We understand how important a friendly and non-judgemental voice can be to help you and your family on the road to recovery. 

Many members of our team have had a personal relationship with addiction and / or mental wellbeing; they have a wealth of knowledge regarding addiction and the recovery process.

Our team is here to Help, Support and Advise you, if you are or have already considered sobriety you have already take the first step to recovery.  Why not take the next step to a brighter future, contact our team today on 0330 088 9518.

Their website has lots of other nifty resources too.  They are affiliated with lots of insurance organisations too including: Standard Life, BUPA, Aviva, Axa, Cigna, Zurich and Prudential.  I suspect the website is new or has been newly launched as it says their Twitter feed is coming soon.

Edited to add 20th May 2016:

New free online tools are popping up all the time too – like this one

New brain-training tool to help people cut drinking

An internationally-renowned LSE expert on happiness and behaviour has launched a free online tool to help people who want to cut down on alcohol | LSE, UK

Drink Less: Get help reducing the amount of alcohol you consume – free app

Are you looking to cut down how much you drink? If so, we can help. Drink Less is a super-easy to use app that allows you to keep track of how much you drink, set goals to drink less, get feedback on whether what you’re doing is working and access some unique and fun ways of changing your attitude towards alcohol |  Susan Michie, UK