Monthly Archives: March 2015

18 months alcohol free today

So another milestone  – 18 months alcohol free today.  That’s 589 days or 13410 hours or an even more ridiculously large number in minutes and then seconds so I’ll stop there! 😉

Can you tell I’m happy about this?  There are two big learns from the last few months that I’ve noticed:

  1. The symptom of PAWS are all but gone.  Yes I kid you not – I noticed not their presence but their absence.  Life just feels less emotionally erratic and more mentally balanced.  I still have my moments – in the only way that a women can (thanks universe) but apart from that I am most of the time on an even emotional keel and almost sane.  Hallelujah says Mr HOF and the HOFlets!!
  2. I had my first major social success a few weeks back.  We were going to a family party where drinking was the main focus, with a bit of cake thrown in for good measure.  First one in a good six months.  I was more anxious about being triggered about smoking than drinking which was an odd realisation in itself.  I took my alcohol free drink and when I got there I did not ONCE feel deprived. I wasn’t interested in what others were drinking and was completely unphased by being surrounded by people on the lash. In fact one lady who was, I’m guessing, slightly older than me was making a real t*t of herself quite early on and I thought ‘god that would have been me and thank god it’s not anymore …..’.  This feels like such a major shift in my thinking and makes me confident that I can keep going, that I can keep doing this and will just be my way of living in the world from here.

Why am I sharing this?  For all of you reading this who wonder if you can live your life happily without booze I can tell you the answer is a resounding YES.  Can it become ‘your’ normal?  YES and double YES.  No one queried me about my drinking, it’s something I just don’t do anymore and it is just the most LIBERATING feeling in the world when I look back at how small my world had become when I was drinking.  I spent an evening with family and friends, chatted to people, celebrated the occasion, left when the kids were tired and woke up the next morning remembering everything, feeling tired but NO HANGOVER and no fear over whether I had (yet again) made an arse of myself.  God that never gets old 😉

And you can have it too 🙂  If you don’t think you can, believe me when I say this can be yours too.  If you don’t feel confident, reach out for help either here online or in real life.  I wanted to be the best person that I could be for myself and my family and for me that meant freeing myself from booze.  I want you to be the best version of yourself too and if I can help you with that just ask ……..

I’ll close out today with the lovely Steve Coogan – a fellow sober Brightonian and my sober defiance song 😉

steve coogan

Alcohol and Families Alliance

This was something I was made aware of recently so thought I would share here as I think this is an important, and under reported and discussed social issue resulting from alcohol abuse and misuse.

The Alcohol and Families Alliance (AFA) has been established by Adfam and Alcohol Concern to think about, discuss and develop policy on alcohol and the family.

The AFA is a forum and resource for developing and influencing policy on alcohol and families, forging a consensus across the voluntary and statutory sector, thus bringing an informed voice  to driving change for these families. It believes that:

  • Current policy does not sufficiently protect children and families from alcohol related harms
  • The misuse of alcohol can have serious, and detrimental effects on the health and well-being of children and families
  • The damaging effects of alcohol on children and families are not confined to those incurred by drinkers diagnosed as hazardous, dangerous or dependant.

The AFA meets quarterly with additional contact through phone and email as necessary. For specific tasks working groups of members willing to dedicate extra time will be established.

You can contact the AFA c/o Adfam, 25 Corsham St, London, N1 6DR, ring on 020 7553 7640 or email us.

They have some excellent meetings and resources that you can access via their site too.

Budget 2015: third consecutive alcohol duty cut despite health group warnings

This is reblogged from Alcohol Policy UK following yesterday’s UK Budget announcement:

Alcohol duty was again cut in the 2015 budget, winning praise from sections of the alcohol industry but to the dismay of health groups.

The Chancellor George Osborne cut beer duty by one penny on the pint for the third year running, and a 2% cut for spirits and most ciders. Wine duty is unchanged.

A number of alcohol industry groups have continued to call for further cuts to alcohol duty, with a specific ‘Drop the duty’ campaign spearheaded by the Wine and Spirits Trade Association and Scotch Whisky Association.

Speaking in the House of Commons today Osborne said he had dropped duty thanks to the “persistent campaigning of my honourable friends”, referring to a number of Conservative MPs lobbying for cuts to alcohol duty

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association said the Chancellor had “listened to consumers, publicans and brewers”, and that the move would boost employment by 3,800. 

However Alcohol Concern’s Jackie Ballard said the government had “once again cast aside the health of the nation to protect the interests of ‘big alcohol”. The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) had warned against a further cut in its pre budget briefing paper Our NHS can’t afford for alcohol to get any cheaper. However AHA representatives were reportedly denied meetings with health ministers to discuss the potential impact of alcohol duty cuts on the NHS.

The cut is also likely to reduce the already very limited impact of the ‘below cost ban’ , which is based on the rate of duty paid + VAT. Last year’s budget ended the alcohol duty escalator which had seen alcohol duty rise 2% above inflation since 2008.

Alcohol pricing is considered a key policy issue by health groups given the close correlation between consumption and affordability. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has previously called on taxation to be used as a lever to reduce alcohol harms, although highlighted problems with EU laws which do not structure alcohol at an equivalent rate per unit – an area a recent Lords report also called for reform on.

And these were some of the news stories that have appeared:

Scotch whisky producers toast cut in spirits duty

The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) said it was the first cut in spirits duty in almost 20 years and only the fourth time that excise on whisky had fallen in a century.

SWA chief executive David Frost said the tax cut was “a historic decision”.

He said: “The chancellor’s announcement will be toasted across the whisky industry and by consumers who are getting a fairer deal on tax when they have a drink of Scotch.”

In last year’s Budget, Mr Osborne froze duty on spirits and scrapped the alcohol duty escalator, which had increased duty annually by inflation plus 2% since 2008.

I’m not anti-business but “alcohol misuse has been exacerbated in recent years as government fail to accept the link between cheap prices, higher consumption and resultant harms to individuals and society” (taken from the Lancet report)

Urghh 🙁

Redemption Bar: alcohol free fabulous-ness

So I was lucky enough to have lunch at Redemption Bar in Holborn recently and just had to rave about it here for a bit.  It is an alcohol free drinking and dining experience where  you can ‘spoil yourself without spoiling yourself.’ Thank you also to Catherine Salway who kindly found a card I’d left there and posted it on to me!

Oh boy where to start?

Drinks – lets start there.  Heaven in a jam jar!!  So it’s very trendy and doesn’t have glasses opting instead for the mason jars that you get in the US.

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We sampled all of the menu offerings and mine was delicious!!  They also have a range of AF beers if that’s more your thing – the Bavaria range (lager, wit and rose) and Radler mainly.

Food – again heaven on a plate and good for you too.  Mainly vegan and beautiful to look at as well as eat.  How about my maki rolls filled with red quinoa, avocado, enoki mushroom, lime and micro amranth shoots?  Had to photograph it before I ate it! 😉

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And pudding!  Yum yum yum – raw chocolate orange mousse 🙂 A silky mousse made out of avocado, agave syrup, raw cacao and freshly squeezed orange juice topped with coconut shavings and goji berries.

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This was the full menu for the day in case you’re interested:

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Service was impeccable and for it’s location and the quality of food it was exceptionally reasonable too.  I give it a 10/10 and can’t wait to go back.  I was talking to Catherine before I left and when it’s finished it’s pop-up residency here it’s moving to it’s new home at the end of March.  Slightly further east of the city of London I believe 😉

Week 5 of sugar free for Lent!

Robin Williams

So sugar free has not been easy of late.  The true nature of my emotional eating is starting to come out and it is not pleasant.  I survived last Tues night out but only by asking MrHOF if we could go for a walk in the time we had before the theatre show as the Galaxy Counters on sale were calling to me really loudly and I came a fag paper away from caving.  But I didn’t, we walked and got a coffee and came back and enjoyed the show which I can really recommend! http://www.onemanbreakingbad.com/.  When I came home I did scoff about 150g of trail mix ….

Weds – really really struggling today.  Tears, supportive phone call from sober buddy and yes I caved and succumbed to putting honey ON my fruit toast – 3 whole slices this afternoon followed by about 50g of trail mix.  Made another batch of flapjacks and powerballs and had to batch test both of those too!  Emotional upheaval going on and not having this perceived way of self-caring tipped me over the edge from coping to not coping very quickly.  Much of it is reminiscent of drinking – in terms of the urge and the perceived need but I don’t compulsively eat like I used to in my early twenties when as a student nurse I was over two stone heavier than I am now.  But elements of it remain and I need to find a way through that doesn’t feel punitive and perfection seeking and like it’s morphing into another issue for me to beat myself up over.  As my sober buddy said once you recognise the triggers around booze it is very hard not to acknowledge them around other substances and behaviours and feels a bit like an insight minefield 🙁  Can I give back the red pill and take the blue pill please?

Thursday – last day of academic year for me at Cambridge, all work handed in.  Really mixed emotion day of letting go and endings.  Took flapjacks with me so not tempted by goodies in Buttery.  We went for meal afterwards and while everyone drank wine I drank San Pellegrino and while everyone ate pudding I drank coffee.  Didn’t have any pangs for either but had powerball when I got home as a reward.  Throat really began to hurt in the evening and then all my low mood and tearfulness this week suddenly made sense – I’m coming down with something!

Friday – decided to give myself the day off life.  No run, cleared inbox and then went back to bed with my echinacea, golden seal, sambucol and cats claw tea bags (all herbal remedies for colds and lurgies).  Ate flapjacks and powerballs sporadically and took care of myself 🙂

Sat – ditto.  May have eaten slightly more flapjacks and powerballs than was entirely necessary – but hey it wasn’t chocolate so that’s still a win as far as I’m concerned.  Feed a cold right? 😉

Sun – ditto.  Mother’s Day here and the kids bought me a mindfulness colouring book and pencils 🙂  I celebrated by putting honey on my fruit loaf and ate more flapjacks and powerballs.  Getting pretty fed up of the lack of variety in my treats and have to say between Valentine’s Day, my wedding anniversary and now Mother’s Day no chocolate feels really puritan and mean to me now.  Can you tell I’m not enjoying this at the moment? 😉  Had a really strong ‘f*ck it’ moment where I seriously considered not going to my AA meeting tonight but going to the cinema on my own to watch ’50 shades of grey’ whilst inhaling a bag of chocolates.  Didn’t – went to meeting, dodged the biscuits winking at me and had a powerball or two when I got home later.

Mon – something about holding my ground yesterday felt like a turning point of sorts.  Was feeling much better today.  Took flapjack into volunteering and didn’t really have any urges as I queued to buy sarnie’s in M&S with displays of Easter chocolate surrounding me.  Lets hope it continues as I really don’t want another week like this past week again!!

Tues – officially bored of this now.  Me, tantruming? Noooooo 😉 Same diet, no changes.  Why is it though if I eat the same chocolate I don’t seem to get bored, but with this I am?  What’s that about?  I feel hugely more ‘f*ck it’ about this than I did about booze funnily enough.  I shan’t break my fast though because I’m stubborn like that …..

Alcohol plays role in many air rage incidents

So many alcohol stories in the news last month – it’s hard to keep up!  This was a feature on Atlanta News about how big a role alcohol plays in many air rage incidents.

People get on a plane for all kinds of reasons: work, a wedding, a family vacation or funeral. Mix all that with alcohol, cramped quarters and too much baggage and sometimes the skies aren’t so friendly.

According to a USA Today investigation, it often starts with a drink. One drink that becomes three or four, made worse by the altitude.

Peter Ivanhoff admits that the fun turned into a fight during his flight from Alaska to Oregon. According to an FAA report, it got so bad that the flight crew locked down the cockpit.

In a review of FAA reports, we found one quarter of fine-able incidents stemmed from alcohol use.

Federal investigators say Joe Hundley had been drinking when he used a racial slur and slapped a crying toddler. The baby’s mother was shocked.

Hundley’s attorney says he was flying to Atlanta to take his son off life support. Still, a federal judge gave him 8 months in prison.

But a disruption doesn’t just impact one person, it can impact the entire plane if it’s re-routed or delayed. Safety is always a concern. The FAA often uses fines as a deterrent, which can be as high as $25,000.

“Flight attendants are aviation’s first responders, and they expertly deal with conflict every single day,” said Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.

Some say public shame is the best deterrent. Video posted on social media showed a woman forcibly being removed after crew members say she refused to turn off her cell phone.

Nelson has a few ideas on how to deter bad behavior.

“Perhaps they have to go through special hoops before they can even fly or to maybe be banned from flying for a certain amount of time,” Nelson said.

USA Today says the FAA issued nearly a million dollars in fines in just five years, but settled for about half of that. Flight attendants say they often turn to other passengers for help, hoping peer pressure will bring the person back in line.

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And then we had some news from the UK too – courtesy of  the BBC and then again in The Telegraph:

Air Rage 2014

  • 29 January – Passenger became verbally and physically aggressive. All passengers offloaded after cabin became unruly and uncontrollable.
  • 14 February – Passenger physically assaulted a cabin crew member when asked to stop consuming alcohol and trying to light a pipe during cabin secure descent. Passenger restrained by crew and two passengers. Authorities met aircraft on arrival. No further action taken.
  • 4 June – Party poppers used onboard aircraft.
  • 17 July – A male passenger removed all his clothes and tried to open an aircraft door. He refused to put his clothes back on and was had a blanket put around him by other passengers.
  • 23 July – Mayday declared and aircraft diverted due to disruptive passengers fighting
  • 28 August – Passenger attempted to vacate aircraft during flight.
  • 9 December – a passenger consuming his own alcohol became abusive, attempted to light a cigarette and had to be restrained by four crew members using cuffs and straps. He remained loud, offensive and threatening until the plane landed.

The number of passenger disturbances on UK flights has tripled over the past three years.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says the “majority” of cases were down to alcohol.

There were 114 incidents in 2014 compared to 39 in 2011.

The CAA said “it is a specific criminal offence to be drunk on board an aircraft, and also to refuse to comply with instructions from the captain”.

The number of incidents is only seven fewer than the number in the whole of the US last year. 121 were recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

But despite the big rise in recent years, the CAA say the problem is not as bad as it was in the late 1990s when it peaked.

The chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, Nathan Stower, said “airlines set tough rules around the consumption of alcohol. Pubs, bars and restaurants in airports in the UK and overseas must play their part”.

In November a flight to Cuba from Manchester had to divert to Bermuda after Mohammed Khelya drank a bottle of vodka and threatened to kill everyone onboard.  It was his honeymoon.  The 22-year-old threatened the crew after he was refused permission to see his new wife, who moved seats to get away from him.  He was arrested and his wife continued on to Cuba. He was fined $3,000 (£1,900).

Fiona works as cabin crew for an airline in Nottingham.  She says there is sometimes “shouting and swearing and standing up in the middle of the cabin, dancing and swinging off the chairs.  If I went and did that in their house, ripping their carpets up and dancing on their sofas I don’t think they’d be too happy.”

I have certainly been guilty of drinking to excess on a flight where I’ve been heading on my holidays and have been in cabins when someone else has got drunk and arsy.  Not fun AT ALL!! Alcohol pervades everywhere and it’s effects are felt by us all …….

Edited to add: 26th June 2015

Unruly and drunken in-flight behaviour ‘now a serious problem’

Bad behaviour among airline passengers needs to be stamped out, airline says, while asking for banned passenger lists to be shared | Telegraph, UK

Edited to add: 10/07/2015

Alcohol-fuelled air rage incidents are up 40% from last year… proving ‘floozing’ phenomenon is on the rise

And more news 23/07/15

Ryanair bans duty-free alcohol on UK to Ibiza flights

And more news 19/09/15

Plane drunks could be banned from flying forever

28/11/2015

Drunk passengers could be banned by airlines for life and booze sales limited on problem flights to tackle rife alcohol-fuelled air rage

Floozing just won’t go away (July 2016)

Possible changes to how alcohol is sold at airports hit the headlines following comments from a Conservative peer saying he wants to “look at” airports as currently exempt from licensing laws – thus being able to open 24 hours. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said he did not want to “kill merriment altogether”, but that passengers need to be responsible and not disrupt flights and others onboard. Increasing concerns have been voiced over ‘floozing’ and ‘air rage’ incidents over recent months. See the Independent’s ‘what you need to know’ and Guardian and BBC reports

Maybe it’s because it’s holiday season time? (August 2016)

The issue of alcohol and flights has been back in the news after recent speculation over a review of airport licensing exemptions. Budget airline Jet2.com claimed to be the first European airline to ban alcohol sales before 8am in a bid to tackle what it calls “disruptive and abusive behaviour”, a ‘bold’ move according to The Independent. Ryanair previously attracted coverage for banning alcohol on some flights to and from Ibiza.

But ‘does alcohol really cause air rage?’, explored The Guardian. The issue is complex; widespread availability in terminals, the complex relationship between alcohol and violence, and the unknown effect of high altitude on intoxication all add to the difficulty of pinning down an answer.

Meanwhile two pilots were arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol as they prepared to fly from Glasgow Airport to New York – BBC news. The Independent published an article exploring The truth about pilots and alcohol: the risks and the rules. Exact stipulations vary around the world, but airline rules typically stipulate a “bottle to throttle” gap of eight hours between the last alcoholic drink and reporting for duty.

And another article 18th September 2016:

Cabin crew have demanded action to curb alcohol- and drug-fuelled air rage, after figures revealed that serious incidents on UK airlines are running at an average of one a day.

Edited to add: 8th October 2016

The number of “air rage” incidents on UK airlines has quadrupled over a three-year period, reported BBC News. Civil Aviation Authority data shows there were 386 dangerous incidents in 2015 – compared with just 85 in 2013. Prompted by the data, the Independent looked into the issue of disruptive airline passengers and how it could ‘impact your next flight’. | Alcohol Policy UK

And this issue just refuses to go away! 14/08/17

Revealed: The growing problem of drunk and abusive fliers – and the worst routes for bad behaviour

Panorama: Plane Drunk

 

Alcohol redefined as ‘weapon’ in sexual assault cases by prosecutors

This was a news story covered in The Colorado Gazette in February and pertains to the alcohol – rum, vodka, wine and hard cider – listed in the latest allegation of sexual assault between Air Force Academy cadets as being viewed in a new way by the military and civilian prosecutors.

Alcohol for years has been seen as a contributing factor in rapes, and it is thought to play a role in nearly half of the almost 6,000 sexual assaults reported across the Defense Department last year. But the role alcohol plays has been succinctly redefined.

“It’s a weapon,” said Katharina Booth, chief trial deputy and chief of the Boulder District Attorney’s Office sexual assault unit.

Booth said the change comes from the realization that perpetrators are more likely to use alcohol to subdue their sexual assault victims than guns, threats and fists.

Alcohol’s ties to sexual assault came into focus again in January with the arrest of Air Force Academy junior cadet Daniel Ryerson. He’s charged in state court with sexually assaulting an inebriated female classmate after a night of party-hopping in Boulder on Nov. 1. Ryerson, 21, who police say is linked to the case by DNA evidence, is due in court this month.

In a December Pentagon report, the military calls alcohol a weapon in its latest sexual assault prevention guidance for commanders, echoing a statement made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in May.

Hagel ordered a review of alcohol policies in a bid to quell sexual assaults.

“They include a department- wide review of institutional alcohol policies, which will be revised where necessary to address risks that alcohol poses to others, including the risk that alcohol is used as a weapon against victims in a predatory way,” Hagel said.

At the Air Force Academy and other military bases, workers who serve alcohol in clubs are being told to watch for those who would use booze as a weapon, said Lt. Col. Kirstin Reimann, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

Another step requires commanders to “work with community partners on responsible alcohol sales practices and bystander intervention training for alcohol servers,” Reimann wrote in an email to The Gazette.

A 2013 Pentagon report on sexual assaults at service academies showed alcohol played a role in at least a third of incidents.

“However, alcohol likely plays a much larger role than what is depicted in reported incidents,” the report said.

A newer report on military academy sexual assaults is due out this month after an unexplained month long delay.

Last week, academy leaders sat through a presentation on sexual assault and the new view of alcohol’s role, according to the academy website.

The speaker, Anne Munch, co-developer of the Air Force’s new bystander intervention program to prevent sexual assault, told the academy brass that old views of alcohol put too much focus on the victims of sexual assault.

“For the same reason that a robber chooses a drunk victim (over a sober victim), a rapist will also choose a drunk victim,” she said, according to the academy’s website.

Colorado Springs police Sgt. John Koch said the sex assaults his detectives investigate frequently involve drunken victims.

Under military and Colorado law, victims who have passed out or are too drunk to render judgment cannot consent to sex – which is a common defense in cases involving booze.

Although Koch advises responsible drinking, he tells victims that a mistake with a bottle can never justify rape.

“No matter what you did, it doesn’t excuse someone victimizing you,” he said.

But no matter how much work is done to change how authorities see the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault, victims remain far less likely to report attacks if they were drinking.

“This combination of alcohol and sex assault is often a huge factor in the under reporting of sexual assault,” Booth said. “There is a ton of misplaced self-blame there.”

Sexual assault has long been cited as the most commonly unreported crime. The Pentagon celebrated its December report that shows as many as 24 percent of military sexual assault victims were reporting the crime, up from 11 percent a year earlier.

Past reports on sexual assault in military academies, including Air Force, have cited alcohol use as a key factor in the reluctance of victims to seek charges.

To combat alcohol issues, the academy, led by Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, is relying on cadets to keep an eye on each other. Bystander intervention, a concept cadets are trained on, requires them to intercede when a classmate is intoxicated or otherwise at risk for harm including sexual assault.

“Don’t drink alone,” the academy cautions on its website. “Have a wingman, or better yet two, and know where they are at all times.”

Cadets took a pledge last fall to intercede if they see a classmate, or anyone else, at risk of sexual assault. Other work includes educating cadets on responsible drinking and giving more help to victims.

In the recent Boulder case, Ryerson and the cadet victim described a night of drinking in Boulder in statements to investigators. They described drinking before heading to the parties – splitting a bottle of wine and consuming one hard cider each, police said.

During the parties, where police say Ryerson gained entry from strangers by offering alcohol, the woman told officers she consumed several drinks containing hard alcohol supplied by Ryerson.

A witness at one party, who didn’t know either cadet, said that Ryerson escorted the stumbling female cadet into a bathroom where the two were behind a locked door for 20 minutes, the affidavit said. Witnesses say Ryerson later “carried” the unconscious female cadet from the party, police wrote.

The victim referred to Ryerson as her “wingman” during a sexual assault exam at a hospital, according to court documents.

“The issues of binge drinking and sexual assault are complex, societal challenges that all colleges and universities across the nation struggle with. The academy, like all other college campuses, is not immune to these national problems, and we remain committed to addressing and eliminating both sexual harassment and sexual assault,” academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brus Vidal wrote in an email response to questions from The Gazette.

He outlined programs designed to fight sexual assault and alcohol abuse and to bolster care for victims.

“Moreover, the academy remains firm in its commitment to vigorously combat sexual assaults and harassment through the very best awareness and prevention training and base-wide initiatives,” he said.

Johnson’s push for bystander training has garnered praise from the school’s Board of Visitors, an advisory body that reports to the Pentagon.

“I support the leadership efforts of General Johnson to train the best possible next generation of military leaders,” U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican who sits on the academy board, said in a statement Friday. “Sexual assault is a serious crime and those who break the rules and regulations of the academy must be dealt with accordingly.”

The academy has stiff penalties for underage drinking and other alcohol missteps including drunken driving, which can result in courts-martial or dismissal. The academy says the number of incidents involving cadets misbehaving with alcohol has plunged – down 79 percent since 2010.

As warnings grow louder about the role alcohol plays in military sexual assaults, the academy has granted its cadets more freedom than the school has offered in its 60-year history.

Seniors, for instance, are free to leave the campus at the end of the classroom day. Juniors, sophomores and freshmen get more control of their time, including more liberal off-campus time, under the policy adopted in recent years.

Johnson has said the increased free time away from the school has given cadets more responsibility, and it comes with more accountability.

“We want them to be adults,” she said.

But cadets are young adults, and issues involving troops and alcohol have given the military headaches for decades, said retired Maj. Gen. Irv Halter, former vice superintendent at the academy.

“We have a culture that thinks getting high or drunk is the ultimate use of the weekend; you can quote me on that,” Halter said.

To curb alcohol in one unit he commanded, Halter restricted time off for airmen if anyone in the wing had an alcohol offense.

“It was pretty draconian, but it got the situation under control,” Halter said.

The problem for commanders such as Johnson, Halter said, is giving cadets enough freedom to learn responsibility and enough structure to keep them out of trouble.

Another issue for Johnson: Unlike other college students, who are typically portrayed as poverty-stricken, cadets get a paycheck and have few expenses – making a weekend of parties a financially feasible option.

“I shake my head because it seems to be an intractable problem,” Halter said. “We as a society need to figure out how to tell people that going and getting silly drunk on the weekends is not in your best interest.”

In a meeting with faculty last month, Johnson said the academy is pushing cadets to “make good choices.”

She emphasized that immunizing potential victims with tools to prevent problems and training others to intervene remains the best option.

This is a really interesting and potentially big news story.  I’m not a lawyer, so maybe if one of you who reads this is can confirm for me, but this case will set legal precedence and therefore open the door to other cases.  It’s about time that this was recognised and legally addressed for all of us.

Alcohol legislation follows behind curve of public opinion rather than leading it

This was an interesting article in The Irish Times last month regarding alcohol legislation and the fact that rather than leading public opinion it follows behind the curve.

Like free education or the smoking ban, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill marks a paradigm shift in a key area of public policy.

Unlike the other two measures, though, this legislation follows behind the curve of public opinion, rather than leading it. Ireland’s relationship with drink and drinking has already changed, and this is the Government’s belated attempt at recognising this fact.

We are still a nation of drinkers, of course, which is why the Bill is necessary, but public tolerance of the many negatives associated with alcohol has long since evaporated. People are tired of the binge drinking, the street rowdiness, the emergency departments stuffed with sleeping drunks and the alcohol-fuelled acts of violence, from one-punch killings to domestic violence.

On a lower key, they worry more than ever about the effects of alcohol on their physical and mental health, and their weight. They fret about their children’s propensity to drink earlier, more heavily and faster than previous generations.

The Bill is a long time coming and follows a six-year delay that must have suited the vested interests in the drinks industry just fine. So Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is right to say “we have been talking about this for too long”, even if the call to action neglects his own part in this delay as a member of Cabinet since 2011.

Changing drinking patterns

Tackling alcohol abuse isn’t just about whether we drink; it’s also about how we drink, and even where we drink. That’s why the single most important measure in the legislation is the proposal for minimum unit pricing for alcohol products. Setting a floor on the price of alcohol will change drinking patterns by making it less attractive to consume large amounts of cheap product, as problem drinkers tend to do.

It will also shift the balance within the sector away from the off-trade and toward the on-trade, ie from the unsupervised consumption of alcohol purchased in off-licences to its consumption in licensed – and, hopefully, properly supervised – premises open for defined hours. Within the off-licence, it will shift the balance away from the multiples who control 70 per cent of the business and towards smaller operators.

For some, this will smack of the nanny State. This view, however, fails to recognise that alcohol is a drug, and like other drugs, it needs to be regulated.

Unit pricing has been tried in Canada and five other countries, none of them in the EU. The Irish proposal is likely to be challenged in the courts. A similar plan in Scotland has been appealed to the European Court of Justice, where the European Commission and nine EU states have voiced their opposition. It all sounds a bit like the opposition from the tobacco lobby to the proposal for plain packaging of cigarettes.

Battleground

Another battleground will be the actual minimum level set for unit pricing, which is to be set through secondary legislation. Set too low and it will be meaningless. Doubtless, too, some left-wing TDs will oppose the measure because it affects the poor most, as though the right to drink yourself silly is a right that trumps all others.

The Cabinet has also approved the structural separation of alcohol from other products, something that should have been introduced in 2008.

Back then, minister for justice Dermot Ahern deferred commencing this provision to allow the drinks industry implement its own voluntary code. But as in the area of cut-price drinks promotions, voluntary codes haven’t worked, certainly not across the board.

The Bill will require price labels to carry health warnings, calorie counts and information about the alcohol content. All very laudable, but you only have to look at the food sector to see how some manufacturers and retailers have ducked and dived on their responsibilities in this area.

The measures for regulating the advertising and marketing of alcohol are vague, as befits the fudge they represent. The Bill will make it illegal to market alcohol in a manner that is appealing to children. It seems incredible that this isn’t the case already.

Mr Varadkar is promising “legal regulation” of sports sponsorship for the first time but – not surprisingly given the disagreements on this at Cabinet – no details are provided for now.

Ultimately, the devil will be in the detail, assuming the Government has enough time to see the legislation passed.

I like this article and agree with what it says.  The industry won’t though and no doubt it will be fought at every step as it  has in Scotland ……

A&E (Alcohol & England)

This was shared recently on Soberistas and I was so struck that I thought I’d share it here too.  On October 23, 2014 Reportage photographer Peter Dench released latest book, entitled A&E (Alcohol & England), which is a retrospective of his work documenting British drinking habits, shot across his career.

“In January 1915, David Lloyd George, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer, exclaimed that Britain, in the throes of the First World War, was “…fighting Germans, Austrians and drink, and as far as I can see the greatest of these foes is drink.” Since then the Germans and Austrians have been repelled, twice, but nearly a century later the battle of the booze continues. The English have turned drinking alcohol into a national obsession – almost an art form – and hundreds of excuses have been found to indulge in a session. At the beginning of the 21st century I made a conscious decision to document in depth England’s relationship with alcohol, a time when casual sex in public, binge drinking, public order offences and drink-related Accident and Emergency submissions seemed increasingly common on a normal night out. The English were arguably drinking younger, longer, faster and more cheaply than ever before.

Documenting alcohol and England, I witnessed reckless drinking and homes being wrecked; telephone boxes smashed up and the faces of young men smashed in. I met Mark waiting for treatment in a Plymouth A&E department, claiming to have been punched and kicked in the face by a gang of drunken lads who had jumped out of a passing car. In east London, I sat on a sofa with a cup of tea in the home of Chris, whose nose had been surgically reconstructed to repair massive damage after being bitten off in a drunken brawl.

I travelled in the back of an ambulance with a man soaked in urine who had been beaten unconscious in a pub fight; in a Bristol hospital I watched a man die on the operating table after a suspected drink-driving accident. I photographed Humberside Police make alcohol-related arrests in the pouring rain and officers from the Hampshire Constabulary mop up the aftermath of drunken behaviour on a warm summer’s evening. At Alex 1, the inpatient alcohol treatment unit in the grounds of Bethlem Royal Hospital, I watched Pete become increasingly uncomfortable as he viewed pub scenes in a TV soap opera play out on screen.

Drinking in 21st-century England has changed. As a generation turns away from the brightly coloured, sugary alcopops of its youth, fruit-flavoured ciders and real ales, deep in character, are developed to appease changing taste buds. Smoking inside pubs and clubs has been banned, round-the-clock licensing has been introduced and, as the English increasingly drink more cheaply at home, the local tavern has waned as the focal point for the drinking community. There are alcohol-free zones and everlasting happy hours, buses run by volunteers to attend to the inebriated, Pound Pubs, proposed drunk tanks and sobriety bracelets to tackle disorder.

England’s relationship with alcohol is entrenched, uneasy, unhealthy and ruptured by conflict and contradiction; news outlets consistently highlight the problems of consuming too much alcohol while drinks companies sponsor our national sports teams and the names of alcohol brands are emblazoned across the chests of our sporting heroes. Millions of pounds are spent by the drinks industry to lure the English with attractive liquors served in desirable venues; billions of pounds are payed out by the National Health Service to treat the consequences of alcohol abuse. A significant percentage of England’s workforce is employed in the drinks industry and the government profits handsomely from the sale of alcohol in duties and VAT.

My own adventures with alcohol have taken me far beyond the White Cliffs of Dover. I’ve sipped gin with the Queen while gazing out across the Indian Ocean and quaffed champagne with a Maharaja on his palace lawn, staring up at the star-bright Rajasthani night sky. I’ve been assigned my very own personal barmaid to serve me beer on a billionaire’s private jet and once, when I had to work briefly as a barman, I was paid in booze. I’ve raised toasts at funerals to dear friends departed and at weddings to barely known newlyweds. I drank a bottle of Primus beer with a mass murderer in Rwanda and knocked back clear pear brandy with a pop star in south-west France. I’ve supped with strippers and swingers and sipped fine wines at a Sotheby’s organised tasting. I’ve decanted a £1,000 bottle of wine into a glass antler at Château Lafite Rothschild to drink in the company of its chatelain and chucked back more £1 cans of cider in the park with my wife than I care to remember. I’ve imbibed in Muslim countries, Christian countries and Communist countries; in countries at war and countries at peace.

Having photographed alcohol and England for over a decade, undergone the process of putting together this book and bid goodbye to the rejuvenating body of my youth, I think it may be time to call last orders on my own lifelong session. To everyone who has poured me, bought me or shared with me a drink, allowed me into their lives and the access to document it: thank you.”

Alcohol & England

This is one of the many photographs he took and you can see more of them here and here.  This one seems particularly poignant to me as I live close to Newmarket Races and this scene was a common one on race day.
PS MrHOF hits 18 months sober tomorrow and it’s our wedding anniversary today so this tune is for him <3

Scottish schoolchildren turn against alcohol

This was featured in the January edition of the Institute of Alcohol Studies

Scottish teenagers appear to be turning against the alcohol and drug culture favoured by their parents, according to the latest findings from the 2013 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS).

Percentage of pupils who drank alcohol in the week before the survey; by age group and gender, Scotland, 1990-2013

salsus-graph

The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and undertaken by Information Services (ISD Scotland), National Services Scotland and Ipsos MORI Scotland.

In relation to Alcohol use, the main finding was that the proportion of 13 and 15 year olds who reported drinking in the last week was the lowest since the survey series began monitoring drinking behaviour in 1990 (4% of 13 year olds and 19% of 15 year olds).  The proportion of pupils who reported drinking alcohol in the last week decreased between 2010 and 2013 (from 14% to 4% for 13 year olds and from 34% to 19% for 15 year olds). In 2013, the proportion of pupils who reported never having had a proper alcoholic drink was higher for both age groups than at any time since 1996 (68% of 13 year olds and 30% of 15 year olds.

There were also marked changes in attitudes towards alcohol use. Since the previous survey, there was a reduction in the proportion of both 13 and 15 year olds who thought it was okay for someone their age to try drinking alcohol to see what it is like (from 52% in 2010 to 42% in 2013 for 13 year olds; from 82% in 2010 to 77% in 2013 for 15 year olds).

The proportion of pupils who thought it was okay for someone of their age to try getting drunk has also declined since 2010(from 13% to 8% for 13 year olds; from 46% to 39% for 15 year olds). Under half (44%) of 13 year olds who had ever had an alcoholic drink had been drunk at least once, compared with over two thirds (70%) of 15 year olds.

Smoking and Other Drugs

Similar declines were also found in relation to smoking and the use of drugs other than alcohol.

Smoking

2% of 13 year olds and 9% of 15 year olds surveyed reported being a regular smoker. The proportion of 13 and 15 year olds who reported being regular smokers in 2013 was the lowest since the survey series began in 1982.

The proportion of pupils who reported that they had never smoked increased from 45% in 2002 to 76% in 2013.

Drug Use

18% of 15 year olds and 4% of 13 year olds reported ever taking drugs. The proportion of pupils who reported that they had used drugs in the month before the survey was the lowest since the survey series began in 1998

(9% of 15 year olds and 2% of 13 year olds)

The proportion of pupils who reported that they had never used drugs was higher in 2013 than at any time since the survey series began in 1998 (82% of 15 year olds and 96% of 13 year olds).

I am loving Scotland right now and what they are doing – and these figures suggest it’s working.  Go Scotland!! 🙂