Monthly Archives: January 2016

Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life, but now I’ve lost my faith

This was in The Guardian in November and is an interview with Jon Stewart from Sleeper (second from left).

sleeperMy first day of sobriety was the first day I prayed. I’d always been a staunch atheist; I grew up in Yorkshire during the miners’ strike, and was raised on left-wing politics. When I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, 15 years ago, God was and always had been the opium of the people. But AA’s 12-step programme demanded, or at least strongly suggested, that I relinquish myself to a higher power. It didn’t have to be God per se, but I was assured that, if I didn’t find something, I’d probably drink myself to death. I was in my early 30s. I’d spent the previous decade as the guitarist in Sleeper, a successful band, touring, partying and, well, drinking. By the early 2000s, I was so desperate to get sober that that “something” could have been anything. I would’ve prayed to Lord Xenu, if that’s what it took.

I had just been your regular steady drinker. In AA, they call it “topping up”. I started when I was a teenager. It was nothing particularly out of the ordinary – I discovered booze, I started going to parties, I had a good time. Although I always seemed to be having a slightly better time than everyone else. I now know that this is to do with the way my brain responds to reward chemicals. Around 10% of drinkers, it’s thought, are overly sensitive to the pleasure stimuli in alcohol, and I happen to be one of them.

It’s generally, though quite simplistically, understood that before you start AA you need to hit rock bottom. Most people with a drinking problem have moments where they wake up and think to themselves, “I’m never doing that again.” I’d had hundreds of them.

But if I were to pinpoint my absolute low, it would be in the summer of 2000. My band had split up and I was living in Los Angeles, playing with other bands and doing session work. It was around this time that I realised I needed, and very much wanted, to stop drinking. In my mind though, I was still on tour, and I was behaving as such. I went along to a couple of AA meetings in the area, but I couldn’t get on board with the God thing. It grated. At the same time, I was coming into contact with people who had been just like me and were now 10 years sober. And that was seductive. Or perhaps just inspirational.

Eventually, my American work visa ran out and I moved back to the UK. I couldn’t seem to organise anywhere to live. I had money, but it seemed like my whole life had ground to a halt. I’d run out of options and, acting on the advice of my doctor, I decided to give AA another try.

In the beginning, I went every day for a month, but I still couldn’t stop drinking. Then at one meeting I met a guy who’d been sober for five years. I asked him to help me and he agreed to be my sponsor. AA has an informal system of “sponsorship”, where newer members are buddied up with more senior ones who look out for them. My sponsor asked me if I was praying. Of course, I wasn’t. He reassured me that AA doesn’t expect you to find God straight away and that I should just keep an open mind. So, initially, I accepted music – something that seemed accessible to me – as my higher power. Then, more specifically, the Beatles became my deity. When I heard that Ringo Starr had “found God” while struggling with his own addiction, I started exploring more structured forms of faith. Eventually, I accepted God myself.

From that point onwards, I was a 12-step evangelist. I prayed every day for 14 years. And I was also sober. I’d be lying if I said that AA didn’t save my life, but it also – towards the end – left me in a state of overwhelming cognitive dissonance. When you’re a hardcore believer in AA, as I was, it’s very easy to block out other possible solutions to your problems. In meetings, seeking outside help is encouraged when necessary, but it’s often another spiritual method, such as mindfulness or reiki. Sometimes, in the more doctrinaire pockets of AA, methods other than the 12 steps are frowned upon.

In AA I met lots of other people who, like me, couldn’t cope with life without a chemical support. This has its pros and cons. There was an intense feeling of camaraderie, which is something I truly needed at the time. These were people who understood this very strange and contradictory thing about alcoholism. That is, when you have a drinking problem, you feel like the drink is the only thing holding you together. I now realise that the rush I felt from being in a room full of people in the same boat as me – the sensation of peace, of God entering in through the ceiling – was simply oxytocin (the human bonding hormone) triggered by the familiar rituals of the meeting. I was mistaking a chemical experience for a religious one.

Then again, I was sober, I felt spiritually awakened and I was spending time in the company of loving people who understood and cared about me. Eventually, probably inevitably, I hit a brick wall in recovery.

AA was founded off the back of a 1930s Christian revivalist movement in the United States. Its doctrine hasn’t changed since that time, meaning that its approach to mental health is now, in my view, severely outdated. The AA programme makes absolutely no distinction between thoughts and feelings – a key factor in cognitive behavioural therapy, which is arguably a more up-to-date form of mental health technology. Instead, in AA, alcoholism is caused by “defects of character”, which can only be taken away by surrender to a higher power. So, in many ways, it’s a movement based on emotional subjugation. The first of the 12 steps insists that you recognise that you are “powerless over alcohol and your life is unmanageable”. So, anything you achieve in AA is through God’s will rather than your own. You have no control over your life, but the higher power does.

AA is still the default treatment for alcoholism in the UK, the US and many other parts of the world. Thousands of people struggle every day with this condition, tragically some even die, without ever hearing about the alternatives. During my 14 years in AA, I saw people come and go largely for two reasons: either they “couldn’t get the God bit”, or they couldn’t maintain abstinence. It’s well known that the 12 steps aren’t about learning to drink in moderation; they’re about never drinking again, one day at a time. Actually AA has somewhat hijacked the word “sober”. To most people the idea that you could have one drink and remain relatively sober is completely reasonable. After all, in most countries you can still legally drink a small amount before you drive. For members of AA, however, “sober” actually means completely “abstinent”. In fact, that’s the only requirement for membership, a desire to stop drinking. The majority of alcoholics, those who may never be able to give up the booze entirely, desperately need to be made aware of the other options now available.

The Big Book (AA’s core text) says: “there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.” Well, actually it has. In the mid-1990s, an American doctor, David Sinclair, began using an opiate blocker called naltrexone to treat alcoholics. Naltrexone inhibits the euphoria alcoholics get from drinking and allows them to drink normally. This is called “pharmacological extinction”. It means that, eventually, the drinker no longer associates alcohol with a high. (According to AA, that association is never lost.) What became known as the Sinclair Method has now been used to treat thousands of alcoholics in Finland, where he worked. In the rest of the world, naltrexone is largely unheard of (although nalmefene, a similar treatment, is available on prescription in Britain). What’s more, it’s out of patent, which means it’s unattractive to pharmaceutical companies who can no longer profit from it – so they’ve no reason to promote it. Sadly Sinclair died earlier this year, without the international recognition he deserved.

Right now, in the US, a debate is raging over the effectiveness of AA, largely inspired by Obamacare (the Affordable Health Care Act) and its implications for the funding of a “spiritual” remedy for alcoholism and addiction. This in a nation where church and state are constitutionally separated, yet the overwhelming majority of rehabs use 12-step methods.

Last year, retired Harvard psychiatry professor Lance Dodes released The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry. In his book, Dodes examines data surrounding AA’s success rate and concludes that the programme is effective for as few as 5-8% of people. We’ll probably never know the real figure, but it’s certainly less than that of naltrexone. In 2001 Sinclair reported a 78% success rate in reducing and, sometimes, cutting out patients’ alcohol consumption altogether.

AA’s apparent ineffectiveness isn’t the only aspect of the fellowship now being called into question. This year Monica Richardson, an American filmmaker and ex-12-stepper who was sober in AA for more than 30 years, won best documentary at the Beverly Hills Film Festival with The 13th Step – a feature-length critique of hidden sexual predation in AA, and the fellowship’s apparent inability to do anything about it.

“Thirteenth stepping” is AA slang for seducing a fellow member. This is usually, though not exclusively, practised by men who take advantage of their immediate access to vulnerable women. There is no formal safeguarding in AA, and everyone is anonymous so there’s no vetting process. Consequently an innocent young women trying to come to terms with a drink problem can find herself sitting in AA next to a man with a serious criminal history, whose record might include violent or sexual offences, and who has in some cases even been court ordered to attend meetings.

So, while AA certainly offers inspirational guidance to help separate the alcoholic from what ails them, it also faces a number of difficult “21st- century problems”. I quit AA when I realised that, for some people, the 12 steps are perhaps no longer the most reliable route to sound long-term mental health. My last meeting was in early January 2014.

Aside from no longer believing in a higher power, I’d developed chronic OCD. My doctor told me that AA wasn’t helping. Fourteen years earlier, a medical professional had suggested that I needed AA. Now one was insisting that it was damaging my health and, what’s more, that I should leave. Soon after, I discovered cognitive behavioural therapy. Whereas AA actively encourages obsessive thinking, CBT challenges it. I finally realised the extent to which AA had in fact been nurturing my anxiety. SMART Recovery is a group that helps alcoholics using CBT rather than the 12 steps. It’s slowly growing here and in America but, unfortunately, is still dwarfed by the size of AA because so few people have heard of it.

It may seem like I’m anti-AA. That’s not true. I prefer to consider myself pro-choice when it comes to treating alcoholism. I owe my life to AA, but that puts me in a very small and very lucky minority. What so many alcoholics don’t know is that there are other options when it comes to treatment. I don’t regret joining AA, but 14 years of it, I now believe, may have been unnecessary. We need to look at why, when our fellowship’s success rate is apparently so low, it still dominates the public discourse on alcoholism and recovery.

The media’s near universal uncritical endorsement of AA may be a factor in this, although things are gradually beginning to change thanks to the power of the internet. It’s never been so easy for people with shared interests to connect, and many bloggers and online activists are working to promote progressive secular options in recovery. I’d encourage anyone with an alcohol problem to try AA, but also to spend time researching the secular alternatives.

Friday Sober Jukebox – we don’t need no education

we don't need no educationSo this post is triggered by two things – a sample of this track spinning round during a run one time over Xmas and a post by Kristen over at ByeByeBeer.  I’m mixing my metaphors somewhat because initially there will be some expression of defiance about brainwashing, as this song so brilliantly illustrates, & then it will become about education, growth of self and homework for life! 😉

The defiance is about the brainwashing, aka PR & advertising might of the drinks industry, that cranked up it’s messaging that booze is good and excessive drinking is normal over the Xmas & New Year period that made me increasingly angry and resentful.  Not a good  place to be & I had to work very hard to manage that around my family.  I don’t know but the lyrics of thought control and being a brick in the wall resonated for me.  We become so co-opted by it all I despair and for me it really is that matrix red pill blue pill moment.  So you can take the red pill and keep drinking or take the blue pill and do it a whole different way.  Which requires commitment and faith that those who have been before you are not lying to you and that it is so worth it.

Which segways with what Kristen featured which is a TED talk called Homework for Life.  If you click on the ByeByeBeer link you can watch it there which is where I saw it 🙂

“Homework for Life” is a strategy that I originally began using to generate more story topics for the stage, but as I began to use the strategy daily, it changed my life. It made everything about my life so much more vivid and slowed my life down remarkably. It’s a strategy I teach to my storytelling classes often, and I’ve had people tell me that it has replaced therapy and meditation for them. It truly changes lives. Powerful.

He talks about spotting the ‘danders in the wind’ which really resonated for me.  So to counteract the ongoing onslaught of ‘life requires booze to be good’ message I’m starting to practice homework for life as an additional sober tool to support the therapy and meditation I already practice.  At the age of 47 life is already speeding up way too much for me so if I can slow it down & notice the beautiful in the benign that has got to be a good thing.  Plus it supports my word for the year ‘clarity’ 🙂

Now that tune 😉

PS If you’re looking for a new eaterie & are East London way can I recommend Redemption?  I’ve blogged about it before here.  They opened their West London venue in Notting Hill back in August & now they have one in the heart of Shoreditch!

This is what Catherine had to say:

Redemption Bar’s new Shoreditch restaurant will be located at 320 Old Street, London, EC1V 9DR and will open to the public from Monday 4th January for a lunch service. 

redemption old streetOpening hours:
Monday – Friday 12pm – 11pm
Saturday 10am – 11pm
Sunday 10am – 5pm

Alcohol ruined my life (2)

Yesterday’s and today’s post comes from my old home of Brighton & Hove.  It’s where I worked and cared for alcoholic liver disease patients so I am only too aware of the issue that the city has locally.   In Brighton and Hove there is an average of two alcohol-related deaths each week.

This was covered in the local newspaper The Argus in November and I want to contrast the shared personal stories with new products being bought to market by the alcohol industry at the same time to highlight what we are up against.  New ways to market alcohol in different formats and to different market segments are being worked on all the time and for this person alcohol ruined their life.

mancanA wine MANCAN!  Yes really ……… and thank you to the member of  Club Soda on FB who bought this new product to my attention.



Gary turned to alcohol after his life began to fall apart

FORMER school teacher Gary has not touched a drop of alcohol in six months.

It is a huge achievement for the 51-year-old who, until only recently, was seeking solace in booze every night after he lost his job and his marriage broke down.  He had always been a social drinker but it was never a problem until he was in his 40s and became “more thirsty” as parts of his life began to fall apart.

His relationship with his wife broke down, they sold their house and he moved into a smaller property on his own.  He turned to a six pack of lager and half a bottle of vodka to cushion the blow but said by 2013 he had gone “completely gaga”.

“It got the better of me and I got into a really bad space. It was horrible,” he said.  “I could hold my drink and could function OK but I never had an alcohol free day. I was using it to get through the day. I was going to work not completely alcohol free. It’s terrible but it’s true.  “I would get long holidays and had six weeks on my own so I became best friends with the off licence.  “I woke up one day and the first thing I did was reach for the bottle. I suddenly thought ‘Gary – what are you doing, is this what the rest of your life is going to be?’ I didn’t want it to be.”

In May this year he called Pavilions drug and alcohol service for help.  “I couldn’t get out of the hole myself. I went kicking and screaming – I was still in some form of denial until I could admit it. I was admitted to Mill View hospital in Hove, I couldn’t safely come off the drink myself so I went there to detoxify.”

He was in there for eight days and nights earlier this year, receiving injections of the tranquiliser Diazepam. He then attended a relapse prevention course with Pavilions.  Now he is in recovery and to show his gratitude for those who helped him, he has become a volunteer for the charity.

Alcohol ruined my life (1)

Today’s and tomorrow’s post comes from my old home of Brighton & Hove.  It’s where I worked and cared for alcoholic liver disease patients so I am only too aware of the issue that the city has locally.  In Brighton and Hove there is an average of two alcohol-related deaths each week.

wine ice-creamThis was covered in the local newspaper The Argus in November and I want to contrast the shared personal stories with new products being bought to market by the alcohol industry at the same time to highlight what we are up against.  New ways to market alcohol in different formats and to different market segments are being worked on all the time and for this person alcohol ruined their life.

5% wine ice-cream!  Yes really ……… and thank you to the member of the SWANS group on FB who bought this new product to my attention.

Empty nest syndrome led Sarah to drinking

SARAH loved coming home to a full house and being surrounded by her family.

But when her children grew up and moved away, the single parent found herself feeling increasingly lonely.  Her job in hospitality kept her busy until she lost her driving licence and struggled to find work.

She lost her confidence and became incredibly unhappy at the prospect of entirely empty days looming ahead of her.  Never one to drink heavily – only a pint of lager or two at the pub – she turned her attention to spirits to fill the void.

This escalated into more than a bottle of vodka a day.

“I thought with vodka you couldn’t smell it but I was wrong,” she said.

“I just couldn’t cope with going home and there being nobody there. It became so bad that I could not function without a couple of glasses of vodka. I would be shaking and it would calm me. I couldn’t go out unless I had a drink. I would drink through most of the day.  “I knew I had a problem but I didn’t know how to deal with it. I stopped but then I started again. This carried on for quite a few years. It completely ruined my life.

“I was told later I had what they call empty nest syndrome.”

It was her doctor who noticed the signs and arranged for her to get the help she needed. She has taken part in three detox treatments since then. This time she said she has made a breakthrough in her struggle and is indebted to the Brighton Oasis Project.  The 65-year-old Brighton mother-of-two said: “I feel so much better. I can cope with things much better now. I had let everything take a back seat – my personal hygiene, financial matters.

“I had very little support from friends and family but the people here have been wonderful. I tried AA meetings but that didn’t quite work for me. But since I have started this I really enjoy it. I don’t know if it is because it is all women that I feel part of a community. I look forward to coming to sessions and I want to come to them.  “I don’t want to drink, I don’t need to drink.  “I am facing problems now rather than pushing them under the carpet. After Christmas I want to look at getting involved in volunteer work.”

PS Thank you to the lovely SWAN who bought this radio series to my attention yesterday:

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot’s incisive memoir of overcoming alcoholism amid the luminous Orkney landscape. Read by Tracy Wiles

Amy Liptrot interview: How the writer drowned in London – and rescued herself on the shores of Orkney


I absolutely LOVE this!!  Go Australia!



New campaign. The #SoberSelfie Challenge aims to make it easier for young people to say no to a drink. Participants can register for a weekend or a fortnight period without alcohol and are encouraged to take photos of how they’re spending their hangover-free days using the hashtag #SoberSelfie. Participants can take the challenge at any time during the campaign period; as well as nominate their friends to share the experience | Australian Drug Foundation, Australia

The website is awesome and I had to just take screen grabs of it all and share them here.  This is a brilliant campaign from the Australian Drug Foundation.



















I wish we had it here ……..

British hospitals face serious shortage of liver specialists

This was published by the British Liver Trust in November looking at the serious shortage of liver specialists following on from the Lancet Commission update report which you can read about here.

british liver trustDespite rising rates of alcohol- and obesity-related liver disease, fewer than 1 in 3 UK hospitals employ a full-time liver specialist

Fewer than one in three hospitals employ a full-time doctor who specialises in liver medicine, according to a survey of 144 hospitals in the UK.  The results – published as part of a new report examining progress since The Lancet Commission on Addressing Liver Disease in the UK was published in 2014 – suggest that staffing levels for liver specialists are worryingly low in some regions, and that patient outcomes may be suffering as a result.

“Although the total number of liver specialists in the UK has actually increased in recent years, they are concentrated in a small number of large specialist liver centres,” says Professor Roger Williams, the Commission’s lead author, and Director of the Foundation for Liver Research.

“The UK’s specialist liver centres provide an excellent standard of care for their patients, but they aren’t evenly distributed throughout the country.  This results in a postcode lottery for patients with liver disease, who may not be able to access specialist care when they need it. We’ve seen very little progress on this problem since we first reported it last year, and the rising numbers of patients with liver problems in the UK means that we can’t afford to ignore these shortcomings any longer.”

While the report finds that there has been some progress in improving staffing and standards of care for liver patients over the last year, poor patient outcomes in many areas of liver disease suggests that the UK still has much room for improvement. The report provides clear recommendations for how liver services should be structured in the UK, and suggests that all district hospitals should aim to have at least one full-time liver specialist.

A new area of concern highlighted by the report is the widespread lack of surveillance in the UK for detecting early liver cancer in patients with cirrhosis (scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage, which can be for a variety of reasons, including alcohol misuse, hepatitis C, or obesity-related liver disease).  Nearly two thirds (60%) of liver cancer cases in the UK are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached an advanced stage, when it is incurable.

The report also highlights the continued need for stronger government leadership to tackle alcohol misuse and obesity, the two primary drivers of liver disease in the UK. Reiterating the findings of the 2014 Commission, the report authors again call for the government to re-instate the alcohol duty escalator and implement minimum alcohol pricing to curb rising drinking rates, and for effective policies to address the UK’s rising rates of obesity.

Scotland and Wales are both singled out for making progress in terms of implementing national liver strategies and other measures to improve liver disease outcomes (including implementing minimum alcohol pricing, in the case of Scotland).

Read in full here

Liam Byrne reveals how growing up with an alcoholic father left him ‘scarred’

This news story was covered in November last year following the Early Day Motion that was presented to the Houses of Parliament regarding the governments support for the children of alcoholics sponsored by Liam Byrne.  He did a radio 4 interview to support this which you can listen to here and this is the coverage in the Daily Telegraph where he talked about being left ‘scarred’ by his experience.

byrne_2190768bA former Labour Cabinet minister revealed for the first time his “sheer choking worry” of being brought up by a father whose alcoholism left him “scarred”.

Liam Byrne, who held a number of Cabinet posts in the last Labour Government, will criticise the Government for failing to recognise children’s suffering in its official alcohol strategy.

In a brave and highly personal speech in the Houses of Parliament, Mr Byrne laid bare his experience growing up as the child of an alcoholic.  Mr Byrne paid tribute to his “extraordinary” father Dermot, who died aged 68 just before May’s general election after fighting his alcoholism.

He said: “At his best, he was warm; he was charismatic; he was generous; he was an idealistic; he was the man who inspired me to be idealistic like him; to join the Labour party; to venture out into the jungle of public life; to take personal responsibility for making change happen”.

However Mr Byrne detailed how Dermot was “fighting an addiction to alcohol that scarred me – and when he lost the woman he loved, my mother, at the age of 52, to cancer, it knocked him over the edge”.

He said: “Growing up as a child and an adult I’ve had to handle all the things that every child of an alcoholic gets to feel – but never really to understand.  Trying to make yourself invisible – because you just want to disappear from the embarrassment. The chronic insecurity.  The co-dependency of supporting others – in my case counselling my mum, from the tender age of eight. The hospital visits. The trouble with ambulances.  The sheer choking agony of worry: is he OK? Is he safe? Is he on a floor? Is he eating? Am I doing enough? Am I a good son?  Am I obeying the commandment to honour your mother and father? The guilt: why aren’t I there to look after him?  The drive for perfectionism that comes from that striving to please, to make proud, to delight someone who just seems not to care.”

Mr Byrne criticised the Government for not doing more to help the estimated 2.6million children who are said to live with a “hazardous” or “dependent” drinker.  Crucially, children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves, he said.

Mr Byrne pointed out that the Coalition Government’s Alcohol strategy, published in 2012, fails to mention how to look after children of alcoholic parents.  He demanded that the Government take steps to ensure that these children know they are not alone and realise that their parents’ drinking is not their fault.  He also urged the Government to set up and run a major public information campaign aimed at heavy drinking parents, to let them know the damage they are doing to their children and give them advice on how to get help

Mr Byrne this week launched a new All Party Parliamentary Group to champion the cause, bringing together MPs who are themselves children of alcoholics.

Mr Byrne also called on others to speak out “to break the silence – so we can break the cycle of the alcohol that scars children for life”.

A government spokesman said: “Every child should grow up in a safe environment. We have invested more than £8 billion to help councils put services in place to protect those at risk of abuse or neglect, including from alcoholic parents.  We are also working across government to educate young people about the risks of alcohol and break the cycle of addiction.  We are continuing to improve the quality of social workers, strengthening the child protection system as a whole and encouraging councils to find new ways to tackle problems through our £100m Innovation Programme.”

And this too in The Guardian

I have been slightly stunned over the past few days by the sheer number of people – from MPs, to journalists to members of the public – who’ve got in touch to say “me too”. The scale of this problem is immense: one in five of our children is the child of a hazardous drinker. That’s 2.6 million kids.

The hardest thing for me in recent days has been reading the stories people wanted to share, with tears running down my face. I tell you, I feel now that there is an epidemic of this agony in every corner of the country. And the pain can last a lifetime. One man – still unable to forgive his father – told me he was still grappling with the pain at the age of 70.

When Charles Kennedy died, I snapped. I admired Charles, and I just couldn’t stand the way people talked about his fight with “demons”. For heaven’s sake, it wasn’t demons. It was a disease. It made me feel that we’ve got to normalise the conversation about alcoholism. But that means we’ve got to organise the conversation. And that’s why, with the help of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and a host of alcohol charities, I’ve started our campaign in parliament, because my dad was also the child of an alcoholic.

Me too Liam, me too.

I sincerely hope this cross-party motion gets support for the sake of all those children and young people impacted by a parent or parents who drink.

Edited to add: 17th February 2016

BBC Breakfast interview on campaign to support children of alcoholics

Today I was interviewed on BBC Breakfast as part of the cross-party campaign to support the children of alcoholics | Liam Byrne, UK

Beware as work socialising could get you the sack

David BrentThis was a news piece featured on AOL looking at work socialising prior to Christmas last year but is appropriate for any time and type of work social event where drinking is taking place.  You don’t want to do a David Brent at any time of the year! 😉

It’s the time of year when socialising isn’t just for Saturday night. We’re far more likely to go out with colleagues after work, or get together with friends on a work night, as we try to squeeze as many festivities in as possible. However, the experts warn that unless we consider our partying carefully, it could end up causing real harm to our careers.

Research by Direct365 found that a quarter of people plan to drink on a work night during the Christmas party season. Not only that, but when we’re celebrating and letting our hair down, we’re likely to be drinking more too.

The impact

Plenty of attention has been focused on the dangers of getting drunk around work colleagues. If you have been trying to hide the fact you despise your boss, for example, this may get harder when you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. Likewise if you happen to find a colleague attractive, you run the risk of making some poor decisions.

A survey by Adecco found that 40% of people had shown themselves up when drinking with colleagues. Some 23% have been officially reprimanded for their behaviour, and 11% have been fired for it – or know someone who has.

However, even if you hold it together on the night, you could still end up in trouble. In many cases, a long party night mid-week will mean people are unable to make it into work the following day. Alcohol-related sickness costs the UK £1.9 billion a year, and accounts for 5% of all absences, but just because it is prevalent, it doesn’t mean you can get away with it. If you have been out drinking with workmates, it will be quite obvious why you didn’t make it in the following day, and it’s not likely to go down well.

If you stagger into work with a horrible hangover, meanwhile, you’re not doing yourself any favours either. A study by Drinkaware found that as many as half a million people will go to work with a hangover. Some 17% of them admit it will cause them to make mistakes or fall behind with their work, while 7% will end up shuffling home early – which isn’t going to impress anyone at work.

And Direct365 found that this may just be the tip of the iceberg. There’s a good chance that many people will have driven into work while still over the legal limit, and others may still be affected by alcohol when they get there. A study earlier this year showed that 85% of people had been under the influence of alcohol at work.


There are many factors which influence how long alcohol will stay in your system such as your weight, size, age and your individual reaction to alcohol. However, it is estimated that one large glass of wine would take an average person around three hours to break down.

Therefore, if you assume someone drinks from 8pm in the evening, and then drives into work at 8am the following morning, if they have had any more than four glasses of wine during the evening, there’s a risk they will be over the limit.

Because of the risks involved, most workplaces will have a drugs and alcohol policy in place. Usually being under the influence is a disciplinary issue, but in environments where there’s a very real risk of harm to yourself or other people it can be considered a gross misconduct issue – which can potentially get you fired on your first offence.

There have been plenty of high-profile examples over the years, including Hollyoaks actress Stephanie Davis, who was fired this summer after turning up unable to work because of alcohol consumption.

‘Unfit for work’ Stephanie Davis sacked from Hollyoaks after turning up to work DRUNK

So before you head out for a drink or two after work, it’s worth considering just how much you ought to be drinking – and just how serious the consequences could be if you get carried away.

Wise words indeed ……


Breathalysing Britain: Free Spirits Or a Drain on Society?

bbc_radio_threeThis was part of the Radio 3 2015 Festival recorded  in front of an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead.  Called ‘Breathalysing Britain: Free Spirits or Drain on Society?’ the broadcast lasts 45 minutes and is well worth your time 🙂

Every day we read lurid headlines about alcohol abuse and the consequences of binge drinking for the young at home and abroad. But a deeper look reveals a complicated picture of alcohol use in Britain. Champagne is still linked with celebration, while pubs are closing up and down the country. University freshers’ weeks are adjusting to reflect the increasing number of students who are teetotal – but doctors are reporting a rise in patients with liver damage. How should society accommodate people who drink to excess and those who don’t want to drink at all?

Dr Sally Marlow from King’s College, London is an expert in addiction. In a specially commissioned Free Thinking talk she explores the hypocrisy in society around alcohol.

Joining the debate chaired by Free Thinking presenter Philip Dodd are:

Professor Barry Smith – philosopher from the University of London’s School of Advanced Study and wine columnist for Prospect magazine.

David Yelland – former editor of the Sun and a Trustee of Action on Addiction and Patron of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, author of Love in a Headscarf and Muslim women’s activist, who blogs at Spirit 21 and who is a lifelong teetotaller.

Friday Sober Jukebox – Gratitude and thank you

circle of gratitudeIn a circle of gratitude I want to thank this person for sharing this with me 🙂

Hello I’m ….. and I am an alcoholic … or am I ?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that my drinking was way out of control and needed to be addressed.

I had been drinking heavily, VERY heavily for many years I was physically, and emotionally worn out with it . I wrestled with the concept of sobriety for two years before I finally fully accepted that this was the only way forward for me. Over the two years I spent thousands on therapy with various different therapists all with different views and treatment plans finding out why I drank and ways to help me moderate my drinking in the hope that I could put an end to all this misery. I knew all along that in my heart that I was killing my self with drink but knowing that and accepting that are two very different things. Alcohol was my best friend and worst enemy, I really didn’t have any clue on how / where to start to live without it.

It is such a scary place to find yourself and I was genuinely shocked to have found myself in this place. I considered myself to be a strong person surely I could take this on ?

Once I accepted that sobriety was the only way, I felt relieved, I stopped arguing with myself and decided to start taking action rather than just thinking about it. In December 2014 I set my sober date for January. I completed the Udemy course hangover free life by Louise Rowlinson which was great and gave me lots of tools and information . I subsequently had the follow up telephone call with Louise . Louise was fantastic, she was so understanding and most importantly believed in me and my ability to get sober . She helped me formulate a plan and emailed me every day to see how I was coping . I have to say although it hasn’t been easy it really has been life changing . I have now been sober for one year, although initially I found stopping drinking hard it is something that has become second nature. In the last year I can honestly say I have got my life back. It’s a very different life but a far far better one. I’m still in the process of finding out what I like to do hobbies etc but I’m being kind to myself. Reconstruction of my life has been an exciting time and so many thing have improved, my relationship with my children and partner, my anxiety, appearance. I am truly grateful for not only Louise’s help but also her belief in me at at time when I didn’t believe in myself. Although a stranger to me at the time she turned out to be a person who I will never forget!

So to riff on the theme of gratitude I’m going to continue to offer my Udemy course at it’s discounted price of £60/$89 until the end of January when the price will increase to £99/$149.  You can access it via the image to the right of this or via this link Udemy online course.  I am so grateful that 500 of you have signed up for this course so far and want to continue to help as many others as possible 🙂

Plus you can still sign up for my How to Quit Drinking workshop in London on Saturday 30th January here.

And now a tune 😉