Monthly Archives: February 2016

What Is Emotional Sobriety?

emotional sobriety jim rohnThank you to the lovely SWAN over on the FB group for bringing this to my attention 🙂  It’s an article in Psychology Today magazine looking at emotional sobriety.  I’m sneaking it in as an extra post on Valentine’s Day as talk of emotions seems apt today 🙂  This is what they had to say:

What is emotional sobriety? Some might think that it means being “happy, joyous, and free,” a common adage in 12-Step meetings, taken from AA literature. Of course, people like this definition. It means that if they work a good program, they will achieve physical sobriety (abstinence) and become happy in the process. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this definition puts a lot of recovering people in a tough spot. For example, what does it say about a person’s emotional sobriety if they are having a hard time? What if they are afraid, anxious, sad, angry, confused … the list can go on and on. Does this mean that they aren’t emotionally sober? 

I believe that emotional sobriety is less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad”) and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings. Being restored to sanity isn’t about getting the brass ring—or cash and prizes—or being “happy, joyous, and free” all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever it happens to look like. What are you experiencing right now? And how about now? Can you be present to all of your feelings without any one of them defining you?

Sometimes emotional sobriety is about tolerating what you are feeling. It is about staying sober no matter what you are feeling. It means that you don’t have to blame yourself or your program because life can be challenging. It means that you don’t necessarily need to do something to make the feeling go away. Many people will take their bad feeling and try to pray it, meditate it, service it, spiritually distract themselves from it, thinking that this means they are working a good program. This experience is actually called spiritual bypass.

John Welwood coined the term spiritual bypass and defined it as “using spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘un-finished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks, all in the name of enlightenment.” The shorthand for spiritual bypass is when a person wears a mask or presents a false spiritual self that represses aspects of that person’s true self. Spiritual bypass involves bolstering our defenses rather than our humility. Bypass involves grasping rather than gratitude, arriving rather than being, avoiding rather than accepting.

I am forever interested in how mind, body, and spirit interact for people in recovery and how the “ism” (alcoholism) is always trying to steal the show. “Ism” doesn’t want you to acknowledge that you are scared, ashamed, lost, or angry. And let’s face it, some people in recovery don’t want you to acknowledge that either. Because then they would have to look at that stuff (and feel it), and they just might not be ready. So spiritual bypass becomes a tool for working a spiritual program that is really in service of controlling obstacles and outcomes. It provides the illusion that the addict can still manage their feelings even though they aren’t using their drug of choice.

In my own spiritual journey, I have experienced spiritual bypass many times. As a defense mechanism, we are all susceptible to this unconscious drive to protect ourselves from our painful realities. And using spirituality as a defense certainly looks a lot better than using drugs or alcohol. But it is a defense mechanism nonetheless and most people in recovery want the ability to access all of their feelings, because being present to what is real is what enables choices, and choices propel people towards their most authentic and fulfilling sober life.

I have spent a great deal of time studying and researching the experience of spiritual bypass in 12-Step recovery. I’ve written a book called Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice that goes into great depth on this topic. Every person in recovery who I have interviewed or worked with in my psychotherapy practice has gained tremendous insight by looking at their own experiences of spiritual bypass and I hope that you will gain similar results. If nothing else, give yourself permission to feel all of your feelings. Know that we don’t have the sort of surgical precision to only feel the feelings that we enjoy. Happiness might be sitting right next to regret, joy might be right next to overwhelmed. That is just the human condition. And experiencing all of our feelings is true emotional sobriety.

Ouch – reading this inflicted some wincing on my part particularly the meditate it and service it statements.  Hello blog writing, hello Headspace!  It hurts to look within and acknowledge our dark corners so no wonder I try to spiritual bypass my way through it sometimes.  But that’s okay – I feel the feelings associated with that and use the knowledge to grow my emotional sobriety further 🙂  What do you think?

Putting lipstick on a pig

VinturiSo in the run up to Christmas last year I was reflecting on previous years when I’d been drinking and clues that things were not as they should be.  And then I remembered this: the vinturi.  Our attempt to put lipstick on a pig!

We had discovered this device courtesy of my parents who had retired to France and they thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.

Here’s the manufacturing blurb about the product which is a wine & spirit aerator : Simply hold Vinturi over a glass and pour wine through. Vinturi draws in and mixes the proper amount of air for the right amount of time, allowing your wine to breathe instantly. You’ll notice a better bouquet, enhanced flavors and smoother finish.

The joy about this device at the time was that it turned water into wine.  OK well not quite but it boosted cheap ropey French wine into something resembling not bad quality.  For those of us who were drinking a high monetary value’s worth regularly and were looking for ways to save money this was manor from heaven! (and we were drinking the equivalent of about £250-£300 a month).  Plus I figured if I thought I was drinking better quality wine I would drink less of it <yes I know!>.

So the connection to what turned out to be one of our last drinking Christmas’s?  We bought one of these for every family member & close friend thinking we’d struck wine gold!!  I think we got a bulk discount we bought so many.  How I shake my head now at my own level of denial ……

When we moved over the summer we gifted our vinturi away with the last of the bottles of wine we had.  If we wanted to save money, rather than drink cheaper poorer quality wine, all we had to do was stop completely!


Friday Sober Jukebox: Help Someone

Help-someone-quoteI love the internet.  It became widely available when I was in my late 20’s, working in medical sales and still living in London.  Who could foresee a world where we could write words or songs and upload them for others to read or listen to via blogs or Youtube?  A virtual world that would create and allow such global connection.  My kids can’t envisage a world without it and have known no different and laugh when I say that we didn’t even have colour tv when we were their age!

And through the power of the internet I received this email and song and was able to share it here 🙂

Message: Hi,

My name is Jeremy. I’ve battled addiction since the age of 13. I’ve written this song to help myself during recovery and perhaps others might identify with it and maybe it will “Help Someone” else. Use it or share it however you wish, if you feel it’s appropriate. God bless.

And we had this conversation:

Thank you Jeremy for sharing your song.  I’ll post it for one of my Sober Friday Jukebox tunes if that’s okay?

Thank you again

Lou x

Thank you. It’s really nice having a “hangover free life” – not always easy, but much better than the alternative. Thanks!

Thank you Jeremy <3

Edited to add: 19th March 2016

If you want to find out a little more about Jeremy you can do so as he recently did a Recovery Rocks for Veronica Valli

Thousands of hungover motorists told they risk drink-driving conviction

drunk driveSo this story was covered by The Guardian in mid December when plenty of folks were out on works Xmas shin-digs so the number of potentially hungover motorists driving was higher than usual.  That said this is a real and ongoing concern of mine that it isn’t the night before when drinking that we should be mindful of getting behind the wheel but the morning after.  Lots of garages have started selling self breathalyser kits and in France it’s been law since 2012 to have one in your car.

Thousands of hungover drivers are risking a criminal conviction, the Department for Transport has warned, with 5,500 people in the average year failing a breath test in the morning.

The DfT said 740 accidents involving drink driving in 2013 took place the morning after a night out.

Research conducted for its Christmas drink-driving campaign, Think, suggested that one in three drivers were unaware they could be unfit to drive the morning after drinking as little as four pints of beer or glasses of wine – although 58% of drivers said they would take the risk after drinking that amount.

The road safety minister, Andrew Jones, said: “Getting behind the wheel after a big night out is a risk that drivers just should not take. Not only are they putting themselves in danger, they also endanger others and their actions can destroy lives.”

Police said that while most drivers were now aware about the risks of drinking or drug taking before getting behind the wheel, fewer thought about the following day.

Suzette Davenport, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead, said: “The majority of drivers are aware that driving whilst impaired by drink or drugs is not worth the risk, but some do not think about how they will get home or to work the morning after a night out.”

Over the last three years, an annual average of 5,500 breath test failures were recorded between the hours of 6am and midday in Britain, the DfT said.

With the human body taking an hour on average to break down one unit of alcohol, it could take as long as 12 hours for the alcohol from four pints of premium lager or four large glasses of wine to leave the system.

Penalties for drink driving are strict, including a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, a possible fine and up to six months in prison, as well as an endorsement on the driver’s licence for 11 years.

What do we know about drink drivers?

A recent response to a Freedom of Information request by the DVLA gives up-to-date figures on the number of people disqualified from driving after being convicted of a drink driving offence. The response was made on 5 November 2015 but only published on 8 January 2016 | Russell Webster, UK

So although Xmas is a dim and distant memory the question about whether you should drive the morning after a big night boozing  is not and remains important all year round – like Valentine’s which is only a few days away!

PS If you want to see the nifty chart that illustrates how long between drinking and driving (depending on how much you’ve drank) I featured it in this post here.

Edited to add: 04/09/17 Reported in The Telegraph:

”There was no intention to drive while over the limit. She did not realise she was over the next day.”


To the edge

rethink mental illnessThis is from the Rethink Mental Illness blog looking at anxiety and alcohol.  Thank you to Simon for sharing his story entitled ‘To the edge’.

Simon’s anxiety disorder was so severe he turned to alcohol to cope. He tells us about how his ‘coping strategy’ came to dominate his life and ruin his health, and how stopping drinking was only half the challenge…

In September 2015, raising money for Rethink Mental Illness, I entered the ‘The Nine Edges Challenge’. This is a 22-mile hike that takes in the beautiful eastern gritstone edges of the Peak District.

In September 2013, a broken man, physically, spiritually and mentally I began my ‘Recovery Challenge’ at a drugs and alcohol clinic in Bedfordshire. Not quite as scenic, granted, but by then walking wasn’t much of an option for me.

I’ve always had an odd relationship with my brain. As a child it would create strange and scary phenomena whilst I tried to go to sleep. In what I now know as ’hypnogogic sleep’ I would have out of body experiences, the walls of the room expanding before I nestled by the glow-in-the-dark plastic stars stuck to the ceiling.

But my troubles really began when I pushed my poor brain at university. That’s when my Generalised Anxiety Disorder came to my attention rather fiercely. Like many, I had never experienced a panic attack before and when one came early on in my first year, I was scared that I was going crazy.

The fear came at me any time, good or bad, and the crippling anxiety and terror seemed constant. It got steadily worse as my studies progressed. I couldn’t walk straight, eating was always followed with dry retching, and places that I always found comforting, like the library, became stress-inducing to the point where I would need to flee. Exit strategies were found, toilets mainly, panic rooms. I tried so hard to calm down, breathe normally, but it always seemed to make it worse. Alcohol became my sedative, helping me write an essay, be around people and most of all, get some much needed sleep.

I passed my degree and was mightily relieved to get through it all in the end relatively unscathed. However the stage was set for the play that was to run on for the next 18 years.

By the time I hit 38, I’d become so dependent on alcohol to keep the anxiety in check I was hospitalised with Wernicke’s encephalopathy and neuropathy. This is a neurological disorder whereby I temporarily lost the use of my legs. I was heading into full-blown psychosis if I didn’t stop drinking and seek help.

My month in rehab was brutally life-changing but I learned what had been controlling me all these years. I also learnt that as an alcoholic, I had been in fear of fear all my life and that with a programme of recovery, I no longer needed to be afraid.

I have the support of some wonderful people in Alcoholics Anonymous and my family and friends who have walked by me step by step on my journey of recovery. I still suffer from anxiety, but I now have a much better set of coping strategies to help me not become my illness, but acknowledge it as something I can live with in a positive way.

As my legs began their slow recovery, I began to walk, swim, cycle and rock climb again. Activities that I love and that, in the darkness of my neurosis and neuropathy, couldn’t even dream of. I’m very pleased to say today I am now in a much better space. I’ve begun to study Occupational Therapy and have gone back to work in the NHS in both brain injury rehabilitation and psychiatric care.

On the day of the 9 Edges challenge there was non-stop rain with thick fog for the first 12 miles, as we hiked up and over some of the Peak District’s most stunning hillsides. The weather finally abated with 10 miles to go and I was proud to be able to wear my Rethink Mental Illness vest, displayed for all to see as we headed on towards the finish in bright sunshine, slowly drying out as we went.

I count myself a very fortunate fellow indeed. I still have a funny old relationship with my brain, it continues to play some impressive illusionary tricks on me. I learn about myself and how to help others with mental illness every day and how to live a meaningful life that isn’t defined by my anxiety, but acknowledges its presence. I can now see my illness as a positive towards helping others and am grateful for my second chance in life to realise this and all the wonderful opportunities that life brings.

Men in England drink twice as much alcohol as women, NHS study reveals

drunk_absolutThese NHS study findings were covered in The Independent in December with the headline finding that men drink twice as much as women.  The image is a glimpse into my world as a nurse working in A&E with drunks! Hope I didn’t spoil your breakfast 😉

A new NHS study has found that age, gender and wealth are key factors to understand how much alcohol we drink.

It was found that one in 20 men in England drink more than 50 units of alcohol units each week – that is the equivalent of six bottles of wine or 25 pints of beer.

Men have been found to drink twice as much alcohol as their female peers with the average Englishman drinking 16.8 units a week compared to the average woman drinking 8.8 units.

The annual health report discovered that people with the fifth highest household incomes (earnings of £44,000 or more) are significantly more likely to drink over the recommended weekly amount than those who live in the lowest fifth (earnings of £12,000 or less).

27% of men and 23% of women from the wealthiest households drink more than is advised compared to 5% of men and 12% women from the poorest homes.

The NHS currently advises men to drink 21 units or less a week which is equivalent to 10.5 pints of beer.

Women are encouraged to intake 14 units or less which is the same as one and a half bottles of wine.

The report questioned 10,000 adults and children about their drinking habits, finding that older generations are more likely to drink heavily than their younger relations.

The highest drinking age group of men was 65 to 74 of whom 30% would drink more than 21 units a week.

For women, the heaviest drinking age bracket was 55 to 64 where 22% would drink more than 14 units a week.

Elizabeth Fuller from NatCen Social Research who worked on the study said: ‘Today’s findings are reassuring – the majority of adults in England drink at levels that are at low risk of alcohol-related harm, and the proportion of men and women engaging in binge drinking has fallen since 2006.

‘However, there is a sizeable minority of adults who habitually drink above the lower risk levels.

‘This is especially the case for middle-aged men and women and adults in higher income households, who are thus putting themselves at risk of a number of alcohol-related health conditions including several cancers, cirrhosis of the liver, high blood pressure and depression.’

So my initial response to this was ‘and the rest!’ because if I was being questioned for an NHS study about my drinking I would under-report.  I’d hazard a guess that people halved the real number so we’re looking at 1 in 10 in reality.  What do you think?


Seedlip! S&T the new cool ;)

OK so it’s the first Friday night of February and you’ve been dry all January and had the first 4 days of the month off too.  You deserve a drink right?  How about a grown up drink that offers you the flavours of a good G&T but none of the liver damage or hangover?

This was in the Evening Standard in December and thank you Club Soda for bringing it to my attention! 🙂 I think we’ve discovered the drink that is going to make being sober really cool – Seedlip “Developed with Botanists, Distillers and Historians to solve the “what-to-drink-when-you-are-not-drinking” dilemma.” *I think I’m in love* 😉

seedlipImagine you’re having a night off the sauce. Then imagine that instead of having to order a glass of boring lime and soda or elderflower cordial and explain your choice to everyone, you simply said to the barperson, “I’ll have a Seedlip Martini please” — and what you got was a martini that looked and almost tasted like a martini, and no one even noticed. It could be brilliant.

Seedlip, billed by its founder Ben Branson as the world’s first distilled non-alcohol spirit, has arrived in London. After Selfridges bought the rights to sell it exclusively for two months, online stocks sold out within three weeks. Needless to say, Branson is making 1,000 more to arrive before Christmas.

So this is not a spirit as you know it, yet it is clear like gin, made like gin — different botanicals such as lemon peel, cardamom and cascarilla tree bark are distilled individually then blended together — and you can drink it like gin, with tonic or in a martini and other cocktails. It is also sold in what could easily pass for a beautifully labelled gin bottle. So theoretically you could replace gin with Seedlip and no one would know.

Last weekend I was challenged to go out in London with Branson and drink only Seedlip. I accepted willingly — as a regular drinker who takes an occasional lime and soda night, I get bored of saying, “I just don’t feel like drinking this evening,” to raised eyebrows.

At 5pm on Saturday I arrive at the glamorous Dandelyan bar at the Mondrian London hotel and eye its “boozeless” cocktail list. There I meet Branson, who is informed then and there by bartender Aidan that everything on it now includes Seedlip. He can’t believe his luck. Aidan thinks Seedlip is a “totally banging” addition to the drinks market — and the bottle, with its elegant illustration of a fox made out of botanicals on the label, fits so seemlessly into the cluster of others lined up on the back bar that I don’t even notice it. 

I order a Dandelyan Sourless, a light green number with an egg white foam that Aidan shakes up in front of us. It’s smooth and refined, with moments of pea and coconut, and it feels boozy, but I am assured that it’s simply Seedlip’s gin-like botanicals. 

The same happens with the Tropical Grass, made with Seedlip, pineapple juice and pine sherbet. By our third round — S&Ts, each served over ice with slices of fresh lemon — I’m still feeling perky.

Branson is both euphoric and worried about the early success of Seedlip. Earlier this year, after developing a flavour profile, he took his new drink, unpackaged and unbranded, to various bartenders and soon discovered that they all wanted it. Currently available at Dandelyan, The Clove Club, Sexy Fish and Hix bars, in January it will also arrive at the bars of the London Edition, The Savoy, Gordon Ramsay Group and House of St Barnabas.

Branson’s vision for Seedlip — named after a basket used for holding seeds — came about while he still owned his own design agency, working on product design for food and drink brands including Absolut Vodka, but wanted to solve a problem. He loved going to good restaurants but felt that, as a non-drinker “you don’t get that same kind of attention to detail for aperitifs, for example. I always drank a bitter lemon or a tonic but I knew it was only half a drink.” 

While researching old herbals, he came across a copy of the 1651 book The Art of Distillation, where he found some curious non-alcoholic herbal remedies for illnesses, none of which required any sugar or fruit juices. An idea was sparked.

“It was critical to have a fantastic brand, something that would really stand out that wasn’t a clichéd craft spirit, and to find a new category that created an  aesthetic that could really bring nature to life,” says Branson of the design process.

Seedlip is blended and bottled in England, though some of the preparatory work happens abroad. Having grown up on his family’s farm in Lincolnshire, Branson would ultimately like to open a distillery there, once he’s proved the London market. Botanicals are sourced from around the world — the lemon peel is distilled in Argentina — and five other botanicals are distilled in Germany using “a secret process”. Next year he’ll launch two more products.

Back on our bar crawl, I ask Branson whether he’s solved his problem. “I think we’re just getting started. From what I’m told we’ve given bartenders a way to start a non-alcoholic cocktail … I’m not sure that they have been able to do that before.” 

Indeed, when I arrive at The Clove Club, head barman Rob Simpson pours us an elegant Seedlip-based apple and chestnut cocktail called the Woodland Wander, and describes why Branson has filled an important gap in the market. “This is such an exciting product. Some of our customers don’t drink and we want to give them the same experience of those who do. Now we have more options.”

Later, at a friend’s Christmas house party, those who have been going since 6pm are getting slowly sozzled. Some, seeing me pour Seedlip into a glass and adding tonic, ask what I’m doing and are confused when I declare it to be booze-free. “But it’s so good!” they exclaim after tasting it, utterly gobsmacked.

By midnight and nearly seven hours’ out, it’s time for bed. I wake up fully compos mentis at 8am and make a mental note to take Seedlip nights out more often. Ben Branson, you’ve started a revolution.

For more information, visit

You can purchase it here:

Plus product number 2 is on it’s way! 🙂

And I’ve tasted it and it’s lovely – all the taste of a good botanical gin but none of the downside of drinking spirits either at the time or the following day ……

And if you want a cool venue to drink your cool new spirit – how about?


The first UK club night to go BOOZE FREE.

Look after you body and your mind with full power partying Kachette in Shoreditch.


Alcohol and dementia: Adding insult to injury?

alocholism-and-dementia-are-they-related-11-728This was an excellent guest blog post on Alcohol Policy UK looking at alcohol and dementia (further related posts here).

In this guest post, Dr Tony Rao, a consultant and visiting researcher in Old Age Psychiatry, considers recent media coverage over drinking and Alzheimer’s disease in the context of the research and his clinical experience.

When I started as consultant old age psychiatrist in an area of high socio-economic deprivation nearly 20 years ago, the thought of taking on the challenge of alcohol related problems in older people couldn’t have been further from my mind.

What shocked me was the number of referrals for older drinkers who also had memory problems. Traditional thinking was that any form of alcohol misuse can only be coincidental in the development of common forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, there was very little consideration given at that time as to whether heavy drinking could really damage the brain to such an extent that it actually caused dementia.

Almost every month, the media sways us one way and then the other. One day, drinking red wine is ‘good for the brain’; the next day drinking within recommended guidelines ‘gives you brain damage’. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the media, it is that their selective abstraction for the sake of a story often has little bearing to what might be an evidence based conclusion. If this were the case, such headlines would be qualified with the statement ‘there are several limitations to the study and a firm conclusion about causality cannot be drawn’. Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books!

After 5 years as a consultant, I had what can only be called a medical epiphany when I looked at my ward round list to find that half the patients had alcohol related problems of one sort or another. The most obvious problem was dementia. It was time to do something and I threw myself in at the deep end, taking on a postgraduate degree that included both public health and clinical components. After emerging from the other end with both clinical and research knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to addictions, I was now equipped to care for older people with alcohol misuse, many of whom had problems such as dementia.

So what has changed over the past 18 years? Well, the number of people whom I am now diagnosing with alcohol related dementia has increased beyond belief. This isn’t just because I am looking for it more carefully. It is also because the sheer number of older people with this diagnosis has also increased. There is also the ‘baby boomer’ effect of a sudden surge of substance misuse in those people in the UK born between 1947 and 1964. The youngest of this cohort have now crossed their half century. This is also reflected in the fact that the average age at which I am seeing alcohol related dementia is people in their mid to late 60s.

Many might argue that I see the extreme end of the picture and that alcohol in ‘moderation’ may still confer health benefits and be a ‘brain tonic’ in the general population. After the all, we read it in the paper.

Most of the evidence about the relationship between alcohol and dementia is taken from studies of health and aging, in which alcohol consumption is ‘nested’ in follow-up mortality. Few of these drill down into detailed quantity/frequency measures and couple this with detailed cognitive testing or changes in functional abilities. This research fog is clouded still by problems in selecting a control group that is supposedly free of the brain changes seen in alcohol misuse.

It would be true to say that, on the whole, researchers have still not cracked the problem of finding a representative control group. This often means that groups labelled as moderate drinkers are being compared against groups that include former drinkers who have given up (so called ‘sick quitters’). We also have the problem of those who supposedly drink moderately, under-reporting their alcohol consumption.

There are two main conclusions from what would be regard­­­­ed as robust research in this area. The first is that there is no consistent evidence that drinking within recommended guidelines is associated with the development of dementia. However, this is qualified with an equally relevant conclusion that there is also little evidence to suggest that moderate drinking actually prevents the onset of dementia. These findings suggest that older people should not be advised to take up drinking to prevent dementia. Nor does it suggest that those who drink within the guidelines should necessarily become abstinent.

Additionally we must remember that the adverse effects of alcohol on both the body and on some prescribed medication increase with age.

Let’s now turn back to how heavy drinking affects the aging brain. Firstly, alcohol is a toxin, with increasingly damaging effects if taken in high enough amounts over long periods of time. In younger people, it may only affect memory but in older people its effects can mimic Alzheimer’s Disease. What helps to distinguish it from an Alzheimer’s type dementia is the early presence of changes in personality and behaviour. This is borne out in my own clinical practice, with most of the severe and challenging behaviours present in those people with a history of heavy drinking.

Further to dispelling misconceptions about the preventative effects of alcohol on dementia, it is time to move on and develop strong public health preventions strategies to support lower risk drinking. This needs to be complemented by care pathways for people with alcohol related dementia, most of who are often batted between services until they are finally in long term care.

There remains much that we can do prevent dementia in people with alcohol misuse. In this age of austerity, we need committed groups of people to join up the writing on the wall and link up public health interventions with clinical services to provide integrated care. At the moment, it is too little, too late.

Other headlines:

Older people drinking too much could create NHS ‘timebomb’, says doctor

Figures show high levels of alcohol consumption leading to increased numbers of over-65s being hospitalised for illnesses such as dementia | Guardian, UK

Thank you James & Dr Rao for this & I strongly agree!  Any thoughts?

Alcohol’s ‘centrality’ within Scotland’s LGBT community

This was a blog post written by Alcohol Policy UK to accompany a new SHAAP report out of Scotland looking at drinking and it’s ‘centrality’ within the LGBT community.

SHAAP LGBT report 2015A new report has explored the role of alcohol within the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender (LGBT) communities in Scotland, detailing the ‘centrality’ of alcohol and the strong role it plays in identity. Although little is known about transgender people’s drinking, LGBT groups generally experience higher levels of alcohol misuse but feel less able to access services.

Download The social context of LGBT people’s drinking in Scotland [PDF]

The study was undertaken by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), funded by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP). The research aimed to explore the social context of drinking among LGBT people in Scotland based on a series of focus groups which identified ‘the centrality of alcohol on the commercial gay scene’.

In particular the research identified the ‘habitual promotion’ of alcopops, spirits and shots in gay venues, and peer pressure to drink across the lifecourse. Drinking alcohol was found to be an important part of identity construction, whilst social media was used extensively to organize and record socializing and drinking.

A key finding also identified that respondents did not appear to be concerned about being asked about their drinking in routine health consultations – recently a briefing from the LGB&T Partnership & PHE called for further use of alcohol brief intervention amongst LGBT people.

Lead researcher, GCU’s Dr Carol Emslie, said:

“Drinking is central to the commercial gay scene and the alcohol industry is increasingly marketing their products directly to LGBT consumers. We need to make sure there are more places in Scotland where LGBT people can meet to socialise without alcohol, as well as working towards a culture where all groups in society find it acceptable to drink moderately, or indeed to choose not to drink at all.”

Last year a report was released calling for more inclusive services to support LGBT people in England. It followed a five-year study by the Lesbian & Gay Foundation (The LGF) in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) into drug and alcohol use among LGB people, finding significant substance dependency problems in the community.

‘Binge drinking’ was also found to be high across LGB groups, with 34% of males and 29% of females reporting binge drinking at least once or twice a week. Like the Scottish findings, access to treatment services was also be found to be a challenge owing to fears over stigma and perceived inability to deal with other related needs including mental health.

Once again Scotland’s comprehensive approach to alcohol impresses me greatly.  Your thoughts?

Edited to add: 8th April 2016 One of the expressed views from within the male gay community the UK

Alcohol and the gay community

If you’ve perused any gay media over the last couple of years, you might have come to the conclusion that the greatest singular challenge gay men face today is chemsex and its impact on sexual health. While chemsex may warrant the coverage and debate it generates, by being such a dominant story it risks drawing attention away from other issues. One of those other issues is alcohol | FS Mag, UK


Total body annihilation

So it’s the first of February and for those of you who have achieved Dry January – well done!!  I’m sure the idea of a drink is front and centre of your mind to celebrate your success but before you do please reconsider.  This was a news piece that was featured on New Years Day by The Mail and I’m mentioning it again here because I think it’s important.  I had always suspected that booze impacted every body system & function and this piece confirmed that booze really does cause total body annihilation.

booze annihilationMany of these things I’ve talked about in individual blog posts and you can read the full physical and psychological impact posts via the links or category tags at the top of the blog.  What I am going to feature in this post are the bits of research that I haven’t covered so far but that this article does – things I *knew* and *felt* anecdotally from my own experiences but couldn’t back up.


Heavy drinkers tend to get more chest infections and pneumonia as the are poorly nourished, Professor Sheron added.

This is because liquor weakens the immune system, making becoming ill more likely.

A Danish study found men who drank more than 50 drinks a week were 80 per cent more likely to be taken to hospital with pneumonia than those who indulged in up to six drinks a week, after taking into account factors like smoking and weight.

People who drink alcohol also aspirate, breathing in stomach acid, food or drink from the gastrointestinal tract into the voice box.

‘There are many rockstar fatalities due to people inhaling their own vomit,’ he said.


Alcohol is a toxin and is directly toxic to the heart muscle cells, Dr Klaus Witte, a cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary told MailOnline.

If a person drinks their heart cells die and sometimes fibrous tissue forms in its place which cannot contract as well.

They develop alcohol-related cardio myopathy, where the heart muscle becomes weak and thin and is unable to pump blood around the body, depriving tissues of oxygen.

This results in shortness of breath, tiredness, an irregular heartbeat and swelling in the legs and feet. 

In severe cases, it can lead to heart failure. 

Dr Witte continued: ‘The heart has an amazing ability to repair itself, but if you regularly drink, you will damage your heart.’

How much a person needs to drink and on what basis depends on their genetics, on how sensitive their body is to ethanol.

But across populations, drinking more than 14 units a week for women and 21 units for men will cause damage to heart cells.

There’s also such a thing as ‘holiday heart syndrome’ – where a person goes on holiday and binge drinks and comes back with atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. 

This can happen even to people who are extremely fit, Dr Witte said. 

He said: ‘When I was working in Wales I saw many Welsh rugby players who drank 16 pints a night and then they’d wake up with atrial fibrillation.

‘It’s not very common – if everyone who went to Ibiza came back with this problem they wouldn’t do it – but it does happen.’ 

 And the end result is the same between binge drinking and steady drinking, he said.

Binge drinking increases the likelihood of high blood pressure, as the blood vessels stiffen, causing the pressure inside the veins and arteries to rise.

It also triggers the release of certain stress hormones that constrict the blood vessels.

Having high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. 

Drinking also affects people’s sleep, which further raises blood pressure.

Dr Witte said: ‘Alcohol stops you sleeping properly, your more likely to snore. This obstruction or lack of ventilation, causes stress hormones to be released.

The youngest patient I nursed and who died because of alcohol was in her mid to late 30’s and died from alcohol induced cardiac failure 🙁


Heavy drinking on a regular basis has been found to double the risk of kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

The kidneys filter toxins and waste products from the blood, but alcohol changes the kidneys so they are less able to carry out this function.

The organs also keep the right amount of water in the body by regulating levels of salts in the blood and its pH. 

Alcohol dehydrates the body, and the lack of water can effect how many of the body’s organs work.

Drinking also leads to high blood pressure, which is a common cause of kidney disease. 

More than two drinks a day increases the chance of having high blood pressure.

Binge drinking can sometimes cause a sudden drop in kidney function known as ‘acute kidney injury’, as it causes a person’s blood alcohol levels to rocket.

 When this happens, a person needs dialysis (where they are connected to a machine which filters their blood) – until their kidney function returns to normal. 

This usually goes away in time, but in some cases, it can lead to lasting damage. 


Drinking regularly increases the likelihood of brittle bones, known medically as osteoporosis, as it causes them to become thin and weak, according to Sarah Leyland, senior and helpline manager at the National Osteoporosis Society.

This means people are more likely to break their bones, or their fractures won’t heal as well. 

‘There is a direct affect that alcohol has on bone remodelling,’ she told MailOnline.

In the body, there is a normal cycle of bones being built and being broken down and absorbed.

Alcohol upsets this balance by suppressing the bone building cells, called osteoblasts. 

‘It means you’re getting less bone tissue. They get finer and thinner, lacking an outer shell.

‘This happens anyway due to old age, but alcohol causes it too.’

‘Fractures are the end point of osteoporosis, your bones break and don’t heal as well.’

She added that alcohol intake is one of the main factors doctors consider when they are assessing a person’s risk of their bones fracturing.

People who drink alcohol also tend to be malnourished, which can contribute to brittle, weak bones.

Ms Leyland added: ‘In older people who are at risk of falling, alcohol can be enjoyable but it makes you unsteady, makes you get up in the night.’

To prevent osteoporosis, she advises eating a well balanced and calcium rich diet, with plenty of vitamin D and exercise.  

You can read the full article here.  I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer on you I promise but booze is not the benign harmless drug we think it is and it plays absolute havoc with our health as this excellent video from The Guardian shows:

Please go gently and try to stick to under the recommended guidance and if you are struggling consider stopping again yes?  Or email me 🙂