Category Archives: Sober jukebox

Friday Sober Jukebox – World Shut Your Mouth

2016-drinking-guidelines-amendmentsSo I’m coming out swinging with my mouth open!  Or does that description actually pertain to the alcohol industry?  This was published by Alcohol Policy UK earlier today and it’s a dozy of a post so I’m sharing my edited highlights and strongly urge you to go read it in full.  The tune is in honour of the booze lobby brigade and I need to eat my words as I was utterly convinced these guidelines would be diluted or diminished in some way but no!

The Department of Health (DoH) have released its response to the consultation on communicating the new recommended drinking guidelines announced earlier this year.

Following heated debate over the guidelines, this week a new industry led group – the Alcohol Information Partnership – has also been announced which it says aims to ‘bring balance to the debate’. A recent Wall Street Journal article also recently reported that with ‘moderate drinking under fire’ alcohol companies across the globe are ‘on the offensive’ in a ‘multimillion-dollar global battle‘.

DoH consultation response & qualitative insights

The consultation response captures many of the themes played out in media coverage of the guidelines as of course many of the responses were from health and industry groups. As such, the responses to most of the questions were evenly split between positive and negative when excluding the 785 responses from individuals through the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), who have been active in opposing the idea of a ‘no safe level’ message in particular.

The consultation response includes a number of tables highlighting revised wording and rationale (see figure above on regular drinking).

In addition, a qualitative research report [pdf] was also commissioned by Public Health England to gather a sample of public attitudes and beliefs regarding the new guidelines. Focus groups were conducted covering a range of demographics including low, increasing and higher risk drinkers.

Some key findings of note from the report include:

  • Virtually all drinkers were aware of the dangers of drinking to excess, especially the long term health problems, but few felt they were at risk.
  • Guidelines were often discussed in terms of how much they allowed or permitted people to drink, rather than being a guide to what consumption levels mitigate the risks of drinking.
  • Response to the new draft guidelines was generally favourable, and they were preferred to earlier drafts.
  • Most drinkers believed the information about the risks of alcohol and accepted the advice and tips on reducing the risks.
  • The exception to this general acceptance was higher risk drinkers, particularly those over about 35, who saw the guidelines as an attempt to stop them enjoying themselves, and felt the advice was irrelevant to them (my bolding as I was struck by this fact – what is it about those born before the 1980’s and our drinking?)
  • Higher risk drinkers project the risks onto other people who they believe are not in control of their drinking.
  • Many drinkers had difficulty grasping how and where the guidelines would be used. In current form – words on paper – they did not attract attention or invite reading.
  • In tone the guidelines were perceived as measured, neutral and focused on information. There was little sense of the tone being nannying, except among a heavy drinking minority, who disagreed with the principle of the guidelines.

The qualitative research report suggests that the guidelines were generally considered plausible and well constructed, except among higher risk drinkers who ‘see guidelines as unnecessary and object to recommended limits. They regard drinking as a reward for coping with demanding lives, and they want to guard their freedom to drink as they wish. They see advice from government sources or from the medical profession as challenging and possibly threatening this freedom.’ This is consistent with evidence suggesting many risky drinkers do not consider their own drinking as problematic, in part owing to normative misperception.

I really do think the drinks industry would quite like the world to shut it’s mouth 😉

Public health 1 – Alcohol Industry 0


Saturday Sober Jukebox – When Everything Was New

G’day sober lovelies!  Long time no write but boy have I been busy exploring lots of new things.  Getting up early with the sunrise and the sound of kookaburra’s as my alarm clock, going to bed early and happily exhausted from so much travelling, doing and seeing; watching possums crawl across my tent roof at night, sand tobogganing, running along beaches, stroking kangaroo’s, eating concrete – an extra hard ice-cream (and how about liqourice flavour? – it’s delicious!), snorkelling among the turtles, rays, reef sharks and tropical fish with my children at the Great Barrier Reef and watching hump back whales and their calves.  I could go on and on and on  🙂

Australia was AMAZING.  I love everything about the place, the people and the food – being eaten alive by sand flies not so much.  I won’t bore you with all my holiday photos but will share these three which sum up the whole experience so well.  Magical beaches, sunsets and memories – like seeing pods of wild dolphins 5 times and feeding them by  hand not once but TWICE!!

Did the thought of drinking cross my mind?  Maybe fleetingly once or twice.  Did the thought of managing a hangover with all the activities we were doing puncture my consciousness?  God yes.  I would have wanted to stay up late after the kids (we went to bed at the same time as them pretty much all holiday) drinking.  Those early morning wake-ups would have been a nightmare and I would have been a grumpy tired resentful parent.  My focus would have been finding an excuse to drink at all times and time, activities and experiences would have been prioritised around that or the resulting hangover.  I suspect we wouldn’t have done half as much as we did or travel as extensively as we did.  We were so lucky as the family member we were travelling with also doesn’t drink and decaff tea was the drink of choice for all of us.  Yes the family we were staying with drank but when we went out for dinner at another of their friends houses my sis in law said we were teetotal and that was that 🙂

Australian supermarkets are very sensible and you can only buy alcohol free products in them – I found and sampled a couple of AF beers which were very nice and saw a small selection of AF wines.  You have to go to a bottle shop or liquor store for booze – although there were plenty about including drive through!   Plus RBT (random breath tests) are a big thing both on the roads and water at any time of day.  And my new favourite AF drink?  Lemon, lime and bitters (from Bundaberg the biggest rum distillery in Oz who do a great range of AF drinks too).








And as for sober treats?  How about an organic doughnut with macadamia nuts, mascarpone and fresh strawberries (this was sampled at Byron Bay)  😉

organic doughnut oz








And as it’s a Saturday sober jukebox an Aussie tune too by Flume aptly titled When Everything Was New.  It’s nice to be back, but truth be told I’d have happily stayed ……

Will be back tomorrow as taking my daughter to see Little Mix tonight!

Sober Friday Night Buzzword Bingo – Intoxigenic

intoxigenicSo it’s the day before we fly to Australia and when you read this I’ll be packing and then heading out to see ‘Tears for Fears’ live and then on to Heathrow for our flight.  I heard a new word in July so it seemed apt to end with this and the research that coined the phrase – intoxigenic.  Hard not to think of Britney Spears and her tune ‘Toxic’ when I hear this word!

The image about profit motive is to set the scene because at the end of the day the drinks industry is driven by this motive and nothing else.  They have share holders to please and when your product is alcohol the only way to do that is to sell more booze and not care too much about where that sale comes from.

The research article that triggered this post is titled ‘An exploration of alcohol advertising on social networking sites: an analysis of content, interactions and young people’s perspectives’

Here’s the research abstract:

Young people increasingly communicate and interact via social digital media such as Social Network Sites (SNS), where they discuss and display alcohol-related content. SNS have also become an important aspect of the alcohol industry’s multi-platform marketing strategies, which may contribute to the creation of intoxigenic digital spaces in which young people learn about alcohol. This paper presents findings of a content analysis of the extent, nature, and user interaction with SNS-based alcohol marketing for brands popular among young people in the UK. It provides a systematic analysis of both official and user generated marketing content on brand Facebook and Twitter profiles, and user interaction with such content. Findings from peer group interviews (N = 14) also present young people’s (N  = 70) perspectives and experiences regarding alcohol marketing on SNS. New SNS engagement marketing strategies extended existing multi-platform brand marketing. Young people interacted with such strategies as part of their identity-making practices, yet through a discourse of immaturity distanced themselves from certain brands, online marketing practices and the idea that their own actions were influenced by marketing. Local night life economy marketing appeared more meaningful and relevant to young people and led to further interaction with brand marketing. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to the influence of alcohol marketing on young people, and the implications for current regulatory frameworks.

And this was the conclusion:

Alcohol marketing on SNS was entangled with young people’s cultural and identity-making practices in ways that created greater relevance and meaning. However, marketing strategies were dependent on young people negotiating brand material, with some connotations (e.g. immaturity) hindering rather than encouraging interaction with marketing content and use. We have further highlighted how the emerging use of SNS in alcohol brand and venue marketing has extended the aim of marketing from influencing consumers through the transmission of meaning through visual and discursive codes, to encouraging consumers to act in certain ways as active participants in marketing content creation and the use of consumers online social networks and relationships to gain added value and wider audience reach (Carah 2014, 2015). With an apparent lack of prominent alcohol health campaigns on SNS (Atkinson et al. 2010; 2015) it is important to further consider how such marketing messages might be modified by public health orientated actions on SNS (Westgate & Holliday 2016), whilst considering the challenges SNS marketing poses to current regulatory codes designed to solely monitor the content of official brand marketing.

So complex relationships between social media, culture and identity that is only just beginning to be understood.  You can bet your bottom dollar the industry is spending huge amounts of money researching this to make sure they maintain their profits as driven by their profit motive.

Conversely this new study provides preliminary evidence that use of alcohol warning advertising reduces urges to drink:

Viewing alcohol warning advertising reduces urges to drink in young adults: an online experiment

[Open access] Tobacco counter-advertising is effective at promoting smoking cessation. Few studies have evaluated the impact of alcohol warning advertising on alcohol consumption and possible mechanisms of effect. This pilot study aimed to assess whether alcohol warning advertising is effective in reducing urges to drink alcohol, if emotional responses to advertising explain any such effect or perceived effectiveness, and whether effects differ among heavier drinkers | BioMed Central, UK

And this article shows a desire to escape the intoxigenic environment:

No drink, no drugs: what’s drawing young people to teetotal festivals?

At the start of Buddhafield festival, over 1,500 revellers – many of them non-Buddhists – chant Buddhist mantras in unison. The effect is hysterical, manic: one regular says “it’s as if everyone is on something”| Guardian, UK

So much to think about and time for a rest – a month, my longest time away from the blog yet!  Stay safe sober warriors and finally a tune which I’m hoping to hear live later 😉


Friday Sober Jukebox – Poison

HOC-alc-related-deaths-725x381So this is a happy reading chart isn’t it?  Sorry to dampen your mood with this Friday sober jukebox but reality cannot be escaped (especially now I don’t drink the toxic poison that is alcohol or take drugs!).

This is the unlucky for some top 13 health related ways to die from alcohol as recorded in 2014 and how many people actually did die of them within this fair isle.  A veritable drinking game Russian Roulette of choices:

  • degeneration of nervous system
  • polyneuropathy
  • cardiomyopathy
  • gastritis
  • pancreatitis
  • hepatitis

And then the mother-loads of:

  • poisoning
  • cirrhosis
  • alcoholic liver disease

and that’s just the physical ailments which doesn’t include the number three cause of death:

  • mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol

with England winning by a country mile in the nations of the UK stakes.  I have nursed them all and can safely say all of them are pretty awful ways to die and to say these statistics are depressing is an understatement 🙁

This data comes from here:

Drinking patterns in 2016

Alcohol-related conditions were wholly responsible for 307,710 hospital admissions in England in 2013/14 | Russell Webster, UK

So this post is a bit of a fist in a velvet glove bit like this tune aptly titled ‘Poison’ 😉

Urghh – I had to share this somewhere too so it feels apt to do so here:

World’s first alcoholic ice cream van launched

A UK hotel group has launched what it claims is the world’s first alcoholic ice cream van, which requires visitors to display their ID cards | Spirits Business, UK

‘Products on offer include IcePA, a beer-infused Mr Whippy ice cream poured out of a classic pump and served in a pork scratching cone; The Jäger Bombe, a twist on the classic ice cream bombe that features Jägermeister ice cream covered with a layer of energy drink-flavoured ice cream’

Sounds delicious – not 🙁

Friday Sober Jukebox – Instinct

instinctSo this Friday Sober Jukebox is prompted by an open letter written by Alcohol Focus Scotland about Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP).  I have written extensively about this subject and you can read them all here.

Here’s the open letter:


These paragraphs really resonated for me as they were underscored by a recent personal experience which I’ll recount afterwards.

We see the devastating effects of cheap, strong alcohol every single day: people’s health irreparably damaged; unhappy childhoods and families torn apart; drunkenness and disorder on the streets and in homes; young men with life-changing injuries from drunken assaults; all of this creating a huge, avoidable burden on our GPs, hospitals and emergency services.

This harm is fuelled by strong white ciders and spirits sold for as little as 18p per unit in supermarkets and corner shops. Minimum pricing will raise the price of these very cheap
drinks which are favoured by young, vulnerable and harmful drinkers. It won’t affect the
price of a pint in the pub or a glass of wine with a restaurant meal as these already cost
much more than 50p per unit.
As you know I volunteer at a drug and alcohol treatment centre.  There was one client who has stuck in my mind as they came in from homeless and living on the streets, had life-threatening side-effects from drinking and went on to have a really strong recovery.  They were lucky enough to secure charity funding for both primary and secondary rehab – so 6 months in total completely paid for.  I was nursing last week and drove past them on the street – homeless once more and swigging from one of these cheap bottles of cider having fully relapsed.  I was heart-broken for them and desperately sad.  Now I’m not saying that MUP would have stopped their relapse but such cheaply available alcohol does not help them or anyone.  Another one lost once more to this toxic poison 🙁
And this tune spun round and it resonated.  For me as a public health nurse and someone in long term recovery it is instinct to want to put public health above private profit.  If only the drinks industry weren’t ruled by the profit instinct ……

Friday Sober Jukebox – Superstylin’

urge surfing 1 So 1 week before my 1000 days I had my first sober hen night.  And then on day 1001 I had my first sober wedding.  Multiple sober firsts hitting at the same time.  And being human these events are triggery because they are booze-athons both in our British culture and within my family!!  Urge surfing but superstylin’ were in full force during those occasions 😉


For both I didn’t do anything unusual or special just used all the sober tools in my toolbox.  As a reminder these are (where possible) arrive late, bring own drinks or make sure good range of AF options available, leave early, have a decompression hide-out if it all gets too much and a sober buddy on standby should you need support and SOBER TREATS after the events as rewards because although we can do hard things this shit can still be difficult and tiring and emotionally draining even after all this time.  Don’t get HALT and protect your sober arse!

The hen night was relatively easy but the wedding was slightly trickier as after the ceremony there was 90 minutes prior to sitting down to eat of ‘prosecco and pints’ which had me feeling like a spare part!  So as it was cooler than anticipated and an outdoor wedding close to home I took the opportunity to drive home, get coats for everyone and sneak in a cup of tea and piece of chocolate while I was there 😉

Equally recognise that urges may arise and that’s okay.  I found this nifty slide that explains what happens and how to manage it 🙂

urge surfing 2






Plus it took a couple of days to resettle back into my sober happy place as all that being surrounded by booze can be taxing.  So we had a lovely time and have ticked more firsts from the list.  Which leaves just time for a tune.  Gotta soft spot for this band seeing as one of them went to the same sixth form college as me 😉

Rock on sober warriors!

Friday Sober Jukebox – Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the DevilSo this blog post has been forming over a few weeks.  It was kick-started by my fury as expressed in last week’s sober jukebox about using children’s sweet flavours in alcohol.  I appreciate they are a business and have a product to sell but there are lines that should not be crossed and to me that was the line.  I felt some schadenfreude when I read a couple of news pieces that have appeared in my inbox since and although I do not want to demonise the drinks industry equally I have no sympathy for the devil (hence the tune link) 😉

So here’s all the stuff I read that formed into this post:

Thank you to Alcohol Concern for their April news round up that started the ball rolling with this:

The recently amended alcohol guidelines have come under attack in a number of media reports, including a Times piece titled ‘Anti-drink lobby drew up official safety limits’. The Times, followed by the Daily Mail, claimed that a number of members of the expert group behind the new guidelines were anti-drink lobbyists because they were associated with the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), but The Times subsequently corrected inaccuracies in the report. 

The Guardian also published a letter by Nick Boley of the Campaign for Real Ale titled ‘Don’t let drink limits destroy our pubs’, as well as ‘Experts call for warnings on all alcohol as men refuse to believe the risks’ in response to recent Drinkaware Monitor findings.

And then thanks to Laura at Club Soda for sharing this link:

Budweiser is launching a new beer that’s missing the one thing that consumers love

Budweiser Prohibition Brew recently debuted in Canada. The beer is intended to taste precisely like Budweiser while clocking in at 0.0% alcohol content.  The beer is part of a wider mission at Budweiser to offer an increased variety of beverages with less alcohol. In 2015, AB InBev committed to ensuring that low-alcohol and nonalcoholic beers would represent at least 20% of its global beer volume by 2025. 

Lower-alcohol beers are catching on internationally, with non-alcoholic beers growing at double the rate of the total beer market in terms of volume in the past five years. Low-alcohol beers’ growth was triple that of the wider beer market.

And then I saw this:

The month in drinks: Cannabis booze

There are potent, herbaceous notes wafting over North America’s collective drink and it’s not the scent of botanicals from the gin micro distillery down the road. The cannabis revolution is in full swing while the alcohol industry appears to be morosely sitting on the fence, drink in hand, occasionally throwing crumpled cans in the general direction of the on-going legalisation debate.

Visibly intimidated, insular and inherently conservative, large parts of the alcohol industry acknowledge and highlight the dangers to their penetration rates and profitability but largely fail to see the huge potential behind the plumes of hazy smoke.

So because their market share and profitability is being encroached on by non-drinkers requiring low alcohol products or other legal substances to abuse now becoming increasingly available (in the US anyway!) it could be cynically argued that the drinks industry is looking to the younger market by introducing alcoholic beverages that taste like children’s sweets couldn’t it?

Rolling Stones tune anyone?

Oh and if you like red bull as an alternative to booze to give you a lift, be warned:

Red Bull addict who drank 20 cans a day had liver so damaged doctors thought she was an alcoholic

A mother from Devon has had to kick her Red Bull habit after her addiction to the energy drink left her with a liver twice the size it should have been | Telegraph, UK

Friday Sober Jukebox – Charley Says

Charley saysNow this makes me VERY cross & also reminds me of the old Public Safety Announcement children’s animations from the 70’s ‘Charley says’.  In that this new drink should carry a children’s warning GRRRR.  Here’s the new’s story that raised my ire ……..

Netting young wine drinkers takes sweet turn

By Nicholas Robinson+, 09-May-2016

Childhood sweets have entered the wine suppliers’ arsenal of tactics used to entice younger drinkers, following Kingsland Drinks reveal of its sweet-flavoured beverages at the London Wine Fair last week.


Friday Sober Jukebox – Broken Stones

sally bramptonSo with a week to go before I hit 1000 days I’ve become very reflective and the recent news that Sally Brampton walked into the sea not to return made me both profoundly sad and introspective.  This image is taken from her blog and I believe it is her sat on the stones and pebble beach near where she lived.  I used to love reading her column in The Sunday Times Style as she was so full of wisdom and compassion.  Her own ongoing struggle with depression and her past battle with alcoholism was known and added to, not took away from, her ability to offer comfort and advice.

She renounced alcohol in 2003.  ‘It would take three years and a 28-day spell in rehab for alcoholism, as well as attendance at AA meetings, for Sally to recover completely.’ (Daily Mail)

This is the post that remains on her website and resonates so strongly for me:

This is where I write about pretty much everything I love; usually emotion, because I think that’s where we all connect. I write about depression because I have depression, and I think it’s good to talk about it. Sharing can bring us out of the dark and into the light. That’s why I wrote a book about it; Shoot the Damn Dog, and I am pleased and honoured that it helps so many people, who write to me sharing their experiences. I wish I could reply to every letter, but I simply can’t, because there are so many, but sometimes, it’s just good to get our thoughts down on paper. It makes us feel less alone and I hope it helps you as much as it helps me to know that we are in this together, and that there are people who truly understand.”

Obituaries were written by The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent.

But the most poignant was the page dedicated to her in The Sunday Times Style magazine a few weeks ago which shared some of her gems of wisdom from her column that ran for 8 years to ‘celebrate her infinite wisdom.’

Sally Brampton RIP 2016

This tune played recently on my rounds and it felt apt – the lyrics, the images of the beach and sea and so I share it here in memory of Sally.

Rest in Peace.


Friday Sober Jukebox – I wish I knew how it would feel to be free

Boys are back in townAnother excuse to post a picture of the lovely Phil Glenister as this track is also on the soundtrack to Life on Mars 😉  This song spun round and back into my consciousness recently and bought tears to my eyes.  Beautiful song, lyrics about being free and a reminder of the Barry Norman fronted BBC1‘s Film programme which I used to love to watch.

Why did it resonate so strongly?  Well a couple of things – I’m 2 weeks off of 1000 days which is a MASSIVE milestone and will see me stop counting days!  Plus I had a week-end recently where I felt like I had met my ghost of drinking future.  We were staying with very old friends who we used to drink with heavily.  We haven’t seen them for a couple of years because of the changes and choices we have made in our lives recently.  It was so lovely to see them but their drinking remained as before so things felt discordant between us.  We were now living completely different lives to our shared past.

I was also mindful about my co-dependent traits and people-pleasing ways and desperately wanted to fit in with them again.  That manifested in me and MrHOF having a few drags of a cigarette (which tasted vile and disproved my fear that this action would lead me back to drinking!).  Such was my need to feel okay.

I felt so sad and guilty around them – survivor’s guilt maybe?  I wanted them so much to know that I understood, that a happy life was possible without booze and that I was an ally not a threat but they were still so stuck they were beyond my reach.  In the end I couldn’t wait to leave because it just felt so uncomfortable for all of us and was making me feel very anxious.

Hence why this tune caused tears.  Tears of joy.  As Nina sings ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ and that’s the thing, I do!  This stopping drinking thing is the most liberating thing I have ever done and that week-end was a stark reminder of where my life would have been if I had continued and where it is now having stopped.  I would not trade it for any thing or any amount of money.  It is literally PRICELESS to me and my family 🙂

Over to Nina ……

PS New Seedlip alert!


The launch of the second addition to the Seedlip range, a free spirit inspired by the English countryside:

 Seedlip Garden 108.

Boasting strong green and floral top notes, Seedlip Garden 108 is a blend of individual copper-pot distillates including traditional herbs; spearmint, rosemary & thyme as well as handpicked peas and hay from founder Ben’s family farm.
Best sipped long with bitter lemon or elderflower tonic.


Seedlip Spice 94
Seedlip Garden 108

are now available directly via their beautifully designed new website here:

Which means those outside of the UK can now order them! (with shipping costs) 😉