Tag Archives: alcohol

Overgeneralisation and Drinking

This is similar in some ways to ‘black and white thinking’.  Overgeneralisation is where we use an experience in one part of our life to influence other parts of it.  A negative example would be the ‘I never get anything right’ kind of thinking where a single negative event is seen as a never-ending pattern of defeat..  A positive example would be ‘everyone drinks like me’ which may be true, as for me personally, most of my friends and family did drink like me – apart from the pre and post event hidden drinking at home, ‘livener’ and ‘night cap’ anyone? 😉

It is a cognitive bias and a logical fallacy but that doesn’t stop me using it to support a line of thinking whether positive or negative.  Who says our brains are rational and logical?

Just because we fail at one thing does not mean that we will fail at everything and transposing negative feelings from one experience to another can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I’d relapsed on my drinking yesterday, smoked, eaten crap and not run I’d have been wallowing in overgeneralisations a bit like this I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. Thanks Almost Alcohol 🙂

So how am I working on this line of faulty thinking:

  • Again I look for evidence to support this view.  Does everyone drink like me? Do I never get anything right?
  • I don’t pretend there isn’t a problem.
  • But I am learning to recognise that there is no value in generalising my unhappiness from one situation to the rest of my life.
  • I try to distinguish between things which genuinely are ‘bad’ or unpleasant from other areas of my life that are not and that I am viewing under the same black cloud.

It is a much happier way to be 🙂  How bout you?  What overgeneralisations related to your drinking would you be happy to share?

 

 

Black and White Thinking and Booze

This type of thinking is typified by what I would call, and recognise in myself, as ‘all or nothing’ thinking.  So if I relapse then I’m not just going to have one glass I’m going to get completely smashed.  There is no point relapsing otherwise right?  And if I’m going to relapse on drinking I may as well smoke and eat garbage all the next day and blow off my run.  As Almost Alcohol described it it’s ‘when we finally stop moderating and swan dive down to the rocky, dark, terrifying bottom‘.  No middle ground or grey area.  Success or failure, win or lose, good or bad.

It is related to the common psychological defence mechanism, called ‘splitting‘ which is the error in a person’s thinking to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole.  It is also known as a ‘false dilemma’ and the fallacy is the opposite, unsurprisingly, of the argument to moderation.  Uh oh.  Sounds familiar.

So back to the brilliant passage of Almost Alcohol’s, which you can read in it’s entirety here, these are the lines that resonated with me: I’m a fuck up. I can’t get out of this. I can’t quit.  For me that is at the heart of my all or nothing thinking ‘I’m a f*ck up’.

So how am I working on this thinking error?

By checking the truth of it and challenging myself:

  • What is the evidence for this thought, for saying that I am a f*ck up?
  • It may be true that sometimes I may do things that I regret, and that I could improve the ways I do things
  • However although I feel I have f*cked up – does that make me a f*ck up? NO.
  • I remind myself that reality is made up of many shades of grey (hello, a well known book just popped into my head!)
  • I am not all good or all bad, all right or all wrong
  • There is no black and white.

Does this type of thinking resonate with you too?  What other examples of black and white thinking around booze do you have that you are happy to share, anonymously or otherwise? 🙂

Drinking Thinking Errors

As you know I started some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to look at my thinking around drinking.  Having done a couple of sessions I quickly began to realise that, actually, my drinking was a symptom of a much more complex issue than my inability at times to control how much I drink. Shit, this was not what I thought it would be.

In one of the early sessions we looked at some of the thinking errors that can occur that can keep us trapped in negative thought patterns.  These negative thinking patterns simply convince our mind that what we see is true when it is not.  These cognitive distortions are “maladaptive” and CBT replaces these “coping skills, cognitions, emotions and behaviors with more adaptive ones by challenging an individual’s way of thinking and the way that he/she reacts to certain habits or behaviors” (source)

So the main thinking errors are:

  • Black and white thinking
  • Over-generalising
  • Catastrophising
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Mental filter
  • Discounting the positive
  • Should’s and musts
  • Labelling
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Personalisation

Now I recently read this brilliant post by Almost Alcohol and with her permission I am reproducing this particular paragraph here because she has completely nailed my thoughts around drinking and I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Why is it here? Because it beautifully illustrates some of the thinking errors that I display and that she expressed on my behalf 😉

Shit. I’m pretty drunk. Shit. This wasn’t what I wanted to happen. Maybe I can’t drink normally. Maybe I’m really an alcoholic. Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. I’m a fuck up. I can’t get out of this. I can’t quit. I always thought I could quit when I finally decided to and I can’t. I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives. I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. I didn’t mean to be an alcoholic but it’s too late, I guess. Life didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person. I might as well learn to live with that. Fuck it. Lots of people are crappy. We all grow up and learn the truth, that we are just not that great. So I drink. So I’m a drinker. What the fuck ever. I wish I weren’t, but also I wish I were thin and dynamic and good at crafts and successful and I’m not. We can’t all be perfect. I’ll just accept that my life isn’t great. At least then I can drink, which gives me something to look forward to when I’m bored and depressed.

Over the next 10 posts I’m going to address each of those thinking errors listed above and we’ll play a bit of buzzword bingo and see if we can spot them in the paragraph above.

Starter for 10? 🙂

Alcohol killed 3.3 million in 2012

This was a news piece on Reuters yesterday (source)

More than 3 million people died from using alcohol in 2012, for reasons ranging from cancer to violence, the World Health Organisation said on Monday, as it called on governments to do more to limit the damage.

“More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” said Oleg Chestnov, a WHO expert on chronic disease and mental health.

He added there was “no room for complacency”, warning that drinking too much kills more men then women, raises people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases, and killed 3.3 million people in 2012.

On average, according to the WHO report, every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per year. But less than half the population – 38.3 percent – drinks, so those who do drink on average 17 liters of pure alcohol a year.

It found that some countries are already strengthening measures to protect people from harmful drinking. Those include increasing taxes on alcohol, limiting its availability by raising age limits and regulating marketing.

More countries should take similar action, WHO said. More also needed to be done to raise awareness of the damage alcohol can do to people’s health and screen for those who may need earlier intervention to cut down or stop.

This is where I start hopping up and down as a public health nurse!  We need to give people the facts about alcohol and we need to screen – as I suggested in my Guardian article (here).  If people don’t know then they can’t change should they wish too.  There has been  extensive research and evidence to support and show that alcohol brief intervention can have a profound impact on someone’s drinking and can be delivered quickly.

Climbing off my soapbox now.  Is it just me that gets so bent out of shape about this?

 

 

 

Guest Post: Addiction and Employment

Today’s post comes courtesy of James White.  He is a content creator for 12 Keys Recovery in the US and enjoys helping people find freedom from their addictions.

Comparing Drug Addiction and Unemployment in the UK and US

Both the United States and United Kingdom have experienced a correlation between unemployment and drug addiction. Studies have found that unemployment increases the likelihood of one bingeing on drugs. Similarly, those who are currently employed are likelier to become unemployed if they are suffering from substance abuse.

When further investigating the link between unemployment and drug addiction, it’s worth considering several aspects of drug addiction and unemployment in the UK that are both similar and different to their US counterparts:

Late 20s and Early 30s Are At the Most Risk

Studies show that, in the UK, the mean age of those unemployed and suffering from drug addiction is 28 to 31. This makes sense because, by that age, one can attain long-term employment while living independently. That factor, combined with potential extra income at that age, make that age group particularly prone to correlated drug addiction and unemployment.

The Harder the Drug, the More Severe the Impact

UK studies have shown that the link between unemployment and “soft drugs” — such as cannabis and amphetamines — is not as substantial as the relationship between unemployment and “hard drugs” — like cocaine and opiates. Although hard drugs pose more of a risk for both self-harm and potential unemployment, it is apparent that all types of drugs can impact one’s employment negatively.

Addicts in the US and UK Share Several Tendencies

Both in the US and UK, unemployment increases a person’s likelihood to binge drink or have a tobacco/drug addiction. There is little difference between the drugs of choice in both countries; the differences primarily involve alcohol, as 18 is the legal drinking age in the UK, while 21 is the legal drinking age in the US. This has little bearing on unemployment-drug correlation statistics though, since employment at these ages is not significant regardless.

Also, in both the US and UK, cannabis is the most popular drug, with millions using it per year. Still, recent studies have suggested that cannabis use is declining in England and Wales. On the contrary, cannabis use appears to be increasing in the United States.

Drug Addiction Is a Barrier to Employment

Even after a drug addict recovers, they will likely find it difficult to find employment due to a criminal record or diminished physical/mental health. Since many drug addicts deplete their funds to support their habit, it will also be difficult to afford aspects like transportation or housing that can aid in a job search.

These difficulties exist in both the US and UK. When one starts to become addicted to drugs, it’s highly recommended to seek treatment immediately. Long-term drug use can result in diminished health and/or criminal charges that can make it extremely difficult to find substantial employment.

Breaking the Cycle Is Universal

Although the US and UK differ in some drug tendencies, laws and treatment, the strategies for breaking the cycle of drug addiction remain the same. By educating people on the dangers of drugs and offering effective, accessible drug treatment programs, both the US and UK can decrease the amount of drug addicts, whose addiction can cost them employment, income and health.

Thanks James! 🙂  Plus when he first contacted me he shared this video too so I’m posting it up for you to enjoy also.

http://www.12keysrecovery.com/blog/unemployment-and-addiction-video/

Any thoughts?

PS I am aware that today was the day that Veronica Valli and I were due to share our first Skype conversation with you.  We recorded it and although the video quality was great, the audio was not and we aren’t happy publishing it until it’s right so we are tweaking the technology and will re-record again soon.  I guess that’s what happens sometimes when you are having a conversation and are 6000 miles apart!

We owned the night!

Nike we owned it result

Well I’m just back from London Town after staying overnight post run.  We owned it!!

What a fabulous evening!  My running buddy and I went for Nando’s pre-race to pack some protein and that was a bad idea.  It made us late and too much protein too close to the race gave me a stitch pretty much all the way round – a learn for the next time.

The event itself was really well organised and there were 10,000 runners.  I tried to hook up with FitFatFood and we had plenty of text conversations but didn’t manage to find each other.  Again next time 🙂

As for my run time – well I didn’t make the sub 1hr but seeing as my last 10K personal best was 1hr 10mins my run time was pretty good.  Progress not perfection right? 😉

So run time? 01:05:43

As promised here is a picture of me having just crossed the finish line 🙂

Lou R owned it

So now you know what I look like, I’d better formally introduce myself.  My real name is Lou, but Lucy is a family nick-name so I’m just as happy to answer to that 🙂

We went for dinner afterwards at a fantastic restaurant called Bistrotheque where I had tomatoes, mozzarella & black olives followed by passion fruit and fennel seed mess served with a fine non-alcoholic cocktail called an Elderflower Spritz served with fresh mint.  My running buddy had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Did I miss booze & was I jealous of my friend’s glass of wine?  Not at all.  Not only was booze not required it felt like it wouldn’t have added anything to the evening.

We walked back to the hotel and collapsed into bed at 12.30, slept well and awoke feeling sore but refreshed.  A resounding success and another first as hotel stays in the past were typified by banging hangovers the morning after and struggle – but not this time.

I really enjoyed the whole thing and if there are other sober bloggers/readers who run, or who would like to start running, then maybe next year we could get a posse of sober runners together and all do it together.  What do you think?  I’m up for it if you are 😉

So thank you for the well wishes and sponsorship so far.  If you would like to thank me for my blog or sponsor last night’s run then you can go to http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/ahangoverfreelife and through supporting me support Alcohol Concern 🙂

Drink and cancer risk TV advert

Love this ad! (in a public health awareness kind of way)

But more importantly I love that the alcohol industry’s complaints about it were thrown out 🙂

The alcohol industry tried to get the advertisement banned arguing that highlighting the link between alcohol and cancer was misleading and irresponsible.  Yes you read that right.  ‘Misleading’ and ‘Irresponsible’.  The irony of this is not lost on me as I’m sure it’s not on you either.

After considering the evidence the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the Balance advertisement was not in breach of the UK code of broadcast advertising (BCAP) after complaints were received from, amongst others, the British Beer and Pub Association.  The Guardian covered the story here including this:

Colin Shevils, Balance’s director, said the parts of the alcohol industry that objected had been “highly irresponsible” in trying to stop the public learning that alcohol intake can increase the risk of cancers such as those affecting breast, liver and mouth. Surveys have shown that few people know that alcohol can be carcinogenic, and not just for those that drink heavily.

So hurrah for Balance for running the ad in the North East of England and let’s hope the message spreads 🙂  What did  you think of the ad?

 

My last drunks

In the last year of my drinking there were two events that put the final nail in the coffin of my drinking career.  I’m going to talk about them in two different posts because there are lessons to be learned from both for me and they both contributed in a different way.  The final one I’ll talk about tomorrow.

The first one was in November 2012 and was a nursing re-union.  It was a 20 year post training celebratory gathering of my old student nurse colleagues back in the city where I trained.  I was on one of my moderation/quitting attempts back then and hadn’t had a drink for 6 weeks running up to it.  It was an opportunity for me to have a week-end away from small children and catch up with other close nursing friends, not from my training colleagues, at the same time.

I had to drive 4 1/2 hours to get there and grabbed a late lunch at a service station on the way down, checked into my hotel and then headed straight out at 4pm to meet another nursing friend.  She is one of my oldest and closest friends and we shared a strong drinking history together and so we started as we had left off with white wine and fags.  The re-union was at 8pm and suffice it to say that by the time it was due to start I was already sh*tfaced.  I had had nothing to eat so was drinking on an empty stomach after 6 weeks off.  Recipe for disaster.

We arrived at the re-union but by now my memory was patchy.  I remember I was very drunk, didn’t recognise people I should have done because of it, was slurring my words and really struggling to stay upright.  Said friend looked out for me, and after me, and I think she realised from the sobbing drunken mess I had become what a bad state I was in and got me into a taxi and back to the hotel.

The next morning I came too, not knowing what had happened and how I had got back to the hotel.  I texted said friend who said that I was ‘tired and emotional’ and not to worry.  I texted one of the re-union members who was kind and focused on how at least I had made the effort to attend unlike some others who lived more locally.

But I was mortified.  I hadn’t seen these people for 10-20 years.  They didn’t know any of the context to my state – 6 weeks off the booze, difficult family stuff going on, meeting and drinking pre-event.  All they had was how I presented and what a shambling drunken wreck at 8pm I must have seemed.  My shame knew no bounds.

In a recent post, linked to my CBT, I have said that I wonder if I need to do more alcohol experimentation and whether I can moderate.  This memory tells me what a joke that thought really is.  Do I really need more evidence of how that isn’t possible for me?  OK I may have worked through some of my emotional history, baggage and how it impacts on my thinking but would it really be any different?  I think we all know the answer to that one don’t we ……..

PS This time next week I’ll have run the Nike 10K and am hoping to do it in sub 1hr.  If you would like to sponsor me for this event and raise some money for Alcohol Concern then you can do so here ( http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/ahangoverfreelife).  Donations can be made anonymously and thank you in advance 🙂

 

Relapse Prevention

This series of posts is drawn from my day job experience and has been reworked from information to do with a relapse in mental health specifically.  However I perceive alcohol dependence, or substance misuse, as a mental health issue so it is as relevant as any other information I have come across.

Relapse prevention is a practical approach designed to help you learn a wide range of strategies to help reduce the risk of having a relapse, so for me, that means drinking again.

Before a person relapses there is a period of time when a number of different things may start to go wrong and if you can alter the way you think and behave during this time you can prevent a relapse.  By enhancing coping strategies you can do more of what you know that already helps and less of what doesn’t.  This in combination with learning new relapse prevention skills usually works best.

What I’m going to do is talk about my:

  1. Early warning signs or ‘relapse signatures’
  2. Coping strategy enhancement
  3. Life events that might trigger a relapse
  4. Relapse prevention plan

Why is a relapse prevention approach important?

  • To help you understand and feel more in control
  • To help to reduce the risk of you relapsing in the future
  • To help you feel less depressed and more hopeful about what the future may hold

The impact of a relapse is not to be underestimated as it may:

  • Leave you feeling demoralised, thinking ‘is it worth it?’
  • You may feel stigmatised – that the people around you think less of you
  • You may think it means that you have ‘failed’
  • It may stop you taking part in, or you may withdraw from, the activities and communities that you would usually use to help you
  • It may leave you feeling distressed
  • It may also impact on your relationships with family and friends

I would regularly make deals and ‘rules’ with myself about how and when I would and would not drink.  I would then feel, think and do many of the things listed above when I broke my own ‘rules’.  How ’bout you?

Britain’s Binge Drinkers

This programme was aired on ITV on Thursday 17th April at 19.30 as the Easter Bank Holiday kicked off here in the UK.  This used to be a drinking fest for me as you could drink from the eve of Good Friday all the way to the end of Easter Monday if you wanted to.  One of our locals holds an Easter Beer Festival Week-end with bands and guest beers running and I’m sure they are not the only one.

Jonathan Maitland takes a look at Britain’s binge drinking culture and the impact it is having on the health of young people including premature liver disease.  If you would like to watch it you can find it here:

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tonight

It makes grim viewing particularly the group of 4 students who are followed before and after a regular night where they are seen pre-loading (or prinking as my neice informed me) and then out on the town consuming anywhere between 26 and 48 units in one night!  It also covers the stories of one teenagers death from alcohol poisoning in one night, a teenager who is now a recovering alcoholic and a man in his early twenties who died of liver failure caused by drinking.  Plus plenty of experts sharing their opinions and views.