Monthly Archives: October 2014

Average Briton spends £50,000 on alcohol over course of lifetime

So as Go Sober for October reaches a close I’m sharing a news story that was published at the end of last month as we were going into the charity event.

The average person in Britain spends almost £50,000 on alcohol during their lifetime, a charity has warned.

Macmillan Cancer Support found each Briton spends around £787 a year on alcohol, with London’s concentration of drinkers spending sizably more. The research, conducted by Onepoll, surveyed 2,000 over-18s. Men spent an average of £934.44 per year, the data found, compared with women spending £678.60.

Martin Lewis from said: “It’s not just the price of buying alcohol… it’s the fact when we drink, we lose our spending inhibitions too – we all know the cheap night out that turns into a pocket-killer. Even going sober for a month could save you a significant amount.”

Earlier this year England’s chief medical officer,  Dame Sally Davies, said that despite clear risks to health and society, “retailers continue to sell alcohol using methods which I consider to be irresponsible”.

So for me my app said at the end of my first year alcohol free I’d saved £2178.  I started drinking at the age of 17 and we can take 2 years out of that for pregnancy and breastfeeding.  If I do a quick calculation that means over my drinking career I spent almost £60K.  The thing is that’s not my lifetime.  The average life-span for a woman in the UK is 82 so potentially another 36 years.  Granted if I’d kept drinking like I was there is no way I’d have reached the average life span!  If I had drank this way for my entire life-span, which I acknowledge is highly unlikely, then the total spend would be a whopping £142K.  Almost enough to buy a house in this country currently (average house price is £186K) which is quite frankly just depressing 🙁

So lets flip it over and say that if I don’t drink from here on in I’m going to save £78K that makes me feel much better 🙂  And if I double that for me and MrHOF that equals £155K!  So I guess the lesson is don’t think about what you’ve spent but think about what you’ll save and the sooner you quit the more you’ll save 🙂

My one year sober blogging anniversary

So here I am – it is now a full year of me sober blogging.  Another milestone!  When I started on this journey I said I would blog for 30 days because I wanted to prove to myself that I could be creative as well as live alcohol free.  365 days later the blog is still going strong (minus a few days holidays here and there) and I have made so many new friends because of it.  It really is a double gift this getting sober lark as I’ve found my alcohol free identity and my sober blogging voice.

I’ve said from here that I would drop my blogging frequency to every other day as I am now on year two of sober living and I hope to stick to that.  I read so many things that I want to share here that I don’t think I’ll struggle to find enough to post – it’s that there will be too much and I’ll want to blog more frequently!!  Only time will tell and if that is the case then I see that as good news as that will mean that booze is in the media and research spotlight so often that I’ll feel compelled to cover it 🙂

Thank you to all of you who follow, read and comment on my blog.  It would be nothing without you xx

PS Hangover Free?  Absolutely.  I loved hangovers almost as much as I love this song NOT! 😉

Would you give your under-18 alcohol?

This post follows on from the one I wrote recently about children given alcohol to drink by their parents more likely to be heavy drinkers.

It might sound a little unlikely, but astonishingly, according to a new poll by charity Drinkaware, nearly a quarter of parents admitted to supplying their own children with up to nine units of alcohol in one sitting. That’s the equivalent of four cans of beer, a bottle of wine or a third of a bottle of vodka.

They do caveat it with the fact it’s only for ‘special occasions’ – for instance during holidays (60%), or for a party (48%) – and not an everyday occurrence. But still. Giving your under-18 child a level of booze that’d leave even most hardened adults a bit woozy – is that a good idea?

Yes you read that right 9 units of alcohol in one sitting to a person underage by 25% of parents – and we wonder why they turn into heavy drinkers?!  It continues:

“Giving teenagers a gradual introduction to alcohol as part of family life removes the appeal of the forbidden – but too much, too often can lead to habitual, rather than binge drinking, which in the longer term, can be very damaging,” she added.

“The most important thing parents can do is talk to their teens about drinking.”

Underage drinking damages chidlrens’ health, both now and in the future. As a starting point; the liver.  “You might think that only lifelong alcoholics get liver disease, but regularly drinking too much can increase a young person’s chances of damaging their liver,” says Drinkaware.  So much so, that earlier this year, a newspaper investigation revealed two 17-year-olds, an 18-year-old and two 19-year-olds had been treated for alcohol-related liver disease in UK hospitals over the last three years.

Then there’s the impact on underdeveloped brains. Drinking during this time can impact on memory, reactions and attention span, according to Drinkaware.  Paula Lavis, co-ordinator policy and campaigns at the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition said: “There is good scientific evidence to suggest that young people under 15 should not drink alcohol. And young people aged 15-17 should drink infrequently and no more than once a week.  “This is because young people are still developing both in terms of their body and their brain, and alcohol can have a negative impact on this.”

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware said: “The average amount some parents are providing is equivalent to a whole bottle of wine, and that is more than enough to get a 15-year-old drunk.  “No parent wants to think of their child out on their own being drunk and vulnerable, but effectively, that is what we could be facilitating by giving alcohol as a reward.  It is illegal for parents to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. Worse still, it normalises a culture of excessive drinking among young people.”

The thing that I find staggering is that we won’t go to our GP and talk about our alcohol consumption but when asked by the industry charity we are honest about how much we give our kids.  What is that about?  Is it bragging?  Is it mis-education?  I can only guess that those 25% of parents are heavy drinkers themselves because you would not think it acceptable to give someone an amount that you would not consider normal  to drink yourself.  I genuinely don’t understand – what are your thoughts?


Sober birthday no 2

It’s my birthday today 🙂  It’s not polite to ask a lady her age so I’ll save you the trouble and share that I am 46 today.  Holy smokes I’m getting on a bit! 😉

It’s also my second birthday sober which I suspect will be a great deal easier than the last as I was only 6 weeks sober then.  Wolfie was still loud and shrill in my ear on that day.

So to continue my systemic desensitization I did something that made me laugh and if anyone else had seen me would have thought I was mad!  I recently went to a large supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces and I’ve kind of avoided the huge looming alcohol aisles for obvious reasons.

But this time time I thought ‘f**k it’ and strolled down one saying out loud to myself as I went ‘I don’t need you anymore, you hold no power over me and I am better off without you’.  Fortunately there was no one else in the aisle other wise I’d have been getting some pretty weird looks.  And you know what?  It felt GOOD 🙂

It is so bloody normalised to drink in this country that I LIKE being different now.  I like not being beholden to spending more than I even want to calculate on booze.  I like not feeling like sh*t every Saturday and Sunday morning (or any other morning come to that).  I like that I don’t reek like a brewery with booze oozing out of every pore for vast swathes of time.  I don’t miss the bad skin, bad guts, bad mood, morning fears about what I may have said or done to someone real or virtual under the influence, the stupid things I might have bought on the internet, the lost time that I will never get back.  I like everything that being alcohol free has given me and miss nothing about my booze soaked past now.

400 days sober today!!

PS A little birthday gift from me to you.  One of my favourite tunes and the video happens to commemorate one of my all time favourite heroes too, the late great Bill Hicks.  In the words of The The “if you can’t change the world, change yourself” 😉

And as it’s my second sober birthday two treats!  This is a running video that has recently gone viral and happens to be the park where I ran over the summer raising money for Alcohol Concern.  Pounding the tarmac through the seasons, a band of runners are brazenly challenged with intimate questions as they pace their routes. Liberated from responsibilities, their guards drop dramatically, releasing funny and brutally frank confessions, and weaving a powerful narrative behind the anonymous masses.  For all my sober running buddies – enjoy and if you’ve never run I’d recommend it 🙂



Power and Control

Following on from yesterday’s post this draws on another diagram taken from the TEARS website

The power and control wheel is a visual display of different types of abuse that occur in abusive relationships.  The abuse is based on one partner’s need for having power and control over the other.

PC Finished

The thing that strikes me about this is that this is true of alcohol and the impact it has on us whether internally or externally.  What I mean by that is some of the forms of abuse we feel we do to ourselves, or the addict voice in our head does. For example; verbal abuse as being any attempt to lower our self-worth or emotional abuse where we feel that our thoughts and feelings are being manipulated.  Equally restriction of freedom where we start to plan our lives around booze or abuse of authority where we feel like booze is making all the decisions.

By external I mean that we can engage in these activities, or they can happen to us, while under the influence so destruction of personal property, intimidation and physical abuse or unwanted sexual advances.

Booze can become our controller and it can be used by others to control us, particularly young female teenagers being given alcohol as part of sexual grooming and exploitation.

I feel so strongly that we need to stand back from the glossy marketing and advertising of booze and look at the issue from a more distant objective position to see what is really going on here.  And once you can see it, you can then do something about it 🙂

PS I was doing some UFYD work (a la Prim) a few weeks ago on my WordPress account and had moved a post from ‘scheduled to publish’ to the ‘trash’ and then had a moment of about face and retrieved it today and in doing so it was published on it’s original day that has now long passed!  If you’d like to read it it’s called ‘Little pig little pig let me come in’ and you can find it here 🙂

The cycle of abuse

So much of the knowledge and what I have learned in my day job is relevant to this blog. So if the view I’m including helps even just one person see the destructive relationship we develop with alcohol then it has been worth sharing.

Today I’m drawing on the world of domestic abuse as it is experienced by teens.

TEAR cycle

This Cycle of Abuse diagram is taken from the TEARS website which you can visit here. (Click on image to enlarge)

What struck me about this model is how it mirrors my experience with alcohol.  Initially in the green stage it felt like how things were in the early days of my drinking.  There would be the odd bad night which would make me swear off the drink for a bit but I’d soon forget and be hopeful that it was a one off.  The TEAR website describes it as ‘being a state when both partners are happy to be in a relationship.’

The yellow stage is how it felt in the later stages where I was moderating hard and trying to stay in control of my drinking and how difficult this was becoming.  The TEAR website describes it as ‘tension is building within the relationship.’

The red stage is where I saw myself ending up if I did not stop and TEAR describes it as ‘this stage is usually the shortest and the most harmful.’

This image struck a chord on so many levels:

  1. The addict voice in my head I could identify as like an abuser
  2. The escalating events that are associated with the cycle if you do not extract yourself that could have ended up happening to me if I hadn’t stopped
  3. Recognising alcohol as abusive to me as in a form of self-abuse
  4.  And particularly pertinent to the original source how alcohol is used against us to allow abuse to happen

The most striking statement that rang true though was this one:

Once the cycle is in place it becomes difficult to break.  The cycle of abuse is based around denial, because when both parties deny the abuse, there is no way of stopping the pattern.

I appreciate that this is a difficult and emotive topic but like the problems caused by alcohol we cannot shy away from it as this would maintain the denial.  Tomorrow I’ll share the wheel of control and power that is also extremely prescient.



Booze brand back responsible driving campaign

Oh what to say and where to begin on this one …….

Johnnie Walker, the world’s leading Scotch Whisky*, today announced a new partnership with the Formula One group that will enhance the brand’s global positioning and significantly expand the platform for its highly successful responsible drinking initiative, Join the Pact.

The announcement of the new multi-year arrangement, which also sees Johnnie Walker become the Official Whisky of Formula 1, was made today at an event at the Conrad Centennial Hotel in Singapore by Nick Blazquez, President of Diageo in Africa and Asia, ahead of this weekend’s 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit.

Mr Blazquez said Johnnie Walker, as a pioneering whisky brand with a progressive spirit, was the perfect whisky to partner with the world’s most progressive and technologically-advanced sport.

The new partnership greatly strengthens the historical connections that the Walker family has with the world of motorsport and Grand Prix racing which go back to the 1950s. Building on those historic links, in 2005 Johnnie Walker established a partnership with McLaren Mercedes which, over the past nine years, has enabled the brand to deliver successful marketing and responsible drinking programmes around the world.

Speaking at the announcement today, Nick Blazquez said: “Becoming the Official Whisky of Formula 1 will enable Johnnie Walker to greatly extend its reach to race fans. As a result of our new arrangement, we will have access to a global television audience of more than 450 million people and a track attendance audience of around 1.5 million every year.

“Equally important, and a key reason for Johnnie Walker to become the Official Whisky of Formula 1, is the huge opportunity we have through this expanded global platform to reach even more F1 fans around the world with responsible drinking messages.

“We believe there is great potential in what we can achieve together. The Johnnie Walker Join the Pact campaign is a proven, powerful programme that is already driving positive change. More than 1 million people around the world have signed the Join the Pact pledge to ‘Never Drink and Drive’. We are therefore announcing today our intention to increase our investment behind this programme, activating it in new territories with an ambition of gaining a further five million personal commitments over the next four years.”

Mr Blazquez was accompanied at the announcement by Mika Hakkinen, Johnnie Walker Global Responsible Drinking Ambassador, who said: “Since 2006 I’ve travelled to some 40 countries talking to media, consumers, governments and other stakeholders about the importance of our call to action. Through Join the Pact well over a million people have pledged never to drink and drive, that’s one million people who would never actively have made this commitment without the programme. The new partnership that the brand has forged with the Formula One group is an enormous boost to our campaign and will significantly expand the scale of this wonderful initiative by reaching out to many millions more people around the world.”

*IWSR (2013)

So a spirit brand with a 40% ABV backs responsible (hahahahaha there’s that word again) drink driving campaign by sponsoring Formula 1 racing  <good grief Charlie Brown>

This just needs to stop like it did with tobacco advertising before it.

Gamble responsibly

There are some statements that just strike me as oxymoronic – gamble responsibly and drink responsibly being two of them. Both are addictive, one a behaviour and the other a behaviour driven by a substance.  Yet the purveyor’s of these industries feel that if they’ve made this statement that somehow what happens to that person has nothing to do with them.  No lawsuits here – we told you and you didn’t listen …… GRRRR

In every bookies/betting shop window here in the UK are big signs showing the odds of a particular game or race and then underneath: Gamble Responsibly.  And a telephone number to call if  you need help.  Laudible I’m sure but not really helpful for the gambling addict who is about to cross the threshold to place a bet.  Oh and it’s also a charity funded by the winnings of the industry – conflict of interest much?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain as at least there is a phone number advertised as with drink – not so.  Yes the bottle says ‘drink responsibly’ but there is no telephone number to call if you need help with this substance on the bottle.  Well the industry wouldn’t want you thinking that anyone actually has a problem with booze or controlling the amount they drink now would you?  You have to find your way on to the Drinkaware website to find any helpful numbers.  It all just smacks of ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware – doesn’t it?  You are the problem not the substance or the betting shop.

I guess a post about sports sponsorship by the alcohol industry would follow on nicely from this wouldn’t it? 😉

What do you think?  Is it just me getting crimped about this?

Institute of Alcohol Studies report into alcohol and domestic abuse

The full title of this report is ‘Alcohol, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault’ by the Institute of Alcohol Studies and was shared recently by Alcohol Policy UK.

Here are the reports key findings:

  • Typically between 25% and 50% of those who perpetrate domestic abuse have been drinking at the time of assault, although in some studies the figure is as high as 73%. Cases involving severe violence are twice as likely as others to include alcohol.
  • Research suggests that those who mix energy drinks and alcohol on a night out are almost twice as likely to be taken advantage of sexually.
  • There is a strong link between alcohol and violence, and research suggests that pricing policies such as minimum unit pricing for alcohol would reduce rates of domestic violence.
  • In light of poor conviction rates and general misunderstanding about alcohol sexual assault and rape, there have been calls for a change in the law around consent so that intoxication is seen as a possible indicator that abuse has taken place.
  • There is a need for improved training for law enforcement agencies on the impact of alcohol, sexual assault and the capacity to consent.

Download ‘Alcohol, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault’. A briefing summary and a podcast are also available.  The podcast features interviews with Professor Jonathan Shepherd (Cardiff Violence & Society Research Group, Director) and Jennifer Holly (Against Violence & Abuse)

Another consequence of booze that the alcohol industry appears to ignore …….

Meditation to help Addiction

Meditation is talked about a great deal out here on the blogs that I read and follow as a way of quieting the mind when the urge to escape takes over and it is something that I have been trying to learn and practising for a few years.

iTunes has many meditations that you access for free and the one that I like is called The Meditation Podcast with Jesse and Jean Stearn.  All of their meditations are good but there is one which is specifically designed for addiction: Episode Nine – June 2007 – Addiction

They have a full series of meditations on many subjects so their whole podcast series is worth a look 🙂