Category Archives: Drunk girl child

Veronica’s story

Many people have asked me for my drinking story, I wrote this some time ago and decided to publish it. This is me, this is who I was and who I am now….

I think there’s two ways you can become an alcoholic. I think you’re either born that way or, you simply need to drink enough alcohol and become one.

Veronica Valli - always the party girl

Veronica Valli – always the party girl

I believe I was born an alcoholic.
I believe this, because I’ve always felt ‘different’. My earliest memories are of feeling ‘odd’, ‘uncomfortable in my own skin’. I felt like I was looking out at the world through a glass screen, I was on one side and everyone else was on the other.
I felt separate, alone, unconnected. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I never felt like I truly ‘fitted in’ or ‘belonged’ anywhere. These feelings began long before I ever tried alcohol.

When I finally tried alcohol at around 15 it felt like a light bulb went on. All of a sudden, I felt complete, I felt ‘right’, and I had confidence and self-belief.
Drink did something to me, it made me feel normal.
I never drank ‘normally’, whatever that is. I drank alcoholically from the word ‘go’. I could never get enough of this substance that made me feel so good.
Initially I was just your regular teenage binge drinker, I could get into bars and clubs when I was underage and the whole point was to get as drunk as possible. At the time, it was what my entire peer group was doing too. I certainly wasn’t doing anything that different to most teenagers, but whenever I compared myself to them, I knew I was different. I could tell they didn’t have the same feelings of desperation or disconnectedness that lived within me. As we grew up they naturally moderated their drinking and drank less, where as I found that inconceivable.

At 15 I also experimented with marijuana. I’m never quiet sure what happened with my drug education, I must have missed that bit at school. It never once occurred to me to ‘just say no to drugs’, or even question what they would do to me. I so desperately wanted to be liked and to feel normal, that I said ‘yes’ to any substance offered to me.
I met my first serious boyfriend when I was 16 and shortly after left home. He was a recreational drug user and through him I tried LSD, Magic Mushrooms and Amphetamines.
I loved them; I used drugs regularly and partied every weekend. I was struggling through college and I barely passed my exams but I didn’t care because I though I’d found this group of people I belonged too and a lifestyle I enjoyed. I felt like I was living life on the edge, it felt glamorous and sophisticated.
For 2 years I really, really enjoyed taking drugs and getting drunk.
I had a great time and then at 17 everything went horribly wrong.
I had taken some LSD and had a ‘bad trip’, this had never happened before and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt panicky and scared, I was seeing and hearing things and got very paranoid. The feeling of terror grew and even when I began to ‘come down’ the fear and panic didn’t leave, in fact it got worse. I now know I went into drug induced psychosis, but at the time I had no idea what was happening too me. The worse thing was I couldn’t tell anyone around me how I felt, I put on a ‘mask’ and pretended everything was ok. I was terrified of anyone finding out what was really happening I became imprisoned by my own fear.

This shattered my life
My whole life was shattered. I was terrified and paranoid all the time and having at least a dozen panic attacks a day. I couldn’t get on a bus, go into a supermarket or sit in my own living room without having a panic attack and making some kind of excuse to leave. I could barely go to college, I couldn’t cope, I was having a breakdown and was most definitely suicidal. I used to stand at the bus stop waiting for a bus I was too scared to get on, trying to summon the courage to jump in front of it.

Everyday of living was agony for me and I didn’t know how to carry on.
This went on for months and I was too terrified to tell anyone what was happening. I didn’t know how too. I couldn’t even begin to articulate what I was experiencing, I was too scared to say it out loud because if I did, it meant what was happening to me was real, and I was still clinging on to the hope that one day I would I wake up and be normal again.
Close to a breakdown I eventually went to the doctors and told him everything. He wrote me a prescription for Valium and recommended some counselling. I never went to the counselling but I did like the idea of being prescribed drugs to make me feel better.
This was the worse possible thing to do.
It started off a 10-year prescription drug habit. For years I visited different doctors explaining my symptoms of fear and paranoia and they would write me prescriptions for Valium, Xanax, anti-depressants. They always worked for a bit, papered over the cracks, but they never dealt with the root of the problem.

Veronica Valli - this was taken about a year before I got sober

Veronica Valli – this was taken about a year before I got sober

Fear ruled my life

The next 10 years of my life from 17 to 27 were a living hell. I was never, ever free from fear; it was the overwhelming emotion I woke up to every morning. Some days I felt like I could hardly breath through the terror of having to get through the day and pretend to be normal.
After the incident with LSD I had stopped using illegal drugs completely and only drank alcohol, my drinking increased very quickly because it was the only thing that took away the fear. It took the edge off of my anxiety and I had a few hours of reprieve from the madness in my head and I could pretend to be ‘normal’.
At 17 my drinking shifted from ‘having fun,’ to using it to cope with how I felt. I knew there was something very wrong with me, I just didn’t know what. I did try to get help, I looked everywhere, I went to doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, churches, anywhere that offered some kind of hope. I was treated for anxiety or depression but never my alcoholism. The truth is, I either lied about how much I drank or, I was simply never asked, no one ever picked up on my drinking as being the real problem. Whatever treatment I was offered only ever gave me a temporary reprieve and inevitably I would revert back to familiar feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair and discontent. Drinking always gave me a temporary relief from these feelings.

I tried every method known to alcoholics to try to ‘fix’ my life. It is amusing to me now, to see how unoriginal I was in my attempts to try to make things ‘better’. Every alcoholic or addict I’ve known has tried the same methods.
At 19 I went to America to travel, I did this a lot in my twenties, spending time travelling round the world trying to escape myself. But always ending up in the same place again (alone, confused, scared and a failure). What I was really doing was running away from myself.
I’ve been to some really incredible glamorous places and I hated all of them because of how I felt.
Somehow I always managed to hold down a job and got through university but I was always just ‘holding on.’ I tried to ‘loose myself’ in relationships, I almost got married to a man I didn’t love because I thought that marriage would ‘save me,’ and everything would then be ‘fixed’. However all my romantic relationships were based on dishonesty, fear and neediness. I couldn’t believe anyone would want to be with me, when they found out how disgusting I really was. I felt so unworthy of love that it was beyond my comprehension that anyone could really love me. So like a lot of alcoholics I just took ‘hostages’ because being alone scared me so much.

Cocaine brought me to my knees
I was constantly searching, looking for answers.
I have a massive thirst for life and this is what really saved me. Because I remained curious I eventually stumbled across the solution for my problem. When I was drinking I always felt discontented, I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential, I knew I wasn’t the person I knew I could be and I drank on these feelings because they were too painful to acknowledge to myself.

Veronica at 23 - I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.

Veronica at 23 – I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.

I moved jobs, countries, relationships, friendships, believing each time that this would be the thing that would make me feel ‘ok’. I blamed outside circumstances for how I felt and believed if I changed these circumstances (which I did often) I would be happy.
Throughout my twenties I drank heavily, more than I knew was good for me, I always sought a peer group who drank as much as I did. I drank before any social situation because I was too scared to face people; I drank before parties because I was scared there wouldn’t be enough booze for me to get the ‘buzz’ I needed. I drank anytime I felt scared and couldn’t cope. Towards the end of my drinking I began to sneak drinks and drink on my own, I preferred that to sharing my booze.
In my mid-twenties I started using cocaine whenever I drank because it enabled me to drink more. However cocaine gave me the worst ‘come down’s’ ever. I was suicidal. I would wake up the next day and felt like my soul had been scraped out and was lying on the floor next to me. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed let alone make it through the rest of my life.
My feelings of loneliness and despair intensified.
Without a doubt their were moments of happiness, peace and calm through this period. I would have moments when I felt everything was going to be ok, but they were always fleeting, I could never hold on to them, the same inevitable dark feelings would return. I was slowly dying on the inside, it wasn’t the alcohol that was necessarily killing me, it was the lies that I was telling my self.
I had to tell lies to myself as it was the only way I could deal with the fear inside of me. I believe fear is the defining characteristic of alcoholism, no one understands fear the way alcoholics do.

Finding freedom
I never became physically dependent on alcohol. I could always go for a period of time without it, usually I would switch to something else, prescription drugs, pot anything that helped me get through the day. I’ve known the shame and degradation of being a female alcoholic and sleeping with men I don’t like just to feel wanted. I’ve never been arrested, bankrupt, or fired, or many of the terrible things that have happened to alcoholics. At first, I thought I couldn’t be an alcoholic because I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ However, I learnt that it isn’t the drinking and consequences that makes you an alcoholic; it’s the thoughts and feelings that drive alcoholism. It was then that I finally understood what my problem really was.

As soon as I understood the problem I could then embark on the solution.

I got help from experts who understood alcoholism and joined a self-help group. For the first time in my life I realised I wasn’t alone.
Getting clean and sober was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there was no choice for me, I couldn’t go back to how I was living. I wanted to live, to make my life count, to see what I was capable of. When I got sober, these things at last became possible.
I always knew something was very, very wrong with me but I thought it was a rare mental health condition, not alcoholism. Alcoholism can’t be measured by how much you drink; it is an internal condition and requires an internal fix, not an external one.

Today with my family

Today with my family

Finally, I became free of the prison I had made for my self; the only thing that had ever limited me was my own thinking. Recovery gave me a new perspective on life; it gave me back my self-belief and confidence. I am finally engaging in the process of reaching my full potential and becoming the woman I was meant to be. I no longer have a 50% life of just getting by, just coping. I am no longer scared, I am just the opposite, I am fearless in everything I do. I no longer worry whether you like me or not, because I love who I am. I wake up everyday and find something to be joyful about. Certainly my life has challenges in it, but none of them threaten to capsize me the way they used to, I relish challenges so I can learn and grow and become the best version of myself I’m capable of being.
Life is a wonderful adventure now instead of a scary threatening place. I live a life now beyond anything I could have dreamed off before. I am on fire with the possibilities there are in front of me.

My sobriety date is: 2nd of May 2000.

Tools out there for at risk kids – guest post

By: Alek Sabin
Tools out There for at Risk Kids pic 3
Growing up is a hard thing to do. The series of experiences that carry us from the innocence of our early youth to being full-fledged adults ready to take on the world is a beautiful journey, but not necessarily a pretty one. However, there are some kids out there who have an even harder time, due to the background that they come from, whether it be a socioeconomic issue, or just a problem with their home life. Nowadays, these kids are labeled as “At-risk” or street kids, and have often seen or experienced things that nobody their age should ever have to. Being forced to grow up a little quicker, in such a short amount of time, often makes them difficult to handle for adults who are used to thinking of youth in only a certain way. However, there is absolutely no excuse that our society should have for letting any young people slip through the cracks, while we should be lifting them up to help them succeed. In honor of that pursuit, here are some tools out there for at-risk kids…

Government agencies

The first line of defense that is out there fighting for at-risk kids is government agencies that are designed to help kids from poor economic backgrounds. Although it is difficult for a government agency to be set up to actually deal with the issues directly, there are dozens of different funding agencies that are meant to provide financial support to programs in geographic areas that can deal with the problem at the heart of the issue. These funding agencies are spread throughout the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, among many, many others. However, this is only one small part of the puzzle for helping at-risk kids, and isn’t much good on its own.

Court classes (link)

Many different at-risk kids are far more likely to end up in trouble with the law, whether through drug abuse, vandalism, or other general petty crimes. However, the issue that we are currently seeing is that our justice system is putting them into a pipeline where they will continue with these behavioral trends for the rest of their lives. This is a problem. Our criminal rehabilitation facilities are simply creating an environment that breeds more crime and makes it harder for people to escape from this lifestyle. However, there is already a much better option that is being utilized in many different cities: court classes. Court classes are specialized classes that are meant to educate youth and adults on the dangers of certain actions, such as domestic violence, underage drinking, and general addiction. For more information about court classes, check out this link here.

Early education

Sometimes the best way to help at-risk kids is to prevent them from ever actually being classified as at-risk. Studies have shown that one of the best ways to do this is to put kids in early education programs. The problem right now is that kids from lower-income backgrounds aren’t necessarily getting the early education that they will need to help them thrive in educational environments later on. However, there are many programs that are designed to help lower-income families provide pre-K education to the kids who need it most. By getting into education, earlier, kids develop skills and mindsets that will help them succeed, later on.

Specialized education

Early education is great and all, but it doesn’t actually provide anything for the kids who are already past that point and actually in need of the most help. However, for most at-risk teenagers, what has been found to be incredibly effective at helping them see purpose in their lives is specialized education. Usually, this is accomplished through charter schools that focus on specific types of education that aren’t found at standard public high schools. These focuses could range from advanced robotics engineering to performing arts, but they are usually geared around topics that are invigorating and challenging for these kids who need to find something that works as an outlet for their own intelligence and creativity.

Can we change college binge drinking?

It can be tough sending your kid off to college. They’re finally leaving the nest eager to spread their wings and become adults, whilst getting an education that will hopefully lead to a successful career. Of course you want them to fulfill their potential and make their mark in the world, but as a parent you naturally worry. Are they managing their money; are they studying; making friends; did they remember to eat? Even when your child is officially an adult you still worry about them being safe, wanting them to have a full college experience, but nothing that could endanger them, right?
College is the bridge from adolescent to adulthood. A rich enlightening college experience can shape you for the rest of your life.

Image courtesy of t0zz at

Image courtesy of t0zz at

It can also kill you.

Because, besides learning, we all know that a big part of the college experience (unofficially) is being able to party unsupervised. In fact, some colleges are known primarily just for their partying. And as parents we just roll our eyes and say ‘kids, what are you gonna do?’ Because abusive drinking is now so ingrained in our culture, we really feel there is nothing we can do and it’s just a harmless part of growing up.

Is that right?

Because each year over 1800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol related causes or injuries.

Are you shocked?
That is a staggering figure. My jaw hit the floor when I first read it. 1800 kids die each year because of alcohol abuse? Did you know that? More importantly, are you ok with it?
How about this for some more scary figures:
696,000 college students per year are assaulted by another intoxicated student
97,000 college students per year are victims of alcohol related sexual assault or rape.

People, we have a crisis on our hands and nobody is paying attention. My eldest son is 14 years away from being a college freshman and these figures are not ok with me. They are horrifying.
I feel a tremendous need to do something.
I would like to begin a conversation with other parents on how we can address this and make college campuses a safer experience for everyone (by the way non-college peer groups have significantly lower rates of abusive drinking and drunk driving).

Although I think alcohol has a place in our culture and we know prohibition doesn’t work. I do believe our attitude and complacency towards abusive drinking needs to change. And it needs to change now.
I don’t believe in prohibition, as I really don’t think it’s the answer. I believe the solution lies in balance, honesty and changing people’s attitudes towards alcohol. Moderate drinking needs to be the norm and if you choose to be alcohol free you should not be treated like a freak.
We have done this before with smoking, eating habits, seatbelt wearing and all manner of behaviors that we eventually found to be unacceptable.
We can do it with alcohol.

I will be exploring this subject further in the coming months and am interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in this subject. Let’s work together to change it.

To my Sober Women Warriors

Image courtesy of marin at

Image courtesy of marin at

I am sober because of the good women who came before me. I am alive because of the women who stuck around and gave me advice and support when I needed it. I am well, because of their generosity and selflessness.
I have been lucky to meet many sober women warriors in my 15 years of sobriety. Whenever I felt close to defeat, one of them would show me how to carry on, for one more day. If they could overcome, then I could too.

My relationships with women when drinking, were not always good. I had a couple of close female friends (angels) but I generally felt suspicious, competitive and hostile to most women. This was mostly down to my own insecurities and low self-esteem. I always felt ‘less than’ when around women my own age, I would compare myself and always find myself lacking. One of my ‘drugs of choice’ was attention from men so other women were always competition for that. I always felt hostile to anyone who was trying to steal what I felt was rightfully mine.
All of this just added to my loneliness, it kept me separate from people, as I could never form close connections. My interactions were mostly artificial.
When I got sober I had to learn to be a friend. I had to learn how to trust women. Because women were my lifelines in early recovery, they were my teachers and mentors.
One of my greatest discoveries in sobriety has been that other women are my soul sisters, and not my enemy. Today, I have an abundance of close female friends who enrich and sustain me, and without whom I could not survive.

I read somewhere once, that you can always tell how you are doing spiritually, by how you feel, when a beautiful women walks into the room.
(I love that this could equally apply to a man or a woman).
In the past I would have thought ‘bitch.’
Now, I would think ‘she’s so beautiful.’ Because when my sister’s shine bright I shine too, nothing is lost, everything is gained.
Sober women warriors are the strongest women I know. They are a force to be reckoned with, they don’t give up, their strength and courage makes them beautiful.
Sober women warriors have much work ahead of them. There are so many young girls out there who are frightened and alone. Booze has slain them, they are without a path. They are ashamed and embarrassed, their self-esteem is crushed. If this is you, then know that sober women warriors walk amongst you. You can borrow our strength till you get yours back. You need never be alone again we will love you, until you can love yourself. You need never feel ashamed or embarrassed, we will teach you how to laugh and turn your failures into assets.

You may not know it, but you are a sober women warrior too.
Welcome to the tribe.

Why I drank

I tried to drink like ‘other people’ because they looked ‘normal’ to me. Other people drank and they were fine; I could tell. I would judge them by how they looked on the outside and I wanted to be like that.

Veronica Valli

Veronica Valli

Something inside me was different and it wasn’t fine. Which is why I had to lie to myself – a big fat lie that ate me up and that I had to keep telling myself, because it kept a lid on the horror. I had to lie about what I was doing to myself. I had to lie about how I really felt. I had to lie about who I was. I had to lie because I was terrified of the horror inside me being exposed.
This may only make sense to someone who has had a problem with drink or any other mood or mind-altering substance. Or it may make sense to you if you have lived a life of desperate compromise and unfulfilled promise.

Do you understand?
Have you got secrets inside you?
Do you have to lie too?

Do you know what it’s like to live with such a denial of your truth that you wake up every morning in despair and feel like your soul is lying on the floor next to you and you have no idea how you are supposed to make it through the day, let alone through life?
I just couldn’t figure out how everyone else lived. How were they doing life? How come it was so easy for them?

I know I was born this way. I never felt right. I always felt that I was looking at you through a glass screen. I was on one side, alone, and everyone else was on the other side.
I’ve always felt wrong. I would measure myself up against people. I would always come up lacking, so I’d just try harder to be like them. I wanted my insides to feel like their outsides looked. So I drank and drank. I didn’t know there was another way to live this life.
And for a while, the burning pain inside me stopped because alcohol numbed everything. However, it took me further and further away from my truth; from who I was and could be.
Alcohol wasn’t killing me. Alcohol was holding me together.
I spent twelve years drinking and self-destructing. I still had a job and a place to live, but I felt like my insides were going black and I had no way of changing that. I kept drinking because it took away the pain. I couldn’t even begin to describe my internal experience to anyone else; it hardly made sense to me. In reality, the drink worked for me for two years, then it stopped working and I began to feel even worse than I had before I started drinking.

I slowly began to die on the inside.

Anyone who has ever had a drink or drug problem or has suffered from depression will understand what that feels like. And it wasn’t just the drink, drugs and nameless men I slept with that were killing me, it was the lies I had to tell myself.
I seemed to have this default programme that was set on misery and denial.
One of the earliest memories I have is of being maybe five or six and lying perfectly still on the bathroom floor, hoping the ‘wrongness’ in my head would go away. I thought that if lay perfectly still then everything would just stop. If I didn’t move, I couldn’t feel, and if I didn’t feel it couldn’t hurt. I wanted to stop ‘being’; I didn’t want to exist in the way that I was.
It was a very existential moment for a six year-old. I was totally, totally aware of my aloneness and my difference and it was more than I could bear in my tiny heart; I wasn’t strong enough to carry that load and I had no one to turn to for help with it. Most adults don’t admit to the emptiness that prevails in their own hearts, how could anyone cope with a child who was lost in hers? I saw it in my mother’s eyes once, when she caught me lying on the bathroom floor, just staring. I saw that flicker of recognition deep in her eyes that immediately got buried under the sheer fear of acknowledging it.
The absolute unbearableness of being.
I know she saw it but was powerless to articulate it. What words can illustrate that dark ache that vibrates deep inside someone? I saw also the fright that a mother would feel when she saw her child behaving in that odd way, a terror of seeing a child’s insides so nakedly exposed, and the darkness within them.

There isn’t really a particular moment when you realise you’re different from other people around you, it’s more of a series of realisations that happen slowly over a period of time, accompanied by a slow creeping feeling of fear that the last thing you can ever do is reveal what is inside you to any one else.
I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that it frightened me to think that someone else might see this. I have no idea why I felt like this; it was as though I was born with this irrational fear of anyone else seeing who I really was. I was petrified of it.
There was a point, when I was a child, when I believed anything was possible. I may have only just been at the beginning of living a life in fear; paradoxically, I still had fearlessness. I believed I could be anything. The world was there for me to fulfil my dreams in. When I said I wanted to become a doctor, a vet, an astronaut, a movie star, be somebody, do something when I grew up, I really believed that I could.
And then as time went on, fear overtook me and I forgot what I was capable of. I withdrew inside myself, ignored my dreams, my hopes, my passions, and compromised myself. I settled for less than second best and rationalised that this was reality. I became someone I didn’t recognise.
Deep in my heart, in my truest self, in my soul, I knew I wasn’t living the life I was meant to be living; I knew I wasn’t the person I was meant to be; I knew I was lying to myself, but I had to keep lying in order to keep doing what I was doing to myself.
The first lie was like a thin layer of tissue paper laid over my spirit (my inner voice) – no big deal, it just makes the voice a little less insistent. But then I told myself another lie. Another layer of tissue was laid over that voice to muffle it a little more, and so it goes on.
The first feeling I ever had was of being wrong, different, uncomfortable; my whole life experience prior to getting sober was how painful life could be. I knew something was very wrong with me; the way I felt was too terrible to try to articulate to another person, it was so arbitrary and intangible. I couldn’t begin to put it into words.

Veronica Valli

Veronica Valli

My fear crippled me. I lived in blind terror every day. Everything was frightening for me. Other people terrified me. I felt so worthless in their eyes and was sure they would see any minute what a despicable human being I was and discard me. At any given time I couldn’t really explain what I was frightened of. I just knew that I was scared. It ate me up inside. I would try and act as if it wasn’t there, try to ignore it, but it would come back stronger.
Some days it felt like I could barely breathe because the fear was crushing me. It made me feel sick. I struggled to find different ways to cope with it. Drink, of course, numbed it briefly. I tried to ask for help, but I couldn’t find the words that would make someone take me seriously. I wanted to be saved. I wanted someone to pick me up and put me in a nice padded room and tell me I would never have to worry about anything ever again. I wanted to go mad, but I was too frightened to, so I just stayed in this perpetual state of unqualified fear.

I had always felt so wrong inside, so empty and broken, that these feelings were normal for me; I had nothing to compare them with. I had never experienced real contentment or peace. I didn’t know what it was like to like myself, let alone to love myself.
And yet, when I began this journey of spiritual awakening and I took responsibility to peel off the layers that kept me trapped, something incredible happened. It was very subtle. I almost didn’t notice that anything had changed, but one day I realised I no longer felt ‘wrong’. The feelings of ‘wrongness’ had just gone, evaporated. After that I understood that it was ridiculous to believe that I was revolting or disgusting; I realised I was just an ordinary human being. I was OK. I no longer hated myself.

Something felt very different inside. I felt lighter, freer, unburdened. I just did the work and the results followed. I liked the results, so I kept doing the work and I’ve never stopped, because every day I seem to grow a little more, and finally I realised I loved myself.
How was this possible, I thought? For thirty years I had felt so totally wrong, and then in the space of a few months my thinking and belief systems had undergone profound and radical change.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

America’s college binge drinking problem

I’m going to LA in a couple of weeks to see the US premier of ‘A Royal Hangover.’ I’m really excited to meet Arthur Cauty the filmmaker behind this groundbreaking documentary. ‘A Royal Hangover’ examines the culture of binge drinking in the UK and why we are so in denial of the dangers and risks it exposes us to.

A Royal Hangover

A Royal Hangover

Cauty compares British binge drinking to the drinking that occurs on college campuses and during Spring Break in the USA. Although the documentary focuses on the British aspect of the problem, it is by no means a problem unique to the UK.

Just a few weeks ago Dalton Debrick was a freshman at Texas Tech University. His body was found the day before he was due to start classes, he died of alcohol poisoning.
The day before his death an international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during ‘move-in’ weekend.

So far this year there have been 8 student deaths at the start of this academic year.

We can explore all the reasons behind these deaths but the major one is the normalization of abnormal drinking and the mistaken belief that drinking as much as you can, as fast as you can is something that is fun.

This is not a problem we can ignore any longer. Hopefully ‘A Royal Hangover’ will start a conversation in America as well as the UK about how we can educate our kids around alcohol abuse.

I’m the mother of a 3-year-old so I figure I have 15 years to try to implement some awareness and change in the culture of binge drinking on college campuses.
We can’t ignore this problem anymore.

You can see the trailer of A Royal Hangover here.

A letter to my teenage self

Dear Veronica (age 16)

Where do I begin? There is so much I want you to know at this difficult age, will you listen? I know you are already searching, I know for sure you are hurting and looking for answers but I also know you are convinced you know everything you need to know…

Me age 16 on my last day of school

Me age 16 on my last day of school

If you could listen, the first thing I want to talk to you about is boys. Oh jeez…… girl, they are not the ‘solution’ you are looking for, please trust me when I tell you that. So many of your brain cells are going to be wasted thinking ‘does he like me? Why doesn’t he like me? What can I do to get him to like me? Will he leave me? How will I survive if he leaves me?’
This is a colossal waste of time and brainpower. If only I knew then, what I know now, how different my life could have been. The things I could have accomplished if I hadn’t always been worrying about what some random (who was rarely worthy of me) boy thought! I could have conquered the world with that wasted brainpower.
The other thing is, boys have no better idea of what they are doing then you do. I know it sometimes look like they do, but they are equally as frightened and insecure as you are. In short, don’t hitch your cart to a lunatic. Drive your own wagon.

As we are talking about boys we need to also talk about sex. There’s so much more to sex than always using protection. I mean, always use protection that’s important, but it’s also really important that you are in control of who and when you have sex. Don’t ever let yourself be coerced or forced into doing something you don’t want to do. Ever.
The most important thing to know, is having sex with someone won’t necessarily make them love you. If you love them in that moment (and sometimes it is a fleeting moment) and you want to have sex, then go for it. But don’t give up your sexuality to try and make someone love you, it won’t work. Work on the love first, and then the sex will be great. And by that I mean love yourself first. Love your glorious beautiful body, respect and cherish it. If you feel this way then you won’t ever expect less from your lovers.

As a young women I know how you look is pretty important to you. At different times in your life it may feel like it is the most important thing, but it really isn’t. We have created a culture that emphasizes the importance of external appearance above all else; we have also created impossible ideas of beauty that no woman can live up to. So my advice is don’t try. Everything about you is beautiful; you are already the right weight. Eat to nourish your body, balance your diet and eat what you enjoy. Don’t starve yourself; this is just another way to waste brain cells. You can’t conquer the world when you are hungry.

The next thing I would talk to you about is drugs and booze. Don’t roll your eyes. This is serious s**t. It’s true that alcohol and drugs can be a ton of fun. I know you have figured that part out already. But the part you don’t know is they come with a price, a very heavy price and you will be required, at some point to pay it.
The message you have been given by your culture is that alcohol = fun. I hate to say but you have been lied to. Alcohol can be an aid to having fun, but is not fun of itself. It’s the result not the objective. There are many vehicles to fun, but alcohol has convinced us, that it is the best and only one. This isn’t true. Look around you on an average Saturday night and ask yourself; are these people are having fun? I’m asking you to be brutally honest, because to use alcohol abusively and dress it up as fun takes a degree of self-dishonesty. Basically you have to lie to yourself. So the issue here is not how much you drink, but how much you lie to yourself.
You will learn over time that integrity is one of the most valuable things you possess, but to keep it you will need to practice brutal self-honesty. This is the price I am talking about. Being honest with ourselves can be hard.
A lot of the reason people use alcohol and drugs is not to just have ‘fun’ but to cope with how they feel. Substances can provide a brief reprieve from the darkness inside of ourselves. But my love, the darkness inside of you won’t be cured with drugs and booze; instead they will make it grow. I know they make you feel confident and able to be the person you think you want to be, but when we have substances motivating our actions we become a ‘false-self.’ We get lost, we lose who we are. If you are drinking to cope more than you are drinking to have fun then something’s wrong. If this is the case then please get help.

My final piece of advice is the most vital; strive to Live Your Truth above all else. There is really nothing more to know than this. There is no greater adventure than this. Living Your Truth is something only you can define. It may mean disappointing people around you, it may mean being alone for a while, it may mean going against the grain, it may mean you have to speak up, it may mean many things that seem frightening at first. But really, there is no other path in life. Trust me I’ve checked. What seems like a path will often be a dead-end. The challenge of Living Your Truth is facing your fears on a regular basis. Yeah I know, that bit sucks, but trust me it doesn’t suck half as much as walking a false path. Fears only grow out of control when we don’t know how to deal with fear. It really is a skill that can be leant at any time but the earlier the better. Like riding a bike, once you master it, it will come to you easily.
Don’t live your life according to other people’s expectations, Living Your Truth means being true to who you are and being true to that voice deep inside of you. The problem with alcohol, drugs and casual sex is they mask that voice so we can’t hear it. That voice is our guidance system, without it we get lost.
When we get lost or feel uncomfortable in our skins it’s because we are living an inauthentic life. I’m telling you this so if/when it happens you will recognize what’s going on and will know what to do.

Me age 41 with my 3 year old son

Me age 41 with my 3 year old son

These are the things I wished someone had told me when I was 15. These lessons are not optional, they are required and will have to be learnt eventually. When is up to you. But if you are not ready yet, then there is just one last thing I want you to take away and hold in your heart. You are a brave, sassy, intelligent, curious, creative, dynamic, awesome young women and I love you.

Veronica (age 41)

Carnage – does exactly what it says on the tin.

Carnage has been back in the news after a horrifying video has emerged of a drunk 18-year old girl being encouraged to perform a sex act on over 20 (equally drunk) young men in a bar in Magaluf.
The idea of this is so horrifying I don’t even know where to start.
Carnage UK advertises itself as the UK’s No1 student event (as voted for by the readers of NUTS; a ringing endorsement indeed).
Their idea is a simple one.
To get lots of students (particularly fresher’s) drunk as humanly possible by visiting lots of local bars and nightclubs in the vicinity of the local university.
Sort of Club 18-30 but at home and in the cold.

Image courtesy of photostock /

Image courtesy of photostock /

Now they have spread their brand abroad to the favorite vacation spots of young British holidaymakers. The British have long had a reputation for invading European vacation destinations and getting wasted.
Carnage have just organized this to a whole new level.

Carnage UK first came to the attention of the public when one of their clients, Philip Laing was caught pissing on a war memorial while out on a Carnage UK event in Sheffield.
Philip Laing will now live on in internet perpetuity, forever young, forever shamed, forever getting the gall of Daily Mail readers everywhere (almost worth the trouble) because of a stupid decision he made.
It has been no secret that students like to drink and some would indeed argue that drinking is a vital part of the student experience, it certainly was of mine. As well as being a fledgling student I was also a fledgling alcoholic so the blatant binge drinking was my raison d’être and therefore made it easy to blend in. Carnage have seen an opportunity and run with it.

Now Carnage Magaluf has upped their game in encouraging young women who are completely incapable of making any kind of rational decision to publicly humiliate themselves for the sake of entertainment.
The video of this girl is all over the internet and will be forever.

Carnage UK presents itself as a credible ‘student event’ organisation with the obligatory message about safe drinking on its website, implying it actively agrees and promotes safe drinking. The owner of the company Paul Bahia says; “Our events are heavily focused on group identity, social and ethical cohesion, and fancy dress themes.”

Liar, liar, liar, liar.
That is not the purpose of his company. The purpose of his company is to encourage people to get mindlessly and dangerously drunk so they can make money off them.

Consider that the (UK) guidance for appropriate drinking is 14 units* per week for a woman and 21 for a man, spread over a week. This would mean at a Carnage event, the men would be limited to 2-3 pints and the girls to 2- 3 small glasses of wine. Now Carnage UK visits over 10 bars on an average night, as well as a club, and the events go on for hours. The bars are the kind that everyone is made to stand up and have loud music pumped out thus disabling all social interaction leaving one with the only option to drink (Duh!).

Carnage may say their doing one thing, but their actions say quiet another, their actions are actively encouraging and enabling binge drinking to the point of recklessness. After all Carnage doesn’t make their money from the students, they make it from the bars and clubs where they can guarantee hundreds and hundreds of willing punters. Imagine if everyone stuck to 2 or 3 drinks, the bars wouldn’t make enough money, they need people to drink to excess. They are lying if they say otherwise.

I feel terrible for this girl who went on holiday to Magaluf hoping to have some fun and an adventure, to get drunk and to party. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but at some point she lost responsibility for what was happening to her and Carnage took up that responsibility and abused her. I would even argue it facilitated her rape as she was in no position to understand what she was agreeing to.

If we are horrified by this event then we must start looking at the delusion we have created around our binge drinking culture. Collectively as a country, we continue to see it as a bit of ‘harmless fun.’
But it’s not the binge drinking I’m actually protesting against here. It’s the lies and blatant dishonesty that Carnage and all of us are telling ourselves.
Destructive and dangerous binge drinking has been commoditized as a legitimate business. When actually it’s commercialized abuse.
Organizations like Carange have contributed enormously to the normalization of abnormal drinking, now they have normalized sexual abuse and put both under the banner of ‘having fun.’

It’s time we opened our eyes to what’s really going on here.

Please see my previous posts on the Normalization of Abnormal drinking and Drunk girl child.

*One unit is a small glass of wine

Confessions of a binge drinker

In my book I publish an extract on binge drinking a friend of mine wrote a few years ago. She wrote it after a drinking incident that really scared her. I think it’s one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve ever read. Sadly, what Clare experienced is incredibly common; a drunken woman incapable of defending herself is coerced into having sex. She wrote the first segment in 2006 and when I approached her for permission to publish it in full, she asked to write an update, which I have included. Clare is a brilliant writer and I think she eloquently portrays an experience that many women have. This is a story everyone should read.

My name is Clare, and I am a binge drinker. I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic; I’ve never craved a drink, never felt a compelling urge to drink on my own. But I do, and have, used alcohol to fuel my social life, take away shyness, and it has, at times, led me into trouble; there have been a few evenings over the years that I couldn’t remember properly, where I was embarrassed about what I’d said, when- and if – I could remember it. In this regard, I’m a lot like many British women; women who escape their busy working weeks through drink at weekends, who sometimes drink many times more the recommended limit for an evening’s drinking. I never really gave it much thought, until recently; because it was only recently, that my innocent pastime, my shyness releaser, my relaxant after a hard week, led me into trouble.

As I’ve got older, my alcohol tolerance has dropped. It takes less than it used to, to make me cross the line between being tipsy and being drunk. Between feeling slightly uninhibited and having my judgement completely destroyed. And sometimes, I forget that I can’t drink like I used to. Like the evening six months ago that is going to prey on my mind for a long time to come.

I started the evening at a party. It wasn’t very lively, a small gathering, and I was listening to some dull story someone was telling me. I tend to drink more when I’m listening, especially if the listening isn’t interesting. I had a few glasses of wine I guess; I can’t really remember. At about 11 pm two of my friends announced they were going on to another party. They invited me to join them. I declined.

Just one more drink….

At 11.30 I headed home. As I was walking, I thought, on the way back, that I might just look in to the other party. One of the friends who’d gone had texted me, urging me to come along; he seemed keen for me to join them. When I arrived, I was glad I had. It was a packed party, full of a wide mix of people, young, trendy, laughing, dancing. I remember someone filling up my glass with champagne. I remember someone else giving me a cocktail.

It’s after that that things become hazy. My memories are a series of interconnected chunks, not a continuum, but a jigsaw that doesn’t quite fit together. What I do remember is coming out of an upstairs bathroom, and my ‘friend’ was waiting for me. He put his arms round me and kissed me. I kissed him back. And then I stopped, and asked him what he was doing. He was married, and was coming up to his first wedding anniversary. He and I had dated briefly a few years previously, shortly before he met his wife. But nothing came of it, and we’d never slept together. I’d all but forgotten about it.

It seemed he hadn’t though. He suggested I came home with him. I reminded him he was married. He said that he and I had ‘unfinished business’- that we had never finished what we started all those years ago, so it wouldn’t count. I told him he was married – that it wasn’t on. Just unfinished business, he said. No, I said. Quite definitely, no. I kissed him again, and felt bad enough at doing that. I told him it wasn’t a good idea. I went back to the party, talked to some other people, and had another drink.

As the party was breaking up- and this must have been at about 4am- I realised I needed to get home. My friend came to find me, said I could take a taxi from his place. It seemed reasonable enough as an idea so I went back with him to his house. Quite what happened next I don’t know. My next memory is lying on his sofa, kissing him. Him undoing my bra. And at that time, I didn’t care. I’d forgotten my earlier objections and was only aware of being kissed by an attractive man. But I did raise my objections again, when he suggested we had sex. I remember saying no, saying again, ‘but you’re married’. And I can’t remember what he said, but it was something persuasive. He carried on kissing me. He took off the rest of my clothes. And somewhere, around about six am, he fucked me over one of his sofas.

Was it rape?
Does that sound coarse? But I can’t call it making love; no emotion was there. And I can’t call it sex, either, because it was hardly an interactive experience; a few seconds worth of him satisfying his ego. Now don’t get me wrong. It definitely wasn’t rape. At some point I had agreed to it, at some point, when he had argued away my protestations about him being married, I stopped protesting; but I was thinking with my body not my brain.
(Veronica’s note: What happened to Clare is rape and is recognised as such in law. The victim offered countless protestations, but was not in charge of her faculties and was worn down by the perpetrator – her intoxication had rendered her incapable of making a choice. The reason that Clare herself says she doesn’t think she can call this rape is because, as you will see, she believes she should take responsibility for the intoxication which made her incapable of following through on her original decision to say ‘no’ firmly.)

I woke up the next day, covered in bruises and feeling sick. It took me a few minutes to remember what I’d done. I felt a pulsating pain in some of the bruises. I felt sore. And above all I felt dirty and disgusted with my self. My brain that had somehow felt disengaged from my body the night before, kicked into life, and I realised exactly what I’d done.

It took months for me to stop feeling that I was personally responsible for intruding into someone else’s marriage. It was only a few months later, when he tried all the same moves again – putting his arms around me as I left a bathroom at a party, would you believe- that I realised it was nothing to do with me. He told me he’d slept with another ex since me. He suggested to me that we make ‘the guilt worthwhile’ by having a better night than the one we’d had before.

But this time I wasn’t drunk. This time I said no, and I wasn’t open to persuasion, and I went home, saddened that what I thought was a friendship will never really be, and what I thought was a happy marriage, is heading for inevitable ruin.

But the relief that I’m not going to be ultimately responsible for the downfall of that marriage won’t take away the knowledge that I helped nudge it part of the way down that slope.

Saying ‘No’
The question that still preys on my mind is why I did it. Whether or not I can really blame the drink. Whether or not my being so drunk means that I can blame him? I’ve read that in America that they’re sending out promos to students- in an anti-date-rape campaign- saying ‘if she’s drunk or she says no, don’t touch her’. In America, extreme drunkenness is taken as a sign that she can’t consent. In England, even women who were unconscious have failed to argue in court that they were sure they hadn’t consented to sex, and the cases have been thrown out.
For my part, I have to take responsibility for what I did. For whatever state I was in at 6 am that morning, I knew what I was doing when I kissed him. When I kissed my friend’s husband. When I let myself kiss him and enjoy it and convinced myself it was OK. I do blame him for the bruises he left me with, which took two months to heal. I do blame him for the lies he has told his wife- and continues to tell her. But it was me who got so drunk, me failed to follow my own limits, me who engaged in a drug that I know can change one’s state of mind and corrupt a person’s powers to decide, and therefore, that pointless, degrading moment of drunken intercourse is something for which I can only, in all fairness, blame myself.

I was in my thirties when that happened and I had only ever slept with four people prior to that point. Three relationships, one-night stand- but even he was an old friend. Casual sex wasn’t me.

So what happened next? I so, so, wish I could tell you I gave up drinking. But what actually happened was that for a long time it changed my view of sex. I viewed my body as rather seperate and sex as something rather more detached and less precious and something I should, could, ought to do to make people like me. I also felt incredibly guilty and a lot of self disgust. I wanted love and absolution from my guilt but I found men could – and did – bully me into bed. I drank on dates and this made it possible; it also led to some unsatisfying encounters and didn’t give me much by way of sexual or spiritual pleasure. Sober me is very reserved; drunk me learnt to view her body as a separate thing.

‘Not an alcoholic’ was a fair description of me in the original article. But ‘problem drinker’ was, and probably still is an accurate way to describe me.

Alcohol and dating
I’m still single, and to be honest I blame alcohol for a lot of that. There have been at least three occasions where I got dumped after the guy saw me drunk- which usually went hand in hand with my making myself sexually available in a way that went against my core instincts. My new resolution is now not to drink on a date. Not so very long ago – more recently than I’d like to admit- I found myself making a move on a truly lovely man when I was drunk. He pushed me away; in retrospect I was deeply thankful to that man and it taught me and – rather late – it taught me an important lesson.

So, if I could talk to my 25 year old – or even 30 year old – self, I would say this:
A man worthy of sharing your body with won’t want you drunk. He’ll want you awake and alert and sensuous and responsive. He will be repulsed by the idea of shagging a drunk woman and will turn down an offer from a woman who is too drunk to be sure of what she is doing. He will want you to be able to feel every touch and caress. He won’t have a ‘3-date’ rule that you have to get drunk to adhere to.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

I’m now looking for a man who cherishes reserved me, and also cherishes the passionate me – and who thinks that sex should be a joyous, special, intimate thing. To anyone reading this – especially a young girl – please value sex so much that you keep alcohol out of it.

Drinking and ‘mocktails’

This story in the UK’s Guardian really stopped me in my tracks today. What shocked me is not that alcohol is served to parents at school events, but it’s taken them this long to figure out that this may not be the greatest example to kids. Some bright spark also had the idea that it would be fun to serve the kids ‘mocktails.’ How cute! Little fruity drinks with umbrellas in them so the kids can then pretend to be like Mummy and Daddy.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

Talk about priming future consumers.
They should have got a vodka or beer company to sponsor the school sports day and be done with it.
The UK has a rampant binge-drinking problem that most people seem to still be in denial about. The criminal justice system, police and health care system are all united in their calls for urgent action to address this crisis. But the alcohol industry remains self-regulated and the government remains incapable of taking any decisive action. The general population is in complete denial about the difference between healthy responsible drinking and abusive drinking.
I would be deeply horrified to attend my kids event and find out they were serving ‘mocktails’ to them. I don’t feel school is an appropriate event to have alcohol at. I also don’t want my kid trained to drink alcohol as if this was a normal and inevitable part of adulthood. Why can’t sobriety be aspirational? I have no problem with adults drinking responsibly, but why should we be made to feel that not drinking alcohol for whatever reason is against the norm? Having alcohol in schools is indoctrination into the binge drinking culture.

I feel the current relationship the UK has with alcohol will look like a scene from Mad Men fifty years from now. In the 1960’s people smoked everywhere, pregnant women smoked openly and alcohol use in the office was normal. We just didn’t know any better.
What does everyone else think?