Category Archives: Normalizing Abnormal Drinking

Caitlin Moran blocked me on Twitter and I’m kinda devastated.

It’s true. She blocked me.

She was one of my ‘go to’ people when anything interesting happened, because she always writes so succinctly and is piercingly honest. Initially, I thought she was taking a Twitter break as I couldn’t see her tweets on Tweetdeck. Then to my horror, I realized she had actually blocked me. She had actually taken a nano-second out of her day to press the button that said ‘block user’.

I’m devastated that she imagines me to be some kind of troll who is sending her abusive messages (which as a kick ass feminist I imagine she gets a lot off). I’m heart broken that she thinks I’m one of them. And I’d like to apologize to her, as the last thing I wanted to do was cause offense.
It’s the first time social media has managed to dent my self-esteem. I assume it’s because she either read this, or saw one of my tweets, that I tweeted at her, imploring her to read this. I’m not a great writer and Moran does this for a living, but I tried really hard to balance how much I admired and respected her, with an attempt to initiate a conversation about how much binge drinking is normalized, and laughed about in our culture. I was suggesting she maybe mentioned this a bit too much, and could perhaps have a think about the impact of what she was saying. Obviously I came off as smug, patronizing and judgmental, and trust me, my 16 year old self is looking on in horror. How did I become this kind of grown up?

Because that isn’t what I set out to do. In truth, it is not binge drinking that I actually have a problem with. Adults need to make their own decisions, and many of us choose to do stuff that we know is bad for us, regardless. My issue has always been the rhetoric around binge drinking. The normalization of abnormal drinking. The jokey, jokey, references to hangovers and laughing about drinking quantities of alcohol that would kill a normal person.

It’s the subtext that says ‘alcohol is the solution to whatever problem you have.’

Stressed? I’ve got a bottle of gin here – that’ll sought it.
Bored housewife? Then it must be wine-o-clock, ‘wink, wink.’
Had a tough day? Nothing like a drink or two or three to sort that right out.
This is the language I’d like to challenge and I was hoping Ms. Moran would hear me on that.
But clearly I failed.

And I’m still not clear on how to address this. I do not want to be the fun police, I do not want to judge other people’s drinking, it’s really none of my business. I do not want to be a party pooper, or abstinence promoter (don’t believe in it).
What I do want to do is challenge how it’s represented in my culture. Because I believe our cultural representations of alcohol use are grossly incorrect, dangerous and actually camouflage’s our massive denial about the impact alcohol has. And it’s this collective denial that’s stopping people getting help.
We still culturally represent alcohol abuse as a bit of harmless fun. And it’s not harmless. It causes massive harm, to many people.
I’m not denying that drinking can be fun and can help with some unforgettable moments with friends. I’m also fully supportive of appropriate alcohol use. And even though I do have a problem with alcohol, not all my nights drinking were terrible, some were awesome.

If you have any suggestions how we can begin to change the conversation around drinking in a non-smug, non judgmental, non-twitter-blocking-by-celebrities-we-really-admire method. I would be very grateful to hear it. And if you happen to know Caitlin Moran, please tell her I’m sorry.

How much does alcohol cost your business?

At the beginning of 2006 The Sunday Telegraph ran an article on entrepreneur Penny Streeter, who relocated her business from the UK to Cape Town when she reached the end of her tether with lazy staff who regularly threw ‘sickies’ when they were merely hung-over.
Staff regularly throwing ‘sickies’, particularly on a Monday or Friday is a common phenomenon in British industry, indeed many business encourage social drinking as a legitimate method of networking and conducting business.
Absenteeism due to alcohol misuse is costing British industry £2 billion per year. If left untreated alcohol problems become progressively worse resulting in; inefficiency, illness, accidents, recruitment costs, loss of valuable staff, loss of revenue and business.

Image courtesy of Naypong at

Image courtesy of Naypong at

British industry is failing to adequately address this problem, most people feel woefully ill-equipped to deal with a member of staff who has a suspected alcohol problem. It tends to be ignored with the hope that it will go away, this is rarely the case.
A good example of this is Charles Kennedy who had a well known alcohol problem and who wasn’t confronted on it until it was too late; I wonder what his career or indeed his party would be like now if someone had addressed this with him months or even years earlier. By not challenging someone on their excessive drinking we are colluding with them to stay in denial of the problem.
Recognizing someone has an alcohol problem at an earlier stage means valuable members of staff can get help with their problem before it has a detrimental impact on their career or the business they work in.

In moderation there is certainly no problem with using alcohol to relax or celebrate, however it can’t have escaped your notice that we have a spiralling alcohol problem in this country.

Problem drinking or alcoholism is often misdiagnosed as stress or depression;
sufferers will often visit their doctors and get prescribed anti-depressants, sleeping tablets or valium to deal with symptoms. Most people will put their problems down to ‘stress’ and hope that a prescription from the doctor will fix it. As a therapist I know there is no such thing as stress, stress is actually fear, suffers will deal with the symptoms of fear but not the root of the problem, thus medication is only ever a temporary solution usually leading to further problems.

The key to dealing successfully with an alcohol problem is to address the underlying feelings and ‘faulty thinking’ of a problem drinker, once someone has addressed this, their whole behavior will change and the desire to drink will leave them.

How to spot an alcohol problem
• Someone who regularly drinks to excess and makes excuses to justify or rationalize their (unacceptable) behavior.
And has one or more of the following:
• A diagnosis of ‘stress’
• Frequent ‘sickies’, particularly on a Monday or Friday
• Performance levels at work dropping
• Seemingly valid excuses for not delivering on commitments
• Shaky hands
• Smells of alcohol

What is an alcoholic?
• An alcoholic doesn’t necessarily drink every day or first thing in the morning.
• An alcoholic can stop drinking for periods of time
• Once an alcoholic has started drinking it’s very difficult for them to stop
• An alcoholic feels ‘uncomfortable in their own skin’
• Alcoholics feel lots of fear and shame about themselves
• Alcoholism is much more to do with how someone thinks and feels rather than how much they drink

An interview with Arthur Cauty maker of ‘A Royal Hangover’

A Royal Hangover

A Royal Hangover

There is an incredible film called ‘A Royal Hangover’ that has just been released in the UK. The film examines the cultural relationship the British have with booze. Directed by Arthur Cauty, a non-drinker he has been fascinated with the relentless pursuit of drunkeness the British have always pursued. Abnormal drinking has been so normalized in our culture that if you don’t drink you are seen as some kind of weirdo or freak. ‘A Royal Hangover’ reveals the ugly truth behind the delusion that alcohol=fun. This movie is a game changer for a country and a government still in denial about the effects and reality binge drinking is having.
Here is my exclusive interview with the director.

1. What motivated you to make the film?
My motivation for the film lies mainly within the fact that I personally don’t drink, and not only that, but I just never really ‘got’ the appeal of drinking. A lot of people instantly confuse this with abstinence, but there is a big difference – It’s not like it’s against my morals to drink, I just don’t do it for the fact that I don’t find it appealing, much in the same way I don’t participate in the Great British sport of cricket because I find it incredibly boring.

British drinking culture is something I’ve always found fascinating and slightly bizarre. It’s all around you, wherever you look. It’s completely embedded in our culture, in our history, our politics. Some of our most popular TV shows are based around pubs, and then there’s the 18th birthday, weddings, religious ceremonies, all these key life events, marked with alcohol. It’s like the blood in our veins; it oils society, and lubricates us socially. For someone like myself, someone who feels they are outside of this culture looking in, it just looks ridiculous.

So there was always that idea in the back of my head. But it wasn’t until I started travelling around Europe, the USA and Asia, that I realized how strikingly different our drinking culture is in Britain. I started looking into it further, and it became immediately apparent that we have a serious problem with alcohol in the UK – a problem that nobody seems to want to acknowledge or do anything about. And that’s where the idea for A Royal Hangover was born.

Director Arthur Cauty

Director Arthur Cauty

2. What do you hope the film will achieve?
I hope A Royal Hangover will help people all over the World to better understand the harms of alcohol, and for the UK especially to start to develop a healthier and more logical attitude to alcohol as well as other drugs. I know this is not a problem indigenous to the UK, but I do feel that alcohol is more ingrained in British culture, compared to many other countries. To not drink in Britain, is to be ridiculed.

If this film manages to help any number of people to think about how they, as well as the people around them, use alcohol, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.

3. Do you have personal experience of alcoholism and alcohol abuse?
I actually barely have any experience in drinking alcohol at all. I’ve tried it, but I’ve probably only drank a few pints of alcohol over my whole life. I just never really liked it, or felt the need to drink it. People would say, “you’ll learn to like it”. And I thought ‘Why? Why would I want to learn to like something I find disgusting?”. Take hot chocolate for example – I found that instantly delicious. I didn’t have to ‘learn’ to like that. And so the concept of learning to like alcohol was completely lost on me.

I have however grown up with 3 brothers who didn’t seem to have the same difficulty with enjoying alcohol as I did. I grew pretty accustomed to seeing them throwing up all over themselves, getting into drunken brawls, and even ending up in hospital on occasion.

Whereas I have been fortunate enough not to have any experiences with alcoholism or alcohol abuse myself, the same cannot be said for certain members of my family. My uncle John, who actually features in the film, drinks 2 bottles of whisky every day, and suffers from Wernicke’s encephalopathy, also known as ‘the disease of alcoholics’. He is essentially bed-bound, and doesn’t eat, can barely walk or do much of anything other than drink. He has brain damage, hearing and vision loss, as well as a myriad of other ailments due to his drinking. What is perhaps even more tragic is the effect this has on his wife and 15-year-old kid whom he lives with. They are literally prisoners to his addiction. I’ll never forget turning up at the house for filming, and my uncle not even knowing who I was. He thought it was the first time we had met.

4. Binge drinking has now been utterly normalized in British culture, after making this film what steps do we need start taking to reserve this?

I personally believe a lot of it comes down to how we educate our children in the UK. We’re hardly taught anything in school about drinking, in fact I don’t remember ever having a single lesson about it. I think education about alcohol and other drugs in schools is severely lacking. It makes me think of that famous sketch in South Park – “Drugs are bad, you shouldn’t do drugs, and alcohol is bad, you shouldn’t do alcohol”. That pretty much sums up alcohol education in schools here.

Aside from that, I think their needs to be changes in government policy, more restrictions in advertising, and less sensationalist and more responsible coverage of alcohol in the media. That would be a good start.

5. It seems to me that in our popular culture we have a massive glamorization of alcohol abuse, celebrity culture is awash with it. In the USA ‘not drinking’ is perfectly acceptable but in the UK it is seen as abnormal or extreme, something to be ridiculed. Any suggestions on how we can begin to ‘re-brand’ sobriety as something aspirational and acceptable?

Yes, I totally agree. To not drink in Britain is to be branded a weirdo basically. I myself have never had a problem with feeling like a weirdo – I used wear tights, paint my face, and body slam people for fun, as a former attempted pro wrestler.
Now, I’ve come to quite enjoy the funny looks I get when going into a bar and ordering a coke. It doesn’t bother me. But I can understand how it might bother others to feel like an exception. Peer pressure is such a huge factor when it comes to alcohol, especially for young people. If more people like myself – whether that be parents, brothers, sisters, friends, or people in the public eye like Russell Brand – actually felt comfortable about standing up and saying ‘I don’t drink’, this would encourage so many others to feel ok about doing the same, and be a step towards developing a healthier attitude towards alcohol as a culture.

Arthur Cauty with Russell Brand

Arthur Cauty with Russell Brand

6. Any plans to take the film into schools and youth clubs?

I think the film could be really useful in schools, in showing children an honest and balanced depiction of alcohol, so it’s certainly something we will consider. The first step though is to make an impact on the film festival circuit.

7. Please tell us how people can see the movie when it is released?

You’ll be able to see A Royal Hangover at film festivals internationally. We have literally only just finished the film. In fact, today is the first day in 5 months where I’m not in the edit suite! We’re planning to premiere at the BFI Film Festival in London in October. All screenings will be announced on the website, on our Facebook page, and on twitter.

8. Are their plans to show it in the USA? Although the alcohol culture is different, there are a lot of similarities in college campuses, where alcohol abuse is normalized and encouraged.

There are definitely a lot of similarities in college campuses, but I feel that outside of that, and the whole Spring Break culture, the US is quite different to the UK when it comes to alcohol culture as a whole. I think in general, attitudes towards alcohol in America tend to be a bit more logical. People seem to grow out of it to a degree, whereas in Britain it’s like the whole country is a college campus, and we’re all students going mad on alcohol.

Yes, we are planning to show the A Royal Hangover in the US. We believe the film has a lot of international appeal, as although it’s based on British drinking culture, a lot of the film’s content can be applied to other cultures.

Russell Brand stars in A Royal Hangover

Russell Brand stars in A Royal Hangover

9. What are you up to next?

Trying not to get assassinated by the drinks industry? There are a few exciting things on the horizon which come to think of it I probably can’t talk about. I’ve got a couple of short form projects coming up which will be a nice change of pace after having spent a year and a half (and counting) on A Royal Hangover!

You can see the trailer here:

When friends stop drinking…..

Steve Whiteley for many reasons decided to stop drinking. It just didn’t agree with him anymore, he’d stopped enjoying it and the idea of getting drunk was boring to him. He’d just turned 33 and the whole cycle of going out at weekends and getting drunk and then being hungover had just run it’s course. Plus, he was beginning to realize how much money he was spending on going out and partying. So he stopped and here is a video of how his friends reacted:

It’s brilliant isn’t it? The Magaluf intervention – genius! Anyone who has ever quit drinking will totally relate to the reaction of his friends….
Steve is a comedy/actor.producer and has recently launched the YouTub channel OffKey.

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

Staying sober on July 4th

Nothing looms larger for a newly sober alcoholic than a holiday, a weekend, or worse a holiday weekend.
In early sobriety, holidays are something to be negotiated carefully, especially holidays that involve a lot of drinking.

Image courtesy of nirots /

Image courtesy of nirots /

The first year of sobriety is really about a lot of ‘firsts.’
• First sober birthday
• First sober Christmas
• First sober New Years Eve
• First sober Thanksgiving
• First sober Superbowl
• First time having sex sober

You get the picture. These are all events that previously would have been perfect excuses to drink. Alcoholics particularly like events that ‘normal’ people drink (and get drunk on) because for that day they can pretend they’re normal too. Alcoholics can hide in a sea of drunk people.

In truth, alcoholics never need an excuse to drink, although if we have one we will never waste it.
So if this is your first sober July 4th here are some tried and tested methods for getting through it sober.

1. Have an escape plan. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, think of an exit strategy before you go. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are stranded and relying on someone else to give you a ride. Make sure you drive yourself to wherever you are going or have enough money for a cab or bus. That way, if you feel wobbly and need to get away, you can make your excuses and go.

2. It’s ok to lie. If you are not ready to tell people that you have stopped drinking and are in recovery it’s perfectly ok to fib. Tell them you are on medication that means you can’t drink, tell them you are driving later, tell them whatever you want.
Rehearse it in your mind before you go out, so if someone asks why you’re not drinking, or tries to force a drink on you, you have an excuse already to go. Don’t feel guilty about telling a white lie; your sobriety is your business and no one else’s.

3. Watch what you drink. It’s really easy in social situations to put your glass of soda down and go to pick it up and realize it’s someone else’s rum and coke. For someone in early sobriety that may be the only trigger they need. Keep hold of your drink at all times, or do something to the container that identifies it as yours, like writing your initials on it if it’s plastic.

4. Hang out with sober people. Sometimes in recovery, we feel that as soon as we get sober we have to start making it up to the people we hurt when we were drinking. It is a mistake to do this too early.
If you have been invited to a party with family or friends and there is usually lots of drinking and partying. Give yourself permission to politely decline. You may be feeling you should attend to make up for all the years you didn’t show up, or showed up drunk and ruined it for everyone. You don’t have to do any of those things. Remember July 4th comes round every year and next year you will be in much better shape to take part. This year, it may just be safer and wiser to hang out with people who don’t drink.

5. Think through the drink. If you find you are in a situation and you are tempted to drink, think through the ‘drunk’. Play the tape in your mind as you think through having the first drink, then the second, then the third, then what happens next. Think about how you would feel the next day, remember how awful it was.

Lastly, don’t’ be alone, don’t struggle on your own. Pick up the phone and call a friend or another sober person, be honest about how you feel and you will be amazed and the difference it makes when we begin to tell someone how we really feel. You don’t have to hide anymore.
Happy July 4th!

British Binge Drinking

You may have noticed that the World Cup is taking place in Brazil at the moment. Football (Soccer to Americans) is a very big deal in the UK. The whole country literally comes to a stand still while we partake in this mass delusion that we could actually win it.
We haven’t won it since 1966 and usually survive the group stages before being eliminated in the next round. This year we were eliminated before the group stages had even be concluded.
This must have cost the alcohol industry untold millions in lost profits. Because in the UK drinking and football go hand in hand. I was explaining this to an American friend the other day and he asked me what the drinking culture in the UK was like.
The UK binge drinking culture is basically the equivalent of college binge drinking culture in the USA. Excessive binge drinking is accepted and encouraged across all parts of our culture. As a country we are in complete denial of the consequences of our abnormal drinking. There is a song by ‘Goldie Lookin’ Chain’ a spoof rap band (from Wales of all places) called ‘Your Missis is a Nutter.’ It perfectly satirizes the british binge drinking culture and I couldn’t explain it better than this. It’s really funny and terribly sad.

They obviously blew there $50 budget on this music video.

How to deal with friends who drink

Sometimes when we stop drinking we find we have very few friends left, because we have isolated ourselves from the world. We usually start drinking on our own because we have pushed everyone away; we are filled with shame and remorse over our behaviour and it is easier to shut the world away rather than face people. If this is the case, then life in sobriety can bring new relationships and friendships.

Image courtesy of photostock /

Image courtesy of photostock /

Companionship is vital to human beings and alcoholics seem to have a tendency to isolate. Learning to be part of the human race again is part of the journey in sobriety.
For some people, when they get sober, they still have a social life with friendships intact and some of these friends may drink. Some of these may even drink heavily or alcoholically, but as a newly sober person you are going to have to learn how to deal with them.

Drinking is often a group activity. Groups are very powerful entities. We are generally attracted to groups who reflect back to us who we are, so it is very likely that we drank with people who drank like us. When we stop, it can often upset a group dynamic – you are part of a group all drinking in the same way, but then one of you stops. So what does this say about everyone else? The group may find this hard to deal with; some members may even try to tell you that you’re not an alcoholic, or try to persuade you to have a drink.
Just think about that for a second. How would they know?
The truth is, if your peer group is trying to persuade you that you don’t have a drink problem, it’s because they feel uncomfortable about their own drinking. It’s easier for them to encourage you to start drinking than to take a look at their own drinking. Their drinking is their business and your sobriety is yours. It really comes down to this: true friends will understand, encourage and support you. Your real friends will do things with you that don’t involve alcohol. Learn to tell the difference between ‘drinking buddies’ and true friendship.
It’s true that a lot of your friends may not understand why you have decided to stop drinking. Most people have an image of an alcoholic as a ‘smelly old man on a bench drinking out of a cheap bottle’. This is a misconception. We have already explored how alcoholism can present itself in many forms. Having a job and a mortgage doesn’t make you immune.
Alcoholism is an equal opportunity disease.
There is an interesting stage of readjustment ahead. At first you will want to avoid the big drinking occasions that you would normally attend with your friends. As you go on with your sobriety you may feel more confident to socialise when other people are drinking moderately.

The great news is that you only have to avoid alcohol in the early days; it gets easier and easier and eventually becomes a ‘non-issue’. I always compare it to being vegetarian. You just no longer notice the things you don’t eat on the menu. Most recovered alcoholics I know, who have long-term sobriety, are undisturbed around alcohol and in drinking environments. They just don’t notice it; they are too busy having a good time sober. It doesn’t mean that they seek out drinking establishments, rather that if they happen to end up in one to socialise or eat, they can do so with ease and comfort. The fact is that once you get sober, your life tends to expand; you discover there is so much more to do than drink. Life becomes full and interesting in ways you couldn’t imagine before.

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.

Fight for your right to party

I’m writing this piece in response to Lizzie Deane’s blog post in The Guardian last week.

Image courtesy of maple at

Image courtesy of maple at

Lizzie, who is 16, set out her argument for teenagers earning responsibility by being granted certain freedoms. Particularly where alcohol is concerned. She argues that this could be done by allowing your teenager to throw a house party at your home where they could invite their friends, drink alcohol and get up to all the things that teenagers have been getting up to for decades.
Her main argument being that teenagers are going to do this anyway so why not let them do this in a supervised environment.

Lizzie argues that drunken teenage parties are an evitable teenage experience whether parents like it or not. So parents should be more reasonable in allowing their kids to throw them, and in the process teenagers will become more responsible from being trusted in this way.
Lizzie is right that as young people grow up they need to be trusted to behave as adults. Which in this case means getting drunk, throwing up and passing out because this is the adult behavior that has been modeled to them.

Image courtesy of hyena reality at

Image courtesy of hyena reality at

I was saddened and shocked when I read Lizzie’s piece. Shocked because I can’t believe I’ve become an adult who is disturbed by teenage drinking.
And no, I haven’t forgotten what its like.
I remember my teenager years more vividly than I would necessarily like to. I did attend many house parties (invited and uninvited) and even managed to throw a couple of my own.
Where they fun? I’m really not sure. They checked all the boxes that ‘fun’ with alcohol now seems to require. I was often sick, smoked too many ciggerettes, took some illegal substances I was offered and had sex with someone I’d just met. If that fits your description of fun, then yes I had fun.

I was saddened because by reading Lizzie’s post because I realized just how much her generation had been duped.

Duped, because they have been led to believe that not only was abusive alcohol use normal, it was also their right.
No wonder she’s fighting for it.

You see alcohol was never designed for adolescent bodies. Alcohol can cause alterations in the wiring of still developing adolescent brains. Alcohol particularly affects the part of the brain in adolescents that deals with risk and there is mounting evidence that alcohol causes much more damage to developing brains that we originally thought.
Newsflash: despite our cavalier love affair with alcohol it’s extremely dangerous and harmful, particularly to the young.
I know it’s hard to believe, surrounded as we are by a culture that adamantly asserts it’s right to drink destructively every chance it can get.
Lizzie is very naturally asserting her rights to behave in the same way she sees adults do.
I can’t blame her for that. I did exactly the same thing.
I’m also not trying to scare Lizzie and her generation into staying away from alcohol because they could become an alcoholic like I did. I know that not everyone who binge drinks as a teenager goes on to become alcoholic, even though the research is indicating that teenagers who binge drink have a high propensity to become one…

I’m really not arguing anything at all. I know there is no argument that will make sense to 16-year-old Lizzie regarding the nature of alcohol.
That ship has sailed.
She knows her rights as a British Citizen after all.

I really just want to apologies on behalf of the generation ahead of her.
You see, I was lied to also. I was never presented with an alternative to not drinking or even drinking moderately. Back in the 80’s in an age before Facebook and Smartphones binge drinking was already deeply imbedded in our culture and I too believed it was my fundamental right to do so.
I can remember feeling indignant by the vague warnings boring dull adults gave. They weren’t trying to stop me drinking; they were clearly trying to stop any fun happening. Even I knew at 16 that the vehicle to fun was alcohol.

I’m sorry that we have normalized abnormal drinking so effectively that teenagers now believe their rights are being denied and that they are being patronized if not given the chance to exercise responsible binge drinking (an oxymoron if there ever was one).
This is not about potential alcoholism it’s about the myths and lies that surround alcohol abuse that enable destructive and abusive drinking to continue whilst calling it something else entirely.
Throwing up in someone’s back yard, smashing up people’s houses, falling over, being groped by someone you’ve just met was never anything to aspire to and I’m so sorry that we have led you to believe it was.

I see in the comments section there is lots of support from adults along the ‘never did me any harm,’ or ‘we all turned out alright,’ variety and that’s the stuff I really challenge.
It really depends on what you clarify as harm or abuse. I believe we have so normalized the harm that happens to people when drunk that we no longer see it as anything to worry about. The young girl coerced into sex she’s not ready for yet, the young man who pisses himself when passed out drunk, the arrests, casual violence, abusive comments, vomit and piss that someone else cleans up
There are 50 shades of harm that we no longer even notice…
But they are classified as a ‘normal’ Saturday night out now.

Image courtesy of photostock at

Image courtesy of photostock at

Until we see what’s right in front of our eyes and call alcohol abuse what it really is then we have no right to expect teenagers to behave any differently.
And they will continue to fight for their right to party, just like most British Citizens.

Sober Solutions: Show me your peer group and I’ll show you your life.

Peer groups are very interesting. They are, simply, the people we surround ourselves with: the people you spend the most time with, including your family, friends, colleagues, and in particular, the people with whom you drink.

Peer groups reflect back to us who we are.

Image courtesy of Vlado at

Image courtesy of Vlado at

My peer group, when I was drinking, was mostly people who were just the same as me. To be honest, I didn’t even like most of them.
I just pretended I did.

Some of my ‘friendships’ were based on fear of being alone, and they were just with people to do ‘stuff’ with (i.e. drink with), so I could convince myself I wasn’t a ‘lonely loser’.
Others were with people I used for my own purposes, and other people were ‘fair weather friends’ at best. All my relationships felt uncomfortable or ‘icky’. They never felt completely truthful or genuine. There were always hidden agendas in my friendships.

Abusing alcohol and drugs was the basis of most of my relationships. I drank and used drugs with people who drank and used in the same way I did. We colluded with each other.
I justified my behaviour through theirs. My peer group was mostly full of insincere, selfish, insecure, shallow, manipulative people – because that’s who I was.

However, I was also lucky that I did have some genuine friends who saw something in me that I couldn’t see.

Their friendship kept me alive.

By some miracle these people stayed in my life and are my dearest friends today. They saw past my crazy behaviour to the real me and loved me despite that behaviour. I was an inconsistent and unreliable friend, but somehow they persevered with me.

I remember from time to time meeting people who were genuine, interesting and authentic. I found these people very attractive and tried to form friendships with them. However, because I was insecure and frightened, not to mention chaotic and unreliable, I usually destroyed these friendships or pushed the people away because I was so ashamed or embarrassed about who I’d become. I never wanted anyone to get close.
That’s why my friendships were always changing. My sole criterion for friendship was, ‘Did they drink? And did they drink the way I did?’.
If so, then I could spend time with them. When I got sober I had very few friends left.
The longer I stayed sober the more I knew that I couldn’t risk hanging out with people who drank the way I used to.

Getting sober may mean changing your peer group. This isn’t something you necessarily have to do consciously.
When I stopped drinking, my social life stopped dead in its tracks. Nearly all my friends were fair weather drinking friends. I realised we had nothing in common and it was really too uncomfortable for us to see each other.
As I began to become emotionally well, my peer group changed very naturally and I began to attract people into my life with whom I had always wanted to be friends, but had always been too scared of in the past.

I attracted people who saw the world as I did, who had a curious mind, who had a thirst for life, who wanted to live their lives to the full.
People who lived their truth. People who weren’t perfect, but who were always striving to be the best version of themselves they were capable of being.

Now, my relationships feel genuine. I don’t feel uncomfortable and I don’t have to hide anymore. I can be honest and reveal my true self, imperfections and all, with no fear, because I know I am loved and accepted. My peer group lifts me up. They celebrate my successes and support me in my challenges, and they inspire me and guide me.

I am truly honoured and blessed to attract such incredible people into my life.

When someone within a peer group changes, it upsets the balance of the group. People generally don’t like change. If you are part of a peer group which drinks like you do it will disturb them greatly if you stop. This is because you have stopped reflecting back to them who they are and are now reflecting back something they may not want to see yet.
It’s not uncommon for a peer group to try to influence someone by telling them they can’t be an alcoholic and that they don’t drink enough for that to be true – just remember that it’s nothing to do with how much you drink. You may be frightened that they will laugh or ridicule you for getting help.

Remember who is sleeping in your head.
You are not them.

Your peer group will be uncomfortable when someone changes; they may not be ready to change yet – certainly they don’t have to, they are free to live their lives as pleases them – so a peer group may try and get you to change back to how you were because it’s easier for them. This is because by getting sober you’ve upset the apple cart.

We need other people around us, but choose wisely who is going to accompany you on your journey through life.
Remember your peer group reflects back to you who you are.
2013 How to Stop Cover 960x1280
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.