Gordon’s & Tonic advert

Gordon’s & Tonic

Has anyone seen the latest advert for Gordon’s and tonic?

Two people are discussing what to do for the evening and one of them voices a long list of suggestions. The other sounds a bit bored and after listening for a while suggests instead going for a Gordon’s and tonic – which they decide on instantly – like it’s a no-brainer.

I’m struggling because on the one hand, what’s the problem? – simply two people deciding to go for a drink. But it’s the subtext in the way they hit upon the idea. There is a definite devil-may-care attitude and a half-glance from one to the other that acknowledges their chosen activity isn’t really on a par with the real ones they’ve just rejected (like the movies, a gallery, a night-market, dancing, a play etc) but is in reality way more fun than any of them – and don’t we all know it – nudge nudge, wink wink!!

Is this what adverts do?

The advert deliberately elevates the status of its product to a higher level – it’s what adverts do, I guess – but in this case there’s a knowing cynicism in the way it appeals to the problem drinker (one of their core markets, of course) by allowing him/her to feel fine about choosing alcohol purely for its own sake – no disguising it behind the respectability of a theatre trip or any other sociable pastime.

Gordon’s wants us to feels uninhibited in our choice. And their advert celebrates drinking for drinking’s sake.

It says there are normal, likable people, just like the ones in their advert who drink in this way. So why not you too?

And to a non-problem drinker, it’s just a fun advert for Gordon’s and tonic.

Is that responsible? I’m not sure that it is.

For more about my own drinking, visit my book page

Sober October blues

What do you do if your sober October has taken you right back to where you started?

post sober October beers

My website is dedicated to helping you understand your drinking, without recourse to hot yoga, mint tea or running! Or a sober October

But my method isn’t for everyone out there. If you don’t have an open mind, it won’t work for you. Whilst I do not preach psycho babble of any kind, I do believe that some people are just not capable of looking at themselves and their habits objectively.

Objectivity is key, in my view.

My website ( a new approach page and video) and book, “Not Alcoholic, But…” are all about analysing your relationship with alcohol. The aim is to help you decide what you want from it in the future, and how you get there.

All too many sites and services tell you how to do things that, as yet, you haven’t chosen.

Just remember that desire is everything. If you understand your desires, then you have the opportunity to shape your own future. A sober October may challenge your desire, at least for a while, but it won’t necessarily help you understand it. As a result, you may go back to heavy drinking in a blink.

For more help, why not try my drinking biog “Not Alcoholic, But…

Just one beer…

just one beer

I was coming home the other weekend – a Saturday I think – about 3 in the afternoon, and the sun was shining while I waited on the station platform. It was all very pleasant, and my attention was grabbed by one of those pop-up food markets taking place adjacent to the station. I observed it, peering over the station wall to a courtyard below where young mums and their toddlers were eating and chatting and young men were sitting at picnic tables, drinking, probably just one beer, all very responsibly – and not in the sort of way I remembered drinking when I was their age. Or any age.

Nearly six years sober now, I had no desire to be in that scene. I simply couldn’t see the point of having a beer in the middle of the afternoon. The activity struck me as absurdly pointless. What was ‘just one beer’ going to do other than to give a little buzz that would soon fade away leaving a dehydrated head-achy feeling , a lethargy and irritability that, however mild, would only be cured by several more beers, or a lie-down back home. Where is the fun in that?

I’m sure I’d get a similar effect from a small cup of lighter fuel!!

More and more I am convinced that alcohol doesn’t really offer anything at all, not at any level, whether it’s an epic night out or a quiet sociable drink on a Saturday afternoon. British ‘law’ decrees we engage in drinking as a mark of respect – respect to the occasion, to our friends, to ourselves. Consequently, we reach a point where we don’t really know what we’d do if it was taken away. Even without ‘just one beer’ we feel exposed, unprotected, unable to relax and most importantly, unable to enjoy.

Do you drink too much?

…and if so, are you bothered by it? If you’re anything like me (for almost all of my 36 years of drinking) then the answer to that will be, NO. Besides, even if you do drink too much, haven’t you got used to the reality of this fact by now? And your friends too! Surely, they all know who they are getting when they see you? Perhaps you even quite like being defined by your drinking.  And then there’s the enjoyment factor too. Drinking is relaxing. You do it to unwind and reward yourself, so why not face up to facts. You’re a drinker.

But there’s a catch: medical professionals tell you that you should only drink a limited number of units per week; per day. They say that heavy drinking will cause liver problems and possibly other serious illnesses too. So, what to do? You don’t actually want to cut down – and certainly not give up – so the best option is to push back against the evidence; look for counter evidence. For instance, what about all the people you know who drink as much as you or more, and are fine, including much older people who don’t have any health problems? What about all your friends who go to the gym, yoga classes, swimming or running and carry on drinking, like you, all perfectly fit and healthy?

Many drinkers go through life in a cycle of self-doubt and self-justification over their own drinking. Nothing really gets done about it because there is no actual desire for change. Who wants to cut down unless they have to? And who says they have to? The evidence we witness around us – from our friends and family – flies in the face of the 14 units maximum given by the ‘Chief Medical Officer’ (whoever they are).

But there is an easier way to look at all this.

Stop worrying about units and comparisons and rules. Focus on the alcohol and what it does for you – each mouthful at a time.

In fact, before you even pick up a drink, next time, think about what you want the alcohol to do for you. Imagine the state of mind you want the booze to take you to.

Then, as you take each sip, try to be aware of how well the alcohol is delivering on your expectations of it. Think about what you want from the second and third drink that you haven’t already got from the first. If you are rewarding yourself for a hard day’s work, ask yourself before you start drinking what you want to feel. I bet it isn’t to be comatose on the floor. So, what do you want to feel? Be conscious of your expectations and when they have been fulfilled. Try this as many times as possible – whenever you are drinking in fact – and build up a true knowledge of your relationship with alcohol; unique to you.

Over time – about 2-3 weeks of monitoring your expectations of each drink you consume – the knowledge you gain will empower you to feel a much greater sense of control over your drinking. You won’t have deliberately ‘cut down’, but you may well have drunk less anyway. This is a better way of doing things.

Understanding your reasons for drinking – in the moment – is empowering. It’s not enough to say I drink because I want to relax, or I deserve a treat or a reward, or because I want to let my hair down, or to feel more confident socially, or even because I am bored.

You need to be aware of the exact mechanism – unique to you – by which the alcohol makes you feel relaxed, confident, rewarded or less bored.

I was discussing this with a drinker the other day. He said that he liked to drink because it marked a mental cut-off from the reality of the day. The alcohol took him to a different place. And this different place was his escape, his relaxation. It marked a separation which he could clearly identify.

If you feel the same way, then I urge you to focus on each sip of your first drink, and mark the point when you feel your brain, your mind, your feelings are starting to disassociate from the experiences of the day. Mark this point and be aware of whether the next drink and the one after that, is adding to your enjoyment or not – and why. Try to build a clearer picture of how much alcohol it takes for you to feel relaxed about the day or separated from it. It may not be the same each time, so you need to be mindful every time you do this exercise.

Another friend of mine has spent the last 2 years using a suppressant to curb his cravings for alcohol. The suppressant, a drug that is not available in the UK, allows the drinker to keep control over the amount they are consuming. At first, he was delighted with how it worked. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to try it too, blinded to the fact that I have no need to suppress my desire for alcohol, as I no longer have one. He would take the pill 2 hours before drinking and this would suppress that “f*** it” feeling after the first drink. But over the course of 2 years he built up a tolerance to the pills and found that his desire for alcohol continued beyond the first, second and third drink and was leading to memory blanks and mood swings, just like in the old days. He quit booze altogether a few weeks ago.

So, if you are reluctant to cut down your alcohol consumption because deep down you don’t really want to, try examining your desire over the next 2-3 weeks. You may be surprised with your own findings. You may be even more surprised by your own conclusions!

There are better ways than Sober October to tackle your intake…

is there a point to this?

I’ve always felt that dry January and sober October are a bit of a box-ticking exercise. Whenever I attempted them I felt that they proved one thing only – that my drinking was under control. I mean, if you can go a whole month without a drink, then you clearly don’t have a problem!? I also quite enjoyed some evenings being sober when I would normally have been drinking. This seemed to tick another box – proving I wasn’t psychologically dependent on alcohol.

But these exercises didn’t really do much more than re-affirm what I thought I already knew.

Now, nearly 6 years sober, I have come up with a much better way of regaining control over intake… it’s what led me to quit within 6 months.

This actually works!

It’s all about understanding what you want from alcohol, sip by sip, glass by glass. Then seeing how well it matches up to expectations when you actually drink it.

You’d be amazed how this focuses the mind on what you want from alcohol. It doesn’t happen overnight, but over a few weeks you begin to think about why you are even opening a bottle of wine. This has the effect of making you question how much you really enjoy doing it and whether you are getting near the end of your love-affair/ marriage with alcohol.

Talk about putting a dent in your desire! And when your desire switches focus onto sobriety – anything is possible.

And that’s where the difference lies with sober October. You just don’t gain enough insights from a sober October to change anything.

For more about cutting down and quitting have a look at my book

1st Class Air Travel and booze – good bed-fellows?

First class air travel and booze are great bedfellows. Not that I speak from experience. Just lots of imagination. 
I couldn’t conceive winning the lottery or going on a 1st class flight to New York without a lot of Champagne – back in the old days, that is. 
In fact, even now I can’t see the benefit of luxury travel without booze, despite being not in the least tempted by Champagne anymore. Perhaps it demonstrates how far I have come with my new desires in sobriety, ones that are truer to me.

Then it struck me how much of a parallel lies between the illusive world of first-class air travel –

first class air travel

and special social occasions.

Both are actually ruined by alcohol. In first class, all the little treats and extras laid on by the airline are completely overshadowed by the prospect of endless “free” Champagne. you would never really enjoy the buffet in the first class departure lounge, or the seats that turn to beds when you need some rest, or all endless meals, snacks and films. You’d be thinking about the wine, the spirit mixers in their posh glasses, the circular bar, the top-ups.

Real-life parallel

And in real life the same can be said for special social occasions. 
In those dark old days I would look forward to and plan such occasions down to the first and last mouthful of booze – from the continuous flow of alcohol, the number of pre-paid bottles to get everyone started, the mix of heavy and light drinking company. And on those occasions I would drink from the earliest opportunity. For the duration I would keep topping up my levels of alcohol in case I started to sober up.  
And then I would go into blackout and do silly things or get emotional or fall asleep or get argumentative. 
All the preparation for the social event would have been wasted. As would I. And I would wake up the next day with a sense of impending doom and a lot of gloom. Shame and anxiety would keep me sheepish and full of self-loathing for some time to come, relieved only by the next drink. 

So if I won the lottery or came into huge sums of money, air travel isn’t what I would seek, nor champagne (of course). I’m not really chasing huge sums anyway. I need money to live on, and that’s all I want. I love my life in all its simplicity and although it would be great to have a bit more cash to free up some more time for the things I want to do, I don’t crave a flashy life-style. Far from it.

For more of this sort of thing, pop over to my amazon page

Drink Questionnaire

If the choice was between a sober night at a lovely restaurant with friends or an evening of unlimited wine/beer/spirits/drink with someone you don’t really like very much, which would you pick?

Have you ever taken offence at someone’s comments, walked off then forgot why you were offended?…

Or had an argument on the phone, and the next day forgotten what you were arguing about?

Do you measure all occasions by their drinking opportunities?

Do you come into a room and feel like an outsider, until you have had a drink?

Do you feel depressed in the afternoon if you don’t know when you’ll be able to get a drink later that day?

Do you feel a sense of dread when you hear or read a news item about liver disease caused by alcohol?

Do you take secret swigs from bottles of alcohol?

Do you buy  drinks from bars in between rounds without people noticing

Do you buy extra rounds so as to get a drink more quickly than waiting someone else’s round.

Do you feel comforted when you hear about someone drinking more than you?

Do you feel you could stop or cut down if you really wanted to?

when you think about winning the lottery, do you think about the drink you’ll have in celebration.

Do you think about travelling first class on the plane, and think about free drinks?

Does the thought of a Sunday lunch and a log fire make you think of alcohol.

Does the thought of your favourite meal – without alcohol – turn you off?

Do you eat less in order to drink more

Do you put off eating as long as possible so as to have more capacity for booze.

Do you see food after booze as the end of the night’s main entertainment.

Do you reward yourself with drink?

If you answer”yes” to any of the above, then you’ll find some useful help on this website – and via my book page

Pink Cloud still pink

I’m happy to report that my pink cloud hasn’t blown over, even after 5 years.

My Pink Cloud

We had friends round for Friday-night dinner last night and I felt excited all day about them coming. I guess it’s because we haven’t been all that sociable recently and these friends are special to us, and a lot of fun. They are mostly quite big drinkers too.

So it’s with euphoria that I tell you how fluffy my pink cloud still is and how happy I feel today at how fun and successful the evening was, and how mentally strong and healthy and energetic I feel today. The sobriety drug that I got hooked on 5 years and 4 months ago is still working its magic. This is the real ecstasy! You have to believe me!

pop over to my book page for more of my experiences in the world of sober!

Baby Boomers: prone to alcohol dependency?

There’s been a lot of coverage in the news lately about the dramatic increase in hospitalisations amongst baby boomers, due to alcohol dependency – a trend that is counter to all other age-groups in society, we’re told. The cause of this spike is something to do with the boomers’ adolescent experiences of alcohol back in the 60s and 70s.

a drink for every occasion

Back then, drinking alcohol was an adult pastime that was universally participated in and accompanied almost all social as well as many formal occasions. Drinking alcohol was for a large proportion of the population the only social activity they ever did. Drinking alcohol was therefore a right of passage in many adolescents’ lives and for these baby-boomers, me included, the anticipation of that first proper drink was momentous. There certainly wasn’t any fear or warning about the dangers of alcohol dependency.

I came across an article recently by a baby boomer who said that when she went to University in the 1970s her family warned her about the perils of “pot”, not alcohol. She was told to stay away from dope and stick to cider; the presumption being that cider would bring no harm, while marijuana would lead to heroin addiction.

Stick to cider and you’ll be fine! Really?

Cider was “of course” harmless; unless you drunk too much of it, in which case you had a problem. But to acquire alcohol dependency takes a long time, and if you start with the premise that cider and beer are harmless, then you have a lot of time to play with before anyone, including yourself, notices that there is a problem. It’s not surprising then that 40 years ago, problem drinking went unchecked, that dangerous habits were forged in broad daylight.

Alcohol was associated with ceremonies of all kinds (it still is to an extent) including religious ones – the “blood” of Christ – and its place in 1970s culture went absolutely unchallenged. If anyone drank too much, that was due to their own weakness, not society’s – and very much their own business.

In the 70s people were less inclined to point the finger at other people’s habits anyway. I remember the big fuss made about the infringement to personal liberty brought about by motorcyclists’ compulsory wearing of safety helmets. The Liberal Party was dead against it. So, you can imagine what people would have made of interfering with other people’s drinking habits.  It was no one else’s business but yours when you had a drink. The idea of printing the Government Health Inspector’s recommended number of weekly units on the side of a bottle of beer, wine, or spirits would have caused outrage.

I don’t think the 70s attitude was particularly laissez-faire or bohemian either. Pubs were closed for most of the day and alcohol wasn’t available in anything like the number of places it is now – like petrol stations and cafes

1970s pub

But that’s not in any way to diminish alcohol’s central role in adult life. Pubs were literally everywhere, and when they were open, they were full. Alcohol was consumed at every occasion of  any note. Alcohol was one of those facts of life that were too interwoven into the fabric of society to be isolated and challenged – like obesity, unsaturated fat, sugar, tobacco, lack of exercise, food-additives, pollution, amongst others. Where would you start, even if you wanted to?

I’m not suggesting that everyone suffered from alcohol dependency back in the 60s and 70s, but everyone was exposed to alcohol at all occasions back then, and participation on at least some level was expected. To be t total back then was as “suspicious” as being vegetarian, Muslim, black, homosexual. If it wasn’t exactly wrong, it certainly wasn’t “normal”.

Excluded from the club

I think my life was on hold up until the time I was allowed to drink. That’s how it feels. I longed for the day when I could go to the pub, or pour myself a glass of whisky, or open a bottle of wine. I vividly remember all those alcohol adverts, the cocktails and champagne in films, the smell of stale beer on train carriages where football and rugby fans had been.

At 15, alcohol, at last, was allowed to become my primary interest in life. And it remained that way for 36 years, until 5 years ago I realised I had had enough of it and wanted something new and different. 5 years on, I am happy to say, there is still a novelty in being free from the burden of worry about alcohol (drinking too much of it; not having enough of it, spending too much money on it, hiding it…) There is also the joy of discovering new things about myself; the things I like doing and not doing; where my priorities lie in relation to family, work-life-balance, free time, holidays. Alcohol clouded my judgement of these things, because it was more important to me than anything else, even if I wasn’t prepared to admit it at the time.

And the world seems to have moved on a bit now too; not that I noticed it while I was drinking. People aren’t so bothered about alcohol as they were. Pubs are shutting in their droves. Young people seem to be far more interested in food than alcohol these days. Sure, they binge drink (which is a problem, I know) but alcohol doesn’t have the mystique it once had. There are so many more activities to occupy kids in 21st century Britain – like mobile phones, social media, computer games, limitless TV.

Alcohol dependency is still alive and kicking, but it’s no surprise to me that the biggest group of dependents are the baby boomers.

You can read more about this sort of thing in my drinking memoir