There is a time to do everything in life, a time to start earning money, a time to leave home, a time to enter into a relationship, and it is important to get the time right. You can’t or at least you shouldnt be asked to earn your own money at the age of 10, you shouldnt leave home at 16, because getting the timing wrong on these things can have consequences, and not always good ones. But if you do these things at the right time in life , you have a much better chance of getting it right, and being successful. So it is with alcohol; there certainly isn’t a perfect time to start drinking, but there may be a right time to consider stopping. Trying to stop too early in the process dosen’t always work; trying to get you head around an addiction when it is too much information to process can lead to a failure. So it is important to get the timing of an attempt at sobriety correct. Now part of the process of arriving at a decision may be a number of failed attempts at stopping. It is reported that it takes someone an average of 5 goes to stop smoking. With drinking, it is different. If someone is thinking about stopping, and they get the right help, they get a mixture of support and pressure from those around them, then it can be a very effective process. Sometimes, however, people don’t want to listen, they can’t hear the sincerity in the voices of those around them, and although they verbally state they want to stop, their hearts aren’t in the process. And it may take many more months, years, of problems, negative consequences, and heartache, before they come around again. They might even die in that gap period. But it may be necessary for them to have that gap period, that increase in pain, that increase in suffering, before they are ready to do business. You just hope that it isn’t too late; it is never to late to change.
Its very easy to relax at certain times. On a holiday weekend, its very easy to sit back, take it easy, and decide to have a drink. There are certain times of year, Christmas, New Year, holidays, on which it feels almost mandatory to have a pint. It can be very casual as well, a decision to drink can be seemingly easily taken, because everyone is doing it, and sure what the harm. It is precisely at this time to those who are trying to do something about their alcohol misuse have to be extra vigilant. Looking at everyone else is no way to make a serious decision about anything, let alone about having a drink. Making a seemingly innocuous decision to drink is not the best way to be serious about abstinence. And unfortunately for some, abstinence is really the best policy; half way just doesn’t work. I know many people who try and get away with it, and find themselves back at square one about their drinking almost immediately. I also have known a few who can return to social drinking, but they are very few, and some of them eventually fall completely off the wagon, despite a while social drinking. So don’t risk it, don’t take a chance, find something else to do. Simple sounding as it is, sometimes distraction is the easiest policy, finding a place for idle hands to be occupied is more important than anything else. No time to think, no time to crave. Plan and stay sober.
Last week I attended a conference in Madrid as the Irish rep for a group of Addiction Associations in Europe. I met professionals treating and research addiction in many different countries, including Spain, Portugal, Norway, Germany and the UK. I was amazed at how similar the problems with addiction, and alcohol in particular, were in each country. What remained was how different each country was dealing with the problem. In Spain and Portugal, young people, men in particular, are getting drunk in binges like here at home. In Norway and Sweden, however, the government has developed a different system for dealing with the problem. They have regulated alcohol sales for years, and it is more expensive and harder to get than in most other European countries. But not impossible. And that has led to them having one third the alcohol consumption of Ireland per person. Restriction and legislation does work, but there has to be a political and popular will to do it. Despite the problems, the addiction, the drunkeness, the suicides, there isn’t the political will to tackle this problem in Ireland yet. So we have to tackle the problem individual by individual, addiction by addiction, harm by harm, and hope for change eventually. So many lives could be saved through effort at government level, but I’m not sure it will happen.
Some people have asked me in the last week, why would you write a book? Havent you enough to do, seeing people for their addiction and depression problems? The simple answer is that it is important to reach out to people who I cant see personally. There is a large number of people in Ireland with an alcohol problem, at least 250,000; if you add in the UK it is probably 3 million. And that is a lot of people. If you add in the US, another 10 million at least. The vast majority of all of these people suffering an addiction to alcohol are not in any sort of treatment, therapy or self-help. So writing a book, setting up a website, letting people know there is a pathway to recovery and sobriety is really important. There is more than one pathway, every success story is individual, just like every addiction story is individual. (We are all individuals!!) The start is a spark: “Maybe I need to look at my drinking” The next step is to find out more, and that is what the book is about.
I hope to post the video from the book launch very soon. Keep trying.
The book Overcoming Alcohol Misuse was published recently. See images and speeches for this launch on the site. go to link