Give up alcohol: I’ll drink to that

Colin Perriss, a regular contributor to Enterprise Britain, knows a lot about alcohol.

With the help of his wife Debbie and their children, he beat it. He has developed a remarkable understanding of the issues and runs a business consultancy which can include helping SME owners with drinking problems (and there are rather many of them).

It was therefore a surprise when this week, after I’d asked him how things are going, he said “very busy but mainly with personal business coaching. Nobody wants to stop drinking.”

Let’s look at the facts.

Professor David Nutt, the former UK Chief drugs adviser has said on record that

“Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack. It is the most dangerous drug to society.”

It is a popular form of ‘self medication’, available without a prescription, and is used in attempts to overcome depression, sadness, mood swings, desperation, loneliness, anxiety, loss of self esteem , job worries, marriage problems and so on.

Its benefits are temporary and are addictive because the body requires increasing amounts to achieve the same levels of temporary release.

The Government earns £14bn annually in revenues from alcohol. The cost to the NHS is estimated at £2.78bn. Two million people work in the industry. It is one of the UK’s largest export earners.

It is estimated that there are possibly up to 40,000 drink related deaths in the UK each year. My belief is that many doctors and health care professionals have alcohol related problems. The Friday and Saturday nights binge drinking amongst the young is ingrained in society.

Colin was in a thoughtful mood when we met: he told me that

“The majority of people used to believe that the world was flat. The majority of people now drink alcohol. I wonder if there is a link?”

As with many other social issues the Coalition has blown hot and cold on the subject.

This Christmas a great many SME owners will drink far too much. However the complete lack of help from Vince Cable and his Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and New Year cash flow pressures, plus a visit from the VAT Inspector, will soon sober them up.

I’ll drink to that.

The price of ignorance

The EU says that it’s most probably illegal to set a minimum price for alcohol, as reported by the BBC.

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not setting a minimum price level for alcohol will actually make any difference to those ‘difficult’ figures that suggest that UK society has some addiction problems with the Worlds one and only drug that can be used ‘responsibly’.

The fact that the almost universal view that alcohol can be used ‘responsibly’ is accepted by the majority of people without much in the way of question is in reality at the heart of the problem, because it avoids the uncomfortable truth, we need to ask ourselves;

What is it about the human existence that means that we need drugs to tolerate it?

‘Money’ is one of the most common underlying reasons for alcohol addiction. Not having enough of it, having too much of it and everything in-between.

I really do wonder where the politicians responsible for making policies involving alcohol get their ideas from.  How on earth do they expect to control someone with a dependency and possible addiction to alcohol by attempting to control how much it costs? For the addict it’s not some sort of casual luxury to drink alcohol, it’s seen by them as a vital part of getting through the day and an attempt to get themselves ‘away ‘from whatever it is that is driving that addiction.

Not forgetting that the policy of putting the price up is only likely to impact on those for whom money is a consideration. The financially comfortable and well off are not exempt from being alcoholic, but this pricing strategy is unlikely to resolve their addiction.

Governments have been warned in the past that alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet, but anyone suggesting such a thing is either sacked or buried in meaningless statistics illustrating how the ‘vast majority’ are ‘responsible drinkers’.

Go out tonight and find some ‘responsible drinkers’ Watch carefully how everyone carefully measures the amount they are drinking, always stop at the allocated units, and never ever finish a bottle of wine once it is open, they will of course replace the cork and save it for the next time, having dutifully taken at least one alcohol free day in-between.

Better still go and ask an alcoholic if putting the price of alcohol up will stop them drinking, and they are likely to give you a number of possible replies, but they will all mean roughly the same thing;


A brave new world

Can you imagine a world without alcoholic drinks?

It’s an interesting thought and there are a number of immediate problems associated with it. Firstly there’s the revenue it generates, the employment it provides, the associated industries that are supported by it and a history of drinking it. Alcohol is a significant contributor to the world’s economy.

Let us imagine that for reasons ‘unknown’ alcoholic drinks cease to be available from tomorrow, and the population with from this day forward have to live without them.

What is the likely outcome?

Well we don’t know of course because it is so totally unlikely that it is virtually implausible,  but using the best that my imagination can muster, I would like to give an outline of what I think that the impact would be.

Firstly there would be uproar! A sense of profound unfairness that this ‘essential’ part of human life was no longer available; the population would demand answers, the immediate return of alcohol. Riots and strikes would be a real possibility, depending on who was perceived as being responsible.

Realisation may follow. It may dawn on many that they are going to find themselves in a place where they will not have the usual ‘fix’ to put their minds under the influence of alcohol. Some may well feel inclined to panic; the thought of not being able to ‘relax’, socialise, celebrate and commiserate without  using alcohol will be close to unthinkable.

It would quickly become obvious to many just how dependent they are on alcohol. Living without it will mean living in the world as it really is continuously, one day after the other. Emotions would be intense, life would be raw without the sedative effects of alcohol, many will feel that they cannot cope, but there will be little choice.

Or will there?

Just maybe the population will look at life for what it really is and decide that actually they don’t much like what they see. They may conclude that instead of taking action and striving to change their lives, they have been self medicating their way through life by using alcohol, in an ongoing attempt to manage the stress, the pain, the worry and the sheer intensity of being alive.

An alcohol & drug free world is one that it possibly unimaginable, but it may be the only one that will give us all the mental space to stop and think about what we are all really doing from day to day, and consider making some changes.

Wouldn’t suit everybody? We’ll probably never know.

Will he or won’t he?

Drink alcohol that is.

When people discover my background, I am often asked this question,

Do you think that you’ll ever drink alcohol again?

My answer is usually the same, I advise that I am not a fortune teller and have no way of absolutely and definitely predicting how I will behave in the future. However having not drunk any alcohol for approaching eight years and possessing extensive knowledge of it I feel that it is very unlikely.

I often witness expressions of sheer horror when I announce that my remaining years or decades of life will be lived without using alcohol. I have some empathy with how they may be feeling as when I decided to stop drinking I simply could not imagine my life without alcohol. The thought of experiencing the world how it really is all of the time without being able to ‘get away’ from myself was difficult to imagine.

However things are very different now. I regularly visit pubs to listen to music or eat, sometimes both. Fortunately I am not tempted to drink alcohol and will often watch the decline of some of the other customers as they go through the process from sober and functioning to drunk and incapable.

In fact I probably spend more time spending money in pubs now than I ever did when I was drinking alcohol, and given the level of tax and duty involved I expect that the landlords are seeing more profit from the food and soft drinks than they are from the beer, wine and spirits.

Some observers have suggested that I should avoid pubs and bars, maybe even the alcohol sections in the supermarkets in case I feel the urge to have a sudden relapse and start emptying the shelves on the spot and drinking myself into oblivion. It has even been suggested by some that I will probably resume drinking when I experience the next ‘major’ life event such as the loss of someone close.

Fortunately I understand that alcohol will never change anything, only temporarily alter my perception of it and it will just make me feel different for a while. I can relax without, socialise without it and I have resolved many of my underlying fears and issues so that I can live without feeling the need to drink it.

I don’t drink alcohol because I choose not to. I am ‘fortunate’ in that I have experienced both ends of the scale, full blown dependence and alcoholism and living without drinking it.

So will he or won’t he?

I don’t see the point of drinking it now to be honest, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?

Weapon of Choice

I was born in Lewisham, lived near Catford for almost 22 years and I started my working life in Croydon.

The images of these places on fire with the residents being subjected to previously unseen levels of violence were disturbing to say the least, particularly because of my close association with many of the affected areas.

Anyone wishing to make a point will most likely find that it has been lost in opportunist theft, pointless destruction and a sustained assault on innocent people.

Watching events unfold from the surreal safety of my armchair in Norfolk it seemed clear that there were a number of patterns emerging in relation to the objectives of those engaged in the looting. Sportswear, clothes and electrical shops seemed to be high on the list, but when the food stores were raided, armfuls of alcohol could be seen being carried away, and food seemed to be of little interest.

It is obviously not possible to know how many of those involved were under the influence of alcohol (or other drugs) and I do not recall seeing that many images of people actually drinking alcohol but I did see a number of incidents where alcohol or its container where being used as weapons both against the Police and other members of the public.

Alcohol causes damage to the human body when it is ingested, but there are reports of people being assaulted with bottles and it would seem that many of the ‘petrol bombs’ may in fact have been ‘alcohol bombs’. Anyone that has witnessed alcohol being lit during the cooking process will know that ethanol is highly flammable and easy to ignite, another often overlooked reason that alcohol is potentially dangerous.

Compared to some parts of the world the poverty seen in the UK would represent the lap of luxury to someone living in a corrugated tin shack with little sanitation and no running water.

In the UK alcohol is regularly used by people to change the way they feel about want they ‘don’t have’.

Perhaps if they were grateful for what they do have and aspired to make things better not just for themselves, but for those around them they would perhaps be less inclined to use alcohol to engage in the destruction of not only their own lives but those in the wider community.

Time grateful instead of hateful perhaps?