Alcohol & Depression

depressed

 

It has taken me too long to write this blog, for the relevance and importance of the connection between wine time and depression is so key.

More and more I hear from clients of how they are treated by GPs with regard to their mental health, and primarily, their drug of choice, alcohol, which is a gateway to so much more, is broken before the conversation can begin. I am very fortunate in having a great general practitioner, caring and compassionate, and most importantly, a great listener. However I am in the minority. Before anyone starts about how much pressure GPs are under, we all are, which is why so many seek solace in a bottle or two. It is not to have fun with, it is to self medicate, having drawn a complete blank with their professional health expert, their first port of call, their hope.

There is a script that seems to be followed to the letter. It goes something like this. ‘Doctor I am very anxious and depressed, probably drinking a bit too much’, nervously giggling which translates into shameful embarrassment. Asked how much is imbibed, the lie is told, and that is just above safe guidelines, with the odd binge now and again. Then asked if they are depressed, there is an immediate admission of that, often ‘Yes, deeply, and so anxious, work, family, you know….’ Three options are offered, the go to anti depressants, which will take apparently weeks to take effect, and you can potentially suffer awful side effects, including more anxiety and depression, beta blockers, along with ADs these won’t work effectively either given the drinking that’s going on, and possibly CBT, with a therapist who is up to their eyes in it, months of waiting, and when you get to see them, few specialise in alcohol or other drugs, another script. GPs also have alcohol problems, some of them, and I have seen many. So they do leave judgement at the door, although often my clients tell me they have had a sniffy sort of look followed by, ‘cut down, you know it makes sense’. Doh, we are not stupid, we are at the end of a very long tether, wanting some sort of clear and kind plan to help.

So that has taken the ten minutes, off you go, with your new prescription, and get on the merrygoround of most likely anti depressants, which could be another lifetime of despair.
Hoping for the best, because most people that I see do have that attitude, they don’t feel like victims, they start the course, along with celebrating that they at last may have an answer to the low mood, with a bottle of white.

Now it becomes extremely dark. Anxiety ramps up, tiredness, worse than before sets in, and the drinking increases. There is an awful pattern of guilt and frustration because we have always been taught that doctors know better than we do. Well, newsflash, they don’t with this. They haven’t got a clue what to do with us, they are not trained and they have no empathy unless they have been in the same place as we once were.

There is a major epidemic now, more than ever before of stigma and taboo. There are more and more suicides and lost families because of the non joining up of dots with drinking too much and mental health. No amount of shiny leaflets and platitudes can replace some honest and quality care. What is potentially a fixable mental health issue, then becomes something so much darker, more dangerous and potentially life threatening, when what was needed was some truly empathetic care and general non stigmatised attitudes.

More and more in the media we hear of tragic loss because of complex mental health crises, many of which could have been nipped in the bud if they had been handled appropriately in the first place.

It makes me incredibly angry, and more and more fired up in my desire to break this last taboo, and most especially for women. 64% of my clients this year were on anti depressants, having stopped drinking, only 12% remain on them. We just want an open and honest approach to this without all the fear, and a simple change of attitude will do that.

Alcohol & Depression

Amanda’s Blog

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW GRATEFUL I AM.

Firstly, you meet some people in your life who truly reach out and help you. Sarah is one of these amazing people. She has changed my life and helped me become alcohol free. Now I enjoy every-day to the full. Words cannot express how grateful I am for her help, support and encouragement.

My Story
I was born into a loving family to parents in their forties. They never thought they would have children, so they were thrilled when the stork delivered me. They didn’t go on to have any more children so I was the only one. One may presume spoilt, well yes for the nice things I had, my own bedroom with a TV etc, but definitely not spoilt in attitude – my father was very strict and ensured I adhered to his rules and regulations.

My father and grand-father were nightly drinkers…enjoying one or two glasses of wine with dinner and then a few whiskies before bedtime. My mother had the odd snowball, but on the whole preferred to drink galloons of tea rather than any form of booze.

I cannot remember how old I was when I had my first drink – not because I was drunk but because I was given whiskey on my dummy! My grand-father used to give me sips of his whiskey from a very early age and then my father would give me wine with dinner, and give me drinks on social events and on holidays – not many but as he said enough so I would build up a tolerance. He believed he was doing the right thing, his strategy was to ensure that no man would ever be able to drink me under the table and have his wicked was with me!

When I was 13 and 14 years old, I went through some traumatic events, which I would rather not discuss, but needless to say they have scared me. Soon after these events stopped, I started going out to pubs and clubs with friends. We lived in a big city in the North, where under-age drinking was the norm – they weren’t many youth clubs around, so we choose pubs and clubs to listen to music, dance and socialise. Given my tolerance I would often get merry whilst some of my friends would be in state, I rarely got drunk (my interpretation of drunk being staggering and slurring words).

I started a family at a young age and my going out days were few and far between. I never drank in the house, never had the urge and couldn’t afford it anyway. When I did go out, yes I would enjoy many drinks and be quite inebriated…suffering from the old hangover! But as these nights were few and far I did not worry.

I went through university and built up a good career, evenings out became more frequent, about once a month, and again I would go out get drunk and have a bloody good night (well so I thought anyway).

As my career progressed I moved into the world of sales, so as well as socialising in pubs and clubs with friends, I was now drinking with work colleagues. I was still never an everyday drinker. Some months there would be one event, others there maybe five or six events. But I worked hard, I was bringing up a family so I deserved to enjoy myself – ‘because I’m worth it’!

As my friends started having families we moved away from the pub and club scene and onto dinner parties. I could always be relied upon for the ‘entertainment’, consuming lots of alcohol, getting drunk, being the life and soul of the party. Of course I was getting older so the hangovers lasted longer. For me I still thought this was fine. I was a happy drunk, more often than not buying more bottles of wine and champagne to keep the party going. I never got angry or aggressive.

However, all that changed when my daughter turned 13 years old, the feelings and emotions of what had happened to me when I was that age started to surface. I became depressed, I felt worthless and dirty. So much so, that on nights out or at dinner parties, I would drink so much alcohol that I would pass out. I did not want to leave a party, I didn’t want to go home when everyone else did…I wanted to carry on drinking. It made me forget, it tricked me into feeling better about myself. I felt happy and content when I drank. I didn’t want an evening to come to an end. Clearly, in the morning I would feel terrible. Hangovers would last two-three days and I would have what I can only describe as anxiety attacks.

I still never had the urge to drink every-day but I would get in a state once a fortnight at first and then it crept up to once a week. I knew I had to change. I tried to moderate…but over the course of 18 months I only managed moderation once or twice. I wanted to stop binging but I couldn’t. Once I had had one drink a switch would click in my head and I wanted more. The voice inside my head would say “Go on, you have worked hard you deserve it,” or “You’ve had a stressful week, you need a few drinks to relax”. Once I was drunk this voice would inevitably encourage me to carry on “Well you are going to have a hangover anyway, so you may as well carry on enjoying yourself!” I can’t describe how bad the hangovers were…they would render my useless the following day and then a nervous wreck with anxiety attacks for three-four days later.

I tried to be alcohol free on many occasions, sometimes lasting a fortnight, sometimes a month…but I would always end up having a binge. It would only take one friend to say, “You haven’t got a problem, just enjoy a few with me”…and then I’d be off!

I knew I needed help. I went to a few AA meetings, but they weren’t for me. I think the AA does some amazing work and they help many people, but for me it wasn’t right. I joined Soberistas and found the chat rooms and information online really helpful. It gave me a good base to try once again to be alcohol free. However, whilst away with my team for a long weekend I relapsed – drinking from 6pm in the evening until 11am the following morning.

My life changed when I got in touch with Sarah. I realised I could not become alcohol free on my own. I had read about Sarah on the Soberistas website. I contacted her as I landed at London Heathrow at 7am, some 20 hours after my last drink! I was in dire need. She chatted to me immediately and arranged a follow up conversation for a few days later. Sarah was caring, warm and understanding. She explained the six-week online/telephone programme and I sensed it was right for me; the programme fitted perfectly with my busy life and we both felt we could work together.

So I’ve completed the course and come out the other end. Not once in those six-weeks was I tempted to drink. Sarah‘s CBT course is truly amazing. She has taught me to love myself again. I am empowered to be alcohol free. I no longer need to abuse myself with alcohol. I can do everything that I love doing every-day of the week, rather than just half of it when I was suffering the after effects of a binge. I see, hear and smell things differently. The amazing things about the world we live in and the people we meet now fill my mind rather than being supressed by the fog of alcohol.

Through this new empowerment and self-belief I am taking action against what happened to me when I was a teenager and addressing those issues. I can deal with the everyday stresses and strains of life AND celebrate the joy of life without reaching for a glass.

Sarah – thank you so much for your care, compassion and comradeship. You have changed my life, helping me divert away from the road I was on.

Amanda

Amanda’s Blog

September Client Blog

 

Emma blog

On the final day of my six weeks of working with you, six weeks of being alcohol free, I spent my 50th birthday having the most wonderful time, laughing, chatting and enjoying myself as much as – no that’s not quite true – more than, I have done in years. Because on my 50th birthday I knew, for the first time in over 30 years, that I no longer wanted or needed alcohol to feel truly happy.

After spending over half my life depending daily on ever larger quantities of wine to get me through almost every aspect of my life, I never thought in a million years that I’d ever be able to achieve such a feat. I am so immensely grateful to you for helping me get there, every single step of the way. From the first, faltering, frightened, doubt-filled days, to today, a new alcohol free me, in control of my actions, decisions and thoughts. No more desperate worries about my life spiralling out of control, bleak hopelessness and deep self-hatred, instead a huge sense of energy, pride, self-worth, and optimism for my future, as a mother, a friend, a colleague and a person. I am no longer just existing, I am living again.

You have been an inspiration and a rock, and I hope that I will carry with me the strength and the clear-sightedness that you have given me for the rest of my life. All of those wonderful things that I now see that alcohol took away from me, you have helped me regain.

Your insights, deep understanding, knowledge, advice, empathy and support have buoyed me through the tough times, and have encouraged and inspired me to believe in myself, forgive myself, and like myself again, for the first time in many long years.

You have given me my life back, Sarah, and the pride and positivity that I feel is immeasurable.

You are a remarkable and wonderful person, and I feel so immensely lucky that I’ve had the incredible good luck to have had your presence in my life.

You have my deepest gratitude always.

September Client Blog

Bad Moms, Hurrah for Gin & UnScrummy Mummies

So yet another trend starts, and really not a new one, just with a 21st century twist, of social media and a sweep of women, mothers, who seem to be celebrating imperfection. I am totally behind them, in fact one of the bestselling authors of these latest scribes shares my name Sarah Turner. Behind them in the absolute fact that we are all imperfect, that is, not the coping strategy that they hail.

The pretence that gets forced down most young mothers throats is that you apparently have to be in a tribe of perfection in today’s judgemental society. There are so many empty words spouted about these days being quite the reverse, but it’s not true. I think society is more judgemental than ever, or at least we are all guilty of taking notice of what others think.

The days are gone when I was struggling to look fabulous whilst looking after young kids, a menagerie of animals, husband working away, house to run and fear of being judged constantly, not then on my parenting, but most certainly on my drinking. Those who have read about me know I had every joke in the book for drinking heavily, and was accepted for a long time, until wheels fell off.

I am not evangelical, but for sure we are now going to enter a period of alcohol abuse, among women, mothers and potentially their children, who whether you believe or not, are struck with very profound thoughts about gin slings and wine time. For the most part, and thankfully, they, the children, hate it. What might seem quippish in these latest efforts, really are sad testament to this next stage of what seems to be Mothers Ruin, just as the same as it was in Hogarth’s Gin Lane.

hogarth-gin-lane

 

Ask any good and honest doctor what is the greatest drain on health care resources and their answer may surprise you. It’s not heroin or crack or ecstasy; it isn’t smoking or obesity, over which recently with York Hospital Trust there has been controversy. It is alcohol or the misuse of it.  But surely it is as clear as a bottle of Gordons, that both cigarettes and weight gain go hand and hand with drinking too much, the gateway to both often.

I am not judging or being parsimonious, but do really get quite angry about the hypocrisy of it all. None of us are alike, but many women now aspire to be just like others on this mission to handle booze and use it as a relaxant, a stress buster. So for some, many of whom I see as clients, have tried to be just like these women, and down to circumstances or their chemistry, it just doesn’t work. These women also tell me how much they have been hurt by the once funny comments about them using alcohol as a stress reliever, being overcome by it, and then dropped quicker than a nappy change by their tribe who were so very cool and supportive, before the realisation that actually ‘she’ is not like ‘us’. Just as they are not like a park bencher when they are sat on their Barker and Stonehouse sofa.

So for all the quips and guffaws about these women falling through sitting room windows after an afternoon session, and holding tins of ready mixed gin and tonics up to camera with a sweetly blue eyed confidence exuding from the picture, just begin to see the con of it all. If you enjoy drinking at parties and social events, and leave it there, fabulous, but using it as this latest clutch of women in celebration of self-medication, just realise that for many of us, and perhaps them, it rarely ends that well.

Bad Moms, Hurrah for Gin & UnScrummy Mummies