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No alcohol for under 15s - 1 to 11
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Agentgonzo
There's no pee in catheter!
Thu 29th Jan '09 10:28AM
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7856595.stm

What are your views on this? Is giving alcohol to under 15s putting them in risk of 'serious harm'? As stated in the article, is giving a 13 year old girl champagne and orange juice for her birthday a bad thing to do? It's common practise for French families to serve wine and water with evening meals for the children. Is this a bad thing? My brother gives his 5 year old son a sip of his beer when he opens a bottle, and has been doing so since he's 3 or so (it's a tiny sip as soon as he's opened the bottle and that's it). Do you think he's a bad parent?

Personally I think that this is another tirade from the Nanny-state on the evils of alcohol and 'binge-drinking'. As far as I can glean from the subtext of the article, the 'great harm' that they are putting children under has sod-all to do with health reasons and seems to say 'if you give your under 15 alcohol, even in small quantities, they'll end up getting a taste for it and by the time they're 19 they'll be full blown alcoholics living in a skip'. People will (generally, some people don't drink alcohol at all) get a taste for alcohol at some point in their lives and then they have to deal with it themselves and learn to not drink meths and live in a skip. The reason that it's illegal for under 18s to buy alcohol themselves, but for under 15s to be served it in the house is so that they won't get carried away and the parents can teach them to enjoy alcohol without ruining anything (lives, glass cabinets or carpets). In fact, it's common knowledge that a small quantity of alcohol a day (a small glass of red wine, or a small, low alcohol beer) is actually beneficial for you, so what's the problem with this being served to children by responsible parents at the dinner table or at a celebration?


As a massive tangent, if bad people get carried away with alcohol, live in a skip and die young, yet sensible people abstain and live a health, long life; isn't this evolution at work?
  

Spanners*
Misses his big brother :(
Fri 30th Jan '09 8:48AM
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I really think kids should be exposed to alchohol from a young age and be given it by their parents in small quanities in their teens. Anyone who has been to university knows that it's the people who were sheltered from booze when growing up that are much more likely to go off the rails.

Rather grim outlook at the end there AG and, while I see what you're getting at, knowing more than a couple of recovering alchoholics who are among the kindest people I've ever met I can't agree with such a simplified viewpoint.
    

Agentgonzo
There's no pee in catheter!
Fri 30th Jan '09 10:27AM
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Spanners was bold enough to comment:
Rather grim outlook at the end there AG and, while I see what you're getting at, knowing more than a couple of recovering alchoholics who are among the kindest people I've ever met I can't agree with such a simplified viewpoint.


It was half-supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek comment at the end to provoke thought - kind of playing devil's advocate
  

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 30th Jan '09 9:08PM
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I think it has got nothing to do with the age that you start drinking and everything to do with the culture that acts like drinking until you vomit then go unconscious singles you out as some kind of alpha male rather than slightly pathetic.
    

Desert Creature
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Sat 31st Jan '09 8:16AM
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Since beer went down to 99p a pint in Wetherspoons it feels like I'm 15 again!

I'm a bit worried that police and government have tightened up so much on underage drinking in pubs over the last few years. It's pretty much impossible to do now.

Firstly there's the obvious argument that it's good to start drinking gradually rather than going off on a bender at 18. Actually I'm not sure if there is much evidence to support this or not. I'm well out of touch with what goes on in universities now but I wonder if they experiencing problems with a lot of inexperienced drinkers these days.

More importantly, in my opinion, I think furtive, under-age drinking is a healthy rite of passage.

In order to be served, an under-age drinker has to learn to act more mature and blend in with the adult community and that's got to be a good thing. It's not like maturity just happens spontaneously on an 18th birthday. Young people should start interacting socially with adults on an adult level long before the age of 18 but I feel like there's very little opportunity for them to do that. Segregation by age leads to fear and conflict in just the same way segregation by race does. Pushing yoofs away from the adult community means that they are left to teach themselves to grow up and its hardly surprising that they get it so wrong some times. In extreme cases there is so much confusion over the meaning of respect and loyalty that young people end up shooting and stabbing each other.

So somehow I've managed to blame not being able to be served under-age in pubs for gang warfare and now I feel a bit silly.
  

Xander
The panda is the evolutionary equivalent of living off benefits.
Sun 1st Feb '09 2:31PM
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General was bold enough to comment:
I think it has got nothing to do with the age that you start drinking and everything to do with the culture that acts like drinking until you vomit then go unconscious singles you out as some kind of alpha male rather than slightly pathetic.



I agree with General ask anyone what the objective is with having a drink they will say to get pissed. Everyone comes goes out and gets bladdered and that is considered the objective. All rather sad really, I knew a girl a uni who thought she had the best time ever because she had vomited through her nose !

The other one I tend to notice a lot is people braging that they got so drunk they can't remember a thing and therefore it must have been a great night. How is amnesia a fun experience?

Incidently I always thought if you introduced children to alcahol early it didn't become an issue. But I heard some "expert" on radio 4 saying this is not the case. Apparently they will drink with parents then go on to get bladdered latter with mates. I personally can't see the harm in giving a glass of wine on specially ocasions for example.
 

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Fri 6th Feb '09 12:43PM
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I've given this a fair bit of thought and I think there are several issues all getting jumbled in together.

Re giving children a taste of alcohol: It's all very well to acclimatise children to the taste of alcohol, but as Xander mentions above most young adults don't go out drinking for the taste, they drink for the effects. And sadly 'more drunk' is usually seen as 'better', which I suppose is understandable as it's very easy to fall into the mindset of 'more of a good thing must be an even better thing'. I don't believe that either giving or withholding small tastes of alcohol from young children is going to influence this behaviour either way, as they are not being acclimatised to the effects of alcohol.

A second major factor in unhealthy drinking behaviour is that people come to rely on alcohol for a variety of reasons, the same as they do with any addictive drug. For some it can be escapism, for some recreation, for some a way of overcoming social inhibitions and nervousness. Some people use it for several of these reasons, and these people are at a very high risk of becoming habitual users. This is the pattern I found myself in after the excesses of university, and after a while and with a lot of repetition the effects of alcohol can become like a best friend, a safety zone and an escape from reality all rolled into one, to the point where, slowly and over a long time, they overshadow almost everything else until your only real concern each can become getting on with the day's drinking.

Another factor is that alcoholism is not just a behaviour, but a genetic predisposition. That isn't to say that people's genetics force them to drink, it's that some people could theoretically hammer the booze as hard as they wanted for as long as they wanted without experiencing addiction. If you're interested as to whether you have the genetic predisposition, it's easy to tell - if you've ever experienced the room 'spinning' when laying down whilst drunk, then you don't have the genetic marker which makes you susceptible to alcoholism. Those of us who have the genes for alcoholism don't experience this effect, which is why an alcoholic can (and often does) keep drinking indefinitely, forgoing food or sleep - the body treats the alcohol as an energy source rather than the toxin it is.

For these reasons I don't think it's helpful to label alcoholism as a choice someone makes, it's a combination of many factors including behaviour patterns, weaknesses, peer culture, a lack of a personal centre, and a need to escape from reality for whatever reason, along with many other factors which all combine to create the alcoholic. It's also very difficult to draw the line between a problem drinker and an alcoholic - nobody has ever upped their daily alcohol intake overnight from that of a social drinker to the colossal amounts of alcohol consumed by the average alcoholic. It's a continuum which one slips slowly across, so slowly as to be imperceptible to the problem drinker.

I've never really posted about my battle with alcohol on these forums, but I suppose this is as good a thread as any. I know from my own experience that I never chose to become an alcoholic, but by the time I realised I was one, I was already drinking more alcohol each night than most people would drink in a week, yet due to the incredibly slow way in which this behaviour had built up over the course of approximately 15 years I never really believed I had a problem until the final year or two of drinking - and that was only because I'd discovered that when I tried to spend an evening sober, I found myself unable to. I certainly never made any conscious decision to become addicted to alcohol, or even to drink a dangerous amount, since 'one more drink than you had last weekend' never seems that dangerous, especially since alcohol's main effect is to cloud the judgement anyway.

Anyhow, I finally accepted I was an alcoholic, and after 3 years on the wagon I can fairly safely say that I'll never have another drink - the first 18 months were characterized by 95% sobriety interspersed with occasional slippages, but I've not touched alcohol for almost a year and a half now and have never felt better. Any recovering alcoholic will tell you that it's always going to be 'one day at a time' - but I know that I won't be having a drink today and that's all I really need to hold on to. The temptation will probably always be there on occasion, but after experiencing both ways of life I know I prefer sobriety by a long, long way, since alcoholism is, ultimately, a substitute for a life rather than an actual life.

So ultimately, to return from this longwinded and somewhat self-indulgent ramble, I don't think it makes the slightest bit of difference if parents give their children a taste of alcohol or not. Mine did, and I became an alcoholic anyway. Children will always want to experiment, and every park will always be filled with teenagers with a litre of cider each on a friday night. As someone above said, it's a rite of passage, and I certainly wouldn't try to force my own children to stay away from alcohol as it would simply make them more likely to try it, repeatedly and to excess at the first possible opportunity.

If anyone reading this feels they have a problem with drinking and wants some pointers as to who to turn to for help, resources, or lists of online and real-life AA meetings and contacts, or just wants someone to talk things over with, please feel free to PM me in total confidence. I can certainly point you in the direction of the sort of people and places which helped me sort my own life out. There are a huge amount of people out there going through the same stuff and in my experience they're some of the warmest and most welcoming people you can meet. Despite what many people will tell you, you DON'T need to be religious to get great benefit from attending an AA meeting and learning from other people's experiences. And by the way - if you don't know if you have a problem with drinking or not, you almost certainly do
  

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 6th Feb '09 11:40PM
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Well done D that was one of the best posts I have ever read on the forum.

It explained something to me which I hadn't previously understood as when I drink I reach a certain point and then the room starts to spin and I just feel horrible and as a result my body is quite attuned to saying stop at the point where going further would result in having a rough night, but clearly lots of people do drink themselves into a stupor regularly which I didn't understand.

I spent 3 months working away from home with a load of contractors who were all borderline alcoholics because they lived away from home on expenses for 9 months of the year and had nothing better to do than drink. After a while I found myself craving a drink at the weekend if I hadn't had one which showed me how easy it would be to fall into that kind of lifestyle. Luckily it was just for a short while and it faded away when I returned to my normal work.
    

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Wed 11th Feb '09 2:26PM
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General was bold enough to comment:
Well done D that was one of the best posts I have ever read on the forum.



Thanks. I had debated for some time if it was something I wanted to share publicly, but in the end I thought that my own discomfort at admitting my own weaknesses was a) vanity and b) less important than the possibility of offering some advice or support to anyone else who may be struggling with their own problem drinking.

A little bit more about AA, as I started off very opposed to them due to a lot of very negative things I had heard:

It's currently very fashionable to knock AA as a cult or a group of religious types who believe that only a higher power has the ability to help them control their lives. There is a grain of truth to this, and in fact the 'twelve-stepping' principle involves four steps which involve religious statements. The first step is to admit one is powerless to control one's own drinking, and that only God (or 'a higher power') can do this. However, twelve stepping is actually fairly rare, and in fact those AA meetings which are concerned with it are clearly marked as such. I can't attest as to whether these are more or less highly attended than the normal meetings, as I've never been to one.

The 'Big Book' as it's called, or the text which lays out the principles and organisation of Alcoholics Anonymous has huge sections specifically dealing with ways to reintepret ideas of 'a higher power' in purely secular, humanistic terms - a lot of AA attendees simply read 'a higher power' to mean 'the collective consciousness of this group', for example. But a huge proportion don't bother at all with the twelve steps, as the majority of AA meetings are about a) sharing your experiences for the benefit of others, and more importantly b) listening to other people's experiences in order to reinforce our own knowledge of the devastation alcohol abuse can cause in our lives.

Another oft-touted statistic is that AA 'cures' 5% of alcoholics, while sheer willpower alone 'cures' 5% - and therefore AA is pointless. What this fails to take into account is that those who attend AA have already tried and failed the willpower route, and therefore AA helps a further 5% of the population.

The 'cult' claims are entirely unfounded in Britain, there have been a couple of reports in the US of AA meetings being used as various recruitment centres for cults or religious organisations, but this has never been reported in Britain and I've never seen anything even hinting at it.

Above all else, if you want to give it a go, it's totally free, totally confidential, and nobody will challenge you or even ask your name if you don't wish to participate. Simply walk in to your nearest meeting, have a seat and a free coffee, and listen to some tales from the other attendees which will both put your own problems in perspective, and give you a lot of reasons to get your own drinking under control. I can't recommend it enough.
  

Malcolm*
My ape goosed a Bishop. Who are you?
Mon 16th Feb '09 12:03PM
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What a brilliant thread. I've been unable to type for a few weeks so haven't contributed, but I've really enjoyed reading people's thoughts. Demian, thanks sharing such candid insights; fascinating stuff to read, and all the more so coming from somebody who I knew at the time. It's kind of an upsetting subject, but on the other hand I can't really bring myself to be especially upset by it, because I've seen how well things have turned out now.

Something that intrigues me, though, is the thing you mentioned about a 5% recovery rate. I too have heard that statistic frequently, and the fallacy you mentioned had never really occurred to me. However, something that I'm wondering about is this: how do they define recovery anyway? Isn't it the case that the AA approach leads people never to conclude that they have recovered at all, at any stage in their life? If so, then a person can never really say they have recovered, and so notions such as "recovery rate" could only be measured by adopting an ad hoc threshold -- for example, perhaps "5% have recovered" means "5% have not had a drink three years later". Or perhaps it means "20 years later, 5% drink occasionally and socially and it causes them no problems".

To approach the question from another angle, it seems plausible to me that almost nobody attending AA meetings would ever classify themselves as "recovered". But that's just a matter of the way AA views the world, rather than about any empirical information about a person's alcohol addiction. So, we might expect people to go on attending meetings infinitely, never drinking, never classifying themselves as "recovered", but receiving the ongoing support that enables them to get on with their lives. That is not intended as a criticism; on the contrary, I would argue that there are many support services that do just that. I have worked in places where we saw the same people day in day out, who had such personal, social and psychological issues that there was nothing we could do to produce any kind of "outcome" for them, but that wasn't to say that the support we offered did not seem useful to them on a day by day basis. To take a less extreme example, all sorts of community services do the same: groups of mothers and toddlers, carers' centres, residents' associations, humanist groups... they're all a matter of the ongoing amelioration of people's lives, none of which can be (or, at least, is) measured in terms of the final outcome or rate.

So, is it meaningless to talk about whether such a service "works" in this way? Just to clarify, I'm certainly not going all relativist about this, and I certainly do believe that services should be based on evidence that they help. But I wonder whether the term "recovery" confuses the thinking around services such as AA, and the ways in which they, from your description, clearly do help some people.
   

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Tue 17th Feb '09 10:20AM
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^^ That's a very good question.

It's true that there are many ways to measure recovery, and I don't know if all of the figures that are bandied about use the same yardstick; however the working definition according to LifeRing Secular Recovery is sobriety for 6 months.

As you say, however, there is no such thing as 'recovered' - as this would imply a return to a pre-alcoholic state, i.e. one in which drinking socially or in moderation would be attainable. This isn't really possible - most alcoholics try this for a while before accepting that the only route is 100% abstinence. There's a very insightful quote about alcoholism in The West Wing, when Leo says something along the lines of 'I don't understand people who can have just a couple of drinks. My brain works differently from theirs.' I believe the same is true for any addiction, as the vast majority of the difficulty in abstaining from a substance one is addicted to is the psychological component. In terms of physical addiction, in my experience (and from what I've read) it takes 5-7 days for the physical withdrawal symptoms to disappear, and after that the struggle is 100% to do with dealing with the psychological issues of addiction.

For these reasons you'll almost never meet someone who claims to be a 'recovered alcoholic' as these don't really exist. Most people would describe themselves as 'in recovery' instead. I presume the 5% is a slowly evolving group rather than the same 5% of alcoholics, as inevitably some will fall off the wagon as others reach the 6-month mark.

So to address your question slightly more directly, I think the problem is that the word 'recovery' implies that a state of having recovered can be achieved, when experience shows us that this isn't really the case. 'Abstention' may be a better term, but that isn't often used as it implies a lifelong commitment to never drinking again. Whilst this is ultimately the goal of the recovering alcoholic, it's a bad idea to use terminology like this due to this concept, (taken from a pamphlet called 'Just For Today', published by the AA):

'Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appal me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime'

This is the essence of 'one day at a time', and that is pretty much the most important mental technique for those beginning on the path to recovery. Later on it's more feasible to entertain thoughts of a lifetime of abstention, but I strongly believe that the success rate would halve if people didn't begin by simply trying to deal with the day at hand, and started worrying about a lifetime without the crutch they've come to rely upon.

I don't know if that really addresses the question, but I'd certainly agree that there is no final measurable 'outcome' as such, and this is why you'll never meet a 'recovered alcoholic', and I think anyone considering themselves as such would be in huge danger of relapse.
  

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