My First Beer in a Long Time (Tip – a non-alcoholic one!)

Over Christmas I had my first beer in a very long time – not an alcoholic one, but a new Heineken Zero, one of the latest new non-alcoholic drinks that are now on the market. It tasted like I remember a Heineken tasting, and certainly not like the old non-alcoholic beers of old, like Kaliber, which must have been the only non-alcoholic beer on the shelf when I was giving up. But, like everything the technology has moved on and the taste is now very similar to the original thing, except with this, there is no alcohol.

With no desire now to ever go back to drinking alcohol, I reasoned that drinking this for me was fine, but not everyone might see it that way. Years ago, I wrote a post about the question, ‘is it safe to drink non-acoholic drinks?‘ – and the mood in all the comments received was that it was down to the individual as to whether or not it is too much of a trigger to get you drinking again. Others were happy to have the alternative.

My go to drink when giving up was tonic water or soda water and ice and lemon, that way it looked like a gin tonic. Disguising what I was drinking helped throw off my drinking buddies and for the most part they didn’t notice. If this beer was around then, then I’d have drunk this for sure, as it is actually a nice drink to have and you don’t draw attention (if that’s important to you – perhaps in the early days). Giving up drinking takes a lot of effort, if not because whilst you may want to give up, your drinking buddies may not have your interests at heart and actually prefer to you to carry on drinking beer.

Which is probably the main reason why it took so many years for me to actually give up. I knew early one in my 20s that drinking didn’t suit me, but it wasn’t till my mid-30s that I actually managed to break free.

So I’m happy to read in the papers and articles online that suggest that globally, the number of people drinking (in particular younger people) is dropping and the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is rising. I imagine that there is a shift towards a healthier lifestyle and this fits the bill. Here’s an article from CNBC that talks about the new range of beer introduced by Heineken and the reasons behind it. Young people it seems are moving away from the drinking culture of wanting to go out with the sole purpose of getting drunk. At least, this is how the culture was in my 20s here in the UK.

A rise in non-alcoholic drinks is a great thing for us who abstain or want to abstain. Having more choice at the bar is welcome. I’d have been a fan early on, as it helps you to continue enjoying nights out, without screaming that you’re not one of the lads. As far as I can tell, it’s a bit like people switching from smoking cigarettes to vaping e-cigarettes.

But, drinking non-alcoholic drinks isn’t for everyone. Some argue that the taste would get them back on to the real thing. Perhaps, but for me not so. I’ve not really had much interest in drinking non-alcoholic drinks up to now. Normally I’d drink tonic, or soft drinks, but steer away from anything else partly because of the taste, but now that has been improved, then I think I would see myself drinking these sorts of beers more often.

Certainly, if I go to a party, I’d take a 4-pack of these and not feel out of place at all. I think I’m in the camp now that likes to have an alternative.

I’m interested to know from you, what you think on this. Do you think it’s ok to switch or would you feel drawn back to drinking alcohol? Please write your comments on this and join the conversation.

Smoking and drinking among young people at lowest level on record

Maybe we’re getting somewhere: An article from The Guardian newspaper that talks about those born at the turn of the century as being one of the ‘cleanest’ generations on record with record low rates of alcohol and smoking. Something to be welcomed.

Continue reading on the link below.

Wanted: Participants For University Study on Hangover Effects


Deakin University PhD candidate, Renee O’Donnell, contacted me recently to help raise awareness of her study into the effects of drinking and hangovers. The study begins with a short web based questionnaire  and then participants record drinking levels via an iPhone app over a 30 day period. So far, Renee’s early results suggest those using the app have found that drinking levels are lower as a result. So if you’re between 18-35 years old, have consumed a drink in the last 7 days and have an iPhone, contact Renee ( or +61 (0) 422 984 527) to take part in her trial.


UK Government Launches 50th Anniversary Drink Drive Campaign

The latest UK government drink drive campaign, THINK! is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary. Times have changed greatly since the first film in released 1964 along with people’s attitudes to drinking and driving. Peer pressure, improved laws, highly visible enforcement and the fact that it is frowned upon by most people have helped the figures drop, though as this press release from the UK Department of Transport highlights there is still much work to do.

Latest campaign film on YouTube:

UK Department of Transport Press Release:

On the 50th anniversary of the first public information film, new research from THINK! shows how much attitudes have changed to drink driving in the last half century.

Of those surveyed, 91% agreed drink driving was unacceptable and 92% of people said they would feel ashamed if they were caught drinking and driving. This compares to over half of male drivers and nearly two thirds of young male drivers who admitted drink driving on a weekly basis in 1979.

The shift in attitudes is a stark contrast to the first drink drive public information film in 1964, which was set in an office Christmas party. The advert politely reminded people that “4 single whiskeys and the risk of accident can be twice as great… If he’s been drinking, don’t let him drive.”

Through a combination of road safety campaigning and better enforcement, road deaths due to drink driving have fallen from 1,640 in 1967 to 230 deaths in 2012. Today, the government is sending out a clear message there is still a long way to go. The new advert reminds people that 1 death on our roads is too many.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

The change in attitudes to drink driving over the last 50 years is a huge success story. It is hard to imagine now how shocking and ground-breaking the first drink drive campaigns were when they launched. Clearly THINK! has had a significant impact.

Most of us understand drink driving wrecks lives but there is further to go. In 2012, 230 people were killed in drink driving accidents – 230 too many. This makes the THINK! campaign as relevant as ever.

Today, over 88% of people say that they would think badly of someone who drinks and drives and almost half of respondents say they would prefer to tell their partner they watch pornography regularly than confess to being caught drink driving (45%). The survey also showed that (61%) would rather reveal their internet search history to their employer than admit to a drink drive conviction, with 24% rather tell their partner they’ve had a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Shaun Helman, Head of Transport Psychology at the Transport Research Laboratory says:

Compared with 50 years ago, drink-driving is now very much minority behaviour. This change has been achieved through firm laws, highly visible enforcement, and a sea-change in public attitudes; drink driving is now frowned upon by the vast majority of people.

No-one working in road safety is complacent though; through a commitment to catching drink-drivers, and through harnessing peer pressure, we will continue to reinforce the message that drink driving is completely unacceptable.

Find out more at

Robin Williams Dies in Apparent Suicide

Woke up today to the sad news of Robin Williams passing. Apparently he took his own life after suffering a deep bout of depression. I’ve written a few stories about Robin Williams on my journey writing this blog. He helped inspire me through his films, particularly ‘Dead Poets Society’, which I wrote about only recently. His comedy, often taking shots at himself and his problems was another source of inspiration. He helped so many struggling with drink to overcome, so his sudden departure is all the more saddening.

The Chinese are drinking more

[Reblogged from The Economist]

Boosting their CVs

LI JUN, a construction worker from Shandong, sips a large bottle of Yanjing beer as he squats on the pavement and shares a lunchtime bag of noodles with a colleague. On such a hot day the beer quenches his thirst, he says; the alcohol will not affect his work because he is resting while he drinks. Many of his fellow workers are also enjoying a bottle.

Awareness of the effects of alcohol is extremely low in China. For centuries people enjoyed booze at celebrations, but few drank regularly. As incomes have shot up over the past 35 years, alcohol consumption has accelerated. Average annual consumption rose from 2.5 litres of pure alcohol in 1978 to 6.7 litres in 2010. Nearly 70% of that is spirits.

Until recently social norms favoured moderate consumption. Most people quaffed only with meals; solitary boozing was rare. Few women drank and young Chinese mostly abstained. Biology encouraged moderation, too. About a third of the population finds it hard to metabolise alcohol. Those affected rarely drink.

Consumption still looks tame by international standards. Intake per person is around half that of Germany or France, according to the World Health Organisation. But the countrywide statistics hide a grimmer picture. More than half the Chinese population is teetotal. Those who do drink often do so to great excess. Male Chinese drinkers down far more than Japanese ones, and almost as much as notoriously sozzled British, Australian or Irish boozers. Binge-drinking is prevalent and high-risk drinking has reached “epidemic proportions” in China, reckons Hao Wei of Central South University in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province.

In China drinking with clients and colleagues is now seen as vital to career advancement; some job adverts even call for “good drinking capacity”. One study found that civil servants had a far higher incidence of alcohol-related liver diseases than the population at large (the higher the rank, the worse their health prospects)…Read the rest of this article on The Economist

From the print edition: China

David Beckham in Edinburgh Filming Haig Whiskey Advert

David Beckham, international footballer turned global icon, signed up for a new partnership with Diego Haig whiskey in April and was spotted recently in Edinburgh filming a new ad for the campaign. Beckham has a great brand appeal that has worked for him well off as well as on the football field. He’s an impressionable man and I’m sure Diego will hope the partnership will increase its premium whiskey sales to young drinkers, which is precisely why it is a shame that they’ve been able to get Beckham to work with them. Make an impression he most certainly will because of his appeal to school children and youngsters alike. Young kids need positive role models, one like Beckham himself and not be encouraged to drink whiskey.

Better known for promoting Armani aftershaves and Versace underwear, he has built himself up into a brand of his own. He and his wife Victoria are a kind of role model themselves with 15 years marriage and 4 kids, whilst at the same time managing the celebrity lifestyle. It’s ironic because Beckham lives more or less as a teetotal, how else does such a high level of sporting success happen? Being teetotal probably helps serve a more important goal and helps avoid being caught by passing paparazzi and thus protects his own brand image.

Using celebrities to promote drink is just one more reason why we should consider banning alcohol advertising. How different is it to the ads from the 1950s with John Wayne sponsoring Camel cigarettes, who focussed on the fact that they were mild cigarettes and didn’t affect his voice! Working with Diego, Beckham was quoted as saying that he was happy to be supporting a homegrown brand with 400 years of history. How long before we can look back and think it strange to see ads for alcohol in magazines and on TV?

If I could get 5 minutes to talk with Mr B., I’d encourage him to stick to the pants and scents. It’s not like he needs the money and by doing that he just might not encourage more youngsters into a life of drink.

World’s Most Expensive Footballer is Teetotal

Gareth Bale, who has just completed his (£86m/€100m/$130m) move from Tottenham to Real Madrid is quoted (Marketing Week) as being one of the most marketable sportsmen because of the fact that he doesn’t drink alcohol. Currently he outscores the current club’s star, Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of marketability and trust. I.e. far less likely to see Bale fall out of a nightclub in the early hours or be compromised by a drinking spree. As a result his appeal to marketers is likely to increase greatly as the likes of Audi, Coca Cola and Emirates (current sponsors of Real Madrid), tap into Bale’s home loving, clean living lifestyle.

Faith & Belief Essential Ingredients for Success

The other night I was watching TV and a documentary about the ‘King in the Car Park’, a story about the English King Richard III. The story was about a group of historians led by Phillipa Langley from the Richard III society who believed that they had uncovered enough evidence to suggest where they thought the body of Richard III was buried.

After a series of breaks the group were able to start digging in the car park of the local council offices under the direction of the local university Archeological department.
The odds of finding the Kings bones were remote to say the least, the experts each looked at this group of amateurs almost with a touch of mad conspiracy theorist about them.

But, Langley had total belief. She was totally convinced that she would find his body. In the car park, she was filmed standing on a letter ‘R’ painted on the tarmac probably for reserved, though she joked that it was for Richard III. This is in fact the exact location that they found his body and later confirmed by DNA.

When you give up something like drinking or smoking or attempt something that all around you say is impossible, you need faith and belief in yourself. Langley displayed such belief in herself, even when faced with a group who were highly skeptical.

It took many attempts for me to give up drinking. What normally happened was that I’d give up on a Sunday morning, convinced that I had to give up. By Thursday, 4 days later, I’d have convinced myself that drinking would be OK if I limited it to 4 beers. By the next day, Friday I was planning the weekend with friends and the idea of giving up was a distant memory. This happened every few months or so, until December 21st, 2006. That Sunday was different. For whatever reason this time I had to believe myself this time. I’d reached a Mt. Everest moment in my life. It felt as though the time had come to do something positive. The difference between this time giving up and all the previous failed attempts was that for the first time I had total belief that it was right to give it up and that the moment was now. Having that belief not only got me past that first Thursday, but also the second and third.

While watching this TV documentary it struck me how similar it was when I said I’d give up. Most people had heard it all before. I could see the quizzical looks from those around Langley and recognized them from those who were around me when I publicly stated I’d drunk my last drink. Nobody believed I could do it. This just fed my strength and helped me to believe more in myself, that I could actually do it.

Belief is like a plant, you have to feed it and nurture it. When you do, it grows and gets better and better and deeper and deeper. That belief has spread across many areas of my life. I’ve increased my confidence because I’ve been able to do something that I never thought it would be possible to do.

Reading stories like this, or comments people have written here on this and other blogs, you can see the common thread in each one – belief is at the core of every success story.

If, like me you’ve failed many times to give up drinking, you need to check how much you believe you can do it. When you believe in yourself you’ll be amazed at the doors you can open that just couldn’t open before when you didn’t.