Meet Frank, 51, from Bristol. For years Frank ignored the dangers of alcohol, regularly drinking more than three times the recommended 14 units of alcohol a week. This is Frank’s account of how he has found a new lease of social life, sinking putts instead of pints, thanks to alcohol rehab and addiction counselling organised by Port of Call.
“I’ve always liked a drink. My dad was the same. Working in a factory all my life, I didn’t really have a choice. My whole social life revolved around going to the pub. When I got my job, as an apprentice at 17, my dad took me down to the local and bought me my first pint – as well as my second, third and fourth! When I got married to Julie, in 1986, I can remember the wedding ceremony and very little after that. Needless to say, we had a good time!
“It wasn’t until my dad passed away last year, of cirrhosis of all things, that I began to take stock of my drinking habits. Although I never once thought: ‘am I an alcoholic?’, I’d been drinking well above the Government’s recommended guidelines for years. The thing was, when I was in my prime, these guidelines didn’t exist. ‘It’ll put hairs on your chest,’ my dad used to say about alcohol. Even when they did start putting warnings on cans and bottles; I never believed it was doing me any harm.”
Dangerous levels of alcohol units per week
Frank is not alone amongst men of his age in his disbelief of health warnings governing alcohol, as a report in The Guardian revealed recently. According to Drinkaware, around 3.5 million men drink more than the recommended 14 units a week. Their research, which was carried out before the new lower recommendation came into place this January, reveals that middle-aged men were even exceeding the older guidelines of 21 weekly units, as men aged 45 to 64 admitted to drinking 37 units a week on average.
That’s only half the story though, as some middle aged men are drinking to dangerous levels. Around 800,000 men regularly consume up to and beyond 50 units every week. That’s the equivalent of 21 pints of beer. Whereas, the new guidance of 14 units is the equivalent of six pints of 4% beer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this age group are now the most likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol-related disease.
Many middle-aged men simply do not believe the health warnings say Drinkaware. “More than half (53%) of middle-aged men drinking above the low-risk guidelines do not believe they will incur increased health problems if they continue drinking at their current level, with almost half (49%) of these drinkers also believing moderate drinking is good for your health,” say the independent charity.
Recognising the dangers of drinking alcohol
“Seeing how alcohol affected my dad changed my mind drastically,” continues Frank. “I couldn’t keep ignoring the dangers, having seen how my dad suffered in the end. About 18 months ago I decided to do something about my drinking once and for all. A mate of mine recommended Port of Call. Turns out he’d had similar thoughts and had turned things around thanks to them.
“I called Port of Call, feeling slightly embarrassed, but they put my mind at ease straight away. When we counted up my units, it happened that I was regularly drinking more than three times the recommended weekly amount. That was enough to convince me to check in to a rehab here in Bristol to get some professional alcohol support. I didn’t need a detox as so much as I needed to change my relationship with beer.
“My addiction counsellor used something called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help me learn how to stop drinking. I’ve had to unpick alcohol from my social life. It hasn’t been easy but, you know what, now that I’m six months out of rehab, things have really started to click. I don’t need alcohol to have a good time. I’ve taken up golf instead. I still spend plenty of time with my mates. We just sink putts instead of pints!
“I can’t thank Port of Call enough for opening my eyes to the dangers of drinking too much and for setting me on the straight and narrow with my time in rehab and all the other support that they’ve given me,” Frank concludes.
Disclaimer: Names and certain details have been changed to protect the identity of case study participants.
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