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Sobriety is a SUPERPOWER! Ways to navigate a Scottish drinking culture

This is the transcribed version of our February Podcast where we hear Maria, Bekkah have Debbie discuss her experiences of alcohol in a very indulgent Scottish Drinking Culture!

Listen to the Podcast on Spotify here:









You are listening to the Get Well, Stay Well, Move On podcast, brought to you by RCA Trust, supporting recovery across Scotland.

B - Hello and welcome to February's edition of the Get Well, Stay Well, Move on podcast. You're here with Rebekah

M - and Maria. Hi everyone.

B - And we are here to speak to you today about Scotland's drinking culture. We have a guest with us today, Miss Debbie. Hello Debbie.

D - Hi.

B - And how are you today Debbie?

D - I'm all right. Thank you. How are you?

B - Oh, I'm good. What about you, Maria? How are you?

M - All good. All great. Thank you.

B - We're through those 10 weeks of the darkest deepest weather that we can experience in Scotland and you have made it through. You have all made it through. We're going to get brighter nights soon and I hope that makes a difference in everyone's mood. I know it's going to make a difference on mine.

M - Yes, certainly. I think once it gets lighter, it improves everyone's moods. We bit of vitamin C. D?

B – D.

M - So that would be good for everybody.

B - Indeed indeed. No more of that sad, that seasonal affective disorder.

M - And even since we're talking about Scotland's drinking culture, we have also just finished the traditional dry January month. So, if you completed that, very well done. I mean, I myself completed it.

B + D – Woohoo!

M - But yes, so I know a lot of people have been abstinent from alcohol. So, to pop this podcast about Scottish drinking culture in just after is quite good to continue that awareness in that chat.

B - So as always, as we spoke about last month, we are going to put in our mandatory trigger warning and here we are going to be speaking about all thing’s addiction and recovery, and we are going to be speaking about experiences of alcohol. So, if that's something that's going to be quite uncomfortable for you today, we recommend that you don't listen or maybe look at the transcribed version of the podcast. So, introducing everybody to Debbie. Debbie, what do you do here at the RCA Trust?

D - I'm an addiction practitioner at RCA. I help support people with alcohol and drug issues that get referred to us, either by other services or themselves.

B - Oh, very nice. So, what does that kind of entail? Do you speak to people on a one-to-one basis or?

D - Yes, one-to-one and group work. We’ve currently got a men’s group and women's group at RCA to help people with their addictions, whether it be alcohol or drugs.

B - I hear rave reviews about those groups.

M - We may have a wee mention of them last month, but yeah, the groups are thriving and surviving. They are doing fantastic and that is all down to the work of Debbie and the rest of the alcohol and drug team.

B - So Debbie, we just want to maybe kick things off with, do you want to tell us a wee bit about yourself? Would that be okay?

D - Yes, absolutely, about my drinking?

B – Yeah

D – Uh, where do I start? I drank for years. I had started drinking when I was 13. I'm for probably about 20 years. I loved drinking and I really liked it, and it was my go-to for everything. Whether I was happy or sad or angry or it was just there for me always. And then it started to take over. It became a daily thing, and it affected every bit of my life. It was just awful and then it was daily, and I was relying on it. And the hardest thing for me was accepting it. That I had a drink problem because I knew once I had accepted it, then I would need to do something about it. And it's scary, you think, when you need to do something about it and it's... And you don't know where they start a lot of the time, so very well for people to just say stop drinking. It's just not like that. And when I was sober, I wanted to stop drinking, but it wasn't enough to stop me from drinking, if you like, so it was... So no, I knew I nearer the end of my drinking that something that had to change drastically, I didn't know what. I thought if I sorted everything else in my life. I thought if I sorted my house or sorted my bills or… but it was very much the drink that was the cause of everything. And so, three years ago, I made changes and signed myself into rehab. I got well and got better and stopped drinking. Aye it’s just been positive. And I thought my life was over when I stopped drinking. I really thought it was over and it really had just began. And I would never have thought that.

M - Honestly, Debbie, your story is absolutely fantastic. You should be so, so proud of yourself for what you've managed to overcome, because like you said, I think a lot of people feel the same when it's that daunting experience of having to accept that this is having an impact on my life and I need to make efforts to improve it. But it's taking that first step and as we always say, the first step is always the hardest. The one you get over it and once you take that second step, it's all onward walking from there. And you know, you take that journey, you walk that path, and you take it one day at a time. But it's absolutely fantastic and it's amazing that you've now come to work with us and use that experience of your story to then help others. I think it's absolutely amazing.

B - No, definitely. Definitely. You should be proud of yourself.

D - Thank you.

B – I hope that you are.

D - Yes, I am.

M - We're proud of you.

D - Thank you.

M - And just to kind of speak about the kind of culture of drinking when you were drinking, do you have any kind of experience that you have that are related to pubs and bars and all that, where you wear drinking in comparison to when you weren’t anymore? The kind of differences you saw?

D – Uhuh, well I worked in a bar, and I loved working in a bar, and it was all very drink and shifts. It was all like weekends and night times, so it was like a party, more. You know what I mean? And then so even with that, when I knew I had to kind of stop drinking I didn't want to because I thought I'm going to need to change everything about my life. And the truth is that I didn’t really need to, my life's still very much the same just without alcohol in it. I'm just happier and more content but my life's still the same just without drink.

B - I think when we stop drinking, we reordered our priorities, don't we?

D - Absolutely.

B - It totally shifts, doesn't it? And then the things that you think that would maybe have fell into place, at least you realize wait a minute, they already were in place. I just wasn't utilizing them properly.

D - Absolutely, and I wasn’t grateful for things that I had. Like the simple things in life. And that almost like a struggle.

M – It’s like seeing the world through almost like tinted glasses, you know, then when you take them off, you're like, that was always there but I had just had a completely different perspective of it. Removing the effect and the impact alcohol had, removing that you see everything still has the same importance, but I just view it differently. It’s all about perspective, isn't it? And gaining that new perspective or regaining the perspective that you had before in maybe just an improved light.

D - Yeah.

B - I think the thing is as well but, Debbie's story is her own but she's not the only story that sounds like that because of the corner of the world that we live in. And I think that's maybe why we thought that Scotland's drinking culture would be a really good one to kind of round robin that because there are so many people in Scotland that have found themselves thinking, do I need to stop drinking? Is this the time that I need to put an end to this? And maybe not knowing where that support comes from or how to access that support as well, you know?

M - Yeah. Or sometimes it's even that point of is you ready to access that support? Are you feeling that you're willing to do that? Because I know there'll probably so many people in Scotland that will sit throughout the week, int their work saying “Oh, I'm no drinking. I'm done with this now”. As soon as Friday hits, party time, everybody's got the alcohol right back in circulation. And I know that's huge in terms of Scottish culture, especially when you're like you said, from drinking so young, I know even myself when I was young, drinking was huge when we were maybe 14/15. That was your weekend. You got through school for the week and then that was at party time for the weekend. It was everything and anything. And I think that continues all the way through. You sit and you have in quotations “the fear”. I'm no touching it again, blah blah blah. And then right back on it again. Because if you go out and you're surrounded by it, it's something that's so tempting and so easy for people to go, I'm, I'll just have one rather than saying no, I'm not having one. Because there is that difficulty of saying, I'm not drinking.

D - I think with alcohol being so glamourised, it's like everybody thinks it's this really good thing.

M + B - Yeah.

D - Like when I stopped drinking, I remember thinking how am I ever going to go to a wedding again or a night out or summer or winter or anything. It was always my go to, even getting my hair done. I used to get my hair done and think I’ll get a bottle of wine because wine was fancy. And I thought, everybody drinks wine. You know what I mean? That whole mum culture of wine drinking. So, I thought it was alright and it was horrific.

B – It’s that fear of missing out as well, but isn’t it? But is that especially kind of like within, like,  when you're younger and going you're going out all the time and you've decided that maybe you do need a break, maybe you have had the fear. Maybe somebody said to you, look, you're drinking quite a bit just now, and you go right I’ll maybe not drink this weekend. All it takes is for one person to kind of be in the back and be like, oh, we're going out and you're like, oh, they're going to go and have a really great time. You don't think about the hangover, you don't think about the negative consequences. You don't think about the behaviours that have maybe stopped you from having that thought of, I'm not going to drink this weekend. But as soon as somebody puts that little thought in your head, it's that, but they're going to have a really great night and I'm not going to be there.

M - And they speak about it, and you think, God, I wasn't there. And then that again kicks in that regret of not going. So, you think, see, next time I'm going to go, I'm going to go. And then it becomes just a cycle of constantly as soon as you get that text coming out tonight. Your answer is yeah. Because you don't want to miss out on anything that's happening and as much as you can have it in your head right, I'll go out, but I'm not going to drink, you end up doing it.

B - I can't count how many times I said I'm not going to go out and I'm not going to drink, and I take the car and I have to come back the next day and pick up my car.

M - And I think you're definitely not the only one.

B - No, definitely not the only one.

M - So Debbie, when you were drinking, what was it that made you actually realise, no, this is something that I need to get help with?

D - I don't really know. I had started kind of googling for a wee while, like, what does it mean if you’ve got a drinking problem and I was trying to justify my drinking and I wanted someone to tell me it was alright, but I must have realised that it wasn’t alright because when you're googling stuff like that.

M - You’re definitely not the first or the last person to ever google something like that because I think it's still that “I'm not ready to speak to someone, so hopefully I may be able to figure this out by myself”.

D - Yes. I had tried to stop drinking for years, actually, looking back now. It was always kind of there in the background. So, I was trying to control that and normalise that and try to be off it for a few weeks, because I didn’t want to give it up completely. Like it's so scary to people who are drinking and thinking that I'm never going have a drink again…That never ever ever again. Do you know what I mean? And that's where I had gone to a 12-step meeting and that was where I had learnt to keep it in a day and all that, I've took quite a lot of way for meetings and I don't do them now, I’m doing alright.

B - She's doing good.

D - There's other ways, and everybody's recovery is personal to their own lifestyle and different relationships and families. And so, I don't do them now but I took a lot away from them like where I remember I had went to one and I was greeting my life was over. I thought – I don’t believe any of you that are saying life is amazing without it. I just thought what do you know you’ve only been sober for 20 years! Like I thought I knew it all.

B - So what would 2024 Debbie say to Debbie that just left that meeting? How would you convince her that it was going to be okay?

D - And I remember it like it was yesterday as well, life has changed for me so much. And not really, because I'm still in the same house and I still have the same friends and family and everything but I'm such a better place. And I'm so content and I would never change it for a drink definitely not now.

B – That content feeling of equilibrium, that’s the reward, that’s the prize, isn’t it?

D – Absolutely and people used to say that as well - you get high on life and you’re like shut up, don't want to hear that. But that’s the truth, you’ll wake up every morning without a hangover, you won’t have blackouts or worrying that you’ve upset someone. And when you’re not thinking about drink all day your head is clear for other things to think about, and life becomes beautiful.

M - She's got well, she’s stayed well, and she’s moved on! And obviously with the kind of moving on part of that, how have you found going from what you experienced, to now working in this sector and helping other people?

D – I love it.  And I love helping people sitting where I used to sit and think there's no way I could stop drinking, because that was my attitude as well. I thought there was no way. And there is a way! And the only thing I regret is that I wish I had done it years ago.

B - Can't change the past though. Shapes us into the people that we are today.

D - Absolutely. I don’t dwell on it. But I would advice anyone to do it now, if there thinking about it.

M - It's never too late to start, is it?

D - No. Absolutely not.

B – Striking while the irons hot as well, see while you want to make that change it’s the best time to kind of pounce on it.

D – It is. And it’s really scary but see once you make it, it’s actually really simple after you’ve accepted it. And you’re in control of that. You’re in control of your life. I was really worries at the start that I was going to mess everything up and thought to myself, no you won’t. Just don’t. And as long you don’t have a drink everything will be alright and life’s good.

M - And I think it's also this is a good point to kind of move into how can we as Scottish people be involved in a culture that is so alcohol heavy but not have a drink? How can we navigate those environments or not maybe give into the pressures that alcohol puts on us when we’re that environment? Debbie, do you have any type of advice that you can give to people on if they are going to go into a pub or a bar or a party or really any occasion in Scotland and not drink. Do you have any advice for them on how to navigate that?

D - I changed my mindset because I don't go to pubs as such now. You’ll find when you sober up you don't really like them. I still I find other ways to socialize. And when I do go out, I have a drink like everybody else. It's just a different drink in the glass. Mines is a coke or whatever it may be, but it’s no different from everybody else in the pub. I’m going to leave feeling the same,

M – That actually such a good way to put it - I’m having a drink like everybody else but what is in the glass is different.

B - Yeah. Do you find you pick up more on other people's behaviours when you're out and you’re sober?

D - Yes. I think what a waste of money!

M - And I think with the minimum place on alcohol a lot of people thought that would make a difference it doesn't.

B - If you want to drink, you'll find the money. Whether that's taking money from something else that maybe needs to be paid or looking at how to be reduced this cost, if you want to drink regardless of what the price is you'll find a way to. So really the minimum unit pricing is maybe harmful as much as it has benefits. Do you know what I mean?

M - Yeah, it's like a double edged sword I think with the minimum unit pricing. And then to add a cost-of-living crisis on top of that! Everything's increasing but alcohol is just increasing more and more and more, but people will still buy it.

D - And then their families go without, or their bills don’t get paid, because of the drink.

M + B - Yeah.

D - Wild horses couldn't have stopped me if I wanted to drink. I was going to have one and that's that.

M - I'm sure you're not the only person that's ever thought that in their life. You know if they were in the same position as you or still are, it’s that idea that nothing will stop me from getting it. I don't care what I have to do. I'm going to get what I need to get.

D - Yeah.

 B – It’s maybe a good point to pop in then, so see you’re saying wild horses wouldn’t have stopped you if you got that thought in your head, so while you were in those beginning aspects of recovery, when you were having any urges or cravings, what did you find was helpful?

D - Definitely keeping it in the day. Definitely. And I took every that whole never drinking again mentality. Because that's scary. Anything’s scary, like if you said you can never have a bit of chocolate again, you’re going to want a bit of chocolate. So, I took away that whole ‘I’m never going to be able to have a drink mentality away. I’ve got a son and I thought he’s going to be married one day and I can’t have a drink at his wedding? My head was going way to the future. And I had to learn to keep it in that day and thought if I want a drink tomorrow or a couple of months then I will. And before I knew it, I was there. And you don’t want to drink then, because you turn into someone who doesn’t want to drink anymore.

M - Yeah. It’s that one day at a time, isn't it?

D - Absolutely.

M - I get through today, I’ve tried. And if I get through tomorrow, then eventually it's almost like second nature. It's not even something you think about anymore.

B - I think that's dead interesting how the mind set goes from I'm never going to be able to have a drink again to I don't want to have a drink again.

D - You don't want to. And see if you change that and tell yourself that I can’t, I can’t have this, I can’t do this and I don’t want to. And if changed my mind set to it. I used to look at cocktails on the beach and be like oh she’s so lucky and whatever else and then I think, well drinking wasn’t like that for me. Which it can be for a lot of people, but for some people like myself it would have been a mess. I would have been wrecked and really drunk.

B - You'll see this as well, especially during your sessions but people articulate that quite a lot. Like how can they go and just have two, but I cant. But some people aren’t wired the same way or have the same relationships with alcohol. The three of us in this room aren’t going to be wired the same way never mind broadening that out, and it is, it’s that kind of FOMO – how can they have a couple and leave it that but I can’t. But it’s what’s right for you and what’s right for them. You can only do what’s right for you.

D - And I did, and a lot of people struggle with boredom. That’s all I hear is – I was bored. And there was times at the start when I thought, what am I going to do now, what am I going to do today and then I saw something that said ‘don’t mistake your boredom for peace’ and I thought oh, I like that, I’m at peace now. Because my life was so hectic when I was drinking. It was chaotic, falling out with family members and letting people down. So now if I’m bored I’m like no, I’m at peace.

B - So that's your new mantra, I'm taking that.

M - Yeah. I like lacing in wee quotes and things that you read and things that you see, because it's something that for someone that can mean everything. Just that moment of realisation, like that kind of epiphany, where like, no, you're actually right. And it completely flips it on its head and completely changes their mindset. And like you said, mindset is so important having that change of mindset can really make or break someone’s recovery journey.

B - Speaking of quotes, do you have a quote Maria? We were going to see, put the feelers out, see how Debbie felt about your quote?

M - Oh, so this is a quote that I found online and it's the reason that I noted it down is because I think it's quite pertinent to Scottish drinking culture and how reliant that we all become, not we all, but the vast majority of people do become on alcohol. So I'm just going to read it for you now.

We're conditioned to believe that alcohol is pertinent in every moment. Celebrate, commiserate, congratulate. It brings us success. It brings us happiness. It brings us our partners. It brings us entertainment. It is a source of all things. Removing it may as well be the end of your life.

B - Would you feel a bit that Debbie?

D - Yes, good quote.

M - Thank you.

B - I just… I understand, like see if you're actively drinking, I can understand that last sentence. But working with people that have got themselves well, I can honestly say removing alcohol was not the end of their life. Maybe the end of that period of their life.

M -  I think the reason that I put it down was because of that idea that we're conditioned. That's where I kind of linked it to the Scottish drinking culture and the fact that we are. We're believed that it's part of everything. The removing it may as well be the end of your life. I think it's for someone who's reluctant or scared or has that fear of the impossible where they don't have a life with alcohol. But in Scotland, it does. It's used for funerals. It's used for birthdays. It's used for anniversaries, baptisms, parties. And it does. It brings entertainment. A lot of people meet their partners through it. And I think, you know, that's why I chose my quote.

B - I do think a part of that is pretty succinct. That celebrate, commiserate, congratulate. I do think that we do use it. We excuse our drinking so often in Scotland. I feel like I can guarantee you in Norway, a child's second birthday party, they are not cracking up in the tinnies. That doesn't happen anywhere else in the world. But in Scotland it does. And I think that's maybe why we see such high numbers of like alcohol-related incidents or people that want help with their alcohol use. Because we treat it quite lightly. And I think people forget that alcohol is a drug. They like to forget that.

M - I think, the social drug.

B - Yeah, the social drug.

D - And nobody would ever ask you, why are you not taking drugs?

B - Yeah, but it's always why you not drinking, why you not drinking tonight?

M - Yeah, that happens all the time. So I think that quote is quite good to kind of think about the “importance” of alcohol in some people's lives. It's almost held up on a pedestal as this thing that people use for so many reasons. Some positive, some negative, some just use it because again, it's part of their life, they can't imagine their life without it. And if we're looking at the amount in terms of percentage of people that drink in Scotland, over 90% of males and 87% of females drink alcohol in Scotland. That is a huge number. And imagine we envy some of the bigger countries with that probably more so.

B - Yeah, I think the thing is as well, but when we look at the age that we're introduced to drinking, it's actually no difference from a lot of Northern Europe, a lot of places within the kind of Southern parts are you that France and Spain, they introduce their children quite young to drinking but in a social and responsible way. And I think that's where we falter here in Scotland. It’s like everything to excess.

M - Like go back or go home type mindset here when it comes to alcohol.

B - 100%. Instead of enjoying a glass of wine with your meal at the French do, we would be a bottle of wine before dinner and then let's keep going.

D - Yeah, absolutely.

M - Another interesting point that I wanted to touch on is this idea of using alcohol as that Dutch courage - liquid confidence. And offer my own experiences or whatever, like a Scottish drinking culture.

B - It was that extent of, I think like the wains call it pre-gaming. Like pres.  There was like a double edged sword, you were looking for that like Dutch courage, but also you were trying not to spend too much money when you were out, because it was cheaper to obviously drink in someone's house before you went out. Obviously that then led to a much messier night than expected and some consequences that result in the fear possibly. But yeah, no, that Dutch courage aspect, I think that leads a lot of people into drinking more than they expected. I think if you were going to drink anyway, you were going to drink.

M - Yeah.

B - But that overindulgence, I think that can sometimes come from like confidence issues and being concerned about being out or maybe being anxious about being in social settings.

M - Yeah, absolutely. The more introverted among us, I think definitely feel like it's just that kind of, we almost like put gas in our engine.  But the idea of like, I'll have one and I'll be buzzed and getting to that merry stage and feeling like you can take on the world. I know myself if we're looking at dates before going on a date and needed a wee drink beforehand, just to kind of settle the nerves. And the thing is, alcohol a lot of the time, after a certain amount of time, makes you more anxious.

B - Yes.

M - It does. It doesn't do what it says in the tin. And a lot of people think, I'll have a few drinks and I’ll feel brilliant, but sometimes you have a few drinks and everything's heightened. If you're already anxious, if you're already feeling certain things, your emotions are 10x.

B - I think it definitely depends on the mindset that you go into that period of drinking with. If you're going out and you're already quite agg or quite anxious, it can exacerbate a lot of those symptoms that you're already feeling.

M - Yeah, and it's always good to remember alcohol is not an upper. Alcohol is a depressive drug, it's a downer in the slang term. So, it gives you that period of elation for a wee bit, but that crash afterwards, it doesn't lift you up. It brings you down and brings you further down than you'd probably be without it.

B - Yeah. So long and short of that is Dutch courage, a myth.

M - How about some breathing and some grounding techniques, that will help you overcome better than alcohol can. And what role did lockdown have in alcohol consumption obviously were not that far away from experiencing the lockdown that we had with COVID. But I feel like in lockdown, everybody had those bars being out the backdoor, and drinking because they had nothing else to do in that time and again, it's touching into that boredom element. You had nothing to do, you didn't know where the country was going or what the cases were like, you were scared to do anything else. And if you had the alcohol sitting there, I think a lot of people thought, uck I may as well.

B - Do you know, I actually conducted a bit of research last year on COVID-19 and the impact I had on people’s drug and alcohol use and I think we all forget how incredible that summer was that first lockdown. It was the most gorgeous weather and a lot of people reported that fed into their alcohol use.

D - Yeah. And you were off work and a lot of people were on furlough just to sit and... But then when I had went into rehab, we were talking about lockdown and we'd used that as an excuse. And it was like COVID that done it, then it was lockdown that made us all drink a lot more. And then when we really looked into ourselves and a women said to me – your whole life, drinking would have been like a lockdown, because you're sitting and you're drinking by yourself. So it wasn’t lockdown, because I had been doing exactly what I had been doing pre lockdown. The whole time, yeah. But COVID was a perfect excuse.

B - It was a bit of a perfect storm, wasn't it?

M - Yeah. You'll probably know better than me from the research that you did conduct but I imagine that the rates of drinking and drug use did elevate quite a lot through COVID.

B - They did, yeah, but it was loads of factors like obviously boredom was one of the biggest ones we seen. Boredom and isolation do you know what I mean? The weather, trying to find something to do with yourself. But it excused that if someone was already drinking, it allowed further patterns of drinking, like going from only drinking throughout the weekend opened it up to a midweek thing. Or they would maybe only smoke marijuana at night, and then it became an all-day thing. It just kind of exacerbated a lot of things that were already there, never mind bringing mental health into the equation.

M - It's like things that you'd keep to that free time, whether it be the night after a work or the mornings of the weekend. And then you had all the free time. It was all free for a lot of people if you weren't working through COVID.

D - And you didn't need to see anybody. So I could get as drunk as I liked. And I didn’t need to see family members – that sounds terrible doesn’t it? I was so happy in lockdown. I thought this is great, I can have gin for breakfast and no-one knows.

M - I think, you know, a lot of people that we have seen come through our doors, COVID was a big factor for them starting to drink -  a big factor.

D - It was the end of COVID just the end of it that I decided to get sober. Because you were away from everybody, and you were able to look at yourself and self-reflect on – this is bad and its not okay to have gin for breakfast.

M - Yeah. But I imagine it must have been a whole lot more socially accepted during lockdown. I feel like a lot of people were posting on their socials like oh mimosas seven days of the week and then I’ll have my gin and then I’ll have my wine at night and then I’ll have my wee night cap before bed too. And a lot people would be like – me too, me too! Because everyone was doing it. I mean I certainly know that in my social circle, we were big on zoom calls, doing zoom quizzes and things like that and you’d have a drink. But you’re sitting in the house by yourself. Fair enough you’ve got that social connection but it’s through a screen, so you’re essentially by yourself, sitting there. But we all thought, I’ll go have a drink if were all just sitting on camera to each other.  And now looking back, it seems like a fever dream that we all did that, but we did.

B - Then that kind of begs the question, like, if you're drinking by yourself, is that more harmful than drinking in social situations, even if the frequency is the same? Do you know what I mean?

D - See, that's what I was going to say about social situations, because my drinking nearer the end wasn’t social... I'm actually more sociable now that I’m sober.  Because people like me and my company, and I get asked to places where I wasn't before when I was drinking. And I didn't want to, because I just want to sit and get drunk on my own. So I'm more confident now and I'm better sober. Which is something I never thought, because I thought that I was getting confidence through drinking, and I would need to drink to be able to speak to people and go out. And it’s from I’ve sobered up, I’ve kind of realised the real me if you like, and I know what I like, and enjoy. And if I don’t want to go to pub and socialise with people I’d just say no and that’s it. You’re allowed to say no, and I do everything to keep my peaceful wee bubble life in my wee bubble.

M - It’s sort of like rediscovering yourself, isn't it?

D - Uh-huh. Things that you like and things that you don't.

M – This new Debbie. Well you always were Debbie but you’ve got a new lease on life.

D - Uh-huh.

B – New and improved. I like that now, that mentality of I’m happier now. Like that bit of contentness that you've found.

D - So much, I feel. And I've dealt with so much and because sober life, as we get told at the start, is that it's not perfect. Nothing's perfect. And life still happens and things that are you're controlled still happen, but if you're sober, you deal with it far better.

M -Yeah. It's like embracing the imperfections more than shoving them away.

D - Yeah.

M – Because you're absolutely right. Life is full of ups and downs and roundabouts and roads. But take everything in your stride. And now that you've got this new view of yourself and the people around you and the things around you, you can tackle it a wee bit better.

D - Absolutely.

M - You've got the skill set.

D - Whereas before I couldn’t have handled anything without turning to a drink. I was stressed so I’d have a drink, I was a bit depressed that day so I’d have a drink,

M - And I think a lot of people are going to take a lot of inspiration from your story if they're feeling the same way that you ever did. And thought, I can't do this without a drink, or I can’t deal with this without a drink. Hearing you speak about the fact that you have got to the place you are is going to be really inspirational for a lot of people.

B - Indeed.

D – Thank you, I hope so.

B - So after you got sober, were you still working in the bar?

D - Yes, I took a wee bit of time off and then I went back in part time. And I love it. I love telling everybody to stop drinking.

M - How did you actually find going back into that environment?

D - I was overthinking about everything, and it’s like everything else when you sober up. You worry so much. We build ourselves up and overthink. I was a terrible overthinker and nothing as bad as what you build it up to be in your head. I had built this big thing up in my head – I can’t go into a pub ever again because I don’t drink and I went in and I loved it. I don’t drink anymore, and it’s alright that people do. And now I see it more as a job instead of a social life. And I still love being in that pub atmosphere.

B - That's dead interesting that you're still immersed in that environment. You still get all the pros of that environment, the social aspect of that environment, catching up the people, etc. Without the thing that was giving you any grief.

D - Yeah.

M - And I think it's also good having you in there because if you see someone that's maybe you're like, right, maybe they could use a wee bit of... You've had enough, but then you're also like, right, maybe this guy needs a bit of help and I'm not saying you're counselling them in the pub. But, you know, for someone just having somebody to speak to and if they do, then you're in a more equipped position to be able to offer advice to them. And even with that, with this full circle moment working at the RCA, being able to then impart your knowledge and expertise and help people is fantastic. I'm sure all of your clients are very, very thankful for you.

D - Thank you very much. No I do, I really enjoy it, and I like telling people there’s hope and there’s a way because I never thought there was. I was quite young when I sobered up, and I didn’t think I would be able to. And I love telling people I don’t drink now, its my super power.

B - I love that. So what do you think that you take from your experiences of drinking and your experiences of being sober into the support that you provide for our clients? What do you pull from all of that to package up support for them?

D - I think the thing we want to get sober is you need to want to do it for yourself. And I support my clients in here that come in and the thought of stopping forever, they hate that idea. And they want to reduce it and cut it down and that's all right if that's what you can do. And you try everything before you stop drinking. You try every possible path without actually stopping drinking, when really that's the easier option because then you're not having to think about it all the time. I just keep it light-hearted with my clients, when you’re going through this it can be a lonely tough place to be. But there is hope out there, and people are going to help you and offer you their support. And you don’t need to phone someone and say ‘I’ve got a drink problem’, its just ‘I’m struggling’ or ‘this isn’t me the now’ or ‘I’m drinking more than I would like to be’. It’s serious, it’s so serious, but it’s life and it’s flexible and it can be fixed. And this isn’t the end, I know you’ve upset people along the way and you think there’s no going back and I tell all my clients that as long as they’re alive, then you can fix anything.

M - Exactly. I think, you know, in Scotland one of our biggest coping mechanisms is making light of things. And it's not that we don't underestimate how serious it is. But for some people it's that if you don't laugh, you'll cry. So it's like how do I get through this while seeing the positives? Not disregarding the negatives because also that's things you need to work through. But it's about that hope and keeping it positive. But it makes people think, you know what, I can do this and that's where your encouragement is so important. It's so good for them because you're there to them a hand and going you can do this, because I did it, and you can do it in your own way, however they want to do that.

B - So Debbie, would you have any advice for anyone that feels like they're still wanting to be social, they're still wanting to be out and about with people but they don't want to drink and obviously we know there can be some pressures there. People saying ‘oh just have one’ or ‘what you not drinking for’ and obviously, nobodies entitled to know your story, no body is entitled to know whether youre not drinking for a reason. Whether that be religious, or because you have had a tumultuous relationship with alcohol. And I think it is important to remember that people don’t drink for a long list of reasons, their health, their mental wellbeing, for fertility treatments, to try new medications, etc. Do you have any words of advice for anyone who is trying to navigate a drinking culture sober?

D - I think just go easy on yourself, and you know yourself when you’re ready to socialise in situations. And you’ll be able to go and enjoy yourself and life changes when you get sober, it changes for the better. And you’ll find that you might not want to go to the pub every weekend sober, or socialise the way you did. Just enjoy it and go out and take yourself away from situations if you feel its too much. Just leave. You are not missing anything, promise.

M - And, you know, whether you are not drinking for any of the reasons that Bekkah said, remember that it is nobody's business but your own. You do not have to tell anybody the reason why you're not drinking. All you need to say that you're not. And if they ask any further questions, then you don't have to answer them. I think everyone's got their own personal story, their personal experiences. And I think in Scotland, we're all very guilty of being like, why not? Why not? Why not? Why not? Nobody's business. It's nobody's problem. It's your own. And you just own that. And if you don't want to drink, don't do it. And like Debbie says, take the time. Take the time to actually be ready to enter that environment. It's not about jumping in at the deep end, feeling like you have to do it, be there sober and test yourself. No, you do it when you’re ready.

B - This is a PSA for anybody who loves or supports somebody who has had a relationship with alcohol or PSA for just the general public. Somebody tells you, no, leave it at that.

M – BOOM

B – Retweet

M – Yeah, so is there anything you would like to wrap us up on Debbie? Any kind of final statements you want to give us?

D – No, just if there’s anyone out there, struggling, you can do it. Definitely if you want a change. And this is a better life out there than drinking. You don’t want it to be the death of you, just reach out. There is support everywhere, even a close family member or a friend. You can do it, no matter what your circumstances are.  And I just want to say to anyone that is going through this, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is about you, and your life and your journey. So reach out. There’s such a stigma still about alcohol and there doesn’t need to be because it’s about how its affecting you. So yeah, reach out guys.

M - Well, thank you so, so much for being with us there. But it has been amazing to get chatting to you and I'm sure so many people will take so much from your story and the fact that you're now working with us and they might even want to come speak to you. Yes to get more of your quotes! Because they’re brilliant. I mean I’m certainly keeping a few for myself.

B - It’s been a pleasure and like Debbie said there is support everywhere. So, if you have been struggling with alcohol or drugs and would like to speak to somebody for a bit of support, we are the RCA Trust. You can get contact with us on 0141 887 0880.

M - Please contact us on our various social media channels. You’ll find us as RCA Trust on Facebook and Linked in, as @RcaTrust on X (formerly known as twitter) and @rcatrust_ on Instagram. You can get us there using the hashtag #GetWellStayWellMoveOnPodcast or you can dm us, our dm’s are always open. And there is a contact form on our website for certain things that you want us to speak about, certain things that you want us to cover. If there's any of your own experiences that you want to pop on, please do not hesitate to follow that form. It can be anonymous. And we will talk about it on the next podcast. And we hope you'll join us for our March podcast next month, where we have someone who worked with our gambling support team, our Mary. She came to us with some gambling related harms that are having a huge impact on her life. And just going to chat to us about how she got well, stayed well and is now moving on. So we're very, very excited for you all to hear about next month.

B - So I've been Bekkah.

M - I've been Maria.

D - I've been Debbie.

B - And this has been the Get Well

D - Stay well.

M - Move on podcast.

B - And we'll see you all next month. Bye bye.

M - Bye.

D - Bye.

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