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Alcohol, self-reflection practice and the real world














The recent 2018 legislation in the Health (Alcohol) Bill has four main provisions:

a) a structural separation of alcohol from other products in stores;

b) minimum unit pricing;

c) health warning labels on alcohol products;

d) advertising restrictions.

The bill has received support from Alcohol Action Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation and Irish Cancer Society, whilst Heineken, Molson Coors, Diageo and others have submitted their concerns about the bill’s effects on tourism, investment and business.

Whilst the legislators have their part to play in policing the management of the sale, pricing, advertising and warnings about the harms of excessive alcohol, these measures only scratch the surface.  Drinkaware has also recently delivered new research and a drinking index that go some way towards further educating the at risk populations as part of a landmark study:


Key findings:

  • 44% drink alcohol on at least a weekly basis (population est. 446,000)
  • 19% of Irish drinkers consumed more than six standard drinks on a single drinking occasion each week in the last year (i.e. binge drinking)
  • 21% of drinkers think they should cut down on how much alcohol they drink; increases to 32% for under 25s
  • 74% believe that drinking to excess is ‘just a part of Irish culture’


It’s fair to say we love our drinking.  But what about the under the bonnet stuff of why the Irish drink so much?    In a poll, Ireland was ranked 21st in a poll of 191 countries* for the highest consumption of alcohol (*WHO Report published 2014).  Our small country was up there with the best of them. Some of our northern european neighbours also love their grain-based drinks, just as the southern europeans love their grape, but few nations are as stereotyped for excessive drinking as the Irish.  A 2013 study** of students abroad, found that cultural, societal and religious influences had their part to play in the nation’s drinking.  Attitudes to what constitutes alcohol abuse differed greatly, those growing up in liberal, drinking environments behaved and drank liberally around booze too, others reared in more religious households tended to either abstain or consume considerably less than their more liberal counterparts.  Rather surprisingly, Irish weather had little or no effect on consumption on the study outcome (**U.S. National Institute on Aging and the Irish Higher Education Authority).

On a personal level, I have examined in detail my own motivations when it comes to drinking.  Like many other types of consumptions and connections, my relationship with drink as well as with food, money and the people around me tends to reflect directly how I’m feeling on the inside.

Arguably, but from personal experience and from what I have seen around me, heavy drinking often arises out of a feeling of emptiness, boredom or loneliness.  Drinkers reach for the ‘nectar’ to literally fill the void or to help obliterate its existence. Alternatively, drinkers may be dogged with unconscious stressful and resentful thoughts, coupled with self-hatred, fear and sadness.  Alcohol may be the only escape route from these painful and unexamined mental patterns.

Some systems and schools of thought believe alcohol abuse to be the manifestation of a physical allergy, in many instances this may be true, the blood sugar may be placing extremely high demands on the consumer to top-up or else, but this may not be the case for everyone who is running to or from the bottle or the glass.  If you have identified this physical allergy in yourself, the ideas in this blog post are not for you.

For me, it’s a practice now like everything else in life has become.  I reflect before a night out, occasion or an event.  As a practice, it helps enormously and thankfully, I now, rarely, not never, lose time the next day on recriminations and self-flagellation.

A practice – Mind

Before a social gathering, event or party, can we stop take a different and fresh view?  We decide to pause, tune in and really listen to the messages/stories that the ego mind is throwing at us.  Can we wake up to them and examine them? Are they even true, if they were once true but are no longer relevant can we ditch them? If we are angry, stressed or afraid, why? Are we in the past or in the future? What is happening, right now, in this current moment?  Tune in and observe, observe the thoughts rising and falling fully, then pause. It needn’t be a taxing, annoying or even onerous process, a mere kind and gentle self-reflection will suffice.  

A practice – Body

Can we feel the ground under our feet? How is our physical connection to ourselves, to our very core? Is our head in the clouds or does it feel attached to the body at all? Furthermore are we merely seeking an opportunity in this gathering to find excessive comfort because we feel bad about ourselves or our lives? Perhaps we pause again. Is our belly full with good food or is food part of the occasion? Are we in comfortable clothing that instills confidence? Are our surroundings safe and loving and are our basic needs met?  Can we sense our breath? Can we sense the air around us, the people, environment and nature? Do we feel good?

If we answer no to some of the above, can we address these practicalities now with food, warmth and support?  Can we do what’s needed to bring us to true bodily and mental comfort rather than mindlessly reaching for the fuzzy, warm glow of alcohol first? If we need help with these matters we seek appropriate, professional advice and help.

If we can make satisfactory inroads in these matters, we can then consider approaching mindfully drinking to be sociable and add fully to the occasion from a more, comfortable, healthy and even keel.  We will be less likely to gulp and guzzle guiltily and we can fully taste and experience the alcohol instinctively sensing when we have had enough.  Then there is no more escape into or abstaining from drink.  It just is. And so are we.

Drink mindfully and enjoy.

Grainne Toher – Founder Yogapal and Still Mind



Maybe Baby….

Around 4% of couples will remain involuntarily childless.  The issue is not isolated to couples, it also affects single men and women who never met the right person or those that left partnerships for a variety of reasons.  Some will be happily child-free, others will bear the scars at a visceral level of the children that were never conceived or worse that they never managed to carry to full-term.

Here are a few pointers to note whilst in conversation with the potentially, involuntarily childless people in your circle.


  • Don’t ask them if there is ‘any news’. Ever.
  • Never offer them one of your children by way of a joke.
  • Do not tell them that they are ‘fine as they are’.
  • Never tell them that it’ll happen when they stop stressing about it. Use the word ‘relax’ sparingly.
  • Avoid telling them about your cousin’s friend’s cousin twice removed, who tried for ten years then gave birth to three in a row once the woman’s body figured out how to do it.
  • Try not to suggest that they adopt, if they are intelligent people, they have probably given the option some consideration.
  • Hold yourself back from mentioning miracle cures and wonder therapies e.g. White tea, Manuka honey, Reflexology, etc (See note 6 above).
  • Continue to mention your own children, if you have any, maybe don’t overdo it, but avoidance of their mention can make the involuntarily childless feel even more socially isolated.
  • Saying stuff like ‘it’s Gods Will’ increases the sense of isolation and frustration. If that is true God has undoubtedly chosen some very suspect parents just for fun.
  • Try not to ask them if they know how to have sexual intercourse, it’s not rocket science, most people have studied some Biology or at least Science up to Junior Cert.


If you see a pattern forming in the Don’t’s, it’s because there is one.  The pattern is, is that it’s none of your business.  Infertility is painful and private and the sufferers are people.  Your suggestions and intentions are utterly well meant, that is understood, but they generally don’t help.  At all.  There aren’t many, but here are a few ‘Do’s’.



  • Be inclusive in thought, word and deed.
  • Be kind. You don’t have to wear kid-gloves or walk on eggshells unless you are rocking any or all ten of the ‘Don’ts’ (see above).  In that case, you may feel some wrath leveled at you.
  • Suggest outings that do and don’t include children.
  • Be affectionate.
  • The baby journey is a long walk in the desert, have fun with those who are trying to have children, be that person.


If you or someone you know is affected by Involuntary Childlessness, contact NISIG or Gateway Women for support at and

One in five

One in five……

According to Women’s Aid statistics, one in five women in Ireland is now experiencing or has experienced domestic violence.

One is five is a frightening statistic, that means that at least one person you know is experiencing domestic violence right now.  In this very moment…..

Why don’t they leave, you say?  Unfortunately, most will try to fix it for a time.  Many will blame themselves, believing if they only could be nicer, hotter, slimmer, more fun or just different, in other words, anyone other than what they are or have become, their partner will be once again behave like the guy they fell in love with.

Nonsense, they should leave, I hear you cry.  Leave…..!

Leaving means extracting oneself from a deeply enmeshed, emotionally charged, unsafe, financial and legal mess.  A mess that takes years to fix with the banks and the courts, neither of whom favour separations and who offer little by way of support.  If there are children involved, the mess never really gets fixed.  The chance to wipe the slate clean for some, never really comes.

Leaving also requires the woman to fully and completely fall out of love with the man who abuses her, strange as it may sound, that can take years.   As they say, denial is not a river in Egypt.  Until that day, interventions are futile, she will always go back until that emotional door shuts inside and the love is finally, at long last, gone.

Some die before that finally happens.  Eight women died of domestic violence in Ireland in 2017 alone.

If you suspect you know someone who is being abused, but aren’t sure, here are some signs:

  • Her appearance has changed – either she is covering up her arms and neck, dressing more conservatively or she is trying to look like a trophy girl to keep/please her man;
  • She appears preoccupied in conversation;
  • She is always seeking perfection and is defensive in conversation;
  • Participation in social gatherings is limited or has ceased altogether;
  • Her previously bubbly nature has all but disappeared and her sparkle is gone;
  • The phone is on the table and she is constantly check it;
  • Her relationship talk is very superficial and no-one knows much about him.


What can you do? Avoid making an intervention, let her know that you are there in your own way (this can be done carefully, without acknowledging openly her domestic situation) offer warmth and support, but be prepared to take the long view, she may take a very long time, if ever, to fall out of love with her abuser and leave him, so take great care of yourself emotionally too.

Thankfully there are now an increasingly great number of groups in Ireland lobbying for change and offering practical emotional support e.g. Women’s Aid, Stop Domestic Violence Ireland and Safe Ireland.

If you are currently in a violent and/or abusive relationship and would like to think of a way out but don’t know how or even where to begin or if you have left the situation and feel like a fish out of water, here are some suggestions which might be help:


  1. Admission and acknowledgement of the violent relationship

It’s common to get stuck here and thus remain in the unhealthy situation or unhealthy thought patterns about it for a very long time.  The violent/abusive episodes and events can be minimised in your mind so that no action is taken, as it’s too painful or disruptive to consider.  An admission and an acknowledgement will create the internal space and practical potential for you to move on.


  1. Accept that the situation is no longer tolerable

Acceptance that the relationship can’t be fixed will come, this allows you to move towards creating room to focus on building a fuller and happier existence away from the relationship.  This process can take a very long time, rushing it before you are fully done can mean there are many unsafe and half-hearted endings.   When it’s done, ensure it’s fully done then make inroads towards your new beginning.


  1. Find a daily practice for the soul

Begin to foster a daily practice of self-reflection and self-care so that you can reconnect with your inner strength, inner wisdom and inner light.  Nourish and take care of yourself inside and out.  You will need this practice to empower you for the inevitable legal, property and financial struggles ahead.


  1. Reconnect with old friends

For a variety of reasons you may have lost touch with old friends.  Reconnecting with them will bring you back the sense of self you had before the troubled relationship began and boost your confidence.


  1. Build a new community around you

For many, the end of the relationship can mean that half of your family evaporates overnight.  Sides are often taken despite the best of intentions of all involved.  Find your new tribe for fun, chats and practical support.   Make sure they ‘get’ you.


  1. Avail of all supports

For some time you may need to talk things out, engage with trained and professional supports and staff to support your mental and emotional health.  Look online, there are many options and there will be one that feels right for your particular situation.


  1. Commit to getting to know yourself

Commit to really finding out who you are, welcome all of the information on board as neutrally as you can.  Consider taking your time with this and engaging quality, professional help to identify patterns, tendencies and ideas.  This will mitigate against a return to a similar and unsafe relationship.


  1. Shake it off

Unless you are managing an injury sustained during the relationship, move more.  Find an enjoyable activity to literally shake the icky stuff of this relationship out of your tissues.  Bring your children if appropriate/practical.


  1. Rediscover and reinvent yourself

Rediscover old interests that you had prior to the relationship or find new ones that fill you with passion and energy.  Show a greater interest in your appearance, years of stress may well start to disappear off your face.  Start your new life, your new you, as soon as you can.


  1. Rewrite ‘your story’ every day

There will always be off days.  It’s ok to look back but best not to stare for too long.  Acknowledge the past, feel the feelings and move on when you can.  Indulging in the old stories will hold you back and get you stuck again.  Today is all that you have.  Today, the present is a gift.  Try to treat it as such.


  1. Reflect and soften into yourself

Take times every day of quiet reflection.  Although you have borne the mental, emotional and physical scars of a violent and abusive situation, it may be time to soften.  Allow the battle armour to fall away, drop survivor mode and allow your inner strength to show itself firmly but gently.


  1. Be not defined by the violent relationship

The violent relationship needn’t define you forever.  It happened, hopefully it is either over or you are now taking steps to leave the relationship.  Rather than holding onto constant thoughts about the relationship, allow yourself to be more clearly defined by the lovely, polished and shining version of you that is emerging.