Sunday, 25 July 2010


Later this week a video recording of the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs’ 2010 Annual Lecture held on 23rd June will be placed on its website:

This year’s lecture – How we choose to live and die lives on – was delivered by Professor Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff and dealt with the controversial topic of assisted suicide – yet another way in which drugs can be used creatively or destructively, depending on your attitude towards assisted suicide.

Professor Baroness Finlay is also Patron to another of the Welsh Council’s initiatives – The Living Room Cardiff – a free, bilingual day-care centre offering help for anyone experiencing difficulties relating to alcohol, drugs (prescribed or illicit), or any other dependency, such as eating disorders, love and sex addiction, gambling and self-harm. The first stage of this exciting initiative will be officially opened next June to coincide with Bill White’s visit to the UK to deliver our 2011 Annual Lecture at the Welsh Assembly.

This weekend (30th, 31st July & 1st August) also sees the Welsh Council’s third retreat being held at St. Non’s Retreat Centre in St David’s, Pembrokeshire. This retreat’s theme is Recovery and Forgiveness and our objectives are as follows: 1. to create an environment to promote recovery and healing from alcoholism and other addictive illnesses for the sufferer, their families and friends; 2. to help identify the issues that prevent people from living life to the fullest; and 3. to create positive lifestyles through personal responsibility and the release of emotional baggage. The retreat will be led, as usual, by Colin Macdonald, a much valued friend to the Welsh Council and a member of its Policy Advisory Group. Our next retreat will be held at Trefeca College in the Brecon Beacons National Park from 2nd to 5th December, 2010. Those wishing to attend the December retreat should contact us to book a place as soon as possible via our website:

The Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs will also have a colourful presence at this year’s National Eisteddfod held in Ebbw Vale from July 31st to August 7th. We’ll be giving out free, non alcoholic drinks from our new Pink bar to all visitors to the Cytûn stand. We’ll also be selling my new book, No Room to Live – a journey from addiction to recovery. Written as a self-help book it's been described as 'hard-hitting and thought-provoking, poignant yet suitably sobering'. The road to recovery is not an easy one. It requires determination and commitment, strength and support. This book is one of many tools available to people to help them rebuild their lives. There is a range of support organisations out there too, including the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. So while life for sufferers might seem a lonely and depressing place, there is hope, comfort and support.

All proceeds from the sale of No Room to Live (the Welsh Books Council’s book of the month) will be donated towards setting up the free, bilingual day-care rehabilitation centre, The Living Room Cardiff/Yr Ystafell Fyw Caerdydd. Our book is intended, therefore, to help others to rebuild their lives.

But this is only the half of it: as well as assessing service users, offering group therapy and one-to-one counselling sessions, we’re also busy instigated a major research project; setting up an Art Exhibition on the theme of Addiction at the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay from September 21st to 23rd; and on September 25th I fly to America to observe and record peer-based recovery support systems in five US States as part of my 2010 Winston Churchill Fellowship Award. What I learn will hopefully be an adjunct to the services we’ll be providing at The Living Room Cardiff from 2011 onwards. Yes, I think we are justified in describing this as an extraordinarily busy period for our charity!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

The best kind of exercise in personality health

The Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs welcomes Edwina Hart’s avowed intent to increase alcohol prices in Wales if the Westminster Coalition Government fails to curb problem drinking.

This would be a very encouraging first step in addressing Wales’ current drinking crisis and would, according to compelling evidence, most likely alleviate the symptoms and lead to a reduction in alcoholic deaths.

However, in order to treat the causes of the social malaise of binge drinking we must look at the underlying reasons that are motivating so many of our population to misuse alcohol to such dangerous levels.

When asked why they drink to excess many revellers tend to claim they like being ‘out of it’ or ‘out of themselves’. Why is it that, in this time of unparalleled prosperity and affluence, people are so uncomfortable with themselves and prepared to negate themselves? If this question could be adequately addressed a whole host of real and lasting solutions to our current crisis with alcohol and other drugs would likely present themselves.

The psychotherapist Rollo May argues that one of the main attractions of alcohol is the absence of other means of self expression, that people have no other way of ‘being themselves’ so they choose alcohol to flee from themselves.

I would like to ask the minister to consider how best to create meaningful alternatives to drinking in which young people can learn to be themselves and get satisfaction from it. Mr May has concluded that ‘such social functions would be the best kind of exercise in personality health’.

Any measures to affect pricing will work in the short term but must be allied with long term initiatives to address the underlying cause of problem drinking and produce lasting change.

The Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs would be enthusiastic to support the minister in instigating policies that would lead to people finding satisfaction in being their authentic selves.