DACA Dumbarton – 01389 731456
DACA Clydebank – 0141 952 0881

Let’s Talk

Mags Mackenzie is CEO of Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA), this is her personal opinion on the need for honest talking between alcohol and mental health services.

When you work in a community alcohol service you become accustomed to encountering people who are in a very dark place.

Some of the people who find their way to your service tell you that they’ve reached a point where they feel their life is no longer worth living.

Offering immediate support is always our priority. But it’s also important to try and understand the journey these people have been on; what leads someone to the point where death seems more appealing than their current existence? And what more could we all do to help prevent friends, loved ones, work colleagues and neighbours reaching that point of no return.

This year’s theme for Alcohol Awareness Week is the relationship between alcohol and mental ill health. It’s a strong relationship, but it’s also a complex one.

One of the patterns we see recurrently at DACA is how many of us turn to the bottle as a means of coping with stress and anxiety, or to help us relax. Alcohol is seen as the acceptable face of self-medication and stress release — a way to get ‘time out’ from the responsibilities and pressures of modern life, or a reward for making it through the day.

So many of us drink this way without ever acknowledging the underlying issue, the signs that there is something wrong with our mental health, an imbalance that needs addressed. And of course alcohol doesn’t address it. At best, it masks it for a short while.

No-one would advise someone with a bad cough to take up smoking, so why is booze seen by many in society as the answer to stress? If a friend had a persistent bad cough we would likely suggest they get it checked out because we know there could be serious underlying health issues.

But we don’t bat an eyelid when a friend tells us that they can’t wait for the kids to go to bed at night so they can kick back with a couple of glasses of wine and forget the day. We think nothing of our friends spending the weekends partying hard to the point of fuzzy-headed oblivion, so they can blot out the stress of a difficult working week. This behaviour is seen as normal, an accepted part of 21st century life.

How many of us take the time to say, ‘hey, is everything okay?’ rather than just benignly or conspiratorially accepting the behaviour as appropriate.

Early Signs

Recognising those early signs of stress, anxiety and depression in ourselves and our loved ones and knowing where to go to access support could be one of the best means of preventing serious mental health problems in the future.

But even if we can recognise the early signs, the ingrained belief in society about mental health services is that we have as much chance of accessing them as we do winning the Lottery. The news media and and an outpouring of shared personal experiences on social media paint a picture of mental health services that are stretched to breaking point, where you have to be acutely, critically unwell before you will get support.

As long as this is the message being heard, it is perhaps unsurprising that many people reach for the bottle as a quick, short-term fix to deal with low level anxiety and stress.

But self-medication can quite easily become pernicious. And after a few weeks, months -maybe even years – of using alcohol as a way to cope with poor mental health, these unaddressed problems have often become much more entrenched.

More alcohol is needed to dull the mental anguish and that regular heavy drinking is starting to take its toll on physical health, employment opportunities or relationships, perhaps there are knock-on impacts on housing, spiralling debts — life can feel out of your control.

Seeking Support

It is perhaps then that a friend or GP suggests coming to DACA for help to stop drinking. We’ve been providing one-to-one counselling support in West Dunbartonshire since 1976, so we’re pretty well known.

Our open-door policy, short waiting lists and professional support that is not time-limited, means we’re a popular first port of call.

And usually our team of counsellors, support workers and therapists can work with whoever comes through our door. Together we will help them set their individual drinking goals and identify triggers, behaviour patterns, activities and therapies to meet these goals.

We have excellent success rates and, like most service providers, we are good at promoting the ‘good news stories’.

What we don’t do such a good job of is talking about the people we struggle to help.

Those people who reach that dark place in their life and even with all the helping hands we can offer, they cannot imagine life without alcohol because they are haunted by too many demons.

Although our counsellors are experienced professionals, there are times when we recognise our limitations and need to seek more specialist support for some of the people we are working with.

Working together, or pistols at dawn?

On paper that support should be available from our mental health partners. We have protocols and policies in place so that when we recognise someone is struggling with serious mental health issues we should be able to refer them to the community mental health teams — where they’ll receive specialist assessment and support from a team of highly experienced clinical experts

But herein lies the biggest barrier for someone with a dual diagnosis of alcohol and mental health problems — and again it is one that we, as support services, don’t like to talk about.

Because when we do try to make a referral to the community mental health teams, the most common response we receive is that the person needs to stop drinking before they can see a mental health practitioner, or even be assessed.

There’s no ‘working together’ option for DACA. We refer. The referral is rejected. And we’re back to square one. We plug on with the alcohol counselling, but it can feel like putting a sticking plaster on an open fracture.

I’m a word geek. I like word play and puns. So it’s maybe not surprising that every time I hear or say the phrase ‘dual diagnosis’, my brain automatically conjures up a vision of a duel, with two protagonists standing back-to-back getting ready to fight to the death. I’m sad that this is how I visualise alcohol and mental health services, but it’s based on experience.

We’re really fortunate to have a good Third Sector mental health organisation in our community, and they will often agree to see and assess people, regardless of their drinking status. But it’s not enough.

With statutory mental health services focusing their scant resources on much-needed crisis interventions we continue to fail too many of the people we are meant to be supporting. And, in my experience, nobody wants to talk about it.

Chicken and Egg

Just last year a hard-hitting report from the Robertson Trust and Lankelly Chase called ‘Hard Edges Scotland’ recognised this twisted chicken and egg dance between addiction and mental health services was a common problem in areas where there are high rates of severe and multiple deprivation — homelessness, substance dependency and offending.

West Dunbartonshire was one of six local authority areas pinpointed.

A central theme raised by people interviewed by the report authors was the missed opportunities for ‘preventative interventions’.

And the gaping hole in mental health services was emphasised by every service provider and most people with lived experience who were interviewed.

The report recognised the “mismatch between the multiple disadvantages people face and the fact that services are often set up to address single issues”.

So this Alcohol Awareness Week and beyond we will continue to highlight those very real links between the causes and consequences of drinking and poor mental health and encourage people to seek support from our team at the earliest possible opportunity because that is what we can offer and what we do well.

But it’s time we face up to our organisational denials.

Because it is only in being uncomfortable and recognising our own limitations that we can have any hope of addressing them and finding solutions.

We expect this of anyone wanting to address a drinking or mental health problem, so it would be hypocritical not to expect it of ourselves and our partners.

DACA offers support to anyone in West Dunbartonshire who is affected by the harms of alcohol. To self-refer, or for a no-pressure chat with a friendly advisor, please call us on 01389 731456 or 0141 952 0881.

Days Like This

‘When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this’

As we try to navigate ourselves safely out of lockdown, those worry-free days which Van Morrison’s mama told him about seem few and far between.

The rain definitely doesn’t help, but it’s more than Scottish Summer blues that is seeing our referral rates rocket for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Back in March when we moved quickly to replace our face-to-face counselling and groups with online and telephone support, none of us expected that six months later we would still be delivering support in this way.

At DACA we have always prided ourselves on offering a holistic service — seeing and supporting the whole person, not just their drink problem.

Over the years this has taken many different forms. While one-to-one counselling has always been at the core of our work, we have also offered a range of diversionary activities such as gardening, walking and fishing; as well as creative groups, cooking classes, relaxation sessions, well-being clinics, social drop-ins and much more.

Social Contact

The one common ingredient of all of these groups and activities was social contact in a safe and supported space. For many of the people we work with, this was the most important element and crucial to their recovery.

So when we were required to withdraw all of these groups and the social connection they offer almost overnight, it left a huge gap for many.

Of course most of the world has been socially isolating over the past few months and forced to find new ways to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues.

But six months in, even the most tech-savvy have become weary of virtual meetings and craving real life human contact.

For many of DACA’s clients, connecting online isn’t easy, so we’ve been careful not to put all our eggs in the digital basket. We’ve kept some old-school, low-tech pathways, such as delivering activity packs and newsletters out to people’s homes (and nabbing a doorstep chinwag from 2metres away while we’re at it).

Supper Club

Together, whilst apart, we’ve grown tomatoes and sunflowers, painted stones, coloured mandalas, shared photos, got creative with our writing and put relaxation techniques to the test. We’ve even managed to enjoy a meal together at our weekly Supper Club — courtesy of Facebook Meeting Rooms.

But it is perhaps now, as the rest of the world starts to reconnect in person with a BBQ in the back garden or a pint down the pub, that we are reminded once again that this pandemic doesn’t treat everyone as equals.

Because many of the social options on offer in Phase Three of Scotland’s lockdown are not designed for people in recovery.

While beer gardens and bars have been packed to capacity, the gyms, sports clubs, community centres and libraries that are safe, alcohol-free refuges for people in recovery, remain closed.

Problem drinking rarely exists on its own. Poor mental and physical well-being, unemployment, loss and loneliness are common travelling companions.

Give Us A Call

So if you know a friend or loved one, or perhaps a neighbour or work colleague who struggles with alcohol, bear in mind that their lockdown is probably far from over. If they need some extra support, please tell them about us.

We have a team of experienced local staff and volunteers, backed up by a peer support network who understand the often unique challenges faced by people affected by problem drinking. And we’re here, ready to help. Our community might not be meeting in groups in a cosy social room and sharing plates of toast and having sing-songs. But we’re still a community.

And it’s in the sharing of jokes, songs, recipes, activities and food — online, over the phone, or in snatched doorstep meetings — that we help each other remember there will once again be days like this.

Contact us on 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881 to find out more about the support available or visit our website www.daca.org.uk

Is It Time To Cool It For Covid?

Is Covid-19 leading you to rethink your drinking? Or are you drinking to avoid thinking?

The global pandemic appears to be dividing people into two camps — those steering clear of alcohol or drastically limiting their drinking until it’s all over, and those in search of solace at the bottom of a glass or bottle.

At DACA most of the people we support had already decided to cut back on their drinking long before the coronavirus, self isolation and lockdown disrupted our lives.

They knew alcohol was making their life unmanageable and turned to our team of experts for help.

Now we are all forced to press pause on our daily routines, many are turning to alcohol to help let off steam.

For some, they see it as a reward at the end of the day or week for just getting through, a small celebration amidst the madness. For others, it is an attempt to drown out and erase the fear and panic we are all experiencing right now.

And for some it is simply finding new ways to continue old habits.

Next time you reach for a bottle or can, try to take a moment and ask yourself why. Would you normally be drinking at this time and this much, or is alcohol becoming your Covid-19 escape valve?

If it’s the latter, you’re not alone.

In the run-up to lockdown, shoppers across the UK cleared supermarket shelves of not only pasta and toilet paper, but also beer, wine and spirits with over £1billion spent on booze in the four weeks prior to March 22 — that was £199million up on the same time in 2019. [1]

Alcohol Risks

So if you stockpiled on the bevvy or are becoming a regular at your corner shop to try and reduce the pressures of Covid-19, here are a few things you need to know.

  1. Alcohol is a depressant. It might provide an initial feel-good factor but when the beer buzz disappears and the hangover kicks in, the impact on your emotional and mental well-being is increased anxiety, depression and paranoia. Alcohol is also associated with suicide. [2]
  2. Alcohol causes accidents. Booze is the single biggest cause of accidents in the home. At a conservative estimate, 400 people die in alcohol-related home accidents in normal years.[3] Under lockdown this number could increase dramatically putting increased strain on our NHS.
  3. Alcohol can lead to violence. Under normal circumstances alcohol is linked to an increased risk of being a victim of violence or carrying out a violent act. The pressure cooker environments we find ourselves living and working in are not normal and are likely to increase that risk.[4]
  4. Alcohol increases the risk of injury or death in a house fire. In 15% of accidental house fires, alcohol or drugs were a contributory factor, and these fires had the highest rates of casualties and fatalities. [5]
  5. Alcohol contributes to ill-health. In 2015, 41,161 people were admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related condition. In the same year, 3,705 deaths were as a result of alcohol consumption. [6]

Support Our NHS, Stay Off The Booze

We are all doing our best to try and take the pressure off the NHS at the moment — staying indoors on these beautiful sunny days and avoiding friends and family so we don’t spread the virus.

So the last place we would want to end up is in an ambulance on its way to hospital because we had over-indulged. Not only would we be adding to the pressure on the hard-pressed doctors and nurses, but we would very likely be increasing the chances of catching Covid-19, as hospitals are the riskiest places to be.

Stay Healthy At Home

So is it possible to get through the pandemic without availing yourself of #quarantinis or Zoom happy hours? Of course it is. And many people who are regulars down the pub or enjoy a weekend ‘wine-down’ at home are actually using the current crisis to re-assess their relationship with alcohol.

They’re finding time to try new coping mechanisms such as meditation, art, cycling or gardening and, without the peer pressure of a night out with the lads (or ladies), re-discovering the simple pleasure of a hangover-free weekend.

You can do it — and your body and mind will thank you for it.

So if you think your drinking is starting to get out of control or you want to keep your body as fit and healthy as possible, why not join us and #CoolItForCovid and cutback or even try staying off the booze until the end of lockdown.

Our team of expert counsellors and support workers are available for a chat and some advice on 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881 or find us on Facebook and send us a message.

You can also find lots of information and tools such as an online self-assessment and a drink tracker/unit calculator to help you cut back on your drinking on the NHS Inform website.

Recovery In A Time of Crisis

How To Help Yourself and Others

The Willow Arch in DACA’s garden at Westbridgend, lovingly created by the gardening group

For many people struggling with a drink problem, social isolation is familiar territory. It’s not unusual for close relationships to become distant and estranged, as the ripple effect of addiction scours through the lives of those it touches. Many drinkers self-isolate for years as a way to hide the scale of their drinking, and to block out the judgment they experience from a society which loves alcohol but scorns those who struggle in its grip.

When people begin a journey towards recovery, they realise that the pathway to sustained behaviour change lies not only in their own actions and choices, but also in the connections and support networks that underpin their change process; the voices of encouragement and reassurance, the shoulder to cry on, the extended hand of friendship and solidarity.

Organisations like Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA) become a lifeline for those in recovery, providing companionship, understanding and safe, sober spaces where people rediscover who they are and start creating a new identity for themselves.

The one-to-one counselling is usually just the start of the process, which leads on to peer support groups, creative and outdoor activities, complementary therapies, even day trips and overnight retreats.

This holistic package of support helps people re-learn that social interactions don’t need to revolve around the consumption of alcohol. They come to realise that reflecting and sharing their thoughts and feelings with another human being who is compassionate and caring can be a far more productive way to cope with stresses than getting lost in a bottle. As they build new coping mechanisms, their resilience increases, and this enhances the likelihood of long-term recovery.

And the common thread throughout DACA services is this : human connections and people helping people.

So in a time of unprecedented crisis, when the majority of the population is being advised to self isolate now or expect to start social distancing in the not too distant future, people who need regular social interaction will struggle more than most.

Many of the people who access support at DACA have underlying health problems, are on low incomes and rely on public transport to get around. In other words, they are the people who are being advised to isolate themselves from the outside world, and who don’t have access to low-risk means of travel.

And while they might be experienced in the practice of social isolation, it is not a good place to be for someone in recovery — literally or figuratively.

So if you have a family member, friend or neighbour who may need some extra emotional support or friendship during this time, now might be a good time to get in touch – even if your relationship may have become a bit distant.

A text, a call, even an old-fashioned letter will mean a lot right now — and it might help you too.

At DACA we are adapting our services and providing our existing clients with more telephone-based support and counselling, and contact via social media and digital platforms. Our therapists will be providing information and advice on techniques to cope with stress in times of crisis.

We will continue to provide a service to our community, it will just be a bit different from normal and it’ll evolve as circumstances change in the weeks and months ahead. We will still see those people who are in real need, although we’ll be exercising physical distancing and prioritising the hygiene practices that are recommended by Government. This is a big culture shift for the team here at DACA, for whom demonstrating warmth and closeness through touch and body language are ingrained qualities. It will be a learning curve for all of us.

We know there are many more people out there in the community who are not in contact with a support service or who perhaps haven’t needed one before now. If that’s you or someone you know please don’t hesitate to get in touch — we’ve been here since 1976 and we’re still here for our community.

Coping With Social Isolation

If you are struggling emotionally right now here are some tips that might help.


  1. Acceptance — losing control of life as we know it is really tough for all of us. Coming to terms with the fact that none of us know what tomorrow will bring can help reduce the panic.
  2. Routine — our daily routines are all up in the air and don’t look like settling any time soon. If structure and routine are important to you try and put some small new routines in place. Or alternatively do things when they feel right for you.
  3. Positivity — life is seriously tough for so many people right now but even on the darkest days most of us can find something to bring a smile to our face. If you’re feeling low go in search of some good news. Try www.clydesider.org for some local good news stories or www.positive.news for a dose of the good stuff from around the world and www.actionforhappiness.org for top tips on staying happy.
  4. Awareness — being aware of what causes our emotions can give us some control over them. Hunger, lack of sleep, overload of negative news can all impact on our moods, if you can control these it helps control your emotions.
  5. It’s Okay To Not Be Okay — there’s no doubt this is one hell of a rollercoaster ride we’re all on right now — it’s okay to feel down so long as you have means of getting back up again. Think about what lightens your mood — this may need to be something new so why not try one of these activities below.

Take Action

  1. Get Creative — creativity is a great way to pass the time and with extra hours to fill you never know what talent you might discover. Knitting, baking, gardening, arts and crafts all help focus attention and have therapeutic qualities.
  2. Pamper Yourself — a bubble bath with a scented candle or a few drops of lavender oil can work wonders for low moods.
  3. Limit Your News Intake — whether it’s the telly, radio, social media or the papers an overload of news at a time like this isn’t good for anyone’s mental wellbeing.
  4. Get Fresh Air — unless you’re unwell there’s no need to be a prisoner in your own home. Try putting a chair at your back door or in the garden or if you are not isolating yourself take a stroll in one of our many beautiful open spaces and listen to the birds singing.
  5. Meditate — there are some great free meditation apps that you can put on your phone and do in your own time and space. Try Insight Timer it has the largest free library of guided meditations.

If you need help or advice, you can reach the team at DACA by phone on 01389 731456 (Dumbarton) or 0141 952 0881 (Clydebank). You can follow us on Twitter @DACA_WL or on Facebook – https://fb.me/DACA.WD

New Year, New You?

Swapping the Booze for the Hills

Did you kickstart 2020 with a Dry January?

If so we hope you are enjoying the benefits and we’d love to hear how you got on.

Two members of our team signed up for the national month-long alcohol-free challenge and within a couple of weeks were already noticing the benefits.

Reset Regular

Maryanne is a regular to the monthly alcohol reset button. Doing both Dry January and Sober October for several years now, she welcomes the time to focus on her overall well-being.

“For me, it’s about starting the new year healthy. That includes looking at my diet and thinking about what gives me the most energy over the winter months.

“Alcohol definitely takes up most of my energy — and I don’t consider myself a problematic drinker — but as I get older those couple of glasses of wine definitely make me feel sluggish.

“Having a busy social calendar I would have the opportunity to drink every week, so making a conscious decision not to do so during January, or October, helps remind me that it doesn’t have to be part of my social life.

“This can be a challenge for a lot of people, particularly if you grew up in the West of Scotland where alcohol is just seen as part of a night out. Thinking about it is probably more daunting than doing it though.

Feeling The Benefits

Energy to Get Outdoors

“Once I make the decision I don’t find it a challenge as I feel healthier, fitter, I have more energy, I’m out doing more walking and it doesn’t stop me from going out — I actually find myself enjoying that better as well.

“It’s probably easier for me as I’ve done it a few times now so there’s no pressure from my friends and I know I’m going to feel the benefit.”

While she isn’t being pressurised by friends or family to have a drink, Maryanne said the dry month does make her more aware of the subtle alcohol messaging that is all around her.

“I started noticing it in the run-up to Christmas when I was looking for wee gifts, and everything from coasters to cuddly toys to Christmas jumpers seemed to have alcohol promotion messages on them.

“It wasn’t advertising a specific brand but just drinking in general — the ‘wine o’clock’ and ‘time for a gin’ type slogans. They seemed to be everywhere.

“It normalises the idea of drinking and for a lot of people in the West of Scotland it is normal.


“I don’t think it is the advertising that persuades me to have a drink, I think it is a series of habits that I’ve built up over a lifetime from having a glass of wine or two with a meal or enjoying a drink with my friends when we’re on holiday.

“Doing Dry January makes me think about these habits and recognise that a lot of it is in my mind.”

Maryanne found her month without alcohol left her with more time and energy to do the things she might put off after a glass of wine. It also gave her time to do more walking and the things she enjoys.

Give It A Go

She added: “I think everyone should try it — no matter how much you drink or how long you stop for. There’s no need to wait for one of the official ‘dry’ months — why not set yourself a challenge, start with two or three weeks and see how you feel.

“At the start of the year when the weather is miserable and everyone seems to be battling the winter blues, it’s a good time to take some time off alcohol — you’ll be surprised at how much more energy you have.”

Dry January First-Timer

As a complementary therapist Anne is well versed in activities that improve health and wellness, but as a newbie to the Dry January challenge she was quite daunted at the prospect of not drinking for a month.

“I thought it would be difficult going out for something to eat or going to the pub without having a drink, but it’s been a lot easier than I expected.

“I also enjoy watching a film and having a few beers or wine in the house to relax at the weekend and I was dreading that, but instead I’ve had friends up and I’ve bought in alcohol-free beer for myself and I’ve not missed it.

“I didn’t have any cravings for alcohol, which I was really surprised about as I’ve never been without alcohol, apart from when I was pregnant.

“It’s always been part of the weekend whether socialising with friends or having a few drinks with my partner.”


Anne found a book by Cosmopolitan writer Catherine Gray — ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ — a real help throughout the month and, like the author, Anne is now contemplating pushing herself to a three month target.

Holding herself to account by keeping a daily journal which focuses her mind on her goal has also helped Anne.

Finding New, Healthier Ways to Socialise With Friends

“It helps you reset your habits which was a big factor in my drinking, and re-programme your brain so you don’t feel you need to drink in a specific place or time.

“I am really noticing the difference. I used to do a lot of running and that’s a good reason for me to keep off the alcohol as it means I can train harder.

“I did a race last week and was pleasantly surprised at my time. I’m also noticing I have lost a lot of bloating around my stomach — I weighed myself at the start of the month so I’m looking forward to seeing what the difference is at the end.

“I’ve also changed what I’m doing so when I’m socialising with friends we’re going to a tribute night rather than just meeting in the pub and if we go out for something to eat I’ll drive so we’re saving on taxis.

“It’s amazing how alcohol is part of every day life without you realising it. All in it’s been a good learning curve and I have really enjoyed it.”

If you fancy trying your own dry spell and want some help or advice contact DACA on 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881.

Want to Save Money, Lose Weight and Sleep Better?

2020: A fresh start…

As we bid farewell to 2019 and look forward to not just a new year but the dawn of a new decade many of us reflect on what we would like to do differently.

Personal health and fitness are usually top of our lists. Gym memberships are renewed, walking and cycling gear dusted down and dieting groups joined.

Yet there is one other healthy lifestyle choice which will not only help you lose weight but also save money, improve sleep patterns and long-term health and well-being.

Simply sign up to Dry January, kick the booze for a month and reset your relationship with alcohol.

It doesn’t cost a penny — in fact last year 88% of participants saved money!

And the benefits didn’t stop there, with 71% of participants reporting improved sleep patterns and 58% losing weight.

Plus research published in the British Medical Journal in 2018, showed that a month off booze lowers blood pressure, reduces diabetes risk, lowers cholesterol and reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

And you won’t be doing it alone — in 2018, four million people enjoyed the benefits of a Dry January.

The campaign, which was launched by Alcohol Change in 2013 with just 4,000 participants, is now a popular way for people from all walks of life to improve their relationship with alcohol.

Whether you like a few beers at the weekend, a couple of glasses of wine to unwind after work or a heavy session with your pals, taking one month out can make a huge difference to your health.

And the benefits don’t just disappear at the end of January. Research shows that Dry January participants are still drinking less six months later.

This has long term benefit for all aspects of health as alcohol is linked with over 60 health conditions, including liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and seven types of cancer.

In fact, alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15–49 in the UK.

Cutting back on alcohol reduces your risk of developing these conditions.

So if you’re interested in a new you for the new year but you’re not sure where to start, check out Alcohol Change’s Dry January Toolkit.

You can download a free Dry January app to your phone which helps you track the units, calories and money you’re saving.

And read how others are coping with the challenge in their Dry January blog which also has lots of tips, advice and alcohol-free reviews.

If you’re struggling to stay off the booze and looking for some extra support or wanting help to make this a long-term life change give us a call at DACA.

Our team of staff and volunteers have helped thousands of people from our community over the years and we’re here to help you too.

Just call us on 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881 or pop into our offices at Westbridgend Lodge, Dumbarton G82 4AD or 82 Dumbarton Road, Clydebank G81 1UG.

And don’t wait until January to sign-up, download the app now or add your name to the millions of others who will be starting 2020 on a healthier footing, sign up now. Let us know how you get on — we’re rooting for you.

A Manifesto To Tackle Alcohol Harm

At Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA), we see first-hand the human cost of alcohol harm.

We see people suffering with chronic poor health, dying well before their time.

We see spouses struggling to stay together as the ripple effect of a partner’s drinking takes its toll.

We see children separated from their parents because home is not a safe place to be.

We see vulnerable people trying to dull the pain of childhood trauma inadvertently creating a whole new world of harm for themselves.

And we only see a fraction of the people in our community who are suffering from alcohol-related harm.

We know that the scale of the problem is so large that most people reading this will know someone — a friend, a neighbour, a family member or a work colleague — who has been affected by the harms of alcohol.

Alcohol is an integral part of our culture which we associate with having a good time but the societal costs of our collective hangover is now reaching epic proportions and, as usual, it is the poorest communities and families who are hardest hit.

The Problem

It doesn’t have to be like this. Evidence from around the world shows there are effective laws which governments can enact to drastically reduce the harm of alcohol across the whole population, and particularly for high risk groups.

The most effective way to change behaviour and reduce alcohol consumption is legislative, although the drinks industry has a powerful lobbying machine which doesn’t want to see measures introduced which will impact their profits. The Scotch Whisky Association went to considerable lengths to try and thwart the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing policy, and was able to hold up its implementation for over five years. And they continue to push government towards a reduction in domestic taxation on alcohol.

At DACA we are asking our parliamentary candidates to listen to the needs of our community — not just the drinks industry.

Here are some policies and laws they could support which will have long-lasting positive impact for people in West Dunbartonshire.

The Solutions

So next time a parliamentary candidate comes calling and looking for your vote why not ask them what they intend to do to reduce the harmful impact of alcohol on our community.

Bill Nye, The Science Guy explaining a simple principle of economics. Ask your candidate what’s more important to them — alcohol industry profits or community health?

The Questions

  • Will you support mandatory unit/calorie/ingredient labelling on alcohol? Why should the drinks industry be allowed to regulate this themselves when all other food and drink products are clearly marked?
  • Will you vote in favour of increasing alcohol duties, particularly on high strength ciders and spirits?
  • Will you support establishing an independent body to regulate alcohol marketing and advertising?

We’d love to know how you get on — DM us on Twitter or drop us an email to email@daca.org.uk

Alcohol & Me…Christopher’s Story

Photo & quote by Barry, who took part in one of DACA’s photography groups

For most young people drinking is about going out and getting off your head and then when you sober up the next day you just get on with your business.

From the outside my drinking probably looked the same as this but when others went to get on with their lives I just wanted to keep drinking. I just didn’t seem to have an off-switch, it was either all or nothing, I would just keep going until I couldn’t see or couldn’t walk.

Alcohol made me feel much better and more comfortable with myself.

I was always paranoid about being an alcoholic. I had an idea in my head what an ‘alcoholic’ looked like and it definitely wasn’t a 22 year old.

It was someone who was old and who was drinking every day so I couldn’t be an alcoholic and then when I was drinking every day I moved the goalposts and you had to be drinking on your own to be an alcoholic, so that couldn’t be me — until it was. No-one else was saying anything to me, it was just in my head but there were fewer places to hide from myself.

Towards the end of my drinking I was living a day at a time but in a negative sense. I would wake up every day with a hangover and tell myself I wasn’t drinking again and then consistently failing.

As the day went on something would happen in my brain and it would start building a case as to why drinking was a good idea, it was so insidious and sleekit.

By the time they were calling last orders later that evening it was like it was last orders for the last time, ever. That was my normal.

The idea of being 22 and sober wasn’t much fun. All you see is everyone out and enjoying themselves.

I remember a pal asking me what I wanted to do with my life and I told him I just wanted a job that paid enough so I could get my own flat and drink. I just couldn’t imagine myself beyond 30, I just didn’t expect to be around.

Before I went to AA I was hitting my rock bottom on an almost daily basis. The day of my last drink wasn’t much different to the rest of the nights when I was walking home having a good cry to myself and going to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up.

The only difference was the next day I didn’t drink, I went to an AA meeting.

After I accepted I couldn’t do it on my own and went to AA I heard others sharing versions of my story. I started to do the things they advised — I went to meetings, joined a group, got a sponsor and did the 12 Steps.

Together this made a difference, it’s the recipe that worked for me.

Did You Know?

Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol provides 1–1 counselling support, groups and activities to help reach your drinking goal — you set the goal and choose what works for you.

A lot of our clients use the AA fellowship for additional support — and that’s completely fine. There’s no single pathway that works for everyone, so we encourage people to try as many different services as they need until they find the ‘recipe’ that works for them.

Call 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881 or pop into our offices at Westbridgend Lodge, Westbridgend, Dumbarton G82 4AD or 82 Dumbarton Road, Clydebank G81 1UG.


Alcohol & Me…Amanda’s Story

“Alcohol wasn’t really a thing when I was growing up. My parents only drank an occasional sherry or half lager on special occasions and from my teens I was taking medication for epilepsy which meant I couldn’t drink — if I did I increased my risk of a seizure.

So my first encounter with alcohol as a destructive force was a real shock, one that left me quite literally scarred for life.

To be fair it’s not a big scar — about two inches long at the top of my right thigh.

That was the side the car hit me in the college car park.

I had just come out of the college welcome disco with my friends and was looking for my Dad’s car for my lift home.

From nowhere a car sped towards us and, uncomfortable in heels, I was unable to run fast enough to get out of the way. I remember rolling on to and then back off the car bonnet before watching its tail-lights as they disappeared into the dark.

Turns out the driver was a fellow student a couple of years older than myself who had a few drinks and thought he would still be okay to drive home. Since he didn’t stop he never got charged with drink-driving. When he was tracked down he claimed he only had a couple of drinks and would have been under the limit.

Maybe he was, who knows?

Today, if I’m driving I won’t have a drink — not even one. Legally I could have a small wine or a gin and tonic, but I know my brain isn’t functioning at its full capacity after that first drink so it’s just not worth the risk.

I don’t want to scar anyone else’s life.”

Do You Know If You Are Over The Limit?

Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol provides information on the Chief Medical Officer’s low risk drinking guidelines and unit measures.

Call 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881 or pop into our offices at Westbridgend Lodge, Westbridgend, Dumbarton G82 4AD or 82 Dumbarton Road, Clydebank G81 1UG.

#AlcoholAndMe #MakeAChange #SaveALife

Alcohol & Me…Mags’ Story

It’s good to talk: DACA’s alcohol counsellors are on hand to provide support if you need it.

Growing up, I would have sooner sewn my own mouth closed than tell anyone that my daddy was a drinker.

I thought it was shameful, something to keep within the family — because I always heard the adults — usually my aunties and my mum — talking about it in hushed tones. It was never openly discussed with me, and I never felt it was my right to ask.

I was only five when my dad moved out of the house, but even at that age I could tell that this event brought some relief to my mum as well as sadness and hardship.

Throughout all my childhood, I never told a single soul about my dad’s drinking; not a teacher, not a priest, not even a best friend.

I suspect a lot of people knew because in a small town like this, that sort of thing is hard to keep quiet, but denial and obfuscation became my skillset.

I didn’t know what to think about my dad; there were so many conflicting emotions swirling around in me, and I couldn’t settle on an overriding one. So how could I speak to anyone else about him?

I was 14 when my dad died. His death certificate said the cause of death was ‘ischemic heart disease’ but it was the drink that killed him.

I was resentful for a very long time about losing my dad, and I carried it all, silently, inside me.

It wasn’t until I started working with people who were struggling with alcohol misuse disorder that I started to heal.

I’m now in a position to see that the way my family dealt with our situation wasn’t healthy. I had no opportunity to ask all the questions that plagued my thoughts; to vent, to cry, to share emotions and feel solidarity with my brothers.

It’s so important to talk and get things out in the open.

There’s nothing shameful about asking for help.

Did You Know?

Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol provides support for family members affected by a loved one’s drinking.

Call 01389 731456 or 0141 9520881 or pop into our office at Westbridgend Lodge, Westbridgend, Dumbarton G82 4AD 82 Dumbarton Road, Clydebank G81 1UG.

#AlcoholAwarenessWeek #AlcoholAndMe