The No escape: how alcohol advertising preys on children and vulnerable people report highlights the ways in which alcohol marketing can impact those in recovery.
In this blog, Peter and Nikki share their stories of recovery and shine a light upon how alcohol marketing can make the journey more difficult.
“I try to put alcohol out of my mind and then an advert appears on TV” – Peter’s story
Peter is nearly two years sober after undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction, which led to family breakup and losing his job. Now living with liver disease, he says that drinking again would seriously put his health at risk.
“I knew I had to stop, so tried several times over a few years and ended up being hospitalised numerous times for alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Each time I would spend between 4-12 days detoxing, and I promised I would stop drinking but my addiction was too strong.
“Recovery is the best thing I ever did but it’s so hard when alcohol advertising is a constant pressure telling you to drink. It can make it much more difficult and means you are never really free of what you need to avoid. There are lots of people like me who have been through, or are going through recovery, but we are never heard because of the stigma around alcohol.
“It is seasonal – you get lots of advertising during the summer. There is nothing worse than on a hot day or after a day’s work then seeing a picture or advert on TV of a cold pint of lager – it’s still difficult now. But Christmas is definitely the worst time of all, especially with adverts for spirits. It is everywhere – the ads you see on the TV during commercial breaks and during football matches, to the cut price drink deals that follow you around the supermarket from the moment you walk in.
There is nothing worse than on a hot day or after a day’s work then seeing a picture or advert on TV of a cold pint of lager – it’s still difficult now.Peter
“I try to put alcohol out of my mind and then an advert appears on TV and every part of your body and mind tells you to have a drink, especially if you’ve had a stressful day. You have to steel yourself against it – the way I try to cope is by talking to someone or by going to a meeting just to stop me from craving a drink.
“I would support more restrictions on alcohol advertising like stopping the cut price drinks offers and a 9pm watershed so they’re not seen and heard by as many children, giving kids the message that everything about drinking is normal. I don’t want my son to follow me. But the reality is that money usually talks.”
“The way alcohol companies now promote adverts using low alcohol brands strikes me as pretty cynical, like during Euro 2020. They might work for some people, but I blame zero alcohol drinks for at least two relapses when I hit the bottle again. At the end of the day an alcohol brand is alcohol, and it tells you to drink.”
“You don’t see it until you stop drinking” – Nikki’s story
Nikki has been sober for just over a year.
“During the very early days of sobriety, alcohol seemed to be everywhere – on the TV, in magazines, and promoted heavily at the supermarket. I remember going out of my way to avoid the alcohol aisle but still found alcohol offers available alongside the meat and cheese! As I walked round the supermarket, Christmas baubles filled with gin, alcohol advent calendars and alcohol-themed Christmas presents were simply unavoidable – I couldn’t get away.
“I had never really noticed the fact that alcohol is everywhere until I stopped drinking. You turn the TV on to a show like This Morning or Saturday Kitchen, and the presenters are tasting new alcoholic drinks at 10 o’clock in the morning – how is this allowed?
“The adverts make out that drinking will improve your life and is something needed to have fun. Of course, the marketing never shows anything about the darker side of drinking. Never do adverts say you can end up drunk, addicted, vomiting bile, arguing with friends and family, driving over the limit, snapping at your children or getting them into bed earlier than normal so you can drink after that stressful day at work. Shouldn’t we be hearing more about these sorts of risks?
The adverts make out that drinking will improve your life and is something needed to have fun. Of course, the marketing never shows anything about the darker side of drinking.Nikki
“Every day, the adverts and messages to drink more come through to us, via sports, movies, adverts, music, the list is endless. You can’t advertise mamba or cocaine, but you can advertise alcohol. Tobacco is legal but it can’t be advertised any more. Why is this not the same with alcohol?”
Written by Peter and Nikki
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, there is help available.
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. Calls are free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9.00am to 8.00pm, weekends 11.00am to 4.00pm).
More information about organisations which offer help and support can be found on our support page.
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.