Thursday, 20 October 2016

Phil Collins and 'Mid-Life' Drinking

The prevailing wisdom about alcoholism seems to be that it is a disease that you are born with (or not).

Therefore, you're either an alcoholic, in which case you can never drink 'normally', or (like the vast majority of people) you're not, in which case you can quaff away as much as you like without ever getting into trouble.

But that's not what I see in this blog, or in the e-mails I get from readers.

There are many women I've come across who have always had a dysfunctional relationship with booze, who have been aware from the moment they had their first taste of alcohol that the way they drink is not like other people.

However, I also hear from a huge number of people (like me) who drank 'normally' for years, decades even, only to find that in the forties or fifties it bites them in the arse.

So, I say hurrah for Phil Collins, who has recently published his memoir which led to this headline in the Telegraph yesterday: Phil Collins and the rise of mid-lifers drinking their way to oblivion.

I've always been fond of Phil Collins. For a start there's that awesome drum solo in 'In the Air Tonight.'

Also, I remember watching his video for 'You Can't Hurry Love' on Top of the Pops with my Mum. He used a particularly avant guarde technique which meant there were three identical images of him on screen simultaneously.

"Oh, I like this band," says my Mum. "Who are they?"

"The Collins Triplets," I replied. For years afterwards my Mum referred to 'those nice Collins triplets', which cracked me and my brother up every time.

Anyhow, Phil says "I stopped work because I wanted to be a dad at home. As bad luck would have it, as soon as I retired, my family split up. I didn't have anyone to go home to. That's why I started drinking."

"It took me until the age of 55 to become an alcoholic. I got through the heady 1960s, the trippy 1970s, the imperial 1980s, the busy 1990s. I was retired, content, and then I fell. Because I suddenly had too much time on my hands."

I've heard that story time and time again. Many of my readers drank perfectly happily until redundancy, divorce, bereavement or caring for a special needs child tipped them over the edge.

For me it was just that peculiar mix of stress and boredom that comes with being a stay at home mum.

Phil started with a glass of wine in the afternoons while watching the cricket. Gradually that turned into a couple of bottles, then vodka at breakfast time and, eventually, he was hospitalised with pancreatitis and nearly died.

The Telegraph article cites a major study of more than 9,000 people published last summer which concluded that drinking among the over-50s had become a hidden “middle class” phenomenon, and the higher somebody’s income the more at risk they are.

The number of over 65s admitted to hospitals in England and Wales for alcohol related disorders increased by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2014.

Research commissioned by a lottery funded scheme to reduce alcohol related issues in the over 50s found 17 per cent of them class themselves as “increasing risk drinkers”. 40 per cent blamed it on retirement, 26 per cent on bereavement and 20 per cent on a loss of sense of purpose.

Those aged between 55 and 64 are the most likely to die an alcohol related death. Often these are people who would never class themselves as 'alcoholics' but who have shared a bottle of wine over dinner every night for twenty years or more.

Hopefully, articles like this (click here to read the full text) will encourage more people like us to find help and to turn their lives around.

So, thank you, Collins triplets. You still rock. All of you.

Love SM x


  1. That's one of the reasons your blog is so lovely SM. I've never been able to identify with people who started drinking in their early teens and instantly started sneaking alcohol with no "off switch." That was never me, I couldn't understand that at all, but a stay at home mum, being busy but brain-dead, that I could understand. I suspect most of us who follow your blog are in the same boat too. That's why you resonate with us so much.

  2. Nice bit of research, SM! I concur with your findings (at least for me). It never would have occurred to me to get completely wasted BY MYSELF when I was in my 20's. One simply did not drink alone.

  3. I am also one who started drinking when home with small children, then going through a divorce. It didn't start to really kick in until my about age 45, when I switched from beer to wine. At 50, I went with martinis, but had enough sober periods to last a while. Once you hit liquor, however, the descent is swift. So glad that Phil and I are "on the wagon."

  4. Hi Sober Mummy, I gave up drinking on March 1st this year and am currently heading towards eight months sober now. Since I quit I have been posting an occasional diary (just a few posts really) on the blog called “Stopping Drinking” which belongs to another ex-drinker called James, and it was while I was doing a bit of back-reading on his comments that I came across the link you left with a comment on his blog back in March last year.

    I decided to start at the beginning of your journey and read the whole blog from day 1 (I'm currently reading the posts in the middle of April 2015) and just thought I would drop a line saying how much I am enjoying the read, and how I can relate to every step you have taken, the highs and the lows of the early weeks and months, and just how much I agree with the many observations concerning alcohol (and it's various accompanying issues) that you make.

    You make a reference to Allen Carr in one of your very early posts, I found his book “No more hangovers” such a massive help during my early weeks, and I believe that it was this book that played a large part in cementing my decision to completely give up alcohol.

    While I am here, I would also like to mention what a wonderfully eloquent way you have of getting your thoughts and points across, you certainly have a writing style and wit that keeps the reader's interest.

    Well done with the blog, it is beautifully written, inspirational and entertaining too, it is a joy to read.

    If you wish to take a glance at my diary you can find it here:-

    No worries either way. :)

    Best wishes.

    1. Hi Steve! So glad you found us, and thanks for your link! I'll check you out. Huge congrats to you. Love SM x

  5. Hi, SM, chimes completely with me. Paradoxically, now I don't drink I have more time to do stuff (not work!!!). My job has also been a contributor to my drinking - its in the culture of the business, although things have eased in the last decade or so but those of us of a certain age probably find it harder to break the habits ingrained 20/30 years ago. I was with some ofd my extended family at a funeral recently where my refusal to drink and obvious weight loss (positive) required some explaining - many of my extended family are successful and drink fairly heavily - this has taken its toll along the way as indicated in some of my earlier comments. Anyway, still sober here and having fun.


  6. Totally relate to Phil & his late onset alcoholic dependence. What I can't understand however is the fact he says he has a glass or two of wine every now & again. Surely not Phil... how do you manage that? Pretty risky if you ask me!

    1. I agree, Lizziewizz! I was so upset by that that I didn't even mention it! After nearly 3 years sober. I suspect he'll be back on the vodka before long which is a terrible shame....

    2. Well - some folks can manage that - there are groups like moderation management - where problem drinkers have learned to moderate. I tried and couldn't - but some do. If he's given up his favorite beverage and only occasionally has one that isn't - and he keeps it rare - he might be fine - but for many (including me) it's a slippery slope and much easier just to say no - every single time.

    3. Here's a 13 minute discussion from another sober blogger - again for me abs is so much easier (and it took me many painful years to get there) but perhaps my trying and failing is what opened my eyes to abs? That and SM's awesome blog.

  7. Thank you SM, another brilliant post...I too have completely different view of alcohol at nearly 7 months AF ...having been bitten on the bum for nearly 20 yrs...since my post natal depression...finally free, just to live the rest of my life warts and all...with a lot of gratitubto your posts..x

  8. Yes, I read this and thought I wonder how you will manage the "couple of glasses" of vino?

    Tinny Woodall was in The Times the other week talking about her abstinence, amongst other things. It's behind the paywall but an interesting read for all those "What Not to Wear" era women of a certain age out there.

    I always had a bit of a love/hate view of Trinny, but do admire her honesty and work ethic.