How alcohol fuels violence against children

located by Ruthoz

February 24, 2015 – 12:37PM
 A new report shows nearly half of the child protection cases in Australia involve alcohol A new report shows nearly half of the child protection cases in Australia involve alcohol Photo: Stocksy

David McDonald remembers this case.

McDonald, a country town paediatrician for nearly thirty years, saw this one kid. Blood everywhere.

He puts it more clinically.  The child presented with an injury from being the collateral damage, coming between his father and his mother during a “physical altercation”.

Glass everywhere. Blood everywhere.

“This poor frightened little kid and everyone trying to cover up what really happened.”

Alcohol is what happened.

McDonald, of Port Macquarie, is angry and disappointed because the Australian cricket team has an ad for Victoria Bitter beer on its shirt. It’s just another way to say alcohol is ok in any setting, at any time.

“And you can’t even give people messages about the harms because it is so legitimised by the widespread intrusion into advertising,” says McDonald.

Tuesday marks the launch by Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, of The Hidden Harm report: alcohol’s impact on children and families. Published by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and based on the work of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, the report is devastating.

The numbers are so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to start – but one in five carers reported that their children had been affected in some way by others’ drinking habits. One in six was negatively affected by a family member or partner’s drinking.

And more than three million Australian adults said they had been affected by the drinking of others. Of the five million children in Australia, one-third live with a risky drinker. The effect? For the luckier ones, it’s “verbal abuse”.  For the rest, it’s blood and bruises.

The research also looked at the effect over time, between 2008 and 2011. One third of the kids who suffered in 2008 were still suffering in 2011.

David McDonald says that in his country town – and everywhere else he has worked: “Alcohol is the most dangerous drug: in terms of domestic violence, social dislocation, harms to individuals.”

Batty, utterly engrossing on the ABC’s QandA last night, is clear-eyed about so much. She says: “We shouldn’t forget that violence is a choice.

“Alcohol doesn’t cause violence but there is clearly a substantial link and it inflames and fuels the potential for violence,” she said.

FARE’s chief executive Michael Thorn revealed that half of reported domestic violence incidents throughout Australia and nearly half of the child protection cases in Australia involve alcohol – and while it is terrific to know the numbers, we now need to work on the cause. And that requires a public health approach.

Moo Baulch, the CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, is delighted by the work of the report – not because she welcomes the bad news but because she wants the discussion.

“We have to make sure that the right conversation is had about alcohol and domestic violence – violent behaviour is always a choice and there is no excuse.”

But she says alcohol is so engrained in our culture – and we have to change the culture to change our attitudes. That’s not a policy change – that’s a change in the national psyche.

“We know that when there are sporting events or national holidays, there’s a spike in alcohol-related violence.”

Is that true?

More young people  require emergency medical attention for alcohol-related incidents on Australia Day than on any other public holiday, according to a 2012 VicHealth and Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre study.

And Andrew Finckh, director of Sutherland Hospital Emergency Department and an emergency physician at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, says there are spikes on New Year’s Eve and New year’s Day, as well as Australian Day.

“There’s a continuing association between celebrating significant events and over-indulgence in alcohol, there’s a normalisation of that overindulgence.”

Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, welcomes the FARE report. She says we need more work about the nexus between alcohol and family violence.

“Alcohol is a contributing factor but not a causal factor  . . . [but] we know it’s an exacerbator,” she says.

And reports like these show just how important it is that all the agencies involved must work together to combat violence against women: drugs, alcohol, mental health.

Batty agrees: “Organisations must work together to be more collaborative, instead of working in silos.”

“[That way] preventative measures can be implemented.”

We need those measures now. Thorn of FARE reveals that some of those families who struggle with parental alcohol misuse are probably not in the service system at all and might even be hidden to authorities. They don’t show up on any organisations records until it’s way too late.

The research says we need to focus on the problems of alcohol across the population. And one way to do that is to limit drinking. Australia needs a price signal for alcohol.

Six ways to stop alcohol-related family violence

1. Education campaigns which show and tell the link between alcohol and violence

2. Targeted screening of those young people who are at greater risk of harm

3. Reduce availability

4. Target the price of alcohol. Here’s a good time to send a price signal where we really need it.

5. Regulate promotion. Get those obnoxious beer ads off our sportspeople

6. Drug and alcohol services should work in collaboration with domestic violence, child protection and mental health

Four Step Program


by Ruthoz

I applied this technique while I was still drinking. I did find it helpful for a while, but at that time I had no other support mechanisms in place, and it was resigned to the failure basket, which at that stage, was over-flowing. My advice to people wishing to quit drinking is to try a bit of everything and see what works, and as to that end I am sharing this information. For those concerned about sugar consumption it might offer a new approach. Me, I am just grateful it’s only chocolate I am binging on these days!


The Four Step Program
You can teach your brain to stop sending messages of craving and need – it’s going to take time and effort, but according to Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and his 4 Step Program, through conscious awareness you can teach your mind to retrain your brain!


The 4 Steps was originally developed at UCLA as a treatment for OCD but it is now also used to treat a variety of impulsive, obsessive and compulsive disorders, such as sex and internet addiction, compulsive gambling, compulsive eating and many others.

Combining mindfulness techniques of conscious awareness and cognitive behaviour techniques of thought and behavioural change, the 4 Steps program is effective in helping you to realize 2 goals:

1. Overcoming immediate urges to engage in a destructive behaviour
2. Retraining your brain through conscious awareness so that urges weaken and occur less frequently over time

The philosophy behind the program is that your mind and your brain are not the same. Your brain influences your thoughts (your mind) and through this it can influence behaviours (such as drinking, or gambling etc.).

However, the same process can occur in reverse – your mind can also influence and change your brain and in doing so can help keep you from behaviours you feel to be negative. Through directed, intentional and conscious thinking (mindfulness) you can retrain your brain to stop sending harmful messages to your mind.

• When your brain sends an urge message and you give into it – you strengthen the brain pattern
• When your brain sends an urge message and you fight it – you also strengthen that brain pattern
• But when your brain sends an urge message and you acknowledge it, recognize its true source and re-label it as a false and harmful message – you weaken the brain pattern
Over time, as you practice the 4 Steps and as you deal intentionally with urges, you break the power of these false messages from your brain.

Here’s how it works:
The 4 Steps to Breaking Free from Behavioural Addiction
1. Relabel
2. Reattribute
3. Refocus
4. Revalue

Step One: Relabel
The first step in the 4 step program is to relabel negative cravings or urges and to do this in a very deliberate and conscious way.
Without conscious awareness, cravings from the brain to the mind are often interpreted as a ‘need’ – for example, “I need to gamble right now” or “I need a chocolate bar right now”.
Of course, a craving for chocolate is not really a true ‘need’ and no one has ever died from delaying a session of gambling! However, because we pay only superficial attention to the craving and instead focus great attention on our interpretation of the craving – our perceived need to go do something – we lose perspective on the true nature of what’s occurring and we give far more power to cravings and urges then they rightfully deserve.
• When you turn your conscious attention onto the reality of the craving, however, you remove much of its power.
• When you feel an urge or a craving to engage in some sort of negative act, instead of wasting energy fighting to suppress the craving, turn your attention like a spotlight onto the craving itself.
You want to look at the craving from the perspective of an impartial outsider observing something at a distance and tell yourself that what you’re experiencing is not a true need but rather a negative craving that will lead to unhappiness. Don’t try to deny or suppress the craving, feel it – but literally talk to yourself, and deliberately and assertively relabel what you are feeling:
“This is not a true need I’m feeling and I don’t have to act on it. This is just a craving and the need I feel right now is not real and it will pass in a few minutes, though it may come back again.”1
Remember that your relabeling these cravings will not make them go away (right away)*. These cravings come from a biological source (the brain) that is beyond your immediate control – what you can control, however, is how you come to interpret and respond to these cravings.2
*With repetition, controlling your response to cravings will reduce their intensity and frequency.

Step Two: Reattribute
Dr. Schwartz wrote a book on the use of the Four Steps entitled, ‘You Are Not Your Brain’, and the title of the book effectively captures the philosophy of the program and especially the importance of the second step.
That you are not your brain means that though your brain may send messages, you do not have to act on them.
When you experience a craving, as you relabel it and recognize it as an artificial need, you need to also reattribute the source of the craving. You again literally tell yourself that:
1. This craving is coming from my brain
2. Some of my neurochemistry and brain function is impaired due to my addiction (or OCD or compulsive disorder) and this is why I feel a craving. My brain is sending me false messages
3. I can ride this craving like a wave and it will fade away, but another one will come up sooner or later, and when it does, I will relabel it and reattribute it yet again. I do not have to listen to the false messages sent by a brain that is not working as it should.
4. If I give in to this craving it will make the craving go away for a short time but it will make the cravings I feel in the future even stronger. If I pay attention, relabel and reattribute and choose not to give in to the maladaptive messages my brain sends I will start to change my brain’s neurochemistry and I will weaken the intensity of future cravings.
Cravings are lies. In the reattribution phase you concentrate on telling yourself the truth about what’s really going on.

Step Three: Refocus
The third step is a very practical action in any battle against craving.
Cravings can be strong but fortunately, if you don’t give in, they tend to go away.
So knowing that, once you’ve relabeled and reattributed the craving, all you have to do is buy yourself a little time by refocusing your attention elsewhere for a few minutes.
Say to yourself:
“I am experiencing a craving to do something that I don’t want to do. Although it feels like I have to give in to this craving I know this is simply a false message from a brain that isn’t working quite right due to my addiction (or compulsion). To make it easier for me to choose another action I am going to refocus my attention by going for a walk for 15 minutes.”
In the refocusing step, you engage in an activity that diverts your attention elsewhere for a specific length of time, say 15 or 20 minutes. The activity should be something that you enjoy doing and which diverts your attention away from your cravings – exercise of any kind is always a very good option.

Step Four: Revalue
In this last step you take a moment to remind yourself why you have chosen not to engage in whatever negative activity you struggle with.
Without deliberate attention and awareness toward truth, moments of craving cause us to focus selectively on the rewarding aspects of the behavior we crave and to think very little about the many negative consequences that in reality accompany the action.
• When craving a visit to the casino you might dream about the excitement of the game and the way playing helps you to relax and forget your worries. During a moment of craving you probably do not spend much time thinking about the financial problems gambling has brought nor about the humiliation of losing your savings.
So after you have refocused your attention away from the craving and after the immediate urge wave has crested and subsided in intensity take a moment to revalue the source of your craving. Think honestly about what your gambling or sex addiction or whatever has done to your life and think about what would likely happen if you gave in to your cravings. Remember specific examples from your last binge or episode and think about the people in your life you have hurt in the past through your actions.

Practicing the 4 Steps
You are not your addiction. You do not have to listen to what your addiction tells you to do. You cannot change how your addiction makes you feel but you can control how you respond to the urges and cravings you experience – and in the end, it’s what you do that matters.
The four steps can work as a self help program for anyone battling against behavioral addiction and they may also work well as an adjunct cravings management program for people with drug or alcohol addictions.
The four steps do not work, however, unless they are practiced on a daily basis and unless they are practiced in a very conscious and deliberate way – you need to wrest control away from a brain that’s on destructive autopilot and you can’t do that unless your mind starts paying attention to the twist and turns in the road!

Read more: A Four-Step Program to Beating Behavioral Addiction


by Ruthoz


• The disease model ¬- characterised by helplessness, the disease is chronic (always present and incurable)
• The psycho/social model – characterised by poor choice making, personality issues, lack of self-discipline in challenging situations
• Genetics – some of us are born predisposed to addictions (but don’t necessarily develop them)
• Environment – our family, friends and workplace influence our behaviours


• Counselling
• Group support (of which AA is the best known; based upon and an advocate for the disease model)
• Medication
• Hypnotherapy
• Books, diets, retreat programs, other commercial ‘cures’

My history

I first became sober in 1991 after 18 years of abusive drinking, and remained so for five years. For the first six months, I went to AA daily, including an intensive three-week rehab. I still didn’t get it though, and eventually irritation with the ‘power greater than myself’ issue drove me away. Apart from that, they all smoked non-stop and the coffee was vile. (Despite the fact AA has detrimental effects on some, there are ideas I have taken from there into my own sobriety).

However, life was a very definite ‘then and now’, and as such, my new life just took off. I started my master’s degree, reacquainted myself with chocolate bars and found a strong personality (oops!). The now was to be preserved and pursued at all cost. And cost it did, as I lost my partner to someone needier. The new me wasn’t as acceptable! Full of optimism I battled on and eventually settled down again. This time the man in my life didn’t understand the alcoholic person I will always be. And the alcoholic person jumped at his argument – hey, maybe I am cured, and can in fact have just one drink! Within a few months I was back to drinking again – heavily, secretly, disastrously. Sigh, AA got that right. Read and learn my friends, that was to last for another 15 years.

My current sobriety began on November 13th 2013. It was a day like many before it, that of being too sick to lift a glass, let alone drink from it, feeling all the self-revulsion, remorse and the feeling – here we go again … I made many attempts to stop drinking again and desperately wanted my old life back. This time I found on-line support, and made friends with people in similar circumstances. I was able to experience the understanding of the AA meeting attendees without the philosophy and dogma. Now I can speak with my new friends daily, and at all hours, as some are on the opposite side of the world. I have travelled and met with them. It’s my own little community and we are supporting each other and ourselves.

My plate
Group support has been vital for me. I need to be reminded daily that I have issues with alcohol and cannot touch it. The disease model works for me. Trying to control my drinking was a miserable pastime dogged by fear of failure and a desire for more. It dominated my life whatever the quantity, and simply is not worth the risks involved. I am comfortable accepting that I am a person for whom alcohol is not possible at all. There is far too much to lose anyway. The label does not bother me. It’s a good shorthand. The politically correct version would be ‘I am a person with alcoholism’. Too wordy. In a social situation I usually say, ‘No thanks. I have problems with it.’ And leave it at that.

I have tried medication. But if you believe what AA tell us about the cunningness of alcoholism you can work out for yourself what happens with medication. Either it isn’t taken, or one simply drinks more and faster to break through the effect. I have used Naltrexone when I have felt vulnerable – with mixed results. For me it’s nothing or all, and I don’t want all again, ever.

As for counselling, I find that a bit too trite and convenient. My life has no deep dark secrets. I am no more nor less confident in social settings than anyone else. My childhood was happy. I can do all their tests and answer all their questions, they are pretty obvious. No light bulb moments there.

I haven’t read books about fixing alcoholism in three weeks, though there are plenty of those around. There are plenty of diets too. Let’s just say I am a cynic, and if the research hasn’t been done, I am not spending big bucks on something to make someone else richer. Making money from our misfortune is, I think, immoral anyway.

So my advice is to pile your plate up with as many samples as you fancy. Try a bit of everything. Don’t be afraid to try something new and unfamiliar. Find out what approach, or combination of approaches, works for you. And stick with it.