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Kayleigh - Interview 12

Age at interview: 23
Brief Outline: Kayleigh, a university graduate, described herself as a 'late starter' when it comes to drinking alcohol. She says that she didn't have a clue about how much to drink when she was a teenager and would get too drunk. She thinks that health professionals should make women more aware of risks to the baby that drinking alcohol has during pregnancy.
Background: Kayleigh is married and lives with her husband and their two small children. She worked full-time until a couple of years ago but now she describes herself as a 'stays at home mum'. She is involved in the activities of her local YWCA [now Platform 51] and her children attend their creche. Ethnic background: British.

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Kayleigh, a university graduate, describes herself as a ‘late starter’ when it came to drinking alcohol. By the age of fourteen or fifteen Kayleigh and her friends realised that they were the ‘odd ones out’ and began to drink alcohol like other young people they knew. She remembers her first alcoholic drink was cheap cider and didn’t really enjoy it so she stopped until she was seventeen and then started trying more expensive drinks. 

Although underage she had no difficulty in getting hold of vodka. She says that she didn’t have a clue about drinking so she would drink double or triple vodka and would be completely ‘flat out’. There was one situation in which she was completely drunk and got a taxi back home but realised she didn’t have enough money. The taxi driver, however, made sure she got home safe. Looking back, she thinks that is a classic example of putting herself at risk when drunk and considers herself ‘lucky’.
 
Kayleigh remembers that teenagers would often come into school on Monday and boast about their ‘drunken adventures’ over the weekend. But she thinks it’s not just teenagers that boast about it. For instance, Facebook is often used by those in their twenties or thirties to put their ‘drunk’ pictures. She thinks it’s a problem in British culture that people think they can’t have a good time without alcohol.
 
After she met her now husband she stopped drinking alcohol. She described herself as a shy teenager and found that alcohol made it easier to meet boys. She describes her mother as a casual drinker and her husband drinks very little now, and her father finds it difficult to understand that they don’t drink.
 
When she was pregnant with her second child she did a project on alcohol and pregnancy at the YWCA [now Platform 51] and was shocked to find out about the effects of alcohol on the unborn child. She thinks that health professionals, midwives in particular should make women more aware of it.
 
Kayleigh says that she has never tried any drugs and never been offered them either. She thinks that two main factors protected her from drugs; love and concern for her grandmother, and the fact that none of her friends were interested in experimenting with drugs.
 

When Kayleigh was a teenager, her group of friends were involved in activities that meant they didn’t come into contact with drugs.

When Kayleigh was a teenager, her group of friends were involved in activities that meant they didn’t come into contact with drugs.

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Like I said my group of friends we were all the same so we all, like we would, where people probably went out drinking and stuff when they were younger hanging around we, we used to just go tothe cinema and stuff or like hang around each other’s houses, or go shopping, and those, kind of like young, young stuff, you know, because now I think, you know, teenagers are like more older aren’t they than, for their years? But we were kind of just the right stage. So, but I think because we never hung round with anybody who did those things we never did it, I think it’s very much the friends you hang round with, if you hang around with people who drink, if you hang around people who do drugs you are more likely to do it, but I mean I was lucky because you meet people around who say, “Oh I was doing this at thirteen and fourteen.” And I thought ‘I, probably at thirteen I was probably imagining what boys I had crushes on.”
 
I had a great childhood, you know, and just did stuff that normal kids did, I never got into trouble and nothing ever happened and, you know, it worked out well for me, we just went to the cinema, and when we were sort of teenagers we went down to London on the train and stuff like that and, you know, just had a good time, but we weren’t, we never like drank a lot, like I said we drank when we went to parties and things but it wasn’t like we needed to go down the park on a Friday night, we would just go round each other’s houses and have sleepovers and stuff you know?
 

I think it does very much depend and we were what [laughs] we were what you call geeks I suppose, so like no-one wanted to like invite [laughs] us anywhere, anyway, and then because we were, well we weren’t bothered, you know, and you think back now, at the time it was a catastrophe and, “Oh we can’t hang around.” But I think, I’ve probably, my life has turned out so much better because of I just did stuff that thirteen year olds, I thought I knew everything of course, you know, you think you know everything don’t you? But it, I knew nothing,  

 

Kayleigh says that 15 and 16 year olds want to be like everyone else and be like the ‘popular’ people at school.

Kayleigh says that 15 and 16 year olds want to be like everyone else and be like the ‘popular’ people at school.

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I think I was, like when I had, sort of had a proper drink I was probably like fifteen or sixteen which is, later than, than some people at our school, but I mean I was in the group of friends that never really sort of did things like that, but when you got to fifteen or sixteen you soon realised that you were kind of the odd one out because, you know, you didn’t know how much people said were true because you know it was stories that at school, you know, girls say aren’t always true but yeah and they were going and drinking and doing this and that, then all of a sudden the things that you do, though you enjoyed it didn’t seem like it was good enough because you weren’t doing what they were doing.
 
So you wanted to be part of that group?
 

Yeah you sort of, you felt like, I don’t know I think when you’re a teenager, especially when you’re sort of fourteen and fifteen, sixteen, all you want to do is be like everybody else, that’s all, you know, all you think, you could do, you must dress like them, when I say them I mean like the popular people who would have been like in my school, and [em] you know, you want to dress like them, you want to be like them, you want to be a, yeah a part of them and so you just go along with it really. 

 

Kayleigh learnt about alcohol units from an Alcohol Awareness project at her local Platform 51.

Kayleigh learnt about alcohol units from an Alcohol Awareness project at her local Platform 51.

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It was only really, well because we did our own alcohol project here.
 
Yeah, okay.
 
In like the end of last year so it was sort of August, September last year, and then that was the first time I actually knew anything about units to, oh no I had seen the labels on the bottles too but I didn’t really pay any attention [laughs] you know? Because when you’re out you sort of, I remember you know you’d always had enough, well this, this is how we used to judge it anyway, you always knew you had enough when you just couldn’t remember things anymore, so like if you were drinking and you got to the point where you were just like, “[Puzzled noise].” And then you think ‘that’s enough’, or you felt sick, that was the only [laughs], that was the only information I had, you know, regarding how much you should drink.
 
It was only, like I said when we did our own project and we looked into it and we, we searched it I realised how, that I realised first that I was binge drinking because I didn’t think it was binge drinking I thought I was having a good time.
 
 

Kayleigh and her partner took the decision to stop drinking. She says that some people aren't supportive of this decision and call her ‘boring’.

Kayleigh and her partner took the decision to stop drinking. She says that some people aren't supportive of this decision and call her ‘boring’.

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You see because like me and my husband don’t really drink because he’s just got, you know for one reason or another caused too much problems really and I think sometimes when you end up drinking and you’re not having a good time and, you know, it, it brings out sort of aspects of your personality where you’re quite angry and aggressive and then so there’s no point drinking because it’s, you know, you’re just bringing that on so, but my Dad finds it amazing how, you know, how we don’t drink, and sort, he’ll sort of say, “Oh when she’s gone you can have a drink.” Or, “When she’s not here.” You know and really that kind of like you think you would support someone who was making a decision with their life, if someone said, “Oh I’m going to give up Heroin.” And you wouldn’t just go, “No, it’s okay when she’s gone I’ll, you know, I’ll help you jack up.” You wouldn’t say that to them but it’s okay because drinking’s a part of going out, it’s a part of socialising, it’s a part of having fun it’s a part of having friends, so if you don’t drink it’s the word ‘boring’ always comes in, I says, “How can someone be boring?.” I think if, the most boring people are the people who you meet and they’ve just got no personality, and then when they go out and drink, you know, they’re the life and soul of the party, that’s sad because they can’t be that person every day only when they’ve had a drink, that’s the sad part, not the person who can go out and have a good time and doesn’t need to drink but, it’s all.

 

 

Kayleigh says that alcohol affects everyone differently, it can be fun or dangerous.

Kayleigh says that alcohol affects everyone differently, it can be fun or dangerous.

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You don’t know what kind of way you’re with drinking until you start drink, and I mean some people yeah are quite fun if they have a drink, you know they have they get a bit silly and, you know, they giggle, some people fall asleep, some people just get really flirty but then some people get aggressive and I think that’s what the people don’t realise. And then some people who drink and they carry on drinking and they, because they don’t care, because they think ‘oh it’s only when I’ve had a drink’ I think that’s the true effect of alcohol it’s not the having a good time it what, it’s what happens when you go home, you know?
 

What happens to you and it’s quite dangerous because it can ruin your life, you know, and it, it’s, it, you could spoil your whole life for the sake of having a drink... 

 

A taxi driver was kind to Kayleigh when she was drunk and didn’t have enough money to get home.

A taxi driver was kind to Kayleigh when she was drunk and didn’t have enough money to get home.

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And I remember like I was drinking there and then, then I went home and I got a taxi home, and I was lucky that the taxi driver was a, like a nice guy because I, I wouldn’t say I had passed out but I was, I don’t remember the taxi ride, sort of coming in and out, you know, because when you’re drunk I think you almost fall asleep. And I got to the point where I sort of looked at the meter and I said, “Oh I’m going to have to get out because I don’t have enough money.” But luckily enough like the driver was like, “It doesn’t matter about the money, you know, you’ve got to make sure you get home safe.” And I, that’s I think is quite a rarity because there’s, that at the time I mean being sort of sixteen, seventeen you don’t think about well that taxi driver could have took you anywhere, could have done anything to you, you could have been let out on the street and anything could have happened, because you just think about having the good time, you don’t think about getting home. But lucky enough , you know, I got home safely. 

 

Kayleigh explains that any alcohol that you drink in pregnancy crosses the placenta and has the...

Kayleigh explains that any alcohol that you drink in pregnancy crosses the placenta and has the...

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Fetal Alcohol Disorder or is it Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? well what we did was, she did a presentation on it and she was saying if you, like basically they used to think that the placenta only used to take in, like the nutrients and that, so if people drank it never necessarily went to the baby but now they believe that anything you drink or eat during pregnancy goes straight through the placenta in, into the baby, actually this is what they believe anyway. And , so basically if you have a glass of wine your child has a glass of wine, so when, if you drink in very early pregnancy, sort of six, seven, eight weeks, nine, ten, you know, early, first trimester pregnancy, that the alcohol affects the way the baby’s brain forms and certain other things. Because what happened once, the woman who was talking about it, I can’t think what her name is so, she was a Paediatrician I believe, and she, they adopted a child and they found out when the child was born that the Mother was an alcoholic and then as the child grew up she had lots of different problems, like, like problems sort of, not so much behaviour problems but like she had problems and they said, if they went into a shop for example, they could, she couldn’t understand that the stuff in the shop she couldn’t take because she knew the stuff in the shop didn’t belong to anyone but she couldn’t understand that she couldn’t just take the things out, like she never had that sort of understanding. And, you know, they had to teach her that if you wanted something from shop you had to go to the woman at the till and ask her and, you know, they, but then that’s, they only had that information becausethey were Doctors you know? I don’t think everyone would know that information.
 

Kayleigh thinks that women are unlikely to tell their midwives the truth about how much they...

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Kayleigh thinks that women are unlikely to tell their midwives the truth about how much they...

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I can’t remember if it was FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), I think it was FAD (Fetal Alcohol Disorder). But they said that there’s a lot of things about it done in America, it’s quite a big research in America but here it’s not and , you know, the, they need, to make it work they need the Midwives to be onboard but at this point I believe the Midwives aren’t really onboard with it, I don’t know how much, if it’s they don’t believe it or it’s quite difficult because I think they said the only way to diagnose it is for, to find out whether the Mother drank through pregnancy and of course if you’re a heavy drinker you’re going to, you’re not going to tell the truth in case you think maybe Social Services are going to be involved and things like that. But I think, if people are given this information and I couldn’t believe, like I always sort of knew you shouldn’t drink in pregnancy you know? That was, that’s always said but it’s never like a cast iron rule, people are sort of like, “Oh I’ll have one or two.” But when that woman was talking about it I think what can happen to your child, I mean obviously you have to drink a fair bit, it’s not just if you have one glass of wine, it’s sort of if you have maybe a couple of glasses of wine a week but the things that can happen to your child, and I just think how could you, you couldn’t forgive yourself because you knew what you, that directly what happened to that child was directly your fault, direct, you know there’s no other way to say it. But I think, you know, I was, I was very with that woman and I said, “I think this needs to be out there, I think young women should know it, it should, the first thing the Midwife should say is, “How much do you drink?” And then if the person says, “No.” I think it should be said, “Well if you do drink this is what can happen to the baby.” Because they don’t say that to you, you know, the Midwife could say, “Oh do you drink?” “No.” And she’s got no, unless you smell of alcohol or you look drunk she doesn’t know if you’ve been drinking, and of course you’re going to lie because you’re scared that the Midwife is going to phone Social Services.

 

Kayleigh compares the drinking culture in the UK with the rest of Europe. She says that the British are ‘extreme’ when it comes to alcohol and drugs.

Kayleigh compares the drinking culture in the UK with the rest of Europe. She says that the British are ‘extreme’ when it comes to alcohol and drugs.

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I think so, in England I think, well I suppose Great Britain almost is, it’s a very drinking culture isn’t it? Because of like when you’ve got, you know, on the continent like France and Spain. I mean you’re Spanish right? Yeah, so it’s different isn’t it? Like, more relaxed and, because when we were in France they, we went on holiday to Paris and they say there’s a lot more people just sit and they have a glass of wine but they’re not like, like downing the wine, you know? [Laughs] you, they just sit and talk and, with their family or their friends and it’s, you know, they enjoy dinner and things, and here, you know, because we were having dinner, and it’s off the topic but we were having dinner the other day and I said, “Oh if we were in France.” You know, and they don’t eat, eat like that, like really quickly, people here eat so fast and, and that’s it, and then they get up and they leave, they don’t enjoy the company of sitting together and stuff like that, it’s almost like they eat like they drink you know? Drink, drink, drink, drink, it’s just like, and it’s like that here, and I said because my friend comes from Hollandand I mean that obviously legalised prostitution, legalised Cannabis, a lot of Ecstasy she’s says over there too, and she’s completely different she says, you know, she knows a lot of people who take drugs, and not like doing drugs and know what it’s going on but she says they don’t do anything like they do here, she says when British people come over to her, Amsterdam, that’s near where she lives, she says they just fall about the streets, they’re drunk, you know, they’re high as a kite, they’re all everywhere, she says but you don’t find that with Dutch people she says, they do all the same things but they’re not to an extreme and I think that’s where we’ve got it wrong. 

 

Kayleigh says that alcohol advertising doesn’t show the ugly side of drinking.

Kayleigh says that alcohol advertising doesn’t show the ugly side of drinking.

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I think like almost glorifying it really, it’s not, it, you know, it’s hard to [clears throat] when you see in the same magazine or it, you know, don’t drink, it, it’s bad, there’s an article on it and then the next page you’ve got like Bacardi, you know, bottles of Bacardi Breezer in these luxurious adverts of all these girls in party dresses having a great time, things like [em] Archers and things like that, things targeted towards women as well, the women are really dressed up and they’re going out and, if you see that on the next page and then after reading an article about not drinking you’re going to you know, you’re going to think ‘well that’s rubbish because the girl’ I mean if you’re that impressionable and I think young people can be thatall they want to do is have friends and enjoy their life and they think ‘oh well drinking’s the way to do that’.
 
I think it doesn’t show you the later effects, especially like if people become alcohol dependent and, you know, they might be drinking when they’re eighteen but now they’re like forty-five and they’ve got to drink, you know, whatever, cider every day [telephone ringing] just to function in their life and it’s not glamorous then [telephone ringing] you know?
 

When they’ve got nothing because they have wasted all, but [telephone ringing] I think, they don’t show people like that because [telephone ringing] no-one’s going to buy alcohol if they show, you know, forty-five [telephone ringing] year old alcoholics are they? You know, that they, [telephone ringing] the alcohol companies are businesses they, they don’t, they [telephone ringing] can put ‘drink responsibly’ on their adverts all they like but [telephone ringing] they’re there to make money they’re not, they’re not charities you know? And I think we have to realise that they’re there to sell their product and they’ll do whatever it takes and if that means glamorising it that’s what they’ll do you know? 

 

Kayleigh knew that her mother and grandmother would have been very upset if she did drugs. She didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Kayleigh knew that her mother and grandmother would have been very upset if she did drugs. She didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

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I can’t think I’m hurting other people’s feelings so if I did something that I knew my Mum would find out and she’d be upset I couldn’t do that I just, I just, no it would bring me into panic attacks and things like that, and my Mum always had the best of them because like my Nana, and she’s still alive now, and she would, my Mum would tell my Nana and it would break my Nana’s heart if she found out anything and I, and I couldn’t do that to someone else, I think it is the best tool ever [laughs] if it works for the child, because she would be like, “Oh if you do that I’m going to tell your Nana.” And I’d be, “Don’t tell my Nana, don’t tell her.” Even now if it, you know, and my Mum says, “Oh I went and tell your Nan.” “Don’t tell my Nan.”
 
Obviously you’re very close to your Gran?
 
Yeah, I think it’s hurting people’s feelings as well you know?
 
Because I think if my Mum found out I did something really bad she would be hurt, and I think I couldn’t hurt someone, it’s that how you behave how that impacts on other people and I mean it’s different now because I’m an adult but when I was younger I think. 
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