The early starter
Chef Fergus Henderson, 44, kicks off his day with a Fernet Branca before his glass of Madeira at 11am
I grew up in a family where we ate well and drank well. My father had a very happy cellar and treated it with respect and pleasure. Instead of wrecking the family, the table is what kept us together.
Alcohol plays a ritualistic role in my life. Each drink has its purpose and marks a certain moment. For me, the aim of drinking is not to be drunk - far from it. If that happens, something has gone wrong. Chefs are usually quite a controlled lot. You've got to produce good food on time at different times. I like to know what I'm doing.
My first drink of the morning is a Fernet Branca to open the eyes, calm the kidneys and start the day. The barman at the Savoy has one every morning, and if it works for him, I assume it works for me.
The next point is elevenses - seed cake and Madeira, unbelievably good together. People seem to think it's a terribly wicked thing to do at 11 o'clock, so I usually do it alone. It's a finite thing - all wrong if you have it at 10.55, and if it's 11.10 you've missed the moment. In the middle of a working morning, it lasts a few minutes and you walk away feeling invigorated.
Lunchtime is the best time of day. I don't cook any more - I have Parkinson's and a ropey left side - so the only way to keep an eye on things is having lunch.
If you've worked through the morning and something is getting you down, lunch sorts it out in an amazing fashion. I can't remember what I had for lunch on the day I was diagnosed with Parkinson's, but I can remember feeling much worse before lunch than I did after. Dinner is like a punctuation mark at the end of the day, but lunch is extraordinary, full of potential. You don't know where it will lead - and that may have something to do with how much you drink. At the beginning is the aperitif - a glass of sherry, a vermouth or a campari, white wine and ice to get the juices going. It's one of those very special moments. That glass expresses everything. You're ready.
I think it's almost impossible to eat without wine - take a pasta without a glass of red wine, or oysters without white wine to wash them down. There's no rhyme or reason to how much I'll drink. It could be just one glass. Though rarely.
Afterwards, I enjoy a cold, clear eau de vie of pear - it aids digestion and stops you feeling too full.
At about six o'clock, I'll sometimes have a Dr Henderson - a drink my father taught me. It's two parts Fernet Branca, one part creme de menthe and ice. It revitalises the spirits and makes you feel like you've brushed your teeth. My rituals are less rigorous in the evening. Dinner could be at home with the family. I'm not in the restaurant so much - I leave it to younger and fitter folk.
I had an operation last year - they drilled into my head - so I had to stop drinking for a month beforehand. It was terrible. Life seemed duller, the day lost its structure and I lost my appetite. It's a great way to lose weight though. People kept saying how well I looked.
My doctors are Parkinson's doctors and they focus on that, thank goodness - my liver they overlook. All the alcohol probably isn't great, but it keeps me calm and gives me great pleasure. I probably listen to my kidneys more than I listen to warnings from the Department of Health. I think if I tune in from time to time, they'll tell me anything I need to know. I hope they will, anyway.
Jerry Harris, 46, publican, estimates his daily intake to be 21 units (the recommended weekly limit for men)
When I was a boy and Romford Brewery was still a brewery - it's now a leisure centre - I used to go with my mum to the market and I could always smell it. When there was a new brew, everyone knew about it. It was pungent and unlike anything else. It used to fascinate me.
By the time I was 14 or 15, I was collecting beer mats and brewing my own beer at home. I used to hide it in a cupboard in my room. I'd come home from school, lift the cloth on this big tub and there'd be all the yeast foaming on the top. The smell was out of this world.
In those days, life was so different. People didn't eat healthy yogurt, no one went to the gym. You only had three channels on the TV and they finished at midnight. The pub was the focal point of the community.
This industry takes so much out of your life, you've got to have a passion for it. For me, cask ale is the best drink in the world: pure, natural brews, full of E vitamins, they keep your system clean, keep your body working. It's a shame to see young people drinking these ice-cold beers with no taste; they're missing out on a great British heritage.
I've been a publican for 25 years. Years ago, people just used to come in; now, we have Quiz Night Tuesday, World Food Night Wednesday, Live Music Saturday, Sunday Carvery. If people are drinking too much, you can't blame pubs. No one will come here to drink 10 pints of Stella for £30 when they can get 24 cans at the supermarket for £9.99. And people drink more at home: if you open your own bottle of wine, you won't have one glass.
I don't drink before seven o'clock - but once I'm working, I'm here till midnight. Even if I only have two drinks an hour, that's 10 drinks. I probably have about 21 units a day. I don't feel drunk though. This is the hospitality industry: you could stand there po-faced and give someone a pint, or have a laugh and join in.
I do worry about my intake, I suppose, but when I look back at my greatest memories - sporting events, family events, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas - there's certainly never been a bottle of J2O in sight! I cannot remember having a really great time without a drink.
The A&E doctor
Emer Sutherland, 36, now sees children as young as 13 suffering from alcohol abuse
I'm Irish. I went to med school. Drink is there in my background, but now I drink much less than most people. I'll drink on special occasions, but that's it. Because day in, day out, I'm confronted with the acute effects of alcohol. I've seen the damage it can do to a body - and how it can make nice people look really ugly.
I've worked in A&E for 10 years and alcohol-related cases do seem to be much more prevalent now. There are the people who come in with medical problems who haven't realised that it's anything to do with their drinking - people with ulcers or pancreatitis. I've seen patients with liver disease who will not recover, and they are people who don't fit your classic picture of an alcoholic: they are working men and women with families who have used alcohol as their comfort in the evening - and their livers just couldn't cope with it.
Then we get the teenagers who are usually brought in by their friends when they've fallen asleep in a corner and won't wake up. We used to see this in 16- or 17-year-olds, now they're as young as 13. Then there are the assaults, violent attendances and car accidents where alcohol plays a huge part.
Just about every night at King's College, we'll have at least one person who is brought in because of intoxication. The important thing for us is never to assume that just because someone smells of alcohol that he or she is simply drunk. We have to rule out at least 10 life-threatening medical conditions, which means a proper examination, blood tests and often a brain scan to make sure there hasn't been a bleed. Frequently, they're dangerously aggressive - they are in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by strangers. We often end up giving a general anaesthetic just to make the patient lie still. It's a huge use of team effort and NHS resources on someone who comes in confused and smelling of alcohol, but we have to reach a safe conclusion that this person is just drunk and needs to sleep it off in the observation ward.
It is one of the real sadnesses that they are such different people in the morning from who they were the night before. They're often very embarrassed, very grateful, very nice. I've seen it so many times and it's the reason I wouldn't consider letting myself get into that state.
I wouldn't say that I'm angry, but I think it's a shame that nationally we've allowed alcohol to become such a huge part of our culture, and this is the result.
The people who come into A&E wards up and down the country haven't set out to do this. It's just how modern Britain is. And our patients are the ones who get caught out.
The bereaved Julie Berna, 43, watched her brother Dave die of liver failure when he was 45
At the end, Dave was living in Chesterfield with two alcoholics. One of them took him to hospital when he started vomiting blood. By then, he hadn't been able to eat a solid meal for seven months. Only fluids, soup, runny stuff.
It's such a slow, horrible way to go - it took two months. His cirrhosis was so bad it had hardened into a big ball you could see sticking out. When I walked in, he could just about lift his arm and slur, 'I love you.' Days later, he couldn't move or talk, couldn't even blink. His eyes were open and yellow and swollen. His skin was sort of orange.
We just hoped he couldn't feel anything - but we didn't know because he couldn't talk. I don't know if he knew he was dying, though he must have known something was up as we were all coming to visit. He wasn't prescribed morphine because he didn't have cancer and the doctors said he wasn't in pain. My sister kicked up a fuss and said, 'How can you tell?' so they gave him some two days before he died.
I like to remember Dave when he first came out to Pembrokeshire to be near me. I got him a job on a farm and he was a real grafter, a charmer, he could sell ice to the Eskimos. But soon the hedgerows were littered with Special Brew cans.
I hardly drink at all: weeks go by without alcohol, and if someone told me I'd never drink again it wouldn't bother me. I've never ever drunk on my own - it just frightens me. If every teenager who's dabbling and binge-drinking could see what it can do to your body, the way you die, the waste of life, then they'd be frightened, too.
The man about town
Closer magazine's Dean Piper, 27, goes to six parties a night as part of his job
Alcohol and showbiz go hand in hand. No matter how many times you tell yourself you're not going to drink, it just never happens - and it's the same for everyone who does this kind of job. Last week, I went to six parties in one night.
Alcohol gives you the balls to go up to a big name and start talking. I went to Boujis with Janice Dickinson and we had the most wild night out you can imagine. We drank a skinful and she was swinging from the rafters, trying to snog everything in sight. I once met Courtney Love at a premiere and she was absolutely wrecked. She took me to the toilets, had a pee, took some spare knickers out of her bag, put them on my head and asked me to do her make-up - in a Liverpudlian accent.
I try to make sure there's only one night a week where I drink to excess. I also stick to wine or champagne and try to drink water in between. You can't function on spirits. But I think the official guidelines on unit intake seem very low. You can't help looking around at your friends and family and wondering, 'So where are all these people getting into trouble?' I don't see them - apart from the odd celeb. First they stopped us smoking. Now they want to stop us drinking. There are worse things to worry about than alcohol being served in a bar legally.
Last year, I did a month in January of no drinking. I just wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't in the same bracket as some of the people I have to follow around. It was really odd - I felt a bit like I had a disease. You feel different to everyone else, you feel bad because no one wants to sit and talk to you for ages. Even celebrities used to look at my water and ask what it was.
I'm nowhere near checking into the Priory, but this job definitely has a shelf life, though. For a start, hang-overs get harder to deal with. At 30, it's all going to stop.
The drink-drive lawyer
Jeanette Miller, 34, defends motorists accused of being over the limit
I'd say the vast majority of us have driven over the limit at some point. I know I have. I was a bloody fool. People think in terms of how many 'units' they've had, but that's a really bad measurement: you have to combine that with your weight, height, what you've had to eat that day, whether you drank the night before. I wouldn't even have one glass and get behind a wheel now because I wouldn't know if I'd be over the limit.
People assume my clients are heavy-duty alcoholics who've sunk a bottle of whisky then driven home. Very rarely is it that extreme. Most have never had any contact with the police before. They tend to be professionals. The number of times they call and say, 'I'm not a drunk-driver. I think drink-driving's terrible.' They were marginally over the limit and they don't want me to think they're 'that sort of person'.
There are a few, of course, who are shameless - one client estimated he'd been through three or four bottles of wine. Sometimes I feel angry and think, 'What the hell is wrong with you? What were you doing getting behind a wheel?', but I'd still do my utmost to act in his or her best interests. I remember seeing video footage where one client was so drunk he urinated on a table at the police station. We still got him off.
When people ring us, they think nothing can be done. It's hard to get them into the mindset of a lawyer and show that actually, we can do a lot. There could have been a genuine emergency where they had to drive - an asthma attack or because someone was trying to beat them up. There are cases where police procedure has been breached. The procedures are very intricate, and nine times out of 10 they won't have been followed to the letter. Also, court administration is poor and that contributes to our success. If the Crown Prosecution Service forgets to tell a police officer to be in court on the day of the trial, the client gets off.
Most of our clients are absolutely mortified by the whole thing and desperate to keep it secret. We're often asked to use stamps instead of franking letters with our logo. Sometimes I'm asked to communicate by email only, or never to leave messages. They're often punishing themselves so much a ban won't make it any worse. I don't think they'll ever drink and drive again anyway.
I do get hostile reactions when I tell people what I do: 'How can you help people like that? They deserve everything they get...' I think everyone should have access to justice. It's outrageous that unless you're wealthy you have nowhere to go, as legal aid isn't available for most drink-driving cases. My hourly rate is £250. I love my job. I love making a difference to people's lives. I love winning. And we win an awful lot.
The recovering alcoholic
Jane Allen, 47, mother of three, is writing a book about addiction
You get away with drinking when you're young. Then, in your thirties, a lot of people seem to grow out of all that silliness. I always used to drink more than any of the other women I was friends with, but I'd always keep it to a level where I could just about get away with it - then I'd come home and drink another bottle of wine.
I used to have a rule that I wouldn't drink during the day. So when the children were small, I'd wait for them to go to bed before I opened the wine. Then, as they got older and went to bed later, I'd have a glass when I put dinner on the table - but was careful not to have too much.
As they got older still things got out of hand. They'd dread bringing their friends home after a night out, as I'd be sitting there with my wine and cigarettes, or they'd find me asleep downstairs. They'd beg me to stop and I'd make all the usual promises. I could never understand it. I'd chop my arm off for them - but put a drink inside me and it was as if I didn't have children.
I bought alcohol every day, but not at the same places. I'd get a few bottles with the weekly shop, then on Wednesday I'd drive to a place in the next village. I'd buy these little bottles in Threshers that fitted nicely in my handbag and say things like, 'They're ever so useful for making spaghetti bolognese!' Guilt must have been written all over my face.
The morning I came downstairs and poured the dregs of last night's wine down my throat was the day I picked up the phone and got some help. Even now, two years into recovery, it can sneak up on you. In Asda, not long ago, I saw a stack of bottles on special offer and my stomach just turned over. I kept asking myself, 'Why did that happen?' I hated that connection, that jolt, when I thought I'd got over it.
The daily drinker
The Observer's Martin Love, 42, enjoys a couple of glasses of wine most evenings
There was I thinking I was just your average social drinker - you know, a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, a quick beer at lunchtime - but it seems I am, if the government's guidelines on alcohol are to be believed, a chronic binge drinker well on my way to cirrhosis, liver cancer and long-term nerve damage. I am a paid-up member of that army of invisible, middle-aged, suburban drinkers sipping away at our Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs and quietly pushing Britain to the brink of a hazardous, boozy breakdown.
But, of course, this seems ridiculous. I don't drink too much, do I? I don't drink any more than you, do I? If I'd written this article five years ago, the answer to those questions would have been no, but today there has been a sea change in our attitudes to the amount we drink - and it has caught me totally off guard. People now talk of giving up for January, of not drinking Monday to Thursday. And yet here I am already thinking about the glass of Chianti I'll pour myself tonight. In fact, just writing this I can hear the cork easing out of the bottle, see the bright wine swirling into that sparkling glass...
Drinking has always been a big part of my life. I come from a family of capable drinkers. My parents were expats who, like all their friends, travelled round the world in a whirl of cocktail parties, clinking G&Ts and clouds of blue cigarette smoke. They were a long way from home and believed there were few things that weren't made palatable by a civilising dry white wine. The cigarettes have now all gone, of course, so maybe the booze will one day dry up, too. It seems unthinkable. My grandparents were also accomplished drinkers. They did things in style and kicked off every evening of their long and slightly inebriated lives at 6pm sharp with what they called a 'heartstarter' - a lethal triple shot of vodka, gin and Martini, before moving swiftly on.
So for me, a glass in the evening is part of who I am, who I am as an adult and a parent. An evening at home of baths, homework and bedtimes that didn't include wine would be a very long, dull affair. And yet I have a lurking sense that I have slowly crossed the hidden line that separates 'enjoyment' from 'dependency'. Last Saturday, for instance, as my wife and I frantically scrabbled around getting ready for our six-year-old's birthday party and the imminent arrival of 20 of her wild-eyed friends, we 'took the edge off things' by downing a 'medicinal' red. Did we fancy a glass of wine? No, we were simply using the alcohol. Which doesn't sound too clever when spelt out like that.
So do I drink too much? I have a horrible feeling the answer is yes. I was going to count the units I've had this week, but then decided not to, as I knew the figure would be too high - and I didn't want to know. Which I suppose tells me everything I need to know.
The 3am girl
Celebrity journalist Eva Simpson, 33, has learned to pace herself
There's some sort of event on every night - an opening, an after-show party, a launch, awards - and someone from 3am has to cover it. At certain times of year, I'll have to go to several parties a night - and as soon as you get there a glass of champagne is thrust into your hand. Often you leave work, you go straight to the party, there's been no time for dinner so the bubbles go straight to your head. You try to pace yourself - I've learnt to nurse a glass of champagne for a pretty long time - but there's always someone topping you up.
Sometimes you find yourself at a really bad party where the highest level of celeb is from Big Brother. You know you should leave but you've been promised Madonna is coming so you stay till 2am, waiting. At parties like that, drink is the only way to get through the evening.
When I started this column it was so exciting, we'd go out every single night and party hard. I hadn't realised drink makes you put on a load of weight. That made me cut down a bit.
You soon learn it's no fun coming into work every morning with a hangover. It's different for the people we're writing about: they can go out and get smashed until three or four in the morning and still look fantastic because they can sleep it off the next day. But you don't see many A-listers drunk. They're usually very controlled, very professional, wearing a borrowed dress and borrowed diamonds. But the soap stars, the reality TV people, do get absolutely trolleyed, then fall over and have their picture taken. In a way, that's what they want.
You don't have to drink to do this job, but you've got to get into the party spirit, otherwise you can sometimes feel like you're on the outside looking in. I'm not a big drinker outside work, though. Days will go by without a drink and I wouldn't notice. Booze is an integral part of my job - but not my life.