Friday, 18 May 2018

Alcohol is a Feminist Issue



I have always been proud to call myself a feminist.

I went to Cambridge University, to an all girls college called Newnham. Newnham was founded by Millicent Fawcett, the famous suffragist, who has just been honoured with the first statue of a woman erected in Parliament Square.

Newnham opened its doors to women in 1871, but they weren't made full members of the University, or awarded degrees, until 1948.

When we ate dinner in formal hall, we sat underneath a (rather battered) suffragette banner which was carried by the women of Newnham in the marches on Parliament.

I loved the history of my college. I was determined that I would do anything and everything that the boys could do.

I quickly discovered that all the mixed colleges had male-only drinking societies, which held the most riotous and popular of the student parties. 

So, my friends and I set up a women's only drinking society at our college, and we drank and partied as hard as any of the men.

I thought alcohol was a feminist issue. I totally bought into the idea - propagated in the 1980s - that keeping up with the men meant drinking as much as they did. 

I loved the 'ladette' culture, and drank like Bridget Jones, the Sex and the City girls and Absolutely Fabulous. 

Then I became a mum.

I grew up chanting the mantra that women could have it all. A successful career and a family. 

I quickly realised that that is possible, but it's incredibly hard. The men who'd managed to juggle careers and families had wives at home keeping the ship afloat for them. 

We had virtually no help, and were expected to do the lion's share of the domestic work and the childcare as well as the job.

It's not surprising that 'wine o'clock' has become such a thing. It's our generation's equivalent of the valium our mother's generation described as 'mummy's little helper.' It keeps us sane, it helps us relax, it's our reward for a job well done (or a job done, at least).

Only it's not really a reward. It's a drug. And more and more of us are becoming addicted to it and finding that it's having a terrible effect on our mental and physical health. 

We have created lives for ourselves that we constantly try to run away from, by self-medicating.

I've also realised that the way we use alcohol, instead of helping us keep up with the boys, is stopping us achieving as much as we could.

One of the things I hear from women over and over again, is that when they stop drinking their careers take off. They have more energy, they sleep better, they have more time, they become incredibly productive and creative.

The truth is, we cannot break down the glass ceiling when we have wine glasses in our hands.

Emmeline Pankhurst said "I would rather be a rebel than a slave." We did not fight for our freedom from the patriarchy only to become slaves to the booze. 

So, if you are struggling with alcohol addiction, take heart from this suffragette quote: Never surrender. Never give up the fight.

In other news this week, huge apologies to those of you in the USA and Canada who've been unable to download the Kindle version of The Sober Diaries. It's now back on line and (for a limited time only) at a discounted price. You can find it here USA, or here for UK, or here for Australia.

On Sunday 20th May 7pm (UK time) I'm hosting a live webinar on Club Soda on booze and parenting. Do tune in if you can! You need to be a member to watch, but membership is by voluntary donation - you just pay what you can afford. You can find Club Soda here.

As always, there's loads more inspiration and information on the SoberMummy Facebook page and on Instagram (@clare_pooley).

Love to you all,

SM x




Thursday, 10 May 2018

5 Reasons Why Sober Holidays are Better



Now the weather's warming up, we all start thinking about our summer holidays. And, if you're newly sober, you're probably starting to panic.

I get it. I was the same. Packing for my first sober holiday, I remember resigning myself to the fact that it wasn't going to be fun at all. What was the point of a holiday if you couldn't let your hair down and go wild?

For over two decades, summer holidays were associated in my head with a loosening of all the rules. All those things I usually told myself I really shouldn't do were now completely acceptable because I was on holiday! 

I could drink as much as I wanted every day, even starting before lunch time. I could party every night and stay out as long as I liked. I could go wild on the dance floor and be totally inappropriate, since I'd be unlikely to see anyone in the club again. All bets were off.

I once behaved so badly after a tequila party in Mexico (there was nudity involved) that I woke the girlfriend I was travelling with at dawn and told her we had to be on the first bus out of town.

So, when you start thinking about your first holiday without booze, it's really hard to picture what it's going to be like. The carousel of holiday snaps in your head all feature alcohol. 

But here's the truth: Sober holidays are WAY BETTER. Ask anyone who's been sober for a while if you don't believe me. Here's why:

1.  There's more holiday to enjoy

On my boozy holidays, I would spend much of the morning asleep or hungover. And after midnight, everything was a bit of a blur. So there were only about seven or eight hours of the day when I'd be on good form. 

On sober holidays, I usually get up at around 7am, because the sun's up, I'm in a beautiful place and I have things to do. Then I'll crash at around 10pm. That gives me fifteen hours each day that I can really make the most of.

So now, my holidays are TWICE AS LONG!

2.  You can really appreciate your kids

If you have children, you'll know that on drinking holidays you end up spending a fair amount of time avoiding them. There's nothing better than a hotel kids club when you're hungover, or wanting to get stuck into the vino over lunch. 

In the evenings, I'd always try to feed the kids early and get them into bed, so we could let our hair down and not worry about moderating our behaviour or language or drinking.

Now, the children and I are on the same wavelength on holiday. We don't have different agendas. We'll swim together, surf together, eat all our meals together. 

By the end of the holiday it feels like we're a watertight little gang.

3. You can strengthen relationships

If you're going away with your partner or friends, then sober holidays are a great time to properly reconnect - to spend lots of time talking, to find out what's really going on in their lives and to share all your hopes and dreams.

When you're drinking, you don't tend to do that. 

You might have some fun memories of wild nights out to share, but it's quite likely that you'll never talk about the things that matter, or even that you'll end up having drunken arguments and with simmering resentments.

4.  You can experience new things

When your idea of holidays is only about booze, food and parties, you tend not to bother to organise much in the way of exploring - at least I never did. 

When you holiday sober, you plan more outings, go on more adventures, look for new experiences. 

What is the point of going away if you're going to do just the same things that you do at home?

5. You come home feeling better than when you left.

I used to joke on returning from holidays that I needed another holiday to recover. 

It was true! I'd come back feeling tired, fat, toxic and, often, regretful.

When you come back from a sober holiday, having had lots of sleep, sun, exercise and great food, you're refreshed, revitalised, and raring to go. 

The trick is to redefine your idea of what holidays are about.

They won't be the same, its true. They won't be so much about letting your hair down, going wild and getting trashed.

What they will be about is the things that really matter - looking after yourself, building relationships and making memories. And those things will keep you strong over the months that follow, if times get tough.

So please don't worry about holidaying without booze. It's going to be amazing.

By the way, Laurie McAllister interviewed me last week for her Not Drinking Diaries on her fabulous blog Girl and Tonic which you can find here. If you don't yet follow her, you're missing out, she's amazing! 

If you need any holiday reading, you can buy The Sober Diaries here (UK), here (USA), or here (Australia).

Lots of love to you all,

SM x

Thursday, 3 May 2018

GOOD NEWS!



I have THREE bits of good news to share today. Whoop whoop.

Firstly, many of you may already know of World Without Wine. They are a wonderful online support network, and for several years have been running extremely popular one-day workshops in South Africa on how to change your relationship with alcohol.

(Click here to read an article in Marie Claire South Africa about the World Without Wine workshops).

The exciting news is that World Without Wine are hosting their first ever worship in my home town - London! And they've asked me to help run it.

It's on Saturday, October 6th, to tie in with Sober October, and you can find all the details by clicking here.

There's only enough room for fifteen people, so we can keep it all cosy, and two places have been snapped up already, so if you're interested do book quickly. There's an early bird discount until the end of May too.

I'm really looking forward to meeting some of you in real life.

Secondly, if you're in the UK it's a bank holiday coming up, and it's going to be HOT. So, my friend The Wise Bartender has stocked up on alcohol-free wines, beers and spirits and is offering all readers of Mummy was a Secret Drinker a 5% discount on all deliveries. You just need to quote SOBERMUMMY when you order.

Click here to go to The Wise Bartender online store.

And finally, The Sober Diaries is on special offer on Kindle (for a limited time only) at 99p! Or, if you're in the USA, $1.36. Do tell your friends.

(Click here for Kindle UK, here for Kindle USA and here for Kindle Australia).

Love to you all!

SM x