Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Countdown


I can't believe that after eighteen months of planning, writing, editing and publicising, it's only TWO WEEKS until the book is released.

I have gone from feeling excited to being utterly terrified.

What was I thinking? I was happy and comfortable hiding behind my pseudonym and pretending to the world that my life was, and always had been, perfect.

For the first year of being sober, I told virtually no-one. The idea of being outed as someone who found it impossible to control alcohol was terrifying.

Yet now I am telling the world. WHY?!?!

(N.B. I am sure my parents have asked themselves this, many times).

I keep reminding myself of the answer to that question: that stories change lives, that mine may help thousands of other women struggling, and help to challenge the shame and stigma around going sober.

Then I think: what if no-one buys it? What if I let down all those lovely people who've helped turn the book from my general ramblings into a beautiful, glossy reality?

My editor, who championed my proposal to her board and held my hand through the writing process, the arty people who designed the cover and layout, and the PR, marketing and sales people who've been shouting about it everywhere.

Even worse, what if no-one likes it? What if they hate me? What if you don't like it?

Arrrggghhhh!

It's too late to cancel (I checked).

So, I'm running around, doing all the PR thingies whilst trying to get Christmas sorted.

Two days ago, I had a photo shoot with the Daily Mail, who are going to run excerpts from the book.

This was my idea of hell. I hate having my photo taken - even a quick shot with an iPhone, let alone spending half a day over it.

They told me to arrive with clean hair and no make-up. No make-up? I hadn't left the house without foundation on for twenty years! I was sure I'd send children screaming from the tube on my way there.

I turned up, bare-faced and trembling, in their swishy offices off Kensington High Street. I was met by a lovely lady from the PR team at my publishers, who was there to hold my (sweaty) hand.

We were ushered into a studio where there was a make-up and hair lady, wardrobe person (just as well I hadn't lied about my dress size) and photographer, a scarily large camera and lots of lights.

And you know what? It was actually quite fun. Mainly because the (all female) team were lovely, and there was lots of general banter and jolliness.

I left the studio for the school run, and turned up at the school gate in full slap, false eyelashes and all. The double-takes amongst the other mothers were hilarious. I'm sure they now think I'm having a torrid daytime affair...

Click here to go to my Amazon page. I really, really hope you like the book.

In other news, there are lots of fab new articles on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit, 'like' the page to stay updated.

Merry Christmas and love to you all,

SM x

Thursday, 7 December 2017

What I've Learned After 1000 Days Alcohol Free



It's been more than one thousand days since I had a glass of wine.

Blimey.

I didn't have a dramatic rock bottom moment one thousand days ago. I didn't wake up in a gutter, or in someone else's bed, or crash the car when drunk. Thank goodness.

It was more like the painfully slow break up of a serious relationship. Like having to face up to the fact that the man I'd turned to whenever I was in trouble, whenever I wanted to have fun, whenever I wanted to just chill, was no good for me any more.

I had to leave him. Throw him out. Pour him down the sink.

By this point, I was drinking a bottle of wine a day, more at weekends. As a result, I was overweight, miserable and stuck in a rut.

Again, it wasn't dramatic drinking. I rarely appeared drunk, or got into trouble. Rather worryingly, a bottle of wine disappeared rather easily....

This was not my first attempt at dealing with my alcohol problem, obviously. I'd spent weeks, months, years even, looking for an alternative, trying endless ways of cutting down, of 'moderating.'

But it was all exhausting. And every attempt (much like trying to crash diet) ended, eventually, in failure. Back to where I started, if not more so.

So, finally I realised that there was no alternative but to pack it in altogether.

That prospect was, frankly, terrifying. But I resigned myself to the fact that my party days were over and that from now on I had to be a good girl. I knew I would feel proud of myself, but - obviously - I wasn't going to have any fun any more. Life, as I'd known it, was over.

But here's what I've discovered one thousand days later:

Life, as I knew it, was over. But the new life I've discovered is WAY BETTER, better in a myriad of different ways.

First off, there was all the physical stuff.

Stopping drinking changed the way I look. Some changes came immediately - like losing the puffy face and the bloodshot eyes, some took longer, like losing all the excess weight.

Within the first year without booze I'd lost two stone (28 pounds), and I've remained consistently at my ideal weight ever since, without any effort.

Also, I may be one thousand days older, but I actually look younger. I have better skin, clearer eyes, bouncier hair and oodles more energy.

Next time you're at a party, check out the most fresh-faced person in the room, not the one with the fake, waxy, botoxed face, but the one with the natural looking glow. I bet they're not drinking booze.

When you drink, you lose your ability to listen to your body. You can't tell when you're genuinely hungry and need to eat, or when you're just craving carbs because you're hungover. When your body is dehydrated and is trying to tell you you're thirsty, you drink alcohol - a diuretic.

Now, I eat when I'm hungry, and rehydrate when I'm thirsty. Simples.

And one of the biggest physical changes is being able to sleep. 

I was a terrible insomniac for years. I blamed stress. I used to fall asleep, no problem, but I'd wake up at about 3am, tossing and turning, and be totally unable to get back to sleep until just before the alarm went off.

Lack of sleep affects everything. It makes it difficult to function at your best short term, and, longer term, has a huge impact on your mental and physical health.

Now, I sleep like a baby. And I'm a morning person! Who knew? I bounce out of bed like the Duracell bunny, all ready to take on the day.

But quitting alcohol hasn't just changed me physically.

When I was drinking, my moods were all over the place. I'd veer from euphoric to depressed, then back again, regularly.

Now I'm zen. Ok, perhaps not completely zen - I can still be a nutter from time to time, but everything is relative.

I used to feel anxious much of the time. I thought that alcohol helped, that it dampened down the anxiety. It was only once I quit that I realised it was the alcohol that was causing the anxiety in the first place. My medicine was actually my poison.

But the biggest change of all, the one that rolls out gradually over the months and years after you quit, is what's happened to my life.

You see, I drank to take the edges off life, to blur all the hard bits. What I hadn't realised is that I was blurring all the good bits too.

When I stopped drinking, I had to learn to deal with everything life threw at me raw. Initially it was a terrible shock. It was hard. 

But, once I got used to it, once I showed myself what I could do and how naturally brave I am, I felt like a SUPERHERO. I realised that I could conquer anything.

Not only did I find my superpower, but I rediscovered all the energy and enthusiasm for life that I had when I was much younger, before all the self-medication numbed it all.

And, without the booze anaethetising my brain constantly, my synapses started firing and I re-discovered creative abilities that I'd thought I'd just grown out of.

My horizons have broadened and my life has just expanded. It feels like a brand new start.

My not drinking has changed my relationships with other people too. I'm a much better mother, a better wife and a better friend.

Admittedly, some of my friends have taken it rather hard, mainly the ones that drink the most themselves. I'm still often asked when I'm going to 'fall off the waggon' and join in again.

But the truth is, I don't need to. Because I've discovered that parties can be just as much fun without the booze - more so, because you can remember them. 

A bad party is still a bad party, drunk or sober, and spending hours at a party which is only about drinking when you don't drink is a little boring. But the result of that is that I've become way more inventive about the ways in which I socialise.

I meet friends for long, rambling walks with dogs. I go to the theatre and concerts. I've bought back party games to dinner and lunch parties, and involve the children as well. I do galleries and exhibitions, trips and outings.

I've discovered that socialising is about shared experiences, varied experiences, not just getting pissed together, and that's deepened and strengthened my relationships as well as making life much richer and more interesting.

Plus, I've got more money to spend on all that stuff, now I'm not spending it all on expensive vino.

So if you're thinking about quitting booze, or you've recently quit and you're still scared that it's going to completely change your life...

....it will. It will change everything. But for the better.

If you'd like to find out more, you can read my book - The Sober Diaries. Click here to go to my Amazon Page.

Plus, there's lots of inspiration and information on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

New on the Facebook page this week, my favourite animated video on addiction, and an article on the five most addictive substances on earth (spoiler alert: alcohol is number five).

Click here to visit, and 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x













Friday, 1 December 2017

Sober is Where the Magic Happens....


I found that the most difficult thing about giving up booze (once you're through the insane rollercoaster of the first hundred days) is dealing with everything life throws at you without a 'mute button.'

I spent years, decades, of my life reaching for a glass of artificial courage whenever things got tough - when I was anxious, stressed, scared, lacking in self-belief, bored or upset.

A glass of wine, I believed, would just take the edge off and make it all that much easier to cope with.

This strategy seemed to work rather well for a while, but then, one day, I realised that it had stopped working, and that my best friend had turned into my worst enemy.

For a start, I'd lost the ability to deal with all those events and emotions in any way other than the booze.

I'd forgotten how to use strategies like exercise, mindfulness and relaxation methods to reduce stress and anxiety. I'd forgotten how to just get through it. I'd forgotten that those emotions and feelings are all a normal, necessary part of living life to the full.

Also, the booze itself had made things worse. Drink - over time - increased my anxiety levels, and heavy drinking made my life way more unmanageable.

When I quit boozing, an amazing thing started to happen...

Gradually, I began to realise that I could cope with all of those things, those feelings, those emotions without a prop.

And, after a while, that made me feel like superwoman (relatively speaking). Invincible. Unstoppable. (With the help of a little cake, and lots of alcohol-free beer).

Regular readers will know that eight months after I quit drinking, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I got through the horror of that diagnosis, telling my children and coping with the treatment, completely sober. And now I feel like I can do anything. More than that, I owe it to myself to make the most of the rest of my life.

Not only did going sober give me courage, it also freed up loads of time. All those hours I spent hungover, tipsy, or just feeling bleurgh and unmotivated, were back.

And I found I was firing on all cylinders. Once I stopped numbing my brain with booze I rediscovered my long-lost creativity and my energy. My little brain synapses were fizzing and zinging and wanting to do stuff.

Here's a confession, though: I sometimes still miss the buzz, the high, of drinking.

Initially, after all those years of hectic havoc, I loved the calm and peace of sobriety, but now I realise that I don't want to live my life completely on an even keel.

I want to experience all the highs (and the corresponding lows) of the rollercoaster.

So, over the last year, I've been living by the maxim outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens.

Because I've realised that that is where you find your highs. Real, prolonged, meaningful highs, not the artificial, fleeting ones at the bottom of a bottle.

When you push yourself to do something new, something scary, when you learn to deal with all the inevitable failures and knockbacks and just keep on going, when you finally get there, it's the greatest high in the world.

That's why, after months of hiding behind a pseudonym, I finally 'came out', and wrote the book, The Sober Diaries.

And that's why, when my old college said they were hosting Cambridge University's first ever TEDx talks, I applied to give one.

I didn't think I'd get chosen. There are, obviously, a lot of very clever people amongst the Cambridge community who have done really amazing things with DNA and suchlike.

I am just an ex-lush housewife who wants to talk about how we can make going sober less shameful, so that, in the future, women like me won't need all those pseudonyms and the cloak of anonymity. 

But, incredibly, they picked me as one of the ten speakers.

And now I am WAY outside my comfort zone, my friends.

But that is an entirely good thing, because I know that once I get off that stage on February 17th, even if I don't perform brilliantly, the high of just having got through the preceding twelve minutes will be amazing.

And I still need those highs....

And so do you. So, why not find something you've always wanted to do, but been too afraid, or too lethargic, and SIGN UP. Do the Tough Mudder, like lovely reader, Ang75. Apply for that promotion. Go on a blind date. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

In other news, up on the SoberMummy Facebook page this week, a fabulous piece from the Huff Post on what 1000 days sober feels like, the genius Robin Williams talking about being 'ethanol challenged' and the inspirational Maya Angelou being...inspirational.

Click here to go the Facebook page, and 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x