Thursday, 23 July 2015


Quitting alcohol is often likened to a type of bereavement. We have, after all, lost one of our closest friends. The one we turned to whenever we were celebrating, commiserating, stressed, lonely or scared (or coping with any other emotion you can think of). Suddenly life stretches ahead of us with a massive gaping void at its centre.

With this in mind, I looked up the 5 stages of grief (the Kubler-Ross model). They go like this:

1. Denial wherein the survivor imagines a false, preferable reality.

Well, we've all been there, haven't we? Oh no, I'm not a proper alcoholic! I didn't drink every day/drink in the mornings/have blackouts/get the shakes (delete as appropriate). I'm just going through a bit of a rough patch. Anyhow, all my friends drink, and I don't drink half as much as X (insert name).

2. Anger...why me? It's not fair! How can this happen to me?

Bingo again. Hands up if you've secretly wanted to murder the 'moderate drinker' sipping oh so slowly on that damn glass of wine and making it last all night.

3. Bargaining - the third stage involves the hope that the individual cam avoid a cause of grief.

Been there, done that. I'll give up completely for a month, and then only drink on really special occasions. I'll never touch wine again - only beer (which I hate). I'll only drink at parties. Etcetera ad infinitum.

4. Depression. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.

We've been through bouts of this too, right? What's the point in going out if I can't let my hair down a little? Life's never going to be fun again. All my friends will abandon me. Boo hoo.

5. Acceptance. That's what we're aiming for folks!

What got me thinking about this today was a radio programme about the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva (I've always had a secret yearning to be Jewish. At school I used to skip Sunday chapel and go and hang out with the Rabbi and the Jewish girls instead).

When a Jewish person dies, their immediate family 'sit shiva' for a week. They stay home and receive guests so they can mourn, reminisce and pray together.

It seemed to me that really indulging your grief like this is far more helpful, and healthier, than the 'stiff upper lip' approach.

I'm sure that part of the reason I've made it this far not drinking is that I allowed myself, especially in the early days, to wallow in my grief and obsession. I spent hours each day reading, blogging, researching. I discussed the subject endlessly - not face to face, but with my new, virtual friends.

AA recommend that newbies aim for 90 in 90 - ninety meetings in ninety days: a similar principle.

So if you're reading this having only just stepped onto the sobercoaster, then make sure you give yourself some time to obsess - however you want to do it. Just make sure you don't do it alone. Find friends - real, virtual, AA - or all three!

And then, when you finally get to stage 5 - acceptance - you realise the big difference between quitting alcohol and bereavement:

Bereavement is an ending. But you are just at the beginning. There's a whole new life ahead of you...

Love SM x


  1. Great post. At a year sober I still alternate between stages. Mainly 5, but some 4 too, and occasionally number 3 starts up again. Am really hoping the paws will lessen as I go through my second year of sobriety!

  2. Have you been to an AA-meeting yet? Maybe you'll find my post on going helpful. I'm blogging on Soberistas as The Dane - being Danish an' all, very inventive.
    You are extremely helpful to me in the sense I mention in that post, because you are like me in many ways, same age, married, a mother, good background, educated etc. I even had a (short) career in advertising as a copy writer.

    1. Thanks, Ulla - I'm going to check it now! No, I still haven't been to AA. Maybe I will after reading your post ;-) x

    2. I imagine your local group in Chelsea will be like a Who's Who of artists and politicians and business people. Who knows, it might be a tremendous networking opportunity ;-)

  3. Yes. I think we need to mourn the loss of our old, familiar life, even if that life was killing us. It was still our comfort zone.
    And I think even after reaching acceptance we move back into the other phases sometimes. And that's ok too. It doesn't mean we made the wrong decision to quit drinking. It just means something has reminded us of why we drank, and perhaps we remember it with rose coloured glasses.

    As for AA, I always encourage people to go to a meeting. I am not really an AA person, I have no sponsor and I worked through the steps mostly on my own, but meetings inspire me.

    There is no where else in the world where I have heard people speak with such honesty.

    Of course, some of what people say is idiotic, and there's lots of pride, ego and anger in there too, but that deep honesty brings me back.

    Plus, 12 step groups are so ingrained in our cultur that it seems like you would be missing out not to go when you actually belong!

    Just try one.

    1. I agree with a lot of that. It's definitely worth a try and always interesting. But I wonder why the format has never been updated. For instance, I find it quite annoying that one is not allowed to comment, ask a follow-up question for clarification or give advice or even encouragement in any way. I would put newcomers together in small, likeminded groups with a facilitator who is at least one year sober (like a sponsor, but for the group).

  4. I've been thinking about AA. I also re-read your blog about AA, SM. The problem I have with AA, is the whole "I'm Jackie and I'm an Alcoholic" for ever and ever. The idea that I am "in recovery" for ever. I know, in the great scheme of things that I am a newbie at this sober gig....but my goal is to be a "Non- drinker". I want people to not raise their eyebrows when I refuse wine, I want them to say, "Oh, that's right, you don't drink, sparkling water OK?".
    I don't want to wipe out my past, it's just that I want it to teach me, not define me.

    1. I agree, Jackie. Also, I don't feel powerless. I feel pretty damn powerful. I'm a newbie, too (90 days tomorrow!), so I know I may change my mind, need more support, or just want face time with like-minded people in the future. For now, I'm happy working my blogosphere program.

  5. Great post SM. I think I alternate between the stages too. I don't think I'm 100% at acceptance yet. But hopefully I'm getting there. Still early days for me. A x

  6. I giggled at your description of number 2, i recall not that long ago, staring agog in amazement at a friend who took an hour.. an hour! to drink one glass of champagne. remember thinking I would have been on my 3rd by then, I couldn't believe it. Thank you for this post, great reinforcement for a relative newbie like myself

    1. I totally get that, I sat with my dad a few days ago whilst he took almost an hour and a half to drink one pint!!! I had 2 wines in that time but I was taking it very slow as didn't want to run to the bar a third time and highlight my need for wine.... it was soooo frustrating to watch! !!

  7. Today is day 2 again!! The most I have managed is 11 days and started to feel wonderful like you have mentioned in your posts but also started to bargain with myself that moderation was the way forward. I now know that is not true. This is so hard but reading your blogs gives me hope xx