Thursday, 31 March 2016


Apparently 'manifestation' is the latest wellbeing fad. It's the new 'gratitude', which was the new 'mindfulness.'

Fans of manifestation include Gwyneth Paltrow (obviously), and Oprah Winfrey.

But, it's not a new idea. 'Manifestation' has been practised, in one form or another, for centuries.

In our lifetime, the most popular exposition of the concept was the global bestselling book - The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

More recently, and less successfully, Noel Edmonds repackaged the same thought as 'Cosmic Ordering.'

The basic premise behind all of these concepts is exactly the same: If you really, really want something, all you have to do is visualise it.

Or, to quote The Secret: If you see it in your mind, you're going to hold it your hand.

Now, I'm a Pisces, and I'm quite open to all of this sort of stuff (especially so since I got sober, and had time and space to think), so I finally got around to buying The Secret.

(By the way, it's not a very well kept Secret. It's on Amazon).

There's a lovely, simple (naïve?) thought behind the book.

It's that since everything in the universe is comprised of the same tiny atomic particles we are all connected, and our thoughts act as a kind of magnet (bear with me).

The universe is, apparently, ruled by the Law of Attraction - like attracts like. So, if you think happy thoughts, happy things will be attracted to you, and if you think bad things, bad things happen.


I confess I was a little sceptical.

But then I read that all you needed to do to get rich was to imagine yourself already wealthy. Ah ha! The solution to all my problems! What's not to like?

So I gave it a really good go. I followed all the advice. I thought about money - a lot. A lot of money. I acted like I was rich, spending money I didn't have (yes, that really is one of the recommendations!).

I even bought a lottery ticket and entered those competitions on the telly where you text a number to win a brand new Range Rover and wads of cash.

Then, as suggested, I waited for the money to flow in.


....nothing. Not a penny. Not even a magic bean.

I read through the book further and got to the section on health. They told the story of someone diagnosed with cancer who 'thought themselves well' and got well. The cancer, as if by magic, disappeared.

At this stage I started to get angry. Having just had my life saved (I hope) by surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy, I do think that anyone encouraging very sick people to believe that they can heal themselves through positive thinking is bordering on criminal.

However, the reason all these theories have had traction over the years is that there is something in it.

We are very often scuppered by our subconscious. However much we try to achieve something, or be someone, if our subconscious is not playing ball we will not succeed.

Also, our success is partly predicated by how other people see us. If people believe we are achievers - in whatever field - we are more likely to become so.

And that's how The Secret, and Manifestation, and Cosmic Ordering work (I believe).

If you imagine yourself being something, really, properly imagine it, then your subconscious will play ball, and the people surrounding you will help it to happen. A simple example: if you believe that you are sexy, men are more likely to fancy you.

(For more on visualisation and how it works, see my post: I am Khaleesi!)

This is really relevant to all of us, because I constantly get mails, and read blogs from people saying 'I really think I might be able to do it this time.' And I know that they're going to find it tough going. Not because they don't really want to succeed, but because you can tell by their language that they don't really, really believe that it's possible.

The way to think isn't 'perhaps I can do it, even though it's going to be hard and I'm going to be miserable,' it's this:

I have done it! I am, from this day forward, A NON DRINKER! Yippee! Hurrah! Clever me. My new life starts HERE. I know it'll take my body a little while to get used to the idea, and I know the Wine Witch'll try to throw me off course, but I'm READY for all of that.

You have to keep saying that to yourself until you really, really believe it. (And, more importantly, your subconscious gets with the programme and starts to believe it too).

When you visualise the future DO NOT picture yourself as a sad and miserable non drinker, picture a happy, healthy, sober you.

Here's a good trick. Take some pictures of your favourite sober people and stick them on your fridge. Bradley Cooper? Robert Downey Junior? Jessie J? Anna Wintour even?

Then add a photo of you from the days before you got bit in the butt by the booze. Find a picture where you're healthy, smiling, energised - doesn't matter if you were only five years old at the time - and stick it up there with the other happy, sober people.

Then, when the Wine Witch tells you you'd be happier having a drink say 'No, no, no! I am a HAPPY NON DRINKER, just like all these other happy non-drinkers you see here on my fridge door. So back off, b***h, and go bother someone who wants to listen.'

And that, my friends, is manifestation. If you really, truly believe it will happen, it will happen.

Love SM x

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

New Beginnings

Thank you so much for all your comments on yesterday's post. As you gathered, I was feeling a bit bleurgh.

In fact, I'd resolved to give blogging a rest for a bit. It struck me that most normal bloggers post once a week, or thereabouts, not every day.

It's time, I thought, to cut down. Moderate.

(Can you see where this is going...?)

This morning, instead of heading straight for the laptop with my cup of coffee, I picked up a novel.

But I felt scratchy. Ill at ease. My hands had nothing to do, and all these words were buzzing round my head like bees trapped in a jam jar, desperate to get out.

So, here I am. Typing away. Once an addict, always an addict.

(But there are worse addictions to have. I should know.)

It's difficult to remain in a grump when you're in Cornwall in the springtime. Which is where we are.

Family SM upped sticks from the big smoke for a few days blowing the cobwebs away by the sea. Just in time for Storm Katie (don't you love how they've started giving them names? It's difficult to feel so cross when you've been introduced to the thing that's drenched you.)

But now the clouds are clearing, the clocks have changed, the sun and the daffodils are out. It's a time of new beginnings, and summer is just around the corner.

This time last year, I was not at all excited about the summer. I'd done four weeks sober and was very much in the 'one day at a time' phase.

I couldn't look ahead more than a few hours, let alone a whole season.

And when I did think about the summer, it was with a terrible sense of loss. All I could picture was summer scenes past, which always involved me clutching a chilled glass of rose, or some fancy cocktail.

If that's where you are now, then listen up. Because there will come a time when you can look months, even years, ahead again, and with a sense of optimism and excitement. More than ever.

Back in the drinking days I'd started to lose that wonderful anticipation, about anything. Everything seemed silted up with a general feeling of ennui, a sort of here we go again. Same old, same old.

No longer, my friends. Now I'm thinking SUMMER! Long, lazy days filled with sunshine, salt, sand and ice cream.

Yesterday we spent two hours playing Pooh sticks.

This was no ordinary Pooh sticks, is was the SM version which, obviously, involves no moderation of any sort. Rather, it requires a lot of shouting (and barking), running, and a smidgeon of cheating.

You need three drinking straws in different colours (we send #3 into the pub to get these because she's seriously cute and no barman can say 'no' to her. Just as well she doesn't order a vodka...)

You then drop the drinking straws into the fast flowing stream way up by the car park and run really fast down to the beach, quite a way down the hill.

The stream flows under the road, and pops out through a bridge onto the rocks above the beach. We station a look out at this point to check progress, and to make sure nothing's got stuck. There are two more lookouts lower down the stream as it tumbles over rocks, down mini waterfalls and round whirlpools.

Eventually, the stream reaches the sand, and one of the straws is declared the winner.

Who needs the Caribbean and room service when you have three plastic straws and a Cornish stream? The simplest things are the best, and really do not need artificial stimulants to make them any better...

The only thing freaking me out, is that last time we were here - back in August - I was surfing the waves, doing long cliff walks and feeling really, really healthy, with absolutely no idea that I had a ticking time bomb of a tumour nestling under my left boob.

How could I not have known? How is it possible to feel so healthy, yet be quietly self destructing, let down by your own rapidly mutating cells?

(To follow this story, start with this post: I Need Help)

So, my friends, grasp this Spring, this new beginning, with both hands, for none of us know what is round the next corner.

Love to you all, and thanks again,

SM x

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

I Am So Sorry

Most of the time I love this blog. It's helped me hugely, and many of you have been kind enough to say it helps you too.

In fact, I even wrote a post titled Blogging Saved My Life (click here).

But today I don't like it at all. And I'm really, really angry with myself.

You see, a few days ago I wrote a post called Sober Dinners. And I wrote this:

I'd done my usual trick of accepting a glass of wine at the beginning of the evening, then leaving it in my glass. No-one notices you're not drinking it, but it just avoids all the 'why are you off the booze?' conversations.

I am not an addiction expert. I'm not a trained counsellor. I'm just an ex-boozy housewife who's read everything I can find on the topic of alcohol, and muddles along the best I can, sharing my story as I go.

The problem is that sometimes I forget that I have a responsibility to people following me. And we are all different. What works for some people just doesn't for others.

For example, many of you will know that I have a love affair with Becks Blue Alcohol Free beer. During the worst day of the whole cancer thing I drank SIX of the blighters. Without it I swear I'd have been on the Scotch.

(By the way, I'm now back to one a day).

However, 'fake alcohol' does not work for everyone. In fact, for some it's a massive trigger and just leads to terrible cravings for the real stuff.

We all have different weak spots.

My own 'issue' is that I hate drawing attention to my 'not drinking' at parties or dinners. I see how it makes other people uncomfortable, and that makes me uncomfortable. I know I should ignore it - that it's their problem not mine - but I can't.

So often I fake it.

BUT that's just what works for me.

It works because I'm used to being surrounded by booze. Mr SM still drinks, and there's usually an open bottle of wine in my fridge.

It works because I quietly push the glass as far away from me as possible, and it only works in a big group. If there are only two or three of you it's obvious that your glass is untouched.

It's a bad idea if you're not with people you're comfortable with, or if you're likely to be feeling nervous or ill at ease.

However, when I posted about this I didn't mention any of the caveats. I didn't issue any warnings. I didn't remind everyone that what works for one person might be a disaster for the next....

....and a lovely lady who's been a huge supporter of this blog, and did six whole months sober went on a date, let him pour her a glass (having been inspired by reading my post that morning) and drank it. Then two more.

I feel utterly terrible. I am SO, SO sorry, H. I feel totally responsible. I just hope I didn't inadvertently tip anyone else off the waggon.

(I've added a warning to the original post so that it doesn't do any more damage).

Then, last night another lady posted some comments on yesterday's post on the irony of addiction. She accused me of 'demonising' normal people, because of my 'failure' and to 'justify my sobriety.'

I re-read the post (click here).

I can, to an extent, see what 'I'm a bit fat' means. I am very black and white about booze. But I need to be in order to stay off the damn stuff.

So today I feel like I'm hated by the non addicts, and, what's worse, letting down my tribe.

I'm so sorry, and I just hope that H is okay.

SM x

Monday, 28 March 2016

Irony of Addiction

Over the last few days I've become a little obsessed by the irony of addiction.

We're programmed to believe that if we like doing something we should do more of it.

Whenever one of the smalls shows any interest in anything (that doesn't involve an electronic device) I leap upon it.

#2, for example, is big into dinosaurs. So, we've done the Natural History Museum. We've watched ALL the Jurassic Park movies several times. I've bought dinosaur books. We've drawn dinosaur pictures.

We've had endless debates about who would win in a fight? A velociraptor or an angry T-Rex protecting her young? Anyone? Brains versus brawn? Speed versus a mother's instinct to protect her young?

(See how much time and enthusiasm you have for all this stuff when you stop drinking?)

#1 loves cooking. So we've done Bake Off - watching it, and recreating it at home. We're constantly trying out new recipes and debating the pros and cons of different ingredients and various chefs.

You get the picture.

BUT the irony of addictive drugs (and alcohol is very much one of these), is that the more you love doing it, the less you should.

I really, really liked smoking. So I did more and more of it until I got hopelessly addicted and had to give up for good.

Meanwhile, my friends who weren't that bothered, who could take it or leave it, still have the odd fag (English slang alert!) after dinner all these years later.

The same is true of alcohol.

I LOVED drinking. It was my absolutely favourite way to while away the time (once I'd quit smoking). So I did more and more of it until I got hopelessly addicted and had to give up for good.

And it's really easy to think why me? Why must I be punished, while all these other people carry on drinking away with no problem? How is that fair?

BUT, here's the truth: those 'normal drinkers', the ones who can have a teeny glass once in a blue moon and stop, they're the ones who aren't that bothered. They've never been a big fan. They can take it or leave it. They're not properly enjoying it anyway. Not like we did.

(I was like that with dope. As a student I really tried to like smoking spliff. There'd be a short period of time, after a few drags, when everything would be quite funny, and I'd want to start debating existentialist questions, then, fairly quickly, all I'd want to do was... go to sleep. Each to their own.) 

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that's not true, SM! I have a friend, Joe, who loves booze just as much as I did! He talks about it all the time, and drinks all the time, no problem.

Okay, but I bet if you look closely at Joe, you'll realise that he's following exactly the same path as you. It's affecting his health, his moods, his sleep, his weight. It's beginning to make him miserable. He's started to secretly Google 'Am I an alcoholic?'

Might I be right?

There is a momentary 'sweet spot' with addiction. That period of time when you're really, really enjoying doing whatever it is, but it hasn't yet begun to bite you in the arse. (For me that was my late twenties).

But that time does not last.

We spend years, decades even, trying to recreate that wonderful era when the highs came without the corresponding lows, but once it's gone, it's gone.

So please don't feel hard done by, or believe that everyone else has it better than you.

Because the truth about drugs is that, like gambling, only the dealer wins.

If you love them, you'll eventually get addicted. If you don't love them, then what's the point anyway?

Those people still drinking? They're not the winners.

We are.

Love SM x

Sunday, 27 March 2016


I have a number of e-mail and sober blog friends who have been trying for months - sometimes years - to get past the first few days of being sober, but constantly end up back at day one.

We've all been there, and I know they'll make it eventually.

(If this describes you, then please, please click here to read my post on The Obstacle Course. I promise it'll help).

What their stories remind me of is how much headspace it all sucks up..

There is only so much time in the day for thinking, and when you're addicted to drinking, hours and hours of that time is used up in a totally destructive way.

Here's how it goes:

How awful do I feel this morning? What was I doing last night? Did I make a fool of myself/upset anyone/spill any secrets? Who do I need to apologise to? What do I need to get done this morning, and how tricky is it going to be?

....moving on to lots of.....

Why do I keep doing this? I promised myself I wouldn't drink last night. That's it. Today I am NOT DRINKING. I am going to detox and be reborn as a virtual goddess. NO MORE. This time I mean it.

....followed fairly swiftly by a bit of....

Perhaps today is not the VERY BEST day to stop. Surely it's best to stop on a Monday? And I've got Steph's party in a few days time. It'd be foolish to quit FOR GOOD now, and then have to immediately do a big party! Plus, what I really need today is a bit of 'hair of the dog.' Just a small glass. Just to take the edge off....

....Leading inevitably to....

Need to go and buy a bottle of wine. Actually, better make it two, as the husband is bound to want to drink some, and it wouldn't be good to run out, especially since this is one of my LAST DAYS of drinking. Can't go to my local shop. Bought 2 bottles there yesterday! Better go further afield....

....and then....

Not much point leaving anything in this bottle. If there's half a bottle sitting in the fridge I'll only want to drink it tomorrow. And I'm not going to drink tomorrow - oh no! There we go. All gone! Clever me...

....and back to....

How awful do I feel this morning....?

It's all so repetitive, and boring, and time consuming.

The problem is that for the first few weeks after you quit it gets worse. You think about drinking even more.

But DON'T GIVE UP GIVING UP, because slowly, slowly all that inner dialogue stops (for many, it takes 100 days before it really starts to get better). And you're left with....

.....silence. Peace. Quiet.

And you can use all that headspace to think about much better and more interesting things.

Suddenly you realise just how self-centred addiction makes you.

Because all that dialogue is inwardly directed, you just haven't had the time to think about sending x a birthday card, supporting y through her divorce or dropping some spare home baked cookies off to the old lady next door.

(Actually, I've still not done the cookie thing, but I will soon).

Now you find that you're a nicer person.

Plus you have the time and energy to think about the big stuff. Like what you're going to do with the rest of your life....

So, why not make today your final day one (if you haven't already). It's Easter Sunday - a perfect day for new beginnings.

(If you want to read my story from my final Day One, then click here).

Love SM x

Friday, 25 March 2016

Conscious Uncoupling

I was reading an interview with Chris Martin yesterday (bear with me - it does become relevant).

He believes there are two ways to end a marriage. "You can come at it very aggressively and blame and blame. Or you can put yourself in the garage, so to speak. Take yourself apart and clean off the bits. Reassemble."

Blimey. Doesn't that sound familiar?

So, it turns out that consciously uncoupling from Gwynnie is much like consciously uncoupling from Sauvignon Blanc.

Chris goes on to say that his inspiration was a poem by the 13th century Persian poet - Rumi. And, in fact, it's a poem used by Mindfulness experts and recovery centres round the world: The Guest House.

Here it is:

The Guest House - Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Chris's summary of Rumi's lyrical poetry is this: "It says that even when you're unhappy, it's good for you."

It is - I think - hugely relevant for addicts, because we used to meet each guest at the door with a large glass of vino.

"Hello anxiety! Have a bevvy! Disappointment! You look like you could do with a beer!" Any unwanted visitor was quickly drowned out and ignored.

But, as Rumi tells us, those visitors are there for a reason. We need to listen to them, and learn from them. Only then can we grow wise and strong and be good teachers for our children.

So, the next time someone unwelcome comes knocking on your guest house door, do not pour that drink! Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. They are a guide from beyond.

Have a good, Good Friday!

Love SM x

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Sober Dinners

The thing we all seem to struggle with initially when we quit drinking is socialising.

It doesn't take too long before you're pretty comfortable staying in, dressed in your comfiest PJs, watching the latest box set and clutching a hot chocolate, BUT venture out to a dinner or a party and you're all.... ill at ease and scratchy.

This bothers us a lot, as often we enthusiastic imbibers are outgoing, sociable types. That's partly what got us into this mess in the first place, right?

Well, last night Mr SM and I were invited out to a smart Italian restaurant with seven others for dinner. The sort of evening that would have filled me with horror six months ago.

Dinners, for ages, made me feel twitchy. I'd worry that I was being really boring. I'd be obsessed by how much everyone else was drinking (not a lot, as it turned out. Who knew?).

I didn't know what to do with my hands which had spent ten years constantly clutching a cigarette, then the next fifteen wrapped around a wine glass.

But, last night, I realised that I was feeling rather.... relaxed. Comfortable. Not 100%, but well over ninety.

One of the issues with dinners down my way is that the conversational topics are often confined to (1) Idle gossip (2) The housing market and (3) Which schools you're trying to get your children into. This drives me quietly insane.

Then last night I realised that I'd been as big a culprit as any.

Back in the drinking days, after a few glasses, when my brain had gone all numb and sleepy, I'd fall back on the tired old topics, and reel out some boring old anecdotes. Plus, I'd completely fail to listen to anyone else.

Last night, down my end of the table, we talked about all sorts of stuff - none of it related to our children or house prices.

We discussed the terrible situation in Brussels. We talked about the 'fight or flight response' and whether we would be the hero on a sinking ship, or freeze and drown.

We laughed about how Stalin, in the second world war, thoughtfully sent condoms to the British troops (whose rubber factories were busy making tyres for army vehicles), but made them all extra large and labelled them 'medium,' which got us onto a random (rather x-rated) conversation about penis size.

We moved onto Madonna, and her custody dispute over Rocco, and if Jon Snow really was dead, or whether he'd be revived by the witchy woman with red hair in time to deal with the White Walkers.

It struck me that, being completely sober, wide awake and relaxed, I was firing on all cylinders.

By that point in the old days I'd have passed through the overly loud and domineering stage, and would have moved onto bored, tired and desperate to leave.

I'd done my usual trick of accepting a glass of wine at the beginning of the evening, then leaving it in my glass. No-one notices you're not drinking it, but it just avoids all the 'why are you off the booze' conversations.*

(I'm perfectly happy now with people knowing I'm not drinking, but often they're not. It makes them really uncomfortable, so I just try to avoid the issue.)

So, at the end of the meal, everyone's wine glasses were empty apart from mine. The guy on my right leant over and said, quietly, "Are you going to finish that, or would you mind if I did?"

Oh what joy!

Firstly, it reminded me how crazy I would have been driven by someone else's full glass of wine in the past. How I would have agonised over whether to say anything, or whether they'd notice if I just grabbed it.

Secondly, imagine, was seen as the person who didn't feel the need to finish a glass of wine - who would just stop when she'd had enough, even if her glass was full. Ha ha ha. How wonderfully ironic.

As we left, I offered a lift home to two of friends who lived near us, much to their joy and amazement. ("You drove?"). As pretty much no-one else drives to dinner in central London, I'd nabbed a (free) parking space right outside the restaurant.

Sober dinners - I think I may have cracked it....

HAPPY SOBERVERSARY to Jennifer from Canada, who's been with me since the early days. Huge congrats Jennifer - you rock!

And so do all of you.


SM x

* Please DO NOT try this until you have read the cautionary tale and caveats here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Booze and Hormones

I honestly don't think about drinking much these days. The more time goes on, the easier everything gets....

....but the problem with that is that you begin to forget about all those dark days, and how bad it once was.

You start to think "Am I crazy? What am I thinking being so extreme, so black and white about the whole drinking thing? Perhaps I've been overreacting! Of course I can have an eensy weensy glass of wine from time to time...."

(For more on this one, see my post: Did I Overreact?)

And I've discovered that this incredibly annoying thought process is most likely to occur when there are hormones involved.

When we drink a lot, we get really out of the habit of listening to our bodies. The dramatic cycle of drinking-hangover-drinking, with all its associated mood swings, rather overwhelms everything else.

Back at four months sober, I wrote a post (click here) about how amazing it was, once your body got used to functioning without booze, to feel properly in synch with your natural rhythms - your sleep, your appetite and your moods.

But the other thing I've realised is that, having been pretty much oblivious to PMT for ages, I'm now very much aware of it. And that's when I start having all the What's it all about?!? thoughts.

(Funnily enough, my friend the addiction counsellor, tells me that she sees many women who had no problem with booze until they hit menopause. I wonder whether it was the hormone soup that tipped them over the edge?)

So, if you're early on in this whole journey, or even an old pro, then watch out for those dastardly hormones. They're the wine witch's best friend...

Incidentally, with #1 approaching thirteen, our house is a veritable bubbling volcano of hormones. Poor Mr SM - who has no sisters, and went to a boys boarding school from the age of seven - is finding the whole puberty thing somewhat unnerving.

On Sunday morning he asked "What are we all going to do today?"

#1 was angling for a family trip to her favourite French restaurant, so she said "Why don't we look for a little Brasserie?"

Mr SM looked horrified. He replied "Darling, you know I am a modern man" (he so is not) "but I do have to draw the line somewhere, and shopping for undergarments is very much a Mummy thing."

I left #1 to explain to her father the (very many) differences between a brassiere and a Brasserie.

Hormones. How can something so tiny wreak so much havoc?

Love SM x

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Deal With the Next Minute

It's good to be home.

Sometimes, all you need is a week away to appreciate everything that you've got.

After not seeing the children for seven whole days, right now they could refuse to eat everything I cook, lose all their homework and turn their bedrooms into cess pits, and I'd just smile benignly and wrap them in a bear hug.

After a week with absolutely no household chores, I've even fallen back in love with my domestic appliances. I watched my (previously loathed) washing machine as it valiantly chugged through the fourth load of laundry with a feeling akin to awe.

I threw myself at the Times yesterday, like a man in a desert discovering an oasis. I'd missed my favourite columnist: Caitlin Moran.

I have a girlie crush on Caitlin. I love her witty, intelligent writing. I adore her fearlessness. I'm grateful for the way she's made feminism cool again. And I love that blondish, badger like streak in her hair. She's awesome.

So, I thought I'd share my favourite bit of Caitlin, because it's really helpful. She wrote it for teenage girls going through the onslaught of puberty, but it's totally appropriate for all of us....

Here is a promise, and a fact: you will never, in your life, ever have to deal with anything more than the next minute.

However much it feels like you are approaching an event – an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss – where, if you screw it up, the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not.

That will never happen. That is not what happens.

The minutes always come one at a time, inside hours that come one at a time, inside days that come one at a time – all orderly strung, like pearls on a necklace, suspended in a graceful line. You will never, ever have to deal with more than the next 60 seconds.

Do the calm, right thing that needs to be done in that minute. The work, or the breathing, or the smile. You can do that, for just one minute.

And if you can do a minute, you can do the next.

So, if you're finding things hard right now, then listen to Caitlin, and just deal with the next minute....

And HUGE CONGRATS to Melanie from Boston who's dealt with a whole bunch of minutes - in fact a whole year of them. Got sober, moved across the country and set up a fabulous new business.

Happy Soberversary, Melanie!

Love to you all,

SM x

Friday, 18 March 2016

Time Out

It's time to go home.

I've had the most amazing week, but now I'm ready.

I really miss the children, and my little, scrappy dog. And I'm worried that, after a week holding the fort, my parents will be going crazy.

Plus, there's only so much lounging around on a perfect beach that you can do before it all starts feeling a bit....samey.

I've eaten so much, and moved so little, that I can almost see my thighs expanding. And Mr SM and I have started to run out of things to say to each other.

The wonderful thing about a properly relaxing holiday is that it gives you time to reflect on what's great about your 'real life'. You can go back feeling completely restored, and ready to tackle all the minutiae of daily life again.

If, however, you spend a week alternating drinking and hangovers, you go home feeling drained, miserable and ready to throw in the towel. I know. I've been there.

We need time out. We need to get away from the grind from time to time, and to be able to see everything with a little perspective.

Isn't that why we drink?

That (large) glass of wine at the end of the day gives you a momentary vacation. It transports you to somewhere other. It's a cheap and easy holiday in a goblet.

(Obviously, this trick stops working after a while. It takes more and more wine to have the same effect, then when you come back down to earth it's with a frightful bump. Rather than being restored and ready to tackle life again, you want to escape even more.)

When we quit, we still need that escape. That desire to get away from it all doesn't just vanish, and, if you don't find some other way to do it, it's all too easy to pick up the bottle again.

So DO NOT feel guilty about taking some Time Out. It's crucial.

Think about what you can do that mentally transports you away from wherever you are, just for a while.

For some people it's reading or writing. For others it's yoga, meditation, a relaxing bath. Some love running, painting, colouring, gardening. Or a combination of all of those things.

Think about how much time you spent drinking, and just use a bit of that time doing those things that give you that mental time out. Especially at 'wine o'clock'.

It's not a luxury, it's a necessity.

Love SM x

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Then and Now

This is not my first time in Jamaica.

Almost twenty years ago, when Mr SM and I had just started 'dating', we were invited by another couple - great friends of ours - to stay with their wonderfully eccentric cousin, M.

M was an artist. He'd emigrated to Jamaica, along with a bunch of other wild young things, back in the 1970s when the lifestyle to which they'd been accustomed - living in large houses with butlers, cooks and maids - became unaffordable in England.

M lived in a fabulous Jamaican Great House, up in the hills, but he, the house and the staff were becoming increasingly decrepit. When Mr SM and I lay in bed at night we could see the stars through a hole in the roof.

Dead romantic, until it started to rain.

M was a wild and extravagant host. Over the years everyone who was anyone, from Princess Margaret to Marianne Faithfull had been to stay.

The days revolved around sitting on the terrace, drinking cocktails, planning the next meal and talking about life, the universe and everything with an endless succession of visitors, from famous reggae producers to M's various Baby Mothers.

We'd get up late, and as it was practically noon, would drink Bloody Mary's or Bucks Fizz pretty much straight away. We'd carry on drinking through the afternoon, and party into the night.

By the end of the week I was only held together by the toxins. It took me at least a week to recover - mentally and physically, and I was young back then.

Do I regret it?

Not a bit.

Would I do it again?

Hell no. It'd probably kill me. This time I'm doing Jamaica a different way.

And that's where I am in life right now.

Do I regret any of it? Not a bit. Would I do it again? Hell no, it'd probably kill me.

I'm doing it a different way now. And that's all good.

Love SM x

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

How to Start a Sober Blog

About six weeks ago I received an e-mail from a chap called Alan. He said this:

Hi, may I ask, what is the best tip you can share about starting my own recovery blog?

Now, I'm obviously a big fan of sober blogging. In fact I wrote a post recently titled Blogging Saved my Life (click here to read).

So I wrote back to Alan with a few tips then, to be honest, forgot all about him.

Until today.

I received another mail from Alan, and it transpires that he hadn't just contacted me, he'd written to fifty five sober bloggers.

(Typical bloke - makes you feel special, then you discover they've been chatting everybody up).

He then took all of their responses and compiled them into a really fabulous article on how, and why, to start a sober blog, including a step-by-step guide to setting one up on Wordpress.

Two things struck me: one, I wish I'd read his article before I started out and, two, I'm jolly glad I didn't reply to his e-mail saying eff off, Alan, and do it yourself. I'm busy. I wouldn't have wanted that response shared with the interweb.....

So, if you've just started out and are thinking about starting a sober blog, even if it's just for yourself, then do check out Alan's article here:

Recovery Blogs: The Ultimate How To Guide

There are links to all fifty five of the featured blogs too, many of which are new to me.

Love to you all,

SM x

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


The thing about all this relaxation, and having so much time on your hands, is that you inevitably start thinking.

In my case, I keep being sideswiped by fear of mortality.

This isn't a bad thing - I guess I have to deal with the whole issue eventually, so I might as well start now.

You see, the thing about hormone positive breast cancer is that it can come back. And you can't ever feel safe, because it can lie dormant for ten, fifteen, even twenty years, and then rear its ugly head again.

And the problem is, it can crop up anywhere, but most often in your bones, liver or brain. And when it does, it's incurable. Terminal. End of the line.

(And it's a horrible way to die. Not that slipping away gently in your sleep, wearing your most glamorous nightie and full make up, that we all wish for.)

They can keep it at bay with chemotherapy, but usually not for more than a year or two.

When I'm busy I manage not to dwell on it much, but the fear is always lurking somewhere.

So, here's how I try to think about it:

You know how they say that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Well, I figure that if you get cancer it's often a sign that you were doing something wrong. (Sometimes, I guess, it's just bad luck). And if you carry on living life exactly the same way, it's much more likely to come back.

When my tumour started growing I was filling my body with toxins every single day. The link between alcohol and cancer, particularly breast cancer, is becoming increasingly clear. One day it'll be the new tobacco, and there'll be health warnings on every bottle of wine.

Now I drink water, green tea and smoothies. (And Becks Blue, obviously). I've made not just a tiny adjustment to my lifestyle, but a whopping great U-turn.

The other thing I try to remember is that any of us could be dead in ten, fifteen, twenty years. There are no guarantees. Nothing is certain.

And the flipside of the fear of dying is the joy of living.

When you realise that life might be short it makes you properly appreciate every single day, and not want to squander a second of it.

So, if you're still prevaricating about quitting alcohol and starting to properly live your life, just get on and do it now. Carpe bloody diem. Don't waste any more precious time.

Love SM x

Monday, 14 March 2016

Holiday Drinking

Isn't it funny how we justify daily drinking as a way of de-stressing at the end of the day - a result of our hectic, modern lives - then we go away on holiday, where there's no stress at all, and drink twice as much?

I'm typing this on my balcony at 6.30am. It's a perfect Jamaican morning, and I'm watching the beach boys raking the sand, and removing any pesky, unsightly strands of seaweed which had the temerity to wash up overnight.

Jamaica Inn is a beautiful old colonial style hotel. Mr SM was sold when he discovered that it was a favourite of his hero, Winston Churchill.

The typical guests are American and British couples in their forties, fifties and sixties, not rowdy young singles on the pull. I've not seen a single drunk guest, it's just not that kind of place.

BUT, everyone is drinking pretty much all the time.

At eleven am, on the dot, they serve a complimentary drink to anyone who's on the beach. There's a choice of a yummy fruit punch or - the much more popular - Planter's cocktail. Made with plenty of rum. At eleven in the morning!

In the Old Days I'd have been in heaven!

Then, at lunch time, the terrace is littered with large glasses of rose and cold Red Stripe beers.

(They also serve Becks Blue! Oh joy.)

By four in the afternoon the bar staff are busy serving wine and cocktails on the beach. Then there are the obligatory sundowners, and wine with dinner.

Most people are drinking more than the government recommended weekly limits every single day.

And it's just not necessary.

I honestly couldn't be more relaxed than I am right now. I can't see how I'd be enjoying myself any more. And, as I'm not drinking, I wake up early - feeling amazing - and can make the most of every beautiful day.

But there's one thing I'm feeling bad about.

Yesterday, Mr SM got wind of a local, public beach where every Sunday night they have live reggae bands playing. He wanted to go.

I said no.

I argued that we'd already booked a nearby restaurant for jerk fish and rice'n'peas. But the real issue was that I just couldn't imagine spending the evening with a load of dancing, smoking ganja, drinking Jamaicans completely sober.

I didn't want to spoil my holiday by feeling like a fish out of water (cooked in jerk spices and served with a mango salsa).

And now I'm really cross with myself. I was a wimp. I do not want to start missing out on experiences just because I'm not drinking. Outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens...

(See my post: The Comfort Zone).

Bad SM.

Anyhow, whether you're looking for somewhere to celebrate a soberversary, or whether you're still drinking and want to legitimately drink rum at eleven am, I can't recommend this place highly enough.

Love to you all,

SM x

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Sober Long Haul

After a year off the booze, I'm finding that doing most things sober has become the 'new normal.'

But then, every now and again, you do something for the first time, and it's hard.

Yesterday was my first sober long haul flight, and in my mind, flying is totally connected to booze.

Firstly, there's the excitement of going away somewhere, or the misery of returning to reality - both of which really necessitate a drink.

Secondly, there's that whole 1950s PanAm glamour thing.

Even though flying has become more and more painful, what with all the sticking cosmetics in see through bags (why? Can you really bring down a plane with a mascara? And, if so, why does being able to see it make it less deadly?) and taking off belts and shoes, it still has that halo of sophistication, which goes nicely with a glass of bubbly.

And thirdly, however much you sort of get the whole science of lift and drag, and differential air speed over the curved wings, it still seems counter-intuitive that such a massive hunk of metal is going to stay in the sky.

Plus there's always that fear that your baggage is on an entirely different aeroplane, or that forty five minutes really isn't long enough for you to make your connecting flight.

A drink helps take the edge off that knot of anxiety.

So, I found not drinking on the flight really hard, and was acutely aware of the 'snap' of the lids of all those little miniature bottles of vino going off around me.

And you know what? Long haul flights feel really long when you're sober.

Everyone else had a drink after take off, and wine with lunch, then happily snoozed for a good long stretch. I, meanwhile, was wide awake for ten hours! It's almost impossible to doze in an economy seat without the anaesthetic of alcohol.

So I was a bit cross.

Then I reminded myself that for the last few years I'd found long haul flights really rather difficult.

I was convinced that BA had had an efficiency drive, and reduced the amount of wine they served on flights (I still have no idea if this was really the case, or if it was just me that had changed). Two of those teeny weeny bottles of wine were nowhere near enough on a long journey!

I used to get really edgy waiting for the interminably slow progress of the trolley down the aisle, and then, when I'd finally got my hands on, and finished, my allowance, I'd wrestle for hours with the dilemma of whether it was worth the embarrassment of asking the hassled stewardess for more...

It wasn't relaxing, or glamorous, or exciting any more. It was stressful!

So yesterday, although I was slightly annoyed, was so much easier. And I didn't arrive with that terrible dehydrated, groggy feeling. I bounced off the plane, all bright eyed and bushy tailed (in as much as that's possible at the age of forty seven).

And I know that the return flight will be that much easier. And eventually, sober long haul will feel entirely natural.

After all, it wasn't so long ago that I couldn't imagine a long haul flight without chain smoking! And doesn't that image belong in a whole different era?

(Didn't you meet the most interesting people in the smoking section of planes? Yet another corroboration of my theory that addicts are the best).

Now, here I am, sitting on my terrace, sipping green tea, watching the sun set over a turquoise Caribbean sea, and listening to the faint thwock of croquet mallets connecting with wooden balls on the perfectly manicured lawn below.

Thank you, thank you for all your comments on my last post! If the whole plan comes off it will be as much down to all of you as it is me.

You're awesome. In fact, everything is pretty awesome.

Love SM x

Thursday, 10 March 2016

What Do You Think?

Over the last few months, many of you have posted, or e-mailed me privately, saying that you think this blog should be turned into a book.

Well, I'm listening.

I'm going to pitch the idea to a few literary agents. Here's what I'm thinking:

I've read pretty much every drinking memoir and self help tome out there (see Sober Mummy's Book List for my favourites), and I think this book will be quite different.

It'll be based on the story of my first year - using extracts from this blog - but interspersed with loads of practical help  (e.g. What to expect in the first month, how to party sober, dealing with cravings etc).

But the main thing is that, whilst almost all of the existing books are fairly serious and worthy, this one will be upbeat and - I hope - funny.

It's not aimed just at people who see themselves as 'alcoholics', but at the millions of women worldwide like you, and like me.

Women who viewed themselves as bon viveurs and connoisseurs, but who've begun to realise that it's all getting a bit out of control.

I want people to come away feeling inspired, uplifted and excited about the whole idea of giving up booze, to see it not as a terrible necessity, but as a fabulous lifestyle choice.

In short, I want to start a revolution.

I also want to include an epilogue, because this blog isn't just about me - it's about all of you. So I want to feature some of your stories too (only with your permission, obviously).

I think there's a huge market out there because, after all, this blog has had three quarters of a million page views with absolutely zero promotion. Just secret Googling, and word of mouth.

So, when I get back from Jamaica (did I tell you I was going to Jamaica?), I'm going to send off my pitch.

But, rather than me doing the hard sell, I thought it would be much better coming from the people that really matter, and really know - my readers.

Can you help me?

Just post a comment below, saying whether you would buy this book and/or recommend it, and if so why (if not, why not)? Then I'm going to send the agents a link direct you all your (unedited) comments.

If you've not posted before, and aren't sure how to go about it, just go to and set up a blogger profile (which is completely anonymous). That'll enable you to comment on any Blogger blogs, under whichever pseudonym you choose.

Thank you, thank you. And watch this space.

SM x

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


When I started this blog, I was very cautious about not being 'discovered.' I changed some key details to help preserve my anonymity.

But, as time has gone on, I've slightly thrown caution to the wind and given away more and more specifics about my life.

Well, today I received an e-mail from my fabulous friend G. (I hope she doesn't mind me sharing it). It goes like this:

I wonder if you remember that at your wonderful party I mentioned that I am no longer drinking, and it turned out that you have given up?

Now, it so happens that I found a blog or two about women drinking - because I think the world, and women in particular, have gone a bit overboard on booze and it's just all crazy - and there's one blog I love.

And, you know what? I think it's you!

Are you SoberMummy?

Suddenly, my two worlds have collided.

On the one hand I'm horrified. Sharing all this stuff with 'strangers' is one thing, but people you actually know knowing all about you is, paradoxically, terrifying.

Plus, I'm worried that I'll become a pariah at the school gates or, even worse, the children will get teased.

But, on the other had, it's strangely liberating being outed. I have been feeling slightly schizophrenic - like I'm two completely different people simultaneously. And I know that G won't go round telling everyone.

Anyhow, if my latest plan comes to fruition, I may be unable to stay under the radar for much longer.

More on that tomorrow....

Love SM x

P.S. Today I bought a new bikini. I had thought that was something I'd never do again....

Tuesday, 8 March 2016


Back in November, when I was in the middle of he whole cancer thing, and it was still possible that I didn't have long to live, Mr SM asked me a question.

He said "SM, has this whole experience made you look at your life and wish you'd done anything differently?"

This was a bit of a shock to me. Mr SM is an Old Etonian. He thinks that asking if you take milk in your tea is getting too personal.

I thought for a while, then I said "You know what? I don't think I'd change anything apart from one little thing."

"What's that?" he asked.

"I haven't had enough room service." I replied.

(I am aware that this is going to make me sound terribly spoiled, but please bear in mind that at the time I thought I was dying).

It struck me that for the last twelve years (since #1 was born) we hadn't had one holiday without the children. Plus, every holiday we've had has been self catering, which means that I do all the cooking, washing and cleaning, as per usual. Different setting, same chores.

So, I said "If we manage to get through all of this, can we please book a week away, just us two, somewhere hot with a glorious beach, where I don't have to do anything but lie on a sun lounger and order mocktails?"

Usually this sort of request would be dismissed out of hand, but I had picked a moment when Mr SM was feeling weak, and he agreed. I made him book it, and persuaded my sainted mother to hold the fort at home, before he changed his mind.

So, this Friday we are going to Jamaica! And I am beside myself with excitement (mixed with equal measures of panic about how my parents will cope with the three children and dog while we are gone).

Preparing to go away is a nightmare of pulling favours, writing lists of instructions and trying to anticipate what might go wrong. But I know that the more stressful the build up, the more amazing the feeling when we get onto that plane and fasten our seatbelts (and isn't that a great metaphor for life?)

I confess that I've had a number of moments when I (accidentally) picture myself holding a glass of chilled white wine, or a cocktail - when we're on the plane, the welcome drink at the hotel, the cocktail at sunset my the beach - and I feel a pang of regret like a kick in the stomach.

But I remind myself that the last few holidays I've done sober are the best I've had in years.

We're only away for seven days, I may never get the opportunity again, and I do not want to waste one minute on a hangover, or all blurry. There's going to be enough to get high on...

Whoop! Whoop!

Love SM x

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Comfort Zone

I was reading an interview in the Times Magazine with a tech millionaire.

He said that his new life mantra is inspired by a cheesy Facebook meme. It's a Venn diagram with two circles. One is labelled THE COMFORT ZONE, and the other is labelled WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS.

There is no overlap between the two circles.

This is a really neat summary of my life!

My theory is that we 'enthusiastic drinkers' are people who have always hated stepping outside our comfort zones.

That's why we love drinking; because it allows us to expand that zone to include all sorts of things that would usually make us feel edgy.

Suddenly our world seems so much bigger and more accessible!

The problem is we get so used to equating the comfort zone with alcohol, that the number of things that we are happy doing sober shrinks and shrinks, until we are fearful shadows of our former selves.

When we quit, we have to get used to constantly stepping out of that zone, to dealing with fear, anxiety, the unknown.

It's really hard.

Until you realise that outside the zone is where the magic happens!

Think back to those times in your life when you felt genuinely high, because you'd achieved something brilliant. I bet they'd been preceded by at least a dollop of fear, and butterflies in the stomach?

So, next time you're feeling scared and anxious, and you really want a drink to 'take the edge off', and to get you back to that warm, comfortable space, think this instead:

"Well done me! I am awesome. I am feeling like this because I'm on an adventure, going to where the magic happens...." Then wait and see where it takes you.

Happy Mother's Day to all my UK readers!

Love SM x

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Blogging Saved my Life

Exactly a year ago I started this blog.

I'd stopped drinking three days previously, and I was in a mess.

I'd quit before, for days, or sometimes weeks, at a time. It wasn't easy, but I'd just focus on the day when I could drink again.

Giving up for good was different. I couldn't stop thinking about drinking (or not drinking). And the more you try not to think about something, the more difficult it is. So my tactic was to indulge.

I read and read. Novels about drinkers, autobiographies of drinkers and self help manuals. I found, and the sober blogosphere.

Whenever I could, I'd disappear into my room and read about someone like me who'd turned their life around, and dream about being them.

When I quit smoking (fifteen years ago), I told everyone. "I am a non smoker!" I'd announce, and they'd all cheer. I told no-one (apart from Mr SM) that I'd quit drinking, and I felt the need to be accountable.

So I decided to start my own blog. To feed my obsession. To give my hands something to do. To make a written record of what I was doing and why, lest I forget, and to make a declaration to someone - anyone - that I meant it (this time).

Blogging also tapped into my other secret: I'd always wanted to be a writer.

I imagined myself, like Carrie in Sex and the City, hunched over a laptop, fingers flying. I pictured myself at 4am, in a deathly quiet house, secretly sharing my hopes and dreams.

(Little did I know that, now I'd quit, the insomnia that had plagued me for years would disappear - almost overnight).

So, I wrote my first post (click here).

I didn't expect many (if any) readers. I was writing for myself. But I remember the thrill when I saw that one person had read my stuff (it transpired that it was only me. I'd not learned how to not track my own page views).

Then I, shyly, left my web address on Soberistas, and a couple of other sites, and - slowly, slowly - people started to visit and leave comments.


And my readers stopped being just anonymous numbers, and started being virtual friends - Kags and Tallaxo (where are you now? Hope you're okay), and Laura from Belgium.

And the sober blogging community started dropping in and giving me a virtual hand - like Anne (Ainsobriety), Wendy (Tipsynomore) and Kary Mary (God walked into this bar).

Then, some of my readers set up their own blogs, and I subscribed to them - my family - Wine Bitch (now Sassy, Sober Life) and My Time to Shine, for example.

Now I really had to keep going. If ever I felt like a drink I thought about all those people willing me on, and those relying on me to show them the way. I couldn't do it.

Gradually, over time, the blogging morphed from helping myself to helping other people.

Then, in October, I found The Lump.

I couldn't tell anyone - not even my husband. I was too scared. All I wanted to do was to drink until I passed out and didn't have to think about it any more.

I didn't. What I did instead was to blog about it (see here).

Writing it all down kept me sane. It enabled me to stay 'normal' in front of the kids, who were on half term. And that's how Mr SM found out his wife had breast cancer - he read it on my blog.

I will never forget the waves of love and support from all of you through that time. Several readers mailed me with their own cancer stories, for which I am hugely grateful.

I remember one night, when I was waiting for the results of my latest scan to see how far the cancer had spread, I couldn't sleep. It was about 4am. I was reading cancer sites (I stopped doing that pretty quickly) and scaring myself stupid.

An e-mail popped into my inbox from a lady called Linda in Australia. She said you will be okay. I know this because I am a nurse, and because I've been there too. She added a smiley face.

Then, the next morning, a lady posted on my blog telling me that her whole congregation - around two hundred people - had prayed for me. I cried.

So, to all of you who left me wonderful messages on my Soberversary saying that I'd helped you, the truth is not as much as you've helped me.

Without this blog, and all of you, I would not be where I am now. There is no way I would have got this far, and through the whole cancer thing, without drinking, on my own. And since I started this blog I have never felt alone.

So, if you're just starting out, why not start your own blog? I'm a technophobe, but Blogger and Wordpress make it easy. Just start typing - one word at a time - and leave us your web address so we can come visit.

Happy Birthday, Mummy Was A Secret Drinker! 295 posts, and half a million page views later. And thank you.

SM x

Friday, 4 March 2016

You are not Alone!

Thank you all so much for the wonderful messages you left me on my Soberversary - I was totally overwhelmed. You're all amazing.

It's very easy to feel alone when you quit drinking.

It seems as if everybody else on the planet is quite happily sipping on a glass or two of wine a night, then stopping, without suffering any ill effects.

We, with our defective off-switches and hidden obsessions, feel like outcasts.

It doesn't help that the prevailing wisdom is that alcohol use is perfectly safe for the vast majority of people.

Only a poor, miserable handful, we're told, have a disease called 'alcoholism', and they must never drink. For everyone else, it's a sophisticated hobby. Chin chin!

Well, I came across two articles this week which have made me realise that we really are not alone, and we are not a tiny, sad minority.

The first was mailed to me by my friend J. It's an article in The Independent, headlined 'What the Five Most Addictive Substances on the Planet do to Your Brain'. Here's a link to the full article.

This article is based on research done in 2007 by Professor Nutt (I've quoted his well regarded, but largely ignored, study before).

Nutt's research showed that heroin is the most addictive drug available today. It increases dopamine levels in the brain by up to 200%, and only five times the level required to get you high will kill you.

Fair enough. Could have guessed that.

However, the next most addictive drug, more so than crack cocaine, barbiturates and nicotine is alcohol.

Studies showed that alcohol increased dopamine levels in the brains of laboratory animals by up to 350%, and the more the animals drank the more dopamine levels increased.

According to this research 22% of people who drink alcohol will develop dependence. That's nearly one in four people. Certainly not just a small, unfortunate handful.

The same point was reinforced by the second article, in the Evening Standard, headlined: NHS hospital hires Priory addiction expert to tackle rise in women drinkers.

Here's a quote: The hospital (St Helier) saw a near doubling of alcohol-related admissions of women aged 30-49 as part of a drink epidemic sweeping the capital.

So don't feel alone. Don't feel like you're different, that you were dealt a horribly bad card and that life isn't fair. There are millions of people in exactly the same boat as us, it's just that we're the ones clever enough to see it!

(And if you do feel lonely, just pop on here for a virtual hug).

Happy, sober Friday everyone!

SM x

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

One Year Sober!

What a difference a year makes....

This time last year I was struggling with yet another hungover Monday morning. I'd slept really badly (as always), and had been tossing and turning since about 4am, thinking about how much I hated myself.

Somewhere along the line, my life seemed to have shrunk.

I'd gone from being someone who was always out and about pushing boundaries, taking risks, and grabbing life by the short and curlies, to being a stay at home Mum, who did little other than stay at home (and drink).

Ironically, while my life had got smaller, I'd expanded.

The lithe, gorgeous girl I'd once been had been blown up with a bicycle pump. I'd gained two stone, a huge wine belly, and jowls.

I wasn't even a good Mum. I spent most of my time trying to avoid my children - in favour of sinking a glass of vino. In fact, I spent most of time drinking in order to avoid life.

I also seemed to have left my balls somewhere. I was constantly anxious and fearful. Even the smallest tasks seemed like mountains to climb, and necessitated a drink 'to take the edge off' as soon as it hit 'wine o'clock' (which was creeping inexorably earlier).

I thought, vast alcohol intake aside, that I was generally healthy. I still exercised a fair bit, and ate well. But all those toxins were silently wreaking havoc, and I was secretly harbouring a malignant tumour in my left boob, which I didn't find for another eight months.

I blamed some of this on the booze, but not all of it. I thought much of it was down to age. Don't we all get a bit stuck in a rut over time? Jaded? Fed up? Lacking in energy and enthusiasm?

Then, 365 days ago, I decided to stop. I realised that I'd stopped controlling the booze some years previously, and it was now controlling me. I'd had enough.

I thought that quitting booze would change me physically. I hoped I'd lose some weight and sleep better. I also hoped that, after a while, the infernal internal monologue in my head (I called her the Wine Witch) would disappear.

BUT I feared that life without booze would be flat. Featureless. Boring. I tried to reconcile myself to being dull and sensible, not the wild, hedonist of my youth.

I had no idea.

I had no idea that quitting booze would change, not just a few things, but everything.

I had no idea that life without booze is more thrilling, more exciting (yet also more peaceful) and more colourful than ever before.

I had no idea that, along the way, I'd find a person I thought I'd lost.

I feel like, over the last twelve months, I've come full circle. Slowly, slowly all the layers of stuff I've hidden behind have been stripped back (the process is painful - like being rubbed raw with a cheese grater), and underneath it all is the girl I was in my late twenties.

She's still there! That kind, brave, adventurous, optimistic and funny person I vaguely remember. And, like she did back then, she greets every day with enthusiasm, and small things - like the changing of the seasons - with wonder.

I've got my body back (I've lost 21 pounds). I've rediscovered my self respect and my courage. I'm a better wife, mother and friend.

In the last year I've beaten the wine witch, and I've kicked cancer's butt too. So bring on year 2, because I'm on a roll. I've been given a second chance, a clean sheet of paper, and I'm not going to waste it.

Thank you, all of you, for sharing the last year with me, and holding my hand through it all. I honestly don't think I'd be here without you, and here is a mighty good place to be.

(To read my story from the beginning click here).

Thank you.

SM x

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Gratification and Rewards

I've made some wonderful virtual friends through this blog. One of them is an amazing lady called J.

J first mailed me a couple of months ago. She sounds SO like me. She's roughly the same age and had the same sort of full on London media job (with the bar in the office, and obligatory lunchtime boozing).

Like me, she has a handful of young children, and she too had breast cancer. In fact, she spent her fortieth birthday on the radiotherapy machine, sobbing.

When I posted about my ongoing fears of dying, and about my initial nightmares with Tamoxifen, J mailed me straight back and held my hand across the worldwide interwebby. She's just fab.

J said something in one of her e-mails recently which I wanted to share (and she agreed). Here it is:

When I took my very alcoholic friend, the "bon viveur" ex-Odd Bins manager (though let's face it we are all in the same boat) to his alcohol counsellor (yes the irony), I was struck by what he said. 

He told my friend about the profound difference between gratification and reward. "Gratification" being the instant fix from alcohol, but ultimately un-rewarding. Then he talked about the real "rewards" of life which you have documented so beautifully in your blogs. 

This really struck a chord with me.

I think I've spent my whole life chasing the 'instant fix', or the easy high. And alcohol - at least initially - works a treat. Feel like a boost? Just pop that cork and pour. Voila.

I know now that there are three big issues with living life like this.

One: like any drug, your body and brain become acclimatized to alcohol after a while, and it takes more and more of it to produce the same buzz. In fact, soon enough you get to the stage where you have to drink SO much to feel that high, that by the time you're there you're pretty much comatose.

Two: Because you're drinking more and more to reclaim that feeling, the downsides are getting worse and worse. The hangovers, the insomnia, the self hatred..... Need I go on?

Three: You end up spending so much time looking for instant gratification that you stop doing any of things that would give you proper rewards.

I was thinking about my children and their friends. They don't get their highs from alcohol. But their lives are a constant rollercoaster of massive highs (and, obviously, a few lows).

Their highs come from scoring the winning goal of a football match, doing well in an exam, mastering a skill for the first time, standing up in front of an audience and playing a trumpet.....

.....all the sorts of things that we stop doing in favour of just pouring another drink.

But those things, things you have to work at, things that come with a risk of failure, of humiliation, those are the things that give you a proper high.  A real reward.

When I quit drinking, I thought that life would be - forever and ever - flat. Featureless. Devoid of lows maybe, but also of highs.

I realise now that that's nonsense. You still get the rollercoaster, but it's real, not manufactured. You learn to navigate the lows, the fear and anxiety, because it's only through them that you can reach the massive highs.

The highs don't come from drugs, they come from climbing that mountain (real or metaphorical), running that marathon, making those hundred days, giving that speech, helping your friend, finishing that DIY project, decluttering. All those things that you start doing, slowly, slowly, when you quit drinking.

So, my promise to myself for my second year of being sober (tomorrow is the BIG DAY), is that I am going to make sure that I chase every opportunity to do another loop on that rollercoaster. I'm going to take risks, learn new skills and push through that fear barrier.

Because that's where the real highs are, my friends. Not at the bottom of that bottle.

Love SM x