Thursday, 28 July 2016

Liz Jones

Liz Jones is a fashion editor and newspaper columnist who has, over the last twenty years, written in painfully honest detail about the ups and downs of her life.

When I come across a Liz Jones column, I have the same feeling I have when I'm driving down the motorway and notice a car crash on the other side of the road: I know I really shouldn't slow down to look, I know it's only going to make me miserable and that there's nothing I can do to help, but even so I find my foot hovering over the brake.

Then, at the weekend, I came across this headline from Liz:

LIZ JONES: I've finally got a friend I can rely on - a bottle of wine a day.

Here's an abridged version of what Liz had to say:

I'm not writing about 'wine o'clock' and one too many glasses of a really nice Chablis to wind down. I drink to escape my life, not toast it.

I don't want to get tiddly - I want to be comatose, to escape the awful pressing problems of today. I don't care two hoots about tomorrow.

I had my first drink on Millennium Eve, thinking it might cure my crippling shyness, help me get a date. That was Trigger Number One - loneliness, insecurity.

A glass of wine didn't cure my diffidence, not really, but it gave me something to do in the evening, something to hold....

....last year, faced with financial ruin, I drank half a bottle in one go. That was a first. I felt better - ooh, another first. This is nice. Wow. I can sleep. Yay. Who cares that I have no money?....

....of course, I woke up, depressed, at 3am, my body craving more booze. A cycle had been set in motion....

Now? The bottle is my only friend. It's so festive with its bubbles, so merry. The pop makes you feel you're at a party of one. It's not that without it, life just doesn't seem worth living. Without it, life is impossible.

Now, we know how that feels, don't we?

And we know it's a vicious circle: you drink because life is difficult. The drink makes life more difficult. You drink because life is difficult. Ad infinitum.

So, whatever you may think about Liz Jones, I say WELL DONE, and THANK YOU. For being so honest about an issue few women will admit to their closest friends, let alone the whole country.

I had a look at the comments posted online to see how Liz's article had been received. There were 1,400 of them before the website stopped taking any more.

The worst rated comments were along the lines of this one: "Hopefully she'll drink herself to death. Sad old soak."

But here's an example of one of the best rated comments: "I'm sure that there will be people who will criticise you for writing this Liz, but for every one of them there will be many, many more who identify with what you've said and now feel less alone. Thank you for your bravery."

And so say all of us.

I do hope that rather than just printing her article, and enjoying the attention it receives, Liz's editor makes sure she gets help.

I've put Liz's name in the title of this post in the hope that she Googles herself and comes across this blog, because one thing is clear - she needs friends.

(To read Liz's full article, and the reader's comments click here).

Love SM x

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Something strange is happening to my blog statistics.

I seem to have become 'a thing' in Russia. Not a 'big thing', but a 'thing' nonetheless.

Until recently I rarely picked up readers over there - a mere handful a week. But now I'm getting around 1,500 page views a day just from Russia, making it my third largest readership (after the USA and UK).

Now I've always had a bit of a girlie crush on Russia. Ever since I read Anna Karenina, and lusted after a fur-swathed Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago.

I also think Russian is the world's most romantic language.

Mr SM spent a year living in St Petersburg, so speaks passable Russian. When we started dating I would get him to talk to me in Russian during our romantic moments.

(I assumed he was reciting love poetry. Turns out he was saying "Waiter! A plate of your finest meatballs please!")

I studied Russian Economic History for a year of my degree course at Cambridge.

I was fascinated by a country of such beauty - Faberge, Chekov, the Hermitage, such extremes - the Tzars and the serfs, the palaces and the gulags, Nureyev and Rasputin, and the crazy boldness of communism, central planning and butch, female shot-putters.

In 1987, at the age of eighteen, I decided to travel round Russia and Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan).

In those days the only way to do this was on an official InTourist tour, staying in state sanctioned and controlled Tourist Hotels.

We were guided everywhere, and when we managed to steal some time on our own we were followed by the KGB (spotting, then losing, our assigned KGB agent became our favourite game).

My trip was fascinating, but it was blighted by one thing: lack of vodka.

I'd assumed that we'd spend our evenings swilling back vodka and Cossack dancing on the tables of quaint Russian bars. But no.

Gorbachev had introduced the 'dry laws' to try to address the huge problem of alcohol related illness and work absenteeism in Russia.

As the state controlled all supply and pricing of vodka, they were able to close the liquor shops and massively increase the prices. I was outraged. But not as much as the Russian people were.

It turns out that shortly after I returned home the dry laws were repealed. The state was suffering from lack of vodka revenue, and the people were getting sick from moonshine brewed in garden sheds.

I did a bit of research to see what's happened to Russia's vodka habit now.

According to WHO data analysed by the OECD, more than 30% of all deaths in Russia in 2012 were attributable to alcohol.

That's insane.

(The same calculation showed a 3.4% attribution in the UK and 3.2% in the USA).

As a result, life expectancy for a Russian man in 2012 was 65 years, compared to 76 in the US and 74 in China.

After heart disease and cancer, alcohol is the third biggest killer in Russia.

So what's being done about it?

Well, AA hardly has any presence in Russia, as it has never been approved or sanctioned by the state. Instead, the main treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction seems to be a method known as 'coding.'

There are various alternative therapeutic methods which come under the umbrella of 'coding', but they all attempt to scare patients into abstinence by convincing them that they will be harmed or killed if they use it again.

The therapist pretends to insert a 'code' into patients' brains, using a combination of theatrics - hypnosis, placebos and drugs - with temporary adverse effects, to make the patient believe that their drug of choice is now extremely dangerous.

How crazy is that?

For a start, it's all based on a big fat fib. And, secondly, we know that scaring people into quitting doesn't work.

(How many times did we read SMOKING KILLS on the cigarette packets as we merrily lit another?)

So, if you're reading this from Russia (big thanks to Google Translate), then WELCOME!

Just put down the vodka and start living....

Love SM x

Monday, 25 July 2016

SM's Guide to Sober Summer Holidays

The British summer holidays are officially here, as evidenced by the fifteen hour traffic jams outside the ferry port of Dover this weekend.

We enthusiastic drinkers often fret a lot about doing a summer holiday sober.

Summer holidays are totally connected in our minds with images of sipping (did I say sipping? Who am I kidding?) glasses of chilled white wine outside a Greek Taverna, drinking cocktails while dancing to dodgy holiday tunes, or rediscovering the romance over a shared bottle of champagne.


And the thing we really loved about summer holidays was the Summer Holiday Rules which, in my case, went something like this:

1. It's fine to drink as much as you want every evening because you're on holiday!

2. It's okay if you get drunk and behave really badly, because you can run away in a week or two leaving all those memories behind you.

3. It doesn't matter if you wake up with a terrible hangover, and are unable to do anything much for most of the day, because there's nothing you have to do anyway.

4. It's fine to drink at lunch time (every day), because that's totally normal behaviour in the Mediterranean.

5. It doesn't matter if 'lunch time' starts at about 11am, because you're on 'holiday time'.

So, summer holidays are dangerous times.

It's really easy to fall off the waggon because the wily old wine witch starts saying something like this:

Oh for f***s sake, you're on HOLIDAY! You deserve a drink or two. You've done so well! You proved you can do it, so you can do it again. Just drink while you're away. What goes on tour stays on tour, right? I won't tell anyone if you don't. You can quit THE MOMENT you leave. Or maybe the moment you get back (a drink or two on the 'plane would be nice ;-)).

Please don't listen. Because it won't work like that. You won't give up the minute you get back because it'll be too hard.

You'll feel down because of all the booze, and because you're back to reality, holiday over. You'll put it off for another few days, then another, then another.

Chances are it'll take a few months before you manage to re-gather all the strength and determination you need to quit again, and this time it'll be harder. It always is. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

The truth is that summer holidays without booze can be way better. Honestly.

Think about it. What are holidays really for?

They're for recharging the batteries, physically and emotionally, exploring new places, doing new things and reconnecting with family and/or friends. Right?

And all of those things are much easier to do sober than when you're endlessly drinking.

So, here are my top tips for having a fabulous, sober summer holiday:

1. Prepare.

Write a list of all the things you want to get out of your holiday, and remind yourself why they'll be easier to do sober.

Often the 'getting there' is the most stressful part of the holiday, so make sure you have your favourite alcohol free drink to hand for when you arrive.

(I always take a stash of Beck's Blue with me, but last year arrived at our rented cottage to discover there was no bottle opener. I ran around like a mad thing bashing my bottle over rocks, trying to dislodge the cap. This year I'm taking my own).

2. Love the mornings

Waking up in a beautiful place with no hangover, full of energy, and with no work to do is awesome!

So I go to bed pretty early on holiday and wake up shortly after dawn. The world is sleeping, it's just you and the birds, and that's the time when magic happens....

3. Look after yourself

Sober holidays are a great time to really recharge your body and soul.

Eat wonderful fresh food from the market. Get lots of exercise and fresh air. Take up yoga and/or meditation. You'll come home feeling (and looking) a million dollars, not all toxic and depressed.

(Try the yoga videos on YouTube, and the Headspace App for meditation. You'll feel much less of a pillock going all New Agey on a beach than you do in your kitchen at home).

4. Coping with cravings

The hardest times are when you're in a situation when you'd usually be drinking - like sitting outside a café, watching the sun set without a glass of wine.

So, if you get hit by a major craving, take yourself off as soon as you can, and do something that you do not associate with booze. Go swimming. Take a walk. Do that yoga. Have a nap. It'll pass....

5. Know the wine witch

You know what she's going to say (see above) at some point, or at several points during your vacation, so be prepared. Know what to say back. Know it's all lies.

But, the main thing, is to have a wonderful time. You've truly earned it.

Love SM x

Friday, 22 July 2016

Hope Versus Expectation

I read all the comments you fabulous people leave on my blog. I'm sorry I don't always reply to them.

They are always kind, wise, often very funny, sometimes extremely poignant, and really helpful - both for me, and for all the lurkers our there.

(It's okay, no shame in lurking! We've all done it. Come out when you're ready).

Sometimes a comment gets stuck in my head and it takes me a while to figure out why.

That was the case with this one from Tams62:  My therapist has tried to lead me down a path of "hoping" for things vs "expecting" things...It has helped me to not feel so let down and discouraged.

I loved the distinction between 'hope' and 'expectation' but wasn't entirely sure why, then yesterday I worked it out....

Yesterday was hard.

I had to clear up the house in Scotland, pack the cases to go South, lock away anything staying North, empty the fridge and all the cupboards, clean, squeeze everything into the car (leaving enough space for three children and a dog), then drive for nine hours back to London.

Usually Mr SM and I share all this. Yesterday, as Mr SM had fled back to the office several days ago, I had to do it all on my own.

And, you know what? It was easier.

(The packing bit, not the driving bit. Nine hours without a co-pilot is hell. We made it, fuelled by coffee, Rowntree's Fruit Gums and an eleven hour long talking book of Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass to keep the children happy. But by the end I had to be levered out of the driver's seat, a gibbering wreck).

I tried to work out what made it less stressful, and I realised that on previous occasions I've spent an inordinate amount of energy worrying about what Mr SM is doing (or not doing).

Usually on a packing day I get up at least an hour before Mr SM does, so by the time he saunters out of bed (at a reasonable time) I'm already feeling like a martyr.

He then has this really annoying habit of deciding to deal with endless e-mails when we only have a short amount of time left before we can leave.

I bang and crash around him, loudly emptying cupboards, washing up and harrumphing, as my blood boils to the point that steam is coming out of my ears.

He's used to this, so just types away regardless, issuing storm warnings to the children. ("Watch out folks, she's gale force seven, gusting eight!").

By the time we leave I am super stressed and extremely cross. It takes an hour or two of the journey before I'm back on speakers with the husband. (I suspect he relishes the peace of the silent treatment).

But yesterday I had absolutely no expectation of Mr SM doing anything (except going to his office several hundred miles away). And I was calm, organised, relaxed, happy.

The reason expectations are so toxic and so stressful is that they involve other people's behaviour, which is out of our control.

When people refuse to behave how we expect them to we take it personally. We get upset, or angry. And, if you're in the early days of quitting, this can be a major trigger.

If you expect nothing, you can't be disappointed.

But hope is different. Hope is about being eternally optimistic and positive. It's a good thing to hope that someone will help you, so long as you don't expect it.

I've also realised that men, and children, are very much like puppies.

Nagging them to do stuff just doesn't work and makes the whole household unhappy.

Instead, rewarding them when they behave the way you'd hope encourages them to carry on.

So now I try really hard not to nag Mr SM to load the dishwasher, but when he does so without asking I go totally overboard with the praise and thanks. (You'd think he'd split the atom rather than just put a few dirty plates in the right place). And he is - I think - doing it a little more.

I found this great quote from Stephen Hawking:

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.

I'm not sure I'll ever get my expectations down to zero, but I'm working on it, and doling out lots of puppy treats along the way....

Love SM x

P.S. If you're receiving this by e-mail, I hope the title has now changed to something less embarrassing! If so, it's all thanks to amanconcernedforhiswife. If not, I give up.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Inbox Fear

Thank you to all of you who've subscribed to receive my posts by e-mail. It means a huge about to me that you want to take time out of your day to read my ramblings.

However, I got an e-mail from a reader saying that she was horribly embarrassed whenever one of my mails hit her inbox as the title screamed out MUMMY WAS A SECRET DRINKER, which can be mortifying if someone spots it.

I totally get it, as I receive my own e-mails, so the same has happened to me.

One of my Godsons (aged 12) spotted my blog in my inbox once. "Mummy Was a Secret Drinker?" he read, quizzically.

I quickly changed screen, blushed like a beetroot, and said "It's just a blog I subscribe to. Totally CRAZY lady. Don't know why I read it!" Accompanied by eye roll and forced laugh.

The e-mail system is totally automated by a programme called Feedburner, so I'm not at all sure how to tinker with it, and I am a technical klutz. The fact that I managed to set this blog up at all is a miracle!

But I THINK I may have fixed it so my mails come through with the title A NEW POST FROM SM.

So this post is a test, and I'll let you know in the comments below if it worked.

If you'd like to receive my posts by mail, then go to the full website (if you're using a mobile device like smartphone or iPad then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on View Full Website). In the top right corner of the homepage you'll see a box titled 'Subscribe by mail'. Just put your e-mail address in there.

(Don't worry, your e-mail address is NOT public, and is NOT shared with anyone).

Fingers crossed.....

SM x

Alcohol and Feminism

Isn't it extraordinary how, as the world becomes more and more chaotic, women are taking over?

In Germany they have the formidable Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Christine Lagarde is running the IMF. Theresa May is now Britain's second female Prime Minister, and Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland's First Minister. Even in the USA a woman looks set to take the reins.

Our generation were the ones bought up to believe that we could do anything, that it was our duty to keep up with the boys in honour of those who fought the good fight before us.

My Cambridge college (eagle eyed readers may spot that I referred to 'Oxford' earlier in this blog in a bid to stay anonymous. I now realise that this was somewhat futile) was all girl's.

It was founded in 1872, but whilst women were allowed to study with men, and sit examinations alongside them, they were not given a formal degree certificate until 1947.

The college had a strong suffragette tradition, and even today the suffragette flag, carried by Newnham girls during the protests, hangs proudly (if somewhat bedraggled) in the Formal Hall.

So, when I graduated from Newnham I was determined to beat the men at their own game. Anything they could do I could do better.

Including drink.

I wasn't alone. This was the era of the ladette, of Bridget Jones and Sex in the City. We were all drinking Cosmopolitans in fancy bars with our girlfriends, and drowning our romantic sorrows over buckets of Chardonnay.

(Was that what our sisters fought for? Our right to get drunk?)

But the truth is you can't beat biology.

Women are affected by alcohol at much lower levels than men, as they metabolise alcohol more slowly, due to lower body weights and higher fat percentages. We become addicted faster, and at lower levels of drinking.

Plus, men seem to get away with bad behaviour as a result of drinking (being described as 'bon viveurs' or 'one of the boys') whereas women who drink too much (especially after a certain age) are viewed as unstable and bad mothers.

(See my post on Alcohol and Sexism for the difference between the media reporting of a drunk Kate Moss and a legless Gerard Depardieu).

Times, however, do seem to be a-changing.

During the recent Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage (leader of the UK Independence Party) was constantly seen with a pint of beer in his hand (even before midday).

One of the quotes that helped scupper Michael Gove's leadership ambitions was this one: Michael Gove has an emotional need to gossip, particularly when drink is taken, as it all too often seemed to be.

Theresa May, meanwhile, came across as a steady, sober, hand on the tiller.

During her leadership campaign she said: I know I'm not a showy politician. I don't tour the television studios. I don't gossip about people over lunch. I don't go drinking in Parliament's bars. I don't often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me.

And that's me now too. I'm done with gossiping over boozy lunches, getting legless in bars and drunkenly emoting. I'm just getting on with the job in front of me. Steadily. Soberly.

If you're struggling, then think of Emmeline Pankhurst and her mantra Never surrender! Never give up the fight! 

They didn't win the right to vote and for equal pay so we could sit at home drinking and having a pity party for one. They did it so we could get out there and change the world.

So, go do it!

SM x

Monday, 18 July 2016

No Such Thing as Separation

I spent the day today with my Goddaughter, whose father died a week ago. She is eleven years old.

I cried. She was very brave. She looked like an adult; I felt like a child.

I told her a story. I told her about a great friend of her father's and mine, Juliet, who died in a car accident when she was just twenty-nine. She, like him, had flaming red hair and an irrepressible spirit.

(For more about Juliet, read my post: When the Wine Witch Wins)

About ten years after Juliet died, I was in the passenger seat of a car being driven, by my husband, through a torrential thunder storm in South Africa.

I was dozing and saw, vividly, my friend Juliet, who yelled at me to wake up.

In the poor visibility Mr SM was turning the wrong way down a dual carriageway. If I hadn't woken up we, and the two small children in the back, would have died.

I told my Goddaughter that, because of that experience, I truly believe that those we love look after us after they die. They become our Guardian Angels.

I hope she doesn't think I'm totally barking.

I always used to be suspicious of people who quoted Rumi - the 13th century Persian poet. His quotations usually crop up on Facebook or Instagram over yet another ghastly shot of a celebrity, in an improbable yoga pose, on a beach bathed by the setting sun. But then I found this:

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.
Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.

Thank you so much for all your incredibly thoughtful messages and e-mails over the last few days. They've helped more than I can say. So sorry for not responding to you all individually.

Love SM x

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Self Destruct

I went to a party last night.

It probably wasn't a good idea. I had the distinct impression that people were trying to avoid me.

Three times I went up to talk to an old friend of mine. Every time she walked off. Eventually, exasperated, I asked her why. "I'm sorry, it's just I don't know what to say," she replied.

(I'm not angry with her. I understand. Who wants to be confronted by the spectre of the Grim Reaper at a social event? A year ago I'd have been the same).

It became clear that someone who's just recovered from cancer, whose great friend died four days ago, and who doesn't even drink is not an ideal party guest.

I went to check my 'phone, in case the babysitter had rung, only to discover that there was a sodding coup going on in Turkey and hundreds were dead. Somehow it seemed like the final straw.

So I left.

And today everything just feels joyless. I can't quite work out what it's all for. And I have this huge urge to just press the big red self destruct button while shouting FUCK IT. FUCK IT ALL.

And that's not at all like me, as regular readers will testify.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.

SM x

Friday, 15 July 2016

Friendship (again)

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

C.S. Lewis

Thank you, again, for your wonderful messages of support following the death of my friend, Q. It is really appreciated, and the thought of all of you, out there somewhere, makes things easier.

I have written a few posts on friendship over the last year or so (click here for one on how booze affects our friendships), but the last few days have made me think about it in a different way.

As news of Q's death has spread there has been an outpouring of grief on Facebook. A remembrance page has been set up for friends and family to post pictures and memories.

(I was searching for another word for death, but I hate them all. 'Passing' is okay if you're talking about wind, but not a human being. 'Loss' makes it sound as if they've been mislaid on a station platform).

Mr SM has been asked to deliver the eulogy at Q's funeral. He is terrified. He was awake most of last night trying to work out how to get the tone just right, and worrying about breaking down in front of hundreds of people.

Trying to describe (in just a few minutes) a man and his life, and a little of what he meant to all those who are mourning him, is a horribly hard task.

It's made me think how sad it is that it takes a death to make us realise how wonderful our friends are, about how they've enriched our lives and what makes them unique.

It's all too easy to focus on negatives, on silly day to day irritations (a joke misfired, a thank you not delivered, an invitation turned down) and to forget the big picture.

So I've made a pact with myself. I will make the time to imagine a Facebook remembrance page for each of my close friends - the photos, the memories, the lists of all their awesome qualities, and I'm going to feel grateful for them now. While they are still here. And I'm going to take the time to tell them so.

As for the booze, I don't miss it at all.

My friend S told me that when her father died, she and her siblings flew from various parts of the world to be with her mother (a recovering alcoholic). Their greatest fear was that, after two years sober, their mother would be drinking again.

As they gathered together, the first thing S's Mum said to them was "I know what you're all thinking, and it's okay. I'm not going to drink." S had never been more proud of her mother, nor loved her more.

It's at times like this that you need to be a rock, to protect your family and hold them close. Without the drink I feel strong.

Thank you again,

SM x

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Booze and Bereavement

Thank you so much for all your kind messages yesterday after the death of my friend, Q.

It has been a very hard couple of days.

I have never seen my old Etonian, stiff upper lipped husband cry before, even during the whole cancer thing, but several times I've caught him quietly sobbing.

Mr SM and Q first met when they were at boarding school together at the age of seven, and there's something about wrenching young boys from their families, and subjecting them to inedible food, cold showers and the public school 'fagging' system that forges incredibly strong ties.

#2 picked up Mr SM's iPad yesterday and it opened on a site named 'coping with bereavement.'

I'd always thought that if a close friend or family member died I would play my 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. Nobody can be expected to cope with grief without booze, right? Alcohol was practically invented for this - it's medicinal. It numbs the feelings and makes everything bearable.

But I figure that drinking now would be like closing the front door on a house fire. You might be able to forget, temporarily, that it's there, but at some point you have to open that door again, and the fire won't have gone away, it'll just be more out of control.

Instead I've discovered nature's way of dousing the flames: weeping.

I've been doing it a lot. Twenty or thirty times a day. Every time I pick up the 'phone to another friend, but also at random times. The fact that I might be out on the street or in a shop doesn't seem to stop me either.

And, you know what? It really helps.

It feels like a safety valve that clicks into action just when you think that all those feelings building up inside are going to make you explode, or spontaneously combust like a character in a Victorian novel.

The children, who are at home for the holidays, have got used to Mummy randomly weeping.

I've explained to them that grief is an entirely good thing, as it's a sign that you have properly loved, and a life without having properly loved is no life at all.

They get this. What they would not get, and not like is if Mummy were also drunk and incoherent.

Oddly, I don't really want to blur the edges. I feel it would be doing Q a disservice. I want to remember all the times we shared in glorious technicolour. I want to properly grieve for all the new memories I thought we would make in the future.

Plus, I want to be there for his wife and children, my friend and our Godchildren, not just by sharing a few bottles of vino late into the night (which I am sad I can't do), but by helping with the housework, the cooking, the childcare and so on, which I couldn't do drunk or hungover.

One thing I am terribly grateful for is that I don't have any regrets.

The thing about someone dying unexpectedly and suddenly is that you don't have time to prepare. To make time to see them, to tell them that you love them, to show them how much they mean to you.

Had this happened in the Drinking Days I have no doubt I would have been riddled with regret. I'd neglected my old friends for years.

But I'd seen Q a lot recently. He'd been to stay with us in London, we'd seen him up in Scotland. I'm pretty sure he knew how much he meant to us.

I'm weeping again.

SM x

Monday, 11 July 2016


I have this friend. He is Scottish, but descended from the Scandanavians. He looks like a Viking invader. Tall, strong, unstoppable.

Over two decades our lives became entwined, like the gnarled roots of an oak tree.

I met my husband at his Hogmanay party. He was our best man. His wife is one of my best friends. His daughter is my goddaughter and mine is his.

He is incredibly loyal and kind, with huge, capable hands that can fix anything, and a hug that makes the world right again.

A few days ago he flew to Tanzania to spend a month with a charity helping to build homes for widows, orphans and families in need. That's the kind of man he is.

This morning he went for a run, had a heart attack and died.

He was forty six years old. He has three young children.

He will never walk his daughter down the aisle, never hold his grandchildren in his arms, never grow old alongside his wife.

There is a Thor shaped hole in my heart.

If you are waiting for the right time to start properly living your life, do it now. If you're waiting for the right time to tell friends or family how much you love them, do it now.

Don't wait.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Thank You, Someone

Regular readers might remember that, back in January, I'd just finished all my cancer treatment and really wanted to help other women going through the same thing, so I wrote this:

I don't make a penny from this blog. And reading this blog costs you nothing.

If it has helped you, then please, please will you do something extraordinary for those who are helping other women dealing with breast cancer?

It will be like a sort of global, interwebby, karmic circle, passing on the love.

I've set up a Just Giving page to raise money for The Haven - an incredible support centre for women (and men) with breast cancer. It's on 

If you could donate just a small fraction of what you would have spent on booze this week, then together we can make a huge difference.

(You can donate anonymously, or using whatever pseudonym you like).

Here's a link to the Haven website so you can read more about the amazing work they do.

Let's harness the power of the sobersphere and change some lives.....

And you were amazing. Together we raised £1,686 (and thirty six pence).

(The web page is still open if you haven't donated already and would like to!)

Then, yesterday, I received this e-mail from the JustGiving people:

Hi Sober!

Someone's nominated you for a JustGiving Award! They took the time to tell us how incredible they thought your fundraising was - that's a pretty awesome achievement, so we wanted to say congrats!         

Whoever you are, someone, thank you! Thank you for thinking of me and for taking the time to fill out the nomination. You've made my day, my week, my month.

Love SM x

Friday, 8 July 2016

Being the Bomb

The most difficult thing about quitting the booze isn't not drinking, it's doing all the feeling. Dealing with all the stresses, strains and ups and downs of everyday life without a buffer, without the ability to numb the edges at the end of the day.

But I've discovered that, like everything in life, it's about practise. The more you deal with adversity, fear and unhappiness raw, the better you get at it, the braver you become and the more you like yourself.

I had to remind myself of all of this yesterday.

I was taking #1 and a friend of hers to Go Ape, to celebrate the friend's birthday and beginning of the holidays. Go Ape is a three hour adventure trail, way up in the trees, of zip wires and aerial walkways.

I was booking tickets for the two girls on-line when an alert came up saying that as they were (just) under thirteen they had to be accompanied by an adult.

I thought, for a while, about fibbing. They definitely look - and act - like teenagers. But then I remembered that outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens (see my post: The Comfort Zone) and I booked myself in.

I was regretting this big time yesterday as I swayed in my harness thirty feet off the ground.

#1 and her friend were swinging through the trees merrily, like the teenage offspring of Tarzan, yelling back encouragements to me - the adult, supposedly, in charge.

Then we got a point where we had a choice of two directions. One was labelled DIFFICULT and the other EXTREME. What kind of a choice is that?!?

The right way to go was obvious, but the girls thought otherwise. "We can't do EXTREME unless you come with us!" they told me.

I stood there, up in the canopy, wishing with every fibre of my being that I had both feet on terra firma.

"Okay," I sighed.

I thought I was going to die. In fact, had I not been strapped into a harness attached to a safety line, I would have done, as at one point I slipped off the wobbling pole I was expected to tightrope walk along and ended up dangling from the wire. But I made it.

When we (finally) reached the ground #1 took my hand and said "Mummy, I am so proud of you."

I was already feeling somewhat shaky, so this made me all tearful.

"There were no other Mummies doing the EXTREME route. And, you know the people in the group behind us, who did the easy route?" *Eye roll.* "Well, they came up to me and said "your Mum is the bomb!""

"The bum?" I asked, confused.

"No, the bomb."

I have no idea what on earth that means, but apparently it's a really good thing.

So, Mummy is NOT a secret drinker, Mummy is THE BOMB.

Happy Friday!

SM x

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


In the early days of writing this blog I didn't have huge numbers of readers, but the few I had, who started on the sober road around the same time as me, I felt hugely close to. They were my posse. My virtual AA group.

Three of my favourites were Laura from Belgium, Kags and Tallaxo (my first male reader, or - at least - the first one to make himself known).

I used to imagine us all holding hands and tripping down the road together, helping each other up should any of us trip. I wrote this post back on Day 53: Follow the Sober Brick Road.

Anyhow, the Soberverse has many advantages, but one of its biggest downfalls is that people can disappear and you have no way at all of finding out if they're okay. You can't call a mutual friend, or go bang on their front door, or turn up at their workplace.

And, about six or seven months after we started hanging out together, at the end of last summer, one by one they disappeared. Like some Agatha Christie murder mystery. First Laura, then Kags, then Tallaxo.

I was bereft. And worried.

Then, about two months ago Laura came back! Back on the sober road after a few months on The Dark Side.

And yesterday I found this e-mail in my inbox (which the author has kindly agreed I can share with you):

Hi there SM,

I thought I would email you personally to let you know I’M BACK!

How are you gorgeous lady?

I’m sure you noticed that I completely dropped off the radar……around the end of August last year – and I’m also sure that you are well aware why.... 

I really don’t know why I decided that it would be a good idea to have just a couple of (rather lovely champagne cocktails no less) with my gorgeous friends at their delectable farmhouse last August.  After reading Jason Vale and absolutely knowing that there is no just one etc etc -  I rather dumbly assumed  that I would be perhaps the exception to the rule (the same ridiculous thought that got me trapped in the first place!)

I have to admit that even after only 3 cocktails after 6 months of abstinence I was rather sick that night!! You would actually think that even if I had slipped up – being sick might have been enough for me to realise that my drinking days were done....  but before long then it was creeping back to ½  or ¾ bottle of red wine per evening. I can’t tell you how thoroughly disappointed I was, not only with myself but for also letting you down, so I crept off to oblivion.

Anyway that all stopped 28 days ago today. A lightbulb moment and a re-read of Jason’s book – a very long awaited catch up with your wonderful blog and a total resolution to stop being such a selfish moron.

I have to say although the actual act of stopping drinking was easier this time – as I knew in my head I had done it last year and not died from trying! The headaches I have had in the past few weeks have been thoroughly miserable.  (I don’t recall getting them the last time) and rather than the euphoric feeling I had last year – I have felt very down this time. (crying / tiredness)

The bonuses have of course also crept in over the last month – bouncy hair – and glowing skin – and white eyes ( I really had forgotten how wonderful these were

Love, love, love, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in the room :-)

Love Kagsx


Now all we need is Tallaxo (where are you, Tallaxo?) and we can put the band back together :-)

Love SM x

Monday, 4 July 2016

What Would You Do?

I read something a few days ago which lodged itself deep in my psyche.

(What is a psyche? Maybe I don't have one. If I do, how do I know where to find it?)

It was this question: what would you do if you weren't scared?

At the same time, with curious serendipity, having cleared out the dusty, overflowing cupboard that is my to-do list (see my last post) I was left with two items I could no longer ignore:

1. Get Young Adult novel published

2. Send proposal for book based on blog to Agents

The truth is that what I would do if I were not scared is take my writing seriously, and find a way of making money out of it.

Like many ex-drinkers, after the first few months sober I started to realise what a huge, gaping hole I had in my life.

I'd often find myself (much to the horror of my children) singing along at top volume to The Pogues Fairytale of New York: "I could have been someone!"

(To which the answer is "so could anyone!" Which is true, but unlikely if they're downing more than a bottle of vino a day).

However, the reason it's scary is that it's a path paved with endless rejection.

I have an electronic drawer stuffed with rejection letters from over the years.

Usually I send out a half finished project, get a few standard rejections (we receive thousands of submissions each year, and I'm afraid we are not excited enough about your proposal to be able to offer you representation at this stage) then give up (and drink, obvs.)

So now I've decided to use some of the lessons I've learned over the last sixteen months of not drinking and apply them to getting published.

1. I'm going to feel the fear and do it anyway. What have I got to lose? A little pride, perhaps, but nothing else.

2. I'm taking one day at a time. Any task is less scary if you break it down into small chunks.

3. I realise that if I want a different result I'm going to have to do things differently.

4. I'm going to ask for help. One thing the last year has taught me is you're always better off not going it alone.

So, last week I contacted a top literary consultancy, and I have forked out some of the cash I've saved by not drinking to pay for a professional editor to read my novel and give me feedback.

(She sounds amazing - she's had twenty five children's books published worldwide, so she knows what she's talking about).

And, for the last three days I've been getting up at 4am to finish off my proposal for the book of this blog which I'VE FINISHED!

I sent the proposal to four people and asked for their advice: an author friend, a scientist friend, one of my fabulous readers who's become an e-mail friend, and the literary consultant.

And now I feel like Ripley in Aliens, having just incinerated the mother alien and all her little unborn babies.


The problem is there's this tiny, irritating little voice whispering in my ear and it says what happens if you do all this and still don't succeed? What happens then?

I don't have the answer to that one.

So, my lovely friends, what would you do if you weren't scared?

Love SM x

P.S. If you've only recently found my blog and want to read from the beginning, then click here.