Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Countdown


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

I have gone from feeling excited to being utterly terrified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrrggghhhh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas and love to you all,

SM x

Thursday, 7 December 2017

What I've Learned After 1000 Days Alcohol Free



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

Blimey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First off, there was all the physical stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But quitting alcohol hasn't just changed me physically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love to you all,

SM x













Friday, 1 December 2017

Sober is Where the Magic Happens....


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I still need those highs....

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

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

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

Love to you all,

SM x 





Saturday, 25 November 2017

3 Top Tips for Partying Sober



The party season is upon us, folks, and it's a difficult time of year for the newly sober.

So, here is SoberMummy's guide to partying happily without the booze.

But, before we start, consider this important question: do you really have to go?

Don't shoot me down yet, I know it's crucial that going alcohol-free doesn't mess up our enjoyment of life in any way, that it brings only benefits and doesn't turn us all into norma-no-mates hermits, sitting at home feeling miserable.

Of course we should carry on going to parties, which (it so happens) are even better when you're not blurring all the edges (and then causing havoc) with booze.

However, if you're still in the early days of quitting and you really don't feel strong enough yet to cope with too much drunken revelry then do not feel guilty about taking a short sabbatical.

If you're an overly-enthusiastic drinker, then it's likely that you're a people pleaser and a party person. I'll bet you've been to way more than your share of boozy events in the past. You deserve a tiny bit of time off for good (or should that be bad?) behaviour.

So, if you're still feeling a bit raw and vulnerable, then just fake a bout of festive 'flu and hunker down with a box set and a hot chocolate. You'll be back with a bang before you know it.

But, for those of you who have a good run of sober days under the belt and are feeling upbeat and positive, ready to trip the light fandango and alcohol-free, then here we go:

1. Fake it until you make it

I have a dream that, in the not too distant future, there will come a time when we can announce that we've gone alcohol-free and the crowds will cheer, call us heroes and pat us on the back.

That time, however, is not yet here. As you'll know, currently if you tell people you've quit booze for good the response is a stunned silence, followed by a shocked and strangled "why? Do you have a problem?"

Now it may be that you're happy discussing the myriad reasons why you've decided to ditch the regular drinking of an addictive poison with a bunch of tipsy acquaintances, but, even if you are, repeating this speech over and over again at a party will undoubtedly become a little boring, which is why many of us decide to fake it until we make it.

This strategy involves clinging onto a non-alcoholic drink that looks like booze all evening. Think virgin mojito, alcohol-free beer or (if there's a real dearth of 'soft' drinks available), plain tonic water or soda.

If you're rumbled, then (despite what I tell my children) lying is perfectly acceptable. Tell them you're driving, you're on antibiotics or you have an important work presentation tomorrow.

When you're ready, a few weeks or months down the line, you can out yourself to friends and family in your own way, in your own time. Don't feel bullied into doing it at a party.

2. Play it forward

This is an extremely helpful AA mantra.

There will inevitably be a time (probably many) during the party when you start thinking maybe I should just have the one. One drink can't hurt. It'll help take the edge off a bit and make me relax...

At this point it's important to play the film forward. Because you know how the next few scenes go - you've been there hundreds of times before:

You don't have just one. You have several. You end up doing something you didn't mean to do, or saying something you didn't mean to say. You go home and, possibly, write something you didn't mean to write on social media, or buy something you didn't mean to buy on eBay, then you wake up in the middle of the night hating yourself and spend the next day feeling like death.

Right?

Even if you have iron clad willpower and stick to just that one drink, you'll only make it harder for yourself next time. At the next party you'll think I managed it last time, I can do it again. Before you know it, you'll be back to drinking a bottle of wine a day.

If you were good at moderation, you wouldn't be reading this. You're most likely an all-or-nothing person, and that's a great way to be, so long as (in this case), you stick with 'nothing.'

Here's another great AA mantra: drinking today is just borrowing tomorrow's happiness. Focus on tomorrow. You know that, if you stay sober, tomorrow is going to feel amazing.

3. Be kind to yourself

In the early days, take baby steps. Just turning up to the party for an hour or two is fantastic, you do not have to be the last to leave.

If you're finding it tough, take time out. Go for a walk. Go sit on the loo and check in on your sober Facebook group (join Club Soda, if you haven't already) or your favourite blogs. Find a good friend and have a quiet, life-affirming catch up in the corner.

Once you've had enough, just go. No need for long goodbyes or thank you's - everyone else will be drunk, they won't notice you sneaking out.

No need to wait for a mini-cab - you're SOBER, you can DRIVE.

You won't need to play it this cautiously for long. Before you know it you'll be back to being the life and soul of the party.

And partying sober is way better than partying drunk. You get to have proper discussions with people you haven't seen for ages. Discussions you remember. 

You get to make new connections, to have life-affirming conversations with new and fascinating people that make the other person feel valued and you value yourself.

You'll look much better, behave much better and feel proud of yourself. You'll be able to get out of your head on the atmosphere, the music and the dancing, but wake up the next day feeling brilliant.

You'll start looking at the drunk people in the room, thinking (not in a mean way) why did I ever do that to myself?

One warning though: without the anaesthesia of booze, dancing in high heels really hurts your feet. Take them off!

If you'd like to read about all the ups and downs of my first year sober, you can pre-order my book - the Sober Diaries - which is out in ONE MONTH. Click here to go to my Amazon page.

For regular inspiration and information (plus a few good laughs) go to my SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit and 'like' to stay updated

Happy sober festivities to you all!

SM x







Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Cancer Clinic



Today was the day of my check-up at the cancer clinic - two years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When I was drinking, if I was scared about something I would - obviously - use booze to dampen down any trepidation.

Since I quit, I've learned all sorts of way more effective strategies for dealing with fear.

So today, I dressed in bright red - the colour of battle, the shade that says "f**k you, cancer, don't even think about it."

Then, as I did back in the early days when I was facing down the wine witch, I used visualisation.

I imagined that I was Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, preparing for battle with my army of Unsullied.

I pictured myself as Wonder Woman, with her fabulous metallic corsetry and magic bracelets.

I strutted out of the house and, although I actually took the London Underground (District Line), pictured myself on the back of a dragon, bearing down on the Breast Unit.

I went in for my mammogram.

I did not feel at all sorry for my left boob, as they squished it flat as a pancake into the mammogram machine.

You deserve that for trying to kill me, Lefty, I thought.

(Is it normal to harbour resentment for one of your own body parts? I suspect not...)

Then I had to sit, for quite a long time, in the waiting room, for the consultant to give me the verdict.

Gradually, as the clock ticked on, my dragons flew away, followed by the feckless Unsullied. My magic bracelets reverted to plain metal, and I was left a rather terrified ex-lush housewife.

Finally, I was called in, to be told that ALL WAS WELL.

I was reminded of a phenomenal video of Will Smith talking about fear. He says: "On the other side of maximum fear are all the best things in life."

The Will Smith video is going up on the SoberMummy Facebook Page today - if you're ever afraid of anything (and who isn't?) then do watch it.

(Click here to go to the SoberMummy Facebook page, 'like' the page to stay updated).

Thank you all, so much, for all your thoughts and good wishes - they made all the difference in the world.

Love SM x

Monday, 20 November 2017

Fingers Crossed


You know how life spins out, everything trundling along just fine, and then something really awful threatens to happen, right out of the blue?

Maybe it's a health scare, or something wrong with one of your children, parents or friends, a redundancy or relationship break-up.

Then you find yourself doing a deal with the universe. You say things like if I get through this terrible time, then I promise I will never, ever take things for granted again. I will always be grateful for the stuff that really matters, and I will be a GOOD person, for ever and ever.

(Or is it just me who does that?)

Anyhow, a few weeks down the line, the potential disaster dealt with or averted, then forgotten, and - sure enough - you're back to stressing about the things that don't matter and forgetting to be grateful for the things that are genuinely important, like your family's health, a roof over your head and food on the table.

Well, the handy thing about having had breast cancer is that you are never, ever allowed to forget. Because every few months, a letter arrives in your post box telling you that you have a mammogram, or an ultrasound or a blood test, to check that your boobs haven't decided to try to kill you again, or - even worse - that some pesky cancer cells haven't cropped up in your bones, or your lungs or your brain.

Tomorrow I have to go back to the cancer clinic for my two year check-up.

So, to distract myself from feeling terrified, I am reminding myself to feel grateful.

Grateful for a wonderful two years which I might not have had. Thankful for any more time I'm allotted which I can spend helping shepherd my children towards being proper, well-rounded and happy grown-ups, and making some fabulous memories for them.

(Yesterday, I got to celebrate my eldest turning fourteen. There was a time when I thought I might not be able to do that.)

It's also a great time to feel grateful for being sober. Because the truth is that when you drink to numb all the difficult stuff in life, you numb all the good stuff too. And I don't want to miss a single minute of it.

If you have a spare moment, please keep your fingers crossed for me.

And here's some really HAPPY NEWS! Ang75, who many of you know from her comments on this blog, is ONE YEAR SOBER TODAY! Happy Soberversary Ang. You are amazing. Have a truly wonderful day.

By the way, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page, a lovely post from Club Soda on what children say when their parents quit drinking.

(Click here, to go to the Facebook page, 'like' the page if you want to stay updated).

Love SM x




Friday, 17 November 2017

3 Reasons Why Dogs are a Sober Girl's Best Friend



Yesterday, I was reading the incredible story of Mali - the special forces dog who's just been awarded a medal for bravery after sniffing out explosives and Taliban insurgents during a seven and a half hour gunfight in Kabul.

A grenade badly injured Mali's belly and legs, blew out a tooth and damaged his right ear, but still he kept going, being hoisted from one building to the next in a sling on his handler's back.

This story reminded me how incredibly loyal, brave and clever our furry friends can be.

The picture on this post is my scruffy terrier, Otto. He's not as well trained as Mali (in fact, he's barely trained at all), but he's my hero, nonetheless.

He sat by me, literally, his head on my tummy, as I recovered from treatment for breast cancer. And he was my very best sober buddy.

Here are three reasons why dogs are a sober girl's best friend:

1. They get you outside

However much you might want to hunker down at home and mope, your four legged companion is going to stare at you with those big, brown (unless you have a Husky) eyes until you take them out for a walk.

This is a very good thing, as exercise - especially outdoors - is incredibly good for your mental health, which is why the Japanese are so obsessed by what they call 'forest bathing.' It reduces stress and anxiety and boosts all your happy hormones.

Also, walking outside gets you away from all those booze-associations - the fridge, the wine rack, your favourite armchair, etcetera ad infinitum. Even I never took alcohol with me on a dog walk, even in the baddest of bad days.

2. They are masters of mindfulness

One of the best ways to get through the early days of sober is 'mindfulness': concentrating on the present moment and not worrying about not drinking forever and ever or what sins you might have committed in the past.

But mindfulness is incredibly hard. Which is why you need your own furry mindfulness guru to hand.

Dogs only live in the moment. They remind you of all the incredible things happening right now under your very nose. The thrill of a new path, splashing through mud, having a cuddle.

Just look at how much your dog loves life and you realise that booze really isn't necessary in order to discover joy in the everyday.

3. They love you, whatever, unconditionally

By the time most of us quit drinking we can be pretty hard on ourselves. We spend an awful lot of time examining our flaws and fretting over past misdemeanours.

Our dogs remind us that we are completely loveable, imperfections and all. They don't judge, they just lick.

If you don't have a dog already, then think of all the money and time you'll be saving by not drinking and consider spending some of it on a new friend.

Don't buy a puppy, find a rescue dog. A dog who deserves a second chance at life and a whole load of love, just like you do.

Please tell me about your own furry friends in the comments below....

By the way, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page: some inspirational wisdom from Winne-the-Pooh, and the story of Robert Downey Jr, and how he beat his addictions. I wonder if he has a dog.

(To go to the Facebook page, click here. 'Like' to stay updated).

Love SM x




Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Please Can You Help?



It's six weeks until the book comes out, and I'm starting to get seriously cold feet.

If you write fiction, and reviewers and readers don't like something about your heroine, it doesn't really matter. That's all part of having created a well-rounded, complex character.

However, when the main character in your novel is you, and people - for whatever reason - are critical about you, that's altogether harder to deal with.

I think I'm going to have to practice growing a very thick skin....

I also keep reminding myself why I'm doing this.

I wrote the book because I know that stories change lives, and because if we all stay quiet and anonymous, nothing will ever change and people will carry on struggling in silence and feeling alone.

I'm hoping that people will read my story and realise that there really is an alternative to spending your life self-medicating and blurring all the edges, and that that life is so much brighter, better, more real and more rewarding without booze.

And that's where I'm hoping you can help....

Over the last few years many of you have sent me wonderful e-mails and left incredible comments, saying how this blog has helped you.

My lovely publishers would very much like to use some of your quotes to feature in the advance publicity for the book on social media (Facebook mainly) so we can spread the word as widely as possible.

I obviously don't want to use any of your words without permission, so would be HUGELY grateful if you could post in the comments below anything you'd be happy for us to quote, about how and why this blog, and my story, has helped you, if it has.

If you're not happy using the name that comes up alongside your comment then just say so. You can make up any alternative name you like, or I can just call you 'blog reader' if you prefer.

If you'd rather mail me privately, or if Blogger isn't allowing you to comment (it's been playing up recently), then do mail me at sobermummy@gmail.com

Thank you SO much, I am terribly, terribly grateful - not just for this, but for all the support you've given me since I started this blog, nearly three years ago.

By the way, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page, one of my favourite poems for anyone who's ever fallen off the wagon (that's pretty much all of us, right?) and the most hilarious sketch about being a non-drinker by comedian Tony Baker.

(To go to the SoberMummy Facebook page, click here. 'Like' page to stay updated).

Love, and huge thanks, to you all,

SM x

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Surrounded by Champagne


I'm surrounded by champagne.

Not only is the festive season starting to gear up, but my local Waitrose supermarket, which has been closed for a couple of weeks for a re-furb, has just re-opened featuring not only a sushi bar, but a sparkly new champagne bar!

WTF?!? (As my kids would say).

Since I discovered this, I've been amusing myself by imagining the meetings they must have had back in head office.

SCENE 1: WEEKLY STATUS MEETING

BOSS (a misogynist): Chaps, last week I asked you all to go away and come up with ideas for how to get ladies to spend EVEN MORE money in our already vastly overpriced stores.

What have you come up with? What do women around here spend their husband's money on?

MINION 1: Errr - wine. Lots of it.

BOSS: We already sell wine. Idiot.

MINION 2: Yes, but they buy our wine then dash home as quickly as possible to drink it.

Why don't we open a champagne bar in-store? Then they never need to leave! Throw in a sushi bar and there's everything a middle-class, middle-aged mum needs to survive, all under one roof.

They don't even have to move when they want to socialise with friends - they can just message them to pop on over to Waitrose and get the party started here!

BOSS: I LOVE IT! I'M A GENIUS!

Help me build on this. After all, there's no 'I" in team, right boys?

What happens AFTER they've had lunch at our sushi bar, done their weekly shop, invited all their lady friends round for a party at our champagne bar and got drunk?

I'll tell you what! They have to stagger back through our store and - inhibitions loosened, and too squiffy to read our over-inflated price tags - they'll spend all their remaining money on our products!

Let's run my idea up the flagpole and salute it!

We're going to be EVEN RICHER! Crack open the champagne - we're celebrating!

THE END.

(This meeting may sound farcical, but in my twenty years in advertising I spend hundreds of hours in meetings JUST LIKE IT).

Yet more evidence that the world has gone mad.

In other news: if any of you are fans (like me) of audio books, then you might like to know that there is going to be an audio version of my book (The Sober Diaries).

My publishers sent me a recording of a professional actress reading the first chapter of my book. It's very odd listening to someone else being me. She sounds just like I wish I did, but (sadly) don't.

If you'd like to be the very first person to pre-order a copy of the audiobook, then click here to go to my Amazon page.

Also, exciting news if you're in Germany (totally irrelevant if not): a German publisher is keen to publish a german version of The Sober Diaries next year. Hurrah! Or should I say Hurra!?

(It turns out that 'Hurrah' is one of the few words that is shorter in german than it is in english).

And, finally, there's lots more on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit, 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x




Thursday, 9 November 2017

Booze in the News



Right now is a really good time to be ditching the booze, because pretty much every single week there are articles in the press about the dangers of drinking and how more and more people (especially the young) are walking away from alcohol.

Today's big news - reported widely in the USA (thank you to the wonderful NorthWoman for alerting me), is that the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has, for the first time, put out an official warning on the link between alcohol and cancer.

Dr Noelle LoConte, author of the report, says "ASCO joins a growing number of cancer care and public health organisations in recognising that even moderate alcohol use can cause cancer."

According to ASCO, drinking alcohol is linked to SEVEN types of cancer: oesophageal, mouth, liver, colon and breast cancers.

It is, they say, the direct cause of 5.5% of all cancers globally.

It is also probable, they warn, that alcohol is a causal factor in pancreatic, stomach and other cancers.

The more you drink, the higher your risk.

Yet two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they had no idea that alcohol has any link to cancer. I'm sure the same is true in the UK.

None of this is terribly surprising to me, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, after two decades of drinking rather a lot more than I should have.

I had a relatively uncommon form of breast cancer - lobular - which has a particularly significant link to alcohol consumption.

Yet, whilst every single medical professional I came across during my initial diagnosis asked if I smoked (which I didn't), only one asked me if I drank.

(I am very sure about this as I was desperate to be asked how many units I drank each week so I could reply "Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a drop." Before confessing to past misdemeanours...)

Also, not one single person told me to stop drinking alcohol, or cut down, during or after cancer treatment. Quite the reverse. I was constantly being urged to "go and pour yourself a large gin and tonic."

It's not so very long since doctors would recommend their patients smoke tobacco to ease a chesty cough.

Alcohol is, I suspect, the new tobacco...

Also in the news this week, a report by the Office for National Statistics showing that the baby-boomer generation are increasingly dying from alcohol abuse as decades of overly-enthusiastic drinking starts to catch up with them.

Since 2001, the likelihood of women aged 60-64 dying as a direct result of alcohol has increased by 35% (this does NOT include those dying of cancers which may have been attributable to alcohol consumption).

But there is GOOD NEWS! If you reduce the amount you drink or, even better, stop altogether, all your risk factors go down. WHOOP WHOOP.

So hurrah for me, and hurrah for all of you.

New on the SoberMummy Facebook page this week: a post I've written about wine bellies and the most fascinating TED talk by Ann Dowsett Johnston, the author of DRINK - The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.

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

Love to you all,

SM x

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Alcohol and ABBA



Back in 1980, when I was 11 years old, I was obsessed with ABBA.

I had posters of them all over my bedroom, in their thigh high boots and American tan tights (the girls), open necked shirts and facial hair (boys).

I knew all the words to every single one of their songs, and would spend hours carefully lowering the stylus onto the vinyl records (remember those days?) and singing along, using my hairbrush as a make-believe microphone.

(I promise you, this post does come back to the subject of my blog eventually!)

I even wrote to Jim'll Fix It (decades before we knew the truth about Jimmy Saville) to beg and plead to meet them.

Then, one day, I was sitting in a German class. I was at the British School in Brussels at the time. A teacher came in and said "I have a letter for Clare Pooley's parents."

I was terrified. Why had I been picked out for special treatment? What had I done?

I wracked my brains trying to think of some past misdemeanour that had finally caught up with me.

I did think about steaming open the letter. Or quietly shredding it. Instead, I manned up and gave it to my Mum.

As she read it her eyebrows did that OMG thing (decades before OMG became a thing). She read it out loud, slowly. It said something like:

Dear Mr and Mrs Pooley,

The popular music group, ABBA, are doing a worldwide tour of their Voulez Vous album and are playing here, in Brussels. They are looking for a small group of English speaking children to accompany them in the chorus of one of their latest songs: I Have a Dream.

Your daughter, Clare, has been selected to form part of the group.

CAN YOU IMAGINE!?!?

All my wildest dreams had come true.

And I sang, on stage, in front of eighty thousand people. And I held the microphone in my sweaty hand. And I was patted on the head by Agnetha. And I got all their autographs. And they gave us so much free chocolate and sweets that I was nearly sick.

It was the most exciting night EVER.

So, I've always had a super soft spot for ABBA. Which is why (and here's where it gets relevant - thank you for bearing with me if you are still reading) I was thrilled when Benny Andersson was featured in the Times Magazine 'What I've Learnt' column.

And guess what? Now I love him even more, because he said, as part of his life lessons:

Stopping drinking was the best decision I've ever taken.

He carries on: It was a problem, absolutely. So 15 years ago I thought, I have to give this up. I wouldn't be here now if I hadn't. I triggered a lot of my friends to quit too and they are equally happy.

So hurrah for Benny! Hurrah for ABBA! And hurrah for all of you!

New of the SoberMummy Facebook page: a video inspired by you on 'the best things about being sober', the world's sexiest teetotal men, and - going up this evening - comedian Tim Minchin's hilarious and inspiring 9 lessons on life.

(To go to the SoberMummy Facebook page click here. 'Like' page to stay updated).

Love SM x



Saturday, 4 November 2017

This will make you happy!



There are many, many times during the sober journey when you find yourself thinking why on earth am I doing this?

Why am I spending every evening explaining to uncomprehending friends that 'no, I can't just have the one glass of wine'?

Why am I dealing with life raw, when it would be so easy to rub the edges off from time to time?

Why am I insisting on staying sober when the world and his wife are knocking back the drinks and gearing up for the silly season?

(Just today I was tempted to push the self destruct button when I received an e-mail from Homebase titled CHRISTMAS IS HERE! No it’s not. We’ve only just got through Halloween, I’m still trying to get the face paint off various children and pumpkin seeds out of the furniture, so please shut up about Christmas for at least another week). 

So, a couple of weeks ago I asked you lot to complete the sentence 'The best thing about being sober is....'

You wrote some incredible, inspirational things. You made me laugh. You reminded me what this is all about.

I tried to summarise all the things you said, and turned them into a YouTube video. Yes, really!

(Actually, I have to confess, I got my thirteen-year-old to turn them into a YouTube video. And before you start thinking how incredibly helpful she is, bear in mind that I had to pay her. £5. Hopefully you'll think it was worth it).

So, if you're feeling a bit down, and you've forgotten why you're doing this, then check out the video. It's on the SoberMummy Facebook page - click here.

Also new on the FB page: the world’s most sexy teetotal men (well worth checking out) and Jamie Lee Curtis on how being sober changed her life....

(If you want Facebook to keep you updated with new information and inspiration, then 'like' the page).

If you like the video, please share and spread the love....

Happy sober weekend, everyone!

SM x

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Apologies in Advance....


I've pondered a lot about whether or not to write this post as it all feels a bit Boasty McBoast Face, and I'm a bit British about not showing off in any way, so I'm really sorry about this one...

....but I'm just SO EXCITED, because I just got my FIRST EVER Amazon Review and I just HAD TO TELL SOMEONE.

My book isn't out until December 28th, but Amazon have this network of approved reviewers called 'The Vine', and they were sent advance copies.

One of their (apparently completely unbiased - I checked!) reviewers then posted this one:

This book is at once immensely serious, very funny and extremely well-written, describing the struggles of a mother of 3 young children as she tries to give up a serious alcohol habit.

What I really enjoyed was the disarming honesty, in all aspects of life - not just the fight to stay on the wagon. Clare writes about marriage, parenthood, friendships and everyday life in a way that cracked me up. 

However, her descriptions of hangovers, drunkenness and the cravings she experiences as she tries to kick the habit are sometimes truly heart-rending. You really feel for her, even though the alcoholism is ultimately a problem of her own making.

Clare is a likeable guide through the travails of ethanol withdrawal. She spurns the usual routes like Alcoholics Anonymous, for reasons that she explains with great lucidity, but doesn't uncover a magic bullet in their place. You read on, constantly wondering if she is going to keep her resolve (although, like a 'whodunnit', you could skip to the end to check, of course!).


In conclusion, then, this is rather different to some "mis lit" addiction stories, in that the narrator is a genuinely grounded, likeable individual. You warm to them, and that makes your involvement in their struggle to stay off the booze all the more compelling.

And he gave me FIVE STARS (out of 5).

I was so excited that I told the children while I was getting breakfast ready.

"Wow," said #1, "now if it all goes wrong, you'll know that at least one person really liked your book." 

Back down to earth with a bump, as always.

(If you'd like to pre-order a copy of the book click here).

In other news, if you haven't seen it already, check out the world's most sexy teetotal men on my Facebook page, it'll make your day...

(Click here to go to the SoberMummy Facebook page, and - if you'd like to stay updated - click 'like.')

Have a great day everyone, and apologies again for the boasting. Please forgive me. I will try not to do it again.

SM x

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Alcohol and Anxiety


Alcohol and anxiety are so closely entwined that it's difficult to know which comes first. Do we drink because we are anxious, or are we anxious because we drink?

In fact, both are true - one leading to another, creating a downward spiral, sucking us in like a spider down a plughole.

Alcohol gives your brain a dopamine hit, but, over time, it reduces the amount of dopamine it produces naturally to compensate, making you feel anxious and edgy whenever you're not drinking.

The good news is that when you quit drinking your brain will, over time, find its natural equilibrium and start producing dopamine again, all by itself. Woo hoo! Hello happy pink cloud.

The bad news is that in the early days of giving up you'll probably feel super anxious as your brain is missing all the dopamine you used to ply it with.

Added to which, you've been so used to self-medicating your anxiety with booze that you have absolutely no idea how to manage without it.

Well, here's an idea....

I was pottering around my kitchen a few days ago, with This Morning playing on the TV in the background.

I was stopped, dead in my tracks, half way through unloading the dishwasher, by Harry Judd - member of McFly and McBusted and winner of Strictly Come Dancing.

Initially, I have to confess, I wasn't even concentrating on what he was saying, I was just thinking OMG, he is just so gorgeous, and so charming, in an embarrassingly hormonal middle-aged mother sort of way.

Then I started paying attention. Harry was talking about how he had been crippled with terrible anxiety, and - as a result - had quit smoking weed and drinking.

He then discovered that the cure for his anxiety and OCD was exercise, leading him to write a book: Get Fit, Get Happy.

I bought the book.

Now I'm even more in love with him.

Harry writes honestly and engagingly about his issues, showing that anyone, however successful, talented and ripped (stop it, SM) can suffer from addiction and mental health issues.

Here's what Harry says about booze:

...I had been using alcohol to allow me to relax at gigs. I'd be hungover the next day, wake up feeling grumpy, have breakfast at midday, stagger to the tour bus and travel to the next venue. I would sometimes be pretty negative to be around and not as welcoming to the fans as I should have been. It wasn't until an hour before the next gig, when I would crack open the first beer of the day, that I would start feeling good about myself again. And so the cycle would continue.

Harry describes how drinking would lead to full on panic attacks and terrible anxiety. So, eventually, he quit. He says:

Kicking the booze was good for me in so many ways: it helped to stem my anxiety and it had a hugely beneficial effect on the way I was able to do my job....I was more positive around the fans and a happier person in general. My routine became healthier.

Hurrah for Harry!

Harry's book goes on to talk about why and how exercise is miracle cure for depression and anxiety, as well as being great for our physical health, obviously.

There are lots of exercises, categorised as 'beginner', 'intermediate' or 'advanced' which you can fit easily into your daily routine.

This certainly fits with my experience. I found running, walking the dog, yoga, swimming - any exercise really - invaluable in the early days of fighting off the wine witch.

I have to confess, I haven't yet done any of the exercises in Harry's book, but just looking at the (utterly gorgeous) pictures of him doing them has made me feel fitter, and happier. So there we go, job done.

If you'd like to see the interview with Harry on This Morning, it's on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

Also new on the Facebook page is a great Irish article about women's relationship with booze, and one of my favourite inspirational memes.

If you'd like to apparate onto my Facebook page, just like Harry Potter appearing in Diagon Alley, click here. If you 'like' the page it'll update you with new posts.

To read more about (and buy) Harry's book click here.

Love to you all,

SM x



Monday, 23 October 2017

Does Drinking Make You a Selfish Parent?



There have been several articles in the press recently about alcohol and parenting.

The headline of Liz Jones's column in the Mail on Sunday last weekend read Parents who drink are selfish. My boozy dad taught me that.

Liz wrote: Me, aged 11, in my narrow divan. It's 11pm and I can't sleep. Not until I hear the crunch of my dad's car on the gravel, which means he has made it home from the Wheatsheaf. I'd been praying, hands clasped, for him not to crash. Only when lights streak the ceiling can I unclasp; my palms are wet.

Liz goes on to talk about her sister's children coming home from school to find their mum unconscious, surrounded by bottles, children who are now motherless.

Then the Telegraph ran an article, inspired by the tragic death of Sean Hughes, from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 51, titled Are alcoholics born or made?

The article reads: The former Never Mind the Buzzcocks team captain may have joked of a childhood where he was left in the car outside pubs for hours - “We would while away the hours by nodding at the other kids parked up in other cars as we all looked to the warm glow of the pub” – but he also talked of disliking his father for his behaviour.  

It seems fairly obvious that those drinkers, like Liz and Seans' fathers, who have travelled pretty far down the slippery slope of alcohol addiction towards rock bottom, do not make good parents.

But what about the bottle-of-wine-a-day drinker, like I was? What about the mum who has just one or two large glasses of wine at the end of each day to reward herself for a job well done?

To be honest, I didn't think I was a selfish parent. I thought I deserved that wine come six o'clock. It was me time. Mummy's little helper. It made me feel adult. It helped me wind down.

Surely, I would argue to myself, a relaxed mum is a better mum? Happy mother, happy child.

And this general acceptance that boozing and motherhood go hand in hand has inspired endless Facebook memes and books like Why Mummy Drinks and (the hilarious) Hurrah for Gin.

But last week, the Guardian ran an article titled Even moderate drinking by parents can upset children, based on research by the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

The study found that even parents drinking 'moderately' can leave children feeling embarrassed, worried or lead to their bedtime being disrupted, and that children who see their parents tipsy or drunk are less likely to describe them as a positive role model.

15% of children in the study had asked their parents to drink less, and 11-12 year olds described alcohol as “like sugar for adults” and said parents drink to “solve their problems”.

Even so, I'm not sure that I would agree that drinking necessarily makes you a selfish parent. I know many, many wonderful parents who enjoy a glass of wine on a regular basis.

Also, I don't think it's right or fair to judge other parents. We mums are all just muddling along trying to do the best we can.

However, I would argue that being sober can make being a good parent a lot easier - at least I'm certain that's the case for me. Here are five reasons why...

1. I'm not constantly running away

In the drinking days, I was always looking for excuses for 'me time.'

On a Saturday or Sunday morning, if I woke up with a hangover (which I often did), the last thing I'd want to do is to push the swings in the park, play Monopoly or (god forbid) go to a soft play centre. I'd be much more likely to switch the TV onto CBeebies and crawl back under the duvet.

At countless children's bedtimes I would skip over pages of whichever picture book we were reading, so I could turn the lights out as fast as possible and retreat to an armchair with a goblet of vino. Because I'd earned it.

I'm pretty sure my children knew that I was often searching for an escape hatch. But they didn't blame the vino, they just thought I didn't like spending time with them very much.

2. I'm more consistent

Any parenting expert will tell you that children hate uncertainty and crave consistency.

One of the main reasons why children are uncomfortable with their parents drinking is that their behaviour changes - they become different people and that, for a child, is scary.

A few months after I quit drinking I asked my son whether I'd changed. "Yes," he replied, "You're more....mummyish."

What he meant is that I was behaving like his mummy all of the time. I was no longer swinging from being mummy, to being grumpy hungover person, to being wild child, then back to mummy again.

3. I have more time and more energy

Drinking, and recovering from drinking, takes up an awful amount of your day.

I get twice as much done at the weekends now as I used to. I bounce out of bed (well comparatively speaking, at least) and never fall asleep in the afternoon.

In the old days, I would often engineer separate 'child activities' and 'adult activities' at the weekends.

My favourite Sunday activity would involve a long, boozy lunch with a group grown ups, while the children watched a movie. I told myself this was more fun for everyone.

I certainly wouldn't plan anything that involved driving anywhere after lunch, or in the evening.

Now, I'm much more likely to plan something for all the family: a bike ride and picnic, swimming, bowling or a cinema trip. I am - I hope - making memories, ones that will have me actually joining in.

(I still arrange those long Sunday lunches with friends, but now, instead of sending all the children off as quickly as possible, I organise games for everyone, like Charades or Who am I?)

4. I'm more patient

Looking back now, I realise that I was a pretty grumpy mother when I was drinking. I was often short tempered and I did an awful lot of shouting.

This was partly because I didn't like myself very much, but to my children it looked like I didn't like them.

Being free of the constant merry-go-round of recovering from one drinking event and trying to hurry through to next one has made me, comparatively, zen. Liking myself again has helped me like the world a lot more.

5. I'm a better role model

One of the main reasons I quit the booze is that I didn't want my children to grow up thinking that it was normal for mothers to spend every evening with a glass of vino welded to their hand.

I didn't want them to believe that all grown-ups need alcohol to enable them to cope with the ups and downs of life.

I wanted to be able to show them that it's perfectly possible to live a fabulous life without a drug to take the edges off.

I'm still far from a brilliant mother. I'm a work in progress, and I expect I always will be. But, I'm very much better at it than I was.

I'm also certain that I wouldn't have got through my recent treatment for breast cancer, without all the wheels coming off in front of the children, had I still been drinking.

I don't begrudge those mums a large glass of vino at wine o'clock (there are still times I'd love one myself), but I've come to realise that, for me, and for my children, life is a lot happier, easier and more peaceful without it.

If you'd like to read the Guardian article, it's on the SoberMummy Facebook page along with lots more inspiration and information about quitting booze.

To get to the SoberMummy Facebook page click here. If you 'like' the page, Facebook will keep you updated with new posts.

To pre-order SoberMummy's book and find out what it's like to go sober in a world where everyone drinks click here: The Sober Diaries

Love to you all,

SM x




Sunday, 22 October 2017

Good News and Bad News


Well, for those of you who read my last post, and know that I finally plucked up the courage to show my book (about the year I quit drinking) to my parents, the good news is this text, sent to me by my mother.

(I can't believe she used an emoji!)

The line 'you could say that we have learned a lot...' sounds a little ominous, but I'm taking it at face value.

So, hurrah! And phew.

On the bad news front, however, those of you who know and love my fellow blogger and virtual friend, the fabulous Mrs S, might want to know that she's currently waiting for biopsy results as she has a suspected melanoma.

Please, please pop on over to her blog to give her your support, and to read the horribly sobering statistics she's found on the link between drinking white wine and skin cancer. 


Mrs S, we are all thinking of you and sending love and strength.

SM x



Friday, 20 October 2017

The Parents....



I am blessed with two wonderful parents.

My childhood was, in my memory, a happy melange of butterscotch-flavoured Angel Delight, Space Hoppers, Blue Peter and Cindy dolls.

Throughout it all my parents have been endlessly patient, supportive and accepting.

So I know I really shouldn't worry about being honest with them about my past misdemeanours.

When I told my parents I'd quit drinking they were proud of me, if a little bemused.

When I said I'd landed a publishing contract for a book (The Sober Diaries) telling the story of the year I ditched the booze (and got breast cancer), they were thrilled for me.

But they haven't yet read it.

And because I love my parents so much, I only ever want them to think the best of me. They are the two people in the whole world who I least want to see my dark side.

But it has to happen at some point. So, today, first thing, before I had the chance to talk myself out of it, I sent this e-mail to my publisher:

Dear Charlotte 

I've been putting this off for a while, as I find the prospect terrifying, but I think the time really has come for my ever-patient, supportive and sainted parents (copied above) to read the book. I'm hoping that they won't disown me.

I'd be hugely grateful if you could send two proof copies (so they can read it simultaneously, rather than one reading while the other yells out "she said WHAT?!?") direct to them.

Many thanks,

Clare

I told Mr SM what I'd done.

"Really?" He said. "I thought you were planning to keep your head down and hope they never read it!"

"No," I replied, "that's my strategy with your parents. I'll never get away with that with mine."

And now I know I'm going to spend the next few days in a state of abject terror.

It takes me right back to the days I spent, aged sixteen, lying in wait for the postman, hoping to intercept the letter from my headmistress telling my parents I'd been caught smoking behind the squash court. 

Aarrrgggghhhh.

Love to you all,

SM x

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

What the Hell Happened Last Night?


It's exactly thirty years since the Great Storm turned Sevenoaks into One Oak, wrecked Michael Fish's reputation and contributed to the worst ever stock market crash.

I was eighteen years old back then. 

I'd left school, but had twelve months stretching ahead of me to fill before starting University, so I was living with two girlfriends and working for IBM, saving money so I could take off around the world with a backpack for a few months.

We were living on the tenth floor of a block of flats in Wimbledon.

The storm didn't wake me up. Nothing woke me up in those days. But, when my alarm finally cut through and I staggered out of bed, I remember being totally confused.

Our flat was trashed. The windows were wide open and the curtains had been pulled outside and were flapping in the wind. 

A standard lamp was leaning out of one of the windows, its shade nowhere to be seen. There were papers and rubbish all over the floor and everything was damp.

What had I forgotten now?

Had we had a party?

What had I done?

I picked up the telephone receiver (this was still a decade before I'd get my first mobile), not sure who I'd call or what I'd say, but the line was dead.

I turned on the television, but there was no picture, just an eerie fuzz.

Feeling increasingly alarmed, I switched on the radio, and that's when I discovered that it wasn't just me. The whole country was waking up to the remnants of a wild and unplanned party.

I re-lived that feeling many times over the following decades: waking up and trying to piece back the events of the night before.

How did I get home? Do I have my bag? My wallet? My keys? Did I text an ex-boyfriend? Have I upset anyone? Did I go shopping on the internet?  Are Net-a-Porter going to turn up with a stupidly expensive outfit in an overly optimistic size that I can't remember ordering?  Arrgggghhh.

But by now the only storm was the one raging in my brain.

I didn't have full on black-outs, but I did get the milder version, the precursor, known as 'brown-outs.'

(A brown-out is where you lose track of small chunks of time, so a four hour evening event in your memory only seems to have lasted an hour, and it takes you some time the next day to piece it all back together).

One of the very best things about being sober is always waking up with a clear head, with total recall of where you are, how you got there, where your stuff is, and with very little chance of having lost any friends along the way.

Bizarrely, on Monday, the anniversary of the Great Storm, the sky in London went red. For hours, in the middle of the day. This was, apparently, caused by a melange of dust from the Sahara and ash from the forest fires in Europe, but it looked like a scene from Mad Max.

As I went to bed that night, the children were hypothesising that the red sky heralded the start of a zombie apocalypse.

Oh well, I thought, at least if I wake up to Armageddon, I'll know it wasn't my fault. 

By the way, if you were walking on Wimbledon Common in the autumn on 1987 and came across a fetching beige Habitat lampshade, it's mine.

New on the SoberMummy Facebook page (click here for teleportation), a great, well-balanced article on mums drinking, plus (going up this evening) my favourite blog post by Holly Whitaker on why she (like me) hates the word 'alcoholic.'

In other news, all you lovely, kind people who've pre-ordered my book on Amazon might like to know that the publication date has been brought forward to December 28th.

Yay! But also, Yikes! Am I prepared? Of course not....

(If you haven't ordered a copy and would like to, click here for UK or here for USA).

For more on alcohol-induced blackouts, read Sarah Hepola's fabulous memoir, Blackout.

Love to you all,

SM x




Sunday, 15 October 2017

Why Don't You Just Drink Less?



Have you been asked this question?

My friends and family can understand why I wanted to do something about the amount of vino I was getting through each week, but they still can't quite work out why I don't just drink a bit less? 

"Isn't going completely teetotal (God, I hate that word) a tad extreme?" they say.

And, many times over the last two years, I've have the same thought myself: have I gone a bit over the top? Surely, after all this time, I can have a glass from time to time, like a normal person?

So, as a reminder for myself, for anyone else who asks me, and in case it might help any of you, here are the three reasons why I don't just drink less...


1. Moderation is not my thing.

I am an all-or-nothing person. I am not very good at having a little bit of something I like and then stopping. I'm good at many things, but that just isn't my forte.

I was the same with cigarettes: thirty a day until I quit, then nothing, not one puff, for the last fifteen years.

I've come to terms with this character quirk. After all, it has its upsides. We 'immoderate' people tend to throw ourselves at everything - we're immoderate with our energy, our love, our enthusiasm.

We're not the sort of people who take one bite at the cake of life, then leave the rest sitting on the plate. Oh no, we gobble up the whole thing, then check the cupboard for more.

2. Moderation is exhausting.

I have, as it happens, managed to moderate my wine intake for periods of time. I did endless deals with myself, when I was trying to avoid giving up altogether.

I did 'I will NOT drink on weekdays.' I did 'I will NOT drink at home.' I tried 'I will NOT drink alone.' Then 'I will NOT drink wine, only beer.' 

Needless to say, within a few weeks I was stretching the rules, then abandoning them altogether.

And, in the meantime, I was exhausted with the effort of trying to be good. 

I was fed up with the devil and the angel on my shoulders constantly rowing with each other, the infernal, internal dialogue in my head, the self-loathing every time I failed again.

The very best thing about quitting altogether is peace. (You have to get through the first 100 days or so first, obviously).

No more endless debate about what you're drinking, when you're drinking, how much you're drinking, because the answer is simple: nothing, nowhere, never.

3. What would be the point?

Now, (and, I have to confess, it took me two years to get here) if ever I think about having a glass or two of wine, I ask myself what would be the point?

For a start, I wouldn't just have one glass. One glass doesn't even touch the sides. If I had one, I'd have several. And, having wrestled for some time with decades of social conditioning, I realise the absurdity, the pointlessness, of getting drunk.

Now, I can think back to those days of feeling woozy, wobbly, slurry, forgetful, annoyed and anxious and ask why on earth would I voluntarily do that to myself?

Deliberately poisoning your body with an addictive toxin in order to 'have a good time' just seems a little....absurd.

In the same way, I now look at smokers inhaling deadly fumes from a tube of rolled up dried leaves and think isn't that a bizarre way to spend your time?

I no longer need alcohol in order to feel relaxed or to have fun. I'm not at all sure what it would add to my life, but I have an incredibly good memory of the things it would take away.

Yet, explaining all of that to the friend at the party with their bemused question "surely you can just moderate?" would take far too much time, and I'm not sure they'd believe me in any case, so I just smile and say:

"Moderation? It's just not really me."

Because it isn't.

New on the SoberMummy Facebook page this week: a hilarious article about the evils of Prosecco and, going up this evening, for all my fellow Bowie fans, a clip of Bowie talking to Paxman about the joys of being sober.

(To visit my Facebook page click here. If you 'like' it, the Facebook people will keep you updated).

Love SM x



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The best thing about being sober is....


How would you complete that sentence?

When I first quit drinking, I did it mainly because of the negatives, the things I didn't want in my life anymore.

I didn't want the hangovers. I didn't want the self-loathing. I didn't want the wine belly. Most of all, I didn't want the constant dialogue in my head about drinking (or not drinking).

When I thought about what life would be like SOBER, I could barely get past that ghastly adjective.

(Sober definition: earnest, serious, sensible, solemn, restrained, sedate. NOT ME, NOT ME, NOT ME).

Once I got past that (and the word teetotal - where on earth did that one come from?), I got stuck on all sorts of concerns:

How would I ever cope at a drinks party? Would my friends disown me? Would I ever dance like nobody was watching again? How would I ever have fun again? How would I *whisper it* have sex?

What I didn't really think about was all the fabulous things about being sober.

But, what I started to realise is that those fabulous things just keep on coming. Some appear right at the start (like amazing, alert, glorious mornings), but some only become apparent months down the line.

So I thought, for all those women (and men) who are back where I was then - knowing that they have to quit because life is becoming unmanageable, but not able to get excited about it, see any joy in it, I would ask you to help me with this survey.

How would you complete that one sentence? What are the big and little things that have made a difference to your life?

Then, I can take a selection of those answers and post them on Facebook (anonymously), maybe even turn them into a YouTube video. It might change some lives.

Here are some ideas from me to get the party started:

The best thing about being sober is...

....driving!

....getting to see the end of the movie.

....liking myself again.

....being on the same wavelength as my kids.

I'd love to hear yours. Please add as many ideas as you like in the comments below.

Meanwhile, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page this week (click here to be magically transported and, if you want to stay updated, click 'like') there's my first ever YouTube video (full disclosure: the children helped me make it!) of my favourite non-alcoholic tipple, plus a video - sent to me by a lovely reader down under - on mums and the problem of 'wine o'clock'. 

Going on the page this evening, a must-see article by sober sister* Hannah Betts in the Telegraph. Here's a preview: We're tired of drunkenness, not tired of life - booze being the only area in which we, the soberocracy, have reached our limit.

And so say all of us.

Love to you all,

SM x

*Please note, Hannah Betts is not my actual sister. Sadly, I've never even met her, but I feel like we have a connection. All we sober women are, in my view, sober sisters.



Sunday, 8 October 2017

Because You're Worth It

This week's flower delivery

Shortly after I gave up drinking, I read a fabulous piece by my favourite journalist, Caitlin Moran. It was her letter to teenage girls. She wrote this:

Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless.

Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.

Buy flowers – or if you are poor, steal one from someone’s garden; the world owes you that much at least: blossom – and put them at the end of the bed.

When you wake, look at it, and tell yourself you are the kind of person who wakes up and sees flowers.

This stops your first thought being, “I fear today. Today is the day maybe I cannot survive any more,” which I know is what you would otherwise think.

Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must always do, in the Bad Years.

Ever since I read those incredibly powerful words, I have spent the equivalent of two bottles of wine per week on having fresh flowers delivered to my house.

Every Tuesday, I wake up to find a box of incredible blooms sitting outside my front door. I bring them in, take them out, one by one, chop off the ends of the stems and arrange them in a vase, feeling like a 1950's housewife, and place them in the centre of my kitchen table.

Then, all week, I can tell myself that I am the kind of person who wakes up and sees fresh flowers. I remind myself what I've achieved. I tell myself that I deserve good things in my life. I feel grateful for the wonders of nature.

And the flowers make my family happy too. (I think. Perhaps they don't even notice them!)

So, if you've just quit the booze, think about how you might be able to spend some of the money you used to spend on your poison-of-choice in a way that could, every single day, remind you of how bloody amazing you are. And how wonderful life is.

If you have any good ideas, please tell us in the comments!

By the way, it really is worth reading the whole of that Caitlin Moran letter. It's as relevant to the middle-aged as it is to teenagers. She talks about how, in times of trouble, you should focus on just getting through the next minute - a hugely helpful trick if you're battling the wine witch.

So, I'm putting a video of Caitlin reading her letter on the SoberMummy Facebook page this evening. Also new on the page is the inspirational story of Tom Hardy, and what he managed to achieve after he dispatched his demons.

To visit the SoberMummy Facebook page click here. 'Like' the page to stay updated.

Love and flowers to you all,

SM x