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 a good time. 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



Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Alcohol and Breast Cancer


I used to love Autumn. Falling leaves, woollies and mittens, Bonfire night and Halloween....

But then, almost exactly two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Autumn's never been the same since.

Now the fallen leaves remind me of standing in the local park, howling like a mad woman because it was the only place I could cry where the children wouldn't see.

Halloween was the night before my operation, when I hid under my duvet, saying a private farewell to a sizeable chunk of my left boob, ignoring all the trick-or-treaters ringing on the doorbell.

Bonfire night reminds me of the party we went to where I became unable to handle small talk. Vague acquaintances would ask me " How are you?" and I'd reply "I have breast cancer." Believe me, it's a conversation stopper.

It's really, really easy to think that's never going to happen to me. That's exactly what I thought. Until it did. 

The truth is, breast cancer is terribly common. But there's one thing you can do that will significantly reduce your chances of it happening to you, and that's QUITTING DRINKING.

Dr Ellie Cannon recently published a supplement in the Mail on Sunday on how to cut your risk of breast cancer.

She says that around 3,200 cases of breast cancer each year in the UK are linked to alcohol. Just drinking three alcoholic drinks a week (ha ha!) increases your risk by 15%.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, after reviewing all the evidence of the link between booze and breast cancer, said last year that whenever she's about to have a drink she thinks "do I want the glass of wine or do I want to raise my own risk of breast cancer?" This comment was treated with outrage by the media. It's a message that no-one wants to hear.

Alcohol can damage the DNA in your cells, and it also leads to increased levels of oestrogen. In over two-thirds of breast cancers (including mine), oestrogen acts like rocket fuel.

Interestingly, Dr Cannon goes on to talk about other risk factors, including lack of sleep.

Numerous studies have shown that long term disrupted sleep patterns may be linked to breast-cancer development, and women who are sleep deprived are more likely to have highly aggressive cancers. (This is also down to that pesky hormone, oestrogen, whose levels rise in poor sleepers).

Now, when I was drinking I had terrible insomnia. I'd get to sleep, no problem, but then wake up again at 3am, tossing and turning and hating myself. Now, I sleep like a baby.

Guess what another crucial factor in breast cancer development is? THE MUFFIN TOP! Also known as 'the wine belly.' Oh boy, did I have one of those... Then I quit drinking, and now I can look down and see my feet! I've lost twenty-eight pounds and the belly.

Research suggests that 5% of breast cancers could be avoided by maintaining a healthy body weight. And weight around the middle is especially dangerous.

A recent study showed that women who go up a skirt size every decade between the age of 25 and the menopause have a 33% increased risk of breast cancer in later life.

So, if you quit drinking you reduce not just one but THREE of the major risk factors for breast cancer.

Yet another good reason to put down the vino.

If you need some inspiration, information or just something to take your mind off the wine witch, then check out the SoberMummy Facebook page here. I post every week day at wine o'clock, and if you click 'like' on the page, Facebook will keep you updated.

(New this week on the Facebook Page: a piece I've written on why I blame Bridget Jones for the fact that so many middle-aged women drink too much, and some inspirational wisdom from the gorgeous Bear Grylls).

Please, please share this post. It's important.

Love to you all,

SM x


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Sober is Seriously Fashionable!



When was the last time you were properly on trend? Ahead of the curve? Finger on the pulse?

For me, it was probably back in the late eighties, when I was an early adopter of the leg warmer, fingerless black lace gloves and the puff ball skirt.

I've made some effort since then, but I often catch a wave a little too late. I moved from bootleg cut jeans to skinnies just as everyone was embracing high waisters. Then, as I caught up they moved onto 'boyfriends' and three-quarter length flares.

But this week, my friends, we are DOWN WITH THE YOUTH! We are not only on trend, we bloody invented it.

Research by Eventbrite into the habits of Millennials has been all over the press this week because (shock, horror) it turns out that they don't think drinking is cool, let alone getting drunk.

In fact, they describe it as 'sad' and 'embarrassing.' It's something their parents do. Only one in ten described getting drunk as 'cool,' and 42% say they are drinking less than they were 3 years ago.

For fellow fans of Absolutely Fabulous, while we are Patsy and Edina, clutching desperately to our disappearing youth as we swig Bollinger from the bottle, the under thirties are Saffy, sitting at the kitchen table doing their revision and rolling their eyes at our humiliating antics.

There are many reasons for this trend.

Millennials are far more interested in spending their (small reserves of) cash on new experiences, rather than just another night down the pub (where they might bump into those embarrassing parents).

Events like food festivals and Secret Cinema look much better on their Instagram feeds.

Instagram, and it's social media pals, have a massive cautionary effect too. Every Millennial knows someone whose life (and career prospects) have been ruined by  photographic or video evidence of something they did when drunk. It's just not worth the risk.

If they do go to a music festival they are quite likely to do so sober, with one in five saying that they drank no alcohol at all over a weekend festival.

An article in The Telegraph on this survey hypothesised that Millennials don't need to drink as much as we did because they are more comfortable with talking about their feelings, rather than suffering from the 'stiff upper lip' of our generation.

Personally, I think that one of the big differences between our generation and theirs is our role models.

My role models, back in the late eighties and early nineties were Bridget Jones, the aforementioned Ab Fab ladies, the girls from Sex and the City and (in the real, non fictionalised world) the 'laddettes' like Zoe Ball and Denise van Outen. Massive drinkers, one and all.

Millennials, however, aspire to be like Kim Kardashian, Zoella and Ella Woodward. WHO DON'T DRINK.

Clean drinking is the flip side of the coin to clean eating.

So, next time you're feeling embarrassed or ashamed about being sober, then STOP IT! You are surfing the zeitgeist, my friend.

I've written a (short) piece, accompanied by a fabulous Bridget Jones clip about this generational gap called WHY DO MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN DRINK SO MUCH?

It's going up on the SoberMummy Facebook page at 6pm (UK time) this evening. I'd LOVE it if you could comment and share, as it'd be great to get a debate going.

(Also new on the Facebook page, a fascinating debate from Good Morning Britain about all those 'wine o'clock' jokes, and whether they are trivialising women's drinking).

Click here for the SoberMummy Facebook page and 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Alcohol and Driving


So, the mayor of London has put Uber on the naughty step. 

I imagine that they will stay there for a couple of months, thinking about what they've done, then they'll proffer an apology and promise to start treating their drivers properly, report serious incidents in their cabs to the police and, you never know, maybe even pay some tax.

Then they'll be given their license back (thereby saving the jobs of 40,000 drivers - hurrah!) and told that they'd better keep getting smiley faces on the reward chart, or else.

A while back, the thought of living in the capital with no Uber would have been rather terrifying, but not now, because I am my own mini-cab!

One of the very best things about giving up booze, (along with the fact that, having lost the muffin top, I can now see my feet! And I can afford to buy great shoes to put on them!) is being able to drive ALL THE TIME.

If Mr SM and I have a 'date night' in a fancy West End restaurant, I don't need to book an expensive taxi to get us there and back. Oh no. I just drive and park right outside. Because nobody drives into central London at night time, so you can park anywhere. For free.

If I go to a party, when I decide it's time to go (usually in the middle of someone telling me a 'hilarious' story for the third time), I don't have to find the host to ask for the number for a cab firm, then try to sound sober while I book the cab, then try to look sober when I climb into it.

Oh no, I just leave surreptitiously, find my car (which is usually right outside) and drive home.

I even offer lifts around to all my drunk friends. It's a great way to stock up some brownie points, (or maybe make up for past misdemeanours). It's amazing how popular being a 'designated driver' can make you.

And one of the real joys is being able to sail past police cars confidently, knowing that there is absolutely no way that you are over the limit. 

In fact, I have been known to deliberately drive 'erratically' around police cars in the hope that they will breathalyse me, so I can watch with huge smugness while the light remains stubbornly on GREEN.

Even if you are incredibly responsible about drinking and driving, and always take a taxi or public transport home, there's always the niggling fear that you might just still be over the limit in the morning. On the school run. Or driving into work. 

Give up drinking, and that's totally impossible.

So, yet another fine reason to quit the booze.

In other news this week, the makers of Jaffa Cakes, in their wisdom, have decided to cut the number of biscuits (cakes?) in a pack from twelve to ten. It's a disaster.

During my early days of not drinking I mainlined Jaffa Cakes. Ten would not have been enough, would barely have touched the sides.

New this week on the SoberMummy Facebook page: some fabulous women talking to the BBC about giving up booze, the stories (and before and after pictures!) of fifteen celebs who have gone sober, including Angelina, Adele, Samuel L. Jackson and Drew Barrymore, and the funniest video I've seen in ages.

For inspiration, information and a few good laughs every weekday at wine o'clock, join the SoberMummy Facebook page. CLICK HERE, and 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all, 

SM x

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Getting Through Wine O'Clock



The most difficult thing about giving up the drink is getting through the witching hour.

For me, it was longer than an hour - it stretched from around 5pm until about 8pm.

The clock seemed to move agonisingly slowly, and the wine witch would be jumping up and down inside my head yelling at me to stop being such a kill joy and just open a bottle of wine! (You don't need to drink the whole thing...)

I found that distraction really helped. Finding something interesting to read, or something funny to watch, or connecting with other people in the same boat.

Which is why I've created the SOBERMUMMY FACEBOOK PAGE! It's aimed at anyone who wants to quit or cut down on booze, or just drink more 'mindfully'.

I'm going to post something every weekday at wine o'clock UK time (I'm afraid that'll make it lunch time, or thereabouts in the USA) to inspire, inform or just entertain you.

There'll be newspaper articles, book reviews, mocktail recipes, TED talks, celebrity drinking stories (I know it's puerile, but I do love them. It makes me feel a little more glamorous) and much more. All upbeat and light-hearted - things you'll, hopefully, be happy to share.

If you check out my page now you'll find a the most widely shared TED talk on addiction, a newspaper article about Carol McGiffin drinking two bottles of wine a day, a wonderful video about parenting which I swear will make you cry (in a good way) as well as my favourite Absolutely Fabulous clip (because I blame Patsy and Edina for the pickle I found myself in!).

I'm on a mission to provide an antidote to all those drinking memes that crop up on your Facebook timeline!

All you need to do is to click the link here, or type SoberMummy into your Facebook search bar. Once you find my page, if you 'like' it Facebook will keep you updated with new stuff as I post it.

I'd love to make it all a proper community, so please do share, comment and message me via the page with any suggestions of content you'd like to see up there. You can also e-mail me on sobermummy@gmail.com.

Once we've got enough people on board I can set up some community areas like a 'Dry January' group or a '100 day challenge' group, so you can chat privately to people with the same goals as you and egg each other along.

So please, please drop in and 'like' my page (I'm aware I'm sounding needy!) I'd LOVE to see you there. And please leave any ideas, suggestions, issues in the comments below.

Love SM x

CLICK HERE TO GO TO SOBERMUMMY'S FACEBOOK PAGE

P.S. After two and a half years of blogging, I have finally managed to work out how to post images as well as words! That's my kitchen clock at the top of this post.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Will I Lose all my Friends?



This is the question that haunted me when I first quit drinking. In fact, I posted with this same title back on day 13. (To read that post click here).

And the truth is that I didn't lose any friends, in that no-one called me up to say Good God, you are SO BORING that I never want to see you again. (I really had expected that to happen).

What has happened, though, is that there are some friends who contact me a lot less. Needless to say, generally the ones who can't contemplate the idea of a night out without getting totally hammered, and don't want a sober person there pouring rain on their parade.

I'm not angry about this. I get it. I would have done the same, back in the day. I would have justified this to myself as being 'because they're no fun any more', when actually I was just worried that it would shine a light on my own out of control drinking.

This slight negative is, however, totally drowned out by the positive, which is that I have made lots of new friends. 

I hadn't made many new friends for years. It felt like too much effort. I was also somewhat aware that my old muckers would be more forgiving of any wayward antics than brand new, shiny friends.

But now I have a much wider social circle, including several women who hardly ever (or never) drink, the ones I would have written off in the past as being 'not my type.'

Then yesterday the lovely people at Go Sober for October sent me these fascinating statistics from a survey by Macmillan Cancer Support.

7 MILLION BRITS DITCH THEIR FRIENDS FOR DRINKING TOO MUCH

Apparently, 13% of adults (6.7 million people) have stopped going for a drink with at least one friend because they believe they drink too much.

And a Go Sober survey found that one quarter of UK adults avoid drinking with certain friends because of the way they behave after a tipple. 54% say their friend gets too aggressive, and 47% say they get too loud.

This is all driving a trend towards 'soberlising' - socialising without the booze - which is particularly popular amongst the young.

So, don't fret about losing your friends when you STOP drinking, worry about losing them if you CARRY ON!

And if you need some fabulous help and encouragement, then join my friends over at Go Sober for October.

(You'll also be raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support who were a huge help to me through the whole breast cancer thingy).

In other news, are any of you called Nigel? Apparently NOT ONE baby was named Nigel last year in the UK. This makes me sad, as my first ever snog was a Nigel. On a school trip, aged eleven. Just saying.

Love to you all,

SM (Clare)

Monday, 18 September 2017

Shame



An amazing thing has happened since I officially came out of the closet last week. (See my post: SoberMummy's Coming Out).

As well as posting here, I also posted my book cover on my Facebook page.

Now, I didn't think I had any sober friends. I thought all my friends drank (almost) as much as I did. I thought that me going sober would horrify them. That's why I hid for more than two years behind a pseudonym.

But, within hours of posting, several of my friends - from university, from advertising and from the school gate had messaged me privately saying I've given up too. Years ago. Best thing I ever did. Can we get together?

Why, why, why don't we shout about going sober? So we can find each other and support each other. Why do we all struggle on feeling so alone, when we're not?

I think mothers are particularly wary of confessing to having a problem with alcohol. We worry about being seen as bad parents, as terrible examples for our children.

Even more so, mothers who are in the medical or teaching professions, and who counsel patients and students daily about the dangers of alcohol.

Well, if you are a doctor, or a nurse, or a teacher then hear this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I get e-mails from doctors, nurses and teachers every single week.

We only feel alone because of the stigma surrounding alcohol addiction.

This makes me mad. And sad.

So, since I'm already out of that closet, and since I've never been one to do things by halves (not bottles of wine, not life), I decided to do a TED talk! On 'making sober less shameful.'

How, I asked myself, does one go about doing a TED talk? Who is TED and what's his e-mail address?

Then, I went to my postbox, and blow me down with a feather, I discovered, amongst the bills and flyers and catalogues, the most extraordinary piece of serendipity: a letter from my old Cambridge college saying We are hosting a TEDx event and are looking for alumnae who are interested in speaking.

So I applied. I wrote 300 words on how and why I want to change the world. Then I had to upload a one minute video of me talking to camera.

I roped in Mr SM.

We recorded many different versions. Some were too long. Some too short. The dog barked during one. This light was wrong in another. It was a nightmare.

Then we recorded one that was just perfect. 

Let me see! I said to Mr SM. He passed me the phone. It WAS perfect. Except for one thing: IT WAS UPSIDE DOWN!

Well, said Mr SM,  at least it'll stand out.

After some more trial and error we did one up the right way, and it's gone off, to TED (wherever he is).

Fingers crossed.

Love SM (Clare)

TO PREORDER SOBERMUMMY'S BOOK CLICK HERE (UK) OR HERE (USA)

Saturday, 16 September 2017

They're Bombing my 'Hood



That headline is not some kind of fancy metaphor. They are, literally, bombing my 'hood.

Yesterday a bomb went off at my local tube station: Parson's Green, five minutes walk from my house.

This makes me really mad.

Like the bomb at the Ariana Grande concert, this one was timed to explode when the train would be filled with children, on their way to school in the morning.

Luckily, the device, a home-made nail bomb, much like the Ariana one, failed to go off properly. Several people were burned, but no-one died or suffered critical injuries.

But, can you imagine how terrifying the whole event must have been - the screaming, the stampede, the crush - for many of the children's friends, who only just started navigating their own way to school at the start of this term?

Londoners, however, are wonderful people (apart from the terrorists, obvs, who Mr Trump so lyrically described in a tweet yesterday as losers).

Everyone rallied around to help the injured and to reassure unaccompanied children. Our favourite local restaurant opened its doors to all the emergency services as a base for first aid.

Friends of mine, who live on the roads that were closed off, kept the police topped up with coffee and Krispy Kremes, and they, in turn, let the children try on their riot gear, which made them seem much less scary.

In a literal display of adding insult to injury, it transpired that the terrorists hadn't meant to bomb Parson's Green at all.

The timer went off early. The bomb was intended for a higher profile target like Paddington Station or Notting Hill. The media reported that 'outside of London, no-one has heard of Parson's Green.'

So the terrorists dissed us, then they bombed us.

I'm angry about all of this, but it doesn't make me scared. (Despite the threat level being raised to 'critical' and the constant buzz of police helicopters overhead).

Quite the reverse, in fact. It makes me realise, yet again, that life is short and unpredictable. We have to be brave enough to make the most of every opportunity.

On a happier note, thank you, thank you to all of you who pre-ordered my book on Amazon! And for all your wonderful comments on my 'coming out' post. (You made me cry. In a good way).

For a brief moment on Thursday I was #1 on the Amazon chart of 'recovery books', knocking Russell Brand's new book into second place.

(I had great fun imagining him, all snake-hipped and leather-trousered, pacing up and down his kitchen, holding his cute new baby, shouting Who is this SoberMummy person?!? But I doubt he even noticed).

If you'd like to help me change the world (or just want to annoy Russell Brand) by ordering a copy, click here. If you're in the US, you can also find me on Amazon.com.

Stay safe everyone, and love to you all,

Clare (SM)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

SoberMummy's Coming Out




When I first quit drinking, I was terrified. And a (tiny) bit excited. But, most of all, I was ashamed.

I was ashamed that I was unable to control my drinking when everyone else around me seemed to manage fine. I was scared of being labelled an 'alcoholic'.

I was worried that everyone would assume that I'd been pouring vodka on my cornflakes at breakfast time and would label me an unfit mother.

So I didn't tell anyone. I said I was 'on antibiotics,' or 'doing a detox.' I said I'd 'given up for Lent.' Anything, rather than admit the truth.

The only place I told the truth was here, on this blog. But not under my real name, obviously. I created a pseudonym - SoberMummy. I figured that every time I wrote those words it would help to reinforce the fact that Mummy was Sober.

And through this blog I found an incredible thing: I was not alone. Not alone in being unable to control the booze, and not alone in feeling ashamed.

Isn't it ridiculous that when we quit smoking we can tell everyone and they treat us like a hero, yet you stop drinking and get treated like a leper?

Giving up gluten is trendy, yet ditching a toxic, addictive drug is considered weird.

I started this blog to help myself - as a form of therapy, then I discovered that it was helping other people - all around the world. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, all of you helped me back. It was like a giant, interwebby karmic circle.

More and more of you started writing to me to suggest I turn my story into a book.

The idea terrified me, but I figured that if we don't face our shame and shout out loud and proud then nothing is going to change. 

So I did it. I found a fabulous agent - Annette Green, and she sent my proposal out to some publishers. Amazingly, not just one, but several of them were interested.

My favourite team were from Hodder and Stoughton. They understood me and what I wanted to do, that I wanted to tell one small story and to change the world.

I wanted to let other women know like me know that they are not alone and to banish the culture of shame that surrounds going sober. I want to make clean drinking as fashionable as clean eating.

And now, after months of writing and editing and proof reading and legal checking, it's all done. And today the press release is going out.

Those of you who've read this blog from beginning to end will know my story, but the book talks a lot more about the day to day trials and tribulations of trying to become a sober mum in a world where everyone drinks. There's also lots of help and advice woven into the story and, I hope, a few good laughs.

Having spent years hiding behind a made-up name, I'm coming out good and proper. With a bang.

My real name is CLARE POOLEY. That's me at the top of the page. And this is the cover of my book, which is coming out on January 11th.

You can pre-order a copy (please do!) by clicking here.

(Also available on amazon.com for those of you in the USA).

Please help me to spread the word and change the world.




Love to you all. And thank you. For everything. Clare Pooley (SoberMummy)


Monday, 11 September 2017

Some Great Listening

Folks, I feel terrible that I haven't posted for a while, nor have I replied to your fabulous comments on recent posts. I'm so sorry.

I have been horribly busy getting the children back to school (I managed to get them there on the right day this time - whoop whoop!) and with my Big Project - announcement to follow on Thursday...

By way of an apology, here are two great radio programmes for you:

The first is a Radio 4 play called The Red by the recovering alcoholic, Marcus Brigstocke.

The hero of the play, Benedict, is given a letter from his father on the day of his father's funeral. His father, a huge wine connoisseur, leaves his alcoholic son a very special bottle of red and asks him to drink it. Benedict has been sober for 25 years. Find out what he does.

Click here to listen.

Huge thanks to 'Just the Tonic' for the brilliant recommendation.

The second programme was also on Radio 4, and is called The Fix. Three teams of bright, creative young people are given the task of looking for ways to get the British population to drink less.

Great to see this topic being covered in mainstream media in such an interesting way.

Click here to listen.

Happy listening, and please drop by on Thursday for the Big News.

Love SM x

Friday, 1 September 2017

5 Reasons Why September is a Great Month to Quit Drinking

There is never a perfect time to quit drinking.

I spent months, years even, telling myself that right now was not a good timing as I had a big party, a holiday or a stressful work commitment fast approaching.

Often I'd get to around Day 5 and then the wine witch would say It's x's birthday next week. This is SO not the right time to stop drinking. Why not start again (moderately, of course), then you can stop properly after the party?

But the truth is there's always a good excuse to hand, a reason to quit quitting.

We're so used to relying on booze to deal with every emotion - celebration, commiseration, anxiety, stress, relaxation, grief - that any week of the year is bound to contain a perfect occasion for a piss up. 

Before you know it, another year has gone by in a haze of hangovers and half remembered events.

But NO MORE, because if there ever was an ideal time to quit, it's September. Here's why:

1. It's a New School Year

Yes, I know we're not at school any longer (unless you're a teacher), but all those years of getting new school uniforms ready and pencils sharpened for September are buried deep in our psyches.

September, like January, is a time of fresh starts and clean sheets of paper, but without all the cold, darkness and post Christmas misery.

2. You've Spent the Summer Bingeing

Go on, confess. Summer holidays are the perfect excuse for drinking at lunch time, mainlining cocktails by the pool and staying up until sunrise drinking dodgy local spirits.

By September the world and his wife have a terrible hangover, puffy faces and muffin tops, and the idea of booze has, just slightly, lost its lustre.

3. You Have a Perfect Excuse

It's really hard telling people you've quit drinking. When I got breast cancer I told everyone. I told strangers in shops, my hairdresser, even a traffic warden (who let me off the ticket).

When I stopped drinking I told no-one the truth, I just made endless excuses (I'm driving, I'm on antibiotics, I'm raising money for charity).

And making excuses is okay. In fact, it's a good idea, because the last thing you want to do when you're already feeling wobbly is to fend off an inquisition.

And September is the perfect excuse because (see above) you just tell everyone that you overdid the booze on your summer holidays and are detoxing. Chances are, they'll be doing the same.

4. It's Over Three Months Until Christmas

The hardest part of quitting booze is the first hundred days. Once you're through those it gets much, much easier. That's when you start to see all the benefits and to realise that you never want to go back.

If you quit now, you'll have done those hundred days before the Christmas Party Season kicks off.

5. You Won't be Alone

Quitting in the summer can be very lonely. The sober blogging world goes quiet. It feels as if everyone is down the beach downing tequila.

But now there'll be lots of enthusiastic sober bunnies looking for friends. Several countries hold Sober September events, and here in the UK we're gearing up for Macmillan's Go Sober October.

It's a great time to find a tribe - online or in real life.

(If you want to encourage even more passengers to jump on the sober wagon then please share this post).

SO NO MORE EXCUSES!

Presuming that you're now totally convinced, check out my page (click here) on Advice for Newbies, or to read my story from the beginning, click here.

If, however, you still need more persuasion, click here for Reasons to Quit Drinking.

Happy September to you all!

SM x

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Unhelpful Headlines

I was reading the newspapers last week, when I came across all these headlines screaming things like ALCOHOL MAKES YOU LIVE LONGER!

Oh great.

It appears that the American College of Cardiology have done a twelve year study, concluding that a glass of wine a day can lower your risk of mortality, especially from cardiovascular disease.

I used to love articles like these.

Just as I'd started to realise that booze was ruining my life, and just as I'd managed to pluck up the courage to consider quitting for good, I'd read a headline like that and think Hurrah! No need to stop drinking after all! Wine is positively GOOD for me! It's Mediterranean for God's sake!

I'd picture myself, a contented wizened old crone at the age of one hundred and six, sitting in the sunshine with my carafe of vino while my great-great-grandchildren played happily around my feet, and I'd pour myself (another) large glass.

I never read the small print. Obviously.

As with all these studies, the small print states (in quite large letters, actually), that any more than a tiny amount of wine per day reverses this positive effect and becomes completely disadvantageous to your health in a myriad of different ways.

Over and over again studies have shown how closely boozing is linked to cancer, especially breast cancer. Obviously, I ignored all that - until I got breast cancer.

The main reason why red wine is always cited as being particularly beneficial is that it contains a compound called resveratrol which comes from the skin of red grapes and is rich in the lovely antioxidants that keep your heart healthy and guard against cancer.

Mmmm, I thought. Perhaps I should start drinking alcohol free red wine. All the benefits, none of the drawbacks. Simples.

So, I bought a yummy looking, frightfully cheap, bottle of alcohol free cabernet sauvignon.

I had a small glass with dinner, feeling smug about all that resveratrol.

That was surprisingly nice, I thought, perhaps I'll have another.

An hour later and I'd polished off most of the bottle! Good God, I'm totally useless! If I'm so hopeless at moderating the alcohol free stuff, even after two and a half years sober, imagine what I'd be like with the real thing!?! 

A helpful reminder.

So, I went to the supermarket and bought a large punnet of red grapes.

Love to you all,

SM x

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Disease of 'More'

I've just started reading the fabulous collection of essays and observations by Marian Keyes called Making It Up as I Go Along.

I have a huge girlie crush on Marian Keyes. She's a brilliant author, but also an addict who, many years ago, after 'becoming rather too fond of the Jacob's Creek,' ended up in rehab.

This inspired her poignant, yet hilarious, novel about an alcohol and cocaine addict - Rachel's Holiday. If you haven't read it yet, then lucky you, you have a treat in store. Buy it now!

Marian describes addiction as 'the disease of more.' She talks about how, when she finds anything that she really likes, she just wants more. Not just alcohol, but also nail varnish, fake tan and box sets (amongst many other addictions).

That is so me.

Marian talks about how all of these addictions trigger familiar addict behaviour.

For example, she loves eyelash extensions. When she hadn't had her eyelashes done for a while she would get irritable and tetchy.

Knowing that you were supposed to give your eyelashes a break after six months of extensions she would rotate beauty parlours and lie about how often she was going.

Eventually she had to face up to her addiction, confess to her beautician and go cold turkey.

Having just returned home after a three week family holiday in Cornwall I can totally identify with Marian's disease of 'more.'

I'm going cold turkey after a horrific (yet totally enjoyable) sugar binge.

When I first quit drinking I turned to cake. It was the lesser of two evils. Sugar was a completely necessary food group.

Eventually, as life evened out, I cut right down on the white stuff, lost two stone, and now I only eat sugary things as a special treat.

When most people would have a glass of champagne, I binge on sugar. When I finished my cancer treatment, instead of downing a bottle of vino I ate two whole boxes of Matchmakers (mint and orange flavour). In about ten minutes flat.

Going on holiday is also a cause for celebration, so during our first week away I treated myself to a Cornish ice-cream every day. It gave me a total buzz.

By week two, the ice cream on its own just wasn't cutting it any longer. I added in a few Cornish Fareings (large ginger biscuits) a day, plus a handful of honeycomb fudge.

By week three I was supplementing with cream teas - scones with lashings of jam and clotted cream.

The disease of 'more' had got me good and proper.

I haven't dared to stand on the scales, but know things are bad as #3 asked if I was "growing a baby."

I was relieved, and grateful, when #1 said "Don't be silly, #3", but then she ruined it by adding "Mummy's far too old for that!"

Great. Fat and old.

So now I'm back in my reserved seat on the familiar waggon. And it's such a relief.

Please feel free to share your holiday sins in the comments below. There's no judgement here.

Love SM x

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Alcohol and RAGE

There's been lots of discussion in the UK recently about alcohol fuelled rage.

Airlines UK, which represents many of the major carriers, have called for stronger deterrents for passengers who decide to crack open their duty-free booze while still on board.

Ryanair have asked airports to ban sales of booze before 10am, and insist passengers drink no more than two alcoholic drinks before flying.

In the last year 387 people were arrested for being drunk and disorderly on a plane, up from 255 the year before.

I bet none of this surprises any of you.

I've found that one of the best things about being sober is the lack of ANGER. I still get cross from time to time, obviously, but it's a slow burn kind of cross, a gradually building irritation. Alcohol (or hangover) induced rage isn't like that at all. It hits you from nowhere like a tornado.

Here's what I wrote, back on DAY 190, about alcohol and rage:

I keep coming across stories in the newspapers about celebrities getting into trouble due to fits of rage. Funnily enough, it’s never the teetotal ones and there’s usually alcohol involved. The most common incidents involve throwing mobile phones at support staff, yelling at air stewardesses, being carted off planes and losing it over inadequate catering arrangements.

Needless to say, I love reading these stories, because all of us big drinkers have, in slightly less dramatic ways, had incidents of alcohol-induced rage. I remember (as, sadly, do many of the other guests) throwing a glass of wine at my husband (the wine and the glass it was in) during a row over a taxi booking at a friend’s wedding in France. Luckily, my aim was terrible, so no lasting damage done, but sometimes these fits of temper can have real consequences.


Years ago, when I was in the high-powered job (with the bar in the office), I had two large glasses of wine with a colleague at lunch. When I got back to my desk I found an email from a very important global client asking for a number of unnecessary changes to the edit of the new TV commercial we’d just shot. I fired off a reply in (drunken) high umbrage, calling him a Neanderthal nincompoop who was obviously unable to appreciate a work of true artistic genius. This email became famous and made me a heroine in the creative department, but it got me fired from that client’s account and could easily have cost me my job.


According to my research, alcohol narrows our focus of attention, giving us tunnel vision, meaning that we become unable to take mitigating circumstances, other people’s feelings or potential consequences into account if we’re provoked when drunk. This means that we can react violently in circumstances that we would ordinarily have shrugged off.


Also, because alcohol lowers our inhibitions, we are more likely to end up in dangerous situations, leading to potential confrontation. We get a dangerous, and false, burst of confidence. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we are less able to process information properly and are, therefore, more prone to imagining insults (he looked at me the wrong way, Your Honour). 


Since I quit drinking I haven’t lost my temper once (well okay, maybe once or twice, but definitively not a lot). I am Zen-level calm.


Which is why events this evening come as a bit of a shock.

I’m in bed, about to drop off. Mr SM’s in the bathroom. As he closes the bathroom door I hear a whuuumph! as the wet towel I’d recently picked up off the floor and hung up hits the floor again. Needless to say, Mr SM (who must have heard it too) pays no attention and climbs, nonchalantly, into bed.


I sit bolt upright in bed and yell ‘THAT’S IT! I’VE HAD IT WITH THE TOWELS!’


Mr SM looks totally taken aback. Rabbit in headlights. There’s no stopping me.


‘I PICK UP YOUR TOWELS! I PICK UP #1'S TOWELS, #2’S TOWELS AND #3’S TOWELS. IF THE DOG USED TOWELS I WOULD HAVE TO PICK THOSE UP TOO! NO ONE ELSE IN THIS FAMILY EVER PICKS UP A TOWEL. IF IT WEREN’T FOR ME THE WHOLE HOUSE WOULD GRADUALLY FILL UP WITH TOWELS UNTIL WE ALL DROWN IN WHITE FLUFFY TOWELS!’


As I pause for breath, Mr SM puts his hand on my arm (very brave, as I am considering biting it off), and says – very quietly – ‘SM, this isn’t about the towels, is it?’


I stop and think. It strikes me that while I am, obviously, and righteously, cross about the towel situation, the truth is that I am always cross about towels. But a dropped towel won’t usually make me go stratospheric.


#1 is away on a school trip. I’m not going to see her for a whole week. The longest I’ve ever been without her previously is three days. I miss her. That’s why I lost it.

Had I had a few drinks, I would never have realised this. I would have ignored Mr SM’s intervention, which would only have increased my fury. I would have moved on from the towels, and on to my other pet hate – the way everyone leaves their dirty plates and cutlery on top of the dishwasher rather than inside it. I would have accused Mr SM of being a terrible husband and we both would have gone to sleep upset and angry with each other.


So, quitting alcohol doesn’t make the occasional bouts of irrational rage go away, but it does help you to stop, get a sense of perspective and realise that it’s not about the towels. Or the dishwasher. Or the catering arrangements. And that has to be better for our sanity and our relationships.


But I’d still love to know how to get anyone else in my family to pick up a sodding, sodden towel once in a while.


Love and zen-like calm to you all,

SM x

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Beating Cravings

I don't think I could have quit my thirty-a-day smoking habit, fifteen years ago, without the help of nicotine patches.

Those first few days and weeks without my former drug of choice were pretty unbearable. I was irritable, couldn't concentrate, couldn't sleep, had terrible headaches and was totally obsessed with the thought of smoking.

Nicotine patches really helped to take the edge off. They were advertised everywhere. Your doctor could prescribe them on the NHS. We wore them with pride.

When I quit drinking, the cravings and withdrawal symptoms were just as bad but this time there was nothing available to help. Or so I thought.

A few days ago I got an e-mail from a friend I met through this blog. J's drinking history is very like mine. She's been struggling for years to quit the habit, but hasn't got past the first few weeks.

J, unlike me, had the courage to confess her problems to her family doctor. He prescribed her a drug called Acamprosate (also known as Campral), an anti-craving medication. Here's what she says:

Day 9. Acamprosate is bloody brilliant.  All of my previous attempts have had me crawling up the walls, bad tempered and, in AA style, surviving one day at a time until an argument with the husband "justified" a dash to Oddbins.

I know it's early days and there's a long road ahead, but I haven't had the slightest urge to drink at all. I feel so upbeat and my energy levels are amazing. Husband came home on Monday and hardly recognised the house!

And I didn't even want to drink when a plumber fixing our bathroom tap managed to flood the bathroom floor and water came down through the ceiling, drenching the hallway, kids screaming. 

I Googled Acamprosate. It's been approved in Europe since 1989.

I've written a lot on this blog about how long term abuse of alcohol changes our brain chemistry, reducing the amount of dopamine our brains produce naturally, so that - without booze - we feel tetchy and depressed.

After we quit drinking, our brain chemistry does, eventually, find its way back to equilibrium, but in the initial months we are left to cope with badly malfunctioning neurology.

That's where Acamprosate steps in. It helps to restore your brain's chemical balance and, therefore, helps with those terrible cravings.

Why, why, why had I never heard of this? Why aren't the government advertising it widely? How is it that everyone knows about nicotine gum, patches and inhalers, yet no-one's heard of Acamprosate?

If any of you have experience with this one then please can you comment below and let us all know if it works for you? If you've discussed alcohol issues with your doctor, have they offered you anti-craving medication?

It's easy to comment totally anonymously. All you do is go to www.blogger.com and set up a Blogger account under any pseudonym you like. You can then use that Blogger name to comment on any Blogger or Wordpress blogs.

Huge thanks to J for letting me share her e-mail, and love to you all,

SM x

Monday, 7 August 2017

Changes

When I first quit drinking, I was constantly noticing changes.

Initially, I noticed the lack of hangovers and improved sleep. Then better skin, a less puffy face and bouncy hair. Followed by improved moods and less anxiety. And, after a while, weight loss and better relationships.

Inevitably, though, over time, you find an equilibrium. I didn't think much had changed for the last year.

But then, the I came down to Cornwall with the family for our traditional summer holiday.

I've been getting up early every morning while the children, exhausted from hours of fresh air and surfing, are still dozing, so I can do the final edit of the book which I have to send back to my publisher this week.

As a result, I was re-reading a passage I wrote about coming down to Cornwall just five months after quitting the booze. Here it is:

DAY 155

It’s time to leave for Cornwall!

I get up at the crack of dawn and spend several hours packing, trying to cram everything into our (not large) car and still leave enough room for three children and a dog. This isn’t easy as I’ve bought enough Beck’s Blue (alcohol free beer) to sink a battleship. I don’t know if Beck’s Blue has yet penetrated such a remote corner of the world and want to Be Prepared. Luckily I squish it all in and don’t have to choose between leaving behind the beer or a child. Not quite Sophie’s Choice, but awkward, nonetheless.

I do the drive down in horrible traffic on my own (John, as usual, is following on by train after a day at work). Everyone seems to be heading for the coast, and the M5 resembles a car park rather than a motorway. We’re all hot, tetchy and tired.

Then, finally, we turn off the A30 and onto the North Cornish Coast Road and I can feel the tension leaving my shoulders. Even the air smells different – of heather and salt. We play the usual competition, seeing who can be first to see the sea and shout ‘Icanseethesea! Icanseethesea!’

After another half-hour of tiny Cornish lanes and terrifying blind corners, we arrive at our little cottage. Then I have another hour of unpacking while simultaneously dealing with three overexcited children.

Arriving at a holiday destination pulls every trigger there is: stress (tick), exhaustion (tick), celebration (tick), reward (tick), anxiety (tick). BUT I have planned ahead! I am an expert at this game! I have a chilled Beck’s Blue waiting for exactly this moment.

What I hadn’t counted on was there being NO SODDING BOTTLE OPENER! What kind of holiday cottage doesn’t provide a bottle opener?! I turn the cottage upside down. The children are hollering to go to the beach. I’m a woman possessed. I look like… AN ADDICT! (Who’d have thought it?). Or a crazy poltergeist, opening and closing, then reopening, every drawer and every cupboard.

I’ve obviously lived a sheltered existence as I have no idea how to get the lid off a beer bottle without an opener. I try everything, and only succeed in hurting my hands. In the end, I go into the tiny walled garden and smash the top off on a stone. Needless to say, beer goes everywhere, leaving me with two gulps of liquid, lots of foam and broken glass and smelling like a brewery.

It strikes me as ironic that, however badly I was addicted to alcohol back in the day, I never resorted to smashing bottles like a lunatic.

The kids and I walk down a narrow footpath, across a field, over a stile and through a dark, tangled copse down to the beach. As the sun sets, we sit on the rocks and eat Cornish ice cream, watching the waves crashing, with hypnotic regularity, on to the sand. Bliss. The vast Atlantic Ocean and three weeks’ holiday stretching out in front of us. I watch some reckless teenagers tombstoning off the cliff into the choppy waters below, and the dog – in a hilarious display of hope over experience – trying to catch a seagull.

Later, the children are in bed, windblown, exhausted and happy, and the dog is fast asleep, his legs twitching as he dreams of finally getting the better of those birds. I’m snuggled on the windowsill in my pyjamas, looking out at the stunning, wild, wet and windy landscape and listening for the sound of John’s taxi. He’ll be fresh as a daisy after a relaxing train journey with a good book and a half bottle of vino. But I forgive him as he should, as instructed earlier today, be carrying a bottle opener. If he isn’t, I’m not letting him in.

And, on reading this passage, I realised that I ran out of Beck's Blue a week ago and haven't even bothered to search the local shops for more.

That's another addiction crossed off the list!

Happy holidays, everyone.

Love SM x



Thursday, 27 July 2017

Some Great Reading

I'm madly packing this morning for our annual trip to Cornwall. Buckets and spades, surfing and ice-creams, cliff walks and caves. Can't wait!

(The three children aren't being much help on the packing front. They are horribly overexcited about having found a Special K which looks exactly like Ukraine, and are busy posting photos on Instagram).

I thought I'd leave you with some of the best things I've read this week....

The first, sent to me by lovely C, now 7 months sober, is for anyone who was interested in last week's debate on the word 'alcoholic'. It's a fabulous piece from Holly at Hip Sobriety entitled: My name's Holly and I'm not an alcoholic (because no-one is). Click here to read it.

I also have two blog recommendations.

Anyone who hasn't already met Lily at alcoholfree2016.com should check her out here, and here is a fabulous new blog from mommyisaquitter who is currently wading her way through Day 5. Pop on over and give them both a virtual hug.

Finally, I had an e-mail from J, which she said I could share.

J tells a story about accidentally taking a sip of real booze and how much it messes with your head, which I can relate to. I vividly remember getting my Beck's Blue confused with a real beer back in the early days.

Here's J's story:

Dear SM
I just thought I would contact you to recount an event which may be of interest to others on the sober journey : My reaction has  rather staggered me ….

We were last week on a river cruise (40 years married) I had thought through my strategy to resist temptation and to have a fab sober time.

All was going well (harder work that I had expected with lovely elegant wine glasses laid out each lunch and
dinner and waiters/waitresses constantly topping up chilled whites and ruby reds:  However they served Becks Blue on request, so that was lunch sorted and Fever Tree Ginger beer with lots of ice was working with dinner.

Part of my strategy was to enjoy a non alcoholic cocktail at the pre dinner drinks - and credit due, there were 4 to chose from.  ‘Virgin Mary’ was very nice (don’t know that the stick of celery added anything :-) ‘Shirley Temple' also very nice.  Then I thought to try a ‘Cucumber Fizz’ - well it took a while to arrive and when it did one sip shouted out GIN!! 


I gave it to my husband to confirm and we sent it back ….. then the strangest thing … I thought ‘Shit I am going to cry’ !!!  I took a walk round the deck really struggling.  I rallied for dinner with the new friends we had made (interestingly no comments had been made that I always had soft drinks and I didn’t say anything either).

The next morning I woke up weepy and was so for the most of the morning and typing this am filling up a bit.  My husband said that one sip didn’t spoil my record of 325 days.  I hadn’t thought of that but was a bit scared
the one sip had let the wine witch reassert herself.  However logic told me that the one tiny sip was not enough to let her back. 

So my only conclusion is that some sort of mental switch was thrown - a grieving process??  I don’t know.  I do feel a bit cross that this happened but don’t know if I am cross with the bar staff’s error or my reaction.

So my reasons for emailing - I guess just to share the event, maybe others have had similar and are just as confused and this 63 year old Granma who is actually thoroughly enjoying every minute of being sober.

Oh well there we have it - onwards and upwards (my younger son is taking me on a trip up the Brighton 360 to celebrate my first year sober) how wonderful is that!!

Huge congratulations to J on 40 years of marriage and on 325 days sober. What incredible achievements. You rock, J.

And so do all of you.

Love SM x

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sober School Holidays

Schools everywhere are breaking up for the summer holidays.

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday, and I came across several variations of the same meme: a headline saying SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER, then a caption saying KIDS over footage of children going wild with excitement, a caption saying TEACHERS, over footage of adults doing the same, then a caption saying PARENTS over footage of a mum looking harassed and glugging from a glass of wine bigger than her own head.

Each of these memes has had millions of views.

In the old days, I would have merrily added my own comment and shared to all my Facebook friends. Then I would have cracked open (another) bottle of vino, secure in the knowledge that everyone else was doing the same thing. Facebook said so.

This summer, however, I realise - more than ever - that wine does not make the summer holidays flow more swimmingly. Quite the reverse.

The kids, dog and I are up in the wilds of Scotland. We have a house which is, literally, in the middle of nowhere.

The nearest shop is ten minutes drive (about one and a half hours by foot) away. We hole ourselves up with board games, piano, guitar, ukulele and an open fire.... and chill.

Yesterday, we ran out of milk. I didn't want to drag everyone out in the rain, so I left my (relatively) responsible teenager in charge of her two younger siblings and headed out to the nearest town.

About three quarters of the way there, the car started shuddering wildly, as if I was crossing the surface of the moon. I suspected a puncture.

I got out of the car to take a look and I had literally no tyre left at all on one of the rear wheels. Total blowout. Disaster.

I knew that it would be hours before a breakdown truck could reach me and I had to get back to the kids. I was an hour's walk away, at least.

Few cars travel down that road, but, luckily, after a few minutes I managed to flag down a friendly white van man who drove me home.

I then called the AA (Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous), who said that they could tow my car to the nearest tyre fitter, but it would take an hour and half to get to me.

I asked if they could collect me from my house and drive me the five minutes it would take to get back to my abandoned car. They said no, take a taxi.

I explained that the nearest taxi firm was forty-five minutes away and had to be booked days in advance. They said to walk.

I explained that it would take an hour to walk and I had three children with me. They said sorry, but it's company policy. I had to meet them by my car.

I walked to the nearest neighbour and begged for a lift. For the second time, the kindness of other people saved me.

I got back to my car, met the breakdown chap, was towed to a tyre place, spent all my shoe money on a tyre and got home.

But the real miracle about all of this is that it all happened without me getting at all cross. Or stressed. Or shouting.

I didn't get annoyed with the AA lady for refusing to bend the rules (not her fault). I didn't panic, stamp, yell and curse. I was zen.

Needless to say, in the drinking days I would not have dealt with a day like that in the same way. You know exactly how it would have gone. You've been there too, I expect.

So now I look at those Facebook memes, at those mums glugging back the wine, and I think I get it. Been there, done that. But that's really not going to help, you know.

Step away.

Love SM x

Sunday, 16 July 2017

I Don't Want a Fight With AA

I had an old friend round for lunch yesterday.

She's an amazing woman, who has dealt with issues that would break many people, but has come out stronger.

For a few years, L lived with a cocaine addict. She saw, up close and personal, how drugs can destroy the lives of the user and those who love them.

As a result, once she'd found the strength to get away, she re-trained as a psychotherapist and an addiction counsellor.

I am in awe of the people who not only survive their own life traumas, but then use them to help others.

So, a while back, I gave L the name of my blog. She never told me whether she'd read it or what she thought of it.

Then, yesterday, L said "I read your blog."

"Oh yes?" I replied.

"I have to say, I don't like your refusal to use the word 'alcoholic.'" She said.

I imagine she was referring to this post: Am I an alcoholic?

Then she continued, "there are an awful lot of people who feel the same as me."

"I have no issue with anyone using the term 'alcoholic' if they find it helpful," I explained, "it's just that I don't. I think it's one of the reasons why so many people find it difficult to confess to having a problem and asking for help. We're worried about being judged."

But the truth is that anyone who is a member of, or works with, AA feels hugely strongly about the A word, and I'm not sure that I can take them all on. I don't want to have a fight with AA - I think they're an amazing institution doing an incredible job.

But I know that I, and many of my readers, feel strongly about this issue too. I am very happy (well, sort of) to stand up on national television and confess to drinking a bottle of wine a day. I'm happy to confess to being an alcohol addict.

But I'm not happy to say "I am an alcoholic." I don't believe I have a disease. I think I became addicted to an addictive drug, the same way I did to cigarettes, back in the day.

I found it much easier to say 'I have cancer' (when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 18 months ago) than I do 'I am an alcoholic.'

The truth is, people sympathise with cancer victims, but they assume that women who are 'alcoholics' are weak, diseased, and terrible mothers who neglect their children while they pour vodka on their cornflakes.

Surely the words I use are a personal choice?

It seems extraordinary that one word can cause so much trouble. But it will....

Is this really a good idea?

Love SM

Sunday, 9 July 2017

False Memory

Our memories are much less accurate than we believe them to be.

Rather than a frame-by-frame photographic reflection of our past they are riddled with holes, like a swiss cheese. Whole chapters are re-written as we, unwittingly, cast different lights on what actually took place.

Two recent events have bought this home to me. The first was, last weekend, a thirty year reunion of my old boarding school friends. THIRTY YEARS! Where did all that time go?

Now, I lived with these women for seven years, through all those turbulent teenage days, and yet there were a few of them who I swear I had never, ever, seen before.

Even when I heard their names and looked up photos of how they looked back then.... nada. They'd been swallowed up by one of those many memory black holes.

But even much more recent memories are playing tricks on me.

I've been editing the book I've written about my first twelve months sober - the year when I also found and, hopefully, dispatched with breast cancer.

Reading back over that year is like reading a novel written about a character who has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Whilst I know I had cancer - I have the scars to prove it, and I have to take tablets every day for the next decade at least - the detail of it all is a blur. It feels like it happened to a different person in a different age.

Even more so, the drinking days. When I look back on those I can remember drinking more than I should have, but the implications of that, the details of how it affected my life, my moods, my family... all burred.

There's good reason for this. Our subconscious minds have a built in protection mechanism. It's not good for us to remember all the bad stuff vividly, for there lies post traumatic stress syndrome, depression and anxiety. So they, helpfully, allow us to forget the detail.

Who would give birth more than once if this were not the case?

It's only because of this blog that I am able to remind myself, in all it's gory detail, what that time was really like. And reading back over it, then writing about it, is painful. I had to do it in small chunks. It made me cry, quite a lot.

But the reason for telling you all of this, if you're still reading, is that writing it all down at the time is really important. Because that's what stops us doing it all over again.

I can honestly tell you that if I did not have this record of those dark days I would be drinking again now. Because when I search through my memories I see only the good drinks. The rose on a hot day. the champagne at weddings. The single glass of fine red with a meal in a restaurant.

I don't see the bottle of wine drunk every evening by myself.

I imagine that if you don't quit drinking until you hit a spectacular rock bottom, then it is less easy to forget. You have drink driving offences, broken relationships and a lost life to remind you.

But, if you - wisely - quit before that point, you only have your unreliable memories to rely on. The memory bank that it all easy to rob of its treasures.

So please, write it all down. Before you forget. Start a blog. A diary. Tell someone.

If you'd like to read my story from the start, then click here (or wait for the book!)

Love SM x

Sunday, 2 July 2017

When Disaster Strikes

I'm still haunted by the images and stories from the Grenfell Tower disaster, nearly three weeks ago.

On the 14th June, just before 1am, a faulty fridge-freezer caught fire in a flat on the fourth floor of this 24-storey tower block of public housing flats in North Kensington. The residents were some of the poorest people, living in one of the richest boroughs of London.

The fire services told all the families in the block to stay in their flats as the fire would be contained, and the one stairwell needed to be clear for the emergency services.

The fire, however, spread rapidly, via (it is thought) the newly applied cladding on the outside of the tower which was not fire resistant.

At least eighty people died that night, in a fire that raged for sixty hours despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters and forty-five fire engines - men, women and children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

The pictures that emerged straight after the Grenfell disaster were horrific enough, the numbers and the details of that night even worse. But what is truly haunting is the personal stories that are, as the smoke clears, being told.

Jessica Urbano was only twelve years old, about the same age as my eldest daughter. She lived with her mum on the twentieth floor.

That night her mum, as usual, had gone to work with one of the many unseen, unconsidered, groups of people, who clean the city's offices overnight.

A few hours into her shift she got a call telling her that the tower was on fire. She raced home and ran towards the tower entrance. The firefighters would not, could not, let her in.

Jessica called from a neighbour's mobile. She sobbed "Mum, please come and get me!" but all Jessica's mum could do was to watch the flames roaring up the side of the building and hope and pray that her daughter would make it down the stairs and walk through the entrance.

She never did.

We never know when disaster might strike us, or one of our friends or family. Although, thankfully, these terrible events are rare, they seem to be occurring more and more in London at the moment.

One of the things that, finally, prompted me to stop drinking was the thought that something terrible might happen to one of my children - an accident or an illness - and that I would not be sober enough to deal with it as well as I should.

I would never have forgiven myself.

Many times when my children were small, they would cry in the night because they were hungry, or had a bad dream, and - more often than not - Mr SM would wake up, as I, after a few glasses of wine, was sleeping too deeply to hear them.

Imagine if he had not been there. Imagine if they'd woken, not because of a bad dream but because of smoke or flames.

The Grenfell Tower disaster does have a light side as well as a dark side.

The bravery and dedication of the fire service, who removed (against all regulations) their own face masks to help people escaping down the stairwell. The generosity and spirit of the local community who have worked tirelessly distributing food, clothing and money. The stories of the people who did make it to the ground - the survivors.

Love SM x