Friday, 24 February 2017


Time does funny things when you quit drinking.

Initially, it grinds to a shuddering halt. Every hour feels like a day. It seems like the film of your life has switched to slow-motion. You have to take a day at a time, because each day lasts a lifetime.

Then, time starts speeding up again, and the better you feel the faster it goes.

The really great days, the ones you want to hang on to, slip through your fingers like sand, whereas the difficult ones you wade through like mud.

The year before last was the longest one ever. I gave up drinking, then, just as I started motoring away happily again, I got hit with breast cancer.

There's nothing that slows time more than waiting for test results which will tell you how close you are to death.

(To read my cancer story, click here)

But I've speeded past the last year so fast that I can't even see it in the rear view mirror. Whoosh. Gone. And suddenly, it's my birthday.


And, so far, it's a perfect day.

Birthdays used to be about big stuff - huge parties, grand gestures and monumental hangovers, but now I realise that it's a combination of little things that really makes you happy.

Today started with breakfast in bed. We all had breakfast in my bed (including the dog). Then Mr SM did the school run - isn't that the best present ever?

Well, actually, it's not, because I was given the best present ever....

For the last year, every time anyone in the family has had a birthday I've painted them a plate. It has their name on (large) and an animal that represents them, then round the outside I paint about forty adjectives that describe them.

For the last few months, every time we've had a family meal I lay out all the 'special' plates, and I sit there in front of my ordinary one.

Then today they gave me my own plate. They'd designed it and painted it in exactly the same style as the ones I'd made them.

In the middle is my favourite animal (a warthog. Any more warthog aficionados out there, or is it just me?), and the words round the outside include:


I cried. Obvs.

Now, however rotten my day has been, I can sit down for family supper and feel blessed.

As for the rest of the day, I have a hairdressing appointment booked which means that not only will I have great hair for the day, but I'll also get to spend TWO HOURS reading Grazia and finding out what's new with Brad and Angelina.

Then, dinner somewhere posh with Mr SM.


Love to you all,

SM x

Monday, 20 February 2017

Children of Alcoholics

Last week was National Children of Alcoholics Week.

According to a parliamentary group there are 2.5 million children of alcoholics living in the UK and one in five children under eighteen are exposed to a family alcohol problem.

The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics (NACA) have a helpline which received 32,000 phone calls and e-mails last year, some from children as young as five.

One of the services they provide is reading bedtime stories for kids whose parents are too drunk to do it themselves. Some children call so regularly that the staff keep their favourite books by the phone.

To read more click here for a harrowing article sent to me ( by Catherine. Thank you Catherine!

It's really easy to read articles like this one and to think that's not me. I never neglected my children. But I know that, even though I always read bedtime stories to my kids, there were many ways in which my drinking affected them and that, had I not quit, it would only have got worse.

What about all those times when you skipped a few pages so that you could get to 'me time'? All those little signals that let your kids know that you are not really enjoying this. You'd really rather be somewhere else.

I was constantly engineering family and social events in a way which would separate the kids from the adults, thinking that everyone would have more 'fun' that way.

Even when I was with my children, my head was often elsewhere.

Here's a post I wrote six months after I quit drinking about how quitting booze changed the sort of parent I am. Click here.

The ramifications of being a boozy parent are deep and long reaching. In 1983 Dr Janet Woititz published a bestseller titled Adult Children of Alcoholics in which she outlined thirteen characteristics that these children tend to share.

These include: fear of losing control, fear of emotions and feelings, conflict avoidance, harsh self-criticism and low self-esteem and difficulties with intimacy.

It's no wonder that the children of alcoholics are four times more likely than average to become addicts (and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder) themselves.

So quitting booze isn't just the best thing you could do for yourself, it's the best thing you could do for your kids too....

By the way, if you live near Birmingham and would like to meet up with some other fabulous sober people then lovely reader Tori has set up Club Sober.

The first meeting is on Thursday March 2nd at 6.30pm and is free (all funded by Tori).

To find out more, and to connect with Tori, go to her blog by clicking here. And please let me know how it goes so that I can post an update on my blog.

Love SM x

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Deprivation vs Possibility

I've heard people say, many times, that it is impossible to quit drinking until you reach 'rock bottom.'


The reason for this belief is, I think, that alcohol is so endemic in our society, and those who've given up are so shy about shouting about it, that we truly believe that life without booze is going to be utterly miserable.

We are so used to associating good times with booze that we think there will be no good times ever again without it.

We imagine that we'll spend the rest of our lives huddling anonymously in church halls, talking about how miserable we are, with the few people that will understand.

When the prospect of being teetotal (even the adjectives describing it are ghastly) is so horrendous, it's no wonder that we have to be at the point of losing everything - our homes, our husbands and children, our jobs, before we can gather the courage to quit.

Well, bollocks again.

There's a fabulous blogger who I've been reading for a while - The Wino That I Know (TWTIK).

(To read her blog click here)

I followed TWTIK's on-off struggle with booze, feeling the frustration and depression behind every word, and then something changed.

After years of managing just days at a time, TWTIK has done more than five weeks sober and she sounds amazing - happy, confident and energised.

Then I found an e-mail in my inbox - from TWTIK!

She wrote I started believing that life can be better without booze and I am no longer looking at it from a place of deprivation. I believe that is why I always failed as I felt I was giving up something I loved so much and that was so awesome, until it wasn't.

And she's right - giving up booze is hard, so if you believe that you're going through all this hardship, just to end up in a place that is miserable, you will never succeed, or - even if you do - you won't be happy.

The only way to make it through the tough times is to truly believe that a life without booze is AWESOME! Then you can do it, easily. Because you know what you're fighting for.

Every day I receive e-mails from people telling me how amazing their lives are without alcohol and how they can't believe they waited so long to quit. Here's an example from Ang75 on day 54:

My life, my health, my attitude and everything else has changed so much for the better!

We've just been on a skiing holiday and we had sat laughing about something silly one night at tea, and my eldest daughter said "Mummy, you're being funny, it's like you have had a drink, but you haven't"

Honestly that meant so much. I realised I am just being me, and everyone loves me just being me!

Isn't that just awesome? And Ang sent me a photo of her with her kids - all of them looking so happy, healthy and rosy cheeked.

I know it's hard to turn around your thinking and to believe that sober is brilliant, so here's some things that might help:

1. Read Jason Vale's book: Kick the Drink, Easily. It's very clever neuro-linguistic programming that will completely change the way you view booze, as do Alan Carr and Annie Grace's (This Naked Mind) books.

2. Read my blog from the beginning and you'll see how my life (and the lives of many of my virtual friends) has changed since I quit. Click here.

3. Find a picture of you looking drunk, bloated and shambolic and stick it on the fridge next to one of you looking happy, healthy, sober, energetic (doesn't matter if it's decades old!). Remind yourself over and over again that that's the transformation you're looking for. Because it will happen!

4. Read this fabulous article sent to me by Julie (thank you, Julie!). It's written by Andy Boyle and it's about what he learned from two years of being sober. Click here.

5. Read what my sober virtual friends have to say about life alcohol free in the comments (I hope they're going to write!) below.

Quitting drinking isn't just about avoiding the negatives, about getting rid of the hangovers, the drunken texts, the excess weight and the health risks (although those are all bonuses, obviously)....

....It's about gaining the positives - being happy, even tempered, finding peace, becoming a better parent, a better friend, taking up new hobbies and discovering what you really want to do with the rest of your life.

So don't wait for rock bottom. Do it now. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Love SM

(And thank you to Ang and TWTIK for letting me share their stories)

Saturday, 11 February 2017


We are back in the Swiss Alps. We arrived late last night, when it was dark, and we just caught glimpses of snow and the outline of the mountains in the light of a full moon from the windows of the taxi as we wound our way up to our chalet.

Now it's dawn and I'm watching the light change over the tops of the snow covered peaks, the village spread out below me, roofs covered in thick white duvets and street lamps still blinking in the half dark.

Everyone else is asleep. I'm hoping they won't wake up for a while as the cupboards and fridge are completely empty. As soon as the shops open I'll brave the cold and go out for coffee, juice, milk and freshly baked croissants.

The Swiss Alps used to be a full on party venue for me. They're now a healing place.

The last time we came here was three days after I finished radiotherapy (for breast cancer). The time before was four weeks after I quit drinking (see my post Sober in Switzerland).

My perspective has changed entirely since then, as if I were looking at the same mountain from a different aspect in a new season.

The first piste we ski when we come out here, our warm up run, is called Lac de Vaux. I saw a picture of it recently in the summer. Where the piste flattens out by the ski lift there's a beautiful shimmering blue lake, surrounded by lush green pastures. Of course, the lake is there all the time (the clue is in the name), I'd just never seen it before.

Back in the drinking days, life was about the evenings and the indoors: booze, long rambling conversations, letting the hair down, bars, clubs, dim lighting.

Now it's about mornings and the outdoors: waking up with energy and enthusiasm, long rambling walks, wind in the hair.

Back then it was all transmit: say your piece, shout to be heard, fight your corner. Now it's about receive: listen to what's being said, learn, grow, nurture.

I used to look at the mountains and see wildness and recklessness; now I see stillness and peace.

I don't regret my former life. It was, let's face it, a great deal of fun while it lasted, but I'm glad I moved on. It was time.

Love SM x

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Women and Wine

Huge congratulations to my American blogger friend and fellow breast cancer survivor, Soberat53 (who is now 54) on her ONE YEAR SOBERVERSARY! If you want to know how it feels, then read her fabulous post here.

This weekend two of my favourite things came together in an awesome mashup: Caitlin Moran (one of the best writers around) talking about women and wine (my favourite topic) in the Times Magazine.

Caitlin's brilliant and hilarious article hypothesises that the CIA introduced wine to British women in order to put the kybosh on female emancipation.

The Times, rather meanly, doesn't allow the free sharing of its articles, so here is a summary:

Apparently (and this I did not know), there is an enzyme that enables us to process wine, called the ADH isozyme, which British women (because our society evolved drinking ales, whiskies, meads and gins) don't have much of, but continental women (who evolved drinking wine) do. Men, apparently, also have better ADH isozymes.

This is why, Caitlin argues, British women one by one, essentially set fire to themselves with booze - glowing as brightly as a human tallow candle; singing; dancing; reaching the state of confusion where "ordering another bottle" is the only thing you can think of to "sharpen you up a bit", before finally passing out in the back of a cab.

The next day, the British woman, post-wine, will go through a process no southern European woman would recognise; the kind of hangover so nauseous and laden with dread, the sufferer expects the alien from Alien to burst from their stomachs and run across the room, screaming, killing the late John Hurt in the process.....the kind of hangover that damages your soul. That makes you doubt yourself, entirely.

Ring any bells? It certainly does with me. I know many women who describe themselves as 'allergic' to wine, who have come to realise that it has an entirely different effect on them than other alcohol, myself included.

I could take or leave beer or spirits, but wine.... Wine seeped into my very soul.

So, Caitlin says, from the mid-Eighties, with the rise in female confidence and the introduction of the fancy new wine bars, wine, as drugs do, swept through your community causing havoc....

On aspirational TV shows, women with their hair in a messy bun started drinking a glass of wine "while they were cooking". How is that a thing? Our mums managed to put a plate of corned beef hash on the table without banging back a bottle of gavi. They simply made do with Valium and resentment.

And all the while, the CIA was watching, on CCTV, going, "Excellent, excellent. We've countered the push for greater female equality by introducing a drug that is specifically lethal to women.

They drink it at work, at home, when they're sad and when they're happy, so that they're in a constant spiral of self-loathing and doubt! It's the perfect psychological campaign! Well done us!

So, there you have it. We don't need to blame ourselves any longer! We can blame the CIA for introducing us to the wine witch.

I knew it wasn't my fault....

Love to you all,

SM x

Friday, 3 February 2017

Beyond my Control

I am really, really bad at dealing with things that are beyond my control.

This is, apparently, a common trait amongst addicts.

I was reading an interview with Cat Marnell who has just published a memoir titled How to Murder Your Life about being a Conde Nast beauty editor while addicted to booze and a wide range of drugs.

Cat says drug addiction is all about control. Addicts are control freaks. They use drugs to control how they feel.

And she's right. We find it very hard to think I'll just wait and see what life throws at me and then deal with it.

That's why I've found the last couple of weeks really hard. #2 (aged ten) has been doing entrance exams and interviews for secondary schools and, irritatingly, I can't do them for him.

I've found this whole process a lot harder than he has. In fact, before his last interview, when I was pacing up and down in the waiting room, he said "don't worry, Mummy. It's all going to be okay."

That's my job! I'm supposed to be the one doing the reassuring, not the one panicking.

Fortunately, the day before the interview, I'd been chatting to one of the other Mums on the rugby touchline (as you do).

Her son had just had an interview at the same school and she told me that he'd been shown a few well known paintings and asked about them. "Luckily," she said, a little smugly, "he recognised them all."

That evening I sat #2 down and showed him some work by famous artists. Needless to say, he didn't seem aware of any of them.

(If I'd shown him one of a thousand Pokémon he'd have been able to name them and discuss their strengths and weaknesses at length).

Anyhow, #2 came bouncing out of the interview.

"Guess what, Mummy?" he said. "They showed me some of those pictures we talked about."

"Yay!" I replied. "What did they ask?"

"They asked if I'd seen them before. I said yes. They asked where I'd seen them, so I told them that you showed them to me last night."

Oh bollocks.

There are times when you really need a drink.

So now I have a stressful wait for the results. Mr SM is not being entirely sympathetic. When I tried to share my angst he smirked and said "God grant us the serenity to accept the things we can't change...."

I threw my book at him.

Huge thanks to Ang75 and 007Mum for your incredibly generous contributions to my Justgiving page for The Haven Breast Cancer Support (click here). I really appreciate it, and so will they!

Love to you all,

SM x

P.S. Anyone know which of my all time favourite films inspired the title of this post?