Monday, 26 September 2016

Kristi Coulter

We're used to all those funny memes about drinking going viral on Facebook - little jokes about wine o'clock and MummyJuice.

Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can....and wine to accept the things I cannot.

Etcetera, ad infinitum.

But this summer an article went viral about not drinking. Halleluiah! Perhaps the tide is turning.

You may have seen it. It cropped up on my Facebook newsfeed and was sent to me by a couple of lovely readers who'd also spotted it. It's by Kristi Coulter and has the (not so pithy) title: Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink.

Click here to read it. It's very funny and very true.

Kristi's article also reminded me of a truth about quitting booze: like bereavement you go through several stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. When Kristi wrote her piece she was definitely at the angry stage.

She's angry about being surrounded by booze, and mentions of booze, all the time. She's angry with all the demands we women place on ourselves, the compromises we're forced to accept and the fact that - as a result - we end up self medicating with alcohol.

Kristi asks:

Is it really that hard, being a First World woman? Is it really so tough to have the career and the spouse and the pets and the herb garden and the core strengthening and the oh-I-just-woke-up-like-this makeup and the face injections and the Uber driver who might possibly be a rapist?

Is it so hard to work ten hours for your rightful 77% of a salary, walk home past a drunk who invites you to suck his cock, and turn on the TV to hear the men who run this country talk about protecting you from abortion regret by forcing you to grow children inside your body?

I mean, what’s the big deal? Why would anyone want to soften the edges of this glorious reality?...

.....Is there nothing so inherently absorbing or high-stakes or pleasurable that we won’t try to alter our natural response to it?

Maybe women are so busy faking it — to be more like a man at work, more like a porn star in bed, more like 30 at 50 — that we don’t trust our natural responses anymore.

Maybe all that wine is an Instagram filter for our own lives, so we don’t see how sallow and cracked they’ve become.

She has a point. Several points, actually. All a bit shouty, but very pertinent.

Kristi's theory - that we drink to take the edges off the lives we have made far too hard for ourselves - has implications for when we quit.

Firstly, at least in the early days, you have to give yourself a break. The definition of madness is trying to do everything the same and expecting a different result.

Take all those chores, tasks, situations and people that make you want to reach for the bottle and just....cross them off the list for a while. No-one's going to die (unless you're an ambulance driver).

Have early nights or, if you can, afternoon naps. Let the diet and the gym go to hell (unless you find them helpful). Buy yourself presents.

And, secondly, if you no longer have booze as the quick, easy, catch-all relaxant, you need to find something to replace it.

We all find our thing. It might be mindfulness, meditation, yoga, running, colouring, knitting, gardening or writing. Or something else. Anything else.

Gradually, you'll find ways of adding that Instagram filter to your life which are life enhancing, not soul destroying.

And then, like Kristi, you'll find that you've made it to the other side. Here's how she describes a recent outing with her friend Mindy, also in recovery:

On Sunday morning we’re reading by the deep end of the hotel pool when the shallow end starts to fill with women, a bridal party to judge by what we overhear.

And we overhear a lot, because they arrive already tipsy and the pomegranate mimosas — pomegranate is a superfood! one woman keeps telling the others — just keep coming until that side of the pool seems like a Greek chorus of women who have major grievances with their bodies, faces, children, homes, jobs, and husbands but aren’t going to do anything about any of it but get loaded and sunburned in the desert heat.

I give Mindy the look that women use to say do you believe this shit? with only a slight tightening of the eyeballs.

The woman on the other side of her catches the look and gives it back to me over her laptop, and then woman next to her joins in too. We engage in a silent four-way exchange of dismay, irritation, and bitchiness, and it is wonderful.

Then Mindy slides her Tom Ford sunglasses back over her eyes and says, “All I can say is it’s really nice on this side of the pool.”

I laugh and my heart swells against my swimsuit and I pull my shades down too, to keep my suddenly watery eyes to myself.

Because it is. It is so nice on this side of the pool, where the book I’m reading is a letdown and my legs look too white and the ice has long since melted in my glass and work is hard and there’s still no good way to be a girl and I don’t know what to do with my life and I have to actually deal with all of that.

I never expected to make it to this side of the pool. I can’t believe I get to be here.

I can't believe I get to be here either.

Thank you, Kristi,

Love SM x

Friday, 23 September 2016

Reunions

One of the (many) miracles that has occurred since I quit drinking is the number of old friends who have reappeared in my life.

These are friends I'd thought lost for ever, who I hadn't seen or heard from for twenty or thirty years and yet, through a series of chance encounters and coincidences, they are back, and this time I'm hanging on.

It's awesome. I feel like an battered old jigsaw puzzle that for decades has had a few key pieces missing, but gradually they're being slotted back into place.

The latest of these lost friends is V. We were great mates at Cambridge University. We did the May Balls, punting and double dates. We got each other through the trauma of Finals. We went on holiday together. And yet, just a few years after we graduated, we totally lost touch.

Looking back, it was entirely my fault.

The last time we saw each other properly was at V's flat. She'd invited me to a dinner party with her and her boyfriend (now husband), and about five other guests.

I'd just started dating a man (boy?) who I was totally besotted by. He wanted me to join him and some other friends in a nightclub in Notting Hill. He kept calling me on my newly acquired mobile 'phone (they were a rare and miraculous thing in those days). I kept leaving the dinner table, mid conversation, to take his calls.

As soon as dinner was finished, perhaps before, I hotfooted it to the club. I barely said goodbye. I'm quite sure I never sent a thank you letter.

The truth is I was far too caught up in a whirlwind of booze, romance and danger, and V, with her steady relationship, serious career and grown up life, just wasn't on my wavelength.

Needless to say, she didn't call me again. I don't think I even noticed until a year or two had passed by. Then I shrugged and moved on.

I know what you're thinking: I was not a very nice person. I agree.

Anyhow, another old University friend who I've re-met recently, and who has rapidly become one of my besties all over again, bumped into V last weekend, and she's invited me round for tea.

To be honest, had I received this invitation back in the drinking days I would have been terrified. I probably wouldn't have gone.

I loathed seeing people I'd not seen for years. I hated the way their eyes would widen involuntarily before they had a chance to manage the outward displays of the shock of seeing me two stone heavier.

I was conscious of the fact that I'd always been a hugely optimistic, ambitious live wire, yet now I.... wasn't. I was depressed and bitter.

But now? I'm thrilled. I can't wait to catch up.

Incredibly, I'm back to my university weight, so look more like my old self than I have for decades. No more embarrassing silences followed by "You look really.... well." (Code for: "You look a bit.... fat.")

(See my post: Reasons to Quit Drinking #1: Weight Loss)

And, more importantly, I've rediscovered my joie de vivre. In short, I am me again.

I'm also a much better friend. The last year has really taught me the value of strong friendships and I'm not messing up this time.

So hurrah! And happy sober weekends to you all!

SM x


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Make Life Easy

I'm quite sure that part of the reason we mums end up so reliant on booze is that we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything perfectly.

We have to make cakes for the school bake sale, help our kids turn in the best possible school project, cook organic food from scratch and look vaguely presentable for the school run.

We run ourselves ragged taking kids to playdates and after school activities and, on top of all that, many of us are also trying to hold down high pressure jobs or, at least, trying to find some way to earn enough money to cover the housekeeping.

I just received an e-mail from a fabulous lady I met through this blog, J. She said:

I get fed up with the endless school requests, usually sent the day before. 

"Please send your child in wearing yellow for Roald Dahl day". I don't have four effing yellow t-shirts!  "Please send your child in tomorrow wearing a pirate costume". Thanks for the notice!  

Not to mention the mummy WhatsApp groups. "Who would like to help me run the name-the-bear stall?"

I think I am getting cynical in my old age, but some of those PTA mums just need to get stoned and have sex.

I laughed so much that the coffee I was drinking came out of my nose.

So, here's a plea from me: Give yourself a break.

Buy the fancy dress costumes off Amazon (they do great, incredibly cheap, costumes for all occasions - just make sure the kids don't go near any naked flames), get the cakes from the supermarket, decant them into a Tupperware box and 'distress' them a little. No-one will know. And keep the after school clubs to a minimum - your children will love you for it.

One of the (few) upsides of getting breast cancer was being able to turn down all the requests from the PTA. "So sorry, can't help with the second-hand uniform sale. I have cancer." Works like a dream. (Not that I'd recommend it).

And here's my favourite new discovery:

I always wanted to be the kind of mum who does lots of home baking. It's taken me twelve years of motherhood to accept that that's just not me. Then last week came across COOKIE DOUGH (I buy Mo's chocolate chip).

It's awesome!

You keep it in the fridge, then cut it into 1cm disks, stick 'em in the oven for 8 minutes and voila! Your house smells of baking and you have a tray of yummy, warm, 'home baked' cookies without any hassle and minimal washing up.

So please, please let's all try to stop being so damn perfect. It's enough to drive anyone to drink...

Love SM x