Friday, 15 June 2018

Sober Date Night

I was looking for a picture to illustrate this post, so I typed 'romantic dinner' into the Google search. Almost all the images that came up featured two glasses of wine. And that really illustrates the problem. At least this one has two empty glasses. 

I get lots of letters from people who worry that giving up drinking will ruin date night forever. 

This was one of my main worries too. I'd had so many wonderful, drunken evenings out with my husband over the years, in restaurants, bars and parties. I really wasn't sure whether I could do 'date night' sober, without being haunted by memories of better nights in the past.

Well please, please don't worry! There will be a tricky few months of re-adjustment, but sober romance is not only possible, but fabulous. 

Date night is particularly tricky if your partner still drinks. They're sad because they've lost a drinking buddy, and you're annoyed because have to sit and watch someone drinking all evening. Aaarrrghhh.

There are a few things you can do to make it easier:

Firstly, try and be a bit more inventive of what you do on a date night. 

We drinkers get very lazy about nights out. So long as they involve lots of booze, we don't really care, so it's generally all restaurants, bars and parties. 

In the early few months I really recommend avoiding spending hours at a restaurant or bar table. You just won't enjoy it. 

Why not go to a great movie instead? You'll be so engrossed that you won't even think about drinking. Or, splash out some of the money you've saved on theatre tickets, or a concert or gig. Go and see some stand up comedy - laughter is a great aphrodisiac.

You'll quite quickly find that not only is date night still fun, it's way more varied and interesting than it used to be!

Secondly, think about what you (and they) drink.

I discovered that date night is much easier and more romantic if you can drink roughly the same thing. What I mean is that if Mr SM has a mojito, I have a virgin mojito. If he has a beer, I'll have an alcohol-free beer, and so on. That way, both of us feel as if we're on the same wavelength. And we are!

If your partner still drinks and your biggest issue was, like mine, wine, then ask them to drink something else on date night for a while. Staring at a glass of wine all evening when you're not drinking it is no fun.

And finally, try not to romance the old days.

It's easy to look back and remember the times when you were both merrily drunk and laughing hysterically over some shared joke, and to forget all the drunken rows, the terrible hangovers and the festering misunderstandings caused by something said after a few too many,

Date night may take re-adjusting to, but it will, eventually, be better than ever and, crucially, your relationship will be way stronger because you will be a much nicer person to live with - more even tempered, energetic, understanding and happy.

So hurrah for sober romance, and hurrah for all of you!

If you have some of your own tips and advice for sober date nights, then please do leave them in the comments below. Thank you!

To find our more about the first year sober, read The Sober Diaries. Click here UK, here USA, here Australia.

Thank you so much to Feedspot for voting Mummy was a Secret Drinker one of the UK's top 10 alcohol blogs. Whoop whoop. To see the full list click here.

If you'd like more face-to-face help and advice, there are still some places on the October workshop in London which I'm hosting with World Without Wine. For more information click here.

Love to you all,

SM x

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Grey Area Drinking

As a society, we are very black and white about alcohol addiction. The accepted view is that people fall into one of two categories: 'normal drinker' or 'an alcoholic.'

The science doesn't support this. Alcohol addiction, like any other addiction, is progressive. It's a spectrum of shades of grey (or gray, if you're reading this from the USA).

Medical professionals have, for many years, been moving away from talking about 'alcoholism' to referring to 'alcohol use disorder' which is a sliding scale. And, finally, it looks as if society is starting to catch up.

I first came across the expression 'Grey Area Drinking' in the fabulous TEDx talk by Jolene Park, and yesterday I found an article which I posted on the SoberMummy Facebook page titled 'Am I an Almost Alcoholic?'

There is more and more talk on social media and in the press about those of us who fall somewhere in between the neat categories of 'normal' and 'rock bottom.'

This issue is way more important that just semantics about terminology.

Firstly, the black and white view stops many of us acknowledging that we have a problem.

In my TEDx talk: Making Sober Less Shameful, I tell the story of the evenings I spent Googling 'Am I an Alcoholic' and answering the resulting questionnaires. It would ask things like 'do you drink alone?' (no, I'm with the dog), and 'do you have blackouts?'

Some of those questions I'd answer 'yes' to, but many of them I'd answer 'no'. At which point I'd think 'phew, I'm okay then,' and carry on drinking, despite knowing, in my heart, that I had an issue.

The fear of being branded 'an alcoholic' stopped me from addressing my addiction for many years.

This black and white thinking perpetuates the shame of addiction. It enables the vast majority of people to think 'I'm alright, Jack,' and to look pityingly at those of us who aren't.

The reality is, however, that many, many people lie somewhere on that spectrum of dependency, even those who are only drinking one small glass of wine a day, if that glass is one they absolutely can't do without.

If we started seeing alcohol addiction as a spectrum of shades of grey, then more people would realise that they had a problem, and be encouraged to quit before they slid further down the slippery slope.

Because it is progressive. As with any other drug, your tolerance increases over time and your mind and body start to crave more and more.

The traditional view that you have to 'hit rock bottom' before you can quit is wrong and dangerous. The closer towards rock bottom you slide, the harder it is to stop.

By rock bottom, you're physically more dependant, your habits are more ingrained, and you feel more hopeless.

Once you've lost your job, your family and your home it's difficult to see what you have left to live for. Despair keeps you trapped in the downward spiral of addiction.

Instead of asking ourselves 'am I an alcoholic?' we should be asking questions like 'am I becoming dependant on booze? Is it having a negative impact on my life? Is it gradually becoming more of a problem?'

If your answer to those questions is 'yes', then climb off that slippery slide while it's still relatively easy to do so.

If you'd like to read the story of my first year without booze, The Sober Diaries, then click here (UK). The Kindle version is now back online in USA and Canada! Click here (USA), here (Canada or here (Australia).

There are still places available on the October workshop in London that I'm hosting with World Without Wine. For more information click here.

Love to you all!

SM x

Monday, 28 May 2018

You are a Superhero!

I was sent a wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert quote today, which I had to share:

"The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it.

They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it.

Those women are my superheroes."

And those women are my superheroes too.  And those women are you. Because if you are fighting an addiction, then you are handling it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days.

It's really easy to feel angry at the cards that you've been dealt, to tell yourself it's not fair. Because it isn't fair.

I have spent many an evening glaring secretly at Mr SM as he sips his large glass of wine, then puts the bottle back in the fridge without feeling the need to finish it. How can he do that?

But the truth is that dealing with your addiction and coming out the other side will make you a superhero. 

You'll discover a strength you never knew you had. I'm not entirely sure about 'grace.' I still don't feel terribly graceful, but I'm not going to argue with Elizabeth Gilbert.

You'll find that you like yourself again, and you like other people more, because you realise that beneath all the messiness of relationships and friendships, they're dealing with shit that's going wrong too.

It'll make you brave. Because once you've faced your fears and your demons and won, you'll realise that you can do it again and again. Next time shit goes wrong, (and it will at some point), you'll know exactly how to deal with it.

But the problem is that we often keep all the stuff we're dealing with quiet, because we're ashamed, because we don't want to put a downer on the conversation, or because we don't think people will understand. I didn't tell most people I'd quit drinking for years.

So, as a result, no-one tells you how strong and brave and extraordinary you are.

So I'm going to. Listen up, because this is important.


Be proud of yourself. Stick your face on that picture of Wonder Woman and put it on the fridge so you can remind yourself every day what a hero you are.

There's lots more information and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook page: click here ('like' page to stay updated)

To read (or listen to) my book, The Sober Diaries, click here UK, here USA, or here Australia.

To listen to my TEDx talk on Making Sober Less Shameful click here.

Love to all you superheroes,

SM x