Sunday, 3 May 2015

People in Glasshouses

Day 63, and I've been thinking about the saying 'people in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones' or, in other words, don't judge others unless you yourself are blameless. And, let's face it, who can honestly claim that?

It's odd how supportive we 'struggling sobers' are of each other, how non judgmental, when, as problems drinkers, so many of us were totally the opposite.

Looking down on others is a major piece of weaponry in the wine witch armoury. Like the classic Monty Python sketch on class where "I look down on him because I am upper class, and he is middle class" and "I look down on him because I am middle class, and he is working class", we all like to have someone who can convince us that we are not at the bottom of the pile.

In our world, the expensive wine drinker looks down on the cheap shot drinker. The cheap shot drinker looks down on the strong cider drinker. The strong cider drinker looks down on the meths drinker. The meths drinker looks down on the crack cocaine head. And so on...

We judge others in order to tell ourselves that that is what a real problem looks like. Not what we have. Oh no. Carry on drinking!

I, a classic 'maintenance drinker', would look at the 'binge drinker' and think "look at them with their blackouts and their embarrassing behaviour! Thank goodness I don't have a problem, ho ho." Meanwhile they would look at me and think "Look at SM with her daily drinking habit. And she even drinks at lunch time several times a week! I only drink at weekends. Thank goodness I don't have a problem, ho ho."

Obviously, we both have 'a problem', it's just that the (relatively small) variations allow judgement and denial to skip merrily into our thought processes hand in hand and make themselves a home there.

Think back. Have you ever felt a vicarious thrill when you've heard a friend discussing someone else's drink problem? I'm ashamed to admit that I have. I've even joined in! "Yes, wasn't so-and-sos behaviour terrible the other night? They really need to do something about their drinking. Can you pass that bottle over, please?"

It strikes me now that, once you start the process of being judgemental, it's difficult to stop.

I was horrified when I first had a baby at how judgemental mothers are of each other. "I may not feed my child solely on organics, but at least I don't give her chocolate like x and y do." Or maybe "I might have gone straight back to work after #1 was born, but at least I use a nanny who speaks English, unlike a and b." And so it goes on, as if we can only make ourselves feel better if we believe someone else is worse.

For me, one of the major revelations about getting sober is that I have suddenly become almost completely non judgemental. Having now realised quite what a (hidden) mess my own life was, I look at people who I might have judged previously with compassion. I know that nobody is perfect, that everyone has their secrets and their demons. We're all just muddling along as best we can.

Now I genuinely like a huge number of people an awful lot more than I used to. I'm interested in them, their lives, and what makes them tick. I smile at traffic wardens. I let people in from side turnings when I'm driving (unheard of in central London). I buy dishcloths from unemployed doorstop sellers. Maybe I have, finally, become nice. Or, at least, nicer.

I still worry a lot about people judging me when I (finally) confess to my alcohol issue. I have to keep reminding myself that those who do are, most probably, those who haven't yet confronted their own problems.

There's a great saying we should all have tattooed on our hearts: Judging a person does not define who they defines who you are.

Mummywasasecretdrinker is an entirely judgement free zone.

Happy Sunday!

SM x


  1. Hi SM Congratulations on 2 months!!
    I sometimes find myself 'judging' other people that I know that can drink in moderation. I also know it is a false and distorted judgement because I am just projecting my own inability to control my drinking on to them. I say to myself "They are heading for trouble" or "Are they at the pub AGAIN?"
    The real truth is that I am Jealous and Angry, not really at them, but at myself. But I got myself into this sorry situation and I am the one to blame, noone else. It is about me taking responsibility for my own actions and the consequences that have ensued.
    I hope these thoughts are just a phase and a natural progression of this healing journey.
    Today I celebrate ( I use that term very loosely) 60 days. Maybe halfway across the stormy seas to calmer waters. Who knows. Thank you again for your blog. Have a great weekend SM x

    1. Yay! 60 days. That's brilliant. I do know what you mean. I am horribly obsessed by other people's drinking habits! One sign that we're out the other side is, apparently, when we stop watching what everyone else drinks.... Have a fab weekend too, Tallaxo x

  2. Hi SM, Day 9 for me! Instead of feeling tired and miserable, I was finally feeling more like myself yesterday at the old "wine-o-clock". Last summer we spent a few days with a college friend and his wife, an ex drinker. I really enjoyed her company but couldn't help but think "she must have a drinking problem, why else would one stop drinking altogether? Poor thing, I am glad my drinking isn't so bad I have to stop.". Recently I have thought about her and about getting in touch with her, thinking she could be a good support person for me. I have gone from judgement to admiration! I too was a maintenance drinker, beginning in secret btwn 2 and 4 pm and topping up as the evening progressed, either in secret or with friends and family. That wine witch is still hard at work though! Every morning I feel so proud and strong having made it through another day w/out wine and every evening I question my decision to stop drinking. Was I really that bad? I am a very disciplined person, I will just cut back. Support and knowledge has helped me through. I have my mantras and I use them to drown out the voice of that wicked witch! Your kindred spirit! NW

  3. Hi sm I think you might be pleasantly surprised when you do come out of the closet as a non drinker - I am being totally honest to those around me and I've really been pleasantly surprised by their reactions in fact most confess that they too drink too much and envy the fact I've stopped ( although I must confess I don't tell them how very hard it's been some days !!) I'm secretly hoping we can bring out a new sober revolution !! X

    1. Yay! Let's make placards and go on a march ;-) x

  4. I think we all judge other people. It's a part of life. But drinkers definitely judge other drinkers and compare themselves to them. It makes us feel better about our own drinking and gives up permission to keep going. But we are only fooling ourselves aren't we? Deep down we know the truth. We just have to believe the truth, then we can work towards getting better. Congrats on day 63! A x

  5. Something I have been saying for years. There is always someone who drinks more than you that then allows you to justify your own drinking.