Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Secrets and Lies

Not only was I very secretive about the amount I was drinking, I was also just as cagey about stopping drinking.

For months and months I kept up the charade of I'm driving, or I've given up for Lent, or I'm on a health kick.

Then, as luck would have it, I got cancer, and everyone assumed that I was on doctor's orders not to drink.

Ironic, actually, as the doctors and nurses in the cancer clinic were constantly urging me to 'go home and pour yourself a large drink.'

(By the way, I wouldn't recommend that one as a smoke screen. Stick to the 'I'm on antibiotics' line rather than getting breast cancer. It's easier).

I lied, evaded and dissembled because I was terrified of what people would think.

Would they assume I was a reckless drunk who'd endangered her children and abused her husband?

Would they think I was a boring teetotaller who wasn't worth a party invitation?

Would I end up with no friends, and no booze with which to drown my sorrows?

But gradually I've become less and less bothered, and I've told more and more people that I no longer drink.

Pretty much all my friends and family now know. And you know what? They don't seem to care.

The bigger drinkers get the issue. The hardly-ever-drinkers don't see it as a big deal.

If they quiz me about it I say "I was drinking way to much, and I'm an all or nothing kind of person. I find it much easier not to drink at all than to drink just a little bit. Moderation is not my forte."

But I didn't tell any of them about this blog. That would be (to coin a phrase from the kids) too much information.

Then two of them just came across it while surfing the great wave of the interweb. (See my post: Outed). And they were really supportive. So I got a bit braver...

One of my best friends has known for months that I quit drinking. She also knows that I write a blog. So a few days ago I sent her the web address.

And she was horrified!

She said "I'm in shock," and "I need some time to process this," and "I can see why you've kept it so quiet."

(You'd think I'd told her I was having Donald Trump's love child, not that I quit drinking and wrote about it).

I know it won't affect our friendship, and I know she'll always love and support me (and I her), but her reaction has made me rather scared. Scared for me, and for my family.

It's made me totally reconsider the idea of publishing a book, because I know that it would be impossible to stay anonymous if I did so.

But then I found this poem by Dorothy Parker, and it made me feel a little better:

In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.

Dorothy, by the way, was an alcoholic. At one New York speakeasy she frequented, a bartender asked her "What are you having?" to which she replied, "Not much fun."

Love SM x


  1. It's not always easy SM. Sometimes people feel judged when confronted with those who have chosen a different path from their own. You haven't changed but other folk might react differently towards you when bringing your "real-life" and your blogging life together. Only you know what's best. For what it's worth I think you are marvellous and your insightful, funny and honest writing has been such a support to me and many others.

    1. Laura - that is a lovely phrase about people feeling judged. Very insightful- mirrors my experience.

  2. I am in the stage - 45 days - of "I am on a health kick." I can't even imagine getting to your stage. My husband is not drinking with me (he cheats but thats ok. I am not around when he does and he is a moderate drinker) but he does tell everyone "we are not drinking, we are on a health kick". Needless to say he is loving my not drinking I am glad he is proud even if it is a little over the top. I love your poem. I was a quiet shy young woman but I certainly am not now. I am still reserved but very capable of speaking my mind when I wish. I just dont wish to about drinking for now ;) I give you so much credit for this wonderful blog and your book could help and reach so many more. It has been a lifeline to me to know I am not alone.

  3. I love Dorothy Parker xx. What about a nom de plume?

  4. Your blog is a marvellous thing and you should be very proud. However I expect it will give some of your friends pause - they will have to re-think their opinion of you. I would hope in an extremely positive way because what you have achieved is immense. Up to you whether you publish a book - you will be "outed" but on the other hand, you might save some people's lives. Love Dorothy Parker.

  5. Well SM - I don't think you should be put off publishing your book, for the same reasons as WalkingonSunshine. I don't think you've put anything damaging or hurtful to anyone in your blog, you've just been incredibly honest, and incredibly helpful to lots of people. I say publish - perhaps it'll sort the wheat from the chaff in the friends department?! Red xx Ps love the DP poem. Says it all really. X

  6. Perhaps your friend was 'shocked' your blog had touched so many people? Perhaps she was 'shocked' you could write so consistently, eloquently and honestly for such a long period? Perhaps she was 'shocked' you could give up without the lumps and bumps most of us seem to experience and stand firm despite a cancer diagnosis? Perhaps she was shocked at your ability to get stuck on a roundabout or present for a dog walk sans pooch?! (Joking on this last one) Perhaps she was shocked that her good friend could be that amazing without knowing. I've never found your writing about drinking to be sensationalist or gratuitous. Follow your instincts on the book, you have good ones! xx

  7. Wow that poem summarizes so perfectly the way I feel as a sober man. I used to want to please everbody. I would be 18 different versions of myself to different people. Now that I'm comfortable in who I am, everybody gets the same me! And I don't care whether they accept me or not, for the most part. The old people pleaser does tend to creep back in every once and a while.

  8. This post is so timely. I am doing the whole "health kick quit for a month" spiel and I really struggle with converting that, publicly, to a permanent situation. I don't really know why when I analyse it rationally. As you say, those that don't drink much don't bat an eye. My difficulty is with my more boozy friends who are all waiting for me to fall off my wagon. I know that says more about them than me but it is hard when you feel fragile anyway. Thanks for the great helpful post as ever, x

  9. Hi SM, Well my view of the UK folks from the US vantage point is (broad generalization coming here) that upper middle class University educated women of a certain age don't share that much information about themselves in a public forum - or at least she never would - opening oneself for the world to see with personal details (of drink, cancer, and egad emotions)!

    SM you've always it seems danced to the beat of a slightly different drummer - and the world is better for that. We your loyal readers - love that sharing open honest slightly self depreciating voice in which you write. The choice as others have said is of course yours about the book - but I think you'd be depriving the broader world an awesome project that would improve many peoples lives and help move the world's attitude (even if one reader at a time) towards seeing booze as we are beginning to see cigarettes.

    Your the only one that got through to me - and to many others as well. I hope you write your book and make your voice more broadly heard.
    Best always, Eeyore

  10. I'm with the others! You got through to me too. Your writing is excellent and so fun to read. Mine is all ramble, ramble, and poor grammar. Your's is beautiful. I think SWMum hit the nail on the head here. Your friend would suddenly see all that you have accomplished, how many people adore you and that you have another life outside of her. That could be disorienting but she will get over it. I would expect a little envy for your "fame". You've taken a lemon in your life and made lemonade. I think a book would be terrific. If you are uncomfortable, use a pen name. You will likely eventually be outed but who cares by then?!

  11. I would also like to agree that it was your blog that spoke to me and a book could help so many others who haven't found you online. I'm quite open now about not drinking. I deny it being a big deal,even though it is ( and it is still bloody hard sometimes), and play it down as I hate attention being drawn to it. Scary to lose anonymity but don't let that stop you x

  12. I would also like to agree that it was your blog that spoke to me and a book could help so many others who haven't found you online. I'm quite open now about not drinking. I deny it being a big deal,even though it is ( and it is still bloody hard sometimes), and play it down as I hate attention being drawn to it. Scary to lose anonymity but don't let that stop you x

  13. You are very brilliant sober mummy thank you. I have a big dinner tomorrow and I'm going to just practice in the mirror some of my (your) I don't drink phrases. Finger's crossed and thank you for the blog advice my first rambles are out there eek! x

  14. I can see why you are reconsidering publish after your friend's reaction. Honestly, I'm a little upset at your friend and her reaction. But I'm feeling protective of you and everyone dealing with this struggle. I'm currently working out what I will say at my farewell party when I opt for AF beer. Nothing that I say will reflect the true enormity of what's going on. But maybe that's a good thing.

  15. What she said.........but I am at that stage of second guessing how folks are going to react...already had one friend visibly it highlighted her drinking, it made her uncomfortable, another said oh you can't have been a proper alcoholic as you stopped so easily...really glad it looked like that to you....only 18 yrs.... Another said I will join members have said oh ok, but we will be doing what we always do... Vive la difference....but only you know what's best for you and your family...despite I suspect your urge to reach a wider audience and help more people....xx

  16. SM, a lot of people would define me by my drinking, fun person to be around (I think), good for a joke and always up for another round - hence the name. They don't see me at home, drinking all afternoon (although careful to hide the true extent) and the Saturdays falling asleep in front of some crap on the TV or with the light on, book falling from senseless hand (and too pissed to focus or remember what I've been trying to read). Nobody thinks I have an alcohol problem ........ BUT I DO. I am a high achieving alcoholic or just plain old alcy. I have started to come clean about the extent (although not the reason) for my now prolonged period of abstinence and I get the reactions I have seen here and in other blogs, "just have one", "A glass of wine will wash that down", "go on, have a beer" etc. It has changed me. I don't go to most social events. I have a couple of dinners in London next week but I'll stay dry and its the Chelsea flower show which has always been a champagne and Pimms fest. Point is, I don't much care what people think anymore. Something I realised a while ago was that in a similar way to the journalist Feral Keane, I drank sociably with my buddies and then drank antisocially on my own - that was the real me. Anonymity is important to me but I also think when I have done more of the hard yards and if I had a story to tell (and you do) then I would tell it. We need a Brit Belle (no offence Belle - you're great too) but your story is unique and people have and continue to be inspired by it. Why would your friends not love a sober you?


  17. Should be Fergal, not Feral Keane - oops.


  18. Remember when you were scared to quit drinking...look what happened when you did. Being afraid is okay, hard to deal with, but okay. As you wrote, "I know it won't affect our friendship, and I know she'll always love and support me." Becoming known wouldn't be a bad thing at all! Write that book, you'll be proud you did so.

  19. Don't listen to your friend SM. Publish your book. She was probably just surprised because she had no idea. Maybe it's a bit close to home. Does she drink? I haven't told a lot of people yet, and those that I have told, I haven't told the absolute truth. It's still relatively early days for me so I will just see how it unfolds as time goes by. A x

  20. I don't understand? What's not to like about your intuitive writing. The way I see it, is it's her problem, not yours.xxxxx

  21. You absolutely must work towards writing your book... A pen name would be the answer, or no name at all?

  22. Ahh SM - here's another little adage for you to consider....

    Be who you ARE and
    Say what you FEEL because
    the people who matter don't mind
    and the people who mind - don't matter

  23. I think you're wise to consider it before seeking to get the book published. Mrs D (NZ blogger) wrestled with this one, kind of had to go for it in the end, and it went nuts in NZ with every media wanting a piece of her. She became the sober spokesperson in NZ, which is arguably a much smaller pond. That being said, I think you have to go for it. One of the members of Sbrsts posted a blog yesterday where the discussion in the comments was all around sobriety needing a media makeover and, more seriously, society needing a paradigm shift in terms of addiction models - i.e. bringing the 'secret-drinking mummys' a bit more out of the closet as a serious problem to be addressed, not just the park-bench view of alcoholics. So the more writers in the public eye telling this story the better, SM.

  24. Good on you for having the courage to share your blog with your friend. Maybe she needs to process the fact you've had a blog for so long that so many people read, and she had no idea. My friends are used to me stopping and starting, but they still ask if I'd like a drink, or for me to let them know when I'm drinking again so we can go out!

  25. SM, I love your blog and I am sure that if friends and family read it, they will love it too. I think you should publish a book as you are hugely helpful to all us trying to get sober people. The more people you can reach the better.
    xoxox TWTIK

  26. Everyone here has already said it all....and I concur.

    But i just want to add how terrific, SM, that someone your age (which you've shared here) even KNOWS dorothy parker! She's been a fave of mine for a loooong time. And a witty -to -caustic line of hers could prob be found to fit just abt any situation.