Sunday, 31 December 2017

Dry January




HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Welcome to a brand new 2018. A clean sheet of paper. A fresh start. A chance to be a New You.

Is your New Year's resolution to do Dry January?

If so, you're not alone. An estimated 5 million people in the UK are taking part in the Dry January challenge in 2018.

Whether you want to quit just for for the next month, or whether you've realised you've got to give it up forever, here is some advice on how to get through the first 31 days.

(I'm hoping that my regular readers will chip in in the comments section below with their additions).

It's really hard to condense this into just one post, but there's more information on all of this - and very much more - throughout this blog and on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

1. Preparation

Getting your head in the right place is crucial. If you start the month with a sense of dread and deprivation you'll never make it.

You are doing an amazing thing. You are about to change your life for the better. Be excited!

If that last sentence is just incredibly irritating, and you can't imagine feeling anything like excitement right now, then read Jason Vale's book: Kick the Drink, Easily.

In fact, read it anyway. It'll completely change the way you think about drinking, and make the whole process of quitting much easier.

You could also read The Sober Diaries (click here) about my first twelve months off the booze, which will give you a really good idea of all the downs, and the ups, that you can expect, with a few good laughs (and some tears) along the way.

Write down, right now, while you can remember, all the reasons why you want to stop. The big ones (like health concerns) and all the little ones (like being embarrassed about all the empty bottles in your recycling bags).

Over the next few weeks there will be many moments when you will think "why am I doing this?" You'll need that list as a reminder.

2. Know what to expect

The first two or three weeks after quitting drinking can be physically and mentally gruelling, but it's much easier if you know what to expect, and know that it's all perfectly normal. After years of flooding your body with addictive toxins, it's bound to fight back a bit when you quit.

You will probably feel more tired than you can imagine. By mid afternoon you'll want a nap - like a toddler. You'll feel muggy headed, like you're wading through soup, and your concentration levels will be completely shot.

Don't worry - it'll pass. See it as a sign that your body's recuperating.

Ironically, you may find that you also have problems initially in getting to sleep. Again, this is temporary. Soon you'll be sleeping like a baby - better than you have in years. And no more waking up at 3am with the night horrors.

You might get headaches and/or constipation. That's all part of your body detoxing. Drink lots of water, fresh juices and smoothies.

You may be a bit (or a lot) tetchy and snappy. Like a bad case of PMT.  Try to avoid taking on anything too crucial or stressful over the next week or two.

You'll constantly think about drinking. Or not drinking. And, generally, the more you try NOT to think about something, the more you do.

I found that the best thing to do is to indulge the obsession - at least initially. I read endless books, articles and blogs about drinking. My favourite drinking memoir is Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story. For great drinking fiction read Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins, or Summer Secrets by Jane Green.

3. Find Some Friends

It's really difficult to quit drinking on your own. You might be lucky and have someone 'in real life' who's doing it with you. The problem with that, however, is if they cave they're likely to take you down with them. And they might not need to quit as much as you do....

Luckily, there's a huge amount of help online - a whole Soberverse!

Why not sign up to www.soberistas.com where you'll find huge amounts of help and support, or the wonderful Facebook community of Club Soda at www.joinclubsoda.com?

There's also AA. I have to confess that I've still not been myself, but they've helped millions of people and saved endless lives. With AA you get all the help and support you'd get online plus real hugs, not just virtual ones.

4. Be good to yourself

You are doing a phenomenal thing. And it's not easy. So, for the next few weeks at least, don't try to do anything else. Don't worry about dieting, about getting a new job or redecorating the house. Just concentrate, for the moment, on NOT DRINKING!

Give yourself some rewards - you deserve them. And you're saving money! Eat cake. Drink lots of hot chocolate (it has magical properties - you'll see). Have hot baths with bubbles and candles. Book a massage. Whatever makes you feel good.

5. Watch out for cravings

You're bound to get them, especially at your main trigger points, like 'wine o'clock' or when you're hungry, tired, stressed or bored. Or pretty much anytime, actually.

Remember - THEY WILL PASS. You just need to distract yourself for as long as it takes.

Bake cookies. Or, the more healthy option, do some exercise. Go for a long walk, or a run. Getting away from the fridge or any drinking environment is a good idea.

Have a hot bath. Check out the SoberMummy Facebook page here for daily information and inspiration ('like page' to stay updated). Log onto Soberistas, Club Soda (see above) or your favourite blog. Take up knitting, colouring, the guitar - whatever works.

6. Wait for the miracles to happen

Just take it one day at a time and you will, slowly slowly, start to see the benefits.

You'll sleep better than you have since childhood. Your eyes will be brighter, skin fresher and hair bouncier. You'll look five years younger.

You'll lose the puffy face and the wine belly. You'll feel calmer and happier.

But the best things about being sober don't happen in the first month. They keep on coming, over the weeks, months and years.

So don't just do Dry January. Consider making it forever.

Just think about it....

Good luck to you all!

SM x





Saturday, 30 December 2017

Oh, The Irony!



Just like back in the drinking days, I have insomnia.

It's 3.45am, a time I know well from when the nights were dark and full of terrors, when I'd wake up dehydrated, sweating booze and hating myself.

Only now, it's not booze keeping me awake, it's adrenaline.

The last two days, since I sent my book, like a fragile Chinese lantern, out into the world, have been a rollercoaster.

Since I posted yesterday, the Daily Mail article telling part one of my story (part 2 is out tomorrow) went to the 'most read' top position on the Mail Online and my little book climbed up and up the Amazon chart.

I wasted hours of the day constantly refreshing the Amazon bestseller list, unable to tear myself off the laptop. Once an addict, always an addict.

By the end of the day, I'd reached the giddy heights of #35 in 'all books'.

Even more extraordinary, for a while I was the number one bestseller in the 'raising children' category.

Oh, the irony! The one thing I have never, ever pretended to be is an expert in parenting!

Anyhow, as you probably guessed, I couldn't stop myself reading the Mail Online comments.

Some were, as you can imagine, pretty awful. One of my favourites was 'If I had a wife like her, I'd be drinking a bottle of wine a day!'

However, there were some pretty incredible comments too, and the 'most liked' comment of all was a lady who just wrote 'I can relate to this.'

And that's all I ever wanted to do - to tell my story so that anyone out there who is in the pickle that I was in can relate, and then see the way out.

Also, I discovered that all the wonderful messages from you guys and from friends and strangers far and wide via Facebook, text and e-mail, created the most magical, troll-proof armour.

I felt so surrounded by love and support that absolutely nothing bad could get through. So THANK YOU!

Now I really have to try to sleep, because this is only the beginning. On Tuesday morning I'm on Woman's Hour live, then there's more TV, radio and press coming thick and fast.

Things are changing, my friends. Remember how difficult it was to confess to quitting alcohol? All that stigma and shame? Well, no more.

Because 2018 is going to be the year of SOBER, not as a badge of shame, but a positive, aspirational, lifestyle choice.

VIVE LA REVOLUTION! And a very happy New Year to all of you.

To find my book click here. To go to the SoberMummy Facebook page click here.

Love SM x

Friday, 29 December 2017

What Happened Next....



Blimey, what a rollercoaster....

My book launched two days ago, all over the world.

It was much like giving birth, although painful in a very different way, and not half as messy.

For months I'd been creating and nurturing this baby of mine, and then it was out into the world, fending for itself and meeting strangers, many of whom have (very kindly!) cooed all over it, but some (I'm sure, although no-one's said as much yet...) think it's a rather noisy, smelly little thing.

The night before the launch I didn't sleep at all. I was terrified. I was scared that no-one would buy it. I was scared that people would buy it, but then hate it.

I felt horribly exposed, like one of those nightmares where you end up walking into a crowded room naked, by accident (anyone else have those?)

Then, the morning arrived, and it was actually okay. Better than okay.

I had hundreds of messages from people (including you guys on this blog - THANK YOU!) saying how much they were enjoying reading my story, but also - crucially - how much it was making them think.

(Many thanks to Laura Willoughby, Lucy Rocca and Penni Moussa for letting me share the news on Club Soda, Soberistas and Recovery Buddha, and to their amazing communities for all their support).

Most importantly, I've also had many messages already from people saying you are describing ME! I'm so pleased I'm not alone. And those are the ones that make it really worthwhile, because that's why I decided to do this in the first place, because I still remember how alone I felt, back on Day One.

I became glued to the Amazon book chart, of 6 million titles, watching my baby climb up to #1000, then #500, then #300, and - incredibly - it's still going up.

We're on holiday in Scotland, and on the afternoon of the launch we had a long drive to do, to a family gathering. So, I downloaded the audio version of the book, so we could listen to it with the children.

(I figured that they had to know what was in it, and this way, anything that bothered them we could all discuss together rather than them fretting in private).

It's very odd listening to an actress being 'you'. Karen Cass does a brilliant job. In fact I liked her rather more than myself and am wondering whether she'd take the job on permanently.

Then we got to the first scene with the husband, and discovered that the voice she’s given him doesn't sound like him at all! The children thought it hilarious.

I had my finger constantly on fast forward so I could skip over any mention of things like being the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus or - god forbid - the husband and I having sex.

(My eldest came across a sex reference when leafing through a proof copy and hurled it across the room screaming aarrrghhhh! No child should ever have to see THAT! And now I can NEVER UNSEE IT!)

So, last night I went to bed early, hoping to catch up on some sleep after the excitement of the last two days.

I woke up at 4am and made a terrible mistake. I looked at my phone. There was a message from a friend of mine in Australia (where it was coffee break time) saying YOU'RE IN THE DAILY MAIL!

I knew this article was coming, but we'd expected it sometime next week, not today.

Then I made my second mistake. Everyone had told me never read the comments on the Mail Online, for that is the land of the troll.... 

Now I'm never going to be able to get back to sleep. Bugger.

I've put the Mail article up on the SoberMummy Facebook Page. Click here.

Listen out for Radio 4's Woman's Hour on January 2nd!

If you'd like to read the first few chapters of the book FOR FREE, then go to my Amazon page, here, and use the 'see inside' option.

Thank you all for making such a safe haven here where I can retreat to and offload. I don't know what I'd do without you.

Love SM x







Wednesday, 27 December 2017

It's Out Today!




I can't quite believe it's actually happening.

After eighteen months of pitching, writing, editing and publishing, the book is OUT TODAY, in all good bookshops (I hope!) in hardback, on Kindle and on Audible.

My publishers have described it as:

"A bravely honest and brilliantly comic account of how one mother gave up drinking and started living. Think Bridget Jones Dries Out!"

Here's what some Amazon reviewers had to say:

"This book is at once immensely serious, very funny and extremely well-written." 5 stars.

"A tough subject but a book you don't want to put down? Quite a feat!" 5 stars.

And the fabulous Lucy Rocca of Soberistas has chosen it as her book of the month.

But, what I really want to know is what YOU think. Because this would never have happened without you.

For a start, I'm not sure I'd be sober now without your support, and I wouldn't have had the courage to pitch the book idea to publishers without your encouragement.

So THANK YOU ALL. SO MUCH.

I've mentioned some of you by name (pseudonym!) in the acknowledgements. I'm only sorry I couldn't mention you all.

I really hope you like the book. You can find it by clicking here. If you use the ‘see inside’ feature, you can read the first few chapters for free!

Please help me spread the word, and - if you get a moment - leave a review on Amazon.

Hugest hugs to you all,

SM x



Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas Everyone!



Dear Friends,

I just wanted to wish you all the merriest of merry Christmases, and to thank you all for all your incredible support over the last few years and for making this community such a happy, helpful and welcoming place.

(In the (nearly) three years I've been writing here, and despite 1.5 million page views, there have only been one or two fights, which is incredible given the amount of trolling that usually goes on over the internet).

To those of you who have battled with the wine witch and won - you are superheroes. You are Ripley, flame bombing the alien mother, you are Katniss Everdene with her bow and arrows, you are Wonder Woman with that clever magic whippy thing.

You have done an amazing thing, and you deserve wonderful things to happen - which they will, just you wait!

To those of you who are still lurking, not sure whether or not to take the plunge, then why not make 2018 your year? You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Have an incredible day, everyone, and I'll see you on the other side!

If you're looking for more information and inspiration, there's lots on the SoberMummy Facebook page. There's a fabulous quote about how amazing it is being sober at Christmas from - of all people - Jeremy Clarkson!

There's also a great TED talk on 'gray area drinking' - 'the kind of drinking where there’s no rock bottom, but you drink as a way to manage anxiety and then regret how much and how often you drink." Sound familiar?

To go to the SoberMummy Facebook page click here, 'like' page to stay updated.

Merry Christmas!

Love SM x


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Is This Your First Sober Christmas?



If you're rapidly approaching your first sober Christmas Day, you are probably starting to panic.

Don't! This is going to be my third Christmas without any booze, and I promise you that, not only is it manageable, it's actually WAY better.

Here are my top 5 tips for making this the best Christmas ever:

1. Be honest about Christmas Past...

It's really easy to romanticise the ideal of past Christmases (and all of those Instagram-worthy memories in your head have you clutching a glass of booze, right?)

That's what I did, anyway. I remembered the glass of chilled white wine while packing the children's stockings, sharing Santa's whiskey with the husband before bed, pouring the first glass of champagne while dancing around the kitchen at 11am and peeling sprouts, then the full-bodied red wine to accompany the turkey.

WELL STOP RIGHT THERE!

Because those moments did exist, but they were fleeting and transitory. They were engulfed by a tidal wave of other, not so good, drinking realities.

Here's how it really went: I didn't stop at one glass while doing the stockings - I drank the whole bottle, and inevitably mixed up the presents. Then, having necked Santa's whiskey, I slept terribly, waking up at 3am, tossing and turning, so that by the time the kids piled in with their wide eyes and bulging stockings I was exhausted and grumpy.

And that glass of champagne while doing the cooking? Well, as you know, cooking Christmas lunch is a military operation requiring a clear head and perfect timing. So, once I'd drunk a glass, or so, of champagne it would all start going haywire and I'd get incredibly stressed.

The wine with lunch would go un until early evening, fanning those simmering embers of long-held family grudges into flames, so there would, invariably, be a drink-fuelled family argument of some sort before the end of the day that would take a month or so to diffuse.

Plus, it would inevitably all be about me, rather than the children.

I'd pass out, wrung out and exhausted, at the end of the day and wake up on Boxing Day filled with regret.

Perhaps your Christmases weren't quite like that, but I bet if you examine them closely you'll find that the booze didn't really make for a perfect day after all....

2. Keep it Simple

I know we all want Christmas to be perfect, and to keep up with all those idealised pictures we keep seeing on our Facebook feeds and TV screens. We put huge pressure on ourselves by trying to make the house look like the ones in the magazines, filled with the smell of freshly baked mince pies and the sound of laughing children.

But, really, all anyone ever wants is a day spent with the people they love, who are properly present, happy and relaxed, a few well chosen presents, some food and some rubbish telly.

Go through your to-do list and cross off anything that isn't absolutely necessary. If you have guests coming, get them to bring stuff - they'll be thrilled to be able to help.

Buy the sprouts ready peeled and the mince pies ready made. Next year you can add all the extras back in, but - just for once - make life easy for yourself.

3. Treat Yourself

It's your day too, and there are other ways to treat yourself that aren't bubbly and alcoholic. Think about what'll make you feel really good on Christmas Day.

Buy your favourite alcohol free wine, or the ingredients for a fabulous mocktail. Buy some aromatherapy oil for a relaxing Christmas Eve bath. Download some new tunes to sing to while making the lunch. I find that a bumper box of After Eights works a treat. Find whatever works for you.

4. Take Time Out

However much fun you're having, the effort of remembering not to drink can be pretty exhausting...

...so have an escape hatch planned, for times during the day when you just have to get away from Aunt Edna or else you'll sink the whole bottle of Baileys from the back of the drinks cupboard...

My personal favourite is a dog walk. If the going gets tough, I put my coat on, announce to the crowds that I just have to take the poor dog out, then escape for some fresh air and a chance to wind down. (Once I was so desperate to get away for a while that I actually forgot the dog).

If you don't have a dog, make sure you have something else up your sleeve for emergencies.

Perhaps you need to find a garage to buy an emergency pint of milk? Maybe you need to drop a Christmas card round to a neighbour? Or just tell everyone you're going for a quick afternoon nap, and escape to your bedroom where you can surf the sober sites for some solidarity.

5. Learn From the Children

They don't have to be your children, any children will do. Look at all the things they find magical about Christmas Day that don't involve getting drunk.

The really hard events to cope with when sober are the ones that only involve booze - like drinks parties. It can be pretty boring spending hours at an event which totally revolves around drinking when you don't.

But Christmas Day is not like that. It is filled with loads of things to do, other than drink. There's all the present opening, the family games, the great food, the guilt-free chocolate bingeing, the Christmas telly and catching up with friends and family.

IT'S AWESOME! And none of that needs booze to make it fun - the kids know that.

So please don't worry, my friends. It's going to be amazing! And once you've done it the first time, it'll never be scary again.

Merry Christmas to you all!

And, by the way, if you fancy treating yourself to a late Christmas present, you can order my book, The Sober Diaries here, in hardback, Kindle or audio, and it will be delivered to you on December 28th. Whoop whoop and a ho ho ho.

If you're looking for distraction over Christmas, there's loads of information and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook page ('like' page to stay updated).

Love SM x


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Why Mummy Drinks Wine



There's something I need to make clear right at the beginning of this post:

Motherhood is by far and away the most rewarding, enriching and joyful aspect of my life, and my three children fill me with wonder every day. However...

....motherhood is hard. Harder for our generation, I would suggest, than for any previous one.

A while ago, my sainted mother came to stay at our house for a week to look after the children while the husband and I went on our first holiday without children for thirteen years.

She was horrified!

"Why do you women make things so difficult for yourselves?" She asked. "Why all the after school activities, the music practice, the endless playdates, the fussy organic food? We didn't have any of that stuff in our day. You ate fish fingers, Smash and Angel Delight and spent your afternoons in front of the TV, and you turned out all right!"

Well, that's debatable, but she has a really valid point.

I have seen motherhood from both sides of the great divide: as a full-on working mother and as a stay-at-home mum. They are very different, but both equally hard.

As a working mum, I was desperately trying to perform in the office as if I didn't have children at home, and to be the sort of mother for my children who didn't have a job.

I constantly had to morph, suddenly and seamlessly, from one persona to the other, from presenting at a board meeting to reading the Gruffalo for the thousandth time, and I was convinced I was failing at everything.

After I quit, I was determined to be the perfect mum, to create craft tables and freshly baked cupcakes and to remember to do my pelvic floor exercises.

Instead, I felt guilty about how tired and isolated I felt much of the time, and I was exhausted by the stress of trying to persuade fussy children to eat the perfect diet, to keep them off the electronics which I was told would fry their brains, and to mimic all the perfect images of motherhood littering my Facebook feed.

There has been a backlash recently, with a host of fabulously funny mommy bloggers railing against the pressure to be perfect and revelling in being relaxed, slovenly mothers.

And hurrah for that!

But what antidote do they suggest to all this stress and pressure?

BOOZE! Lashings of it.

There's are several bestselling (and hilarious) books along these lines, like Hurrah for Gin, Why Mummy Drinks and Unmumsy Mum.

There are endless Facebook memes about wine o'clock and mummy's little helper.

And I get it! I get it better than anyone. For a decade or more, wine was my sanity, my oasis, the way I slid from one part of the day into the next.

The problem is that all the books, all the jokes, normalise using an addictive drug as self-medication.

We get so used to dealing with all the everyday ups and downs of life with booze that we don't learn any healthier ways of de-stressing. After all, pouring a glass of wine is much easier and quicker than meditating, doing yoga or going for a run...

Slowly, insidiously, the amount of wine you need in order to wind down increases, and you discover you're drinking a bottle of wine a day and finding it impossible to moderate.

So, at the risk of sounding like a killjoy, I think we have to call time on the mummy wine jokes because what they do is normalise the issue. I spent years thinking the amount I drank was perfectly okay, because everyone else was doing it too...

Astonishingly, the hugely popular mummy blogger, Scary Mommy, agrees with me. She says she's 'done making Mommy wine jokes.' Her post explaining why is on the SoberMummy Facebook page (click here to visit, and 'like' to stay updated).

But, more than that, I think we have to look at why mothers end up relying on wine, and start creating lives for ourselves that we don't feel the need to run away from.

We have to make life simpler, and stop judging ourselves, and other mothers, so harshly. We need to focus on the important stuff- creating a relaxed and happy home, not one driven by lists of endless stuff we all have to achieve.

If you'd like to read the story of my first year without booze, you can buy my book - The Sober Diaries - here.

In other news, I've found a brilliant group of (mainly) women, based in Cape Town, but with a global following, called World without Wine. If you're doing Dry January you can sign up to receive daily motivational e-mails. They also have a fabulous Facebook page.

Love to you all!

SM x




Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Countdown


I can't believe that after eighteen months of planning, writing, editing and publicising, it's only TWO WEEKS until the book is released.

I have gone from feeling excited to being utterly terrified.

What was I thinking? I was happy and comfortable hiding behind my pseudonym and pretending to the world that my life was, and always had been, perfect.

For the first year of being sober, I told virtually no-one. The idea of being outed as someone who found it impossible to control alcohol was terrifying.

Yet now I am telling the world. WHY?!?!

(N.B. I am sure my parents have asked themselves this, many times).

I keep reminding myself of the answer to that question: that stories change lives, that mine may help thousands of other women struggling, and help to challenge the shame and stigma around going sober.

Then I think: what if no-one buys it? What if I let down all those lovely people who've helped turn the book from my general ramblings into a beautiful, glossy reality?

My editor, who championed my proposal to her board and held my hand through the writing process, the arty people who designed the cover and layout, and the PR, marketing and sales people who've been shouting about it everywhere.

Even worse, what if no-one likes it? What if they hate me? What if you don't like it?

Arrrggghhhh!

It's too late to cancel (I checked).

So, I'm running around, doing all the PR thingies whilst trying to get Christmas sorted.

Two days ago, I had a photo shoot with the Daily Mail, who are going to run excerpts from the book.

This was my idea of hell. I hate having my photo taken - even a quick shot with an iPhone, let alone spending half a day over it.

They told me to arrive with clean hair and no make-up. No make-up? I hadn't left the house without foundation on for twenty years! I was sure I'd send children screaming from the tube on my way there.

I turned up, bare-faced and trembling, in their swishy offices off Kensington High Street. I was met by a lovely lady from the PR team at my publishers, who was there to hold my (sweaty) hand.

We were ushered into a studio where there was a make-up and hair lady, wardrobe person (just as well I hadn't lied about my dress size) and photographer, a scarily large camera and lots of lights.

And you know what? It was actually quite fun. Mainly because the (all female) team were lovely, and there was lots of general banter and jolliness.

I left the studio for the school run, and turned up at the school gate in full slap, false eyelashes and all. The double-takes amongst the other mothers were hilarious. I'm sure they now think I'm having a torrid daytime affair...

Click here to go to my Amazon page. I really, really hope you like the book.

In other news, there are lots of fab new articles on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit, 'like' the page to stay updated.

Merry Christmas and love to you all,

SM x

Thursday, 7 December 2017

What I've Learned After 1000 Days Alcohol Free



It's been more than one thousand days since I had a glass of wine.

Blimey.

I didn't have a dramatic rock bottom moment one thousand days ago. I didn't wake up in a gutter, or in someone else's bed, or crash the car when drunk. Thank goodness.

It was more like the painfully slow break up of a serious relationship. Like having to face up to the fact that the man I'd turned to whenever I was in trouble, whenever I wanted to have fun, whenever I wanted to just chill, was no good for me any more.

I had to leave him. Throw him out. Pour him down the sink.

By this point, I was drinking a bottle of wine a day, more at weekends. As a result, I was overweight, miserable and stuck in a rut.

Again, it wasn't dramatic drinking. I rarely appeared drunk, or got into trouble. Rather worryingly, a bottle of wine disappeared rather easily....

This was not my first attempt at dealing with my alcohol problem, obviously. I'd spent weeks, months, years even, looking for an alternative, trying endless ways of cutting down, of 'moderating.'

But it was all exhausting. And every attempt (much like trying to crash diet) ended, eventually, in failure. Back to where I started, if not more so.

So, finally I realised that there was no alternative but to pack it in altogether.

That prospect was, frankly, terrifying. But I resigned myself to the fact that my party days were over and that from now on I had to be a good girl. I knew I would feel proud of myself, but - obviously - I wasn't going to have any fun any more. Life, as I'd known it, was over.

But here's what I've discovered one thousand days later:

Life, as I knew it, was over. But the new life I've discovered is WAY BETTER, better in a myriad of different ways.

First off, there was all the physical stuff.

Stopping drinking changed the way I look. Some changes came immediately - like losing the puffy face and the bloodshot eyes, some took longer, like losing all the excess weight.

Within the first year without booze I'd lost two stone (28 pounds), and I've remained consistently at my ideal weight ever since, without any effort.

Also, I may be one thousand days older, but I actually look younger. I have better skin, clearer eyes, bouncier hair and oodles more energy.

Next time you're at a party, check out the most fresh-faced person in the room, not the one with the fake, waxy, botoxed face, but the one with the natural looking glow. I bet they're not drinking booze.

When you drink, you lose your ability to listen to your body. You can't tell when you're genuinely hungry and need to eat, or when you're just craving carbs because you're hungover. When your body is dehydrated and is trying to tell you you're thirsty, you drink alcohol - a diuretic.

Now, I eat when I'm hungry, and rehydrate when I'm thirsty. Simples.

And one of the biggest physical changes is being able to sleep. 

I was a terrible insomniac for years. I blamed stress. I used to fall asleep, no problem, but I'd wake up at about 3am, tossing and turning, and be totally unable to get back to sleep until just before the alarm went off.

Lack of sleep affects everything. It makes it difficult to function at your best short term, and, longer term, has a huge impact on your mental and physical health.

Now, I sleep like a baby. And I'm a morning person! Who knew? I bounce out of bed like the Duracell bunny, all ready to take on the day.

But quitting alcohol hasn't just changed me physically.

When I was drinking, my moods were all over the place. I'd veer from euphoric to depressed, then back again, regularly.

Now I'm zen. Ok, perhaps not completely zen - I can still be a nutter from time to time, but everything is relative.

I used to feel anxious much of the time. I thought that alcohol helped, that it dampened down the anxiety. It was only once I quit that I realised it was the alcohol that was causing the anxiety in the first place. My medicine was actually my poison.

But the biggest change of all, the one that rolls out gradually over the months and years after you quit, is what's happened to my life.

You see, I drank to take the edges off life, to blur all the hard bits. What I hadn't realised is that I was blurring all the good bits too.

When I stopped drinking, I had to learn to deal with everything life threw at me raw. Initially it was a terrible shock. It was hard. 

But, once I got used to it, once I showed myself what I could do and how naturally brave I am, I felt like a SUPERHERO. I realised that I could conquer anything.

Not only did I find my superpower, but I rediscovered all the energy and enthusiasm for life that I had when I was much younger, before all the self-medication numbed it all.

And, without the booze anaethetising my brain constantly, my synapses started firing and I re-discovered creative abilities that I'd thought I'd just grown out of.

My horizons have broadened and my life has just expanded. It feels like a brand new start.

My not drinking has changed my relationships with other people too. I'm a much better mother, a better wife and a better friend.

Admittedly, some of my friends have taken it rather hard, mainly the ones that drink the most themselves. I'm still often asked when I'm going to 'fall off the waggon' and join in again.

But the truth is, I don't need to. Because I've discovered that parties can be just as much fun without the booze - more so, because you can remember them. 

A bad party is still a bad party, drunk or sober, and spending hours at a party which is only about drinking when you don't drink is a little boring. But the result of that is that I've become way more inventive about the ways in which I socialise.

I meet friends for long, rambling walks with dogs. I go to the theatre and concerts. I've bought back party games to dinner and lunch parties, and involve the children as well. I do galleries and exhibitions, trips and outings.

I've discovered that socialising is about shared experiences, varied experiences, not just getting pissed together, and that's deepened and strengthened my relationships as well as making life much richer and more interesting.

Plus, I've got more money to spend on all that stuff, now I'm not spending it all on expensive vino.

So if you're thinking about quitting booze, or you've recently quit and you're still scared that it's going to completely change your life...

....it will. It will change everything. But for the better.

If you'd like to find out more, you can read my book - The Sober Diaries. Click here to go to my Amazon Page if you are in the UK, here if you're in the USA, here if you're in Australia. You can read the first three chapters for free by using the 'look inside' feature!

Love to you all,

SM x













Friday, 1 December 2017

Sober is Where the Magic Happens....


I found that the most difficult thing about giving up booze (once you're through the insane rollercoaster of the first hundred days) is dealing with everything life throws at you without a 'mute button.'

I spent years, decades, of my life reaching for a glass of artificial courage whenever things got tough - when I was anxious, stressed, scared, lacking in self-belief, bored or upset.

A glass of wine, I believed, would just take the edge off and make it all that much easier to cope with.

This strategy seemed to work rather well for a while, but then, one day, I realised that it had stopped working, and that my best friend had turned into my worst enemy.

For a start, I'd lost the ability to deal with all those events and emotions in any way other than the booze.

I'd forgotten how to use strategies like exercise, mindfulness and relaxation methods to reduce stress and anxiety. I'd forgotten how to just get through it. I'd forgotten that those emotions and feelings are all a normal, necessary part of living life to the full.

Also, the booze itself had made things worse. Drink - over time - increased my anxiety levels, and heavy drinking made my life way more unmanageable.

When I quit boozing, an amazing thing started to happen...

Gradually, I began to realise that I could cope with all of those things, those feelings, those emotions without a prop.

And, after a while, that made me feel like superwoman (relatively speaking). Invincible. Unstoppable. (With the help of a little cake, and lots of alcohol-free beer).

Regular readers will know that eight months after I quit drinking, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I got through the horror of that diagnosis, telling my children and coping with the treatment, completely sober. And now I feel like I can do anything. More than that, I owe it to myself to make the most of the rest of my life.

Not only did going sober give me courage, it also freed up loads of time. All those hours I spent hungover, tipsy, or just feeling bleurgh and unmotivated, were back.

And I found I was firing on all cylinders. Once I stopped numbing my brain with booze I rediscovered my long-lost creativity and my energy. My little brain synapses were fizzing and zinging and wanting to do stuff.

Here's a confession, though: I sometimes still miss the buzz, the high, of drinking.

Initially, after all those years of hectic havoc, I loved the calm and peace of sobriety, but now I realise that I don't want to live my life completely on an even keel.

I want to experience all the highs (and the corresponding lows) of the rollercoaster.

So, over the last year, I've been living by the maxim outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens.

Because I've realised that that is where you find your highs. Real, prolonged, meaningful highs, not the artificial, fleeting ones at the bottom of a bottle.

When you push yourself to do something new, something scary, when you learn to deal with all the inevitable failures and knockbacks and just keep on going, when you finally get there, it's the greatest high in the world.

That's why, after months of hiding behind a pseudonym, I finally 'came out', and wrote the book, The Sober Diaries.

And that's why, when my old college said they were hosting Cambridge University's first ever TEDx talks, I applied to give one.

I didn't think I'd get chosen. There are, obviously, a lot of very clever people amongst the Cambridge community who have done really amazing things with DNA and suchlike.

I am just an ex-lush housewife who wants to talk about how we can make going sober less shameful, so that, in the future, women like me won't need all those pseudonyms and the cloak of anonymity. 

But, incredibly, they picked me as one of the ten speakers.

And now I am WAY outside my comfort zone, my friends.

But that is an entirely good thing, because I know that once I get off that stage on February 17th, even if I don't perform brilliantly, the high of just having got through the preceding twelve minutes will be amazing.

And I still need those highs....

And so do you. So, why not find something you've always wanted to do, but been too afraid, or too lethargic, and SIGN UP. Do the Tough Mudder, like lovely reader, Ang75. Apply for that promotion. Go on a blind date. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

In other news, up on the SoberMummy Facebook page this week, a fabulous piece from the Huff Post on what 1000 days sober feels like, the genius Robin Williams talking about being 'ethanol challenged' and the inspirational Maya Angelou being...inspirational.

Click here to go the Facebook page, and 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x 





Saturday, 25 November 2017

3 Top Tips for Partying Sober



The party season is upon us, folks, and it's a difficult time of year for the newly sober.

So, here is SoberMummy's guide to partying happily without the booze.

But, before we start, consider this important question: do you really have to go?

Don't shoot me down yet, I know it's crucial that going alcohol-free doesn't mess up our enjoyment of life in any way, that it brings only benefits and doesn't turn us all into norma-no-mates hermits, sitting at home feeling miserable.

Of course we should carry on going to parties, which (it so happens) are even better when you're not blurring all the edges (and then causing havoc) with booze.

However, if you're still in the early days of quitting and you really don't feel strong enough yet to cope with too much drunken revelry then do not feel guilty about taking a short sabbatical.

If you're an overly-enthusiastic drinker, then it's likely that you're a people pleaser and a party person. I'll bet you've been to way more than your share of boozy events in the past. You deserve a tiny bit of time off for good (or should that be bad?) behaviour.

So, if you're still feeling a bit raw and vulnerable, then just fake a bout of festive 'flu and hunker down with a box set and a hot chocolate. You'll be back with a bang before you know it.

But, for those of you who have a good run of sober days under the belt and are feeling upbeat and positive, ready to trip the light fandango and alcohol-free, then here we go:

1. Fake it until you make it

I have a dream that, in the not too distant future, there will come a time when we can announce that we've gone alcohol-free and the crowds will cheer, call us heroes and pat us on the back.

That time, however, is not yet here. As you'll know, currently if you tell people you've quit booze for good the response is a stunned silence, followed by a shocked and strangled "why? Do you have a problem?"

Now it may be that you're happy discussing the myriad reasons why you've decided to ditch the regular drinking of an addictive poison with a bunch of tipsy acquaintances, but, even if you are, repeating this speech over and over again at a party will undoubtedly become a little boring, which is why many of us decide to fake it until we make it.

This strategy involves clinging onto a non-alcoholic drink that looks like booze all evening. Think virgin mojito, alcohol-free beer or (if there's a real dearth of 'soft' drinks available), plain tonic water or soda.

If you're rumbled, then (despite what I tell my children) lying is perfectly acceptable. Tell them you're driving, you're on antibiotics or you have an important work presentation tomorrow.

When you're ready, a few weeks or months down the line, you can out yourself to friends and family in your own way, in your own time. Don't feel bullied into doing it at a party.

2. Play it forward

This is an extremely helpful AA mantra.

There will inevitably be a time (probably many) during the party when you start thinking maybe I should just have the one. One drink can't hurt. It'll help take the edge off a bit and make me relax...

At this point it's important to play the film forward. Because you know how the next few scenes go - you've been there hundreds of times before:

You don't have just one. You have several. You end up doing something you didn't mean to do, or saying something you didn't mean to say. You go home and, possibly, write something you didn't mean to write on social media, or buy something you didn't mean to buy on eBay, then you wake up in the middle of the night hating yourself and spend the next day feeling like death.

Right?

Even if you have iron clad willpower and stick to just that one drink, you'll only make it harder for yourself next time. At the next party you'll think I managed it last time, I can do it again. Before you know it, you'll be back to drinking a bottle of wine a day.

If you were good at moderation, you wouldn't be reading this. You're most likely an all-or-nothing person, and that's a great way to be, so long as (in this case), you stick with 'nothing.'

Here's another great AA mantra: drinking today is just borrowing tomorrow's happiness. Focus on tomorrow. You know that, if you stay sober, tomorrow is going to feel amazing.

3. Be kind to yourself

In the early days, take baby steps. Just turning up to the party for an hour or two is fantastic, you do not have to be the last to leave.

If you're finding it tough, take time out. Go for a walk. Go sit on the loo and check in on your sober Facebook group (join Club Soda, if you haven't already) or your favourite blogs. Find a good friend and have a quiet, life-affirming catch up in the corner.

Once you've had enough, just go. No need for long goodbyes or thank you's - everyone else will be drunk, they won't notice you sneaking out.

No need to wait for a mini-cab - you're SOBER, you can DRIVE.

You won't need to play it this cautiously for long. Before you know it you'll be back to being the life and soul of the party.

And partying sober is way better than partying drunk. You get to have proper discussions with people you haven't seen for ages. Discussions you remember. 

You get to make new connections, to have life-affirming conversations with new and fascinating people that make the other person feel valued and you value yourself.

You'll look much better, behave much better and feel proud of yourself. You'll be able to get out of your head on the atmosphere, the music and the dancing, but wake up the next day feeling brilliant.

You'll start looking at the drunk people in the room, thinking (not in a mean way) why did I ever do that to myself?

One warning though: without the anaesthesia of booze, dancing in high heels really hurts your feet. Take them off!

If you'd like to read about all the ups and downs of my first year sober, you can pre-order my book - the Sober Diaries - which is out in ONE MONTH. Click here to go to my Amazon page.

For regular inspiration and information (plus a few good laughs) go to my SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit and 'like' to stay updated

Happy sober festivities to you all!

SM x







Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Cancer Clinic



Today was the day of my check-up at the cancer clinic - two years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When I was drinking, if I was scared about something I would - obviously - use booze to dampen down any trepidation.

Since I quit, I've learned all sorts of way more effective strategies for dealing with fear.

So today, I dressed in bright red - the colour of battle, the shade that says "f**k you, cancer, don't even think about it."

Then, as I did back in the early days when I was facing down the wine witch, I used visualisation.

I imagined that I was Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, preparing for battle with my army of Unsullied.

I pictured myself as Wonder Woman, with her fabulous metallic corsetry and magic bracelets.

I strutted out of the house and, although I actually took the London Underground (District Line), pictured myself on the back of a dragon, bearing down on the Breast Unit.

I went in for my mammogram.

I did not feel at all sorry for my left boob, as they squished it flat as a pancake into the mammogram machine.

You deserve that for trying to kill me, Lefty, I thought.

(Is it normal to harbour resentment for one of your own body parts? I suspect not...)

Then I had to sit, for quite a long time, in the waiting room, for the consultant to give me the verdict.

Gradually, as the clock ticked on, my dragons flew away, followed by the feckless Unsullied. My magic bracelets reverted to plain metal, and I was left a rather terrified ex-lush housewife.

Finally, I was called in, to be told that ALL WAS WELL.

I was reminded of a phenomenal video of Will Smith talking about fear. He says: "On the other side of maximum fear are all the best things in life."

The Will Smith video is going up on the SoberMummy Facebook Page today - if you're ever afraid of anything (and who isn't?) then do watch it.

(Click here to go to the SoberMummy Facebook page, 'like' the page to stay updated).

Thank you all, so much, for all your thoughts and good wishes - they made all the difference in the world.

Love SM x

Monday, 20 November 2017

Fingers Crossed


You know how life spins out, everything trundling along just fine, and then something really awful threatens to happen, right out of the blue?

Maybe it's a health scare, or something wrong with one of your children, parents or friends, a redundancy or relationship break-up.

Then you find yourself doing a deal with the universe. You say things like if I get through this terrible time, then I promise I will never, ever take things for granted again. I will always be grateful for the stuff that really matters, and I will be a GOOD person, for ever and ever.

(Or is it just me who does that?)

Anyhow, a few weeks down the line, the potential disaster dealt with or averted, then forgotten, and - sure enough - you're back to stressing about the things that don't matter and forgetting to be grateful for the things that are genuinely important, like your family's health, a roof over your head and food on the table.

Well, the handy thing about having had breast cancer is that you are never, ever allowed to forget. Because every few months, a letter arrives in your post box telling you that you have a mammogram, or an ultrasound or a blood test, to check that your boobs haven't decided to try to kill you again, or - even worse - that some pesky cancer cells haven't cropped up in your bones, or your lungs or your brain.

Tomorrow I have to go back to the cancer clinic for my two year check-up.

So, to distract myself from feeling terrified, I am reminding myself to feel grateful.

Grateful for a wonderful two years which I might not have had. Thankful for any more time I'm allotted which I can spend helping shepherd my children towards being proper, well-rounded and happy grown-ups, and making some fabulous memories for them.

(Yesterday, I got to celebrate my eldest turning fourteen. There was a time when I thought I might not be able to do that.)

It's also a great time to feel grateful for being sober. Because the truth is that when you drink to numb all the difficult stuff in life, you numb all the good stuff too. And I don't want to miss a single minute of it.

If you have a spare moment, please keep your fingers crossed for me.

And here's some really HAPPY NEWS! Ang75, who many of you know from her comments on this blog, is ONE YEAR SOBER TODAY! Happy Soberversary Ang. You are amazing. Have a truly wonderful day.

By the way, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page, a lovely post from Club Soda on what children say when their parents quit drinking.

(Click here, to go to the Facebook page, 'like' the page if you want to stay updated).

Love SM x




Friday, 17 November 2017

3 Reasons Why Dogs are a Sober Girl's Best Friend



Yesterday, I was reading the incredible story of Mali - the special forces dog who's just been awarded a medal for bravery after sniffing out explosives and Taliban insurgents during a seven and a half hour gunfight in Kabul.

A grenade badly injured Mali's belly and legs, blew out a tooth and damaged his right ear, but still he kept going, being hoisted from one building to the next in a sling on his handler's back.

This story reminded me how incredibly loyal, brave and clever our furry friends can be.

The picture on this post is my scruffy terrier, Otto. He's not as well trained as Mali (in fact, he's barely trained at all), but he's my hero, nonetheless.

He sat by me, literally, his head on my tummy, as I recovered from treatment for breast cancer. And he was my very best sober buddy.

Here are three reasons why dogs are a sober girl's best friend:

1. They get you outside

However much you might want to hunker down at home and mope, your four legged companion is going to stare at you with those big, brown (unless you have a Husky) eyes until you take them out for a walk.

This is a very good thing, as exercise - especially outdoors - is incredibly good for your mental health, which is why the Japanese are so obsessed by what they call 'forest bathing.' It reduces stress and anxiety and boosts all your happy hormones.

Also, walking outside gets you away from all those booze-associations - the fridge, the wine rack, your favourite armchair, etcetera ad infinitum. Even I never took alcohol with me on a dog walk, even in the baddest of bad days.

2. They are masters of mindfulness

One of the best ways to get through the early days of sober is 'mindfulness': concentrating on the present moment and not worrying about not drinking forever and ever or what sins you might have committed in the past.

But mindfulness is incredibly hard. Which is why you need your own furry mindfulness guru to hand.

Dogs only live in the moment. They remind you of all the incredible things happening right now under your very nose. The thrill of a new path, splashing through mud, having a cuddle.

Just look at how much your dog loves life and you realise that booze really isn't necessary in order to discover joy in the everyday.

3. They love you, whatever, unconditionally

By the time most of us quit drinking we can be pretty hard on ourselves. We spend an awful lot of time examining our flaws and fretting over past misdemeanours.

Our dogs remind us that we are completely loveable, imperfections and all. They don't judge, they just lick.

If you don't have a dog already, then think of all the money and time you'll be saving by not drinking and consider spending some of it on a new friend.

Don't buy a puppy, find a rescue dog. A dog who deserves a second chance at life and a whole load of love, just like you do.

Please tell me about your own furry friends in the comments below....

By the way, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page: some inspirational wisdom from Winne-the-Pooh, and the story of Robert Downey Jr, and how he beat his addictions. I wonder if he has a dog.

(To go to the Facebook page, click here. 'Like' to stay updated).

Love SM x




Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Please Can You Help?



It's six weeks until the book comes out, and I'm starting to get seriously cold feet.

If you write fiction, and reviewers and readers don't like something about your heroine, it doesn't really matter. That's all part of having created a well-rounded, complex character.

However, when the main character in your novel is you, and people - for whatever reason - are critical about you, that's altogether harder to deal with.

I think I'm going to have to practice growing a very thick skin....

I also keep reminding myself why I'm doing this.

I wrote the book because I know that stories change lives, and because if we all stay quiet and anonymous, nothing will ever change and people will carry on struggling in silence and feeling alone.

I'm hoping that people will read my story and realise that there really is an alternative to spending your life self-medicating and blurring all the edges, and that that life is so much brighter, better, more real and more rewarding without booze.

And that's where I'm hoping you can help....

Over the last few years many of you have sent me wonderful e-mails and left incredible comments, saying how this blog has helped you.

My lovely publishers would very much like to use some of your quotes to feature in the advance publicity for the book on social media (Facebook mainly) so we can spread the word as widely as possible.

I obviously don't want to use any of your words without permission, so would be HUGELY grateful if you could post in the comments below anything you'd be happy for us to quote, about how and why this blog, and my story, has helped you, if it has.

If you're not happy using the name that comes up alongside your comment then just say so. You can make up any alternative name you like, or I can just call you 'blog reader' if you prefer.

If you'd rather mail me privately, or if Blogger isn't allowing you to comment (it's been playing up recently), then do mail me at sobermummy@gmail.com

Thank you SO much, I am terribly, terribly grateful - not just for this, but for all the support you've given me since I started this blog, nearly three years ago.

By the way, new on the SoberMummy Facebook page, one of my favourite poems for anyone who's ever fallen off the wagon (that's pretty much all of us, right?) and the most hilarious sketch about being a non-drinker by comedian Tony Baker.

(To go to the SoberMummy Facebook page, click here. 'Like' page to stay updated).

Love, and huge thanks, to you all,

SM x

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Surrounded by Champagne


I'm surrounded by champagne.

Not only is the festive season starting to gear up, but my local Waitrose supermarket, which has been closed for a couple of weeks for a re-furb, has just re-opened featuring not only a sushi bar, but a sparkly new champagne bar!

WTF?!? (As my kids would say).

Since I discovered this, I've been amusing myself by imagining the meetings they must have had back in head office.

SCENE 1: WEEKLY STATUS MEETING

BOSS (a misogynist): Chaps, last week I asked you all to go away and come up with ideas for how to get ladies to spend EVEN MORE money in our already vastly overpriced stores.

What have you come up with? What do women around here spend their husband's money on?

MINION 1: Errr - wine. Lots of it.

BOSS: We already sell wine. Idiot.

MINION 2: Yes, but they buy our wine then dash home as quickly as possible to drink it.

Why don't we open a champagne bar in-store? Then they never need to leave! Throw in a sushi bar and there's everything a middle-class, middle-aged mum needs to survive, all under one roof.

They don't even have to move when they want to socialise with friends - they can just message them to pop on over to Waitrose and get the party started here!

BOSS: I LOVE IT! I'M A GENIUS!

Help me build on this. After all, there's no 'I" in team, right boys?

What happens AFTER they've had lunch at our sushi bar, done their weekly shop, invited all their lady friends round for a party at our champagne bar and got drunk?

I'll tell you what! They have to stagger back through our store and - inhibitions loosened, and too squiffy to read our over-inflated price tags - they'll spend all their remaining money on our products!

Let's run my idea up the flagpole and salute it!

We're going to be EVEN RICHER! Crack open the champagne - we're celebrating!

THE END.

(This meeting may sound farcical, but in my twenty years in advertising I spend hundreds of hours in meetings JUST LIKE IT).

Yet more evidence that the world has gone mad.

In other news: if any of you are fans (like me) of audio books, then you might like to know that there is going to be an audio version of my book (The Sober Diaries).

My publishers sent me a recording of a professional actress reading the first chapter of my book. It's very odd listening to someone else being me. She sounds just like I wish I did, but (sadly) don't.

If you'd like to be the very first person to pre-order a copy of the audiobook, then click here to go to my Amazon page.

Also, exciting news if you're in Germany (totally irrelevant if not): a German publisher is keen to publish a german version of The Sober Diaries next year. Hurrah! Or should I say Hurra!?

(It turns out that 'Hurrah' is one of the few words that is shorter in german than it is in english).

And, finally, there's lots more on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit, 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x




Thursday, 9 November 2017

Booze in the News



Right now is a really good time to be ditching the booze, because pretty much every single week there are articles in the press about the dangers of drinking and how more and more people (especially the young) are walking away from alcohol.

Today's big news - reported widely in the USA (thank you to the wonderful NorthWoman for alerting me), is that the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has, for the first time, put out an official warning on the link between alcohol and cancer.

Dr Noelle LoConte, author of the report, says "ASCO joins a growing number of cancer care and public health organisations in recognising that even moderate alcohol use can cause cancer."

According to ASCO, drinking alcohol is linked to SEVEN types of cancer: oesophageal, mouth, liver, colon and breast cancers.

It is, they say, the direct cause of 5.5% of all cancers globally.

It is also probable, they warn, that alcohol is a causal factor in pancreatic, stomach and other cancers.

The more you drink, the higher your risk.

Yet two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they had no idea that alcohol has any link to cancer. I'm sure the same is true in the UK.

None of this is terribly surprising to me, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, after two decades of drinking rather a lot more than I should have.

I had a relatively uncommon form of breast cancer - lobular - which has a particularly significant link to alcohol consumption.

Yet, whilst every single medical professional I came across during my initial diagnosis asked if I smoked (which I didn't), only one asked me if I drank.

(I am very sure about this as I was desperate to be asked how many units I drank each week so I could reply "Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a drop." Before confessing to past misdemeanours...)

Also, not one single person told me to stop drinking alcohol, or cut down, during or after cancer treatment. Quite the reverse. I was constantly being urged to "go and pour yourself a large gin and tonic."

It's not so very long since doctors would recommend their patients smoke tobacco to ease a chesty cough.

Alcohol is, I suspect, the new tobacco...

Also in the news this week, a report by the Office for National Statistics showing that the baby-boomer generation are increasingly dying from alcohol abuse as decades of overly-enthusiastic drinking starts to catch up with them.

Since 2001, the likelihood of women aged 60-64 dying as a direct result of alcohol has increased by 35% (this does NOT include those dying of cancers which may have been attributable to alcohol consumption).

But there is GOOD NEWS! If you reduce the amount you drink or, even better, stop altogether, all your risk factors go down. WHOOP WHOOP.

So hurrah for me, and hurrah for all of you.

New on the SoberMummy Facebook page this week: a post I've written about wine bellies and the most fascinating TED talk by Ann Dowsett Johnston, the author of DRINK - The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.

Click here to go to the Facebook page, 'like' to stay updated.

Love to you all,

SM x

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Alcohol and ABBA



Back in 1980, when I was 11 years old, I was obsessed with ABBA.

I had posters of them all over my bedroom, in their thigh high boots and American tan tights (the girls), open necked shirts and facial hair (boys).

I knew all the words to every single one of their songs, and would spend hours carefully lowering the stylus onto the vinyl records (remember those days?) and singing along, using my hairbrush as a make-believe microphone.

(I promise you, this post does come back to the subject of my blog eventually!)

I even wrote to Jim'll Fix It (decades before we knew the truth about Jimmy Saville) to beg and plead to meet them.

Then, one day, I was sitting in a German class. I was at the British School in Brussels at the time. A teacher came in and said "I have a letter for Clare Pooley's parents."

I was terrified. Why had I been picked out for special treatment? What had I done?

I wracked my brains trying to think of some past misdemeanour that had finally caught up with me.

I did think about steaming open the letter. Or quietly shredding it. Instead, I manned up and gave it to my Mum.

As she read it her eyebrows did that OMG thing (decades before OMG became a thing). She read it out loud, slowly. It said something like:

Dear Mr and Mrs Pooley,

The popular music group, ABBA, are doing a worldwide tour of their Voulez Vous album and are playing here, in Brussels. They are looking for a small group of English speaking children to accompany them in the chorus of one of their latest songs: I Have a Dream.

Your daughter, Clare, has been selected to form part of the group.

CAN YOU IMAGINE!?!?

All my wildest dreams had come true.

And I sang, on stage, in front of eighty thousand people. And I held the microphone in my sweaty hand. And I was patted on the head by Agnetha. And I got all their autographs. And they gave us so much free chocolate and sweets that I was nearly sick.

It was the most exciting night EVER.

So, I've always had a super soft spot for ABBA. Which is why (and here's where it gets relevant - thank you for bearing with me if you are still reading) I was thrilled when Benny Andersson was featured in the Times Magazine 'What I've Learnt' column.

And guess what? Now I love him even more, because he said, as part of his life lessons:

Stopping drinking was the best decision I've ever taken.

He carries on: It was a problem, absolutely. So 15 years ago I thought, I have to give this up. I wouldn't be here now if I hadn't. I triggered a lot of my friends to quit too and they are equally happy.

So hurrah for Benny! Hurrah for ABBA! And hurrah for all of you!

New of the SoberMummy Facebook page: a video inspired by you on 'the best things about being sober', the world's sexiest teetotal men, and - going up this evening - comedian Tim Minchin's hilarious and inspiring 9 lessons on life.

(To go to the SoberMummy Facebook page click here. 'Like' page to stay updated).

Love SM x



Saturday, 4 November 2017

This will make you happy!



There are many, many times during the sober journey when you find yourself thinking why on earth am I doing this?

Why am I spending every evening explaining to uncomprehending friends that 'no, I can't just have the one glass of wine'?

Why am I dealing with life raw, when it would be so easy to rub the edges off from time to time?

Why am I insisting on staying sober when the world and his wife are knocking back the drinks and gearing up for the silly season?

(Just today I was tempted to push the self destruct button when I received an e-mail from Homebase titled CHRISTMAS IS HERE! No it’s not. We’ve only just got through Halloween, I’m still trying to get the face paint off various children and pumpkin seeds out of the furniture, so please shut up about Christmas for at least another week). 

So, a couple of weeks ago I asked you lot to complete the sentence 'The best thing about being sober is....'

You wrote some incredible, inspirational things. You made me laugh. You reminded me what this is all about.

I tried to summarise all the things you said, and turned them into a YouTube video. Yes, really!

(Actually, I have to confess, I got my thirteen-year-old to turn them into a YouTube video. And before you start thinking how incredibly helpful she is, bear in mind that I had to pay her. £5. Hopefully you'll think it was worth it).

So, if you're feeling a bit down, and you've forgotten why you're doing this, then check out the video. It's on the SoberMummy Facebook page - click here.

Also new on the FB page: the world’s most sexy teetotal men (well worth checking out) and Jamie Lee Curtis on how being sober changed her life....

(If you want Facebook to keep you updated with new information and inspiration, then 'like' the page).

If you like the video, please share and spread the love....

Happy sober weekend, everyone!

SM x

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Apologies in Advance....


I've pondered a lot about whether or not to write this post as it all feels a bit Boasty McBoast Face, and I'm a bit British about not showing off in any way, so I'm really sorry about this one...

....but I'm just SO EXCITED, because I just got my FIRST EVER Amazon Review and I just HAD TO TELL SOMEONE.

My book isn't out until December 28th, but Amazon have this network of approved reviewers called 'The Vine', and they were sent advance copies.

One of their (apparently completely unbiased - I checked!) reviewers then posted this one:

This book is at once immensely serious, very funny and extremely well-written, describing the struggles of a mother of 3 young children as she tries to give up a serious alcohol habit.

What I really enjoyed was the disarming honesty, in all aspects of life - not just the fight to stay on the wagon. Clare writes about marriage, parenthood, friendships and everyday life in a way that cracked me up. 

However, her descriptions of hangovers, drunkenness and the cravings she experiences as she tries to kick the habit are sometimes truly heart-rending. You really feel for her, even though the alcoholism is ultimately a problem of her own making.

Clare is a likeable guide through the travails of ethanol withdrawal. She spurns the usual routes like Alcoholics Anonymous, for reasons that she explains with great lucidity, but doesn't uncover a magic bullet in their place. You read on, constantly wondering if she is going to keep her resolve (although, like a 'whodunnit', you could skip to the end to check, of course!).


In conclusion, then, this is rather different to some "mis lit" addiction stories, in that the narrator is a genuinely grounded, likeable individual. You warm to them, and that makes your involvement in their struggle to stay off the booze all the more compelling.

And he gave me FIVE STARS (out of 5).

I was so excited that I told the children while I was getting breakfast ready.

"Wow," said #1, "now if it all goes wrong, you'll know that at least one person really liked your book." 

Back down to earth with a bump, as always.

(If you'd like to pre-order a copy of the book click here).

In other news, if you haven't seen it already, check out the world's most sexy teetotal men on my Facebook page, it'll make your day...

(Click here to go to the SoberMummy Facebook page, and - if you'd like to stay updated - click 'like.')

Have a great day everyone, and apologies again for the boasting. Please forgive me. I will try not to do it again.

SM x

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Alcohol and Anxiety


Alcohol and anxiety are so closely entwined that it's difficult to know which comes first. Do we drink because we are anxious, or are we anxious because we drink?

In fact, both are true - one leading to another, creating a downward spiral, sucking us in like a spider down a plughole.

Alcohol gives your brain a dopamine hit, but, over time, it reduces the amount of dopamine it produces naturally to compensate, making you feel anxious and edgy whenever you're not drinking.

The good news is that when you quit drinking your brain will, over time, find its natural equilibrium and start producing dopamine again, all by itself. Woo hoo! Hello happy pink cloud.

The bad news is that in the early days of giving up you'll probably feel super anxious as your brain is missing all the dopamine you used to ply it with.

Added to which, you've been so used to self-medicating your anxiety with booze that you have absolutely no idea how to manage without it.

Well, here's an idea....

I was pottering around my kitchen a few days ago, with This Morning playing on the TV in the background.

I was stopped, dead in my tracks, half way through unloading the dishwasher, by Harry Judd - member of McFly and McBusted and winner of Strictly Come Dancing.

Initially, I have to confess, I wasn't even concentrating on what he was saying, I was just thinking OMG, he is just so gorgeous, and so charming, in an embarrassingly hormonal middle-aged mother sort of way.

Then I started paying attention. Harry was talking about how he had been crippled with terrible anxiety, and - as a result - had quit smoking weed and drinking.

He then discovered that the cure for his anxiety and OCD was exercise, leading him to write a book: Get Fit, Get Happy.

I bought the book.

Now I'm even more in love with him.

Harry writes honestly and engagingly about his issues, showing that anyone, however successful, talented and ripped (stop it, SM) can suffer from addiction and mental health issues.

Here's what Harry says about booze:

...I had been using alcohol to allow me to relax at gigs. I'd be hungover the next day, wake up feeling grumpy, have breakfast at midday, stagger to the tour bus and travel to the next venue. I would sometimes be pretty negative to be around and not as welcoming to the fans as I should have been. It wasn't until an hour before the next gig, when I would crack open the first beer of the day, that I would start feeling good about myself again. And so the cycle would continue.

Harry describes how drinking would lead to full on panic attacks and terrible anxiety. So, eventually, he quit. He says:

Kicking the booze was good for me in so many ways: it helped to stem my anxiety and it had a hugely beneficial effect on the way I was able to do my job....I was more positive around the fans and a happier person in general. My routine became healthier.

Hurrah for Harry!

Harry's book goes on to talk about why and how exercise is miracle cure for depression and anxiety, as well as being great for our physical health, obviously.

There are lots of exercises, categorised as 'beginner', 'intermediate' or 'advanced' which you can fit easily into your daily routine.

This certainly fits with my experience. I found running, walking the dog, yoga, swimming - any exercise really - invaluable in the early days of fighting off the wine witch.

I have to confess, I haven't yet done any of the exercises in Harry's book, but just looking at the (utterly gorgeous) pictures of him doing them has made me feel fitter, and happier. So there we go, job done.

If you'd like to see the interview with Harry on This Morning, it's on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

Also new on the Facebook page is a great Irish article about women's relationship with booze, and one of my favourite inspirational memes.

If you'd like to apparate onto my Facebook page, just like Harry Potter appearing in Diagon Alley, click here. If you 'like' the page it'll update you with new posts.

To read more about (and buy) Harry's book click here.

Love to you all,

SM x