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