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. You can read the first three chapters for free by using the 'look inside' feature!

Plus, there's lots of inspiration and information on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

New on the Facebook page this week, my favourite animated video on addiction, and an article on the five most addictive substances on earth (spoiler alert: alcohol is number five).

Click here to visit, and 'like' to stay updated.

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