Tuesday, 24 April 2018

What Will You Do Next?

Last week was Eminem's ten year Soberversary.

(When my children were small they were convinced that his name was M&M and that he had a sideline in chocolate manufacturing).

I found an article from the New York Times that was written shortly after Eminem left rehab. He'd just released his first new album in five years - Relapse - inspired by his addiction and recovery.

In creating this album, Eminem said "I'm kind of just coming clean and exhaling."

Like so many people who've written to me, Eminem found that "the deeper I got into my addiction, the tighter the lid got on my creativity... but when I got sober the wheels started turning again."

"When I got sober the lid just came off. In seven months I accomplished more than I could accomplish in three or four years of doing drugs."

(To read the full article visit the SoberMummy Facebook page. 'Like' page to stay updated).

It's amazing what people start doing with their lives once they quit drinking.

The combination of more money, more energy, more creativity and more time creates a rocket fuel.

For many, though, it doesn't happen as quickly as it did for Eminem.

For me, the first year was all about healing and introspection. I did pick up writing (this blog), for the first time in decades, but, like Eminem, that was very much about 'coming clean and exhaling.' It was therapy.

It's often the second and third year after beating addiction that people's lives really turn around.

Many of my readers have started new businesses, climbed mountains, run marathons, become jewellery designers, yoga teachers, writers or artists. One lady has started doing an open-mic poetry reading session, another is doing stand-up comedy.

It feels a bit like that lid has been pressed down so hard, that when it's released it explodes with the power of a jack-in-the-box.

So, what are you going to do now you're sober? Please tell us in the comments!

I am, this evening in fact, as the picture above suggests, going back to school. I'm starting a three month novel-writing course.

It's something I've wanted to do for YEARS, but never would have managed in the drinking days. For a start, I'd have told myself that I wasn't good enough. Secondly, its in the evenings! 7-9pm! It would have interfered far too much with my drinking time.

I'm a bit nervous. I'm wondering what the other fourteen students will be like. There's bound to be at least one that winds everyone up. Argh! What if it's me?!?

In other news, Mr SM is having a mid-life crisis.

He hasn't bought a Harley Davidson yet, but - after our brief flirtation with summer last week, he's bought a GIANT gas barbecue for the garden. Everyday new accessories arrive for this beast. A smoker. A rotisserie. A metal suitcase filled with barbecue tongs.

On top of that, he's started cycling to and from work. More accessories. He's started mumbling about lycra. OMG, I'm going to have a MAMIL* for a husband.

(*Middle-Aged Man In Lycra).

And, finally, a BIG, BIG thanks to all of you who've left reviews of The Sober Diaries on Amazon. I looked at my UK page yesterday (okay, I confess: I look at it every day), and there were TWO-HUNDRED reviews. You are amazing, and I am overwhelmed.

To see the reviews, or to buy a copy of The Sober Diaries in hardback, Kindle or audio, click here for UK, here for USA and here for Australia.

To watch my TEDx talk: Making Sober Less Shameful, click here.

Love to you all!

SM x

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Repairing the Damage

I am not the same woman I was ten years ago.

The process of beating addiction requires you to tear yourself apart, layer by layer, and then to reassemble yourself, as best you can.

Then I got breast cancer, and dealing with that was very similar. I was shattered, and had to gradually rebuild.

I didn't just end up emotionally scarred, I was physically scarred too - an ex-lush with only 1.75 breasts and a big gash where one of my my sentinel lymph nodes used to be. Not to mention the damage inflicted by three lots of childbirth and breast feeding.

It's very easy to emerge from all of that feeling damaged. Flawed. Imperfect.

That's why I loved a performance I saw recently by the amazing feminist poet - Megan Beech.

(Megan's debut poetry collection was brilliantly titled "When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard.")

Megan performed a piece about living with depression. She compared her relationship with mental illness to the Japanese art of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum, thereby creating a piece much more beautiful and unique than the 'perfect' original.

It is said that when this new art emerged in the late 15th century, collectors became so enamoured with it that they would deliberately smash valuable pottery so that it could be repaired with the golden seams of kintsugi.

Kintsugi is not just an art, it's also a philosophy which treats breakage and repair as part of the unique history, or story, of an object, rather than something to disguise.

In a book about mended Japanese ceramics, Christy Bartlett writes "not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated."

Another brilliant poet, Leonard Cohen, said the same in these lyrics from Anthem:  

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.

And the truth is that those repaired cracks and flaws are what makes us unique and precious and beautiful. We shouldn't be ashamed of them, we should celebrate them - highlight them in gold and make them shimmer.

It also makes us brave and fearless, because we know that even if something is thrown at us that makes us shatter again, we have the ability to rebuild, and to - eventually - emerge even better.

I like to think that understanding Kintsugi can make us less judgemental too, that instead of criticising the flaws and imperfections of others we can see them as marks of a bewitching individuality.

So, if you are feeling battered and bruised by life, then don't be, because it's those scars which make you beautiful, unique and courageous.

There's lots of new stuff on the SoberMummy Facebook page, including much heated debate on the Liz Jones article about the misery that is sobriety (*angry face*). 'Like' the page to stay updated.

To listen to my TEDx talk on Making Sober Less Shameful click here.

To read about the ups and downs of the first year sober in The Sober Diaries click here (UK), or here (USA) or here (Australia).

To hear Megan perform her kintsugi poem, click here.

Love to you all!

SM x

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Social Media: Good or Evil?

I have a messy, love-hate relationship with social media. My Facebook status would describe our relationship as 'it's complicated.'

Until recently, I didn't spend much time on social media. Occasionally I'd post one of those smug family holiday pictures for family and friends (which wouldn't show the reality of flight delays, family arguments and sunburn) on Facebook, but that was it.

Then, when I 'came out' from behind my SoberMummy pseudonym, six months ago, I set up the SoberMummy Facebook page.

I love that page because it allows me to post all the fabulous articles and videos that I find, and that people kindly send me, about booze.

I love the fact that it's picked up over four thousand followers from all over the world, and I love that it's introduced me to other great Facebook communities, like Club Soda, World Without Wine and Recovery Buddha.

In many ways, social media has transformed life for addicts like me. I was WAY too scared and ashamed to pitch up at an AA meeting. I would have got there eventually, but I would probably have had to reach rock bottom first.

The blogosphere and social media make finding help before you lose everything so much easier, they make you feel less alone and provide that connection that is the antithesis to addiction.

Then, three months ago, I published The Sober Diaries, and people, very kindly, started posting pictures of my book all over Instagram, and tagging me. Except I wasn't on Instagram, so some other poor, unsuspecting Clare Pooley was being bombarded with messages about being an ex-lush.

So I set up an Instagram Page. And I discovered a whole new community of sober folks over there.

I realised that Instagram is a lovely, supportive and happy place to hang out, and it makes sober feel sexy and avant-guard. 

Which is why social media is AMAZING and a huge support for addicts everywhere.


I'm still a bit cross about the way social media normalised excessive drinking for me for so long. All those 'wine o'clock' memes and 'mummy's little helper' jokes made me feel like everyone with a normal, hectic, imperfect life used wine to get through it.

I'm also increasingly freaked out by the way my social media sucks up information about me to make assumptions about what I might be cajoled into buying, and gets it wrong!

I spend a fair amount of time searching for, and reading, articles about booze so, as a result, Facebook and Instagram have me down as a huge wine fan. I get endless ads for things like wine bangles, mugs and T-Shirts with funny wine jokes printed on them and bizarre hangover cures.

Even worse, at some point I must have made a joke about pelvic-floor exercises, because every day I get bombarded with ads for Tena lady pads and - get this - 'pee-proof pants'.


But the worse thing about social media is that it is addictive. Super addictive. And I, my friends, am an addict.

If you have found yourself addicted to alcohol, nicotine, gambling, anything at all, it is very likely that your brain is super sensitive to dopamine. 

Doing any of those things releases that lovely, feel good chemical and makes everything seem a little bit... brighter (for a while).

There is a downside, however, which is that the brain starts to crave dopamine. It wants more and more of it, which is where the addiction sets in.

And guess what happens when you check your Facebook or Instagram feed and find a bunch of 'likes'?

Yup, you guessed it, you get a dopamine hit.

This, people, is no accident. Sean Parker, one of the founders of Facebook, admitted that it, like cigarettes, was designed to be addictive. Here's what he told US news site, Axios:

"We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. It's a social-validation feedback loop.... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

Well, thanks a bunch, Sean.

So, whilst I love Facebook and Instagram, they are sucking up more and more of my time, and my headspace, just like the booze did.

Today is the last day of our holiday. We've had an amazing week driving all over Ibiza, exploring off-the-beaten-track beaches and eating paella in fabulous restaurants.

BUT, several times a day one of the children will say:

"What's Mummy doing?"

And another will reply "She's with her internet family."

I let the booze keep me away from my children for too long, I can't let social media do the same.

It's time for some MODERATION! (And I'm really good at that, aren't I?)

If you'd like to read The Sober Diaries click here for UK, here for USA and here for Australia.

To listen to my TEDx talk, Making Sober Less Shameful, click here.

If you're new to the sober thing, then there's a great chat going on in the comments section of the 'Advice for Newbies' page which you can find here.

Love to you all!

SM x

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Sober Easter Holidays

Before starting this post on Easter holidays, I just wanted to say a huge thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, to all of you for your incredible support after my mini meltdown last week.

I am so, so sorry that I haven't been able to reply to you all individually, but your messages meant so much to me.

I was reminded, yet again, that this sober tribe is made up of the most generous, thoughtful and amazing people. You are all superheroes.

Thanks to you, I'm back to feeling chirpy, plus the weather is improving, and we're into the Easter holidays!

But I know that holidays are not the easiest time if you've recently quit. I've had a number of messages over the past few days from people worrying about how to get through them without drinking.

I really love sober holidays now and can't imagine doing them any differently, but it takes a while to get there.

I think the biggest issue is that we've conditioned ourselves over years - or decades even - to associate holidays with partying. And by partying, I mean drinking. 

The Easter weekend, for me, was all about being able to have long, boozy lunches that went on well into the evening. Then long, boozy evenings that went on well into the night.

But, you know what? At the end of that weekend, I'd feel awful! I'd be toxic, anxious, depressed, exhausted and run down. I'd go back to work feeling like I needed..... a holiday. But wasn't that what I'd just had?

The trick is to redefine what holidays are about!

Now I see holidays as a chance to look after myself, to recharge and reset and get ready for new challenges ahead.

I get loads of sleep, eat well and go on long walks, so that by the end of the holiday I feel amazing.

More importantly, I see holidays as a time to reconnect with my family, especially my children.

Over Easter holidays of old, I'd spend a lot of time trying to escape the children so I could drink with my grown-up friends. Now, the holidays are all about doing things together. Making memories (that you actually remember!)

A bit of over-indulgence is still obviously crucial, so this weekend I will go a little crazy on the chocolate.

So, if this is your first sober holiday, be good to yourself. Easter is a great time for new beginnings. Hole up in a cosy cocoon for a few days and get ready to fly.

Talking of flying, my New Year's resolution was to do more new things this year, so a few weeks ago I booked us all an Easter holiday in Ibiza!

It turns out that no-one goes to Ibiza in April, because all the clubs are closed and the weather isn't great (but no worse than August in Cornwall, which is what we're used to), so I managed to rent a villa for a fraction of the normal cost.

I've always wanted to go to Ibiza, but - back in the drinking days - I was a bit worried that, on a party island, like that the wheels really would come off! I might never have come home.

Now, that's not an issue. My wheels are firmly stuck on.

I'm hoping that the island will be pretty quiet, and we can drive around visiting local tapas restaurants and deserted beaches and just chill.

Mr SM has obviously booked the cheapest flights available - RyanAir. He then had a panic about having to pay for everything apart from the actual plane as 'extras.'

"Do we really need any suitcases?" he said. "And surely we don't need to sit next to each other on the plane?"

I had a panic yesterday when I received an e-mail titled IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FLIGHT!

Arrrgghhh! I thought. They've cancelled it (RyanAir have form in this area).

Turns out they haven't (yet), but as this is a flight which is very popular with hen and stag parties, they've issued a complete ban on any alcohol on the plane.



Have a wonderful Easter, everyone! If you want to see any of my smug holiday pictures, you can follow me on Instagram @clare_pooley

There's inspiration and information every day on the SoberMummy Facebook Page ('like' page to stay updated).

If you're looking for holiday reading, then look no further than The Sober Diaries. You can read the first few chapters for free by choosing the 'look inside' feature. Click here for UK, here for USA and here for Australia.

And, finally, you can see my TEDx talk - Making Sober Less Shameful here.

Love to you all, and see you on the other side,

SM x

Friday, 23 March 2018

Feeling Sad

Generally I love what I do, but for the last couple of days I've been feeling really tired of it all.

I feel awful about whining, because I know that many of you will be in the early, tough days of fighting the wine witch, so the last thing you need is me bleating about nothing much. If that's you, then please feel free to stop reading.

I'm always telling the children not to worry about what other people think of them. I say things like 'you can't change what people think, only how you react', and so on, yet I can't take my own advice.

Two days ago, someone posted an incredibly vitriolic one star review on my Amazon page, and I can't stop thinking about it.

I know this is stupid, because I have 170 reviews, and all but a small handful are 5* and really amazing, and I am hugely, hugely grateful to all of you who have taken the time to write them. Thank you, thank you.

But this person has called me vapid, self-centred, over-privileged and bragging, and hates everything about me, my life, my family, my book and my editor. They even spelled my name incorrectly.

I keep trying to forget about it, but it just makes me sad and fed up, and then I worry that maybe they're right. Maybe I am just unbearably smug and irritating.

I also worry that this rant will put people off reading my book who might have found it helpful.

Sometimes I wonder why I'm doing this.

Apologies again. Normal chirpy service will be resumed shortly.

If you'd like to make up your own mind about my book, you can find it here.

If you'd like to listen to my TEDx talk, you can find it here (UK), or here for the USA.

Goodnight, all.

SM x

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Making Sober Less Shameful

Whenever I'm asked what the most difficult thing was about quitting alcohol, I always reply "other people."

I was horribly addicted to cigarettes too, many years ago, and when I finally managed to quit everyone was really supportive. I was constantly congratulated and told that I was brave and wise and amazing.

No-one asked me why I wanted to stop smoking, tried to convince me to 'just have one' or accused me of being boring.

Yet when I quit drinking it was very different. Instead of feeling virtuous, I felt ashamed. Instead of feeling supported, I felt shunned.

This makes me really mad.

So I did a TEDx talk.

I talked about why I found it easy to tell people I had breast cancer, yet impossible to confess to alcohol addiction.

I talked about shame and other people's reactions.

I talked about how alcohol is the only drug you have to justify NOT taking, despite the fact that the science shows it's the fourth most harmful drug after crack, heroin and crystal meth.

I talked about the link to cancer, especially breast cancer.

Then, crucially, I talked about three things that we can all do to help the superheroes who pluck up the courage to ditch the nation's favourite drug, by addressing the stigma around alcohol addiction.

Yesterday my talk went up on YouTube. There's a link at the top of this page. I'd love to know what you think. I'd love it even more if you could share, and help drive the Sober Revolution.

Full disclosure: I haven't dared watch it myself yet.

Love to you all,

SM x

To read the book about my first year sober, click here for UK, here for USA and here for Australia. You can read the first few chapters for free by choosing the 'look inside' feature.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Alcohol and Sleep

It's Saturday morning, and I've bounced out of bed, leaving the children still slumbering away happily.

One of the very best things about being sober, the one I never tire of (please excuse the pun!), is sleep.

For at least a decade, I was a terrible sleeper. I would look at the rest of my family, who'd be happily out for the count for hours, and think how do you DO that?

I would get to sleep easily enough, but then I'd wake up at around 3am tossing and turning and unable to drop off again until about ten minutes before my alarm went off. 

I didn't waste that 3am-7am time. Oh no. I used it to beat myself up about my latest misdemeanour, or the things I'd meant to, yet failed to achieve, or the fact that - yet again - I'd drunk way more than I should have the previous evening. 

I blamed my insomnia on the inevitable stresses and strains of modern life. 

I tried everything to cure my lack of sleep – relaxation and meditation, exercise, aromatherapy pillows and various over-the-counter remedies, but nothing worked.

Then, I quit drinking and, within a few weeks, I was sleeping like a baby and bouncing out of bed in the mornings like the Duracell bunny. Miraculous. 

There are several reasons why alcohol has a terrible effect on our sleep.

Firstly, whilst alcohol initially helps you fall into a deep sleep (which is why I missed the ends of movies for years), as the alcohol wears off you move out of deep sleep and into REM sleep, which is much lighter and easier to wake from.

Your body has to work hard overnight to process all those toxins, which interferes with the quality of your sleep, causing all that tossing, turning and restlessness.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, so after a few drinks you’re likely to wake up in the night sweating buckets, desperately thirsty and needing a wee.

The problem with all this lack of sleep isn’t just that it makes us feel a bit snoozy the next day, it affects everything – our relationships, our careers, our creativity and our health.

Lack of sleep is directly correlated to an increased incidence of breast and colon cancer, and of heart problems. In the days after the clocks spring forward an hour in March, there is a noticeable increase in reported heart attacks and road accidents.

Sleep deprivation was deemed to be 'a significant factor' in the Exxon Valdez wreck, the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle and the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

Now, we may not be in charge of radio-active materials or a space programme, but you know how lack of sleep makes you unproductive, irritable and more likely to make mistakes.

Of all the benefits being sober brings, for me, getting lots of (great quality) sleep has been one of the best.

It's made me healthier, happier, more creative and has even made me look better (no more eye bags and dull, tired skin).

It turns out that I’m not alone in finding that great sleep can transform your life.

A recent survey by the National Centre for Social Research found that quality of sleep has by far the strongest association with wellbeing among those elements of our lifestyle that we can control. Regularly getting a good night’s sleep makes us happier than a fifty percent pay rise, spicing up our sex lives or socialising with friends and family. Whoop whoop!

BUT, be warned, when you first quit you may find getting to sleep tricky. Don't worry, that'll pass. If you’re still having problems dropping off after a few days, try taking a magnesium supplement at bedtime.

I also HUGELY recommend (again) Spacemasks.  They are groovy little eye-masks that heat up when you put them on, releasing lovely, sleep-inducing, lavender. Watch out though, they're addictive!

So, sleep well my friends, and enjoy that virtual fifty percent pay rise…

In other news, the lovely Ang75 has set up her own blog. Go girl! Here's a link.

If you've started blogging, or have a favourite blog you'd like to recommend, then please leave a link, or the address, in the comments below. All sharing welcome :-)

For more on the ups and downs of quitting booze, read The Sober Diaries - click here (UK), here (USA) or here (Australia). The Kindle price in the UK has just been reduced to £4.99!

Love to you all,

SM x

Friday, 9 March 2018

Making it Happen

I've had a number of e-mails recently from people who gave up drinking at the beginning of January, are now at around day 60 and are suddenly finding it really hard.

If this is you, then you are not alone.

The early part of sobriety is often referred to as 'the pink cloud.' Although you might be scared, you're excited too. It's all a bit of an adventure. And in January, it feels like everyone is on the same sober bus as you.

But, by day 60, all the novelty has worn off, the pink cloud has disappeared, all your Dry January friends are back on the booze and making up for lost time, and you haven't yet got to the point where being sober begins to get really easy and all the benefits start to kick in.

At this point, it's difficult to remember why you're doing all this anyway. You've started to forget why the drinking days were so bad. You're beginning to think that it's really not worth all this angst. You're bored with it all.

So, if that's you, or even if it's not you, then here is a great trick for staying positive, motivated and making it happen:


Mr SM thinks all this stuff is a bit 'woo woo', but I'm telling you, it works.

Find a simple cork board and drawing pins, or just a piece of card and some glue, and cut out pictures from magazines or from the internet that show the future as you want it to be.

How do you want to feel? How do you want to look? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to buy with all the booze money you're saving?

Put the board somewhere where you'll see it every day.

Now, if you've read The Secret, or anything about the power of attraction (also referred to as the power of intention), you might believe that visualising the future as you want it to be actually makes it happen. 

Even if you don't believe in that sort of stuff, just having that board there as a reminder of why you are doing all of this is a really, really helpful tool. It keeps you positive and motivated when times get hard.

In case you're rolling your eyes at this point, thinking that this is all total mumbo-jumbo, I'll tell you a few stories about people you may have heard of who really believe in it....

Back in 2008, Oprah Winfrey revealed that she uses a vision board to 'visualise her goals and harness the power of intention.'

A New York radio station asked Oprah what was on her board.

Oprah said that she'd been at a rally, chatting with Michelle Obama (as you do), and Michelle said to her 'I want you to leave here and envision Barack Obama taking the oath of office.' So Oprah created her first vision board, putting a picture of Obama on it, and a picture of the dress she wanted to wear to the inauguration.

And you know what happened next....

In The Secret, John Assaraf talks about how, back in 1995, he made a vision board which he put up in his office and would look at every day.

John then moved three times, ending up in California.

John opened the packing box containing his old vision boards that had been packed away for five years.

On one board was a picture of a house that he had cut out from Dream Homes magazine. It was the very house he was sitting in. Not just a house similar to the one he'd bought, the same actual house. 

Jim Carrey has talked a lot about the power of intention. Jim says he wrote himself a cheque, when he was trying to break into Hollywood, and he put it in his wallet. A couple of years later, he was signed for his first major movie, and the date and the amount on the cheque he received matched the one he'd written himself exactly.

When I started reading about the power of vision boards, about three years ago, I made my own. It sits by my bed, and my children call it 'Mummy's wish board.'

(When I'm not looking they stick things of their own on there, which is why there's currently a yellow Ferrari in the top right hand corner).

And you know what? At least half the things on my vision board have happened already. (I'm still waiting for the trip to New York and the invitation to meet Oprah).

One of the main images on my board was me at my book launch (well before I'd actually started writing the book), surrounded by my proud looking family and friends. I had to pinch myself hard two months ago, when I realised that I was actually there. In my happy place.

(If you'd like to see the pictures of the book launch, check out my Instagram page).

So make a board, and make your dreams come true!

If you need more motivation to keep on going, then read my book: The Sober Diaries. You can read the first few chapters for free by clicking here and choosing the 'look inside' feature. If you live in the USA, then click here.)

Love to you all,

SM x

P.S. Positive Possum is from the Instagram page of @harri_rose_

Friday, 2 March 2018

3 Secrets to Getting Sober

There are a few dates that we never forget: the dates our children were born, the Battle of Hastings (1066 is the only thing I remember from years of history lessons) and our SOBERVERSARY.

And today is mine!

3 years ago today, I woke up after a rather long and riotous birthday party, and - after trying to cure my hangover by swigging red wine from a mug at 11am - swore I'd never drink again.

One question I've been asked, and I've asked myself, more than any other is what made that time different?

It wasn't - by a long shot - my first attempt at quitting. So, why did it work that time, when I'd failed so many times before?

Well, after pondering that question for three whole years, here's what I think are the three secrets to getting sober:

1.  Knowing that moderation is not an option

I don't think I've met a single big drinker who is really keen, in the beginning, to quit altogether. What we want, what we really really want, is to be able to drink moderately.

We're desperate to get rid of all the bad drinks. The ones you really don't need at 2am, that make you lose your keys and forget how you got home, and accidentally spill your best friend's deepest secret....

...but we don't want to let go of the good ones. The birthday champagne, the toasts at a wedding, the cocktails on holiday.

If you start on your sober journey with even the slightest suspicion that you will be able, at some point, to drink 'normally' then you are unlikely to succeed.

This is because as soon as you hit a hurdle, the wine witch will start telling you that you've done so well. You've 're-calibrated'. You'll never go back to drinking the way you were. Of COURSE you can just have the one...

Then, within a few weeks, you'll be back to where you started, just more so. Because that's how addiction works.

The truth is that if you are addicted to alcohol, if you are an 'all-or-nothing' person, not only is moderation not possible, but it's exhausting. 

It is way easier to just quit altogether, and - after a few difficult months, you'll find a freedom and serenity you didn't think possible.

So, if you haven't yet quit, and you're not yet totally sure about this one, then experiment. Try just drinking one small glass of wine a day and see if it's possible. Or does it drive you crazy?

Have you given up before, for January maybe, and sworn that you'd drink moderately in the future? How did that work out?

Did you ever smoke? If so, were you just a 'social smoker' or were you a total addict? If you quit smoking, do you believe that just one cigarette would send you right back to a packet a day? What makes you think you'll be different with alcohol?

Are you one of life's natural moderators, or are you an all-or-nothing type?

If you CAN drink sensibly, moderately and happily, then go ahead!

But, if you've tried this many times and failed, if you want to quit altogether, forever, than you need to know, deep down to your bones, that moderation is NOT AN OPTION.

By the time I finally quit, three years ago (did I say that already?) I had tried, and failed, to moderate for years.

I'd given up drinking for months at a time, then just one drink would send me spiralling back, like landing on the longest snake in a game of Snakes and Ladders.

I knew I couldn't do it, and - more importantly - I knew that trying to moderate would always make me miserable, as it was sapping away my self-esteem. Every time I failed I hated myself more.

2. Connection

In Johann Hari's incredible TED talk on addiction, he ends with the words the opposite of addiction is connection.

One of the fundamental reasons for AA's success is the 'fellowship of the rooms' - the other people you meet who share their stories and help you on your way, then encourage you to help others in the same way.

I didn't go to AA, but it was the connections I found through the internet that made such a big difference.

Through this blog, and through Soberistas.com, I found women (and men) just like me, who made me feel less alone and showed me the way forward. Whenever I was tempted to drown everything out in a bucket of sauvignon blanc, I'd think about how I'd feel if I let them down.

It doesn't matter where you find your tribe - at AA, SMART Recovery, Club Soda, Soberistas, right here - so long as you find one.

Don't try to do this alone. There's no need to!

3. Belief

I get hundreds of e-mails from people about quitting drinking, and I can generally tell who is going to succeed and who isn't (just yet).

The ones who say 'Today is Day One and I am SO EXCITED!' will make it, and the ones who say 'I know I have to quit and I'm going to try really hard, but I don't think I can do it', won't.

That's because the most important secret to success is really believing that you can do it, and being excited about it.

If you start on this journey thinking that you are depriving yourself of something, then you will never be happy sober. It's like being on a never-ending crash diet.

Instead, you need to believe that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Life isn't ever going to be the same again - it's going to be WAY BETTER (once you're past the hard first few months).

What made me switch from dread to excitement was reading the book Kick the Drink, Easily by Jason Vale. It made me totally change the way I thought about booze. Alan Carr's book does the same thing, as does Annie Grace's This Naked Mind. 

Pick whichever one of those suits you best and read it.

I also recommend (obviously) reading The Sober Diaries (click here, and choose the 'look inside' feature to read the first few chapters free!) if you want to see all the ups and downs, comedy and tears, of the first year without booze, and how it will totally transform your life.

Picture the future as you want it to be - imagine yourself with more energy, more money, a better parent and partner and friend, thinner - imagine liking yourself again. All of that is possible!

If you can do those three things - know you're not a moderator, find a tribe and be excited, then you'll make it. And it will be amazing.

Now, I'm off to eat a piece of cake larger than my own head.

Love to you all,

SM x

P.S. If you are in the USA, you can find The Sober Diaries here.
P.P.S. You can now follow me on Instagram @clare_pooley and Twitter @cpooleywriter

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sober Birthdays

As IT'S MY BIRTHDAY, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on birthdays past (drunk) and present (sober)...

In the last of the drinking years, I'd begun to greet birthdays with a mixture of excitement and dread.

I'd be excited because a birthday is one of the only days of the year when you can properly let your hair down without any guilt or remorse. On a birthday, anything goes, and you have to be forgiven any bad behaviour, right?

But I'd dread birthdays too. Another year gone of nothing much changing and nothing much happening. More broken promises and unfulfilled dreams.

And I knew that it was likely to spin out of control. Which it inevitably did...

I would wake up on my birthday morning, and have to cope with three very excited children with a hangover. Because the night before had been the eve of my birthday! A great excuse to indulge a little more than normal.

And a little more than normal was an awful lot!

Then, because of said hangover, and said birthday, I would - obviously - have a long, boozy lunch.

By the time the evening celebrations rolled around, I'd already have drunk a bottle of wine, and would be well into the second, which meant that half way through the party/dinner/whatever I was up to, I'd be slurring, forgetful, confused and sleepy, and a terrible host.

I'd collapse into bed (possibly before the last guests had left), and then wake up with the 3am horrors, trying to remember which secrets I'd spilled and who I might have upset.

The next day would be ghastly.

The morning after my birthday party three years ago was the day I quit drink for good, and you can read about how awful it was on page one of The Sober Diaries. 

(If you click here, you can read the first few chapters for free with the 'Look Inside' feature).

My first sober birthday, nearly a year later, was a little bit hard. It's difficult not to remember, with rose՛tinted glasses, the ghosts of birthdays past, and to feel a little nostalgic....

....but since then, sober birthdays have been AMAZING.

This morning, I woke up feeling perky, but pretended to be asleep as I could hear the pattering of tiny feet and whispering outside the bedroom door.

I could be genuinely excited as three children and the terrier all piled into our ancient, creaking bed, and Mr SM produced bacon, eggs, coffee and presents on a tray.

I realise now that birthdays are as much about the children as they are about me, and today I can spend the whole day on the same level as them, not looking for ways to escape with a glass of vino.

Kit's birthday present to me is having his hair cut.

He's been resisting this for weeks, and his hair has got so long that he can barely see. As I type this, he's in the barber with his dad, and I'm looking forward to receiving his three inch long sideburns tied in a ribbon... It may be another year before I can get him in there again, so I'm going to make the most of it.

This evening, after birthday tea with the kids, Mr SM and I are going out for dinner and to the theatre in the West End.

It's going to be brilliant, and I won't wake up part way through the play to find that I've fallen asleep on the stranger next to me and am drooling on his shoulder (this did happen once, back in the day).

And I can spend the evening reflecting on a year when I did stuff. Stuff that mattered. 

I faced my fears and exposed all my secrets and vulnerabilities to the world, then discovered that my story was changing people's lives, which is the best birthday present ever.

And I'll fall asleep, tired, happy and sober.

Happy birthday to me, and love to all of you.

SM x

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Me O'Clock

I used to love the wine o'clock jokes and memes.

They made me feel like my daily wine habit was totally normal - expected even. It was all part of being a busy mum, winding down at the end of a day corralling three energetic children.

They were proof that everyone else was doing exactly the same thing. So I didn't have a problem! Despite the fact that I was drinking a bottle of wine every day, not just one glass....

Then, after I quit drinking, I started to hate the wine o'clock thing. It just made me feel left out. It was a constant reminder of what I was missing. And I was ANGRY. Angry that booze had misled me, lied to me and let me down.

Now that I am a seriously happy alcohol-free person (and, if you are still struggling, believe me, you WILL get there) I just give the wine o'clock jokes a wry smile and think (in a slightly patronising way, I have to admit. I am not perfect) you can keep your yucky addictive toxin. I am not interested.

Then I came across a fabulous blogger via my new Instagram addiction (you can find me at @clare_pooley) called Cat Sims. Her blog is called Not So Smug Now. 

Cat was on a Radio 5 Live programme about wine o'clock - titled is #wineoclock damaging or just a bit of fun?, which she then wrote about. (You can find her brilliant post on the SoberMummy Facebook Page).

Cat argues that we're asking the wrong question.

The wine o'clock hashtag, she says, 'comes from a place of good.' Not so long ago, mothers tended to compete with each other, rather than support each other, and the hashtag is an acknowledgment that motherhood is tough.

Cat says that instead of worrying about whether wine o'clock is normalising drinking, we should be concentrating on normalising not-drinking. 

I totally agree.

We need to address the fact that non-drinkers are often made to feel like party poopers, and feel like they have to explain why they're not 'joining in'. 

I don't ask anyone to justify why they're drinking an addictive drug - that's their choice. So I don't see why I should have to justify why I choose not to. It should be accepted that people can choose to drink alcohol, or not. Simples.

This got me thinking....

.....instead of grumbling about #wineoclock, why don't we create our own hashtag. Because the truth is that we still need some wind down time at around 6pm. We still need to feel adult, and we still need to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Don't we?

So, why don't we start using #meoclock?

I'll share this blog post on Facebook and Instagram, with my picture of #meoclock above - that's me and the terrier relaxing with the fabulous self-heating, aromatherapy Spacemasks.

It would be great if you could add your own pictures of #meoclock in the comments on the Facebook page. Or, if you use Instagram, post on there with the hashtag (and please tag me so I can see!)

Let's start a new movement, showing all the alternative, wonderful and wacky things you can do at 6pm that DON'T INVOLVE WINE!

(If you're stuck about what to do at me o'clock, then why not check out The Sober Diaries - you can read the first few chapters for free by clicking here and choosing the 'look inside' feature).

Love to you all,

SM x