Thursday, 18 January 2018

Be Your Own Best Friend

I took this photo two days ago.

I was in a cafe with my friend, Harriet, waiting for the results of my blood tests.

Those of you who know my story will be aware that I am a breast cancer survivor. As a result, I have regular check ups at the cancer clinic to make sure that there aren't any pesky cancer cells rampaging around my body.

Currently, breast cancer that spreads beyond the breast and lymph nodes (secondary breast cancer), is incurable. So waiting for those test results is a bit.... nerve wracking. To say the least.

So Harriet came with me to hold my hand. And I took this photo to remind myself of the true value of a great friend.

You see, Harriet is a busy lady. She runs a business from home. Her incredible Spacemasks are so popular that the Royal Mail come to her house to collect her mountains of boxes, packaged up by herself, often with hand written note.

But Harriet wasn't too busy to take a whole morning out to sit in a hospital waiting room with me. And I wasn't exactly sparkly company.

True friends, I realised, will always put you first when you're having a tough time.

They don't expect you to be perfect. They applaud your strengths and forgive your weaknesses, which they know are what makes you human.

A real friend doesn't expect you to always be on best form. They know that sometimes you just need to sit quietly and have a hug.

And this got me thinking. Why is it that we are unable to treat ourselves the way we'd like our friends to treat us?

So, please, if you are having a tough time - whether you're giving up the booze or another addiction, going through a divorce, coping with illness, or just dealing with the lemons that life sometimes chucks at us, then treat yourself like your own best friend.

Make time to look after yourself. Give yourself a hug, by taking some time out to relax, buying yourself flowers, booking yourself a massage. You deserve it.

And stop judging yourself! We often focus on our faults and ignore our strengths. See yourself the way your best friend does - flawed, yes, but awesome.

And you know what the amazing thing is? If you start to really believe that you are worthy of friendship, you attract even more friends, and you'll have even more hands to hold.

And if you have a friend who's going through a hard time, please be like Harriet.

When I was drinking (a lot), I spent an awful lot of time thinking about myself. Usually negatively.

Now I have so much more time and energy that I can properly focus on other people, and I'm a much better friend. Still not perfect, but better.

And, by the way, the blood tests were all clear! Whoop whoop!

You can read my story, of quitting the booze (and getting breast cancer) in The Sober Diaries. Click here to go to my Amazon page. You can read the first few chapters for free using the 'look inside' feature.

There's loads more information and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook page here, and you can now follow me on Instagram at @clare_pooley

Love to you all,

SM x

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Let's Stop Being Anonymous!

I realise that I'm not one to talk here.

When I first quit drinking, I told no-one. Except my husband, as it was pretty obvious to him.

I told no-one because I was embarrassed. I was ashamed that in a world where everyone drinks, I was unable to control booze. I thought I was the only one.

I imagined that if I told my friends that I'd quit that they would judge me and assume that I'd been a terrible lush (partly true) and a terrible mother (not true, at least not most of the time).

I thought they'd label me boring and stop inviting me to parties. I thought they'd worry that I'd become all preachy and judgemental (as if I'm in a position to judge anyone!).

I created a pseudonym, SoberMummy, and found you guys, my fellow sober warriors, on the internet.

So, after all this anonymity, it felt a little ironic, to say the least, to find myself on LIVE TV last week.

That's me on the sofa on the Victoria Derbyshire show on Friday. I'm going to be on the Lorraine show tomorrow morning (Monday).

You see, I realise now that if we all stay silent then nothing will change and, more importantly, it's our stories that change the lives of those following on behind us.

I did a webinar (until recently I didn't even know what a webinar was!) on Soberistas last week (it's up on their website, under 'webinars'), and talked about the power of the first moment when I realised that I was not alone.

I was driving my car along a dual carriageway and listening to Woman's Hour on Radio 4. A lady came on called Lucy Rocca. I nearly crashed my car, because she started talking about my life.

As Lucy talked about her issues with booze, I realised that I was not alone. As she talked about her life since, I realised that there was hope and that life without booze might not only be possible, but actually enjoyable.

At the Golden Globes recently, Oprah said "what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have."

And she's right, because our stories change lives. They make people feel less isolated and they spread hope.

And you know what I've discovered since I came out with a bang (yet more evidence that I'm an all-or-nothing person and just can't do moderation!)?

When you tell your truth, loudly and proudly, when you make yourself vulnerable, people applaud you and support you. They don't judge (with the exception of a few trolls on the Mail Online).

Since my book came out two weeks ago, telling my story in all its gory detail, I've had literally hundreds of messages from people all over the world saying that's my life you're describing. I'm so relieved I'm not alone!

(To buy my book, The Sober Diaries, click here. Or you can read the first few chapters for free using the 'look inside' feature).

When I first started talking to publishers, some of them said "Your book might sell on Kindle, but no-one is going to want to be seen holding a book with Sober in the title."

Well, they were wrong, because last week loads of well known Instagrammers posted pictures of themselves HOLDING MY BOOK! Loud and proud!

I was so chuffed that I actually started Instagramming myself. I'm not very good at it yet, but if you'd like to follow me, I'm on @clare_pooley (Don't forget that underscore, or you get another, very confused, Clare Pooley!)

Things are changing, my friends. It's starting to become not only okay to confess to quitting the booze, but positively fashionable! 

So, once you're feeling comfortable, and you can face the inevitable questions that arise, then do consider COMING OUT and joining the Sober Revolution!

Hurrah for us!

There's loads of new stuff on the SoberMummy Facebook page (click here to go there, 'like' to stay updated) including an incredibly poignant 'farewell to alcohol' written by an old advertising buddy of mine, and great articles on quitting booze from The Pool and The Guardian.

Let's say NO to sober shame,

Love SM x

Saturday, 6 January 2018

5 Ways to Get Through Wine O'Clock

That's my actual kitchen clock.

I used to watch it tick, slowly slowly, towards that position, with the big hand on the twelve and the little hand on the six, when I could legitimately pour myself a (very large) glass of wine.

If you recently quit drinking (WELL DONE YOU!) you'll be finding that this is the very hardest part of the day. You're tired, stressed, fed up, and your go-to solution (possibly your only solution) to all of those feelings has, for many years, been booze.

You miss it! Of course you do! It leaves a big hole in your life.

But fret not, because over time you will find many better and healthier ways to fill that gap and to wind down at the end of the day - things that won't leave you feeling hungover, unhealthy and miserable.

The booze cravings don't last that long. You just need to find ways of getting through the next hour and then, if it's really hard still, go to bed early with a good book and a hot chocolate (hot chocolate has magical powers).

You'll wake up in the morning feeling AMAZING!

So, here are some great ways of getting through that witching hour. Do please add your own suggestions in the comments below!

1. Get Drinking

No, not booze, obviously!

I always, always pour myself a 'special' drink at wine o'clock.

There's no reason why you can't still relax in a great armchair with a yummy, adult drink and congratulate yourself on a day well done - just make sure it's alcohol free!

There are a HUGE range of great alcohol free beers now (Becks Blue was the only option when I first quit. As a result it still has a special place in my heart...).

My new favourite, however, is Seedlip - a fabulous alcohol-free distilled spirit, available from Amazon. It's not cheap, I'm afraid, but at least you won't be drinking the whole bottle in one sitting!

I even made a YouTube video (I know! I'm so trendy, right?) of how to make my favourite Seedlip mocktail. Click here.

A really good grown-up drink helps trick your brain into winding down. I sometimes think Becks Blue saved my life.

2. Get Distracted

Don't just sit there thinking about booze - get busy!

Exercise boosts your serotonin levels, giving you a natural high, as does getting outside, so go for a long dog walk, or a run - get away from the fridge with all its wine memories.

If you have young children at home and can't get out, then you could do what I did in the early days and get cleaning! Again, it's great exercise, it keeps your hands busy and your mind occupied, and you end up with a gleaming house. What's not to like?

3. Get Relaxed

If you can't face the physical exercise then try relaxation instead.

Why not just curl up in a good chair and read?

In the early days, I read everything I could get my hands on about booze. It fed the obsession, but also helped me realise that I was not alone and gave me knowledge, which is power.

If you haven't done so already, then read the Sober Diaries. Click here, and chose the 'look inside' feature to read the first few chapters for free!

Other recommendations are: Jason Vale's Kick the Drink, Easily - the book that changed my life. It will totally reprogram the way your brain sees alcohol.

My favourite memoirs are Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story and Sarah Hepola's Blackout.

I love a great page-turner novel based around a boozy heroine. Read Marian Keyes's Rachel's Holiday, Jane Green's Summer Secrets, and Paula Hawkin's The Girl on The Train.

There's also new inspiration and information about quitting booze posted every day at wine o'clock on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here to visit, 'like' page to stay updated.

A long, hot bath with bubbles, good music or an audio book, and low lighting is another great way of relaxing.

And here's a new trick I've discovered: SPACEMASKS.

They're awesome. They're funky eye masks that you pop over your eyes, then you lie back and chill as they heat up and release incredible aromatherapy stuff.

If you're having problems nodding off to sleep then this is your solution (along with a magnesium supplement at bedtime).

To find Spacemasks, click here.

You need to take time out and look after yourself. You are doing an incredible thing. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. Let the kids play Minecraft for a bit.

4. Get Connected

In Johann Hari's incredible TED talk, he says that the opposite of addiction is connection, and it's true.

Find yourself a tribe - either online or in real life - who will give you love and support, and who you can help back.

My favourite online communities are Club Soda, Soberistas and Recovery Buddha (who you can find on Facebook), but there are many more.

5. Get Mindful

Mindfulness is a great way of relaxing and taking your mind off the whole booze thing.

You can us the Headspace App to guide you through ten minute mediations.

If, however, you're like me and meditating makes you feel like a bit of a pillock, then you can do anything that keeps you totally focused on the moment.

For some people that's yoga, or knitting, or gardening or art, or playing the piano - whatever floats your boat and keeps your mind and hands busy.

If you live in or near the Scottish Borders then you can keep yourself distracted at wine o'clock on January 31st by coming to meet me in St Boswells at the wonderful Mainstream Trading Company.

You can get tickets here. Please come! I'd love to meet you!

Love to you all,

SM x

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A Crazy Day

I woke up early on NewYear's Day, after a wonderful, life-affirming New Year's Eve party with old friends, and all our children, up in Scotland.

We had to pack up and do the long drive south, in time for me to get to the BBC studios the next day, as I was booked to appear on Radio 4's Woman's Hour to talk about my book, The Sober Diaries.

I was terrified. I'd never done a radio interview before, let alone a live one.

I quite often find that I get half way through a sentence and then completely forget where that thought had started and where it was supposed to be going. The idea of drying up like that on national radio was horrifying!

Plus, I hadn't been booked to talk about a fabulous charity initiative or an innovative new business, I was expected to discuss all my darkest secrets - the ones I've spilled out over this blog, while hidden behind a cosy little pseudonym.

So, on the drive down, I asked the family to give me some interview practice.

"Go on," I said, "ask me whatever you like."

"Who is your favourite child?" Asked Maddie. I was pretty sure that Jane Garvey wasn't going to ask me that one!

The next day, I arrived at Broadcasting House and was shown into the green room.

Here's a secret, my friends: It's not green. Not even a green sofa, or rug. Not even a plant. You heard it here first.

Luckily, I wasn't doing the interview alone. I was joined by the lovely Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. As she's read my book and I've read hers (it's great), I felt like we were already old friends.

We had a short chat with the wonderful Jane Garvey, who is every bit as brilliant and lovely as you would imagine from hearing her voice, and then took our seats in the studio and watched the clock count down to ON AIR.

And you know what? It was okay. It was almost, but not quite, good fun!

I was reminded of the quote by Will Smith that I've posted on before: On the other side of your maximum fear are all the best things in life.

Shortly after finishing at Radio 4, I arrived at Radio 2 for a pre-recorded interview with my hero, Steve Wright.

While I was waiting, Steve's sidekick, Janey, came over to see me, clutching a copy of my book.

"Please will you sign my copy of your book?" She asked, "I totally loved it." And, you know what, she wasn't kidding, because she quoted several scenes from it.

Janey's enthusiasm and general loveliness (I now have a total girlie crush) meant that I was way more relaxed by the time I went into the studio with her, Steve Wright and the third member of the trio - Tim.

And they made it great fun! It was like a mini cocktail party, but without the booze (obvs).

At the end of the interview, Steve asked one last question: "Which was your favourite interview? This one or Woman's Hour?" It struck me that this just like being asked which is your favourite child, so perhaps I should have practiced that one after all!

If you'd like to listen to the Woman's Hour interview, you can find it here, and the Steve Wright interview is here.

By the time I got home again, I'd been inundated with amazing messages, on this blog, on the SoberMummy Facebook page and my e-mail. Many of them said I heard you on the radio and you could have been describing me. I'd thought I was the only one...

And I remembered that that's why I'd decided to write the book in the first place. Because I haven't forgotten how scared I was when I was first contemplating quitting the booze and, in the words of President Snow in The Hunger Games, "the only thing stronger than fear is hope."

That's what I think my book can do for people like me. Provide hope. Hope that a life without booze is not only possible but wonderful.

And it is. It really, really is.

Love to you all,

SM x