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


65 comments:

  1. Enjoy your cake, and many thanks for sharing (your thoughts and tips, not the cake, although I'm sure you would if you could) just getting to my 7 weeks anniversary, so your timely reminder that I need to be excited about my new sober life hit the right spot. Cheers!

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    1. Yay! Go Chris! Huge congrats to you xxx

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  2. Congratulations Clare - three years WOW! 🎉🎉🎉

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  3. Happy, happy 3 years Clare! Thanks to you I have 60 days ! Actually 61 - yay! Have a lovely Soberversary. And eat all the cake! You so deserve it. xx

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    1. Whoop whoop! Huge congrats on 61 days 🎉👏👊🏻

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    2. xxx����

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  4. Happy soberversary SM. I won't forget yours because it's the same day as mine! Today is 1 year, 12 months, 365 days since I quit and I couldn't be happier or more pleased with myself. As you said, for some of us moderation is not an option. I quit for a whole year in 2012 and then told myself I had it beaten and could now drink socially. Well, within three months I was back to a bottle ( or more ) a night. Well, as the song goes, I won't be fooled again.

    I've lost over 10kg, I'm healthy and I feel like I've got some control over my life again. Like you Clare, I'm looking forward to the next chapter, and I have a good idea what it entails.

    Happy soberversary :)

    love

    Rob

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    1. Happy Soberversary back at you, Rob! I couldn’t be more thrilled for you! That is totally amazing! Huge hugs 😘

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  5. Thank you so much Clare. You hit the nail on the head as always. Congratulations on 3 years! I am now 61 days sober and am finding it very very hard all of a sudden. I need to re-read your book. I'm thinking about alcohol frequently whereas a week or two ago it wasn't bothering me as much. I've started to tell all my friends now. Some shocked. Some are proud. I went to a party last Saturday - free bar etc and one of my pals who I hadn't seen for a while said they were struggling to have a conversation with me because I was sober! They wasn't used to me being 100% with it at a party! I'm hoping this pressure will pass. It has to and I'm determined to see it through. I can't go back. Jacqueline x

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    1. Hi Jacqueline! I think the stage you’re at is the hardest. The novelty has worn off, but you’re not yet over the wall! Keep on going and it will get easier! I’m sorry about your friend! You know it’s their problem, not yours! Huge hugs xxx

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  6. Hi Clare. After several weeks of lurking and reading your story from the beginning I am finally taking the plunge and commenting. Yikes! Congrats on 3 years! I am 31 days happily sober and going strong. I relapsed 7 years ago and it has taken me this long to finally say "I am done". You and other bloggers are keeping me afloat along with my very supportive husband and 2 friends. I am in my 60s and urge others to quit before they get to my age. The longer you wait the more regrets you have. Thank you to all the courageous bloggers out there. I plan to connect with many more of you. God bless you!
    p.s. Clare, I chuckled at your reference to Hastings, you are so right. As an Expat my email is USBrit1066 lol

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    1. Yay! Well done Joni! Keep on going, you’re doing brilliantly! 😘

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    2. '....the longer you wait, the more regrets you have..', thank you. At 52, I needed to hear that (6 days in and exhausted with it all)

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  7. Yay for you Clare!!! You are so right .. The way forward is to be excited by the new opportunities rather than bemoaning the old ways :-)) I am now a year and a half and the difference is sooo amazing. Also at 63 I am a Grandma and so confident and comfortable looking after my little Grand Girls in a way I would never have been. So it is never to late :-) Happy weekend all...

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    1. That is so wonderful Jacs! Big congrats to you! 😘

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  8. Congratulations on your 3 year soberversary Clare. You’ve helped so many people and achieved so much in that time. You, and to a lesser degree, Jason Vale have been the biggest factors in my own sobriety. I’ll raise a glass of non alcoholic wine to you tonight. x

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    1. And I raise one back at you, DJ! Huge thanks for all your support and encouragement ❤️

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  9. Congratulations. You are changing the world. It’s a pleasure know you.
    Love, stillness and peace
    Anne

    Ps, I’m sharing this one. It’s perfect.

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    1. You led the way, Anne! 😘😘😘

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    1. Thank you lovely Wendy! (Did you see you’re in the acknowledgements in my book?) 😘

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  11. Congratulations on your 3 year soberversary! ! Amazing !
    Mine will be 2 years on 13th March !

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    1. Whoop whoop! Go girl! Spoiler alert - the third year’s even better....

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  12. Congrats on 3 years! I hit 3 years on Feb 18th and it felt really good. Reading Jason Vale's book changed everything for me, I was just going to stop drinking for Lent but his book opened my eyes to the truth about alcohol !l

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    1. Huge congrats lovely threesomes, and big thanks for your awesome review on Amazon.com 😘

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    2. I love when you call me that! haha it makes me giggle.

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  13. The three points you shared are dead on...Congratulations!!!

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  14. Congratulations on 3 years! You rock! (As do I too lol coming up to my 28th Month wooop wooop!)

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    1. Incredible! Welll done! 💃🏻🙌🏻🎉

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  15. Congratulations on 3 years Clare! I'm so pleased you decided to blog whilst walking out into the unknown. Your posts have really helped me over this past year. I am now 96 days sober. I never thought I'd get past Christmas (sorry) but that was the part of the "obstacle course" that gave me the biggest sense of achievement. Thanks once again xxx

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    1. Wow! Nearly at the big 100! So proud of you!!! Next Christmas will be easy peasy!

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  16. The TED talk by Johann Hari is very powerful. Thank you for sharing. And nice job with the three years!

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    1. Thank you! There’s more TED talks and other inspiring stuff on the SoberMummy Facebook page!

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  17. Im 28 days today! I saw your book on selfish mother and thought it sounded interesting. It changed my life. The initial start was bumpy with a couple of stop starts but you, & my husband, gave me the momentum and courage I needed to go for it. I’m so grateful every day to you for your honesty, and for helping me to feel less alone. I’m excited by my new sober life, I’m so much happier, the future seems brighter. My first sober holiday is coming up and I’m looking forward to drinking a virgin mojito in the sun and taking dawn swims with my girl whilst her daddy sleeps. You’ve changed my life, thank you so much and huge congratulations on your soberversary! I tried to post I anonymously but the damn thing just would not work. Emma x

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    1. Hi lovely Emma! I’m so pleased you found me! Thank you Selfish Mother! You are doing brilliantly, and Sober holidays are the best! Big hugs to you xxx

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    2. Thank you! I just saw your reply and it made me smile. I was feeling a bit shaky today and this cheered me up no end. Onwards and upwards. That Wine witch can take a long running jump. Xxx

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  18. Happy Soberversary!!!!! This was one of my favorite posts yet!!! So thankful I found you when I started my sober journey!!! COuldn't have done it without you! xo

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    1. Oh I do love you, Soberat53. 😘😘😘

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  19. Gosh, 3 years, congratulations. When I started you were so far ahead of me it seemed impossible, but like Wildcatmaisie my own 2 year soberversary is on the horizon - year 3 here I come. Your Obstacle Course blog is still high up there on my recommended list. Looking forward to seeing you soon (hope you enjoyed your little party with your tribe!) Treen xxx

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    1. Yay! Can’t wait to celebrate your 2 years Nana!

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  20. 3rd time lucky! Posting this comment not an attempt to go SOBER! Day 8 of first attempt. Thank you SM for your soberversary blog. Your an inspiration and all the people on this blog are incredible. I truly believe I will be posting a soberversary too. Blogs/forums got me thru 4 years of IVF and couch to 5k got me running at 45. I know this blog will get me fabulous and SOBER at 50 (2 years). Defining moment....6.y.o putting a bottle of wine (not a glass) at my seat when set to g the table and looked proudly at me 'mummy here is your wine'. I was devastated and saddened. I had an alcoholic mother.... SOBER virtual hugs. No name yet...I haven't 'come out.

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    1. My kids would do that sort of thing too! They are so proud of me now! And yours will be too! Huge congrats 😘😘😘

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  21. Congrats SM, and what a wonderful post. I went a little quiet for a while - but I thank you for helping me through a one year abs period. Then I thought I'd try moderation again (it's in my moniker) and while it wasn't nearly as bad as before it started to creep as you said. And let's face it - as we get older our bodies don't do as well with that poison. Happy to say I'm back on the abs and have passed six months and feeling great. I also got my hardback copy of your book when I visited the UK recently. Not signed - but I did see an Eeyore mention in there - thank you kindly.

    Congrats again for all you're doing. I hope you start the trend of making booze like cigarettes have become. It will take some time - but it's a great start. E

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    1. Eeyore!!!! I’m so pleased you’re back! I’ve missed you! I wondered where you’d gone and so thrilled you’re okay 😘😘😘

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  22. Wow congrats on 3 years Clare that’s amazing!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️ I agree with all of those 3 points especially connection, I’ve said it so many times before that without you and your blog I couldn’t have done it, and I will be 16 months this month!!! Woo hoo!!!

    Enjoy the cake you deserve it!! 👍🏻😊💗xxx

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    1. You are amazing Ang! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

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  23. Hi SM ,
    I love your posts !!
    Everything you say is sooo true, especially about moderation and self belief.
    If we could moderate happily then we would. I was a moderate drinker but a happy one ?? No.
    I know where I am now. I don't drink.
    I don't want to drink and yes I'm bloody happy about it.
    I make plans I know I will keep, I'm more relaxed, I'm calmer . There's just more free time all the time now drinking has been taken out of the picture.
    I'm 7 weeks AF now and it's the best decision I ever made .
    Happy anniversary xxx

    Sarah B

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    1. Yay Sarah! Huge congrats to you on 7 weeks! 🙌🏻👊🏻🎉

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  24. Happy Soberversary I'm 60 days now so big thanks to you x

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    1. Brilliant work Fran! 😘😘😘

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  25. You're so right about the kick-ass attitude. And I got it from the books and the blogosphere as well. We have the same tribe. And somehow, it works! Congrats on three years! (I'm almost at two, but I'm guessing I'll never catch up.)

    Shawna

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    1. Let us know when it’s your soberversary so we can help you celebrate! 🎉

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  26. Hi Clare, I know I can kick this, and beat the wine witch! Having read several books and blogs in last few months including yours, I am back to day one again! You have been so very inspiring and your story is close to home as I’m a mum with three children! I think connection is what I have to bring into my battle! I’m will do this and am so excited for the future! ��

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  27. Clare, I am not typically the blogging type, but I couldn't resist thanking you. I am on day 2 of the third try to a healthy sober lifestyle and discovered your diaries. Listening on my drives through audible, I almost had to stop in shock...I thought you were sharing MY experiences in a life of drinking! (except only 2 children, not so high society and throw some vodka into the mix during the weekends). It's only day 2, but you have so motivated me! The sobriety path is the road I must take, every other road has been a dead end (or maybe more like a round-a-bout :)) I didn't realize until recently how many shared similar experiences with alcohol and am excited and scared for this journey, but know my time to conquer overdrinking is now.

    Congratulations on your Soberversary! Cheers to the journey!

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    1. Yay! I’m so glad you found my story (and didn’t crash the car!) hugs 😘😘😘

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  28. Happy soberversary you lovely lady!

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  29. Congratulations and Thank You--You are a truly great human being!

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  30. Need a bit of motivation. Sobriety has bought about some amazing gifts but also made me grieve my mother properly and not surpress it with booze. Beer Twat has been calling me. Thanks for your tips. Im gonna listen to some chapters of your audio book for inspiration too x Thanks Emma x

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  31. I am currently a 45 year old married working mum of 2 and have in recent months drank a couple of glasses of wine nearly every night of the week. (Should I also put overweight in the above description?). I’ve started to read your book and it’s like viewing myself. I do wonder if it has to be all or nothing but then does that make me doomed to fail?

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