Saturday, 29 December 2018
I can't quite believe that it's exactly a year since The Sober Diaries was published.
I wrote this book because I remembered how alone I felt when I was struggling with my drinking. I thought that, in a world where everyone drank, and where my social media feed was filled with wine memes, I was the only person who couldn't handle it.
Somewhere along the line, I'd gone from being someone who controlled her booze, to someone who was being controlled by it.
I read a huge number of books, looking for someone just like me. Most of the - often brilliant - memoirs I read focussed on the horrors of addiction. Some of the stories I identified with, but many I didn't. Then, right at the end of the story, the narrator would say 'and then I got sober and everything was brilliant.'
I really wanted a story that started there, where those stories ended. I wanted a story which went through all the details of how you got sober, and what life was actually like when you did. Was it miserable, as I suspected it would be?
So, a year after I quit drinking, I started writing the book I'd really wanted to read. A year later my fabulous editor - Charlotte Hardman at Hodder and Stoughton - picked up my proposal and took a huge leap of faith.
For three nights leading up to publication, I didn't sleep. I'd written my blog under a pseudonym - SoberMummy - as I was so ashamed about my drinking, and yet I was about to tell the whole world my darkest secrets under my actual name. Was I crazy?
But the truth is, the last twelve months have been extraordinary. I've had one or two trolls, obviously, but they've been drowned out by the tsunami of messages I've had from people all over the world saying I thought I was alone until I read your story and you could be writing about my life and now I know that life can be different. Better. Amazing.
And that gave me the courage to do a TEDx talk on the shame associated with drinking. (click here), and a talk at WOMAD for Radio 4 on the miracles that happen when you quit drinking (click here). And I feel like, I hope that, I'm making a difference.
So, I just wanted to say to all of you, a huge THANK YOU, for all your support over the last 12 months, and CONGRATULATIONS to all of you who've made a difference to your lives, however big or small. You are all superheroes.
And to celebrate 12 months of publication, the new paperback edition of The Sober Diaries is out now in the UK (click here). If you're in the USA, I'm afraid it's still only available in Kindle and Audio (click here).
Merry Christmas and THANK YOU to you all!
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
There are two days of the year when it is really really good to be a sober person.
The first is New Year's Day (coming up soon folks!), and a close second is Boxing Day, December 26th, TODAY.
1. Because you are a Superhero!
If you made it through Christmas Day without drinking, then you are a total superhero.
Being sober in a world where everyone drinks is always a bit hard, but no more so than on Christmas Day, a day when you are drowning in memories of drunken Christmas past, when you're surrounded by friends and family urging you to 'go on, just have one,' and where every image on TV, social media and press includes a bottle of something strong.
If you can make it through the 25th December sober, then you can do absolutely anything, my friend. So give yourself a HUGE pat on the back.
2. It's Never Going to be That Hard Again
The 'firsts' are always the hardest. First weekend sober, first party sober, first sober birthday and, possibly the hardest: first sober Christmas.
Now you know you can do it, and even - I hope - really enjoy it, so next year is going to be so much easier.
By the time you're on sober Christmas number 4, like me, you'll be anticipating and loving Christmas more than you ever did when you were drinking.
3. No Regrets
Remember how you used to feel on December 26th? Hungover. Annoyed with yourself for drinking more than you meant to. Exhausted because you tossed and turned all night. Embarrassed about what you'd said and done the day before?
Well today you get to wake up with no regrets and bags of energy. Whoop whoop.
Having said that, I may never be able to eat again, and I am definitely giving up sugar in January, as I think I've eaten a whole year's worth in just a few days. I'm calling it Savoury January.
4. (*whisper it*) Feeling Smug
Remember all those Christmas parties, when you felt like people were feeling a bit sorry for you? Well, this is payback time.
Most of the world is feeling rather bleurgh, and you get to feel smug. Just a little bit. And quietly, obviously, as no-one likes a smug-face. But too bad, because you get to be one. Congratulations!
5. The Best Present Ever
Often, on Boxing Day, you have a sneaking feeling that at least some of the presents you gave missed the mark, just a little.
(For example, I bought two copies of Frieda, a fabulous book written by a friend of mine, who signed one copy for me and one for my dad. I accidentally mixed up the two books, and gave the copy addressed to me to my dad as one of his Christmas presents, and now it looks as if I re-gifted it!)
However, there is no better present that you can give your family, or yourself, for Christmas than being sober. So this year, you smashed it, my friends.
Please let us know in the comments below how your Christmas was! And, if you didn't make it through the day without drinking, then do not despair! You are not alone. Just climb back on that wagon, forgive yourself, and start again.
The book on my first year sober - The Sober Diaries, has now had more than 250 five star reviews on Amazon, whoop whoop, and is out IN PAPERBACK tomorrow! You can find it here.
(In the USA it's available in audio and Kindle, here).
There's daily inspiration and information on the SoberMummy Facebook page, as always.
Love to you all!
Thursday, 20 December 2018
I'm in Scotland for Christmas.
I drove up here yesterday, with three children, the dog, and a car packed to the gills with presents. It took nearly ten hours. Mr SM is still working, so is following by train tomorrow.
Today, the kids and I ordered a turkey from the local butcher and bought a Christmas tree, which we lovingly decorated while dancing to cheesy Christmas tunes.
I was feeling smug.
So smug that I posted this picture, on Facebook and Instagram, of my favourite Christmas ornament hanging from the tree.
I should have known what would happen as soon as I started feeling like I was really good at this whole Christmas thing. Pride does, after all, come before a fall. And it was a really big fall.
Just an hour after we finished, all nine foot of tree came crashing down onto the kitchen floor, decapitating the Christmas Tree Fairy and smashing some of my favourite glass ornaments as it went and crushing all the lovingly wrapped presents beneath.
In the old days, this would absolutely have been a trigger to open a bottle and proceed to get plastered. In fact, this very house, in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, was the scene of my last relapse.
Christmas is a magical time, but one that is loaded with such high expectations that it's inevitable that stuff will go wrong. It's never going to be as perfect as the Christmas of our imaginations, which is why it's a really common time to fall off the wagon.
Plus, there's that nagging voice saying go on. It's Christmas. You can quit again as soon as it's done.
So, for any of you who are struggling, I thought I should provide a link to an old post of mine on falling off the wagon, how it happens, and what to do if it does. It tells my relapse story, and if you check out the comments below it, you'll see similar stories from many of my readers. You can find it here.
The truth is, it's just not worth it. One drink never is one drink. Before you know it, you're back at square one and starting a new year with a whole belly full of regrets.
So don't give up on giving up now! Read my last post on how to make a sober Christmas fabulous (click here). It's going to be amazing, just you wait. And once you've done Christmas sober once, it's never as hard again.
In other news, The Sober Diaries (the warts and all story of my first year sober) is out in just six days in paperback! You can read the first few chapters for free using the Amazon 'look inside' feature. You can find it here.
There's also information and inspiration daily on the SoberMummy Facebook page.
Merry, merry Christmas to you all!
Saturday, 15 December 2018
If you're approaching your first ever sober Christmas, you're probably feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing.
I was terrified about the idea of Christmas without booze. I thought it would be really hard, dealing with the constant triggers. I expected it to be boring and joyless. I pretty much wrote it off, and just wanted to get through the whole thing as quickly as possible.
Now, I'm approaching my fourth sober Christmas, and I promise you that I am more excited about Christmas than I ever was when I was drinking.
Like all of these things, the first time is the hardest, because it's all so new. You've spent decades doing Christmas one way (drunk), so it's bound to be a bit peculiar trying to do it a totally different way.
I remember when I first got married, being really nervous about Christmas. You see, every family has their own Christmas traditions, timings and rituals that somehow become totally sacrosanct, and you know that as a 'new' family, you're going to have to compromise and merge your traditions to create a new template.
Well, learning to do Christmas sober is a bit like that. It will eventually be just as good as the old Christmases (way better, in fact), but it will be different. You'll have to find new rituals and traditions to replace some of the old ones. But you will.
So, here are my top five tips for a fabulous sober Christmas:
1. Be brutally honest about Christmas Past
Okay, this is the mental 'limbering up' phase. You can start working on this one right away.
It's very easy to look back at Christmas with rose tinted glasses, and to remember only the jolly times. That glass of wine while wrapping the stocking presents on Christmas Eve. The first glass of champagne while cooking the turkey. The glass of red wine with Christmas lunch, and the whiskey while you watch Christmas telly in the evening.
STOP RIGHT THERE.
Go back and look again. Remember what happened next. All of it.
Remember how you drank too much while wrapping the presents and got some of them muddled up (or was that just me?). Remember waking up on Christmas Day with a hangover, feeling meh, and unable to get excited about the day ahead.
Remember getting drunk before lunch, messing up all the timings and forgetting the gravy. Remember the family arguments and falling asleep in front of the telly, missing the end of the film you'd been really enjoying.
Remember Boxing Day, feeling like death.
Does any of that ring any bells at all?
The truth is, Christmas probably stopped being really fun several years ago. The booze wasn't making it better, it was actually sucking away the joy.
Whenever you find yourself yearning after the 'good old days', replace those images in your head with the real ones.
2. Don't try to be Superwoman
This is really important.
You are doing an amazing and brave thing, for you and your family, in giving up alcohol. This is the very best Christmas present you could possibly give. You DO NOT need to make everything else totally perfect and prove yourself some kind of superwoman as well. Do that next year, if you must.
This year, keep it as simple as possible. Don't try to cram in too much socialising or hosting. Don't over promise. If necessary, claim some kind of illness and cancel some things. Just focus on you, and your immediate family. The rest can wait.
Try to build in some time when you can take yourself off and hibernate for an hour or two, and recharge your batteries.
3. Think about What You're Drinking
Make sure that, throughout the day, you have special drinks lined up.
The choices here are totally individual. Some people find 'fake booze' - like alcohol free wines and beers - really helpful, others find them too much of a trigger. Work out what works for you before the big day, and make sure you have stocks in.
I will be having a Seedlip and Fever Tree tonic on Christmas Eve, a spicy Virgin Mary while I'm getting the lunch ready, and a glass or two of Torres Natureo alcohol-free red wine with lunch. The truth is, I'll probably finish the bootle of wine over the course of the afternoon, because old habits die hard.
4. Line up Treats
We big drinkers get out of the habit of treating ourselves, as for many years our go-to treat has been a glass of wine (or similar). Plus, drinkers tend to have very low self-esteem. We don't think we deserve anything special.
Over the next few days have a really good think about other ways to treat yourself over the Christmas period.
Since you're missing all those booze calories, you can buy yourself some yummy foodie treats for the big day. Go wild. It's only one day. Feel no guilt.
Download your favourite books, music and movies. Invest in a pair of snuggly cashmere socks.
I'm going to book my eldest daughter and myself in for a pedicure on Christmas Eve, and I'm taking the whole family to Winter Wonderland.
Plan a giant lie-in on Boxing Day, or a shopping trip to the sales. Think how much cash you've saved by not drinking over Christmas, as spend some of it!
Do whatever you know will make you feel special. Because you are special, and you do deserve it. You really do.
5. Be a Child
I realise now that Christmas is actually one of the easiest times to be sober. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, so bear with me...
The hardest time, I think, to be a non-drinker is at a drinks party. The clue is in the name. The whole event is built around drinking. Often sober people are really badly catered for. You end up with a glass of water wondering what it's all about.
Christmas, however, is the opposite. There is so much going on, over and above the drinking.
Christmas is about friends and family, it's about wonderful food and fabulous company. It's about magic and gratitude and love. It's about music and singing and films and family games and presents.
There is just so much to focus on, and you can properly focus on it, in all its wonderful gaudy glory, when you are totally sober.
Look at children at Christmas time. They are hyperventilating with excitement about it all, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with booze.
Be like them. Be a child. See it all through their eyes.
And if at any point you're finding it hard, then fast forward to the next day, because you know that on Boxing Day you are going to wake up feeling absolutely fabulous and so proud of yourself for having done your last ever first sober Christmas.
Merry, merry Christmas to you all!
By the way, there is loads of info and inspo on the SoberMummy Facebook page, and if you have any friends planning a Dry January, then the paperback edition of The Sober Diaries is out on December 27th (whoop whoop!). You can find it here.
If you're in the USA, you can't get a hardcopy annoyingly, but you can download on Kindle or audio (click here).
Wednesday, 12 December 2018
I'm back. I'm so sorry about the radio silence.
I've not posted on here for a month, nor have I replied to any comments (so sorry if you left one - I’m trying to catch up!) I've not bought a single Christmas present. I've not sent any cards. There were days when I only just changed out of my pyjamas to do the school run. I've not worn any makeup for weeks.
For the last five weeks, I've been editing my novel - The Authenticity Project. The deadline to get it back to my publishers in the UK and USA was yesterday. I made it. Just.
I know I shouldn't grumble, as writing is actually the best job in the world. Whenever I talk about 'my job', my children clutch their sides and laugh hysterically, as they can't believe that anyone can be paid to make up stories. I can't quite believe it myself, to be honest. But the last few weeks have been hard.
For a start, there's the constant self doubt - is anyone actually going to want to read this? Plus, one of my main characters is an addict, and whenever I get to the chapter where he (spoiler alert) falls spectacularly off the wagon, I feel awful. Writing about his struggles getting sober feels much like I'm doing it again myself.
Now I'm done, I'm exhausted. And the hours spent hunched over a laptop, mainlining mince pies for energy, mean that I'm physically out of shape and have done my back in. I'm a wreck. And Christmas is approaching like an out of control steam train...
So, now the manuscript has left my desk and hit the desks of my editors, I can concentrate on getting fit, and getting my s**t back together in time for December 25th.
And it's so fabulous to be back here with you guys. I'm so sorry for abandoning you!
I'll post here in a day or two on how to survive Christmas without the booze, and I am still posting information and inspiration every day on the SoberMummy Facebook Page (click here), 'like' page to stay updated.
In other news, The Sober Diaries is coming out in PAPERBACK with a brand new cover design on December 27th. You can pre-order here.
Huge love to you all!