Friday 22 May 2020

Is Your Lockdown Drinking a Problem?

Surely if there's one time when we really deserve a drink or two at the end of the day, it's a global pandemic?

After all, we can't see our friends, go to the pub or out for dinner. How else can we celebrate getting to the end of a difficult day of Zoom meetings and home schooling? So long as it doesn't become a problem...

But how do you know if it's a problem or not?

I, like many people, used to think the answer to that question was black and white. The world, we are told, is divided into 'normal drinkers' and 'alcoholics.' Alcoholics, I assumed, were people who poured vodka onto their cornflakes in the morning and passed out on park benches. If you didn't fit into that category then you didn't have to worry too much about your alcohol intake.

I know now that this is not true.

For a start, drinking issues come in sliding scales of grey.

Just because you don't fit the stereotype of a problem drinker does not mean that your drinking isn't a problem. It can still be giving you insomnia, anxiety, weight issues, relationship problems, compromising your immune system and raising your risks of getting cancer.

Also, just because you never used to have a problem with alcohol doesn't mean you can't develop one.

Many people who contact me for help had no issue with their drinking throughout their twenties and thirties, but then spent much of their forties trying to ignore the increasingly insistent nagging realisation that it had all somehow got out of control.

If you've found yourself waking up at 3am, worrying about how much you - accidentally - drank the previous evening, or Googled Am I an alcoholic? Or clicked on this article because you just want to prove to yourself that the answer to the question in the headline is no, then here are three danger signs to look out for:

1. Drinking for the wrong reasons

Usually, when we start drinking as teenagers, it's a social thing. Alcohol helps us to relax when we're feeling a bit apprehensive and awkward, it puts the swing into a party and gets everyone onto the dance floor.

If you're only drinking as a means of social lubrication, it's unlikely to give you any major problems. Unless, of course, you're going to parties every day of the week. Which is unlikely to be the case right now.

However, if you're using alcohol as a form of self-medication, as a way of dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, then that is an issue.

It's an issue because alcohol only solves those problems temporarily.

Alcohol is a depressant, and over time it increases your anxiety levels and exacerbates depression. And the worse you feel, the more you drink. Before long, you're stuck in a horribly dangerous negative cycle which just sucks you further and further down.

2. Breaking your own rules

When the world was a different place, and most of us left home to go to work, it was relatively easy not to drink too much. You'd have to wait until you got back from the office before pouring a drink.

Now, that's probably not the case, and you've probably set yourself some rules, or guidelines at least.

Maybe you've resolved not to drink during the week? Or not to drink before 7pm? Or not to drink more than two glasses of wine a day?

The rules you choose aren't actually important. What is important is can you stick to them?

If you find that you're constantly breaking your own - perfectly reasonable - rules, then your drinking is becoming a problem.

3. Thinking about drinking

I used to think that everyone spent quite a lot of time thinking about drinking. I had no idea that people without drinking issues don't really think about it at all. Unless they're offered a drink, it rarely crosses their minds.

However, people like me, who have gradually become addicted to alcohol without even realising it, find that they are spending increasing amounts of time thinking about it.

Am I going to drink today? Do I have enough booze in the fridge, or should I go shopping? Can I justify another glass? Surely I deserve it?

That insistent voice in your head, which anyone with any form of addiction will recognise, just won't go away, and the more you try to stick to your rules, the louder it gets.

If you've read this far, and if you've seen yourself in any of this, then the bad news is your drinking probably is a problem.

There is lots of good news, however.

First off, you are not alone. There is so much help available - much of it virtual. Check out Club Soda on Facebook,, Janey-Lee Grace's Sober Club and my SoberMummy Facebook page.

Secondly, now really is a fabulous time to quit. Most people find socialising and parties the hardest things to navigate when they first stop drinking, and right now you can happily avoid all of that, and just hunker down with a mocktail, some popcorn and Netflix.

Finally, and most importantly, if you do decide to stop drinking, you'll discover that you're actually not giving up anything at all, but gaining so much. Before long you'll be less anxious, sleeping better, and you'll be so much happier, healthier and more energetic.

If you're at all sober-curious and want to know what to expect if you quit drinking - all the highs and all the lows - then check out my memoir, The Sober Diaries.

And if you're looking for some feel-good fiction as a healthier way of de-stressing and forgetting all about coronavirus for a while, then why not read my new novel (a Radio 2 bookclub pick!) The Authenticity Project. You can read the first few chapters for free using Amazon's 'Look Inside' feature.

Stay safe and well, my friends.

Clare Pooley

You can find out more about me, or contact me privately, via

Monday 13 April 2020

Why a Pandemic is the Best Time to be Sober

Like millions of people around the globe, I feel like I'm living in an unfamiliar, and unwelcome, parallel universe. 

The TV I watch, books I read and vivid dreams I have show people hugging, kissing, travelling, partying and working in offices. My diary is filled with festivals, concerts and theatre trips, parties and a few holidays - events that will never happen. 

Instead, we are all living in a world of isolation and fear. Even if we are lucky enough to be healthy, we worry for our friends and family, for our livelihoods, for the world.

At a time like this, it's easy to think that alcohol will help. Indeed, alcohol sales in the UK have increased by around 50%. My local supermarket's booze aisle has been stripped bare, and my social media feed is filled with memes about alcohol being the only way to survive all this. 

And yes, alcohol does - temporarily - blur all the edges. It softens our reality, which needs an awful lot of softening right now. It provides a well-deserved treat at the end of the day, when our lives are suddenly devoid of pleasures. And surely now is not the time to make our lives even harder by denying ourselves a drink?

I get it. But, now really is the very worst time to be drinking.

Firstly, alcohol increases anxiety. I know that seems counter-intuitive, but it really is true. Yes, initially it makes your shoulders relax and you can feel yourself unwinding. But, as the alcohol leaves your body, that anxiety returns magnified, often in the middle of the night.

Sleep is difficult enough at the moment, and alcohol makes it much worse. Booze might lull you off to sleep, but it'll wake you up at 3am and taunt you until your alarm goes off.

Keeping the ship afloat right now - trying to work from home while simultaneously home-schooling, providing endless meals, cleaning and doing all that worrying - is really, really hard, and so much harder if you throw a hangover into the mix. 

Also, drinking makes us short-tempered, and when you're stuck in a small space with your family, you do not want to add fuel to the fire of any simmering resentments.

Added to all of this, alcohol is a drug. The more you drink, the more your body and mind come to rely on it. And, like being on holiday but without any of the fun, a pandemic is a time when all the usual restrictions don't apply. You probably don't have an office to go to. You can start drinking earlier and earlier in the day and pour increasingly large measures - and you probably will. It's very, very easy to turn a moderate drinking habit into a serious problem.

There are some really, really good reasons to be sober right now.

Once you're past the first hard days of not drinking, being sober makes you so much calmer, stronger, and more able to cope. You probably have parents or children, or both, relying on you, and you really want to make sure that you're up to the challenge.

Also, alcohol messes with your immune system, and everything we know about this terrible virus tells us that the fitter and healthier you are, the more likely it is that you'll be able to shake it off relatively easily.

If you've been secretly worrying about your drinking habits for a while, this is actually a really good time to quit.

The hardest thing about the early days of going sober is other people. Dinners, drinks parties and holidays are tough to start with, so often the newly sober will self-isolate for a while, just like you're doing right now. You can easily empty your cupboards and fridge of alcohol and not go near the booze aisle when doing your weekly shop. It's probably empty in any case!

One of the things I'm most grateful for right now is being sober. 

If I were still drinking, I would be constantly anxious about where my next drink was coming from. Then I'd feel guilty about that anxiety, when there are so many more important things to worry about. I'd have emptied the cupboards of loo roll and pasta, and filled them with wine. I'd be (even more) bad tempered with the kids and the husband, and would be spending my evenings comatose and my mornings hungover.

Just writing that paragraph makes me feel queasy.

So, if you're thinking about quitting drinking, do it now. Then, when the world finally gets back to normal, you'll be in the very best shape to make the most of everything it has to offer. And if you're newly sober and struggling, don't make the mistake of thinking that alcohol would make it easier. it would only make everything so very much worse.

To read about my first year sober, and for hints and tips on how to do it and what to expect, read my memoir - The Sober Diaries.

For more information and inspiration, check out my SoberMummy Facebook Page. I'm doing a Facebook Live session on Thursday at 8.15pm UK time (after the clapping).

If you'd like to take your mind off everything and are looking for some feel-good fiction, my new novel - The Authenticity Project - is out now!

If you'd like to find out more about me, or to contact me privately, go to

Love to you all. Stay safe and well.

Clare Pooley (aka SoberMummy)

Sunday 29 December 2019

What Happens When You Tell Your Truth?

Welcome to Mummy was a Secret Drinker. If you've found this page because you're looking for help quitting drinking then WELCOME!

All the information and support you need is in this blog. There are hundreds of posts, all free to read and share.  Click here for a good place to start! You can also find daily advice and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

If you're looking for more information about me and what I've been up to recently, plus my recent blog posts, you can find me at

I can't believe it's nearly five years since I started writing this blog, and two years since I published The Sober Diaries, the warts-and-all story of my first year without booze.

I'll never forget the long, dark nights before publication. I hardly slept. I was utterly terrified, not just about the book being out there, but about the fact that I was booked to appear on Woman's Hour, the Steve Wright show and Lorraine, and was going to be all over loads of publications, including the Daily Mail.

I hadn't been booked to discuss some impressive charity work, or business venture. I was expected to tell the whole world my darkest secrets, how I'd found myself drinking around ten bottles of wine a week, how I'd become a terrible mother, how I'd been anxious all the time, hugely overweight and unable to sleep. How I'd hated myself.

By December 28th 2017 I was convinced I'd made a terrible mistake. Was it too late to pull the plug? It was. The books had been printed, the advance paid, the PR lined up. I thought I was going to be horribly trolled, by people telling me (with some justification, I thought) that I was an unfit mother and a terrible human being.

You see, I'd spent YEARS covering up all my weaknesses, filling in the cracks, hiding my recycling bins, freshening my breath and curating my social media feeds. If you looked at my life from the outside it all looked pretty damn perfect.

But I gritted my teeth and did everything my publishers told me to do, then waited for the fall-out.

It never came. There were a few horrible comments in the Mail Online (my favourite was if I was her husband, I'd be drinking a bottle of wine a day!) but that was it. Instead what I got was a deluge of messages from people all over the world saying thank you for telling your story, because until now I thought I was the only one who felt like that...

What I discovered was that telling your real truth not only changes your life, but can transform the life of so many other people too, and create magical communities.

And that made me think. What would happen if we all told the truth about our lives? 

I started writing again, but this time a fictional story, about a little green notebook titled The Authenticity Project in which a terribly lonely widower and artist - Julian Jessop - tells his truth. He leaves the book in a cafe where it's picked up by the owner, Monica, who resolves to track him down and transform his life.

The book is passed between six people including Hazard, a cocaine and booze addict and Alice, a mummy instagrammer, who all write their stories in its pages, leading to a life-changing world of friendship and forgiveness.

I wasn't sure whether anyone would be interested in my novel which, like this blog, I wrote partly as a form of therapy, but - incredibly - it's being published in twenty-nine different languages in 2020.

If you'd like to read The Authenticity Project, it's out on February 4th in the USA in all formats (click here to pre-order), and in audio and e-book in the UK (click here to pre-order). The UK hardback is out on April 2nd, and other languages throughout the year.

A huge thank you to everyone who's followed my journey. I am so grateful to you all. And if you're new to this blog, then know you are not alone. Thousands of us have been where you are, and life is going to get so much better...

Love Clare x