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 www.clarepooley.com

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




Friday, 5 April 2019

Mother's Little Helper, or Mother's Ruin?



Did your family give you a present on Mother’s Day this year? Breakfast in bed maybe? Flowers? A home-made card?

In the days BS (Before Sober), my three children always knew what to give me as a present, because they knew what Mummy’s favourite hobby was: drinking wine. 

So, they’d buy me a corkscrew. A bottle stopper (ironic, since there was never anything left in a bottle of wine once I’d opened it). A giant wine glass with ‘Mummy’s glass’ etched onto it. You get the picture. 
            
This year, my kids gave me a frame, with a photo of me and the three of them inside it. This made me all tearful, as I realised that now my focus isn’t distracted by wine, it really is on them. Not entirely on them, obviously, but more so.
            
I might not have been given booze on Mother’s Day this year, but an awful lot of women in the UK were. 

Between 2016 and 2018, gin sales doubled to over £2 billion, and the sales peak – 2.6 million bottles – was in March, coinciding with Mother’s Day. 

In the weeks leading up to the big day, retailers bombarded us with alcohol based presents. I saw a bottle of wine branded ‘Mummy Fuel’, wine bangles (hollow bracelets filled with wine) and wine purses (handbags with a built-in wine pouch and a tap on the outside – yes, really).

How did we end up in a place where motherhood is synonymous with wine? Or gin? When did ‘mother’s ruin’ become ‘mother’s little helper’? Why did we all start buying into the myth that it’s impossible to be a mother without some form of anaesthetic?

I had my first child in the early days of this century – 2003. That was when the ‘mummy blogger’ first appeared, and back then mothering was all about perfection. We wanted to do it brilliantly. 

We read Gina Ford and The Baby Whisperer. We tried to bake perfect cupcakes and make home-made playdough. We bought organic vegetables and spent hours pureeing and freezing them into little ice-cubes. 

And we were knackered.  We felt like failures. Because motherhood is really hard, and perfection is unachievable. You just need to give it your best shot, and forgive yourself.
            
So, by the mid noughties, the backlash began. The perfect-mum-blogger was replaced by the slummy-mummy. 

We cheered! We threw Gina Ford in the bin and bought ready-made baby food from Ella’s Kitchen. We laughed about our failures on Mumsnet. And all of that was a really good thing, but along with it came wine-o’clock.
            
When we decided to shout about motherhood being difficult, we also started joking about how we managed to cope. And how we managed to cope was WINE. 

As social media took off, so did all the wine memes. Wine o’clock. Why Mummy drinks. Mummy juice. 

The retailers and marketing departments were really quick to jump on the bandwagon, and then start driving the train. We didn’t feel bad about pouring ourselves a large goblet of wine at the end of a long day, because it was ‘me-time’, we were worth it. And everyone else was doing it too.

The problem is that wine is a drug. 

That sentence looks really obvious to me now, but it wasn’t back then. How could something so beautifully packaged, so ubiquitous, joked about all over social media, be an actual drug? After all, you wouldn’t joke at the school gates about being desperate to get home for a line of cocaine, but everyone admitted looking forward to that first glass of wine.

But it is. A drug. And, like any other drug, your tolerance increases over time, so it no longer takes one glass of wine to help you unwind at the end of the day, it takes a whole damn bottle. And when you’re drinking several bottles of the stuff a week, it’s not just your shoulders unwinding, it’s your whole life.

I honestly bought into the myth that wine helped. I thought it made me more relaxed. When I’d had a day filled with nappies and wipes and Monkey Music, a glass of wine made me feel adult again. I thought it made me more tolerant with my kids.

The scary thing is, alcohol does exactly the opposite. 
            
Alcohol made me anxious all the time. It made me rush through bedtime stories so I could get to the fridge. It made me short tempered and grumpy with my kids. And it made me a terrible role model. I was teaching my children that grown-ups need a drug in order to be able to cope with everyday life. To be able to cope with them. 
            
So, this Mother’s Day, I looked at that photo of me with the three of them, looking relaxed, happy, present, not wishing the time away until it was wine o’clock, and I realised that sobriety is the best gift ever, for you and your children.

To read about my first year sober, and for lots of hints and tips, check out The Sober Diaries. You can find it here (UK) or here (USA).

(I wrote this article for Catherine Gray's Sober Spring campaign, in conjunction with Alcohol Change).

Love to you all,

SM x

Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Best New Sober Blogs



I'm really not exaggerating when I say that blogging saved my life.

I'd tried to quit drinking many times before, and I'd kept it up for a week or two, sometimes whole months, but eventually I'd end up back where I started. Usually worse than where I'd started.

I'm often asked what made the difference this time, and the answer is simple: blogging. Here's why:

Community

In Johann Hari's amazing TED talk titled 'Everything you thought you knew about addiction is wrong' he says that the opposite of addiction is connection. It's finding a group of people who understand what you're going through and can support you and guide you that makes the difference.

In the dark days, when I was desperate for a drink, and when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, that community held out its hand and saved me.

Giving back

Alcoholics Anonymous have 'giving back' as one of their twelve steps. Helping other people in the way that you've been helped is good for the soul. It also helps to remind you where you've been and to feel grateful for where you are, and gratitude is crucial for good mental health.

Blogging is a great way of giving back.

Mindfulness

We all know that mindfulness is a really good thing, but it's really difficult for we addicts, because we often have what's known as monkey brain. Overactive minds that just won't shut up - that's why we drank, for the dimmer switch that alcohol provides. It also makes things like meditation really, really difficult.

However, blogging, or any form of reading or writing, is a great way of practising mindfulness, and of keeping your thoughts in the moment.

Therapy

Therapists often prescribe 'journalling' as a way of aiding recovery. Writing down what you're going through and how you're feeling on a daily basis is a great way of understanding where yourself and your issues.

Remembering

One of the main reasons for falling off the wagon is because you start feeling SO much better, and then you forget how bad it was. You forget why you're doing all this. You think maybe this time it will be different. Having a blog to remind you what it was really like and why you quit is really helpful for times like these.

I get lots of messages from people who've started sober blogs, and are finding it really therapeutic, but finding readers initially is hard, particularly if you want to stay anonymous and don't want to share your blog posts on social media.

Often, by the time people have found them, they've been sober for a year already, and those readers are missing out on helping the writer through the hardest, early days.

That's why I'm writing this.

If you have recently started a sober blog, or podcast, or YouTube channel and you would like people to find you then please leave a few lines about your 'thing' and your web address in the comments below.

Also, if you have recently come across a brilliant new blog, or podcast or whatever, then please recommend it below.

If you've recently quit drinking, or want to do so, then check out the recommendations below for some new virtual friends, who are going through exactly what you are. You can help each other.

I will share this post on all the SoberMummy Facebook page, and will add it to the pages at the top of my blog, so it's always accessible if you're wanting to promote or to read.

If you get a chance to share this post too, then please do. Let's all help each other, spread the word and the love.

And if you'd like to know more about my first year blogging my way through going sober, you can read The Sober Diaries. Available from Amazon here (UK) and here (USA).

Love to you all,

SM x