Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Possibility List

One of the many side effects of heavy drinking is how it makes your life gradually smaller and smaller, until - if you get right to rock bottom - it's just you in an empty room, staring at the bottom of an empty bottle. It strips your life of possibility.

(See my post Let Me Not Die While I Am Still Alive)

Children are the antithesis of this. Their whole lives are filled with possibility.

They could become brave firefighters, visionary artists or life saving surgeons.

Our job as parents is to ensure that as many doors stay open for them as possible, that they have the courage and the confidence to walk through those doors, and that we support whichever choice they make.

As we get older, more and more of the doors shut. That's life. I know, for example, that I will never, ever be a ballet dancer. That door slammed behind me many years ago, along with a whole corridor of others.

Problems arise when you suddenly realise that there are no more doors to choose from. You're totally stuck in a rut.

This, I believe, is what leads to your classic mid life crisis, or just a low level rumbling depression.

It's what makes men buy a Harley Davidson and run off with their PA, and it's what makes women drink more and more. (Please forgive the stereotypes! I'm all for women buying Harley's and finding themselves a toyboy, obviously).

When I was still at University, and the world was my oyster, I had this theory of the Possibility List.

Back then, the list was about boys. I was, I would tell me friends (at length), perfectly happy being single, so long as I had a good Possibility List.

The possibility list was the list of men (boys) that you could, or might, go out with in the future. It would go something like this:

1. William - sweet and earnest. You know he has a crush on you, but you suspect he's just a bit too wet.
2. Richard - gorgeous rugby player. Currently has a girlfriend, but there's definitely a spark there, and who knows what may happen when his relationship finally fizzles out.
3. Harry - You've locked eyes several times during lectures on micro-economics. He hasn't made a move yet, but you're bound to see him at Ariane's party on Saturday....

The thing about the possibility list is that it gives life a feeling of optimism, of possibility, of momentum. It makes you realise that any current issues you have are temporary, and all you need to do is be open to potential and cast out a few fishing lines.

My Possibility List theory caught on, and many an hour was spent with girlfriends (accompanied by lots of cigarettes and bottles of wine) writing and re-writing lists, ordering and reordering priorities and, with much ritual, crossing off candidates who'd fallen short of expectations.

(Perhaps if I'd spent more time reading Keynes and writing essays I would have got a First).

If you've recently quit drinking don't worry about the possibility list. Just hunker down, be good to yourself and eat cake (if necessary). Just not drinking in itself is opening your world up to endless possibility.

However, if you've been sober for a while then think about casting out a few of those fishing lines. Think about creating a few more open doors. Join a dating site. Send out your CV. Sign up for an evening course. Life is short, and we've wasted enough of it.

After a decade of digging myself a rut and then getting well and truly stuck in it, I have finally taken action. Over the last two weeks I've submitted my young adult novel for two unpublished novel awards, plus I've sent it to a literary agent. I was terrified, but realised that I have absolutely nothing to lose (see my post Feel the Fear).

I've also started working on the plot for an adult novel with a deeply flawed heroine who is (surprise surprise) a secret drinker, and I've taken on an unpaid job doing marketing for a charity event.

All of this may come to nothing, but - for the first time in years - I have a possibility list, and that feels good.

Happy, sunny, sober Sunday everyone!

SM x


  1. SM you are amazing. After all these months you remain positive and the great blogs keep coming. You have been instrumental in my sober (nearly 9 months) journey. Keep up the great work. We need you. Big hugs LNM x

    1. P.s I don't think I need a harley but how old did you say your brother-in-law is?!? lol x

    2. And you are one of the reasons I'm still here and still positive, LNM!!! I'm afraid the brother in law is no toy boy ;-) xx

  2. Fantastic SM! I applaud your actions! I can't wait to read it. How cool is this SM? You know something? I look back and think how far we've come!
    Boston Strong, Boston Sober!

  3. you are a fantastic writer, this blog as a book would be great.I think you will definitely write a v worthwhile book about women and alcohol one day x

  4. Hi SM I love reading your blogs.They are so inspiring and uplifting.Good luck with the book (s).I am not teetotal but have drastically cut down what I drink as I head towards 50yrs old.All the best to you.

  5. How nice.... I love that you're seeking a possibility list! Can't wait to hear more about your books!
    I think it's time for me to get my ass in gear and make myself a list! I must feel the fear and get passed that shit!
    Your twin is back in the blogging world. I need to be I almost picked up a drink last week! I'm so happy you're well.
    Sober Mommy

  6. Yay to possibilities (and don't forget the bunch of those of us out there rooting for you and who have everything crossed)

  7. Life is full of possibilities. We just need to let them come to us. When I don't drink, I accomplish so much with much lesser effort. When I drink, life stands still. Thank you for inspiring me to create my own possibility list.

  8. Thanks for the wonderful blog. I've been following it through my 3 1/2 month journey. Also thanks for your suggestion to read Jason vale's book. It has given me a wonderful outlook on how to live my life without feeling that I am missing anything at all! Keep up the great work!