Thursday 5 November 2015

When Life Throws You Lemons

I, like many of you, was a 'high functioning' alcohol addict. I never (well, hardly ever) dropped a ball, my guard or (God forbid) my knickers. I kept the ship afloat pretty well on a bottle of wine a day.

I now realise this was only possible because my life was blessed. I have a great marriage, happy, healthy children and active parents. We're solvent (most of the time), and relatively secure.

But sometimes life throws you lemons. Divorce, bereavement, a sick child, a major illness. Suddenly, out of the blue, your life can shift on its axis and never be the same again.

And, however easy it was to stay on track in the good times, that's when the wheels start to come off and everything falls apart. That's when 'high functioning' quickly morphs into 'low bottom',

I was thinking about this the other night. I woke up to find little fingers around my neck. #3 had had a nightmare, and had crept into our room and snuggled into bed between us.

I remembered being that age (very nearly seven), and the feeling that if you were with both your parents then absolutely nothing can harm you. It's like being enclosed in an impenetrable magic circle of safety.

It reminded me that I am the leader of this pack. That utter certainty, that innocence of my children, is totally in my hands. If I fall apart then everyone falls apart, and, like Humpty Dumpty, no-one will be able to fix them without the cracks showing.

If I had had to deal with cancer when I was drinking I know for sure that this is how it would have been different:

When I found the lump, instead of getting it checked immediately, I would - with the help of a few glasses of wine - have pushed it to the back of my mind for at least a few weeks. Alcohol, as you know, gives us false confidence. And those few weeks could have made all the difference.

When I got the diagnosis I would have gone on a bender. And being drunk (or hungover) makes us self centred and unaware of those around us, doesn't it? I would have cried (a lot) in front of the kids. I would have ranted and raged. Then I would have disappeared into my room and not emerged for some time.

In one fell swoop I would have destroyed the confidence and security of my family. I'd have pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall and mocked all the kings horses and all the kings men as they tried to put them together again.

Instead everything carries on as normal, around all the endless hospital visits - and it's that normality that's keeping me sane, as well as them.

I hold everything in my hands, and I'm keeping it safe.

You, too, are pack leaders. You are responsible for your cubs, your partners, your aged parents.

One day life will throw you lemons, and it's down to you to be strong enough to greet them with a sharp knife and a grater, not a large gin and tonic.

Make sure you're ready. For them, as well as for you.

Here endeth the lesson!

SM x

P.S. Mr SM has just called me from work where, it appears, he has been reading my blog. He is outraged. He wishes it to be known that he is, in fact, Pack Leader. My response? "Yes, dear."


  1. This was really what I needed to read today as I waste my last day off until Xmas hungover on the sofa. I really, really hope this will be my last… Been thinking of you, Cesca x

  2. I get these thought too. The how things could have been. And they are never pretty.
    It is those thoughts that remind me that high functioning is such a dangerous term. Because usually it means coping so things look ok from the outside.
    But are shaky and rotten inside.

    Not only are you a rock for your kids, but you can take their love and support and use it for you. That is a beautiful thing.

  3. Amen. I am finally the mother I always should have been and my children are grown. I'm so glad you didn't wait that long, that you can recognize how your drinking altered you and how it would have permanently altered your children. Smart girl.

  4. This is so true.. Sometimes it scares me how thin a wire things are held together by. My youngest has just started grasping the idea of death. She squeezes me tight and says "mummy don't ever leave me" in the back of my mind I know I'm slowly killing myself with alcohol. I just wish I could stop digging before those lemons hit.


  5. Dear SM, I am back. Head held in shame/pride. Tried gave up lasted 13 days, posted once back in June. Back again day 3. Love love your blog, you totally rock. I thought you and others might find this article interesting at this point. I am amazed what happens when people declare they are giving up. The horror, the "you can't possibly?"the what will you, me, us do without wine?" That makes me even more determined to give up. It feels quite sad that we don't remember existing without alcohol. This article by the fabulous Hannah Betts is brilliant summary of the benefits. Alongside your fabulous life changing blog.

    Good luck for your continued recovery... I am so very pleased that although a shock your diagnosis and treatment has been swift and is thankfully limited. Thankful for you that this limit is the only one you need in your beautifully expanding life without alcohol. Keep writing and creating - you have a rare gift and thanks to the stars and back for helped get me back on course when I really really needed it. To be there for my family... and that moment you describe of being able to be wholly there knowing you are not thinking elsewhere.

    I am sure I will be back, posting, "finding my pack" trying to just get to the next day alcohol freed.


    1. Welcome back Eowyn, and well done you getting back on the sobercoaster! Hang on tight - we're with you! You can do it. Huge hugs xxx

    2. Thanks so much SM. I am a bit ashamed I have been so rubbish and had a few false starts. If it is okay I will keep reading and commenting to help keep me from feeling too isolated and to help keep me on track. Hope you are feeling okay post operation and recovering okay. Look after yourself and massive thanks. Big hug. X

    3. Eowyn, good for you for picking yourself up after a fall! There are many people here rooting for you!

  6. And I am a much better wife and daughter to my aging mom.

  7. Dear SM - love this. You've hit the nail on the head once again. I so need to nail this now whilst life is sailing along more or less without a hitch so I have it sussed when I'm thrown that curve ball. My cubs will need me then even more than now. Your pack are so lucky to have you so strong for them. Hope you're still recovering well and not too sore etc. thanks again for your awesome blog. Love SFM x

  8. You are so right! It's ironic and sad that the stress of all the responsibilities of life choices makes you drink to cope until suddenly it doesn't help any more. I drank too much to reward myself for getting through long days and sleepless nights with young children. Sometimes the reality of the responsibility that having and raising children brings is huge. I'm just so glad I've seen sense now that they're a bit older and more aware. And funnily enough I've found that I've been able to cope oh so much better without wine fog! Hope you're feeling well xxx