Monday, 26 September 2016

Kristi Coulter

We're used to all those funny memes about drinking going viral on Facebook - little jokes about wine o'clock and MummyJuice.

Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can....and wine to accept the things I cannot.

Etcetera, ad infinitum.

But this summer an article went viral about not drinking. Halleluiah! Perhaps the tide is turning.

You may have seen it. It cropped up on my Facebook newsfeed and was sent to me by a couple of lovely readers who'd also spotted it. It's by Kristi Coulter and has the (not so pithy) title: Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink.

Click here to read it. It's very funny and very true.

Kristi's article also reminded me of a truth about quitting booze: like bereavement you go through several stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. When Kristi wrote her piece she was definitely at the angry stage.

She's angry about being surrounded by booze, and mentions of booze, all the time. She's angry with all the demands we women place on ourselves, the compromises we're forced to accept and the fact that - as a result - we end up self medicating with alcohol.

Kristi asks:

Is it really that hard, being a First World woman? Is it really so tough to have the career and the spouse and the pets and the herb garden and the core strengthening and the oh-I-just-woke-up-like-this makeup and the face injections and the Uber driver who might possibly be a rapist?

Is it so hard to work ten hours for your rightful 77% of a salary, walk home past a drunk who invites you to suck his cock, and turn on the TV to hear the men who run this country talk about protecting you from abortion regret by forcing you to grow children inside your body?

I mean, what’s the big deal? Why would anyone want to soften the edges of this glorious reality?...

.....Is there nothing so inherently absorbing or high-stakes or pleasurable that we won’t try to alter our natural response to it?

Maybe women are so busy faking it — to be more like a man at work, more like a porn star in bed, more like 30 at 50 — that we don’t trust our natural responses anymore.

Maybe all that wine is an Instagram filter for our own lives, so we don’t see how sallow and cracked they’ve become.

She has a point. Several points, actually. All a bit shouty, but very pertinent.

Kristi's theory - that we drink to take the edges off the lives we have made far too hard for ourselves - has implications for when we quit.

Firstly, at least in the early days, you have to give yourself a break. The definition of madness is trying to do everything the same and expecting a different result.

Take all those chores, tasks, situations and people that make you want to reach for the bottle and just....cross them off the list for a while. No-one's going to die (unless you're an ambulance driver).

Have early nights or, if you can, afternoon naps. Let the diet and the gym go to hell (unless you find them helpful). Buy yourself presents.

And, secondly, if you no longer have booze as the quick, easy, catch-all relaxant, you need to find something to replace it.

We all find our thing. It might be mindfulness, meditation, yoga, running, colouring, knitting, gardening or writing. Or something else. Anything else.

Gradually, you'll find ways of adding that Instagram filter to your life which are life enhancing, not soul destroying.

And then, like Kristi, you'll find that you've made it to the other side. Here's how she describes a recent outing with her friend Mindy, also in recovery:

On Sunday morning we’re reading by the deep end of the hotel pool when the shallow end starts to fill with women, a bridal party to judge by what we overhear.

And we overhear a lot, because they arrive already tipsy and the pomegranate mimosas — pomegranate is a superfood! one woman keeps telling the others — just keep coming until that side of the pool seems like a Greek chorus of women who have major grievances with their bodies, faces, children, homes, jobs, and husbands but aren’t going to do anything about any of it but get loaded and sunburned in the desert heat.

I give Mindy the look that women use to say do you believe this shit? with only a slight tightening of the eyeballs.

The woman on the other side of her catches the look and gives it back to me over her laptop, and then woman next to her joins in too. We engage in a silent four-way exchange of dismay, irritation, and bitchiness, and it is wonderful.

Then Mindy slides her Tom Ford sunglasses back over her eyes and says, “All I can say is it’s really nice on this side of the pool.”

I laugh and my heart swells against my swimsuit and I pull my shades down too, to keep my suddenly watery eyes to myself.

Because it is. It is so nice on this side of the pool, where the book I’m reading is a letdown and my legs look too white and the ice has long since melted in my glass and work is hard and there’s still no good way to be a girl and I don’t know what to do with my life and I have to actually deal with all of that.

I never expected to make it to this side of the pool. I can’t believe I get to be here.

I can't believe I get to be here either.

Thank you, Kristi,

Love SM x


  1. You sent me in search of 'who is' KC....and I found a pretty interesting soul. On her blog, amongst the responses to her essay was this line (with a two word edit by me):

    'My wish is for everyone to have a life that...needs no escaping...'

    A life that needs no escaping. I'll have (do now have, thankfully) one of those!!

    1. That is so awesome! Thanks NorthWoman!

    2. That is such a perfectly beautiful aim. Thanks for posting x

  2. Building 'a life that needs no escaping' is a perfect summation. Thanks to you both for the inspiring thoughts!

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  4. That is an great article! Thanks for sharing SM x

  5. After two months of not drinking I can honestly say that I am finally experiencing a life that needs no escaping. What a wonderful feeling to be 'on the other side of the pool'. Also, I have found that since I quit drinking, and now have gotten over the initial slump of overwhelming tiredness, my energy has returned ten-fold. I find that on weekends I want to clean and organize and garden and read and go running and play with my baby. It is enough to keep my mind busy and stay away from the booze. Thank you for all of your blog posts, SM. They have kept me going. I am a better woman for finding your blog. Xo

  6. That Kristi Coulter article is epic. I LOVE it. I am currently trying to say silent about a wine tasting event I know about being held for 16 year old school children at their school(I kid you not). The drink is everywhere and once you stop, the truth about the opiate like effects of it on our quality of life can't be ignored.

  7. It is good to be on this end of the pool, I think those women down in the shallow end know it, too. If they are like I was, they're probably hungover and beginning to face the fact that they're going to be hungover again the next day, while they're not ready to admit it yet, they're beginning to wonder what it would feel like. To know that you're going to be okay, always. Like those sober girls at the other end. To become the person you no longer want to escape from.

  8. I'm a very slow swimmer but I am finally making my way toward this end of the pool. Your blog and others has been invaluable!

  9. We live in a really strange environment where women have to be all things to all people. This DOES drive us to drink. Time to wake up and smell the insanity, and just stop getting swept up by the madness. Take responsibility and say, I don’t accept all of these unrealistic expectations and I refuse to be a part of it.

  10. Hi SM, another great post..I am still trying to make the changes needed to have "my life that does not need escaping" but am 6 months AF today.......your blog has played a massive part in my being able to achieve this first hurdle...thank you so much..xx

    1. Huge congrats on 6 months! Awesome work! Big hugs xxx

  11. I can't get there, to the other side.