Thursday 27 April 2017

Police Cars and Cashiers

When I started this blog I thought I was fairly unique. But not in a good way.

I didn't think there were many 'ordinary mums' like me who were wrestling on a daily basis with the wine witch, or whose lives were secretly out of control.

I quickly discovered that I was wrong - I really wasn't alone.

I found out that were many women (and men!) out there, just like me. They mailed me their stories, and they were all spookily similar to mine.

But the funny thing was, not only were we alike in the reasons why we started drinking, the way it escalated, how it was making us feel and our inability to moderate (I still can't type that word without gritting my teeth), but many of my quirks and neuroses, it transpired, are terribly common.

That's why youboozeyoulooze (find her blog here) asked me to post a link to a piece I wrote a while ago on Police Cars and Cashiers (click here).

I still remember vividly the times I spent fretting about being judged by cashiers, and how much effort I went to to avoid seeing the same ones. And I still get a thrill now when I drive past police cars late a night knowing for certain that the breathalyser holds no fear for me.

But quitting booze is hard, which is why I'm sharing an article sent to me by an Australian (male!) reader, w3stie. (In my fevered imagination, he's just like Mike Dundee, all rippling six pack, great sense of humour and able to take down a crocodile with his bare hands).

The article is by Felicity Ward, an Australian comedian and columnist, who talks about why she quit drinking and what's happened to her life since. Here's a taster:

I wondered how I'd ever have fun again. I wondered if I'd be boring for the rest of my life. I wondered how people would know I was a wanker if I didn't order a Penfolds 389 with my dinner.

So initially I just shut the world out for a bit, went cold turkey and kept a low profile. Oh, and I cried. A lot. Sometimes I'd walk around my apartment and have to lie on the floor all of a sudden because the sadness was too heavy. That's something they DON'T tell you about giving up alcohol.

When you stop drinking, you find all these things you'd forgotten about for years ... like FEELINGS. You know: fear, insecurity, self-loathing.

Oh, that's why I was drinking. I seeeee...

To read the whole article (which I heartily recommend and which does - spoiler alert - have a happy ending) click here.

Lots of love to you all, and thanks to w3stie!

SM x

Friday 21 April 2017


Alcohol addicts often talk about having 'monkey minds'. I like to think that we are particularly interested and interesting people, whose minds just won't stay still. (Or maybe we're just slightly more crazy than the average person).

Sometimes we just want a little peace. An escape from all the endless thinking, analysing, worrying, predicting. And that's what the booze does for us. It stills the mind and allows us to relax, to change gear, to de-stress.

That's what I missed most when I first quit drinking - the ability to transport myself to a little oasis of calm with just a few sips (glugs) of wine.

Buddhists believe that one of the keys to happiness is learning how to still the mind. But, predictably, Buddhists are very anti-booze, advocating meditation instead.

Back in the early days of being sober I tried meditation. I was a complete failure. I downloaded a meditation and tried to sit still for ten minutes concentrating on my breathing. Ten minutes had never felt so long.

The more I tried to ignore random thoughts the more they jumped up and down demanding attention like errant toddlers. Then the dog jumped on my lap and started licking my face, the sort of thing I'm sure never happens to Gwyneth Paltrow.

I didn't try that one again. Until a few days ago.

I've finally downloaded an App that several readers have recommended - Headspace, and I've been doing a ten minute meditation every morning. I'm a convert.

Not only does Headspace give you ten minutes of calm in your day, it also teaches you how to deal with negative and unhelpful thoughts (without diving for a bottle).

So, next time you really, really want a glass of wine, try a Headspace meditation instead. Once you've got over feeling like a bit of an idiot, it really does work.


SM x

Thursday 13 April 2017

Black Sheep

I don't know if it's the result of being sober, or my age, or my recent brush with possible death, but I've been affected more by the signs of Spring this year than ever before.

The branches laden with blossom, daffodils in the hedgerows and newborns in the fields all strike me as unbearably poignant.

We're in Scotland for Easter, and the field at the back of the house is filled with tiny, Instagram-worthy, frisky little lambs.

They're all snow white except one, who's jet black from the tip of his tiny nose to the end of his twitchy tail.

I'm with you, buddy.

I've always felt an affinity with the black sheep. I've always seen myself as a rebel. I've always wanted to colour outside the lines, push the boundaries, break the rules and ignore the government guidelines.

One thing I still struggle with about being sober is the thought of being too good.

But then I looked at all the lambs playing in the field and I thought if those are a bunch of people out on a Friday night, then which one is the black sheep? Which is the outlier, the rebel, the individual?

It's me. It's us. It's those of us brave enough not to drink when everyone else is.

So, feeling reassured that I've still got 'it', I went to the fridge for a Beck's Blue and spotted the redcurrant jelly and mint sauce, all ready for the traditional Easter leg of lamb.

What do you think the family would say to a nice nut roast?

Happy Easter to you all,

SM x

Tuesday 11 April 2017

What Would You Do?

I came across a YouTube video last week. It's a 'social experiment' where they film a sixteen year old boy drinking vodka from a bottle on the streets of New York to see what will happen.

Predictably, most people walk straight past, although many look shocked or concerned. A few stop to check if he is okay.

Then, a middle aged man comes up. He looks genuinely worried and sincere. He takes the boy by the arm and says this:

What are you doing, man? You can't be drinking. You're too young to be drinking.

When I was young like you, I was drinking. I lost everything. I lost my home, lost my children, lost my car, lost my job. It's a no-win situation. I ended up being homeless. For a year. Just because of this bottle.

Don't drink, man. Don't drink. You're too young. You've got youth on your side. You don't want to be homeless and losing your family and everything, do you? Because this is the worst. It's a no-win situation...

And you know what I learned?

I learned, yet again, that ex-drinkers are the bravest, wisest and most compassionate people out there, and that sharing your story is the most powerful thing you can do to help others following behind you.

It also made me think: why is it that we see the sight of a sixteen year-old drinking so shocking, and yet we expect it of eighteen year olds? And few people bat an eyelid at a forty year old drinking to excess every night of the week.

Surely anything that we instinctively know is wrong for children is also not good for adults?

Anyhow, here's a link to the video: click here. Let me know what you think.

Huge congrats to Philippa, my e-mail buddy, on TWO YEARS sober! 

Love to you all,

SM x

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Make Life Simple

Back on Day 96 I wrote a post on de-cluttering and an idiot's guide to feng shui (click here).

It's quite common for the newly sober to become obsessed by cleaning and de-cluttering. It keeps our hands busy and off the wine bottle, and it gives us back a sense of control over our environment and our lives.

Plus, in the early days it really helps if you can keep your life as simple and uncluttered as possible, that way you can focus on you, and the important stuff, like not drinking.

So it helps to evaluate your life mercilessly, to work out what makes you stressed and, therefore, want to drink and ditch it, perhaps just for a few weeks, or - if possible - permanently.

I decluttered my house, pared down the wardrobe so it only contained the stuff I was actually likely to wear, went through the fridge and freezer binning anything past the use-by date and any duplicates (why three jars of redcurrant jelly?), then said 'no' to any additional work, school or charity commitments that weren't absolutely necessary.

Then I found that, once you've simplified everything down to the essentials, you can see what's really important, and what's needed. You discover you're missing a pair of black trousers, butter and a fitness regime.

Over the last two weeks I've taken exactly the same principle and started applying it to my e-mail inbox and it's changed my life!

I used to get hundreds of mails a day, but most of them were just trying to sell me stuff I didn't want or need. Every single company I'd ever bought anything from or shown interest in felt able to bombard me with endless junk.

Am I the only person in the world that hadn't worked out how easy it is to UNSUBSCRIBE?

Just in case the answer to that query is 'no', here's what you do: just scroll down to the very bottom of the junk mail until you find the word 'unsubscribe', then click it and follow the (usually simple) instructions.

I've been doing this about fifty times a day for the last two weeks and, as a result, I've completely de-cluttered my inbox.

Instead of receiving hundreds of junk mails a day, I now get a small handful. The vast majority of mails I receive are proper ones. Ones from people I've actually met, or at least spoken to.

This means that now, for the first time, I can see what's important. And I can see the gaps. I suddenly realise that I'm not half as busy or in demand as I thought I was. It's given me the incentive to mail some friends to organise stuff and to tout for more work.

I'm totally addicted to UNSUBSCRIBE (once an addict, always an addict). If only I could use it for the rest of my life. Competitive parenting: UNSUBSCRIBE! Refereeing sibling arguments: UNSUBSCRIBE! Endlessly loading the sodding dishwasher: UNSUBSCRIBE!

If you've received this post by e-mail and it's just cluttering up your inbox and irritating you, please feel free to UNSUBSCRIBE.

If, however, you'd like to join my e-mail list then go to the home page of my main website (if you're on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on 'view full website') and you'll find a box in the top right hand corner saying 'subscribe my e-mail.' Just stick your e-mail address in there.

(All mails are blandly titled 'A New Post From SM', rather than anything embarrassing like DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL?)

Love to you all,

SM x