Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sober School Holidays

Schools everywhere are breaking up for the summer holidays.

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday, and I came across several variations of the same meme: a headline saying SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER, then a caption saying KIDS over footage of children going wild with excitement, a caption saying TEACHERS, over footage of adults doing the same, then a caption saying PARENTS over footage of a mum looking harassed and glugging from a glass of wine bigger than her own head.

Each of these memes has had millions of views.

In the old days, I would have merrily added my own comment and shared to all my Facebook friends. Then I would have cracked open (another) bottle of vino, secure in the knowledge that everyone else was doing the same thing. Facebook said so.

This summer, however, I realise - more than ever - that wine does not make the summer holidays flow more swimmingly. Quite the reverse.

The kids, dog and I are up in the wilds of Scotland. We have a house which is, literally, in the middle of nowhere.

The nearest shop is ten minutes drive (about one and a half hours by foot) away. We hole ourselves up with board games, piano, guitar, ukulele and an open fire.... and chill.

Yesterday, we ran out of milk. I didn't want to drag everyone out in the rain, so I left my (relatively) responsible teenager in charge of her two younger siblings and headed out to the nearest town.

About three quarters of the way there, the car started shuddering wildly, as if I was crossing the surface of the moon. I suspected a puncture.

I got out of the car to take a look and I had literally no tyre left at all on one of the rear wheels. Total blowout. Disaster.

I knew that it would be hours before a breakdown truck could reach me and I had to get back to the kids. I was an hour's walk away, at least.

Few cars travel down that road, but, luckily, after a few minutes I managed to flag down a friendly white van man who drove me home.

I then called the AA (Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous), who said that they could tow my car to the nearest tyre fitter, but it would take an hour and half to get to me.

I asked if they could collect me from my house and drive me the five minutes it would take to get back to my abandoned car. They said no, take a taxi.

I explained that the nearest taxi firm was forty-five minutes away and had to be booked days in advance. They said to walk.

I explained that it would take an hour to walk and I had three children with me. They said sorry, but it's company policy. I had to meet them by my car.

I walked to the nearest neighbour and begged for a lift. For the second time, the kindness of other people saved me.

I got back to my car, met the breakdown chap, was towed to a tyre place, spent all my shoe money on a tyre and got home.

But the real miracle about all of this is that it all happened without me getting at all cross. Or stressed. Or shouting.

I didn't get annoyed with the AA lady for refusing to bend the rules (not her fault). I didn't panic, stamp, yell and curse. I was zen.

Needless to say, in the drinking days I would not have dealt with a day like that in the same way. You know exactly how it would have gone. You've been there too, I expect.

So now I look at those Facebook memes, at those mums glugging back the wine, and I think I get it. Been there, done that. But that's really not going to help, you know.

Step away.

Love SM x


  1. I was with a young women(28) the other night and she said she had to have a glass of wine after work just to help her calm down. She has a great job, nice apartment, boyfriend that treats her great (no kids) but she is sooo stressed the only alcohol can calm her down. She grew up with social media telling her that a glass of wine is the key to relaxation.

  2. It wouldnt be a bad thing, I suspect, to have a meme with an unretouched photo of the morning-after for someone who intended 'just a unwind' and then finished the bottle (and maybe another) and fell into bed (passed out?) after midnite and had to be up early the next morning to drive a carful of kids somewhere.

    My brain hurts just to think about it!

    And so glad you were able to get your 'inconvenience' sorted, SM, aided only with common sense. And clear-headed calm. Your Scotland getaway sounds wonderful (sans tire puntures, of course!)

  3. I love that! "Just step away, Ma'am." I used to call days like that an exercise in futility. Nothing goes right and there's nothing you can do about it. But even with those good samaritans, I would have been a crazy wreck while drinking. Nothing is better in sobriety than the absence of anger. I love it. 💕

  4. Yes I know how it would have gone - I would have done the "I want to speak to the manager!" crap that felt good at the time and left me feeling terrible and horrible after.

    Dealing with getting annoyed without turning it into a political debate is easier now, always something I am working on.

    good on you for being so cool and carm,
    M xx

  5. Absolutely.
    I wonder how many people,actually do drink like that.
    I know many memes appealed to me...and they helped me normalize my drinking.
    I'm left wondering if there are way more heavy drinkers out there that one would think....

    It is a scary reality.
    I hope you are enjoying Scotland. I a, watching Braveheart and thinking of you! Lol

  6. exactly!!! I'm definitely calmer in those sort of situations! My girls finished on Friday and we headed into the lakes for a camping weekend ahead of my hubbie who could only come later. First time I had ever attempted to put up our tent on my own, what a disaster, I was stressed! Ended up driving to the shop for stronger tent pegs, whilst my tent was tied to a fence to stop blowinfb away (funny now, not then!!!!) anyway explained all this to the shop lady who added "oooh you need a bottle of wine to go with those tent pegs!!" I just smiled and paid, then bought myself a strong coffee, then me and the girls back went back and sorted it!!! The old me would have called my hubbie screaming, blaming him, sod the tent and just hit the campsite bar until he got there!! Who new that being sober could change so much and what an example of amazing girl power being sober makes us.

    Enjoy lovely Scotland, and how lovely for all the local people who did help you : :-) xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  7. I've seen that awful Facebook meme too - made me shudder. I'm so looking forward to a sober school holidays, and even a sober 2 weeks' holiday abroad. I've achieved a sober holiday before, just once, and found it liberating and enjoyable - although I still have to talk myself into it a little. Old habits die hard, and I've got years of holiday boozing to negate!

  8. Thanks for sharing this with us SM. Isn't that such a great example of how differently we think and behave when we stop drinking?! We think that by stopping drinking we will just avoid hangovers and stop showing ourselves up, but there is so much more that comes with it. We become better people, more kind, patient, less selfish, we think clearer. Altogether life just keeps getting better and better. I just love it! Thanks SM xxxx

  9. I am much more balanced and calm when I don’t drink, much more able to cope with stress. It's really awful how we've got to the point where women are now drinking the same volumes as men and have fallen for the same marketing ploys. Mummy needs her GIN to cope with having kids! It’s ludicrous really. Wine is the last thing a stressed out mother needs, she needs sleep, she needs fresh air, she needs to connect with her creative life. xxx

  10. The last time I had a moment like this was when I had to drive for 10 miles to drop one of my children off with no petrol left and 3 kids in the car. I had no purse with me and had no idea how i was going to get home. I was screaming and bawling the whole way there. It was during the first month after stopping drinking and i was a pent up ball of rage and frustration. I was also very, very determined that i was nit going to drink and i didn't. Thank god that first month (or 6) is over! That was 2 1/2 years ago and i still get stressed at times but on a completely different scale. Hope you're enjoying Bonnie Scotland (aka the arctic at the moment!) x