Wednesday, 18 October 2017

What the Hell Happened Last Night?

It's exactly thirty years since the Great Storm turned Sevenoaks into One Oak, wrecked Michael Fish's reputation and contributed to the worst ever stock market crash.

I was eighteen years old back then. 

I'd left school, but had twelve months stretching ahead of me to fill before starting University, so I was living with two girlfriends and working for IBM, saving money so I could take off around the world with a backpack for a few months.

We were living on the tenth floor of a block of flats in Wimbledon.

The storm didn't wake me up. Nothing woke me up in those days. But, when my alarm finally cut through and I staggered out of bed, I remember being totally confused.

Our flat was trashed. The windows were wide open and the curtains had been pulled outside and were flapping in the wind. 

A standard lamp was leaning out of one of the windows, its shade nowhere to be seen. There were papers and rubbish all over the floor and everything was damp.

What had I forgotten now?

Had we had a party?

What had I done?

I picked up the telephone receiver (this was still a decade before I'd get my first mobile), not sure who I'd call or what I'd say, but the line was dead.

I turned on the television, but there was no picture, just an eerie fuzz.

Feeling increasingly alarmed, I switched on the radio, and that's when I discovered that it wasn't just me. The whole country was waking up to the remnants of a wild and unplanned party.

I re-lived that feeling many times over the following decades: waking up and trying to piece back the events of the night before.

How did I get home? Do I have my bag? My wallet? My keys? Did I text an ex-boyfriend? Have I upset anyone? Did I go shopping on the internet?  Are Net-a-Porter going to turn up with a stupidly expensive outfit in an overly optimistic size that I can't remember ordering?  Arrgggghhh.

But by now the only storm was the one raging in my brain.

I didn't have full on black-outs, but I did get the milder version, the precursor, known as 'brown-outs.'

(A brown-out is where you lose track of small chunks of time, so a four hour evening event in your memory only seems to have lasted an hour, and it takes you some time the next day to piece it all back together).

One of the very best things about being sober is always waking up with a clear head, with total recall of where you are, how you got there, where your stuff is, and with very little chance of having lost any friends along the way.

Bizarrely, on Monday, the anniversary of the Great Storm, the sky in London went red. For hours, in the middle of the day. This was, apparently, caused by a melange of dust from the Sahara and ash from the forest fires in Europe, but it looked like a scene from Mad Max.

As I went to bed that night, the children were hypothesising that the red sky heralded the start of a zombie apocalypse.

Oh well, I thought, at least if I wake up to Armageddon, I'll know it wasn't my fault. 

By the way, if you were walking on Wimbledon Common in the autumn on 1987 and came across a fetching beige Habitat lampshade, it's mine.

New on the SoberMummy Facebook page (click here for teleportation), a great, well-balanced article on mums drinking, plus (going up this evening) my favourite blog post by Holly Whitaker on why she (like me) hates the word 'alcoholic.'

In other news, all you lovely, kind people who've pre-ordered my book on Amazon might like to know that the publication date has been brought forward to December 28th.

Yay! But also, Yikes! Am I prepared? Of course not....

(If you haven't ordered a copy and would like to, click here for UK or here for USA).

For more on alcohol-induced blackouts, read Sarah Hepola's fabulous memoir, Blackout.

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. That story gave me scary flashbacks. Remember when every other day might have been Armageddon? I love that you slept through it.
    Thank you for making me insanely grateful to be sober this morning. 💕

  2. Gosh yeah scary flash backs....... the sick feeling when you wake up and dread what you've done or said, eeeeeek I don't miss that!!!! I would text my friends saying "hope you had a good night???" And then wait for their reply dreading that I had upset them :-(

    Fab news on the book, we go away on the 30th Dec skiing so fingers crossed it arrives by then!!! Well done SM (ps did you get my email about Karen in cold feet?) xxxxxx

    1. Yes I did! I haven't been watching it, but now I will do! Big hugs to you Ang ❤️

    2. Ang - I used to do exactly the same with my friends or whoever I had been out with - it was the worst feeling in the world and I waited with bated breath until I heard back from them! I'm really enjoing Cold Feet and I think Karen is fantastic and love the way she is such a strong women and great role model for the sober life. Just like our Sober Mummy!

    3. Well done on your 5 weeks, stick with it because it just gets better!!!! And if I can do it anyone can!! I love Karen and was screaming at the TV when she nearly fell of the wagon at the hotel- don't do it Karen!! keep up the fab work izzy 75 💗Xxx

    4. I know Ang - can't believe its the last in the series tonight. Thanks for your encouragement. It hasn't been too bad but I've got a fashion show / dinner with 2 friends on 12 November which I'm sort of both looking forward to and dreading in equal measures and more so dreading my Christmas dinner with work as they all love a drink - as did I and just don't know how to handle the no drinking thing. How long have you stopped?

    5. I stopped November last year so coming up to 12 months which I can not believe!!!! There are a lot of tips on this blog and I read a book by Jason vale called kick the drink which is amazing, I strongly recommend it. I think just stay quiet about not drinking and in the early stages maybe just say your driving or your on antibiotics, or just on a health kick, anything to take the focus of you not drinking and honestly you know yourself once they are all a few drinks down they won't even remember that your not drinking! That's the best bit. Follow this blog for amazing tips and support, SM has literally been my guiding light through the past 12 months xxxxxxx

    6. Thanks so much Ang. I’ve read Jason Vales book and thought it was very good and it has helped me. I’ve also pre-ordered Clare’s book and can’t wait for it! Have had another lovely weekend and kept busy cooking good nutritious meals for my husband and little girl who will be three next Sunday! Feel so much better and far more rewarding than sinking wine and not fully present. That’s brilliant you’ve done nearly a year. This newly found community is such a good support and encouragement x

  3. Another great piece and I'm also really grateful for you making it so much easier and lovely to be sober. This will be I think my fifth week - I've nearly stopped counting which is a good thing! I will definitely be pre-orddering your book and can't wait for December 28th! Thanks again and have a lovely weekend x