Wednesday 7 February 2018

What Do I Advise My Teenager About Booze?

Argh. Teenagers.

One minute your children are climbing all over you like little chubby monkeys, winding your hair in their fingers and whispering "I love you, Mummy" into your ear, and then - in what seems like no time at all - they're smelly, grumpy, eye-roll-ey teenagers who find you hideously embarrassing.

I've had several questions from people recently about what we should be telling our teenagers about alcohol.

I'm no expert, but here is what I told mine the other day:

"You do realise that alcohol is an addictive drug, right?"

*eyeroll* from teenager who is looking for an escape hatch. I have anticipated this, and she is in a moving car, strapped in safely.

"If alcohol came on to the market today it wouldn't be legalised. It is perfectly possible to live a fantastic life, a better life, without alcohol blurring all the edges. Just look at me!"

*scathing glance*

"...However, I do realise that the majority of the population do drink and that you're bound to want to give it a go, so can I please just give you a little bit of advice?"

"'Spose", she replies, reluctantly.

"If you want to drink happily and sensibly for your whole adult life, and not get into the pickle that I did, then there are three rules that you need to stick to:

1. Never drink on more than three occasions in one week.
2. Never drink more than three drinks in one session - as soon as you feel even slightly out of control, then stop.
3. Only drink socially, never alone.

Does that sound reasonable? Easy to do?"


"Right, well I want you to remember this conversation for your whole life. Because your reasonable, logical, clever self knows that those three rules are perfectly acceptable and achievable.

But there may come a day when you try to convince yourself that one of them or, indeed all of them, are unnecessary and unreasonable.

That is NOT YOU talking, that is the booze. That is an indication that slowly, slowly, it is making you think and behave in a way that is NOT YOU and that you know, deep down, is not right.

So, if that happens, you need to decide if you're able to stick to the rules or if, like me, you actually find it easier not to drink at all. Rules were never my forte, and they may not be yours."

"Can we go to Nando's now?"


It is also worth reminding your teenager that if they do get trashed at a party (which, let's face it, is bound to happen at some point), not only do they put themselves in danger, but they could well end up with horribly embarrassing photos of them doing the rounds of the world wide web for ever and ever.

Teenagers feel invincible, and are often oblivious to the idea of coming to any physical harm, but apparently the fear of being shamed on social media is one of the big reasons why they drink less than our generation, so let's shamelessly exploit that fact.

However, I honestly believe that the most powerful thing we can do for our teenagers is to set a good example. Teenagers tend not to listen to what we say, but they do learn from what we do.

And that is one of the main reasons why I quit drinking. I didn't want my children to grow up believing that adults need a glass of wine (or several) to cope with the ups and downs of everyday life.

Do please let me know in the comments what you've advised your children about booze!

There's lots of new articles and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Or follow me on Instagram @clare_pooley, and I have (finally) decided to do Twitter @cpooleywriter.

To find my book, The Sober Diaries, click here. You can read the first few chapters for free using the 'Look Inside' feature.

And, finally, if you want to treat yourself for Valentine's Day (which you really should, because you are amazing), then the wonderful Wise Bartender is offering all readers Bees Knees alcohol-free Prosecco for only 99p with the promo code HAPPYVALS.

Love to you all.

SM x


  1. Awesome post! I truly believe in using our words with our children: explain rules, explain discipline, give advice. Back in the day, I gave my son some equally explicit advice about male hormones and sexual drive, and what it meant to be a civilized, respectable man....

  2. Great words Clare, and so right to share with our offspring ... It worked for my son ... when I gave up smoking he was 7. I was honest about how hard it was to quit the habit, the positives about time, smell and finance. He tells me he remembered, and apart from the odd try (don't they all) didn't start. He is now 37 (how did that happen!) and one of my proudest supporters in my quitting the wine :-) The warm glow that gives me is second to nothing ... ...

    1. That’s so lovely to hear Jacs - thank you 😘

  3. I set such a bad example for my children when they were teenagers that I have well and truly put them off the booze. They rarely touch a drop of the stuff which is great, but I hate that this is because I couldn't control myself.

  4. That's such good advice Claire and really helpful and relevant for me seeing as my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes last summer. I have to persuade him that drinking is definitely not going to be good for him in excess. Hopefully by setting an example is a good first but your post helps with showing him safe limits for reasons other than his diabetes PMNM xxx

  5. Sound advice Claire.
    I have read your book and it's brilliant. Congratulations.
    I gave up the sauce 30 days ago and there times when I am a bit shaky but I think of my 13 year old twins and my resolve strengthens.
    It is so true that if alcohol were to come on the market today, things would be very different.
    Love your blog Clare and thank you for normalising non drinking. It's like AA for the 21st century, but a lot more positive and with a sassy attitude.
    I couldn't have made it to 30 days without your book.
    Heres wishing you all the best in your recovery.
    Thank you

  6. Great advice as usual Claire. My daughter is only three and at the adorable hair winding and 'I love you so much' stage and I should feel fortunate to have the opportunity of a good few years practicing what I am going to preach! Really enjoying your book and nearly at the end - at the stage where I want to finish but don't want to finish!

  7. By the way this is sciencegirl from soberistas. I have an old blogger account that reserrruected itself whe I commented here!!

  8. I didn't want to be some old drooling dribbling drunk getting drunk with my kids as soon as they turn 18. I want to be able to just have a cup of tea and a chat. My husband still drinks and most of our family and friends still drink but I want my children to know that there's another option. I also agree wholeheartedly with your list Clare. No-one ever told me I drank too much or showed any surprise that I'd drink a bottle of wine on my own if I had a night in to myself. It's actively encouraged and completely normalised behaviour these days. I always used to be amazed that you could get so drunk at home for so little money and used to laugh at wine being the last legal high and the cheapest! It's too easy!

  9. And I am so glad I jumped before I was pushed because I think there are going to be some dire consequences from drinking so much alcohol, especially wine, and I am so pleased that I no longer have the fear of being diagnosed with some awful alcohol related illness that would force me reluctantly to stop x

  10. I have been waiting for this moment for 33 days! I read your book then found the blog and have been reading from the beginning and have finally caught up.
    On the 9th January I had my last drink. I had reached my rock bottom (for that week) and wasn’t willing to see how much further down my spiral would go. I have spent the past four to five years (its impossible to pinpoint exactly when drinking went from an enjoyable pastime to a daily necessity) drinking steadily more wine on a daily basis (1-2 bottles). When I was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition 2 years ago that was made worse by my favourite tipple, red wine, I switched to white wine, problem sorted (not really but I told myself my ongoing symptoms must be caused by something else in my diet now I’d knocked the red wine on the head).
    On that Tuesday night I called my teenage daughter an idiot (shouting at her) and stormed from her bedroom to recover my empty wine glass from the lounge and top up. About 10 minutes later I was full of alcohol fuelled remorse and went back apologetic and tearful. She coldly told me that this is what always happens, I blow up and call her an idiot and then apologise 5 minutes later. I said it doesn’t happen that often does it? and she said Yes! You do it all the time. I was mortified, firstly that I was doing this to my already hormonal teenage daughter when she has enough to be dealing with just getting through the teenage years but secondly that I had absolutely no recollection of doing it before!
    I already knew that I was slowly poisoning my marriage with my drinking and the poisonous person it made me but now I was also damaging my daughter.
    Wednesday 10th January was my day 1 and also the day I discovered your book and I can’t thank you enough for coming out of the closet and writing such a life saving book. It has quite literally saved my marriage, my relationship with my daughter and my life. You and everyone that comments here are so honest about the daily struggles but also about the great things that happen that it has given me so much strength to do something that just seemed impossible before. Everything I read here is so poignant and relevant so I just want to say the biggest THANKYOU to SM and everyone else here for helping me through this through your posts and making me see that life can be soooo much better on the other side of the bottle X

  11. I tell my teenage children that I am either the best person to give them alcohol advice or the worst. I never hide my sobriety from them like a shameful secret (that was what I did with my drinking. They know about my AA meetings and even my AA tattoo!
    Day 1515 of sobriety.

  12. Hi Clare, I am currently reading your book!
    After doing dry January and getting to 6 weeks feeling amazingly well and loving the benefits, I gave in to peer pressure last week!
    While it was not my usual 4 nights Thursday to Sunday of drinking to the point of falling asleep, it still left me feeling hugely disappointed with myself at letting go of what I have achieved.
    So I woke up Monday ready to go again!
    Your book came at the right time for me. I had done the 6 weeks and was contemplating my next move do I get back to how I was and see how I go, Do i drink in moderation, do I drink only when out with friends etc! Then I started reading your book!
    It can relate to so many stories you have written and found lots of the feelings you reference in the first 6 weeks similar to where I was.
    Thank you for sharing your journey. It has opened my eyes to a whole new world, and I no longer feel alone in what I am trying to achieve xx