‘Is it possible to live without alcohol in a world where you’re more likely to be offered a glass of wine at a playdate then a cup of tea? Where Instagram is filled with references to ‘wine o’clock’? Where every social event is fuelled by gallons of booze?’
I decided to try out being sober for a month – and on my journey I read a book called The Sober Diaries written by Clare Pooley – who I then found on Instagram and fell in love with her wit, wisdom and reasons to stop drinking wine…
Here is her story – an incredibly inspiring journey that has made me want to quit drinking again – I highly recommend her hilariously funny, yet informative and so eye opening book.
Is there life after wine…?
- Tell us a little bit about yourself – name, age, kids, where you’re from, job etc.
My name is Clare Pooley, and I’m forty-nine. (I’m still a bit in denial about that, as it was my birthday last week. The crucial thing is that I am not yet fifty).
I have three kids – Evie (14), Kit (11) and Maddie (9) who are nothing like me at all, or like their dad, or like each other. I have no idea where they came from, but they are amazing (most of the time).
I joined the advertising industry back in the early nineties when it was still a bit like Mad Men – and burned the candle at both ends, and in the middle! Then, when my third child was born, I quit work so that I could be a perfect mum who would bake healthy snacks, play endless improving games, patiently, and remember to do her pelvic floor exercises. Needless to say, that didn’t go exactly to plan….
- You’ve just written a book called The Sober Diaries – tell us what it’s about
The Sober Diaries is the diary of a year of my life when I quit drinking wine (which until then had been my all-time favourite hobby) and then (spoiler alert), eight months later, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It all sounds a bit gloomy, but it’s actually a black comedy, described by many as ‘Bridget Jones Dries Out.’
- When did you realised you were drinking too much?
I’d been a bit worried about my drinking for years, and would often Google ‘Am I an alcoholic’, but I’d convince myself that I was fine, and all I need to do was to cut down. I set myself endless rules – like only drinking at weekends, or not drinking at home, but was unable to stick to them for longer than a week or two. The amount I needed to drink at the end of each day ‘to relax’ crept up gradually, until I was drinking a bottle of wine every day. Sometimes two at weekends. I was two stone overweight, a terrible insomniac, anxious all the time and stuck in a rut. Then, the morning after my forty-sixth birthday party, I found myself drinking red wine at 11am to take the edge off the hangover. I’d poured it into a mug so no-one would see, then realised that the mug had THE WORLD’S BEST MUM written on it. That’s the last drink I ever had.
- How did you manage to give up without any help?
It’s really difficult to quit drinking on your own, but now – with the internet – there are so many more options than AA (the idea of which terrified me!) I started a blog – which I called Mummy was a Secret Drinker, under the pseudonym SoberMummy. It was the community that I met through that blog which kept me going during the difficult times.
- How do you feel about the all the humorous wine memes that are circulating Instagram?
I have to confess that I used to find them hilarious and would merrily hit the ‘share’ button. The wine memes made me believe that everyone else was drinking just as much as me, and that wine was my well-deserved ‘me time’ at the end of the day and not a problem. The wine o’clock jokes do normalise excessive drinking.
However, I really don’t want to be a party pooper! If you are able to relax with just one glass of wine at the end of the day, and not let it get out of control, then fair enough! It’s just that many of us – the all-or-nothing tribe – can’t stick to the sensible limits, and if that’s you, then you are not alone….
- What have been the main changes you’ve seen for giving up alcohol?
My whole LIFE has changed! Physically, I’m two stone lighter, I sleep brilliantly, I look younger and I have bags more energy. Emotionally, I’m calmer, less anxious and braver. I LIKE myself again. Plus, I’m a much better mum – more patient, more on a level with my kids and a better role model.
- What advice would you say to other mothers who drink wine every day?
I understand! It’s such an easy way to wind down. You feel like it calms your anxiety, boosts your confidence and makes you happier. But it’s a lie. Over time, alcohol CAUSES anxiety, saps your sense of self-worth and is a depressant. Life without it isn’t boring or dreary, it’s amazing!
- What would you say to your younger self?
When you drink to blur all the difficult things in life, you blur all the good bits too. Life is too short to not embrace every bit of it. Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens…
- What benefits are there to not drinking that aren’t that obvious at first?
Something a lot of ex-drinkers find is that after a few months of not drinking, you start to feel way more creative. It’s like your brain synapses start firing again after years of being numbed. I went on to write a book, and many people set up businesses and re-discover lost passions. It really can change the direction of your life in ways you never imagined.
- What will you tell your children about drinking when they are old enough to drink?
I would tell them that you don’t NEED to drink in order to enjoy life, but if you do choose to, and if you want to be able to drink happily and healthily for your whole life, then stick to three key rules: (1) Never drink on more than three occasions a week (2) Never drink more than three drinks in one session and (3) Never, ever drink alone. I wish someone had told me that!
Thank you so much to Clare for answering these questions – it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you as Mama Of The Month – and please please write a sequel! You can buy the book here.
If you would like to be involved in Mama Of The Month or want to nominate someone, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you next week!