My relationship with alcohol has not always been a healthy one. There you go, I said it. Perhaps it’s listening to Clare Pooley, author of The Sober Diaries, that has emboldened me to be able to wave my
“booze wasn’t always my friend”
flag above the parapet. Last Saturday, I sat in the audience for the Jersey Festival of Words and listened to Clare Pooley in conversation with Paul Bisson. It was a frank and heartwarming conversation and one that has got me thinking again.
Everyone was drinking
I have recently come to the conclusion that many people my age have probably gone through a phase where they drank a little bit too much. For me, it was my late teens and early twenties. It was cool to drink back then. We had Zoe Ball and Sara Cox partying hard, drinking like fish and going to work in the morning. It was what I thought the modern woman did; it was everywhere in the media. We also had the Bridget Jones’s Diary novel where Bridget counted how many calories she had consumed and listed how much wine she had drunk. For Bridget, a good night started and ended with a bottle of Chardonnay. It seemed that this was what everyone did in the very late 90s.
An act of feminism
I also saw it as my feminist act. At Freshers Week I was determined to fit in so I challenged men, rugby playing men, to drinking contests and I matched them drink for drink. I felt proud at the time, less so when the hangover and flashbacks kicked in the next day. When Clare Pooley talks about her relationship with alcohol, I can totally relate. University is where it began for her, it’s where it really begins for many of us.
However, unlike Clare, thankfully my drinking dwindled over the years, I managed to break free from its clutch. I’m lucky that I can do that because in about every other aspect of my life, I tend to be an all or nothing type person, just like Clare. Clare openly discussed how for years she didn’t think she had a problem with booze. It was her confidante, her close friend. She turned to it when she was stressed and she turned to it when she wanted to celebrate. How many of us can relate to that? In the end she didn’t need any reason for turning to it and she was soon turning to it more often than not.
What is an alcoholic?
However, she had googled
“Am I an alcoholic?”
many a night and had convinced herself that she wasn’t. She wasn’t pouring vodka on her cornflakes and she had a rule that she didn’t drink before 12pm. But, like Clare asked, what is an alcoholic? What defines one and what does one look like? There is this huge misconception that alcoholics are the ones sat splayed on the bench early in the morning, hugging a vodka bottle. However, they can also be the ones wearing suits, making their way to work in the morning. You can get high-functioning alcoholics.
A socially acceptable drug
As Clare pointed out in her chat, alcoholism isn’t one label that fits all. Alcohol is an addictive drug, it’s also the only socially acceptable drug. The only drug that society questions us for wanting to give up. Clare believes that when it comes to booze, there are different shades of addiction, going from grey to black. She didn’t class herself as in the black but she recognised that she was heading in that direction.
Listening to her and having read her brilliant book makes me very aware of the dangers of drinking. How anybody that drinks could find themselves heading towards the black. After a challenging year, I was worried that I was in danger of turning to having a glass of wine when I was stressed, a little too often. Yes, it wasn’t masses of wine but I was worried that it was becoming a habit. That’s why 100 days sober can be a great thing because it breaks that cycle and makes you more aware of your drinking habit. You don’t feel the need to have a glass of wine when you are feeling stressed etc.
A slippery slope
Listening to Clare has made me realise that any one of us could find ourselves on the slippery slope of drinking too much and as such I am questioning why we even need to have one glass of wine. For Clare, she realised that she needed to stop when she found herself breaking the never drink before 12pm rule. Hungover from her birthday party the night before, she found herself having a hair of the dog before 12pm. She had broken the cardinal rule. Pouring the dregs of a bottle of red wine into a mug because she knew that it would help her feel better. However, on drinking the wine, she looked down and realised that she was drinking out of her “Mummy is the best” mug. Hearing her say that was truly heartbreaking. Clare realised that she had reached her low and she never drank a single drop again. She recognised that her relationship with booze had become a toxic one and that she needed to break free.
Clare Pooley is an inspiration
Clare is the ultimate advert for never drinking again. Since kicking the booze she has achieved so much. She started a blog that was turned into a best selling book and she will be releasing her first fiction novel in 2020. Like Clare said, she really dislikes the word “sober” because it sounds like a life devoid of fun, but the complete opposite is true. Since becoming sober she is living her best life and achieving so much.
Worrying about the future
Clare Pooley has again reminded me of the dangers of drinking. How that one drink can soon spiral into more. How we can easily turn into a habitual drinker. Just one thing niggles me though. What’s the best way to bring my children up with regards to alcohol? I grew up in a house where there was a drinks cabinet but it was never touched. There was probably booze from the 50s in there. Yet, I still went to university and drank too much. I look back now and wince. Is this path of passage that I have to let my girls go through when they go to university? Or is there a way I can bring them up so they don’t make the same mistakes that I did?
I’m not sure what the answer is but I can’t stand the thought of them in the future drinking heavily and as a result putting themselves at risk. Yet, we are living in a very different society now. Drinking is no longer viewed as cool. It’s no longer about the ladette culture. Sobriety is sexy.
Perhaps I need to worry less.
In the meantime Clare Pooley has inspired me to do sober October. Who will join me?
Disclaimer – please be aware that I was gifted my Jersey Festival of Words ticket. However, all words are my own