I love Clare Pooley’s The Sober Diaries and I am so excited to be talking to her today! Clare gave lots of time to this interview and it contains lots and lots of insight and inspiration.
A little more about Clare before we dive in …
Clare Pooley graduated from Cambridge University, and joined the heady world of advertising.By the age of thirty she was on the board, but by the time her third child was born she was burnt out, and left to spend more time with her children. She also spent a lot more time drinking.
Clare share’s her story bravely below, read on for her not drinking diary …
Name: Clare Pooley
Location: London, UK
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself …
I live in London with my three children aged 14, 11 and 9, a very scruffy border terrier and my long-suffering husband, John.
I may have beaten my addiction to booze, but I still have an issue with cake, and I spend WAY too much time on social media.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Whilst I’m currently cancer free, I no longer take anything for granted, and try to squeeze everything I can into life – to write, to travel, and to experience as many new things as I can.
2.Tell me a little bit of your drinking story …
I drank like many mothers do. I’d get to the end of a busy day with the kids and pour a large glass of wine to help me to ‘relax’ and feel more adult. It was my ‘me time’, and I thought that everyone else was doing the same. After all, my social media feed was littered with memes about ‘wine o’clock.’
But my one large glass a day became two, which became three, until eventually it would take a whole bottle to properly take the edge off. By the time I quit, I was drinking around ten bottles of wine a week.
3. What led you to think differently about drinking?
I’d known for a while that I was drinking too much and that it was starting to seriously mess up my life. I was two stone overweight, a terrible insomniac and anxious all the time. I also felt like my life was stuck in a rut. I’d lost sight of the person that I used to be.
I didn’t want to quit – the idea terrified me! Wine was my best friend. I was the party girl, the rebel. Wine defined me. So, I tried, and tried to moderate. But I found it impossible to stick to any of the rules I set myself. The more I tried to drink less, the more I thought about booze.
Finally, I realised that I am an all-or-nothing person. Moderation just isn’t my thing. I knew that I would find it easier to stop drinking all together than to try to drink ‘sensibly’.
4. How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
I rarely think of him, but when I do I look back on some of the times that we shared fondly. I don’t actually regret our relationship at all – I learned a lot from it, and wouldn’t be where I am now without it.
However, I know that he was not at all good for me! Our relationship was toxic, there were some truly dreadful times and I’d never want to go back. I’m far too happy with where I am now to risk it all for even a brief fling with him!
5. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
When you quit smoking, everyone congratulates you, but w
hen you quit drinking they treat you like a pariah. Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify NOT taking.
I can’t wait for the day when all the superheroes who find the courage to quit can get the recognition and applause that they deserve! It’s so sad that so many of us feel the need to make excuses for not drinking and stay anonymous.
6.What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
I’ve rediscovered the girl I was in my early twenties. I thought she’d gone – the fearless, funny, creative person I used to be, but now she’s back (if a little battle scarred!)
I’ve learned that if you drink to blur all the difficult things in life, you blur all the good bits too.
I’ve learned to be brave, and that all the best things lie on the other side of our maximum fear. Having killed the wine witch and beaten cancer I feel like I can do anything! After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
I’ve realised that the important things in life are the little things – a beautiful sunrise, a child’s arm around your neck, lemon drizzle cake…
7. What benefits of cutting down on alcohol or stopping drinking have you experience
Where to start?!?
I’m two stone lighter, I sleep like a baby, I’m rarely anxious, I’m a better wife, a better friend and a much better mother! Instead of trying to escape from my children all the time, we’re now on the same wavelength. I’m more patient, more present and less shouty. And I’m a much better role model.
But probably the biggest benefit is FREEDOM. There is such joy in not having to think about alcohol any more. It frees up so much head space and so much TIME. Since I quit I’ve had a book published, done a TEDx talk and next week I’m starting a novel-writing course. I wouldn’t have done any of those things if I’d still been drinking.
8. Are there any resources that have helped you to cut down or stop drinking?
I was WAY too scared to do AA, so I found all my help online – through sober blogs like yours, soberistas.com and Club Soda.
I also read every single book on booze I could find. The book that was a real lightbulb moment for me, back in the early days, was Jason Vale’s Kick the Drink, Easily. It changed my life.
9. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
I am SUCH a morning person now! I get out of bed super early – around 5am, because I find that’s the best time to write – you think more creatively then.
I write for two hours before the children wake up, fuelled by buckets of coffee (my only remaining vice). Then, once I’ve got the children off to school, I take the dog out for a long walk, usually with a friend. So, by 10am I’ve done a fair bit of work, some exercise and had a social event. (The rest of the day often goes downhill after that!)
10. Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
I still like to wind down at ‘wine o’clock’. I’ll usually have a hot bath with aromatherapy oils, while listening to a cracking book on Audible (L’s note: I wrote about my fave audiobooks here), then I’ll make myself a mocktail, like a Seedlip with Fever Tree tonic and fresh mint and lime.
11. What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free & not drinking) at the weekend?
Weekends are generally all about family time. We’ll have big family meals, encourage the children to invite their friends along, then all slob out in front of a movie. The husband has just bought a GIANT gas burning barbeque, so that’s the summer weekends sorted!
12. When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
I have a real love-hate relationship with social media.
I know that, as an addict, I have to be really careful anything addictive, and that includes social media, and sugar!
13. What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
Talking books. I’ve always loved reading, but there’s never enough time to read all the books I’d like to. But now I use Audible, which means that I can listen to all the latest books while I’m doing the housework, or I’m on the school run, or in the bath. It’s fabulous.
14.Any go-to people we should follow for inspiration? (Health, Fitness, Life, Travel you name it!)
I have a total girl-crush on @bryonygordon. Anyone who can run the London Marathon in their undies and post photos of their bald spot gets my undying admiration.
I also completely love @mscaitlinmoran. To give you an idea of how hilarious she is, her bio reads “I think I can eat more crisps than you.’ This is not actually true. No-one can eat more crisps than me.
For sober inspiration, it’s difficult to beat @soberupbuttercup. Here’s an example quote: ‘I flirted with sobriety….. then we went all the way
15. And finally, thinking differently about your relationship with alcohol can be challenging and isolating, is there any advice you turned to or do you have any words of wisdom for people reading this?
Firstly, know that you are NOT alone.
Since I started writing my blog and my book, I’ve had messages from thousands of people all over the world who have had issues with alcohol, and – you know what – we are all the same! We may be different ages and come from different backgrounds and cultures, but much more unites us than divides us.
All those little things that make you feel ashamed – we’ve done them too. All those fears you have about quitting? We were scared too. But we turned our lives around, and you can too.
Secondly, try to be excited. It’s very difficult to give something up if you feel like you’re being deprived. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Just do it.