Dangerous Liaisons & The Power Of Equality

When I was a young teenager I’d rather have run around school naked than admit to being a feminist. Feminists were hippies and men haters with way too much bodily hair, in my ignorant opinion. During my later teens, however, I found myself caught up in the evolving ‘ladette’ culture and, through an immersion in heavy drinking and the adoption of a second home in the shape of a somewhat seedy pub, I gravitated towards a kind of egalitarian existence alongside a bunch of similarly hedonistic males. This unified aim of ‘getting off one’s head’ went a long way to smoothing out the differences between the genders, and I would regularly wander into the aforementioned seedy pub alone, purchase a pint (or five) and fritter away several hours playing pool with blokes I didn’t know especially well, a cigarette continually dangling from my lipstick-stained mouth.

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Back then, if I’d been pressed for an answer as to whether I classed myself as a feminist I would probably have said yes, before hurriedly qualifying my answer to ensure I wasn’t thought of as a staunch man-hater (a stubborn definition that took some years to be banished from my internal dictionary).

Fast forward a couple of decades and I would now, very proudly, describe myself as a feminist. When I look back on the young woman I was in the 1990s I see someone who, rather than gaining a respectable parity with the men, allowed herself to slide into a dimly restricted existence that centred around drinking and drastic mental escape. I considered propping up the bar with a packet of fags close to hand to be an admirable way to live; in reality I was drinking so much that I placed myself in increasingly dangerous situations with men who were not of especially high moral standing and who cared little, if at all, about my safety and wellbeing. This was not feminism. It was gravely reckless behaviour and I was very lucky that I wasn’t harmed to a greater degree than I was.

The late Alan Rickman said in June 2015, “I always think feminist just means common sense”. And yes, that is what it is. Heavy drinking and living a life that spins on an axis of havoc amounts to the opposite of common sense, and the opposite of feminism. Living that way means being out of control, putting your safety in the hands of people who could (and regularly do) exploit the situation for their own gains. It leads to walking home late at night, alone and unaware, taking stupid risks and abandoning the gut instincts that we all have and which serve as our early warning systems.

On March 8th it’s International Women’s Day, a celebration of the female gender and all that we bring to the world at large. I am so pleased that today aged forty I am a feminist in the truest sense of the word. I am glad that alcohol no longer unravels all my strengths and potential, turning me into a victim instead of a fighter. I’m grateful that I no longer allow myself to lose control.

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Not drinking has provided me with so much, not least a clear perspective on the sort of person I want to be and what I want my life to amount to. I stopped holding rebellious, self-abusive and reckless behaviour in such high regard many years ago. Instead I started to see strong people, those with integrity and self-respect, as the ones I admired the most. Quitting drinking has enabled me to move closer to becoming the person I want to be, and I’m no longer frightened to be a strong woman. In fact, it’s what I aspire to be – every day.

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Pep Talk For The Weekend – Reasons To Stay Sober

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The weekend is upon us. It’s when most of the people we know will be drinking alcohol, and it’s when the temptation to join them can become so strong it’s almost impossible to resist. This blog has been written as a pep talk for anyone teetering on the brink of caving in – print it out and stick it on your kitchen cupboard so that you can see it next time you’re considering stepping back onto the slippery slope that is booze…

  • You have the ability to grab life by the balls and start becoming the person you want to be. You have the power to enact change, but only if you do things differently. Every little action or thought that has always led you to drinking in the past needs to be arrested, reconfigured, altered and amended. If meeting your other half in the pub after work means you won’t be able to say no to alcohol, do something else. Go for a bike ride, a swim or to the cinema. Shake things up a bit – change what you do.
  • You’ll never be as young as you are today. OK, so you might have looked in the mirror recently and been pissed off at the wrinkles and tired-looking face peering back at you, but remind yourself that time is only going in one direction. Don’t focus on how old you are; concentrate on how young you are! On how many good years you could still have in front of you, on all the stuff you could enjoy from now on, free from the self-esteem battering effects of booze. Think about how fantastic it would feel to look back on all those happy years that didn’t feature heavy drinking and regrets and terrible hangovers. You could still have that. It could start today.
  • Alcohol is not really all you may think it is. It might bring about an instant sensation of relaxation and make you imagine that you are suddenly more attractive, witty and interesting, but in reality, booze is a bit crap. It makes you fat, prematurely ages you, ruins your teeth and turns the whites of your eyes yellow. It turns you into a repetitive bore. It costs shed loads of money. It gives you a cracking headache and stops you getting off your arse and hitting the gym. It’s a killer on your liver. It encourages you to take stupid risks. It makes you fall over. It makes your breath smell. It prevents you from being particularly productive or achieving your goals. It causes mood swings. It makes you sick. In brief, alcohol is rubbish.
  • The world is changing. People everywhere are waking up to the fact that heavy drinking is (surprise, surprise) bad for you. 21% of UK adults don’t drink alcohol at all, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain report released back in February 2015. Don’t feel as though you stick out like a sore thumb for being teetotal – wear your non-drinking status like the badge of honour it is. Be a part of the group that’s in the know. Embrace your sobriety, because it’s much cooler to be in control, and looking and feeling confident and strong than stumbling about, wrecking your health and wasting your life. Celebrate the fact that you have escaped the booze trap!

Remember that for most of us who have struggled with an alcohol dependency, one drink will always inevitably lead to a second. And a third. And a fourth. There is no ‘just one’ for me, and probably not for you either if you are reading this. This weekend, make yourself a promise that you will start the rest of your life right now – because (contrary to what the booze industry would have you believe) the real way to treat yourself is by sidestepping alcohol completely.

The Passage of Time and an Altered Perspective


I was listening to Oasis a couple of days ago, driving through the Peak District with the sun casting shadows over the moorland and my toddler sleeping in the back of the car, her angel face the picture of innocence.

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In my late teens/early twenties I was a huge fan of Oasis. Hearing those songs again that so acutely defined a particular period in my life pulled me into a reverie, and I thought for a long time about the person I was back then, and how the passage of time has dramatically altered my perception on the world.

That noticeably underweight, cocky girl, who thought nothing of walking alone into her favourite pub, ordering a pint of Boddingtons at 2 o’clock on a weekday afternoon, picking up a pool cue and challenging  whoever was loitering at the bar to a game – smoking, drinking, music on the jukebox, a session emerging, boundaries blurred and personalities changed. As the day wore on, the pub would fill slowly with climbers, students and a variety of left-leaning types; alcohol was a broad leveller that drew everyone together, helped get them acquainted.

It seems to me now that I was incredibly naïve back then, even though I was frequently immersed in a dark world where the people I associated with had little self-control and did not operate within the parameters of normal society, the law, or common decency. Many times, neither did I. Instant gratification and a relentless desire to get completely out of it were the order of the day. On the surface we may have appeared to be a group of young people having a good time, but right there beneath the cheerful veneer was a tangled mess of lies, drunkenness and danger.

As time went on, I learnt that people can hurt each other – physically and mentally. I got hurt, and I did my best to handle that. What I didn’t understand in my twenties was quite how ferociously I would come to hurt myself; how low self-esteem and a destructive streak can combine to breed a malignant set of behaviours that feed off each other, nurturing a powerful desire to wipe one’s self out. And as the black thoughts worked away, striving to prevent a better way of life, I failed to recognise that things simply didn’t need to be that bad. For a long time, I just accepted that that was my lot – the hand I’d been dealt.

I am a reasonably private person these days, much quieter, far less cocky. I still enjoy the music of my youth – songs that make me smile when I recall the good times I had listening to them, when a blind faith that everything would work out OK despite my being hell bent on ruining all my chances of happiness, somehow got me through the really shit times.

The major difference in my outlook today is that whereas back then I thought good things would eventually just land on my doorstep, I know now that I control my destiny; every action, word spoken, the care I afford myself, choosing to not drink alcohol or take any other drugs, focusing on positivity, and seeking to discover the good in situations and people, wherever possible, are the things that determine my path. And I worked out that hurtling through life at a million miles an hour, always looking for the easy way out and a good time, is not a recipe for contentment.

I slowed it right down, and concentrated on the positives. I thought more about other people, less about my own insecurities. I worked on my weaknesses. I created a life that would make me happy. And I quit drinking.

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Booze Britain

“Other explosions, controlled or otherwise, take place every evening in the country’s pubs – those friendly drinking dens for which Britain is famous, and where the emphasis is always social. Intoxicate yourself alone, and you appear pathetic, as though it’s the condition of being you that needs escaping from. Do it in a group, however, and it’s the public condition – having to maintain dignity and self-control and not say the wrong thing – that you are throwing off.”

Leo Benedictus, ‘Is Britain a nation of addicts?’ – The Guardian, Monday 2 September 2013

Leo Benedictus’ article in yesterday’s Guardian is one which I regard as wholly accurate in its depiction of the manner in which Britain has absorbed, across all classes and both sexes, excessive drinking as an entirely normal pastime and one which is rigorously defended by drinkers when faced with the perceived threat of the company of a non-drinker. Simply for their choice to opt for a ‘soft’ drink in a pub when imbibing alongside a crowd of boozers, the teetotaller is regularly singled out. ‘Never trust a man who doesn’t drink’ was a favourite line of an ex-boyfriend’s father, someone who spent inordinate amounts of money on the maintenance of a highly regarded wine cellar.

Turning your back on such a widely venerated substance as alcohol is a lifestyle choice which commonly initiates a variety of unwelcome responses from both family and friends and complete strangers. Whilst some are mildly interested in why your beverage of choice amongst a round of pints and large dry white wines is a sparkling mineral water (“Are you driving/pregnant/on antibiotics?), and some don’t care a jot one way or the other, many can be scathing and downright rude, stunned as they apparently are that anyone should choose not to imbibe alcohol to excess.

If you are one of the many who cannot drink in moderation and who seemingly has no ‘off switch’ (as I am) then it is possible (and preferable for both you and those around you) that sooner or later you will decide that abstinence is the only way forward. As a result it is almost guaranteed that at some point or other your decision will be met with such comments as ‘Oh go on, don’t be dull – surely one won’t hurt’ and that certain members of the drinking population will regard you as weak-willed/boring/a killjoy.

I believe there is something inherent about the British which leads us to excessive behaviour. There is more than likely a degree of truth in the theory that we are somewhat backward in coming forward, a nation of the emotionally stunted and stiff upper-lipped who find it difficult to let rip and just ‘be’ without the aid of such an instant social lubricator as alcohol.

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Having not drunk alcohol for two and a half years I have found myself having to relearn how to relax and socialise whilst straight – not an easy task after twenty years of propping up my slightly shy nature with far too much help from the bottle.

I am unbothered by people’s reaction to the fact that I choose to live alcohol-free, whether it be a positive or negative one. I made this choice for my health and the happiness and emotional wellbeing of my family, and it is one which I will forever stand by as the right thing to do.

To those who utter the expression ‘Never trust a man who doesn’t drink’, I would highlight the fact that in the UK, men under the age of 60 are more likely to die as a result of drinking alcohol than from any other cause, that more women in this country are alcohol-dependent than anywhere else in Europe, that deaths from alcohol-related liver disease in the UK have quadrupled since the 1970’s, and that one fifth of British children live with a hazardous drinker.

I believe that living alcohol-free takes balls; it can feel as though you are treading an otherwise deserted path at times, especially when surrounded by people who are all under the influence. If you find it impossible to moderate your alcohol consumption, then standing by your decision to live without booze will go a long way in ensuring that you stay healthier and happier in your day-to-day life, and also in challenging the perception of many that to be a non-drinker is somehow odd. The more people who do it, the less weird it will become.

JD Wetherspoon’s Latest Moneyspinner

The decision by a Buckinghamshire local council to approve the application by the Wetherspoon’s pub chain to open the UK’s first motorway pub is reflective of the current government’s attitude towards alcohol and its associated revenues.

One word sprang to my mind immediately upon reading this story from the BBC on Twitter the other night – hypocrisy. Oh yes, also ‘money’ and ‘stupid.’

People who like to drink can buy booze at low cost from supermarkets and off licences, in the bars and pubs in our cities and rural villages, in restaurants and at the theatre. They can drink at home or in the park, at the seaside, in the countryside, on their lunch hour during the working week and any hour they wish in the evenings and at the weekends.

Pretty much the only place that has been untouched by the sweeping and influential hands of the drinks industry giants is the service stations on our motorways. And with good reason. Drinking and driving is a terrible idea.

A spokesman from Wetherspoon’s has spoken with much reassurance of the imminent pub opening on the M40, stating ‘We don’t see any problem.’ Also that the staff on duty will not be asking patrons of the pub whether or not they will be drinking and driving as ‘It’s up to them.’ Great.

The government’s strategy on alcohol (see below) which is currently under review includes the following statement;

We want to overhaul alcohol licensing to address:

  • rebalancing the Licensing Act 2003 in favour of local communities
  • crime and disorder caused by alcohol
  • health and social harms

I would suggest that all three of these worthwhile issues are negated by opening a pub at a motorway services location.

If, as JD Wetherspoon’s would have us believe, the only people who will be frequenting this motorway drinking hole and actually consuming alcohol therein are members of coach parties or those travelling with others – essentially people who are not getting behind the wheel after they’ve sunk a few bevvies – then we have nothing to fear.

I rather suspect though, as someone who had an alcohol dependency for twenty years and who understands how the brain reacts to alcohol cues, that many travellers who pull into the pub off the motorway in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, will ‘enjoy’ drinking alcohol as a stress reliever or a little pick-me-up and who might also have alcohol dependencies, emotional, physical or mental, or perhaps all three. And that such people will react to the cue of seeing a welcoming pub after a tough drive on the motorway.

Why, in a country which is already rife with opportunity to drink alcohol, is it deemed appropriate to position a pub – even if it is a pub which also sells food – on a motorway? A premises which sells alcohol from 8am onwards will inevitably serve up booze at some point or other to someone who is alcohol-dependent and who, after drinking more than the legal limit, will return to their car, drive back onto the motorway and set off at speeds of 70 mph plus.

Now where is the sense in that? Oh yes – money.

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/controlling-the-sale-and-supply-of-alcohol

A night to remember

Last week was the 2nd anniversary of when I met my lovely fiancé, a night which I wrote about in an earlier blog, https://soberistas.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/jane-eyre-aka-lucy-soberistas/.

I had actually met him several months previous to the night we finally got together, in the same pub. On both occasions I was rather the worse for wear but he, for some reason, was able to see right through my drunken demeanour to pinpoint the tiny promise of something unusual and precious – a soul mate. Don’t ask me how, because my lasting memory of the first meeting we had was of me marching up to him in the street in order to state, in a very loud and slurred voice, that “I REALLY LIKE YOUR SMITHS T-SHIRT.” The second time we met, I subtly revealed my attraction to him by fondling his thigh under the table as I sank large glasses of wine and smoked numerous Marlboro Lights, blowing the smoke up into the dark air between us.th

Not long after we met, I gave up drinking. This was down to a number of factors but largely because I had met the man who I wanted to have a happy time with, someone who I never wanted to hurt, and my soul mate, who I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with – minus the fog, recriminations, arguments and regrets that come with drinking too much, too often.

Because of our ages and our mutual desire to have a baby, we got on with things pretty damn quick. I happened upon some old emails of ours last week, and read a thread that detailed our desire to get married approximately 2 weeks into our relationship. He proposed a couple of months later and we discovered the happy news that our daughter was on the way just a couple of months after that.

So, 2 years down the line and here we are; engaged, living in our house that we bought together, and our nine month old baby is sleeping upstairs in her cot. We didn’t make much of a celebration of our anniversary last week due to heavy snow and a bad case of teething and associated nappy rash forcing us to cancel our planned night out, but you know what? It didn’t seem like such a big deal and here’s why…

Amongst the many errors of judgment that I made back in my drinking days, spotting my future fiancé in the middle of a pub car park and stumbling over to him to comment favourably on his T-shirt was not one of them; rather, it was one of my best moments. I think the T-shirt had a lot to do with it – in the same way that internet dating allows you to select potential partners by discovering their likes and dislikes prior to meeting in the flesh, so his wearing of a T-shirt emblazoned with one of my long-standing favourite bands of all time had the effect of revealing to me something of his character, i.e. that he has excellent taste in music, something which is of great importance to me.

So my impulsive, drunken behaviour, for once, did me a lot of good on the night of January 21st 2011. I found myself the most perfect man (for me) who has consistently made me happy, who is a fantastic dad to our baby and stepdad to my eldest daughter, who believes in everything that I do (without being a kiss ass; and the former without the latter is an all-important trait), who looks after us all with kindness, patience and understanding, and who is my best friend. I learnt how to be me and more importantly, how to like me, by being with him, and I learnt what it is to feel true contentment, because I never have to pretend to be something I’m not when he is around.

We missed a big night out for our anniversary but as my fiancé pointed out, it doesn’t matter so much when you remember how many we have in front of us. If you are reading this Sean, happy anniversary for last week– and thank you.