Clare Pooley starts her memoir by describing with much detail the hangover following her birthday party. “My brain seems to have shrunk to the size of a marble, and it’s banging off the sides of my head like a game of pinball. I’m sweating alcohol and drowning in successive waves of nausea.” To make it worse, her three kids are shouting and fighting in the kitchen. She does what any sensible human being whose brain is fighting with a toxic drug would do, she sits below the kitchen units, out of sight from the window and tries not to listen to her kids screaming.

– Moooommmmy, what are you doing on the floor?

It is that same evening that Clare Pooley decides to stop drinking alcohol. She starts writing a diary where she explains how she got to that point. She was a fan of Bridget Jones. Her favourite heroine gave her an excuse to drown her neurosis in beer and wine. Clare Pooley was working in advertising in London. “Back then, in the 1990s, we saw drinking as our duty as good feminists. It was the era of the ladette, of keeping up with the boys and beating them at their own game.” She got married, had kids and soon realised that it was hard to be an amazing mum, a good wife and have a successful career at the same time. When she had her third kid, she decided to leave her job and become a housewife. But that didn’t stop her drinking alcohol. Between the kids coming back from school, the homework, dinner, bath and putting them to bed, she was drinking nearly a bottle and a half every day without really noticing. She was not drunk, she was just numb enough to tackle the evening chaos.

In her book, she describes the first weeks of being sober and the tools she put in place to make it work. She starts a blog, stocks up on beer without alcohol, and reads a lot. When she learns that she has a breast cancer, she has gotten strong enough in her sobriety not to drink a single glass of wine. Her book is a honest and witty account of how she started a new life, with no more hangovers and much less anxiety and mood swings.

My favourite quote:

“ To move forward as human beings we have to properly experience life in the raw. We have to learn to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same. When we drink, we don’t do that; we just hide. Rather than our horizons expanding, our world shrinks. If we don’t stop, it gets smaller and smaller until we’ve lost everything except the bottle. AA have a saying that describes this perfectly: Alcohol gives you wings, then takes away the sky.”

Pooley, Clare. The Sober Diaries: How one woman stopped drinking and started living. Hodder & Stoughton.

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