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‘Mumsnet for worried drinkers’ – Guest blog from two women setting up new website aimed at middle-class women

Posted on 20 September 2012 | 7:09am

A woman named Lucy Rocca recently sent me the following email.

‘I first became aware of your personal interest in alcohol issues in the UK, after watching your excellent Panorama programme about the middle classes’ growing binge drinking crisis, back in February. My business partner and I have both had personal struggles with alcohol but are now sober (and much happier for it!).

When we gave up drinking alcohol, we noticed that there was virtually no online help for people such as ourselves who wish to quit or moderate their alcohol intake. As mothers in our thirties and early forties from middle class backgrounds, we felt that we didn’t fall in to the societal norms of ‘an alcoholic’ and therefore we relied on the support of each other and self-help books in giving up.

With this in mind, we decided to set up our own online resource centre to help (primarily) women who feel that, for whatever reason, they do not wish to follow the AA route to sober living. In a nutshell, we would describe our site as ‘a Mumsnet for people who want to stop/moderate their alcohol intake’ and hope that our members will offer support and helpful advice to each other – a kind of online AA group. The site is called Soberistas and will be launching in November 2012.

Through the website and our blog (soberistas.wordpress.com) we are hoping to challenge society’s perception of people who have alcohol dependency issues, by promoting an optimistic, proud take on being teetotal.

If you could suggest any ways which you think might be helpful in raising awareness of our site, or any key contacts who might be able to help us, we would be extremely grateful. We are putting all our efforts in to getting this site off the ground and for it to become successful, and we are passionate about trying to help others who are struggling with alcohol. You may also like to take a look at our blog on WordPress. We are on Twitter (@soberistas), and we are followers of yourself on Twitter.’

So that was that … As a first step, I thought I would ask Lucy and her friend, Anita Herbert, both from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, to post a guest blog. I hope it might lead to some media interest, funding if that becomes necessary as the project develops, and above all other people who may be worried about their drinking. Here it is. It is terrific on the hold alcohol has over British life, and the double standards inherent in our approach to the issue. And I suspect a lot of people will relate to it, somewhat uncomfortably.

My name is Lucy, I am 36 years old and I do not drink alcohol. My good friend of almost twenty years, Anita, is 41 years old, and she too is teetotal.

We haven’t always repudiated alcohol – in fact, up until nineteen months ago, I regularly got smashed on Pinot Grigio or Chablis most weekends, as well as during the week if I had had a bad day, or was celebrating something, or on holiday, or bored, or socialising.

Prior to a year ago, Anita regularly drank excessive amounts of vintage Cava, muddling through at least half of each week with a grating hangover and low level depression. Many times we would get extraordinarily drunk together, intending to meet for just one or two glasses of wine, but almost unwittingly stumbling in to a predictable pattern that resulted in us imbibing bottle after bottle, more than enough to ensure blacked out memories and a certain degree of self-hatred the following morning.

Between us, we have five children, a husband, a fiancé, two dogs, a cat and a hamster. We take a keen interest in health and nutrition, and aim to maintain a fairly high level of fitness. We are educated to degree level, are middle class and have always held down decent jobs. We live in the ‘nice end of town,’ where there are good schools and tennis clubs, boutique shops and reputable restaurants. We like to take care of our appearance.

We drank to excess for more than twenty years and because of our alcohol intake, we damaged our health, our familial relationships, our self esteem, our finances, our productivity and our mental health. And we are not the only ones.

The society we live in paints two very different pictures of how alcohol plays a part in people’s lives. First, there is the ‘alcoholic’ – a desperate individual, bereft of family, employment, a place to live. A pathetic creature who lacks control and respect of self, and who endures a miserable existence, spent either ‘in recovery,’ whereby the temptation of liquor lurks in ever close proximity, or as a bum, who has lost all resolve to control their addiction and spends each waking moment glued to a bottle of cheap cider.

Then there are those who can enjoy alcohol responsibly – the friends who gather for a convivial lunch accompanied by a bottle or two of wine; the wedding celebration, incomplete without the fizzing glasses of bubbly; the drinks after work on a Friday, where colleagues bond over a mass letting down of hair at the end of a hard week.

The latter of these depictions is good; the former, bad. Good people do not cross the line from social drinker to out-of-control drinker, for this is the domain of the hapless loser.

And humming quietly in the background of this ubiquitous consumption of booze is the constant berating of binge drinkers, emitted from the mouths of other binge drinkers. Politicians who drink too much point the finger at youngsters in our city centres on Saturday nights who drink too much. Doctors, who drink more than is safe, advise us on ‘safe’ levels of alcohol consumption. Tea time programming presents excessive alcohol consumption as the norm (yes, Come Dine with Me, I am talking about you), and is then followed by news items flagging up the binge drinking crisis in the UK.

We live in a country which is floundering in a sea of hypocrisy and denial, a place in which alcohol is both the elixir of the Gods, and the stuff of nightmares.

Within the space of a few months, my friend Anita and I both made the decision to end our tumultuous and destructive relationships with alcohol, and in doing so we experienced an unexpected and unparalleled sense of relief and blessed freedom, a feeling of being released from a particularly insidious but gripping trap that had kept us both captive for all of our adult lives.

Neither of us would classify our non-drinking status as ‘being in recovery.’ Rather, living without alcohol is akin to having the blinkers taken off and seeing life for what it really is. We are happier and more balanced, and consequently our children and families are too; we are more productive and self-confident; we are richer in every sense of the word.

Based on the revelation that living alcohol-free is something to celebrate, we are launching a website, Soberistas.com, in November 2012. An online resource for those who can relate to our experiences (you can read more of these on our blog, Soberistas.wordpress.com) and who want to find out for themselves the benefits of ditching the booze, Soberistas.com will be packed full of features on health, nutrition, fitness, and of course, how to live happily without drinking alcohol to excess.

Have a read of our blog, or follow us on Twitter (@Soberistas) to keep up-to-date with details of Soberistas.com, due to launch in November 2012.

Life really is better when you are in control.

  • Dom

    Brava!

  • http://www.libroediting.com/ Liz Broomfield

    Thank you for highlighting these ladies’ important work. I haven’t drunk much for years and years but it doesn’t stop me being aware of the issues, and I think this will fill a real gap in support. Have tweeted about them and told a few people about them already. Good stuff.

  • Gill Pawley

    This is just fantastic! I completely identify with this! I’ve been sober for eight months and have never felt better!

  • M

    This is brilliant, and so well articulated. The feeling of taking the blinkers off rings so true. I went through a brief period of drinking too much in my twenties, and when I decided to take control, that’s exactly how I felt. I think the effects of regular overindulgence in alcohol create a huge barrier to effective functioning, as an employee and as a human being.

  • Sue S

    Thank you so much Lucy and Anita and you Alastair for sharing this. I wholeheartedly agree with every single word. My won background is very similar although I think I’m slightly older, in my mid fifties. Been teetotal now for eighteen months and can’t recommend it highly enough, health, mental wellbeing, mood , weight, blood pressure, all measurably better. I shall be sticking to being teetotal rather than controlled drinking becausee I’m just better off without it. Cllose to Sheffield myself and happy to do whatever I can to support this, shall certainly check out blog and can’t wait for Soberistas to launch.

  • http://twitter.com/Soberistas Soberistas

    Great to receive such a positive email – thank you. I really hope that we can create a shift in attitude about ‘boring’ teetotallers, and help people realise how much better life is without booze! Lucy at Soberistas.

  • http://twitter.com/Soberistas Soberistas

    Thank you for this comment – I completely agree with you about alcohol creating an inability to function properly, although this often occurs very subtly and therefore people may be don’t realise how much clearer things would be without booze. I hope that more people will give it a go! Sobriety definitely needs to be promoted more as a positive lifestyle choice.

  • http://twitter.com/Soberistas Soberistas

    Thank you for this – it’s good to hear from others who have seen the light!! Lucy

  • http://twitter.com/Soberistas Soberistas

    Thank you for helping to spread the word! We really want to try and change people’s perceptions about living without alcohol – it’s great! Lucy

  • Sue S

    Absolutely, I don’t need to be looking through the bottom of a glass to have a great time!

  • Anonymous

    I have floated in and out of abstinence in the last twenty-five years, since I was about my mid-twenties. Between eighteen and then I was usually driving a car to get anywhere, so never drunk more than a couple of shandys.

    But yes, as middle age approached the supermarket shopping trolley got a little too diverted to the wine and beer aisles, slowly becoming usually the first stop.

    But during my times of abstinence, I found just doing something completerly different that just plonking myself in front of the telly and boozing – the usual is the gym I suppose, but also running a mile down the road and back, then shower, or down the bowling alley, or cinema, or anywhere that is not too near a bar.

    But of course however, as the site suggests, this becomes near impossible when bringing up a young family, so why not the old arts – sowing, crocheting etc.. And for the ladies, go out into the garage to change the oil in the car, or service the lawn mower, or have a train set/Scalextrix track, again etc.. : )

  • Anonymous

    Oh bugger it, a song for mumsnet, from Victoria Hesketh, via me, which she will no doubt approve. One better known as Little Boots. Plenty of johanna plonking, which is right up my street, oh yes, so so said ladies might like it also,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukoI3dAX2M

    Yes ladies, from an online distance, non-stalking : ), like Victoria from first heard. Much younger than me, damn and blast! Here is her from when she just left Leeds Uni/Poly, with her first group, to fill in history,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8jx99asRtI

    GO mumsnet, hard changing times when it pops out, after all that agony and straning, as us fellas understand. AS IF!!! oh fuck we all say, when our life is now changed…

    Anygood mumsnet? Special selection for you all it was. Say too patronising if you want, and I will understand, because to be truthful, with new life, it always is. The rest of us are fools.

  • Anonymous

    I found with this, mumsnet,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19659887
    some might find it a possibilty to meet young vibrant young ladies, as I have found, not for sex.

    But as a father of a 21 year old daughter, Siân, I do think, but I trust her not to push her life too far, into those dark zones, she can call on me, for anything, pawn shop visited and more, etc. to help out.

    Makes you think though mumset what you are breeding and bringing up, isn’t it? Strong family, through thick and thin even though being star-crossed with your loin products, is the secret.

    A song again for mumset, for who can not love them, ey?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTjF5JZ_v7M
    Modern life is new, ey, new parentals, not like old?

  • Anonymous

    Suppose I could get friendly with this girl mumsnet, met her in November in Pendine, about twenty over odd years ago,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerys_Matthews

    She’s binged about in life a bit, think she is available again, and I know, as she is, an arian, so we WILL, yawn, get on really well, But been there before, but not with Cerys. Though, I was having a night off then, in Pendine then, mumsnet, didn’t smash it then.

    Cerys, for you ladies,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDvwOPlp0hI

    Any good?

  • Anonymous

    OOPS, bing-ed about I meant mumsnet, not binged, not as in over scoffing physical things. Bing-ed as in seen things in life, the otherside, of the other, whatever it is, mums…

    Comprende?

  • Anonymous

    Hope, mumsnet, your interpreted that Little Boots piano song as I did, being suddenly chained to a baby, after been squeezed out.

    But us blokes view it different, we suppose, DUH!!

  • Anonymous

    Posted this a few weeks ago, so why not again. I think it is appropriate, where bringing up a family is right hard, no matter what, in any way. It is a psychological task, through a childs life, from eldest to young. I wish I had that strength, but I have enough problems looking after myself.

    Bill Paterson the actor here, playing ex-WWII RAF, from the sixties, with family,

    http://vimeo.com/41451436

    Mumsnet, you will appreciate this, I can tell.

  • Anonymous

    But mumsnet, you might want to watch my boys, doing badly naughty slightly down by my way, in rugger, available here online. at five past seven, this evening.

    Boys kicking things out of each other, in good sport, as they do,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/welsh/

    Will be available at 7:05pm, online, outside Wales, UK only, darlings.

  • Anonymous

    Wotsisname in Islington-type comedy does make me laugh, even though it reinforces that they live in an anglo-saxon closed white world, where their face always fits, Hugh something. What is the buggers name, and with that, what was the comedy called again? must search…

    Ah yes, shoved “Hugh” and “BBC comedy” in google and got Hugh Dennis, that is his name, very Islington. Couple of comedies for comparison, that and provincial, out of that London whitey honkey world,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQi-_geTobE
    Ok, that was a short taster – she is sweet though, non-piedo, mind, wash your mind out, I meant there is hope for that young filly, with that sort of humour. More, to fill in the blank spaces,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3ynYHHH9e0

    And oh yes, the provincial clip, apologies, before you see it,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw9soPM7x-8

    Could have posted something from Manchester, but I couldn’t do that to them butt, I am too polite….
    : )

  • Anonymous

    pardon???

    Did you get this appearing in the corner there too? But still, I like it, quite interesting, ey mumsnet, especially at the start? Though further along is more me…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMatxdIH3_U

    Don’t listen to those rumours ladies, I kick right foot, unlike what your husbands think. : )

  • Anonymous

    Alastair! What happened to my alternative version from Victoria, Stuck on Repeat, vid and remix done by appreciatives? Ok, here is two, summer and dark,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLJ2g2mRYhE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJM68s5UAis
    Hope that covers both of the adolescent sexes, looking for young fun, as we did, as they do, Alastair.

  • Anonymous

    Fine looking lady, ey, Alastair? 28 now, and coming along fine, like a fine friesian cow in the field, pumping,
    http://www3.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Lulu+Guinness+20th+Anniversary+Party+Arrivals+5Tj8Ja_OZbEl.jpg

    Five foot nothing, sit on Uncle Huw’s old brass knobbed knees and bounce up and down, please, darling! : )) Let me be your dirty uncle, Vicky!

  • http://www.libroediting.com/ Liz Broomfield

    And now I’ve featured you on my blog and getting lots of hits so far!

  • harrogate sanctuary

    Really pleased about this. I have been working with women misusing alcohol in Harrogate for a long time, this is a great idea, fear is courage in action. Fabulous. x

  • http://www.sexxydazzle.com/ women

    Its a really quality writing. Thank you too much Lucky and Anita with Alastair for sharing with us.

  • http://www.sexxydazzle.com/ Edward

    fuck you simply