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Alex meets Clare Pooley, Author of the Sober Diaries

Updated: Feb 13, 2022



In this episode, I met one of my favourite Quit Lit Authors, Clare Pooley! Clare Pooley spent 20 years in the heady world of advertising, working hard and playing harder. In 2015 she quit drinking, and started a blog called Mummy was a Secret Drinker by way of therapy. That blog became a memoir - The Sober Diaries. Clare then turned to fiction, publishing the international bestselling novel The Authenticity Project in 29 languages. Clare’s second novel - The People on Platform 5 - is out in May 2022. Tune into this episode to learn more about Clare's sober story!


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You can find Clare on instagram: @clarepooley. Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/.


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Full episode


Transcripts


Intro

Hi friend, this is Alex McRobs, founder of "The Mindful Life Practice" and you're listening to the "Sober Yoga Girl" podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world at age 23 and I never went back. I got sober in 2019 and I realized that there was no one talking about sobriety in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so I started doing it. I now live in Bali, Indonesia, and full-time run my community, "The Mindful Life Practice". I host online sober yoga challenges, yoga teacher trainings, and I work one on one with others, helping them break up with booze for good. In this podcast, I sit down with others in the sobriety and mental health space from all walks of life and hear their stories so that I can help you on your journey. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how.


Alex

Alright. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am really excited to have Clare Pooley sitting with me here today. And Clare Pooley is the author of "The Sober Diaries", which is one of the Quit Lit books that I think I read probably in my first maybe 100 days sober. And we actually used it as a sober girls yoga book club book, probably at some point in 2020. So a lot of my community members have definitely read it. So it's just really, really exciting to have you here. So welcome, Clare, and thanks for joining.


Clare

Oh, thank you for asking me. I'm so delighted to be here. So, yeah, hi.


Alex

How are you doing?


Clare

I'm good, thank you. Yes, it's January right now, and I love January because, at that time of year where you feel really fashionable, you feel like everybody is doing the same thing that you do all the time. So, yeah, hooray for January.


Alex

You're right. It is an exciting time, actually. There's so much momentum and so many people exploring sober curiosity. And yes, it's a good month. So I was wondering if we could start off by you just giving a little bit of context into a sort of who you are, where you're based. You can tell us a little bit about your books.


Clare

Okay. Yeah. So I live in London and I have been sober now for nearly seven years.


Alex

Amazing.


Clare

Which is so funny. It's extraordinary. You know, I remember so vividly the days when I used to count every single day, in fact, every single hour almost. And these days I forget how many years it's been. And I have to think, hang on, is it six or is it seven? And that seems really extraordinary to me given, you know, where I started. But yes, I've been sober for nearly seven years and I quit drinking when I guess there was no major sort of revelation. My drinking just crept up on me so gradually I hardly noticed it was happening. And over the decades, I just started drinking gradually, more and more and more until it got to the stage where I was drinking a bottle of wine every day and probably two at weekends. So about ten bottles of wine a week, which is a huge amount. And by this stage, I had three small kids and, you know, my life from the outside looked like it was, you know, all fine and all going well. But the reality was it was sort of falling apart at the scenes, really. And, you know, I was a terrible insomniac. I was overweight. I was stuck in a rut. I was sort of just a bit generally miserable about life. And I didn't like myself. I didn't really like myself at all. So that's when I quit. And yeah, I mean, my life is so totally different now. I wouldn't know where to start.


Alex

Wow. Well, congratulations on seven years. That's incredible.


Clare

Thank you. Thank you. Anyone who's at the beginning, it does get easier. The first 100 days are the hardest but, you know, it gets easier and easier, and it gets the stage, you know, where I am now. I hardly ever think about drinking unless I'm talking about it like I am with you or, you know, social media or whatever. I hardly ever think about it. And I never believed I could be the sort of person that didn't think about drinking. I used to think about drinking all the time. That was part of the problem. It was always on my mind. And now I don't notice when other people are drinking. I don't worry about what anyone else is doing. It just doesn't really feature in my life anymore.


Alex

Wow, that's so amazing. And you're right. I think most people would relate to that having gone through a sober journey of like, you know, when I was first quitting, I don't think I can ever imagine not thinking about it. Right. And then you just hit a point where it just becomes your new normal. Just incredible.


Clare

Yeah. But it does take a long time. And I think you know, people who do Dry January, for instance, what I think they don't realize is that that first month is the hardest bit, but the real benefits don't really kick in for at least 100 days. So, you know, if you're just doing a month, you're getting all the tough bits without all the really good bits. And the good bits do come, but it takes a long time to sort of retrain your subconscious. So don't despair if you're in the early days and you're thinking, you know, is my life always going to be this difficult? Because it really won't be, but just give it time.


Alex

It's so true. Yeah. And so tell me about-- during your sober journey, the whole book began by just keeping a blog, right? "Mummy was a Secret Drinker". So maybe you can tell us a bit about how that started.


Clare

Yeah. When I quit, I think things have changed a bit recently. I think it's easier to be sober now than it was seven years ago. But back then, you know, if you quit drinking, if you quit smoking, people sort of patted you on the back and told you you were brilliant and have great willpower and all that sort of stuff. But if you quit drinking, they thought you were a bit strange, and, you know, their automatic reaction was, oh, do you have a problem? Oh, you poor thing. And they want to talk about it and, you know, quiz you about exactly, sort of, you know, why you have to quit and how awful it must have been and all these sorts of things. And I just couldn't face doing all of that. I felt like I was the only person in the world who was going through what I was going through, and I felt really ashamed of where I ended up, and I was too ashamed to go to AA. I didn't have the courage to go to AA. I don't think it would be, there would be anyone at AA who was like me, which was, you know, probably wrong. But that's the way I felt at the time, but I knew I sort of had to talk to somebody. I had to get it all off my chest. I had to have some sort of therapy. So I thought, well, actually, if I start writing, which was what I used to do when I was a teenager, I used to write a diary. And I found it really therapeutic. And I thought, well, I could do that again. You know, I could write a sort of diary and write about everything I'm feeling and everything I'm going through. And that might be really helpful. But I thought, well, you know, this is what was it then? 2015. And nobody writes diaries anymore. They write blogs. That was the sort of, you know, the new thing back then. So I thought I'd write a blog. And also I think I'd probably been watching too much "Sex in the City". And I sort of saw Carrie Bradshaw, sitting there late at night with her laptop. And I thought I can do that. So I started this anonymous blog, and I called it "Mummy was a Secret Drinker". And I called myself Sober Mummy. And I didn't want anyone to know it was me. So I didn't publicize it at all. But it sort of went viral. And I think because actually, the reality was there were so many people like me also feeling alone, and they were also feeling ashamed. And they were also Googling, am I an alcoholic? And, you know, Google led them to my blog. And through that blog, you know, I found this huge community of people, and they really helped me, and I help them back. And, you know, the community is the most powerful thing in early sobriety, actually, at any time in sobriety. That blog eventually became the book "The Sober Diaries" and then eventually came out under my own name, which was a bit scary, and published it. So that's how it all started.


Alex

That is so incredible. And tell me about what was that transition, like from moving from the blog to the book? Was it something that you kind of came to on your own? Did your family know that you were writing the blog, or how did that come about?


Clare

Well, I didn't tell anyone to start off with about the blog, but my husband eventually discovered what I was up to. I think he probably thought I was having an affair or something because I was away and then closing the lid on the laptop. I think he eventually discovered what I was doing. And I think it was really helpful for him also reading my blog because it helped him understand what I was going through without us having one of those awkward conversations. It's really difficult to do, even when you've been married to somebody for a long time. So that's how he found out about it. But, you know, nobody else knew what I was doing until it must have been, at least, I've been writing for at least a year when finally one of the mothers on the school run managed to put two and two together and worked out that the blog she'd been reading secretly was me. And that was quite freaky. And at that point, I was getting more and more people sort of sending me messages saying, you know, why don't you publish this as a book because it would reach more people. And I knew if I was going to do that, I had to do it under my own name. So that's the point at which I thought, okay, you know, it's been a year. I need to sort of stop hiding under this pseudonym. But that was quite frightening. But I can't believe now that I was so worried about it, you know, because actually when you make yourself vulnerable, when you tell people the truth about what you're really going through, people are generally kind. You know, people are unkind if they think you're not being true or honest or authentic. But, you know, generally, if they know you are, if they know that you're being really upfront about the issues you had, people are generally really understanding and really kind.


Alex

Yeah. Claire and I met when I actually attended a book club that Claire was a guest at at "Be Sober". And something that I remember you mentioning was just how your husband supported you when you were deciding to publish the book. I can't remember what he said, but I remember writing it down and being like, wow, that's beautiful. But can you remind me again, how did that go when you said to him that you were going to publish the story?


Clare

Yeah. I mean, I couldn't have done it without my family's backing because they're in it. It's their life as well as my life. And my husband is a really private person. So, you know, I thought that there was absolutely no way that he would want me washing our dirty laundry in public, so to speak. So we were on holiday and I waited till the right moment, and I plucked up the courage and I said, look, you know, I've been thinking about doing something, and I wanted to talk it through with you. And it's probably a really stupid idea, but, you know, sort of let me know what you think. And I said, you know my blog, which he was really supportive about, he loved the fact that I was writing and that I was helping people and that those people were helping me. He loved all of that. And I said, look, more and more people keep saying, why don't you publish this as a book? And probably nobody wants to publish it, but I was thinking about giving it a go, but, you know, it might be awful and people might hate me and, you know, it might be embarrassing for you and the kids and you might won't want me to do it. And I completely understand. And he said, look, he said, yeah, there might be some downsides and there might be some upside and it would be a real adventure and that we all need more adventure in our lives. And that was why I published it because he was just such a star. And it's true we do all need more adventure in our lives, and you know, you don't get the exciting bits of life without taking risks. And I think that's something that I didn't do for, you know, decades, when I was drinking is take any risks. You know, I was so used to numbing all my emotions with alcohol, you know, any anxiety, any fear, any boredom, you know, any negative emotions. And when you do that, you lose your courage and you lose your self-respect and you lose the ability to believe you can do things. So, yeah, that's how it all happened.


Alex

Can I just say I admire your courage and bravery so much? I think it's a huge thing to put yourself out there in a way that is like permanently there. You know, that book is permanently out there. And to share your story and be so vulnerable, it takes huge courage.


Clare

Well, look at you, though. You've changed your whole life, too. You know, you've moved to the other side of the world. You set up your own business, you change careers, you know, you're putting yourself out there. I think there's something about the process of getting sober that really changes people fundamentally, and it changes the course of their lives in ways that, you know, they don't expect at all, you know. I thought my life was going to be over, and in fact, it just marked a whole new part of my life, a whole new act, if you like. And that happens to so many people. I've talked to so many people who've had new careers, new relationships, new hobbies, new passions. Yes. That's kind of you to say, but I'm honestly not the only one. There are thousands of people out there who had the same experience.


Alex

So true. It's almost like you're like, I've heard it described it as like peeling back layers of the onion and really finding out who you really are.


Clare

Yeah. I found that the first year was very much like that. It's all about sort of that self-analysis and that really painful, peeling back of the layers, and you sort of have to take yourself apart before you can put yourself back together again. And it's a really intense and painful process. But then the second year of being sober is very much about looking outwards again and thinking, okay, now what? Now, what do I do? I've got more time. I've got more energy. I've got more space in my head. I've got more focus and more understanding and more wisdom. And what am I going to do with all of that? And that's often when your life sort of pivots, is that what you found? Because I think people assume that when you quit drinking, you know, the whole process of getting sober is sort of a few months, but it's not it goes on and on you know, and you go through new stages. And year two, I think, is as transformational as year one. It's just a lot easier.


Alex

Yeah, absolutely. It made me think of actually, I'm sure you had this question as well because I know you were on the "Sober Experiment" with Alex and Lisa. I was a guest on their show, too. And they asked me you know, which of each, you know, "Be Kind, Be Brave, Be Sober" as their slogan. And they said, which of these kinds of signifies where you are right now? And I said to them, well, I think my first year was about, like, being sober. And then my second year was helping people and being kind. And like, now I'm in this be brave phase where I'm taking risks, and it's like it's this ongoing process that's, like ever-evolving.


Clare

Yeah. I feel exactly the same, actually. Mine was the same. Be sober, then, be kind, and then be brave. And actually, you know, talking about the kindness thing, I do find that one thing that people who've got sober have it in common is that I think they generally tend to be really empathetic people because you know when you've been through that process, you realize that everybody is struggling with something, you know. Everybody is-- their lives may look sorted from the outside, but everyone has something that they're having to deal with. And when you realize that about people, it does make you much more kind, because, you know, you realize that if people are acting in a way that you don't like, there's probably something going on that you just don't understand.


Alex

So true. Yeah, absolutely. And so tell me about then after you published "The Sober Diaries", you went on to write two other books. Right. And one has already published "The Authenticity Project". And then you have another one coming up soon this year.


Clare

Yeah, that's right. So "The Sober Diaries" came out at the very end of 2017. So how long ago now? Is it three years or it's four years? So it's been out for a long time. And as soon as I finished writing that I didn't want to stop writing because, you know, writing by this stage had become my therapy. It was my form of mindfulness, in a way, and I really loved it. It was a real passion, but I didn't want to carry on writing about my own life because I was boring myself by then. I thought, you know, I just can't carry on writing about myself. And my kids were older. My kids are teenagers now, and they don't want their mom writing about them either. So I thought, well, I'll try writing fiction. And so I did. I did a novel writing, a three-month novel writing course, which was really interesting, really helpful, and just gave me a lot more confidence. And then I published my first novel a couple of years ago. And in a way, it's not as different from nonfiction as I thought it would be, because I still write as therapy. I still write about the things that matter to me. One of the main characters in "The Authenticity Project" is called Hazard, and he's an alcohol and cocaine addict. So his journey of sobriety is very much based on my own. There's a young mum called Alice, who is addicted to social media. And I share a lot of that too. So it allows me to explore things that I'm interested in, but one step removed from myself, if that makes sense.


Alex

Absolutely.


Clare

That came out two years ago. And then this year I've got my second novel coming out, which has different titles depending on where in the world you're reading it. But if you're in the UK, it's called "The People on Platform 5" and it comes out at the end of May.


Alex

Wow, that's so incredible. I can't wait to read it. I actually have not read "The Authenticity Project" yet, so maybe it'll be something that we put on our book club list for this year.


Clare

That would be great.


Alex

Definitely, your new book as well.


Clare

You can get it on audio as well if you prefer to listen to books. Actually, that's something I found really helpful when I was in the early days of going sober. If I was having really bad cravings, I would go out for a walk with an audiobook, and it sort of getting away from the fridge and any drinking associations and having something playing in my head that wasn't my own thoughts. I found it really helpful. So if you haven't discovered audiobooks yet, then I would definitely recommend that as a tool for your toolkit.


Alex

That's so true. And when I was first in early sobriety, I was still living in the Middle East and I had long commutes, like a half-hour commute to work and then 20 minutes to the gym after work and I could go through an audiobook in like a week. And actually my whole Audible. I think I might have even listened to "The Sober Diaries" on Audible. But my whole Audible is like all Quit Lit books and it's great because you know, it's like you're listening and you're like, wow, just like you said earlier, I'm not the only one going through this. And sometimes you can really resonate with different people's stories.


Clare

Yeah. And podcasts. You know, do exactly that too. I think there's something really helpful also, I have this theory that people that addicts are people who often have overactive brains, you know. Part of the reason we end up drinking too much is just to still all those constant thoughts and the constant whirring that goes on in your head. And, you know, I think audiobooks really help you with that as well. It just helps you sort of, you know, stop thinking. If you see what I mean.


Alex

Yeah, it's so true. Definitely. I can totally relate to that.


Clare

Monkey brain, they call it. I think we tend to have monkey brains.


Alex

Yeah. So tell me about like, you have your book coming up this year. What else, what other ways are you kind of in the world of sobriety these days?


Clare

That whole world has changed so much in the last seven years. So, you know, just to thinking back to then, there was the blogging, the sober blogging world that I was part of. But it was all very undercover and very anonymous and very sort of, you know, you had to seek it out. And there were just a few people like me around the world blogging, often under pseudonyms like mine. And as I said, you had to search it out. Whereas now it's much more public. So look at Instagram. I mean, Instagram, there's a huge sober community on Instagram. And these people, they're not anonymous. On the whole, people are using their real names, they're using their real faces. Their sober community is out and proud in a way that it really wasn't seven years ago. So I'm sort of, you know, very active on the Instagram front. I also have a page on Facebook called "Sober Mummy", which I post on two or three times a week, just stuff that I see in the press I find interesting. And I get emails and messages from, you know, hundreds of them from people every week. And I try and reply to as much as I can. So if you have messaged me and I haven't replied, then I'm really sorry. I do the best I can, but I do get a bit overwhelmed. Even after seven years, I think the 12 step of AA is giving back, and there's a reason for that. And the reason is that no