The Sober Diaries recounts the first year of Clare Pooley’s journey towards sustainable sobriety after several false starts. The story begins with Clare’s “yikes” moment on the morning after her birthday party three years ago. In a burst of self-awareness and self-hatred, she resolves to stop drinking alcohol completely.
Clare has certain assumptions and expectations about what this will involve, and frequently those assumptions turn out to be wrong. Rather than just grumbling about how unfair it is that things didn’t go as she expected: Clare wants to know why. In searching for answers, she reveals a talent for digging out relevant biomedical research and, most importantly, explaining it clearly and simply. This lifts the book beyond a simple recounting of a personal experience.
When tackling any life-altering challenge for the first time, whether it is beating an addiction, battling a serious illness, dealing with the aftermath of being a victim of crime or more common experiences such as pregnancy or backpacking far from home; the biggest source of stress is not knowing what to expect next. Is it normal to feel this way? Should that have happened? Is it supposed to be that colour?
The foundation of the growing support group sector is being able to connect with others who share your experience and can help answer those questions. Clare Pooley, with her blog and now her book, has both tapped into and provided a hub for mutual support among women (and men) desperately hiding their alcohol dependency behind a façade of coping.
The serious message is lightened with often hilarious anecdotes from Clare’s daily life, and pop-culture references to Clare's adopted role models of modern fictional heroines (the warriors, not the swooners) who fight their battles without the dubious assistance of alcohol.
Clare acknowledges that she has had a relatively privileged life. By the standards of many, she had it all; and with engaging honesty and self-awareness, she admits that she nearly drowned it all in a wine bottle. Some readers may find her enviable lifestyle difficult to relate to, but persevere: there is a real person in there and she’s not so very different.
After eight months of successfully driving off the “wine witch”, Clare finds herself plunged into a battle with breast cancer that severely tests her resolve, but which she confronts with the same determination and relates with the same self-deprecating humour.
The Sober Diaries is one woman’s story offered as a guide and example, but it is not self-aggrandising or pompous. Clare’s messages and observations are transferable to any addictive behaviour. At times I laughed out loud and at others I blinked back tears. The Sober Diaries is a keeper.
The Sober Diaries is an insightful and courageous book about one woman's journey in giving up alcohol. I am loving it, the book is relatable, funny and easy to read. Clare shows that there is a life post-alcohol and its an exciting one.