“No-one escapes the wilderness on their way to the promised land.”
I have been seeking for a long time now to speak (write) in my “authentic voice” . This is something I picked up from listening to talks aimed at discovering your “real self” and I took my authentic voice to be the one that spoke with an Irish accent and idioms from my youth . Anyway, the truth of the matter is that I have lived in England for 45 of my 63 years so my poor old authentic voice is from all over the shop.
How much of what we say is influenced by our cultural heritage, how much of it is “the way you tell them”? Maybe this is the nature/nurture question from a different angle. I wonder if we communicate differently with people who have the same accent as ourselves, use the same language? A friend from London who lived in Barcelona told me she would follow people who were speaking in an English accent, just to listen to the language, and it made her homesick. Call centres, apparently, employ English speakers with Irish or Scottish accents because they are better received than others.
I am asking these questions because I have just been listening to actress Emma Thompson reading Jane Austen’s Emma. For a few days my own turn of phrase was influenced by this book, I noticed that the head chatter had taken on a form of words from the Napoleonic era (apparently!) and I was saying things like “Oh but my dear, that is too too kind of you.” I wonder if I had read this book while I was living in Ireland, having never lived in England or become acquainted with the accent from watching BBC period dramas, would the message of the book have been altered in any way? Are we all reading the same thing, or is our cultural heritage influencing the way in which we process what we read?
This brings me to the subject of “quit lit”. I have noticed that several people benefited from Jason Vale’s book, Kick the Drink Easily (2011, Crown House) and list it amongst the tools that helped them in early sobriety. Others are highly critical, saying that it is not a well written book and they couldn’t stick with it for that reason. Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind (published by Avery in 2018, previously published 2015) became my preferred book when I started out in 2016. Originally chosen for the title only, I soon learned a lot from Annie. Later on I was introduced to William Porter’s Alcohol Explained (self published in 2015), a book I recommended regularly on the Soberistas website as one which presented the facts in relation to the nature of alcohol itself and the effect of drinking it on the human body.
My favourite of Lucy Rocca’s books (founder of Soberistas) is Glass Half Full: a positive journey to living alcohol free, (2014, Accent Press) chosen again for its title and enjoyed from beginning to end as the story of what brought Lucy to conceive and give life to Soberistas. Others have recommended How to live a happier, healthier and alcohol-free life (2014), The Sober Revolution (2013, together with Your Six Week Plan) and The A-Z of Binning the Booze (2017).
After reading Amber Tozer’s Sober Stick Figure (2016, Blink Publishing), I stopped reading quit lit until the arrival of Clare Pooley’s (2017, Coronet) The Sober Diaries. I was fortunate to win this in a competition, I may not have bought it as I thought I had read much of it in serialised form on Clare’s blog (https://mummywasasecretdrinker.blogspot.com/). Another favourite from 2017 was Catherine Gray’s The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober (2017, Aster)
There is a wealth of literature available now that we might refer to as quit lit, books that let the reader know they are not alone. You will find now that you can read quit lit in the English language via a wealth of different voices, from Lucy Rocca in Sheffield to Lotta Dan in Australia (https://livingwithoutalcohol.blogspot.com/, author of Mrs D is Going Without, 2014, Allen & Unwin), to Elizabeth Vargas’ Between Breaths (2017, Grand Central Publishing) in the USA. These are just a smattering, just an example of the wide range of voices and stories that are now available in a whole host of different voices from different cultures and experiences, writing about the same phenomenon: the poisonous effect of alcohol on the lives of the authors.
Find the voice that speaks to you. If an author appears to be lecturing you that may put you off engaging any more with the message they are seeking to deliver. We are fortunate now in that there are a range of people, mainly women, who have had the courage to share their stories. These books are an important tool in your sober toolkit, something you can read at your leisure (and in private on an e-reader). Left out in the open in your home, they can be the start of a conversation with a friend.
In addition to the published quit lit, we are blessed on Soberistas with some very talented writers, and here again there are people sharing their stories with different voices, from different cultural and social backgrounds and a wide range of experiences. Find and follow the bloggers who speak to you, go back and read their early blogs , you may be very surprised by the content – nobody arrived at 3 years AF without struggling along the way.
The voice of the writer may have a profound affect on the reader. If you are pondering adding your own contribution to the quit lit, but feel uncertain for whatever reason, practice with a blog. Your voice might be just the one that is needed.
(Please recommend your own favourite quit lit in the comments below)
Namaste, Nana Treen xx