How author Pamela Power decided to tackle her binge drinking
During the Covid pandemic that pushed most of us to our limits, author and television scriptwriter Pamela Power decided to tackle her binge drinking. ‘My Year of Not Getting Sh*tfaced’ documents her journey.
Pamela Power took a long, hard look at her drinking habits and realised that she needed to take back control. Through her writing, we experience the frustration, the discomfort of the withdrawals and the reaction from friends and family to her decision to go dry. The book is a funny, honest look at a woman’s love-hate relationship with alcohol.
In this edition of #TheFlap, The Reading List spent a few minutes chatting with Power about her writing life.
The Reading List: Good afternoon Pamela, and thank you for agreeing to an interview with us for Daily Maverick.
We call this interview #TheFlap – it is based on the Proust Questionnaire, a parlour game made famous by the French writer Marcel Proust, who believed that the answers would reveal a person’s true nature…
Pamela Power: I’m excited to be in such august company.
TRL: So here goes! What were some of the unexpected challenges that came up while you were writing? What was unexpectedly easy?
Pamela Power: Writing non-fiction is hard! I had an outline and some polished pieces but mostly rough journal entries to work from, as opposed to fiction where you’ve (hopefully) delivered a fairly polished manuscript.
Also, I had a killer deadline.
Also, I had to be truthful.
Also, I had to be truthful without hurting anyone else.
Hard, hard, hard.
TRL: What question do you think readers are going to ask you the most?
Pamela Power: Have you managed to keep to moderation as far as your booze intake goes? So far, the answer is yes…
TRL: Quote the paragraph you think of as most interesting in your book.
Pamela Power: Hmm… I’m not sure it’s the most interesting, but I think this one is kind of fun:
In all the quitlit I’ve read, coke seems to be the drug du jour. Many of these gals were putting away two bottles a night along with a coupla lines of coke. Then having a sleeping pill, maybe a Xanax to come down. These peeps were professionals and I am an amateur.
- I have never been arrested for drinking (I mean there’s still time, but it’s unlikely)
- I have never had my stomach pumped
- I have never landed up doing cocaine off the lid of the loo cistern so that I could carry on drinking
- I was not having blackouts every week
- I was not drinking two bottles of wine every night
What I have been doing is drinking a glass or two every night and getting mildly pissed every weekend, to the point where I would often need to take headache pills the next day, and probably about twice a year I was getting off-my-face drunk and spending the next day with my head down the loo puking my guts up, fantasising about going to hospital and being put on a drip but making do with Valoid suppositories and a large supply of Energade. And obviously swearing that I was Never Going To Drink Again.
Ja, we’ve all heard that one before.
PSA: Valoid suppositories are God’s gift to hangovers.
But that’s how everybody drinks, right? We all get a bit pissed every weekend. Every now and then we go on a bender. It’s normal, riiiiiiiiight?
It might be normal but I had to question if it was how I should be living my life, and honestly should I be doing that to my body every weekend?
TRL: Brilliant, thank you. What was the most difficult scene or chapter to write?
Pamela Power: I found it difficult to be vulnerable and admit how tough things had been for us financially during Covid. I didn’t enjoy speaking about my parents in what I suppose could be termed a critical way – it felt so wrong even though they’ve been dead for decades – and writing about my sexual exploits when under the influence did make me cringe. It felt like I was over-sharing but at the same time, it felt important to discuss these issues.
TRL: What habit (now) distracts you most from writing?
Pamela Power: Taylor Swift and whether she really has broken up with Joe Alwyn (which I am massively upset about) and the tarot readers on TikTok who keep telling me my dreams are coming true.
TRL: Which writing talent would you most like to have?
Pamela Power: I’d like to be able to write beautiful, descriptive passages. Because I’m a TV scriptwriter and editor by profession, I’m a whizz at dialogue but the descriptive bits don’t come easy.
TRL: Which living author do you most admire?
Pamela Power: Honestly, this is like choosing which kid is my favourite. I read so voraciously that this changes literally from month to month. At the moment, I’m loving Curtis Sittenfeld’s Romantic Comedy. It’s brilliantly plotted, accessible yet beautifully written, and she captures perfectly the writers’ room on a TV show.
TRL: Do you have an ideal reader in mind while you are writing?
Pamela Power: Me. I write the stuff I would like to read.
TRL: What’s your favourite writing spot?
Pamela Power: Currently, as my nest has recently become empty, I write at my son’s desk, which has the most gorgeous view of our garden. Now in autumn it also has the sun streaming in both morning and afternoon, so I spend a large proportion of the time writing with one of the curtains closed.
TRL: What books do you currently have on your bedside table?
Pamela Power: I have just finished reading Bono’s memoir, Surrender, and am about to embark on my reading (and rereading!) for both the Franschhoek Literary Festival and the Kingsmead Book Fair. That includes: The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw, Bloomer by Anne Schlebusch, Peaches and Smeets by Ashti Juggath and Little Secrets by Gail Schimmel. DM/ML
My Year of Not Getting Sh*tfaced by Pamela Power is published by Jonathan Ball Publishers (R280). Visit The Reading List for South African book news – including interviews! – daily.