(i haven’t posted a roundup since July, so this list is longer than usual).
If we are sober penpals, then we email all the time and I keep track of your dates. Then i can celebrate you online (here) when you hit the big milestones. like these ones:
(i haven’t posted a roundup since July, so this list is longer than usual).
If we are sober penpals, then we email all the time and I keep track of your dates. Then i can celebrate you online (here) when you hit the big milestones. like these ones:
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 22nd.
saturday morning. husband’s birthday. we were going to take the train an hour from here and explore some new town but it’s forecast to rain all day, tomorrow too. now we’re contemplating the unspecial events of bed-movie watching and bed-food-ordering-in. i may make him meatballs for dinner (his request) if i can manage to get out to the store (hopeful). maybe they sell birthday presents at the grocery store, too …
do you know when you come to a fork in the road (sober) and you’re tempted with the idea of giving it up for a few days off? my parallel story is with fiction writing (sober), which i’d been doing for 372 days and i’ve recently lost the plot (ha) and was gathering advice so that i could justify stopping. it’s really too much to be 100% long-term sober, isn’t it (or to write fiction continuous days)? i was on day 372 and surely that was long enough. I’ll just stop for a few weeks maybe. I’m certain it’ll be easy to start again.
then i read some stuff and decided: i’m going to stop (sober) writing fiction daily. everyone will understand.
and phew, it felt like a relief. all the noise in my head of should i, shouldn’t i, it all stopped. i had a peaceful evening last night, we did a big houseclean for the first time in two weeks and even cleared off the table of all art supplies and ate dinner, seated across from each other, like grownups.
at about 9:30 pm, mrB said, want to watch a show? and i said …
I think I’ll just write for 15 minutes first.
because when faced with stopping, i realized this: i always have the choice. i’m not forced to be sober. i’m choosing to do it. because i like the results. i’m not forced to write fiction. i’m choosing to do it. because i like the results. so i didn’t drink yesterday and i worked on my sober fiction book.
when i gave myself permission to give up… i couldn’t face doing it.
the investment to maintain the momentum is minimal compared to the regret of not keeping going.
from my inbox:
bluesparkles (day 0): “FUCK I hear you Belle. It just seems so damn boring and exhausting without the buzz of wine to keep the night going. I don’t know what to do instead. I mean, I do, and i’ve done it, but I’ve forgotten the past few weeks since i’ve been back at school and it’s ramped up the tension and need for release. I am so goddamn sick of thinking about it.
Belle, if I could tell you all the things that are running through my mind every day with school, the three kids, my job which is filled with children, colleagues, the new fire pit in our backyard so my hubby and i can enjoy a date night at home since we don’t have any damn help – well firepits don’t seem that fun with just coffee and creamer. I bought decaf coffee and creamer just for that reason, but it’s more fun with wine. and I hate that. Hate hate hate. I can do a trillion strong ass things, give birth, deal with marriage stuff, family serious health things, I don’t want to deal with one more damn thing – i.e. giving up something that relaxes me. does that make sense? I feel like your response is going to be unintentionally condescending because it’s just not that easy to find other sober supports and treats in the midst of life.”
me: I know that I will be unintentionally condescending when I say that you being sober is a big deal, for you, for the kids, and for feeling proud of yourself. if you’re missing out on a ‘buzz’ then yes, you can find it in other ways. you’re here [reading this, emailing] because on some level you know that you’re drinking more than you want to be. it’s not easy to find sober supports. but I’m here, and you can be emailing me 4 times a day. you could listen to the audios and set up calls with me. you have a voice in your head that tells you that alcohol makes things better. that’s what addiction is. it’s a head that lies to us. and on some level you know this. that’s why you’re emailing me. to ask me to say this. so I will 🙂 hugs
blue skies. i can see clearly now, the rain is gone (thanks holly cole, good nova scotian girl). original paintings by mr.Belle who does these in his spare time, evenings and weekends, with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. for you. http://www.tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/original-art/
this is painting #223. there’s only one. nice colours, matches the sky (no filter!). here.
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 21st.
A_Sober_Cannibal sent me a link to this, yesterday, in response to my flailing around feeling like i didn’t know what to DO about a writing problem i’m having. i know. writing problems are already first-world problems, aren’t they. “More information might be helpful, but there’s no such thing as enough—at some point, a leap is required, and afterward, you still won’t know what was best … secondly, the idea of a right choice implies that the consequences of our choices are somehow cleanly connected, and isolated from everything else. You choose option A, and get consequence X. But choices and consequences aren’t paired off one-to-one, like doors in a game show bonus round, each hiding either a prize or a punishment. Every action sets off endlessly rippling consequences, a cascade of effects that are often both beneficial and detrimental, both short-term and long-term, both intended and unintended, both known and unknown. Your choice to work from home leads to freed-up commuting time (decidedly good), more family time (good), but also more tension with your partner (bad), and a harder time getting enough exercise (bad) and who knows what else. Each of these effects influences other parts of your life, in ways seen and unseen, forever. Yet we tend to think we can look at a single dilemma in isolation, identify the right response, and execute it, as though we’re lining up a shot on a billiard table.”
this also reminds me of the decision to be sober – will it fix all things like a shot on the billiard table? no. but will it set in motion another whole set of changes, some small some large, that will give us different outcomes? decidedly yes. we’re sober, that means we can show up for the challenges. it means we can take advantage of the job advancements. it means we can spend 40 minutes a day on a hobby, passion, side-hustle. it means we can be available when the phone rings at 2 a.m. It means we can show up everyday, as the best possible version of ourself that we can muster, and do our best.
so in my case, the dilemma i was having about my writing project? being in motion is better than trying to sort it all out in advance. there are some things you can’t tell until you’re going. sounds like being sober to me. can’t tell if you’ll like it until you’re going.
and here’s my treat yesterday, thanks to the tiny gift fund (daffodil princess):
from my inbox:
grace514 (day 724): “STILL SOBER and expecting my 2nd baby in exactly one week from today. Everything I have in my life is a result of sobriety & God! Yay! I just read through all my old penpal emails to you and realized it’s critical I go back to daily emails bc last time I was postpartum my cravings got bad (I relapsed a few weeks in last time). So here we goooo again, yay! I’ll be 2 years sober on September 28 which will be the day after my daughter is born!”
happygal (day 8): “Sober. Tomorrow is the work event I’ve been worried about since July. I can’t skip it because it’s my department at work. But I can leave early. I can eat good food and drink Diet Coke and tell anyone who harps at me with their wolfie voice that I’m really just not drinking these days.”
me: you can go and play sober bingo. we can make up the game right now 🙂
sober party bingo.
you get one point for each thing.
must do all steps for a perfect 10 🙂
jacci2 (day 210): “It’s weird to me that people take offense to your husbands sober-inspired art, but not your sober-inspired jewelry/mugs/key chains/etc, I still don’t get it. Speaking of which, I bought a mini one! Super excited. I love how you mentioned that four random sober people will be sharing a bigger piece of art among us, connecting us in the universe! I wouldn’t have made that connection unless you said something, and I think it’s beautiful. I get to share a sober life with three other folks, as well as a piece of art from your family! From your sober family to ours. Awesome! 🙂 Please keep both little and big sizes coming! I think I may splurge on a big one for my one year soberversary. I also think it would be very cool to have a collection of your hubby’s sober art around the house, little reminders every day.”
J: “Dear Belle, yesterday I had my first drink in a long time after first signing up to your emails. One large wine became five in about 90 mins. I spend £125 on wine. £20 on a cab. £20 on another cab because I got on the wrong train. I argued with the man I love and our relationship is on a knife edge because of my previous outbursts. I argued with the father of my children too. I spent £20 on pizza I didn’t eat. I upset my daughter because she heard me arguing on the phone. Cancelled my manicure this morning because I felt so wretched. And am sobbing in the bath because I feel so ashamed with myself. Drinking masks so much pain but I thought I was dealing with it by not drinking. But I wonder if there is something more? Should we also make sure that we support sobriety with extra help? And am I the only one to have broken my own promise to myself to stay sober?”
if booze is an elevator that only goes down, it’s ok to step off. in fact, the earlier you get off, the better. find the exit.
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 20th.
the best part of yesterday was the pancakes with bacon salt, bacon, maple syrup, one fried egg (i gave the other one away), and tiny coffee. then we went towel shopping which took 2 hrs (oh, let’s get sheets too!). did you know that towels in france aren’t the same size as in north america? do you know that once you’ve lived with your NA towels and hung your towel rack over the radiator, to buy different towels will not work in that space? do you know that once you decide to buy the wrong sized towels, because – hey, you live here now, time to adjust – they’ll tell you that there’s going to be a sale next week, so you put it all back and leave with nothing but photos of what to buy? thankfully, very kind helpful staff (yeah to BHV), yeah to telling us about the sale. and just about a large boo to the rest of my day. all of it. i wasn’t able to get the right info at the right time, from the right people, including paid staff, too many loose ends, and not enough treats! i went into the freezer last night looking for a treat and found some cherry ice cream and ate that 🙂 sorry husband. i know it was yours. today i think i’ll get flowers. because really. i’m still a bit all over the place, it can’t still be post-travel can it? how long does it take to recover from jetlag. oh you mean it takes longer than i think and since i’m not drinking, i have to do less and go with the flow a bit more! oh, now you tell me …
from my inbox:
Lee the Pea (day 61): “For me, it’s all encaptured in those oh-so-important words of yours: learn how to deal with being frustrated. Frustration heads for the hills the moment alcohol hits the bloodstream – which would be wonderful, except — frustration waits patiently for the bloodstream to empty again, and then comes charging back to town. Only thing is, it’s relaxing restful holiday in the hills has made Frustration stronger and louder and angrier (with a tan). You’ve helped me appreciate that, by choosing to be sober, you FORCE yourself to search your toolbox for other frustration-dealing-tools — and the golden thing is . . . . they are in there. OK, they are harder to find than all the booze bottles sitting on top of the box. But if you ignore them, if you dig down deep enough — they are there.”
S: “I just quickly want to say; AA has 55,000 meetings in the US, making it a landslide most used. It is still the default treatment in both the UK and Australia. There are 1.2 million people going to these meetings in America. Can we please just or a minute, realise that AA has more than enough representation? I think it’s fine to give positive and negative 12 step feedback, but the alternatives for 12 Step Programs have barely any representation at all, while AA has been around for decades, and many people think it is the only way. I think both sides of the story need to be told, but shouldn’t this be whilst being aware of the fact that there is already a majority of people using the 12 step modicum? i know both work. This is just a thought.”
coffeegirl (day 173): “Hi Belle: I am processing my “girl’s weekend” last weekend which was so hard for me. I am thinking about some tools that I can add in for myself next year for better self care. Here are some of my ideas. Let me know what you think or if you have any additional thoughts. I know it’s a year away but it’s really about radical self care for me. I was thinking I might do best sleeping alone in my own room (we often share queen sized beds). I could excuse myself early with a book and a cup of tea, go to bed in a space by myself to unwind (these weekends are so stimulating, that I often have trouble getting to sleep too) and start early, like 9pm. No staying up late with everyone. No sharing a room. I really need more self care and good sleep than I ever thought or was willing to acknowledge. I am a middle child of five and when I am in a group that drinks like that which fortunately is a rarity for me, it’s hard for me to extract me and focus on what I need. God. I am 60. One would wish I was better at just taking myself by the hand and going to bed safely by now, huh? thoughts?”
me: I’m a large fan of having my own space. I wouldn’t share a queen sized bed with anyone, except my husband, but if there are two beds available then we sleep separately unless it’s a king. I can’t do it. well, I can, but I hate my sleep and I hate my life. it’s ok to focus on you. and it’s about time 🙂
Mr. N: “This is day 100 for me. I’ve always been a boozer and I’ve never tried to give up before. Indeed, I took 3 weeks off drinking for a diet about 10 years ago and thought I was doing terribly well indeed! … It’s gone really well. I’m enjoying being sober in many ways. However, Fridays nights can be tough. A little switch goes off in my head and it expects to be refreshed. Or maybe it expects to be numbed? I now don’t think about booze during the week. I have so much more time and I don’t have all the stress of thinking about booze. It’s like a weight has been lifted. I didn’t realise drinking was so stressful … But I wanted to thank you because so much of what you have said has been so true. You speak a bit like me I think and I can relate to you. I get it. You seem rather nice really. And you’re not boring me or telling me what to do or filling me with fear and you inspire me to look at the positives, the great things to look forward to when you ditch the bitch that is booze. Great work. People need you and thank goodness you’re doing what you’re doing. I’ll maybe even buy something soon. Kindest regards, N.”
STAY… once you’re out of the booze elevator,
you learn to rest and be present.
Stay in the present.
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 19th.
my husband is self-employed and has often been at loose ends on what his next project would be. so he’s been ‘available’ whenever i needed something (not a great dynamic… honey if you’re not working, can you do the shopping, get me a coffee, go out now so i can have silence).
now that he’s working on the painting project we actually had to book a ‘date’ time for this week. though for us, that means breakfast in an american-style diner where we can get scrambled eggs and pancakes (decidedly un-french), and then after breakfast we’re going to … buy towels!
i often joke that one of the ways you can judge someone’s self-care is the state of their oven-mitts but it should be looking at the towels. old. frayed, 1 of the 4 towels is torn. yes we have 4 only, for 2 of us. there is no linen cupboard in a french apartment. there is a long wooden thing that holds the broom, mop, one bucket, and the 2 towels not in use can go on the shelf above, but only if they’re folded a certain way (otherwise the door won’t close). when mr.B announced on the weekend that we had to get new towels… then you know it’s well-past-time.
the things that we live with, just frayed around the edges, the things we hide when company is coming. YOU can have the nice small purple hand towel. ours are hidden when you visit.
so this morning, we’re having ‘date night’ with pancakes and towels.
it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s very large. sober, occupied, projects. and able to look up and around and say “ok, is there something else that should be adjusted?” he’s apparently starting with the towels. that’s ok by me. these ones are from Wal-Mart, bought in Montreal in 2006. it’s time.
and you? is there a small self-care thing you can do today, since you’re not hungover? can you look around and find one small frayed thing you could adjust? a plant that needs pruning/watering, a nice set of dishes that you save only for company that you could use today. maybe it’s time to have your own version of pancakes and towels.
from my inbox:
C (not yet a penpal): “Hi, Belle, I love receiving your emails. I always read them religiously. At the moment I am a bit of a stalker. I read your mails and those of your subscribers and I think – “What an amazing group of people!” You are all of one purpose; like me, you drink (or used to drink) too much. As yet I’m not as brave or strong as any of you and haven’t committed to total sobriety. Perhaps I will never do so. In my ideal little world I would be someone who has an occasional couple of glasses … I have read a book recently called “Mindful Drinking” which I enjoyed and which reinforced this idea. But the key that the writer has identified is something which is a bit alien to me. Plan your drinking and know when your alcohol days are going to be each week and don’t break your own rules by having more than three at a time. Always have more dry days in a week than drinking days. Well – perhaps it would be easier to just stop!! I managed a dry June and was very pleased with myself. But it’s amazing how quickly you go back to old habits.
You have had one or two criticisms on your site lately. One was about AA. I believe you should include both positive and negative experiences of AA. It is up to people to make up their own minds as to whether it is for them. The other that stuck out for me was from a lady who said you were using the site to plug your husband’s art work. Why shouldn’t you? It’s your site and you can blaze away. I’d love to see some of his work. Is there a website? [it’s here]
Here is one issue I have with trying to go totally dry. If I get up to day 48 and then have a glass of wine, I have to “reset”. If I’d got up to 48 and had to reset I would never get back again – it would be too demoralizing and I would be back on the down elevator for good – (or bad!) In my mind, it would be better to say. Woops! – tomorrow is day 49 and this day will be missed. So I have 49 out of 50 days sober!!
Thanks for all you do, Belle! You are an inspiration.”
me: if mindful drinking was possible, we’d all be doing it. once we have one drink, we lose the ability to make decisions about what happens next. this is sort of like saying “let’s moderate our cocaine usage…”
and the idea of a reset? well look at it this way, if you can do 48 days, then you can do the 49th day and then the 89th day and then 100. just once you can go straight through to 100 and see how you like it. Don’t have the one glass of wine, do 100 days continuous. The change is large. Well, you’ll see. And if you’re unable to do it without support (I couldn’t) then reach out for some (more). hugs
Lena (day 65): “ok, I feel totally ridiculous, but I am actually afraid of going to the grocery store today. and I have to, if I don’t want to starve … all the pressure of ‘don’t be so stupid, just manage your day, others can do it’. and I know that’s wolfie talking and it’s only 7 a.m. in the morning! … to be honest, the start of this idea to ‘just go to the grocery store as soon as husband is out of the door, stuff the emptiness with some good bulimia attack and maybe get (two, three) bottles of whatever on top’ began yesterday already. I haven’t gone, so far, but I went out to go for a walk, listening to some random podcast (because no time to lose on looking for the ‘perfect one for today’ – happened to be the one with the sprinkler, happened to be just perfect :)) and I have had had to stop my walk to write this email already in my head, now I’m sitting here half way, typing on my phone, no capitals available… it still feels shamefully ridiculous and (in the part of my brain that’s telling me I have to be brave and get everything done without help), I will email you before & after i go to the grocery store. phew!”
me: you don’t have to go to the grocery store today. some days the grocery store isn’t a good idea. I don’t think you’ll starve. I imagine you could do what I’m doing, and make some ‘leftover’ soup, with vegetable broth cubes, canned corn, cooked chicken from the freezer, dried pasta, and carrots. that’s going to be my dinner tonight. it’s not shamefully ridiculous to avoid things that make you feel weird on a weird-feeling day. you don’t have to be brave today. you haven’t learned what you need to learn yet to be brave (that sentence might be hard to understand!)
Lena: “that’s crazy. I don’t have to go! and I will survive (even the feeling of not having a perfectly stocked fridge when husband comes home). probably it’s not about starving … thanks for the ‘permission’ and the recipe! I could get some emergency bread at the bakery and pick a zucchini from the garden, too.
and the sentence about bravery? I have to print that out as a reminder for — just everything at the moment. and if that’s the only thing I really have to do today! but first there is some crying — of relief?”
If alcohol is an elevator that only goes down, it’s ok to EXIT. in fact, you can get out now. and stay out.
my lovely husband has started making sober art to share. original paintings, there’s only one of each. these aren’t prints, they’re handmade for you.
this one is Exit 160. there is only one, so my apologies if you click this link later and it’s already been claimed.
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 18th.
if you’re keeping track: i went for a run this morning, which means i not only went outside but i had a shower AND got dressed in real clothing, not jammies. those are 3 achievements for the day. i’m still ‘tired’ but also it’s from working hard and jetlag and husband working hard. he usually picks up the slack if i am busy on projects, and now it’s me saying “would you like an egg salad sandwich served to you while you work?” things have really shifted in our little life, for the better, as mr.B works more, is occupied, evenings and weekends, is up and out of bed when the alarm rings the first time, is HAPPY. who is this guy? this painting project … boy i can’t tell you how much it has changed our lives. we re-negotiate who’ll do what. i’m here, i’ll do the laundry. he’s out at the art store at lunch time, he’ll pick up cream for coffee (don’t run out of coffee, ever). re-negotiating is an ongoing process, like sobriety. it’s not ‘there, i understand it, now it’s done’ – because things change day to day. more or less stress. yesterday he went to the post office twice! but you know, it’s seeing him smile that is so great. really great. and i’m thrilled. i’m also aware the sober life that i’ve built on being sober stops if i drink again. of course, i’ve always known this, just like you do – if we have a drink, we go back to day 1, and sometimes day 1 is quickly regained, and sometimes it is not, and we can’t tell which one we’ll get when we take the drink. i am not at risk of drinking any more than before, but there is perhaps settled-ness to the decision of being sober. with mr.B doing the Exit paintings, i feel accountable to him in some way. like i’m sober for both of us. just like you are sober for you AND for your family. they count on you. they want you to be available at 3 a.m. when the pump fails, when the dog pukes, when they’re stuck and need you to pick them up. your family wants you to be happy in your own skin, which lets you be encouraging to them, which helps you show up every day. for me, when mr.B comes home for lunch with hands looking like this … it really makes me feel so proud. so let me say thank you to you. again. for helping to make this happen. it really is a big deal.
from my inbox:
Flightplan (day 731): “Hi Belle-Just realized that yesterday marked 2 years of not drinking. That feels huge. I have had more than my share of crazy events that could have been an excuse to drink. But I haven’t.
Because my [very young] daughter has leukemia, people ask me all the time “what are you doing to take care of yourself?” Sometimes it’s a laughable question and it annoys the shit out of me. It’s not like I can head over to the spa from the oncology floor. But I have learned a lot from not drinking – self care not always the big things – it’s the little treats, it’s going to bed early, it’s having a good cry and calling a friend. Having some water or tea. It’s feeling all these awful feelings and not trying to drown them with booze.
Anyway, 2 years is exciting. 100 days seemed unreachable on day 2. But here I am. 731 days. Yeah me. And thank you.”
Girl on the Learn (penpal #406): “Holy shit, I’m actually rounding the bend towards day 100! Doesn’t this just prove that it really does pay off to keep trying??? If there are others like me who have been reset like 50 times… I hope they know to keep trying. Because you were RIGHT!!! (Imagine that!). I really DO feel different than I did at 30 days. Light years different. I feel relaxed. I don’t really want to drink. I can feel ease in my mind and body while out at a restaurant and not be freaking out about wine the whole time. I can have dessert and not really feel guilty because I’m not busy getting drunk on wine too. It’s amazing! … So glad I didn’t give up on myself.”
lifeasirockit: “Day 2. I haven’t slept yet. My body is screaming for something calming, and I can’t take anything. I try to sleep but my brain spins crazy out of control. See, I have this anxiety habit. It limits me from everything I want to be, to do and become. When I drink, it gets severe. Well, after drinking, that is. I have tried with a few doctors and psychologists, but they all want to give me medicine, which has really bad side effects. And then you came – with all the hope I’ve been looking for! You’re not only helping with my drinking problem, but with a feeling of being seen and heard. That someone in this “dark and careless” world actually cares. That somewhere out there actually has compassion. My miracle. Here in the desert no one cares, it’s a very selfish society, no community. You know from before that these first days are traumatic for me. But I’m here, with you and that’s going to save me from a huge breakdown. Thank you from the bottom of my heart <3″
This is a personalized painting. mr.B will add your choice of words: Exit, Sortie, Salida … Stay … Potential … Fuck You Wolfie. Or maybe you’d like your painting to say: freedom, enough, remember, or your date of last drink …
original paintings by mr.Belle here
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 17th.
i don’t have it ‘all together’ – nobody does. everyone you know has had struggles of one kind or another. we don’t share our problems on social media. we don’t talk about it in the pick-up line at school.
but in every home on your street, every single one, there is debt or addiction or infidelity or mental health issues or eating disorder or neuro-atypical children or abuse or pathological lying.
it’s not always huge, it’s often not in your face, but it’s there. the lovely lady you see at work, the one with the fancy hair and nails — she’s had struggles, personal, private.
that everyone doesn’t share their private struggles doesn’t mean they’re not there. it means they’re private. and as soon as you search for ‘how to quit drinking’ online, you find out that it’s not just you. you can rant and rave ‘why aren’t people TALKING about how they drink too much’ but that’d be like saying ‘why didn’t she ever talk about how her partner had a gambling problem, or how her daughter thinks she’s a man and they’re worried about how she’ll be bullied at school.’
why don’t they talk about it? Because it’s private.
and facebook? facebook is the opposite of private. facebook is: “here’s me on my best day, or my worst day, but only what I choose to show you.” it’s not their literal worst day, it’s the version they’re willing to share.
of course i don’t have it all together. nobody does. and if they act like they do, they’re lying. we all have insecurities, burdens, or struggles that we have overcome. i’m out of debt, i’m sober 6 years, and i still struggle to get dressed because i work from home. last week? 5 out of 6 days i worked in my jammies, showered, got back into my jammies. yesterday we went outside – in the great outdoors – to see the Led Zeppelin show at le Bon Marche and it was … well, as you’d expect a led zeppelin art show to be. i read books and looked at the expensive coats while he looked at 150€ band t-shirts. then we left and got lunch and ate in the park. today, it’s 2:43 pm local time, i’m in my jammies. haven’t been outside yet. that window is surely closing… but i’m sober. at 5 pm i’ll walk out to take paintings to the post office. and some days being sober and going to the post office is enough.
notes from my inbox:
Y: “I panicked a bit there as I couldn’t find the way out on the two right hand side quarter paintings – I thought Mr B had forgotten to put an exit. But I then found them. But really, it did make me panic, like I was pushing the paint away looking for a way out – that’s scary. Powerful paintings.”
hernoodlyness: “Failed again this weekend. How do I go about signing up for my second round of penpal happiness? I am so anxious today, I cannot even function. Time to sort this shit out again.”
V: “Lurker here. Like commenter “J” on your post – I too find your emails inspiring and helpful. However I totally disagree with her on whether you should be promoting your husband’s paintings. Of course promote them. Trying to sell paintings doesn’t diminish your good intent, much of what you do is for free. You didn’t take a vow of poverty, you spread the word of sobriety. I can’t imagine your husband is rolling in the dough on the proceeds of his painting sales. And so what if he is, making a living off your creative work doesn’t make it less authentic.”
Harlow: “I don’t seem to be doing so well belle. I need to regroup and try harder. Today is a new day one and I’m not feeling good. The wheels are starting to fall off again, I’m losing perspective, momentum and motivation. I don’t know why. It feels so good being sober compared to this.”
S: “Dear Belle, You send emails to us regardless if we have paid, with amazing advice. Your husband has supported you when you have been at your lowest. I think it’s lovely the community you are building and the life you are sharing. So to all those cynical people just stop and support this artist who is finding his time. I suggest to do an exhibition. How powerful is this message … Girl from Bunbury ❤”
|80% of what i do is free. daily message like this one, live radio shows. i send newsletters things in the mail. i record one-minute audio messages. the other 20% of things i do are paid, and of course you don’t have to do the paid stuff. you don’t 😉 you can do the free stuff. like the Duck Ponderings audios. there are 13 free audios about ‘behind the scenes’ stuff. Sign up on this page to access all 13 FREE Duck Pondering audios at once.
if you’re looking for a paid thing, because, you know, you feel compelled, then i have 4 of these brand new Stay Here bracelets in gold. I ordered them as a trial, and only got a few. i was worried they’d be too thin and tiny to support the hearts on the ends, but it worked out fine, and i might even order more. anyway. do NOT feel compelled to purchase a gold Stay Here bracelet. in fact, you can get a brass one instead. or nothing. you can put an elastic around your wrist. that’s free 🙂
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 16th.
sunday morning. slept 10 hrs last night and the night before, and had a 2 hr nap yesterday. thought maybe i had a sleeping illness. then thought – this can’t be jetlag 5 days later. and THEN I thought: that vacation had a high level of sensory input. i was driving a car every day which isn’t something i usually do. some days i was on an interstate with trucks up my ass, not able to travel in the slow lane as too many cars merging in from the right, and a husband saying ‘you need to switch lanes’ and i’m like: i need to travel the speed limit, not impede traffic, and still keep my head attached. no small feat.
i didn’t used to be a nervous driver, but we haven’t had a car for 9 years. don’t need one here. so when we arrive anywhere on vacation in north america, it’s after a long flight, on little sleep, I pick up a rental car, and boom i’m on the highway.
and the roads in montreal? if i tell you were trying to get home from lasalle and ended up on ile des soeurs, you’ll know exactly what happened and where. if i tell you were trying to drive straight south from vermont to new york and ended up in providence rhode island, you’ll know what happened and where.
on the way to the airport, when were finally leaving to come home, mrB is like “you need to get gas” (to fill up rental car) and i’m like fuck gas. i’m done with this.” (and it looked full enough, and was, and it was fine.)
going forward, it’s not like i can say: “i hope I never have to drive a car again” because that’s unrealistic and limiting. what if i live in Squamish? how would i ever get anywhere without a car. what if i’m doing a road trip to small bakeries along the west coast and having sober meetups along the way?
no, the goal isn’t to be car-free. it’s to have more car exposures in the next year, so that it’s not so abrupt. which means driving in paris, on highways in france. it means practising. it means slow exposure. so that when i return from vacation, i don’t need to sleep 12 hrs at a time for days to recover 🙂 at least, i think that’s what’s happening. either that or i have mono 🙂 today, after 5 days, i did get dressed. i went for a short run. we’re going out to buy new towels. posted the first german painting and it sold in minutes so have posted a second one… that’s sunday from here. over and out.
notes from my inbox:
C-J (day 184): “Good morning Belle. I’m feeling a little more upbeat this morning because i wanted to start today by writing to say a big thank you and tell you about how your influence has rubbed off on my work, and the difference it has made. which is a really nice thing for me and an indirect thank you from the people that I work with too. Although they don’t really know about what kind of coaching you do, i tell some people that i have a personal coach, because i think coaching is very important, and I encourage everyone in my team to get coaching in lots of areas of their professional development, and i do professional coaching at work too, so they accept that i have a personal coach that I email and no one bats an eyelid about it.
Anyway, as you know from my previous emails part of our work involves sometimes finding clients of our building when they have passed away. Sometimes this can be extremely demanding on the manager of the building, who has a pretty busy day anyway, and if the death is complicated, gruesome, or is someone they were very fond of, it affects them deeply. which let’s face it is only natural as this is human beings we are talking about!
So i applied your logic about the filling up the tank before it gets empty, and got a group of my managers together and we have made a little pack and folder – and called it dealing with death – because there is no point calling it anything else, and if you are in a panic you need it to be called that when you are looking for it!
In the folder is a big print clear list of all the telephone numbers you might need, so that if you are crying you can still read them without your glasses on – a bullet point list of what to do – so if your brain freezes you don’t need to think or read the procedures, and there is a very clear message from me (their boss) telling them to make a cup tea (tea included and have a chocolate bar, also included) and then call another manager to come and help – number included.
We have also set up a quarterly support meeting to come together as a team and share good practice experiences and stories of our customers who have died – and what managers have had to deal with. We did this while we were writing the instruction pack and it was extremely cathartic, we had some tears and some laughter at some of the ridiculous things that can happen – so we realized we needed it going forward to take care of each other.
Our organization is 50 years old this year, and this is the first time we are filling up this particulate tank. We launched the packs at my big team meeting on Thursday – (the one that Boss staring crying at) and they were very well received, people felt cared for and appreciated having something ready prepared for a time of need.
Anyway my boss was very impressed so it may well become adopted nationally.
You have made such a difference to my life Belle both with my terrible head pain and over-drinking, helping me to place of more peaceful thoughtful clarity and of and of stable mood, and that helps me to help other people, so in turn you help them too. It is a great thing that you have done. Thank you again.
Big big hugs. And hugs to Apprentice Annie too – I hope she is getting on well in her new job please send my good wishes to her.”
[update: she’s on day 200 today]
SPECIAL EDITION for Thanksgiving.
Thankful for being sober.
You can say thanks to yourself.
You are doing this.
This is you, helping you, to do all the things.
Each small-card painting is 10 x 15 cm (approx. 4″ x 6″)
This message was sent to subscribers by email september 15th.
saturday morning, i think the residual jetlag is finished, i slept 10 hrs last night so that’s good. but the bad news is that upstairs neighbours moved out this morning, one of those mini crane things shows up outside our window, like a fire truck’s long extension ladder, and they put boxes on it and it shuttles them to ground level, so that they can avoid the flights of stairs. We don’t know who’s coming in next. in these old wooden buildings, your direct neighbours can change the quality of your life in ways not easily predicted. do they have 3 kids awake at 5 a.m.? do they have a dog that they’ll leave home all day, alone, to bark, and chase imaginary birds. are they midnight partiers, will they smoke out the window and drop their butts on my balcony? city living. apartment living. i could dream of a house all I like but this is a large city, with compressed spaces, it’s not happening. we’ve been in this apartment four years already. I am putting a request in to the universe today, that our new neighbours are a professional couple, travelling all the time, serious, studious. that they speak english. that they are warm and easy-going and go to bed at 10 p.m. that’ll happen, right?
notes from my inbox:
A: “Since I have no one else to announce this to, because no one in my “real” life knows my struggle, today is my Day 30!!! I am overcome with joy and amazement that I made it this far!!! I had all but given up hope before I found you. I had tried so many ways to get on the sober train over several years but that train would crash and burn after just a few days at every attempt. I was terrified that I was going to die, I was desperate to find a way out of the wine and permanently ashamed. You changed everything for me. Receiving your email updates of encouragement and your lovely postcards and now Mr. Bs beautiful, inspirational paintings has allowed me to latch on to something powerful in order to successfully pull through this all encompassing nightmare. Thank you thank you thank you for saving my life. Each day I grow stronger. Each day is a gift and I open every new sober day with a clear head and a healthy body, finally rid of toxic trauma. In fact, as I write this, it’s still dark out here. Soon the sun will rise and so shall I, set free, soaring, sober!”
M: “I felt compelled to write you about the hurricane. I’m in central N.C. and was preparing for this storm to hit. We were planning for several days without power, so stocking up on water, supplies and non-perishable food. I had no idea the hurricane would be the thing that makes me want to drink the most. I sailed through the holidays, my 50th birthday celebration, and vacations without being tempted. But so many here are using the bad weather as an excuse to party and stock up on booze, and I’m feeling the pull too. I’m not going to buy wine. I’m not going to drink. I’m just noticing the urge and the thoughts. And I wanted to tell someone, so thank you for being that person!!!”
Miss P: “Hi Belle, So how fast does your man paint??? Wow! I have been impressed by the colors and the passion his paintings have made upon me. So, I am still just a reader. I have a lot of support in friendships and people who make Miss P great again, yet I have still not found my perfect balance. Sobriety is ok, but I get bloody bored with people’s conversations and life itself and the fact that we have to always be so freaking politically correct all of the time. These facts create a very deep thirst. I am looking for a new hobby besides working to fill that down time, though it is usually filled up by driving children to their various activities. So, I write to encourage you to keep up the creative work with your blog and your ideas. Keep open to people from all backgrounds, Faith-based, crazy loon, artistic, poorer than dirt or the richest bitch on the block. I do believe this is one of your greatest strengths. Thanks for following your vocation. Miss P.”
J: “Belle, I’m so sorry, and I truly don’t mean to be rude or negative but, for me, your emails have now become 90 per cent about flogging your husband’s “art”. Not an approach for me, I’m afraid, so I’m unsubscribing. I do, though, wish you both well.”
Step 1. Exit
Step 2. Stay Here, Stay Focussed, Stay Sober
Step 3. Potential opens up for you. “I have potential because I’m sober.”
This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 11th.
woke up monday morning in vermont, had gingerbread pancakes and eggs for bfast (thanks to andpops for this tip). drove 2 hrs north to montreal to say good-bye to inlaws, and had a nice visit with them, a ‘real’ visit where we talked about real-er things. there’s a language barrier there for me (french and all) sometimes our conversations are more surfacey but yesterday was more of the real stuff (about vacations, retirement, health, family). then we braved the montreal construction (oh. my. god.) and drove to the airport arriving 4 hrs early for our flight. for reasons. so that i could work from there, so that we could eat and not inconvenience his family in asking them to feed us. i had my last tim horton’s club sandwich (they’ve changed the recipe, i won’t have another). i posted a painting from the airport. i tried to find a private lounge thing where you could sit at a desk and pay by the hour but they were all full with real members. i’m just a drop-in girl, not really looking the part of someone suited for a business lounge anyway. so we sat at the maple coffee place on the departure level and i answered emails for a bit since i hadn’t done much in vermont what with all the pancake eating that was required. on the flight itself, i worked on emails between bouts of holding on for dear life, paid for one hour of wifi so that i could SEND all the emails i’d written, watched about 40 minutes of the Mr. Rogers movie (husband watched 3 movies!), dozed for 20 minutes, held on for dear life again, and landed at 9:30 am local time after having been up for 24 hrs. now we’re home, showered, fed, 4-hr-napped, have woke feeling like death, and back at it 🙂 Mr. is at the dining table cutting boxes. I’m here, doing this. we will have frozen meals for dinner, or maybe order delivery hamburgers.
things i learned about tools and having enough of them: plan for connectivity (don’t rely on being able to find wifi, it’s never there when you need it), plan for contingency (when the thing doesn’t work, what’s the next thing), plan for a business lounge so that you can sit at a non-sticky table and type without having everyone looking at your screen (well, maybe it just felt that way). and have more frozen food on-hand for the re-entry so that we don’t have to scramble (plan to have treats, make it easier, do the things, make it easier).
buy data, have access to a business lounge? make it easier. find sober support, listen to the audios you’ve downloaded, read the emails you’ve signed up for – make it easier 🙂
oh, and your bed? it’s a really nice place! nothing better than your own bed after a road trip. or at any other time, in fact. and the coffee tastes better at home! when you make it yourself.
my inbox this morning:
peewit (day 617): “Something about your emails lately is really touching me, so much so I’m sat here with tears in my eyes. I feel like I’m seeing you more clearly, connecting with you and, to be honest — actually starting to trust you. Which has been really really hard for me. Until now, with all these ‘shares’, these moving little glimpses of your days, all this is heart opening for me and I FEEL you belle! And you run, but you’re scared to hike? Love that! The things we feel confident about are so specific, there’s so many lessons learnt from just reading the examples you’ve given on this trip. Big hugs, really big warm tight ones! Peewit xxxxxx”
barbs (day 42): “Hi belle not checked in for a good while but I’m STILL HERE and listening binge-ing-ly to podcasts xx great stuff. I am the person who is sensitive to light, itchy labels, hot pillows, bright lights EVERYTHING. Just listening to [your podcast about] overwhelm — it helps to realise the solution is self-care. So obvious, but I’ve been slow! Stop worrying about other people overly and worry about MOI 😘 I LOVE ignatian spirituality and you talk about beautifully when you talk about reviewing your day. Possibly you didn’t realise that a lot of your wisdom is ignatian which makes me laugh at the beauty of the ancient wisdom. You’ve tapped in and it’s wonderful to hear it in an unrelated secular situation xx
Hope your holiday is gorgeous.”
[from me: so then i had to look this up, cuz i have no idea what Ignatian spirituality is … the aim is to help one ‘conquer oneself and to regulate one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.’]
Lottie (day 42): “I hope you had a good trip home and are safely back or nearly back by now. I am very very grateful to be legitimately sick and able to take time off work, put my out of office message on and tell everyone to F off in polite corporate language for a few days. We can take 3 days without a doctor’s note so I will take tomorrow as well. I don’t even feel a bit guilty, my job is shitty at the moment and a break is welcome. I do feel pretty crap, but not so crap I can’t drink coffee and watch Breaking Bad. The cleaner is here making my bathrooms shine and my floors sparkle while I lie here. I am rereading some parts of your book and the parts on being sensitive, overwhelm and “everything else is Wolfie” are so, so helpful. I see that you mention Day 42 as when we start to feel braver and stop hiding at home. That sounds good but I am happy to hide out here just a little longer.”
Debz: “Day 39 for me. I did the alcohol experiment 30 days from Annie Grace. And it became routine to read the daily message and video which she sent for 30 days. That stopped. And now I realize I was looking forward for your traveling mails in the morning! Sorry your holiday is over. Have a nice flight back to France. And I also always look forward to see the new painting of mr.B. I like most of them (with contrasting colors the most, darker for the down side of elevator and more bright for the sober live). It inspires me, maybe i will paint too if I am more soberstable. I still didn’t sign up for pen pal because it is a little to much amount for me to pay now. (I have to pay other things so prioritize…). Anyway, I am trying to do it without it but I really really appreciate your every day emails!!!”
MindfulMe (day 308): “big stuff that disrupts our life has a tail. after shocks, smaller than the first earthquake, but still disruptive. I feel like its over because the initial problem is solved, its a brief false relief, because there is a mess of shit still to go…”
me: I hope the aftershocks from this have eased now, though I think it would be typical for wolfie to leap from this stress to creating a new ‘problem’ that needs to be solved. so be careful in the next week or so to go very easy on yourself. no new projects. no big expectations. no harsh words to yourself. just be sober. and rest. that’s enough for now.
MM: “Thank you for this. Those are the pieces of advice that I love and need to hear. Speak kind to yourself. So big. Aftershocks have calmed. further apart now…”
kitkatpaddywack (day 1333): “I love your travel adventures. East coast fall weather should have been more lovely for you. Maybe you [got] a lovely weekend! … I must admit, I’ve been a bit jealous of Mr. B’s art finding an audience. Indeed I should flip that around to INSPIRED. I am an artist wanna be. I’ve done some painting and have some visions for a show or a book. I’m just too hard in my self critiques and don’t let anyone see my art. Well that won’t take it anywhere. In due time. And maybe an art class to build my confidence. This last piece was gorgeous – and I see a figure approaching the exit sign. Intended? Give my kudos to Mr. B for having fun expressing himself and being bold to put it out into the world.”
me: I talked about your email with mrB, the idea that someone was jealous of him was an eye-opener to him. what we don’t share is his career struggles as an artist for the last 7 years and what it took for him to get to this place. it’s too tempting to look at a ‘result’ and think that there wasn’t 7 years of work to get there 🙂 le hugs le hugs
if booze is an elevator that only goes down, you can step off now. find the exit. get off and stay off.
original painting #91 here today.