give up what doesn’t serve me

this is an email about how things grow and evolve. i was looking over some messages i received in 2013, about a year after i quit drinking, to see how much i’ve ‘bloomed’ since then. here’s one example:

october 9, 2013
email from E. “Hi Belle, I just want to say I got chills reading your post about opening a store! I’m not sure why exactly, there was just something so — touching on a dream — or something. And beautiful how things change and how you accept that thought so easily (it seems).
And on that note of changing dreams, I thought it was really interesting in a recent post how you mentioned you no longer write fiction. I am struggling with that one. I feel like it was this dream I always had and it’s soooo hard to let it go, but I just don’t think I like it, or that it’s good for me (it kind of makes me crazy) and I write in so many other capacities. I’m in another fiction class right now to give it one last shot to see if I want to or not, but I hope to hear from you or see a post on whether that was difficult to give up the fiction dream or if you let it go easily and what made that possible. I think the ability to allow oneself to change (including changing dreams) is so important but boy, can it be difficult!”

me: I’m big on giving up stuff that doesn’t serve me. but really the decision to not write fiction anymore wasn’t even really a decision. I just stopped. I never ‘had time’, I was always ‘busy with other things,’ and that’s it. years went by. then more years. now I realize that I wrote fiction to make other people happy. for me, it’s too solitary. and I’m not compulsive enough (i.e. I don’t get up every day just dying to write fiction). I do get up thinking about pie though. turns out I had to get sober and be 46 years old to figure out what I’m really called to do. I’m CALLED to and dream about cinnamon buns. and pie. and today I made sour cream coffee cake and bagels and lamb pot pies…

 


 

what’s interesting, of course, is that 4ish years later i WOULD start writing fiction again, sober fiction, about Rayna.

But i couldn’t see it then. i needed the space of being sober, measured in years, which eventually allowed the writing to come back in, on its own, without being forced.

It did NOT happen right away. i didn’t even predict it would happen at all.

i also found a way to make the fiction not solitary, by posting it live every day for people to read. and i found i way to make it ‘compulsive’ but committing to posting something every single day without skipping days.

the things i thought i couldn’t change, i could. the things i thought were fixed about writing fiction (solitary/not driven enough) i could change with external accountability. i know that’s not the way most people write books. it’s not the way most people do anything. but i know me. i do better when i think someone is paying attention. number of fiction books written without accountability over a period of 23 years? none. thought about it. didn’t do it. added daily accountability? wrote a first draft in 6 months.

tried to quit drinking on my own, I could get to 9 days.

add accountability? coming up on my seventh soberversary on july 1st.

but don’t get me wrong. accountability is hard. you have to reach out. you have to say you’ll do it. you have to show up. you have to allow yourself to be accountability. it’s scary to set it up. but it can help to get the thing done.

and i know, for me, i can’t do much without something external to me. it’s just how i’m wired. i can’t even apologize for it. it’s just who i am. i can do LOTS OF THINGS with accountability. I can do very little without.

i’d still like a blue bakery (i do love that photo). I’d also like to get fiction book #1 published, and start on #2. I’d like to have a radio show (!).

and my ongoing goal, often overriding others… is to sleep in.

maybe i’ll do all of them, just not at once. maybe if we’re sober for a longer period of time, there’s room to put the goals in.

and the space to let new, unimagined ones grow.

hugs from me xo

 


Question: If you were making a pledge today, and you could pick any number of days, then how long can you pledge to be sober for, for sure, starting today?

me, I can be sure, from today, that i’m not drinking until July 1st (my soberversary). for sure. for sure. no questions. i’m going to be sober longer than that, but i’m definitely 100% not drinking between now and then.

What about you? what’s your ‘for-sure-for-sure’ number of days you can be sober starting today?

~

“I know you’re chasing problems
But you’ve been running too long
It’s time that you come home my love
And stay here in the sun my love”


www.artsober.com

be OK with you first


email from Sunshine (day 1):
“I want to try 30 days. Haven’t made it that far yet. Day 1 for me again.”

me: you can try for any number of days you like 😉 how about starting with 2 days, and then getting a nice sober treat! 

sunshine: “You never make me feel embarrassed or shitty about emailing you and keep me feeling encouraged. Thank u:)”

[update: she’s on day 446 today]


Question: If you were making a pledge today, and you could pick any number of days, then how long can you pledge to be sober for, for sure, starting today?

me, I can be sure, from today, that i’m not drinking until July 1st (my soberversary). for sure. for sure. no questions. i’m going to be sober longer than that, but i’m definitely 100% not drinking between now and then.

What about you? what’s your ‘for-sure-for-sure’ number of days you can be sober starting today?

~

“If you see a chance, take it …”
[original art here]


www.artsober.com

stuck in our head

we can get stuck in our head with the ‘drink-now’ voice. we can get stuck thinking that nobody understands, nobody cares, nothing will work. in fact, the ‘nothing’ language is wolfie speaking. because there ARE tools and supports. there are. there are things to do and try. sometimes it means doing 5+15 things together at the same time. sometimes THAT is what’s required. so you do it. cuz you keeping your head above water is the goal. and you alone in your head with a voice that thinks that drinking is a good idea? that’s too lonely.

even on weekends. even when everyone else around you is doing something else. it’s ok if you do what’s best for you. keep your head above water. reach for a flotation device…

 

the easiest option is to physically remove it

nashville. had to pass by here on my way to the post office. the woman behind the counter talked to us for like 5 minutes about nothing … 🙂

 

from my inbox:

email from C-J (day 125): “Hi Belle, Well at least today i managed a small change in that i made coffee and fed myself before anything else i am going to get that firmly fixed in place then add in the [writing about tracking migraines] stuff – it is really only 10 minutes, and my ultimate goal is then 10 minutes of gentle stretching and yoga …

[the writing assignment] was expressive writing today — scary stuff! its exactly the exercise you described but getting it all down in a letter — first you make a list of all the people and situations you need to write a letter to — you can write a letter to stinky old sexism at work if you want to, if you feel that is causing some of your pain!

when i was watering the garden this evening i was pulling out bits of rose leaves that have black spot on them, and it made me think about this gardener on the radio called Bob Flowerdew, that I have listened to since i was a teenager. He is a bit of a hippy, has an extremely long plait [braid] like Rapunzel and is an authority on organic gardening. The other week he was talking about pests like black spot and aphids and said ‘of course people forget the cheapest and easiest option is to just physically remove them’ — it made me think about the similarities between gardening and sobriety and made me chuckle 🙂  Hugs, CJ.”

[update: she’s on day 441 today]


NEW PAINTING POSTED

​This painting was selected to go to the Tennessee Art Show in Knoxville Tennessee (May 9-11, 2019) … 🙂

It’s now available on the site.

link > www.artsober.com

 

SOLD: Paintings 437, 344, & 373 have been sold to England, New Jersey, & Texas respectively
      

i’m not perfect and don’t know it all

broadway (nashville). there is live music in probably 30 different places in a 4-block strip. some places with more than one band playing at a time. this photo is ‘outside’ – and this video link is ‘inside’ Ole Red where we had pulled pork quesadilla for lunch …

HonestJoy: “Belle, we touched on this in our coaching call (which I really appreciated and enjoyed the mini therapy:), by the way)…

Why am I emailing you every 4 hours? Because you recommended it, and I want to stop, and what I’ve been doing before obviously didn’t work. I want to give myself every chance to succeed. It’s a small thing, and easy, why would I be against it? Its not like you are asking me to wear a sign that says “I drink more than I want.” I decided to trust you.

Why is this working for me? I want to stop drinking. It’s a reminder to myself that I want to stop. It helps to reach out to someone outside myself and to hear back from you. It works with a bunch of other small things that add up.

Why don’t other people do it if it works? I can’t really know, but I think my unwillingness to do even simple things is partly laziness, and partly anger that I have this problem that might actually take some work to resolve. I might have to accept I’m not perfect and don’t know it all, that the way I’ve been doing things my whole life needs some adjusting in order for my life to continue “working” in a good way. What worked before doesn’t work now. So I have to change. I don’t (didn’t) want to. Thank you! honestjoy”

 


“I’m not lookin’ for a good time
I’m just lookin’ for the exit sign.”

www.artsober.com

eachdayitgetsalittleeasier

nashville takes footwear and music very seriously. sometimes combined in the same space.

 

email from Faith2019: “Hi Belle. Well when I went ice skating the other day I had a really bad fall and hurt my arm. Couldn’t move it and I thought it was broken. Went to ER. no broken bones thank god but still a lot of pain. I guess what I am comparing it to is stopping drinking. Each day it gets a little easier — and I said to myself when my arm is back to the way it was, I am going to appreciate it so much and treasure it and try to never hurt it again !!!!! Because this sucks.

So as not drinking gets easier everyday, I don’t want to go back and hurt myself again and start healing All over!!!! Just like this freakin arm.”

 

​Painting #406 has been posted for sale. 
Here’s how it looked on the wall at the Tennessee Art Show in Knoxville 🙂 (May 9-11). This photo was taken the day before, during set up, so D’s desk is still in the picture, and the garbage cans were later moved! But i wanted you to see how it looked with the others 🙂
artsober.com

it feels natural now

photo from nashville restaurant Ole Red, upstairs by the bathrooms.

from my inbox:

email from sohocat (day 246): “I am sober. I am using my toolkit. Sleep again to the rescue! Came home from work on Friday and slept three hours. Just wanted to put my head down for a minute but it was just what I needed …

My one Wolfie moment was between the [event] and the restaurant when our visiting friend said, “I need a margarita” and for a second, my old WINEWINEWINE reflex kicked in, but then I realized I was just tired and thirsty and the restaurant has sugary fruit mocktails and yummy fries, which is what I was really craving 🙂 It also felt good to just have that juice drink and Perrier at dinner when his daughter gave him a look when he ordered his second margarita. He told her he was “just celebrating” … But I was celebrating by being present and it feels natural now. No one questioned me. Not judging our friend, but I know what it’s like to be where he is and it just makes me feel compassion….

self care = being able to be present = needing alone time = self care = being able to be present. I like that math. It’s working. xo, sohocat”

me: this is so true. the ‘I’m celebrating’ – when really what he’s saying is ‘I’d like to celebrate you by being half (or totally) numb, not really here, not really listening, not really present, and then say things I won’t remember, and if I did I’d regret them.’ yeah, that sounds like FANTASTIC celebrating, doesn’t it.

[update: she’s on day 963 today]


NEW PAINTING POSTED

​This painting was selected to go to the Tennessee Art Show in Knoxville Tennessee (May 9-11, 2019) … 🙂

It’s now available on the site.

link > www.artsober.com


sober support paintings MAILED to Connecticut, England, New Jersey, & Texas
        

 

link > www.artsober.com

I went straight back to my old ways

email from L (sent on a monday): “Hi Belle, feeling very sad with myself today as on Thursday I celebrated getting to 100 days. I then decided and really believed that I could try moderation. On Thursday itself I had one glass of red poison and thought, yes I can do it.

But with no rules, no 100 days anymore, I was like a wild horse with devilment in me so by Saturday I was overexcited about my night out. I went STRAIGHT back to my old ways: 3 pints of beer, 2 massive wines, another beer, vodka, red wine then I even went more downhill and did another substance that was on offer … I would never have done that if I was sober. Thank fuck there were no random men issues this time. Went to sleep 6am Sunday morning. Still feel like shit tonight Monday 9:40 pm. My anxiety is sky high, I have had to cancel everything and lie to everyone that I have a migraine. I’m scared to go shopping.
So that was just great.

However, now I’m going to start again cos I know I can do it. But this time I’m doing until the end of this year, and beyond. If one good thing can come out of my terrible behaviour it’s that I’m more determined and certain that I don’t drink anymore. Not a little bit. None.

Do a lot of people make the decision to try moderation after the 100 days and then end up like me?”

 



videos:

two FB live videos from May 8th …  one about self-soothing with netflix, the other about misplaced gin at 11:30 a.m.

 


travelling. photo taken on the tiny 29 minute flight from atlanta to knoxville, TN. The clouds look very ‘close’ and free-standing.

 

shameless commercial link: bonus photo of Paris being mailed to podcast subscribers in May. you can go do that now. audiosober.com

 

 

time to change some shit

email from capt e (day 59):  
“I was talking to my karate instructor last night, told her I was having trouble getting the moves in the next kata I am learning, she said why are you trying to learn a new kata, you need to master the one before, it’s not about how many katas you know.  Stop, don’t do anything new, just practice, practice, practice your other katas until they are automatic, then learn just a small bit of the next kata and practice that.
Hmmmm. What does that sound like? I feel like the whole universe is giving me the same [sober] advice: Don’t do too much. Practice what you know so far, the things that are working, until they are automatic, then take on only small bits of new things.
Thank you Belle, domo arigato Shee-han, thank you Universe.”

~

www.artsober.com

the drinking itself was making life hard

from me: i recently sent out a survey with a few questions; here are some of the replies.

from anonymous:

What’s the biggest reason for being sober? Drinking prevented me from growing into someone who could thrive without drinking.  I wanted to know what life was like on the other side. I didn’t want to die having never given myself that experience.

What’s the one biggest thing you’ve learned from me? The idea of the sober toolbox that you just keep adding and adding to, even when (especially when!) things are going well. The concept that the drinking itself was what was making life hard — I’ll be honest I didn’t believe that at first, and even after I started to feel better, didn’t really viscerally “get” that until about 6-8 months in. That 100 days is greater than the sum of its months, in terms of the changes one experiences.

from anonymous:

What’s the biggest reason for being sober? I had read a lot of articles and books such as Catherine Gray in the hope that I would learn how to drink and feel good about myself: buck the trend, be the exception. I came to realise, however, that no matter how clever I am (!) it’s really not possible. I can see and feel that my mood was affected more by alcohol than other people. I felt like I was on a downward spiral of depression and self-loathing and had to stop denying that alcohol was the problem not the solution to me feeling better about almost everything. So my one reason was mental health as you expected many people to say, I just hadn’t thought about it that way until now.

What’s the one biggest thing you’ve learned from me? Acknowledge how hard this is and give yourself credit for every step along the road to sobriety. If I’m feeling a bit wobbly I think of my worst drinking experiences and question whether I’d want to be there again.

 


quote from the Exit the Booze Elevator writing project (written this morning!)
   It all starts with an argument. The best kind of marital argument where I’m SURE I’m right and he’s wrong. We’d just returned from a particularly distressing visa meeting with the French government, you know, the kind where they’re saying ‘you can’t do this, you must do that’. And there was much finger-wagging in Mr.Belle’s direction.
I had warned him for months beforehand. They’re going to give you shit for this, I said. No, they won’t, they don’t care, he replied. They are going to send us home to Canada, I whined. No, they won’t, it’ll be fine, he repeated.
Well, it wasn’t fine. Before the agent could approve us for the next level of our resident visa, she apparently had to do a careful review of his file.
And then she said what I knew she would (I knew it! I was right!): “Monsieur, you cannot have this visa renewed in this situation.”
She said it with a nice French accent. But still.
Three days later, in a fit of frustration, I went into my husband’s things while he was at work, pulled out one of his ‘for fun’ paintings, and stuck it up on the website.

This is Exit painting #1, and it went to Indy in California 🙂
more here