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


my name is F and I am a lurker

email from F: “Hello. My name is F and I’m a lurker. I signed up for the 100 day challenge and made it to day 35. No I’m no longer sober. Maybe this is more than you wanted to hear but I’m on a roll…
I’m in law enforcement. I can’t deal with my job, it’s so hard seeing the way we as a society treat each other, especially those we claim to love. I’m too afraid of the repercussions of admitting I have a drinking problem and asking for help from my agency … I’m a binge drinker. I’m fine all week dealing with the everyday duties of my job but come the weekend I’m pretty much drunk until Monday morning…
Your emails and audios that I sign up for are so inspirational. I look forward to seeing them in my inbox, it gives my comfort during the week. I even bought your “Stay Here” bracelet to help me cope. I touch it and think I need to stop when I’m on a weekend bender.  Sometimes it helps and I won’t drink but more often these days with all the job negativity, I continue to drink.
I love my job — I started in law enforcement thinking I could make a difference … now I lie and make up some bs job when someone asks what I do for a living …
But, you are a godsend. You keep my sane during the week when I work. I’m glad I stumbled across your website, you give me hope. I just need to get right in my head and get some self-esteem. The weekends are hard, I don’t know how to deal with myself and the negative thoughts that invade my mind in the quiet times.
So there you have it. My name is F and I’m a lurker.”

Question: What would you say to F about wanting to get her head right before she quits?  Post a comment below …

stay here, stay focussed. stay sober. stay true to you. stay here.
new painting added today, this is #372
sober art thanks to mr.belle

health? or MENTAL health?

This short message is extracted from a facebook live video, and i’m standing on the balcony outside my office, looking around. i talk about quitting drinking to feel better – and challenging the idea of whether we do it for our ‘health’, or for our ‘mental health’. if you’d like to see the full video, you can go here.

To listen to this short audio message, play below. nothing to download. just press play.

After you listen to this clip, you’ll want to go immediately to the podcast subscription page, look at the BONUS PHOTO I’m sending to new subscribers. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY FOR THIS BONUS PHOTO 🙂  the link is here >


this is painting #373 – Stay
Stay here, stay sober, stay focussed.
Stay true to you.
… sober art thanks to mr.belle

the hard parts of being sober, and the good parts … (part 1)

this message was sent to subscribers on Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Hard:

D: The hardest part of quitting drinking for me was the mood swings during the first few weeks of sobriety.

newme50: The hardest part of quitting drinking for me has been quelling the “anticipation” of a drink. Reminding myself that after the anticipation and the first 20 minutes I’m just chasing the scream of excitement and I can’t find it again.

C: The social barrage of ‘why aren’t you drinking’ bullshit.

S: For me(day 90) the hardest part of being sober is remembering that Wolfie lies!  Memories fade, and I have a hard time remembering the guilt, anxiety and depression that comes w drinking.  “It can’t be that bad! Just have a couple”!

E (day 75): The hardest part of deciding not to drink again is the fear that I’ll never enjoy holidays and going out as much as I did when I drank.

L: Hardest part is socialising with drinkers.

E (day 201): The hardest part was saying to myself “enough, I’m done” and then actually sticking to it.

The Good:

A: The best part of being sober. Can I have two things please? The happiness and the clarity. I am on an emotional high (when the ex husband doesn’t flatten me). I have regained my joy in life, I do things, I am not in a constant fug and I smile a lot and my skin glows despite being an old trout! Thank you Belle. I am proudly and happily on day 87.

B: That I can feel good today, jut today, on my own, and not need to numb anything.

Faith2019: The best is having my kids being proud of me and kissing me goodnight because I don’t smell like wine.

Emsyface (day 456): Best bit about being sober? Gosh there are so many things, but I think the biggest thing that springs to mind is the absence of shame; having no sense of guilt and remorse and a clear conscience. That in itself feels like huge great boulder gone right from the depths of my soul!

F: Best part- feeling in control of my life and no longer feeling anxious

K: The best: Waking up not feeling guilty, if u laugh it’s real. Having a good idea(and then not forgetting it five minutes later), having more energy, having pride in yourself, your skin getting clearer, your eyes getting brighter, your relationships getting stronger.

And this email, in closing:

C: Hardest part? Feeling lonely and not running to the bar to drink with the bar “friends.” You can always find a bar buddy if you’re buying the drinks. Best part?  Being alone and away from all of the toxic bar “friends.” People I don’t have anything in common with besides drinking and who I wouldn’t even hang out with sober.


I’ll be giving away a $150 podcast bundle on Monday to
ONE random person
who has completed this little 5-question form.
Can you help?

stay here, stay focussed. stay sober. stay true to you. stay here.
new painting added today, this is #372
sober art thanks to mr.belle

you can wait and see, or you can fuck it up

this message was sent to subscribers on Thursday, March 28, 2019

from me: on this day, which is thursday, it is 11:40 a.m. and I haven’t gotten dressed yet. that’s not really news. I have physio this afternoon for my nearly-all-better-sore-back and so i’ll get dressed for that! husband is working from the home studio today and tomorrow, making some new Exit paintings, so that’s nice. at least he can make me coffee, in between interrupting me a zillion times.

there is nothing remarkable about this day.

it’s not warm. it’s not big blue skies. it’s a very middle-kind-of-day. it is absent of a headache, void of regret, and completely lacking in a hangover. i got my inbox to zero yesterday (something i do about once every 3 weeks), and i mailed out every bracelet order i have, including all the Not Today bracelets that were ordered yesterday & earlier this morning. done. all done.

i resist the idea of looking around for a PROJECT to fill the time. i resist the temptation to fill in all buffer spaces, all remnant edges, with SOMETHING PRESSING AND URGENT.

to feel caught up and even on a thursday morning? never happens.

you probably do this, too. reflexively, we do the equivalent of pouring paint on the floor (creating a chaotic must-do event) when things are quiet. we’re unused to calm. we’re used to feeling crummy, spinning too many plates. we think that we’re bored, when really, it’s just the absence of chaos.

i can sit with calm. i remember something i heard in university from my dorm roommate:  You can wait and see, or you can fuck it up. This seems like the perfect time to absorb the calm, and wait and see …


I’ll be giving away a $150 podcast bundle on Monday to
ONE random person
who has completed this little 5-question form.
Can you help?

new painting added today, this is #372
stay here, stay focussed. stay sober. stay true to you. stay here.
sober art thanks to mr.belle

if I drink alcohol, my world will get smaller

email from Eleutheria (day 8): ” … At one point this weekend, I sat and looked at my dad in his hospital bed and said, “You know, if you ever want to walk again, it’s on you. You have to decide you are willing to go to physical therapy …” I continue, “And, when you get home, you are going to want to drink. You can’t.  You can’t drink. You can’t have just one. I can’t have just one. Aunt E, your sister, can’t have just one. Your brother T can’t have just one …”

He replied, “I know. It’s genetic … I can’t help it.”

To which I responded, “Yes, it’s genetic [maybe it’s genetic], but so is my nearsightedness. And, you know what I do every day? I wear glasses. I put them on every day to prevent developing headaches. You wanna also know what is genetic? Depression. I take one little pill each day, and it keeps me from experiencing emotional hell. That’s it. There are answers to these problems. And you know what else, there are things you can do about alcohol, too. I write an email – or actually a bunch of emails to a sober coach who doesn’t even live in the United States. I am actually WANTING to go to AA when I get back home … Do I want to go through the 12 steps? Nope! But I DO want to be around other people who “get this” and are in the same boat. It feels good not to be alone.”

My dad replied, “I don’t even want to drink right now.”

“Yeah, you don’t want to right now because you are in the hospital. But when are home and you get bored, lonely, stressed — any emotion, especially any negative emotion — you will want to fall back on what you know you can do. You are going to want to drink. It happens to ALL of us. But you can’t. If you don’t want to end up back here, you can’t.”

Deep down I know in my heart of hearts that my dad doesn’t want to change. At the same time, I am not trying to be a hypocrite. I have had so many Day 1s, I feel like I have broken a record for Day 1s. At the same time, it felt good to tell my family, “I can’t drink because I can’t drink like a normal person.” I told my mom and my sister. I don’t think my mom will EVER get alcoholism. She tells me, “But you aren’t like him. You have sense. You have control.” Ummmmm, no I don’t. I just haven’t told her all the horror stories that have accompanied my overdrinking. She has no clue about how much I have disrespected my body, my self esteem, my waistline, and bank account. She also hasn’t been in my head to replay all the embarrassing shit I have said — the conversations I have forgotten, the nights I don’t remember. I don’t need her to get it, though. I just need her to respect it.

I look at my dad’s life and how alcohol ruined it. He was this super good-looking medical professional with a smokin’ hot wife and two daughters who grew up to be pretty great people… he went scuba diving and snorkeling; he had a cool life … [over time] he ballooned into a morbidly obese man. He spends more time comatose drunk than he does sober … his world is this tiny, sad, dark place. I know that if I drink alcohol, my world will get smaller, more predictable, sadder, and darker, too.
I’m going to bed wayyyy early tonight – and am happy about that. I think I just completed Day 8 (?). Yep – Day 8 complete.”

[update: she’s on day 404 today]

this is painting 350 here.
if booze is an elevator that only goes down, you can get off. and when you’re off you stay off. look for the exit. and sometimes the exit is in FRENCH.

link here.




Happy Day 2000 to Catherine Gray

a very happy day 2000 to penpal #270! this is a super big deal, hooray for you!⁣

here’s a link to my podcast interview with Catherine > – just enter $0 for the price, it’s free⁣

hugs, belle xo


this is painting 336 here.
you are open to new possibilities. you’re open to changes. you’re out of the booze elevator in looking around for opportunities. this is you. it’s sunny here. open minded. open-hearted.

link here.


what did i say? what do i have to delete?

email from trigirl: “I woke up promising never to drink again, Every Single Day for probably 10 years. I’d wake up between 3 and 4, toss and turn, then get up when my husband’s alarm went off at 5:30 and pretend that I felt ok as I tried to piece together the previous evening. What did I say? Did we finish watching that movie? Did I talk on the phone or text people? I’d better check to see if I need to delete anything from Facebook! Today is the day — I’m not drinking wine tonight, this is it!! If I had anything remaining in the second bottle, I’d dump it down the sink. My resolve would crumble as the day progressed. I would replace the bottles at about 3:00 pm and start the whole thing all over again. It’s absolutely horrible to be stuck in that place, and I don’t ever want to go back there!

I went to an Elton John concert the other night. It was my second sober concert after watching Coldplay last year. On the way to the venue, I told my husband there are times when I still wish I could drink like a “normal” person. But I didn’t miss it when we got to the concert and avoided the giant lines for ID checks to get the wristband required to stand in the other giant lines to purchase alcohol. I watched a couple in the seats in front of us come and go as they repeatedly made the bathroom/beer run and a woman dancing around with two drinks in her hand who could have easily been home in her living room listening to a CD. It was a bonus to wake up with a clear memory of an enjoyable evening, tired but not hungover!”

[she is penpal 1942 and she’s on day 541 today]


this is painting 336 here.
you are open to new possibilities. you’re open to changes. you’re out of the booze elevator in looking around for opportunities. this is you. it’s sunny here. open minded. open-hearted.

link here.


from me: We will be in Tennessee in May

We are travelling to Tennessee in May 2019 for a combined art show for Mr.B’s exit paintings AND a live podcast recording.

The art show will be Friday May 10th in the evening, and the Podcast recording in front of a live audience (you!) will be the following morning, Saturday May 11th.

You can come meet us (well, mr.belle will be at the Friday night event). we’ll have snacks and paintings and you’ll meet interesting people (hahaha, I mean besides me).

I’m happy to share more info with you if you’re interested. You can send me an email at this special email address > > and I’ll send you some details.



And once you’re out of the booze elevator, you learn to rest and be present. Stay here. Stay focussed. Stay in the present. Stay sober. Stay true to yourself.