the difference between reading about stuff versus ACTUALLY doing it

from my inbox:

there is a live chat thing on my site, where i can answer questions and help you find things. here’s a copy of a chat from this morning:

Hi there, can I answer a question for you?

chat:

Hi, does the sober challenge offer a direct helpful guide?

me:

i’m not sure i understand the question. the sober challenge is a ‘challenge’ on my site, for people who’d like to quit drinking for 100 days. it can be done alone (you on your own) or with support from me (as a sober penpal).

chat:

Thank you! I just wanted to know if there was someone I can talk to directly, as a support guide, when I need someone to talk to, if I get the need for drinking.

me:

yes, the support comes from me – either from the free stuff i send out (daily) or by signing up for us to be penpals. lots of people do it both ways. me personally, i need personal accountability for most things…

chat:

Yeah I’m debating signing up! I appreciate the help. It’s nice to know someone is there

me:

i just did a class for my job #1, and there were two options: watch the videos, or watch the videos and work with a coach. i chose the latter. and i said to my husband this week “i can’t believe i waited this long, what a jackass i am.” i’m not pushing my stuff or trying to sell you something! i’m just saying that for me, the personal connection made the difference between CONSUMING stuff versus ACTUALLY doing it … again, i’m talking about a writing project, and not sobriety, but still…

If ever this happens to you, where you can’t find something, or you need help with a transaction, or you need some kind of technical question answered, or something explained, you can always drop into the chat, too. If i’m online, it’ll say “Chat with us LIVE” in the top right corner here. I cannot do ‘sober coaching’ by chat, but I can help you find things 🙂

Question: Do you have an experience with buying an online course, and not actually doing the content if there was no personal accountability? yeah. me too. my whole life!

      

link to original sober art, thanks to mr.belle

we don’t merge with our friends

from my inbox:

AnnaK (day 3): “Belle, I drank last Saturday on day 7 of my renewed pledge. I’m not sure why I’m having a hard time staying on track this time around … oh, how I wish I hadn’t drank that night just over a month ago after 5 months sober …
    I am still seeing a therapist and exploring this with her. I think I’m bored and trying to fit in with my current peer group. She agrees. I’m not sure what to do about this because I don’t necessarily want to get rid of all of my friends. As a single 37 year old woman with no children, I have found it difficult to find friends in similar circumstances who don’t drink socially every weekend (or more often). I got used to being the only one not drinking before and just have to do it again, I guess.”

me: I can reset you. I’m glad you’ve got someone to talk to about this. is your therapist a person in recovery too? if not you could add some of that kind of support as well. once I was about 6 weeks sober, I found it easier to socialize with people who were drinking. but to begin, I just felt too wobbly and so I spent more time doing solo things or sober things or daytime things with friends. you can get used to being the sober one again. just like you would if you were vegetarian. or training for a marathon. when we’re with friends, we’re all pursuing different things, on slightly different paths. we don’t merge with our friends. we’re still our individual (and best) selves. 

AnnaK: “Your statements about each of us pursuing different things and paths, being individuals who don’t merge with our friends, in particular, resonated with me. It was a forehead-slap kind of realization — of course, we are all unique individuals! It is neither necessary nor desirable to pursue the same course as everyone else. I’d much rather focus on being my individual and best self anyway, which is only attainable when I avoid alcohol.”

~

LINKS: are you following me on Medium? i wrote about extending Dry January into February here . not drinking today . i have hope that in being sober, my life will continue to improve . the booze elevator only goes down . i have to open the door, get off, and stay off . or else there’s resentment

~

Thanks for the support 🙂
Sober Art
this is Exit 337 … link.

the idea of one or two glasses is bullshit

email from P: “I have been around for a while now with the usual ups and downs. Although more recently the wolf has taken a new path. It really is like little red riding hood being fooled by a wolf in disguise. I have been convinced that if I have a drink late in the evening then I don’t have time to drink much. I take great pleasure in telling people I only have a glass or maybe two in the evening. But I don’t really. I now see the slippery slope and that i have been fooled yet again by that little old lady who smiles and says ‘just one dear’.

Why oh why did I not see the long snout and sharp teeth and ugly sneer? I have always thought little red riding hood must have been a blind idiot not to see what was going on right in front of her. But now I have more empathy.

Just like others, I have ignored advice … I just dropped all my tools and opened not one of your emails, apart from today!

I don’t feel at rock bottom like I have, I am not as far down the elevator as I have been but I can see which way I am heading.

I have suddenly noticed the wolf disguise and realised that it’s a really shit one. I am thinking about drinking, and i now know that the idea of one or two glasses is bullshit. Thanks for just having an email address that allows me to even tell this shit xx.”

 


Gift from me today:
listen to this short interview with Emma Barnett on BBC Radio ‘5 Live’


 

DEADLINE IS TODAY
for the One Minute Message Cards.


there will be no late joining: 
Once I start to mail these, I am not ​​able to add new people later. I’d be too confusing. Everyone gets the same thing every month. Which means we all start together. Now. Like today.

Yoda (day 1149): “There is something about acquiring something tangible that can be accessed without any electronic intervention, or any need to go to the other room or explain why you’re putting your headphones on, just some small nearly invisible talisman that keeps you tied to your own hope perhaps? My bracelet arrived the day after I came back from crazy beach vacation. Usually I get the mail, today Mr. Yoda did. He yelled up the stairs ‘hey, who is Belle Robertson from France?’ Since he knows little to nothing about you and I happened to be awake enough to think quickly I yelled back ‘the lady I get my bracelets from.’ He said ‘well, she loves you.’ Guess he read your note on the back.”

>> cards here <<

Every month for 6 months you’ll get an envelope in the mail, and in that envelope will be two cards AND one photo. Small messages (one-minute messages actually), transcribed, printed, and laminated. Just for you. And I’ll adjust the timing each month, so you won’t know exactly when it’s coming …​ go here and get one of the last sets.

madly off in all directions

So in Canada we have an expression, it’s called being madly off in all directions. And actually it probably has a British origin, but the premise is like this: Madly off in all directions means that your brain will ask you to do 100 things at once, and will LIE to you, and tell you they all have EQUAL importance. Madly off in all directions means you run this way, and that way, and this way, and that way, and you never really get anywhere. It looks like you’re doing stuff, but really, you’re just sort of running around like a chicken with its head cut off (which is another good expression). The madly off in all directions thing, though, can wind you up and make drinking seem like a good idea, if you buy into it. So this is when I talk about you NOT stating to make applesauce at 10:30 pm … If you have a brain that suggests that you begin a bunch of things and then drop them, and then begin some more things and then drop them, and then look like you’re busy, but not really—you can remember that wolfie likes to wind you up so that drinking might seem like a good idea, and that your job is to disengage from that. And to strive for underwhelm rather than overwhelm. [listen to this as an audio]

~

email from happygal (day 25): “For many months, I have wanted to move our treadmill from the garage (where it rarely gets used by me- because we live in FL and it’s typically hot as monkey nuts, plus it’s a GARAGE and, like, spiders and mosquitoes). So, this past week, in an uncharacteristically Happygal way, I PUSHED. I made my case and I pushed for what I wanted.
     The treadmill now has a home in our office near a large window! I used it today 🙂 In ADDITION, the framing store called that my Exit painting is ready. I asked my husband to pick it up while he ran errands. He said he would and then asked me what the painting was and I explained that this paining was done by an incredible artist in Paris and is personally meaningful to me because it represents letting go of things that are bad for me and being personally strong in my convictions (note that I didn’t mention alcohol yet, as I’m still in early sobriety). Husband asked where I want to hang it and I said, “Not sure, I’m thinking maybe a wall in my closet … Husband then said, “Why don’t we hang it in the office, since you will be in there more and we’ve moved things around – that way we can all see it, everyday?” Wonderful idea, husband, wonderful idea 🙂 hugs xo”

calm within

from me:
on the flight home from canada, i had my usual truly-agitated moments. to be fair, flying sober is WAY better than it used to be. before i’d be sick with worry before, during and after, EVEN WHEN things were calm (anticipatory anxiety). now when i fly, i’m temporarily jiggled, ONLY to do with something that is specifically currently happening in the present, and then i reset back to zero as soon as it’s over.
but during, i have some routine things i say to myself. one is Stay Here. and then that has over time morphed into Calm Within.

the cool thing about ‘calm within’ is the double meaning. it’s ‘let’s feel calm on the inside, shall we?’ but it’s also about finding some calm within the agitation. so i count to 10 and then i force myself to be calm for a few seconds. then i jitter and wiggle for a count of 10, then i force myself to stop. of course, it can be done. the calmness isn’t my natural state but i can do it.

so while mr.B sat eating his steamed chicken and frozen vegetables, i was counting. and untensing.

the other thing about ‘calm within’ is finding the calm patches and relaxing when they happen. it’s not 24/7 tense. it’s tense, then oh look it’s smooth for a second, so then you can relax. then it starts up and then it stops again. the goal being to find the calm within the event.
this sort of reminds me of the experience of being in the palliative care ward when Mr. Cinnamon Toast was there. It was shitty. obviously. and there were moments of real sunshine, of laughter, of lobster dinner, of poop jokes.

the other mantra i have is about under-promising. but this is long so i’ll save that one for later today maybe? or tomorrow. Depends on how this hurricane thing goes. calm within. within you. within the event itself. find the tiny breaks.

 



some notes from my inbox:

leener (day 382): “I’m not an ‘art person.’ but i have *some* art in my house. Stuff i see that i like. usually colorful things that speak to me. i don’t know squat about skill or technique or meaning or whatever. so my (not very) snooty assessment of Mr. B’s art is this: i like it. i like to look at it. i like the colors. i like that it means something to me. i like that sometimes, the Exit is hard to find. But it’s there, you just have to keep looking. that’s some deep sober shit. but its also just a pretty thing to look at, and that’s cool too.”

~

amazon sister (day 82): “I had a great day yesterday, met with lovely friends, felt positive about so much. I’m back to feeling some uncertainty today and that may be due to how many life ups and downs I’ve had over the last few years, lots of uncertainty and financial insecurity, etc. and I covered the fear with almost nightly drinks. I’m getting better at feeling these things even though I don’t know what to do about them. I do hold a lot in, maybe checking in more and writing about me feelings will help. I put your duck pond photo on my bathroom mirror tonight and I have 2 of the cards in my current journal that is ready for me to write in. I so appreciate the services you offer, it is truly a special and a wonderful gift, creating better sober lives all over the planet. And what a great compliment Mr. B’s art is to the work! I also really appreciate your email updates, reading how you have everyday struggles is helpful in seeing my own. I hope you are rested and settled back in to being home!”

~

emsyface (day 260): “… I was at the centre, and one of the girls was talking about putting things on the walls to encourage. I imagined one of these paintings — a message to say ‘there is a way through somehow — an exit does exist’ Sometimes it’s about holding that belief for someone when they can’t themselves? Can you tell your hubby how much I like his art ?! xx”

~

W (day 123): “So, shitty news, cancer is growing again. I’m tired of fighting it. Wolfie says cancer is going to kill you anyways, why are you sober? I say I don’t know. Wolfie says why would you go on this epic family vacation with your aunts and uncles to Ireland and not drink with them? I say I don’t know. Wolfie says what’s the point of being alcohol-free? Especially when you know that wine will take the edge off the pain? I say I don’t know.
Sitting in my car crying. I just don’t know anymore. about anything, what’s the freaking point?
i guess when I get too busy and don’t appreciate the life I have the Lord, or the universe, or whoever or whatever’s out there slaps me down to make me appreciate what I have.
and when I tell people in my family that my cancer is growing again, I have to f****** comfort them. Because I’m the caretaker, I’m the mama, I’m the matriarch. Who comforts me? Wolfie? Wine? F*** that.
I actually feel a little better having emailed you because generally I can’t say things like that to people. Thank you for listening, or (as the case may be) reading.”

~

[What do you think I replied to W? Add your ideas below, and then tomorrow I’ll pick the comment that seems closest to what I said (in tone, in content) and that person will get a $20 podcast bundle.]


the artist: Mr. Belle
Acrylic & Ink on paper, unframed, mailed flat
30 x 42 cm (11.75″ x 16.75″)
if booze is an elevator that only goes down,
you can step off now. find the exit.
get off and stay off

I wish I could drink as much as I want and not suffer any consequences

from my daily micro-email sent September 12, 2018

if booze is an elevator that only goes down, you can step off now. find the exit. get off and stay off. (sortie is ‘exit’ in french)
original painting #93 here today.

from me:
this is wednesday. we are home after 20 days of working ‘off-site’ while visiting in-laws, and travelling (mostly being lost) in the US. on the way home from the airport yesterday, as I sipped espresso and ate a power bar to try to wake myself up, mr.B says, “I didn’t tell you this before, but there’s a hurricane warning, a million people on standby for evacuation.” He didn’t use these words, of course, because he doesn’t speak english with words like ‘standby’. the reason he hadn’t told me, is because of my long-standing agitation about flying, and the self-imposed blackout on news that i have, but even MORE SO right before a flight. something bad happened in a plane yesterday? i don’t want to know. doesn’t change me having to get on the plane…
i’m easily wound up, so i have to filter the ‘news’ so i don’t get overwhelmed. and i guess husband knows me well enough to not tell me things that’ll exacerbate my shaking with fear, which i did only 3 times the plane yesterday, grabbing his arm. the rest of the time i happily worked on my laptop and unhappily did not eat the profoundly bad food (thanks air canada).
flying, for me, is like being sober. i do my best to keep my head attached even if it means doing things differently from other people. i reach out and bruise my husband’s arm when required, not often, but i do. when the anxiety stops, i go back to my shitty meal or my laptop. i don’t dwell. though why they continue to serve the shitty meal while it’s bumping around, i have no idea — oh wait, it’s because the bumping around is trivial — it doesn’t mean anything. the flight crew are bored with it. they keep pouring coffee…
i want to share more of the ‘stay here’ philosophy that developed on a bumpy flight in the next email, but also i’ve got some new mantras that i now say during times of anxiety…

some notes from my inbox:

pippa: “just want to say thank you for your emails. They make me feel like I’m in a posse of people who are doing this amazing thing. When I feel on the periphery of the world — cos it looks like everyone else is merrily drinking (even though I know logically this is not the case) — knowing that there are other women [and men] who have made the same excuses, wondered if they were making a mistake going AF (because, you know, I’m not THAT bad), and who go from feeling on top of the world about their decision to feeling shit and weird — makes the difference. Something has shifted for me fundamentally so I’m 10% conflicted but 90% happy and that part of me keeps getting bigger and more certain.  It used to be the other way round. I feel like I’m in a cool gang now.”

~

sobriety shingles: “I’m so glad mr b is enjoying doing this, I love them. Does he know how much the the little exit sign helps us? What it communicates to us? How evocative it is? I’d like to order more, I hope he doesn’t tire of this theme yet, I sure haven’t! Thank you, Belle, for everything.  Et merci monsieur b.”

~

S: “Hi Bella, I don’t normally reply to your emails … the main reason I am a lurker is because I don’t yet fully believe I have an issue with alcohol (although maybe I do since I am here!). I’m more of a binge drinker 2-3 times a week rather than a every day drinker. Which I know is just as bad but I have been reading your emails and I feel that I am starting to see the light …  it’s now Thursday (here in New Zealand) and I have yet to drink again since last Saturday, not because I have stopped myself but because I just don’t want to! seriously this is such a new feeling for me and a lot to take on board especially since I am actively working to manage my anxiety and depression (meds and psychologist).”

~

DaniZ: “honestly, i just feel angry tonight. At the end of the lesson, you have the ‘take a moment and imagine day 140’. I can’t. I DO feel broken, although I liked the part about when you stop drinking, the craving goes away. I know that to be true, but right now, that experience was too long ago, and so the ‘knowing’ is an in my head knowing, not a head AND heart knowing. So yeah, I’m just fucking pissed off right now, and feeling sorry for myself. I have a million and one things to be happy about and grateful for, and I am just heavy in the pout mode. I seriously wish that I could drink as much as I want and not have to suffer any consequences. How fucking childish is that? I’m 48 for god’s sake! Sorry. Totally crappy email, and rather than put it in my journal, I am sending it to you. Which hardly seems like a nice choice, but I am hoping that being honest with my feelings might help.”

broken plumbing, family squabbles, existential crises

from me:
after i sent my earlier message to say thank you I got some really lovely responses, so now i get to say thank you again 🙂

~

doug: “Wow. Humbly, I say you’re welcome. You thanking us.  I wasn’t expecting that. God, thank YOU so  much for everything.
Gratitude, true gratitude is precious. I try to recognize when I am grateful and stop and appreciate it. I realized recently that I felt like I was missing something. I thought about it. I realized that the feeling of gratitude had been absent lately. Not because I had anything less to be grateful for. I’d simply been too busy to appreciate my life. I love this email.  Thank you again. For giving me a reason to pause and give thanks. ~big hugs”

fatgit: “Well, that’s nice, if entirely redundant. Thank you too for giving me a life worth living. X Da”

emsyface: “That’s so good to hear (about mr.B). Makes such a difference when the other person is feeling good about themselves.”

honeybadger: “Just purchased the latest Mr. B work of art. I would have liked to pay more but have been on maternity leave (without getting paid) and daycare expenses start soon so money is tight right now. Didn’t want Mr. B to think it was a reflection on its value. I anticipate going back to work will be hard on many fronts so I plan on keeping the painting at work as a reminder of how far I’ve come. Playing it forward and remembering life in the sewer is always helpful when shit gets rough.”

peewit: “This is really lovely. A bit of a glimpse into belle-world, which I know you share plenty of but this is different, more like the doors opened a bit wider and we can see a bit more of you because this is you in relationship. And of course you don’t spill the guts of your relationship with us generally but as humans are relational beings – whether we like it or not 😉 – seeing how someone else ‘does’ relating is basically a teaching aid. And the way you’re willing to try to support each other, even when there’s struggles and differences and shit going on, that’s a door opening on to a lesson for most of us (most of us being people who do NOT like reaching for our own door handle even when we know we’re trapped). … Thanks so much for sharing belle, bless you and mr belle, xxxxx”

sobersusie: “I somehow missed that these are Mr. B’s creations. Well done! How exciting. Good for him.  May he continue creating! Thank you Belle for your presence in our lives. I hope you go to bed each night and feel you’ve made a difference in people’s lives because you have.”

happygal: “Overjoyed to read this. So happy you and Mr B are feeling fulfilled. We all love you Belle. Thank YOU for the seismic shift you’ve created in the sober world ”

LVL: “You are so special!! Blessed to have heard about you and you help make this struggle and climb easier!! Without Mr B, Mrs B would be different I guess. So in a sense the thanks goes to him for supporting you as well. Wanting to make you proud (like a verrrry young mom in a different country).  Hugs and lots of love from a sober and level LVL x”

fridgkit: “Thank you, Belle, for getting me to Day 36. For make my me believe that each day can be different and better. Thanks for your fiction and Mr. B’s art. And thanks for starting all this yourself, all those years ago. Broken plumbing, family squabbles, existential crises—I’ve weathered them all this week. Knowing you are there has been a big help!”


Exit painting

If booze is an elevator that only goes down, you can exit now. Find the door. Get out. Exit.

These are original EXIT paintings, done by MrBelle. each one is an original, they’re not prints. so there’s only one of each available. to see today’s new painting, go here.

thanks

from my daily micro-email sent August 28, 2018

 

thanks. 
let me start by saying thank you. for all the things.
you know those knots you carry around inside forEVER and then they slowly start to unwind? those knots. sure, you know about them.
that’s how i feel right this minute. un-knotted. (long may it continue!)

i want to say thanks for:
your support while i do this sober thing. you think that i’m doing something for you, but you’re doing something for me — in my coaching calls, in my montreal sober meetup, in my daily emails. i wake up each morning and scroll through my inbox, to see how you’re doing, to see if you have news. to see if you’ve written the song in the sand yet, or cleaned up the cat vomit, or if you’ve travelling home safely from vacation.

i also want to say thanks for the support on the newest addition to the site, the original art from Mr. Belle (who wants to sign his name now as: mr.B).

i don’t share a lot about his life (cuz it’s his life) but let me say this to you and you can read between the lines: he’s painting. evenings and weekends. he’s up and down the stairs to his office (when we’re at home), and now that we’re on vacation, he BROUGHT some of his art stuff in his suitcase to continue here in Canada.

to see him working on vacation is actually lovely. he’s had a slow, hard time with his career for the past 7 years so it’s really been a great thing to see him inspired.
and when THAT happens, it changes the inside of my marriage.
and when THAT happens, i feel ‘relieved’ but also supported. by you. so thank you. from both of us.

i’ll also say thank you to the agent who has asked to read the second draft of the sober fiction book. i’ll say thanks to the Everything list for your support in getting that book done. I’m planning (yes, still) to begin writing a new fiction book in September and i will let you know how you can follow along, too, when the time comes.

if you’re on a booze superhighway, it might be time to exit. if you’re on a booze elevator that only goes down, you can get off now. if you’re in the booze sewer, i promise you it’s better in the sunshine.

if you’re stuck in weird thinking, you can stop drinking and see how you feel.

exit the booze things.
all of them.
alcohol doesn’t suit you.
you’ve tried it.
it’s not for you.

hugs from me


link to original art – Exit 036
exit the sewer, exit the booze elevator.
original art, paintings – not prints – so only one of each available.