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?


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


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).


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.


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…


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


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.

you’re not the only one

from me:

if you have been receiving my emails for a while, you might remember that just before Christmas I started to do some limited facebook experiments, where I offered support if you were ‘tired of thinking about drinking’ and in my first day doing it, over the span of 2 hrs I got 300 new subscribers, and then freaked out and turned it off.

300 actual people, entering real email addresses.

Then right around January 1st, as everyone was thinking of giving up drinking as a new year’s resolution OR for Dry January, i was routinely getting 1000 new subscribers A DAY.

And what do you think is the most curious part of this?

The limited Facebook test was only done with people who had tagged that they LIKED alcohol, wine, wine tasting, etc. in their facebook history.

All those pictures that we see people sharing on FB, all the wine-o’clock photos, all the ‘i’m drinking in the jaccuzi’ photos — as a sober person, you might be tempted to look at those photos and feel triggered, and yell out “fuck me, why can THEY drink and i can’t?”

when, in some cases, what is REALLY happening is that those same folks post photos like that, and THEN click on a link that says “tired of thinking about drinking.”

and they don’t just click and laugh and turn away. No. They put in their email address and say “send me stuff.”

Now that a few weeks have gone by, I’m starting to get some anonymous emails from these same Facebook folks (Hi you! Welcome!). I’m going to share a few of those emails today, not because they make me look great (i am, in fact, a genius), but perhaps as a reminder that you’re not alone with this. there’s a whole bunch of us here, doing this sober thing.

from my inbox:

S: “I have been sober for 38 days. To tell the truth when I read your book on New Years Day I wasn’t even thinking about trying to be sober, but everything I read made so much sense and I was looking for something to commit to and this has been it. You know what, it has been hard, it has required true focus and on many occasions I have heard Wolfie’s voice and had to tell it to get the F*%# out of my head. Which to date I have managed to do. I read your emails morning and night and I would say they along with a couple of self-soothing treats have kept me honest. I have been talking to someone from work about my newfound sobriety and they are now giving it a go, too, and are on day 4 … Thank you for your support, I honestly don’t think I could have done it without you. As I have tried many times before and NEVER made it this far and you are the point of difference.”

P: “I’m on day 37 and so proud of myself, there is no big story as to why I decided to give up drinking, I just got fed with thinking about it all the time and having no ‘off’ button. I was starting to feel like drinking was beginning to take over my life, when a ‘sponsored ad’, you :), popped up on my Facebook. I downloaded your book and decided the 100 day challenge was for me and I was starting on New Years Day. I’m so proud of myself, aside from being pregnant the longest I’ve ever been without a drink was 21 days, a few years ago and before then god only knows! Today was a bad day, the sort of day I’d usually ring my hubby up and say get me a bottle of wine on the way home! Wolfie started howling about midday and was getting louder all day. (I have read this before in your emails but calling the drinking voice Wolfie has helped me so much, I feel I can detach myself from it. I quite often tell him to fuck off now!!!).”

S: “I just wanted to let you know that I found your website when I googling ways to give up drinking that weren’t AA. I knew that AA wouldn’t work for me as there is no way that I could get up and speak in front of other people. In fact, my anxiety would probably stop me from even going to a meeting. I read your book in about 2 days and have now been alcohol free for 32 days. The demands of my life mean that I’m struggling to put in as many supports as I would like but I’m working on that. I’m going to start tonight by going to bed as early as I can! I especially need that today as my special needs son got into my bed at 2 last night and wanted to play from 5! Thanks Belle.”

N: “Thanks Belle for your email – I’m glad you aren’t a robot 😊 first of all, thanks for the book, I have read a lot of it so far and it is as if you are reading my drinking mind. I have been thinking, just very recently that I want to quit the booze and your book appeared on my facebook page. To me that is serendipity.”


link to click.   i posted the newest little 3.5 minute video to welcome new subscribers yesterday afternoon. you don’t have to ‘like’ it, OR be signed into facebook, to watch. You’re Not the Only One > video here.


this is exit 304 … link.

emergency tool: bed

things i know about me.

highly sensitive, i hear everything, my tags itch. i sleep badly. i get carsick. milk makes my stomach gurgly (that word isn’t spell-checking and i don’t know why). feel a lot of emotions strongly.

and i need ways to turn this off.

i need hard-and-fast, guaranteed ways to feel better. which requires a list of different things, because i can’t always ‘run’ when it’s 2 a.m.

but my short list is: run, watch tv in a dark room (must be dark) without distractions, make a jigsaw puzzle, play loud music (must be loud).

and go to bed. fully clothed if required.

bed is my favourite place to hide. it’s the place where I can either distance myself from STUFF, or i can actually sleep.

last night, in bed at 9:05 pm, read until 9:40, lights off, slept until 7:30 am this morning. yes i woke 3 times (once to see that husband wasn’t home from his show yet, once when he came to bed, and once when i was too hot …).

bed. do you know what my plan was for new year’s eve? the way I wanted to ring in the new year? it was to be IN BED (no phones, no laptop, no phone in the room at all – because, reasons) by 8 pm. yes. that was my goal. 8 pm. and i did it.

bed is a good place to hide. it’s a safe place. it’s a snuggle down and just rest place. even if you don’t sleep. but especially if you do.

what is the earliest you can go to bed tonight? i don’t mean “oh belle i can’t go to bed until the laundry, dishes, macrame planter is finished”), i mean as a one-time exception, what time can you go to bed tonight? what is the earliest?

so that you can turn off your head.



there is a short 59 second video tour of this painting at top of the page here.

Hope 14

Hope paintings are done by me (not mr. belle!)


Luckiest Jo: “I have just watched the Hope video. ( Hope 14) In this painting I love the red on the left and that’s what I’m drawn to , it says blood and to me signifies positive and negative, blood of life but also blood that’s lost and means death. In this painting the lines are like the cracks, cracks between what we show the world and what’s inside within us. “



sober maintenance. small. worthwhile.

tiredfrom my inbox:

ohnarn (day 223): “Belle, I was listening to a sober podcast yesterday [NOT one of yours], and the guest is a big believer in AA, and she was talking about how she knows people who had been sober for 20 years and stopped working the program and relapsed. I really hate thinking of over-drinking/alcohol use disorder/whatever you want to call it like that. it seems so dis-empowering to think that we always have to be “on watch” for this “disease” (I don’t think it’s a disease). It just feels like so much effort. Yes, I think we need to have supports, but that sobriety can be taken from us at any moment, and even after 20 years we’re still a slave to this? If that’s the case, then what’s the point? I’m not feeling shaky or anything, but I had to stop listening to the podcast because that message just feels shitty.”

me: from my side of the screen i see it like this: we do need ongoing sober maintenance, but the amount we need is small. but we do have to do it. it may not mean meetings for everyone, but we often do need to be reminded by something external to our own heads that drinking sucks rocks. it’s like a car. it periodically needs gas (your sober car needs gas!). And you can’t fall asleep driving it. nobody gets mad that they can’t just learn to drive the car and then forget about it. you have to be present and take care. it’s your life (the car, sobriety). But the concentration required to drive the car? it’s like 3% concentration on a good-weather day, and 90% on a shitty snowstorm day. we do the 3% sober maintenance happily because it means we get to drive the car. the alternatives are we don’t do the 3%, we take our hands off the wheel, and our sober car drives into oncoming traffic.
because the road isn’t 100% straight, because there are challenges and bumps all the time.
but for me, the 3% maintenance it requires for me to be sober now is not only worth it, it’s a luxury because it means I get to KEEP this whole sober life that I’ve built on top of the foundation of being a non-drinker. to lose that would suck WAY more than a commitment to listening to a (helpful) podcast each day [shall i plug my own lovely podcasts here, or is that shameless?], or that you might email your sober penpal a one-word email every day, or you might be someone who goes to a meeting once a week if that works for you …probably the take-away is ‘don’t drift’. but the actual amount of maintenance required? it’s small. and worthwhile. le hugs le hugs


there is a new 1-minute video of this painting at top of the page here.

Exit 308

Do you see Tulips or do you see Fire? Check out the video.

Emergency Message. Read When Required.

Right this minute you feel like giving up. You feel like it’s not worth it, being sober isn’t going to make you feel any better, you feel like the craving is too strong. Right now you feel like giving up. There’s a voice in your head that tells you that drinking is a good idea (which it isn’t). You have a voice in your head that lies to you and tells you that some of your life problems will be fixed with alcohol (which is not true). In fact some of your life problems will be made worse with alcohol. I wanted to make something that you could read when you are right at a place where things seem particularly difficult, so I could talk some sense into you 🙂 So that I could reach out to you directly. But of course, what I realized is that because you’re here reading this, that means that you don’t want to drink. Because you are here looking for a sober tool to convince you that drinking is not a good idea. You come to this emergency, rescue email, the one with some clever title like “I’m about to drink right now, help,” and I’m going to say that I know that you don’t want to drink because you’re reading this. Because you stopped, and you clicked this message to open it, and you’re here reading it. This is you, listening to somebody telling you, “You know what? You maybe feel like drinking. You may. You may well feel like drinking. I suggest that you wait until tomorrow and see how you feel then. You don’t relapse on a fuck-it moment. You wait and make sure that you’re going to feel like this, that you really feel that this is a real, true, real, real feeling, really, really. Will you feel this way tomorrow? Probably not. And so it would be a terrible, shitty waste to drink today if you’re not going to feel like this tomorrow. So what I suggest Is that you go to tomorrow, and see how you feel then. But I also want to remind you that you being here tells me that you don’t want to drink. And I’ll support that. [listen to this as an audio]

there is a great 1-minute video of this painting at top of the page here.

Special Edition ‘Flag’ Painting

Special edition ‘flag’ painting – Way Out

aren’t you crazy tired of all this drinking nonsense?

It’s never one glass, is it.


Here’s what Pearl says (day 10): “I just went back and forth for about half an hour about whether to have a drink or not. Wolfie said, ‘just a glass of wine isn’t going to hurt, you can jump right back on the wagon tomorrow. If you don’t get drunk it doesn’t count’.  Then MY voice said, that one drink will not be just one and if it is, it won’t last long because it’ll wake YOU up, Wolfie, and it’ll make YOU become more of a tyrant come Sunday. So MY voice won. The craving is done. And here’s a little something that I thought of while I was arguing with Wolfie — I started this because I can’t moderate … I started this sober thing because I can’t take it or leave it. It consumes me and my thoughts and my life. It’s toxic for my soul and well being. So tonight, I’m not going to drink. Not now. Not tonight.  ~ Pearl XoXo”

​Step 1. Exit the booze elevator.

​Step 2. Stay (stay here, stay focussed, stay true to you).
​Step 3. Potential. Look around you. See the possibilities.

sober art, each one is an original, with thanks to mr.belle. this is painting #322. “I have potential because i’m sober.” go here.

wolfie is the anti-self-care voice

This message was originally sent to subscribers by email on tuesday january 29th.


Gra: “I have been to the glass bottle [recycling] bank twice in the last year. and to think i used to dread my fortnightly clinky clanky bottle disposal shame. All I had to do to stop the walk of shame was to stop drinking…”

K: “I once saw a shirt that said: ‘I really regret going to the gym today’ – said no one ever. You should do one that says: ‘I really regret my sobriety the past 100 days’ – said no one ever.”

DD: “Sorry to keep emailing you. And there’s no need to respond or comment on each email. Probably like a lot of your penpals I am just thinking out loud. The idea of not dieting while getting sober is something I’ve really been taking to heart. But for me, treats don’t have to be cake. I just returned from the grocery store with fresh berries on my list to buy. But I couldn’t do it because they were six dollars a pint. I’ve been thinking a lot about why since I got home. I am in a income level where truly money is no object as far as food purchases. It says a lot about me that I can’t spend six dollars on myself.  Of course I would have no problem spending double that on a cheap bottle of wine. Buying good quality healthy food is a treat. Next trip to the store, I buy all the fresh fruit I want.”

I: “I got arrested last Friday for drink-driving. I crashed my new car, rolled it, and only had a head injury! I walked away luckily with no one else injured. I have needed help for a long time not so much an alcoholic but just turning to alcohol for the wrong reasons. now I’ve got to pay the consequences to my actions and my children unfortunately will suffer too as I will no longer be able to drive. Why is is something like this that needed to happen for me to wake up?”

sohocat: “… that makes so much sense. Wolfie is the anti-self-care voice. Whether we didn’t learn self care, or are susceptible to self-harm, or are addicted to this thing or that thing — it all sounds the same. Instead of making me sad or depressed that actually makes me feel less alone and more normal. I was also thinking how acknowledging and feeling my high emotions last weekend may have also helped me process them more quickly than if I had numbed them away. So I’m feeling much more positive this week. Tired but positive. I consider that an advanced-level WIN and a FUCK YOU WOLFIE!”

need an extra boost today? 
even if you’re not on facebook you can watch this new video filmed on Sunday about how to fill the ‘boring’ time that often happens on weekends after we quit drinking. << link here >>

this was my lunch treat yesterday, thanks to the tiny gift fund 🙂


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’


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”