feedback

when i first quit drinking, i wrote on this blog every day. i needed to get the noise in my head out into the world, and i have always used writing as a way of figuring out what i think. I know that last sentence doesn’t make much sense, but only when i try to write something down, and have to organize my thoughts, do i even see that THIS goes with THIS. i often say that in writing TO YOU (as a penpal or whatever) that i’m really writing TO ME.

i also used to make lists of ‘here’s what i learned this week in terms of being sober’ – and so today i’m doing to do the same thing. about my sober life this week.

  1. i do better with a goal: When i started the new work thing at the beginning of the month, i counted out how many days i had to go onsite (48) and so by the end of the first week i’d done 5. like quitting drinking, when you’re close to day 1, the time elapsed seems small and ‘not worth it’. and then we keep going. as of today i’ve done 19 of 48 days. perhaps at some point i’ll stop counting, or i’ll miscount, or i’ll forget about counting. just like when i quit drinking.
  2. progress isn’t always sunshine and roses: I do fine so long as the comments at my new job are encouraging. yesterday I had a very good shift, turned out a great product, got good feedback, and then checked the online notes when i got home and the boss had written something unfavourable that wasn’t said to me directly. This was a different from the guy who loved me the day before. my lesson: I need to stop looking at my daily evaluations. There is no daily improvement 🙂 there’s a slow and steady improvement, but one individual day might suck, or a series of days might suck, and that doesn’t mean it’s not improving globally.
  3. I care about likes, just like you do. i care about hearts and likes and thumbs up and comments. and i realize now – just this week – that it’s distracting. i could write a sober post for Medium, or record a sober audio for the podcast, or record a live show, or do a Production week with 5 live shows. OR I can spend time moderating, replying, editing comments on the blog. i’ve watched other bloggers turn off the comments on certain posts, and i’ve never thought i’d try it, but now i’m gonna try it 🙂 In terms of feedback, i get lots of it by email, so i won’t be missing out on ideas. I share lots of emails in my daily micro-emails from other subscribers, so you won’t miss hearing from others. When I was getting 10 comments a day, i could keep up, but as the site is larger, the demands of moderating comments is surprisingly time-consuming. And then i care about not being liked (as would anyone), and then i end up focussing on the two people who think i’m an anus. which, as we know, isn’t terribly productive either. Here’s what i’ve learned: Since i’m not a girl who can just shrug and say “oh well” … I am going to proactively remove the feedback loop on blog posts as a trial for a few weeks, to see how things shift.
  4. it all shifts: this week i learned that if i make a pork jus, reduced forever, my husband will pour it out thinking that it’s the dirty water in the bottom of a pot. then i’ll cry and plan divorce in my head. then he’ll say “how could i have known?” and i’ll say “you could have asked.” then he’ll come to me with a cup that has a smidge of a drip of milk in the bottom, and he’ll say “can i throw this out, or are you saving it,” and then i’ll hate him. and then he’ll say something hilarious. and then i’ll laugh. and then it’ll stop. note to self. it all shifts. [as in, we don’t drink on a fuck-it moment, because the next minute we could be laughing, and then we’d have ruined our sobriety for ‘no reason’].

In yesterday’s micro-email about why i share things in the daily emails, i got a bunch of replies. here’s a sample of what’s in my inbox today.

H: “My life is full of people but I’m lonely. And almost no-one in my real life knows the horrible truth about my struggles with alcohol. This loneliness would lead me to drink again if it wasn’t for you – simple as that. Getting emails from you every day is absolutely key in my recovery, I wouldn’t have got this far without you.”

Sargent (day 34): “The best idea I see here is to turn off the comments! Post what you think is valuable with CONFIDENCE and let people take it or leave it. You don’t need to hear what they think about it … There are a lot of great things about the internet but “comments” are one of worst. They’re repetitive and boring and rarely contain anything valuable. They will exhaust you and you have better things to do with your energy.  And I think it’s the same with the “commerce” part of this. You have every right to charge for the services you provide and to sell products that you think are helpful. Your time is worth something. You don’t have to apologize for that. Just put it out there with confidence. People can take it or leave it and keep their opinions to themselves!”

B: “Hello, I have been reading your blog for years. This is the first time I have emailed you. I’m sorry you are going through a tough time. Continuing to help others is the cornerstone of my sobriety. I am 17.5 years sober as of Feb. 1 … I would hate to see you quit anything that you are doing because it may be your own sobriety that you impact. Stand strong. The work you are doing is helping thousands of people and also helping you in the process.”

~

this last comment really struck me. i love having feedback from people who are WAY further along than i am 🙂

hugs, me

i will never get it ‘right’, but i know my intent :)

this is my personal stop-drinking blog, which means sometimes i write stuff – about quitting drinking, about being sober – and sometimes i share stuff – positive stories from penpals, struggles, adventures and tragedies.

and if i was you, if i read something on a personal blog that rubbed me the wrong way, then i’d maybe brush it off as a misunderstanding. but if a second and third time i found it irritating, i might unsubscribe and move on 🙂 the world is full of humans. we don’t all click.

i started this blog as a way to document wanting to be sober, and it has grown into something else that was not my intention at all. i figured i’d keep doing this sober thing (audios, penpals, jewelry) so long as people liked it. i mean, if i had an idea for a bracelet, and nobody wanted one, then i’d have moved on to other things.

i am utterly without a marketing plan. i’m not trying to find a niche. there is no master plan of any kind at all 🙂 there’s the lovely randomness of being in contact with so many people, and trying to find the common threads, to weave some of them together, to create a hammock (see what i did there?) where you can rest for a bit.

sometimes i get really lovely supportive emails, and sometimes i get unhappy ones. i know i’m neither end – i’m not as great as the lovely ones and i’m not as shitty as the shitty ones. i’m somewhere in between.

well, the only way i know that, is i know my intent.

my intent is to follow (not lead) and to create community without hierarchy. my intent is to share, encourage, empathize. i didn’t want to ‘model’ anything, but i was told that’s what i do. i didn’t wake up one day and think – hey let me model problem solving once sober. i just wrote about my stuff.

if you read one of those older emails, i don’t even remember one specifically, maybe when my husband was looking for an office and i talked about how we found him one – or maybe if you are folloowing along with my sober fiction project, and you read some of the prewrites about how writing is like being sober, but if you read stuff like this about problem-solving, and it’s helpful, then i take those comments and do a bit more of it.

when i get “you’re selling too much” then i try to weigh that against “i wore my not today bracelet every day for 1000 days and never took it off even to sleep.”

i will never get it ‘right’.

and i guess it’ll never be perfect because i’m a human and not a brand. i don’t have a team of people saying “research shows that when you weigh more, people like you more.” i don;t have anyone measuring if my swearing turns off more than it attracts.

i’m just being me.

i’m not a brand. i’m not even a business. i mean, this sober coaching thing makes money but that’s not why i do it. (you can’t fake empathy and connection, and you can’t fake giving a shit, not even when paid. nobody would be penpals encouraging people to be sober only for the money. and if they did, it’d be super transparent and you can smell that kind of shit a mile away.)

i also am not building an empire, i mean i didn’t get sober, start to sell a class, quit my day job and tell you-all that i’m focussing on taking your money from now on. i’m sober, yes, in addition to my regular work. i’m not sober so that i can be a sober coach and take your money. i’m sober because it’s the foundation for everything else i have in my life, including catering, bread baking, and being up at 5:40 a.m.

there is no plan here 🙂 there is only intent. my idea to write sober fiction? came from a penpal. in fact, came from two different penpals – one who suggested fiction, the other who suggested serialized fiction.

behind the scenes, i’m a caterer and a text designer. i’m working offsite for 3 months and getting up at 5:40 a.m. which i loathe. i’ve been getting myself treats staring this week, finally, to help with the early mornings. i counted out how many days i would be at the new thing (48) and i’ve done 15 of them already. i also know that when it’s over, i’ll miss it, but right now i’m regretting the commitment (sounds familiar  – starting a new offsite job is just like early sobriety – want to quit, sure it’s a mistake, want to finish the goal and then never do it again, expect i’ll get to the end and want to keep going, etc.).

anyway 🙂 this is a long pre-amble before i share what’s in my inbox today. i am a real human, imperfect. doing some sober support stuff that suits some people and doesn’t suit others. i’m not trying to find more customers.  i’m not trying to get media, or be on panels, or get a tattoo, or go to a march. i’m not talking about yoga or green juice. i talk about being sober. how to do it, how i did it, how penpals do it. sometimes i talk about cake, but hey, who doesn’t like cake? #theworldneedsmorecake

my inbox today:

spring rabbit: “You post SO many notes in which people praise you. It makes your whole system feel cultish, like: if I want to have my email posted by Belle, I just have to go on and on about how amazing Belle is. It turns my stomach—you have people PAYING you to read other people’s adulation of you. How is that ethical? How is that about helping any of us? And now you’re posting people’s photographs of YOUR book? And getting free feedback on your book from people who’ve turned to you for help? It feels as if you’re using all of us for your own personal ego trip and benefit. I realize that many of these customers/clients/whatever you call them also offer words of support, which you share, and much of that is valuable to the rest of us. But I urge you to stop including the “Belle is so amazing” “Belle is a godsend” “Belle is my hero” stuff that you tack onto these shares. And stop forcing vulnerable people to shill your book for you. Among other things, it’s quite tacky.”

jacci2: “Yes, you’re right! I’ve definitely noticed some [cognitive behaviour] type stuff in your podcasts, OMMs, emails, and blog this time around! That’s probably why I turned to you for additional support when I relapsed, right after I enlisted the help of my therapist and my boyfriend. I feel like you get it, you get me, you get the process, and you speak my language. You know that shame doesn’t work. in my personal experience, AA is terribly shame based (I went for about a year in the past and never felt quite right about it), and I feel there is a sad desperation about living your life just trying to be sober each day. I feel there is more to life. I’d rather let drinking go, and focus on all I get to do, see, experience, and feel now that I’m NOT drinking! I know AA works for a lot of people and that’s grand, it’s just not for me.”

~

and i know i’m somewhere in between. i know my intent. do i have ego moments? sure. do i need to be called out on them? of course. do people pay me to read my emails? no. do i know what it’s like to have a voice in your head that thinks that drinking is a good idea? i do i do i do.

i know how i got the voice to stop. that’s what i hope to share.

huglets, me

when i don’t drink, i feel better about me

written at 9:30 a.m. local time

today i’m proud of myself. it’s silent, early morning, up before most of the locals on a holiday. the upstairs neighbours are away. quiet. i can actually hear birds, it’s like the shortest day of the year has really passed, and we’re into something new.

it’s not raining. it’s warmer than seasonal which is a gift. my husband who has been sick since the day before the vacation started, is still in bed, still sick. man flu + coughing so much you throw out your back. yes, that’s him. but right now, he’s quiet too, and asleep. when i tell him he doesn’t cough when sleeping, he doesn’t find this curious. i do.

my emotions are in charge of everything i do. if i feel frisky, i make bread and do the dishes. if i feel slighted, i sulk and listen to business podcasts with both earphones in, sorry, can’t hear you. when i like my life, i make dinner. when i’m a slug, we have frozen meals from the frozen-meal-store, which is actually quite good, compared to north american standards. it’s not lean cuisine. it’s actual food. just frozen.

if i feel proud of myself, i keep doing the same things that make me feel good.

and as this new year unfolds, unspools, like a roll of film in front of me, i get to pick where i walk. i decide how many days i go outside (i work from home!). how many times i make dinner. how many times i drink juice. i get to decide whether i want to write a sober fiction book. i get to decide if i learn new things. if i play video games. if i sit in the bathtub.

you’re the writer of this new film, the one called “Me 2018.” you’re also the actor, the stage director, and the costumer. you get to decide what to wear, today i;m here in my plaid pj bottoms and my sober fuzzy socks. i get to choose between all-butter croissants or ‘croissants ordinaires‘ (never pick the latter).

i get to reach out for tools and supports that make me feel better about my life. i remember that how i think about things changes them. the rainy sidewalk becomes shiny with reflected light when i’m in the right mood, and can also be sludgy black and dark on another day. i pick the shiny. i pick the 80% that’s good. there’s something going on right now in your life, in mine, that sucks anus rocks. I’m not discounting my shittiness. i’m focussing on the good parts. and on the parts that i can control. starting with how i feel about me.

and when i don’t drink, i feel better about me. so i’m going to continue doing that.

happy new you 🙂

==

Comments from advance readers:

Jazzie (day 401): “And you inspire me!! … You’ve given me a new way to look at things and life though I’ve thought this was before, your way makes more sense to me. Thank you Belle. Happy New Year!!!”

Flyaway (day 192): “Before your blog I never thought about ‘changing perspectives’ or ‘reframing thoughts’. These tools have changed my life. I’m excited for this new year! Thank you for inspiring me!


~ and welcome to everyone who has found me through Catherine Gray … she’s penpal #270 and is on day 1570 today!


Would you like a sober penpal for a year?

Sober Jumpstart class re-opens today
with a limit of 11 available spots
Today
Monday January 1st
www.soberjumpstart.com

 

I loved him for the first hour [Julie-Joy’s Dad Part 3]

from me:

i received a long email from Julie-Joy’s Dad about his new sober life. it’s so fascinating that i want to share it all with you, but it’s long (i said that already) and so i’m going to split it into 3 parts. Part 1 was previously posted here, and Part 2 was posted here.

===

[May 2016]
email from Julie-Joy’s Dad (day 822): “Hi Belle, I wanted some insight with my drinking problem, which I thought really wasn’t that bad. So I sent my “girls” (girls includes my wife) an email and asked them to tell me about the before and after. I was surprised. Actually I was a little shocked! You will like the response from my wife. Enjoy.  This is my original email:  I need your help! I like to read the blogs of “Belle’s” website and I find them encouraging and in some cases sad. I am looking at my own journey and how content and happy I am right now and I would like to add a perspective to the blog (or whatever) from my family. Could you write a paragraph or two about the DAD (& husband) before the 100 day sober challenge, and the DAD after taking the challenge? Thanks and I love you. DAD (and your Mom’s hubby).”

Julie-Joy:

“Well, my dad before the challenge was interesting. Growing up I never remember my parents drinking at all. Either my dad was good at hiding it or I just never noticed … I almost feel like it is my fault my family started drinking at all. In 2006 I went through a divorce at a very young age, and the whole experience was super heart breaking.  But I went back to school and started serving at a restaurant and kind of got introduced to the whole drinking world.  I feel like I opened the alcohol door for my family.  But I know this isn’t entirely true at all, but I felt at that time we all started drinking pretty regularly. I didn’t really notice my dad’s drinking increasing all that much until about 5 years ago, I think. I loved my dad for the first like hour of his drinking. He loved chatting and playing music … he was so fun for about an hour or so.  But then, of course, you start chasing that initial buzz, drink too much.  Then he would get extremely hungry and very impatient. Honestly, he turned into a grumpy, impatient, selfish, asshole. My poor mother took the brunt of having to deal with him like this. Then he would eat, sit in front of the TV, and pass out. Not very fun at all.

One time when I was home visiting my dad had a bottle of alcohol in the freezer, so I knew how much he had of it, but he seemed WAY more drunk than that amount would allow, so I went into the garage and looked in this metal garbage can in the garage, and there were papers on top, but underneath were 6 empty bottles of hard alcohol in there. So that is where his refills were coming from …

Since my dad started the first 100 day challenge, he has never drank again.  And he is so different in that his true self has come out. My dad at the core is motivated, successful, out-going, determined, an athlete, and all these things got masked by his alcohol … Also, his editors in his brain are back on, so even though my dad still deals with anger and what have you, he now has reigns on it.  And thinks before he speaks.  I can see him processing and making different choices and he is able to do that because the alcohol hasn’t switched off his inhibitions.

My dad is now an athlete. He walks at least a marathon a week (26.2 miles) and trust me, he would be running those miles if it weren’t for a hip replacement he had years ago. He is in better shape than I am and I am 30 years younger than him. He has lost so much weight and looks so handsome! He is more self-confident. His business is going WAY better. He is more loving to my mom and kinder to her and appreciates her and shows her this. He helps her and loves on her. He communicates with us girls (his daughters) every day to tell us what day he is on.  He is more gracious, more kind, more content.  He is just plain flat out, happier! I feel like he is just more HIMSELF!  And when my dad is HIMSELF, he is like the sun that shines on everyone. I love him sooooooooo freaking much!!!!! I am so happy he does not drink anymore so that we can have the real him.”

[end part 3 of 3]

omm268.wrong.place

In this audio, I call bullshit on a bunch of excuses. I can’t be sober in this way, my support must look like ‘this’, I can’t practise my skating routine on the path at the park. All not true.

[be sure to scroll down for photos]

  • Get these audios on iTunes (apple podcast) > link

 

Transcript.

OK, I get this kind of thing in my Inbox all the time. This will sound familiar to you:

“Dear Belle, I wish there was an AA meeting close to me that had people that were my age. I wish I could go to an AA meeting where there were hot men. I wish there was an AA meeting where they were 35-41 years old. I wish I could find a place to practice my skating routine, but I can only do it at the rink.”

What do you hear there when I say that? You hear wolfie, right?

“I can’t get it that way. Those people can’t help me. This is the wrong place. This is the wrong time. I can’t start until everything lines up. I can’t do it this way.”

You have a voice in your head that wants you to keep drinking, so it will manufacture reasons why the support is wrong for you. “I can’t have a phone call with a sober coach because of 1300 imaginary reasons. I can’t practice my skating routine unless I’m at the rink.”

You’ve thought that. Perfectionism.

“If I can’t get it to all line up then I don’t want to do it.”

And I want you to know that today when I was at the duck pond, when I was doing my run, I saw a woman practicing her skating routine on the pathway. She wasn’t in the water, she was on the track where I was running around the pond, she was off to one side doing her skating routine.

And I looked at her and I thought: Fuck, that’s genius. You don’t wait for winter. You don’t wait for ice. You can practise it right here. Of course you can. Stop with all of this, ‘It’s not lined up properly’. Stop with all of this, “I need the right room at the right time with the right person’. It’s all bullshit.

Your brain is manufacturing reasons why this won’t work for you.

It’s all not true.

I took a picture of the woman with the skating thing [below] …

And I thought, if that’s not a sober metaphor I don’t know what is. And then this morning, I get an email that says: “I really wish I could find an AA meeting where people were 26-31 or 35-42.”

No.

I call bullshit.

I call bullshit.

And you can stop that shit right now.

 

pass out in your chair [Julie-Joy’s Dad Part 2]

from me:

i received a long email from Julie-Joy’s Dad about his new sober life. it’s so fascinating that i want to share it all with you, but it’s long (i said that already) and so i’m going to split it into parts. Part 1 was previously posted here.

===

[May 2016]
email from Julie-Joy’s Dad (day 822): “Hi Belle, I wanted some insight with my drinking problem, which I thought really wasn’t that bad. So I sent my “girls” (girls includes my wife) an email and asked them to tell me about the before and after. I was surprised. Actually I was a little shocked! You will like the response from my wife. Enjoy.  This is my original email:  I need your help! I like to read the blogs of “Belle’s” website and I find them encouraging and in some cases sad. I am looking at my own journey and how content and happy I am right now and I would like to add a perspective to the blog (or whatever) from my family. Could you write a paragraph or two about the DAD (& husband) before the 100 day sober challenge, and the DAD after taking the challenge? Thanks and I love you. DAD (and your Mom’s hubby).”

Julie-Joy’s sister (Krista, day 459):

I never realized it until you were into your 100 day journey, that the time I spent at your house was less and less. I think subconsciously it was because of your drinking. Most of the time you would be drinking, get grumpy, eat and then pass out in your chair. You didn’t want to give us (the boys and myself) kisses goodbye and I think it’s because you didn’t want me to smell the booze on your breath. There were times I needed rescuing (like when I ran out of gas) or others situations that I cannot remember and you could not help because you knew you could not and should not drive.

But fast forward into your 100 day journey. We (the boys and myself) are at your house all the time. You are active and successful. You were already a positive person but you it shows through so much more now that you are not drinking. I know that I can call you any time and you are able and capable of helping me out — unless you are on one of your 8 mile walks. 😉 You hug and kiss us goodbye all the time!

You have inspired me! And although my own choice to not drink is one I chose for myself, you were definitely part of the process. Love you dad!

From JJ’s Dad: Belle, my youngest daughter, Renee didn’t write anything, but just called me and told me that she didn’t see me when I was drinking. Which is true. I didn’t get to see her very much and since she has moved with her husband … all she knows is that I am really happy and full of love. She told me that she loved me so much and started to cry. So, I gave her a pass. Her hands are full right now. Her mother-in-law has been diagnosed with cancer and they have given her 2 months to live. Renee is a mother of 2 young children: a 2½ and 1 year old. Renee is the spiritual one and such a wonderful woman.

[end part 2]

broken mirror, bent golf club, two bullet holes [Julie-Joy’s Dad Part 1]

from me:

i received a long email from Julie-Joy’s Dad about his new sober life. it’s so fascinating that i want to share it all with you, but it’s long (i said that already) and so i’m going to split it into parts. Here’s Part 1:

===

[May 2016]
email from Julie-Joy’s Dad (day 822): “Hi Belle, I wanted some insight with my drinking problem, which I thought really wasn’t that bad. So I sent my “girls” (girls includes my wife) an email and asked them to tell me about the before and after. I was surprised. Actually I was a little shocked! You will like the response from my wife. Enjoy.  This is my original email:  I need your help! I like to read the blogs of “Belle’s” website and I find them encouraging and in some cases sad. I am looking at my own journey and how content and happy I am right now and I would like to add a perspective to the blog (or whatever) from my family. Could you write a paragraph or two about the DAD (& husband) before the 100 day sober challenge, and the DAD after taking the challenge? Thanks and I love you. DAD (and your Mom’s hubby).”

1. Response From My Wife

I really think you were on a course of self-destruction that was going to end tragically … There were a couple of times that I was probably more frightened, and mad, than I’d ever been in my life. There was one night that I was so concerned about you that I left work in the middle of the night to come home and check on you. I had talked with you on the phone and you weren’t making much sense. By the time I got home you were in bed asleep.

There was also an instance with a patient in the ER one night that I thought to myself, “this could be Jeff.” He had a seizure related to alcohol withdrawal. He was right around the same age as you and a daily drinker. Not a homeless alcoholic guy off the streets, just your average every-day worker, wife at bedside. He was obviously altered, couldn’t talk or make any sense, going to be admitted to ICU (withdrawal can kill), didn’t know if he was going to make it and if he did, what would his quality of life be like. That really frightened me. I remember talking to you about it and you blew it off. At least that was my perception.

Then Julie-Joy came along with an initial 30 day sober challenge, I thought to myself “he’ll do it for Julie, she always had a way with her dad.”

Let me back up a bit and give you my example of “frightening moments”: broken mirror (floor length), bent golf club, and also two bullet holes in our house and you not remembering what happened! My heart is racing right now just recounting this…

There was also the way you tried to hide how much you were drinking. I felt God was whispering in my ear: “look here, look there,” and sure enough there’d be a bottle. … Belle entered our lives through Julie. I cannot begin to thank you enough for your gift of reaching people, Belle. It was the absolute perfect time. Jeff took on the challenge in the typical fashion “all-in”! He did 30 days, and then 60 days, and then 100 days. He is now at 822 days and counting. He is amazing and a joy to be around. He’s “fired-up” on a daily basis, and is hard to keep up with. Oh yeah, did I mention I’m much younger than him, six years? A bit of a private joke 🙂 I’m so thankful he’s alive (I don’t think he would’ve at the rate he was going). I get to enjoy his company for the rest of our years together (38 years and counting).

I love you Jeff and I love that you took on this challenge with gust! You have been a huge inspiration not only to me, but your daughters and those around you, and those you don’t even know you. I’ve shared with friends, patients and acquaintances about the change in you, the website, and the person that Belle is and has been to our family. Thank you Belle for bringing this inspiration to us. Thank you for your own 30, 60, 100+ day challenge and inspiring others to “stop thinking about drinking.” You have a gift, thanks for sharing with others and this family in particular. You’re a life saver.

[end part 1]