keep open to people from all backgrounds

This message was sent to subscribers by email september 15th.

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from me:

saturday morning, i think the residual jetlag is finished, i slept 10 hrs last night so that’s good. but the bad news is that upstairs neighbours moved out this morning, one of those mini crane things shows up outside our window, like a fire truck’s long extension ladder, and they put boxes on it and it shuttles them to ground level, so that they can avoid the flights of stairs. We don’t know who’s coming in next. in these old wooden buildings, your direct neighbours can change the quality of your life in ways not easily predicted. do they have 3 kids awake at 5 a.m.? do they have a dog that they’ll leave home all day, alone, to bark, and chase imaginary birds. are they midnight partiers, will they smoke out the window and drop their butts on my balcony? city living. apartment living. i could dream of a house all I like but this is a large city, with compressed spaces, it’s not happening. we’ve been in this apartment four years already. I am putting a request in to the universe today, that our new neighbours are a professional couple, travelling all the time, serious, studious. that they speak english. that they are warm and easy-going and go to bed at 10 p.m. that’ll happen, right?

notes from my inbox:

A: “Since I have no one else to announce this to, because no one in my “real” life knows my struggle, today is my Day 30!!! I am overcome with joy and amazement that I made it this far!!! I had all but given up hope before I found you. I had tried so many ways to get on the sober train over several years but that train would crash and burn after just a few days at every attempt. I was terrified that I was going to die, I was desperate to find a way out of the wine and permanently ashamed. You changed everything for me. Receiving your email updates of encouragement and your lovely postcards and now Mr. Bs beautiful, inspirational paintings has allowed me to latch on to something powerful in order to successfully pull through this all encompassing nightmare. Thank you thank you thank you for saving my life. Each day I grow stronger. Each day is a gift and I open every new sober day with a clear head and a healthy body, finally rid of toxic trauma. In fact, as I write this, it’s still dark out here. Soon the sun will rise and so shall I, set free, soaring, sober!”

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M: “I felt compelled to write you about the hurricane. I’m in central N.C. and was preparing for this storm to hit. We were planning for several days without power, so stocking up on water, supplies and non-perishable food. I had no idea the hurricane would be the thing that makes me want to drink the most. I sailed through the holidays, my 50th birthday celebration, and vacations without being tempted. But so many here are using the bad weather as an excuse to party and stock up on booze, and I’m feeling the pull too. I’m not going to buy wine. I’m not going to drink. I’m just noticing the urge and the thoughts. And I wanted to tell someone, so thank you for being that person!!!”

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Miss P: “Hi Belle, So how fast does your man paint??? Wow!  I have been impressed by the colors and the passion his paintings have made upon me. So, I am still just a reader. I have a lot of support in friendships and people who make Miss P great again, yet I have still not found my perfect balance. Sobriety is ok, but I get bloody bored with people’s conversations and life itself and the fact that we have to always be so freaking politically correct all of the time. These facts create a very deep thirst. I am looking for a new hobby besides working to fill that down time, though it is usually filled up by driving children to their various activities. So, I write to encourage you to keep up the creative work with your blog and your ideas. Keep open to people from all backgrounds, Faith-based, crazy loon, artistic, poorer than dirt or the richest bitch on the block. I do believe this is one of your greatest strengths. Thanks for following your vocation. Miss P.”

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J: “Belle, I’m so sorry, and I truly don’t mean to be rude or negative but, for me, your emails have now become 90 per cent about flogging your husband’s “art”. Not an approach for me, I’m afraid, so I’m unsubscribing. I do, though, wish you both well.”

 


Step 1. Exit
Step 2. Stay Here, Stay Focussed, Stay Sober
Step 3. Potential opens up for you. “I have potential because I’m sober.”

original painting here, this is #197

 

stop worrying about other people overly and worry about MOI

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 11th.

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from me:

woke up monday morning in vermont, had gingerbread pancakes and eggs for bfast (thanks to andpops for this tip). drove 2 hrs north to montreal to say good-bye to inlaws, and had a nice visit with them, a ‘real’ visit where we talked about real-er things. there’s a language barrier there for me (french and all) sometimes our conversations are more surfacey but yesterday was more of the real stuff (about vacations, retirement, health, family). then we braved the montreal construction (oh. my. god.) and drove to the airport arriving 4 hrs early for our flight. for reasons. so that i could work from there, so that we could eat and not inconvenience his family in asking them to feed us. i had my last tim horton’s club sandwich (they’ve changed the recipe, i won’t have another). i posted a painting from the airport. i tried to find a private lounge thing where you could sit at a desk and pay by the hour but they were all full with real members. i’m just a drop-in girl, not really looking the part of someone suited for a business lounge anyway. so we sat at the maple coffee place on the departure level and i answered emails for a bit since i hadn’t done much in vermont what with all the pancake eating that was required. on the flight itself, i worked on emails between bouts of holding on for dear life, paid for one hour of wifi so that i could SEND all the emails i’d written, watched about 40 minutes of the Mr. Rogers movie (husband watched 3 movies!), dozed for 20 minutes, held on for dear life again, and landed at 9:30 am local time after having been up for 24 hrs. now we’re home, showered, fed, 4-hr-napped, have woke feeling like death, and back at it 🙂 Mr. is at the dining table cutting boxes. I’m here, doing this. we will have frozen meals for dinner, or maybe order delivery hamburgers.
things i learned about tools and having enough of them: plan for connectivity (don’t rely on being able to find wifi, it’s never there when you need it), plan for contingency (when the thing doesn’t work, what’s the next thing), plan for a business lounge so that you can sit at a non-sticky table and type without having everyone looking at your screen (well, maybe it just felt that way). and have more frozen food on-hand for the re-entry so that we don’t have to scramble (plan to have treats, make it easier, do the things, make it easier).
buy data, have access to a business lounge? make it easier. find sober support, listen to the audios you’ve downloaded, read the emails you’ve signed up for – make it easier 🙂
oh, and your bed? it’s a really nice place! nothing better than your own bed after a road trip. or at any other time, in fact. and the coffee tastes better at home! when you make it yourself.

 

my inbox this morning:

peewit (day 617): “Something about your emails lately is really touching me, so much so I’m sat here with tears in my eyes. I feel like I’m seeing you more clearly, connecting with you and, to be honest — actually starting to trust you. Which has been really really hard for me. Until now, with all these ‘shares’, these moving little glimpses of your days, all this is heart opening for me and I FEEL you belle! And you run, but you’re scared to hike? Love that! The things we feel confident about are so specific, there’s so many lessons learnt from just reading the examples you’ve given on this trip. Big hugs, really big warm tight ones! Peewit xxxxxx”

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barbs (day 42): “Hi belle not checked in for a good while but I’m STILL HERE and listening binge-ing-ly to podcasts xx great stuff. I am the person who is sensitive to light, itchy labels, hot pillows, bright lights EVERYTHING. Just listening to [your podcast about] overwhelm — it helps to realise the solution is self-care. So obvious, but I’ve been slow! Stop worrying about other people overly and worry about MOI 😘 I LOVE ignatian spirituality and you talk about beautifully when you talk about reviewing your day.   Possibly you didn’t realise that a lot of your wisdom is ignatian which makes me laugh at the beauty of the ancient wisdom. You’ve tapped in and it’s wonderful to hear it in an unrelated secular situation xx
Hope your holiday is gorgeous.”

[from me: so then i had to look this up, cuz i have no idea what Ignatian spirituality is … the aim is to help one ‘conquer oneself and to regulate one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.’]

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Lottie (day 42): I hope you had a good trip home and are safely back or nearly back by now. I am very very grateful to be legitimately sick and able to take time off work, put my out of office message on and tell everyone to F off in polite corporate language for a few days. We can take 3 days without a doctor’s note so I will take tomorrow as well. I don’t even feel a bit guilty, my job is shitty at the moment and a break is welcome. I do feel pretty crap, but not so crap I can’t drink coffee and watch Breaking Bad. The cleaner is here making my bathrooms shine and my floors sparkle while I lie here. I am rereading some parts of your book and the parts on being sensitive, overwhelm and “everything else is Wolfie” are so, so helpful. I see that you mention Day 42 as when we start to feel braver and stop hiding at home. That sounds good but I am happy to hide out here just a little longer.”

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Debz: “Day 39 for me. I did the alcohol experiment 30 days from Annie Grace. And it became routine to read the daily message and video which she sent for 30 days. That stopped. And now I realize I was looking forward for your traveling mails in the morning! Sorry your holiday is over. Have a nice flight back to France. And I also always look forward to see the new painting of mr.B. I like most of them (with contrasting colors the most, darker for the down side of elevator and more bright for the sober live). It inspires me, maybe i will paint too if I am more soberstable. I still didn’t sign up for pen pal because it is a little to much amount for me to pay now. (I have to pay other things so prioritize…). Anyway, I am trying to do it without it but I really really appreciate your every day emails!!!”

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MindfulMe (day 308): “big stuff that disrupts our life has a tail. after shocks, smaller than the first earthquake, but still disruptive. I feel like its over because the initial problem is solved, its a brief false relief, because there is a mess of shit still to go…”

me: I hope the aftershocks from this have eased now, though I think it would be typical for wolfie to leap from this stress to creating a new ‘problem’ that needs to be solved. so be careful in the next week or so to go very easy on yourself. no new projects. no big expectations. no harsh words to yourself. just be sober. and rest. that’s enough for now.

MM: “Thank you for this. Those are the pieces of advice that I love and need to hear. Speak kind to yourself. So big. Aftershocks have calmed. further apart now…”

 

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kitkatpaddywack (day 1333): “I love your travel adventures. East coast fall weather should have been more lovely for you. Maybe you [got] a lovely weekend! … I must admit, I’ve been a bit jealous of Mr. B’s art finding an audience. Indeed I should flip that around to INSPIRED. I am an artist wanna be. I’ve done some painting and have some visions for a show or a book. I’m just too hard in my self critiques and don’t let anyone see my art. Well that won’t take it anywhere. In due time. And maybe an art class to build my confidence. This last piece was gorgeous – and I see a figure approaching the exit sign. Intended? Give my kudos to Mr. B for having fun expressing himself and being bold to put it out into the world.”

me: I talked about your email with mrB, the idea that someone was jealous of him was an eye-opener to him. what we don’t share is his career struggles as an artist for the last 7 years and what it took for him to get to this place. it’s too tempting to look at a ‘result’ and think that there wasn’t 7 years of work to get there 🙂 le hugs le hugs


if booze is an elevator that only goes down, you can step off now. find the exit. get off and stay off.
original painting #91 here today.

 

this tiny human needs me

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 10th.

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from me:

this is the last morning of our road trip. vermont. went on an amazing hike yesterday, was it – like – the first hike of my life? it may well have been. like straight up a big hilly/cliffside to see the view from the top? how have i never done that before. i’ve done ‘hikes’ if you mean walks on level ground …
well i have a whole big thing to write about that hike, in terms of self-confidence (of which, it turns out, i have none). but it was fine and the view was amazing (thanks to Inspired for the local tip).
maybe we’re always fine. maybe we just need someone outside us to say “you’re fine” – if only to counter-balance the incessant voice in our heads that says that we’re not – not enough, not talented, not able. why can they do it and i can’t.
i’ve also realized i’m a ‘slow’ learner, in that i gain my confidence very slowly. i do gain it, but i’m incremental about it which can be painful to watch to the ‘jump in and get it done’ crowd. i can tell you about how this relates to being sober, and to art, and hiking, and rowing and swimming (the times in my life when i can remember it clearly). if you told me i had to go to school to learn to be a brain surgeon, i’d say “ok, hard, but i can do it.” if you told me i had to walk up a mountain and that i wasn’t going to have a heart attack even though i have ‘that heart issue’ i’d say “i’m going to faint, fall over, they’ll have to call the paramedics, let me just stand here, take a few steps and then stand still again.”
i think i quit drinking the same way. i fucked around on the edges, doing a day here, a week there, until i thought “ok, wth support, i can try this.” but the length of time i spent walking around it was YEARS.
and you know what?
sometimes you don’t have years to spend. sometimes you have to do the uncomfortable part right now, to get it to stop, even if you’d like to unsuccessfully continue to try to do it ‘your way’. if your way isn’t working, you can try different. these are the deep realizations from yesterday’s hike. My husband barrelled to the top, documented the whole thing with lovely photos, then promptly fell asleep in a chair at the lookout. what was i doing while he dozed? I was eavesdropping on the lovely english conversations, and learning about the pride parade that we’d missed on saturday, stand-up improv, and hawk migration. all of those have sober lessons in them, too. more later. right now i’m doing emails, posting a painting, letting him sleep in, and drinking fresh fizzy water from the dispenser down the hall near the elevators… 

 

my inbox this morning:

Andpops (day 49): “My favorite thing about not drinking? Not sweating in bed anymore. It got down to 38 degrees last night and I wore comfy long pajamas and snuggled under warm blankets.”

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Amazon Sister (Day 79): “I’ve been noticing when looking at the daily facebook memories one of my first thoughts is I remember being hungover on that day, and that one, and that one too. I’ve been struggling with realizing how much more could I have been? How do I be more now? I still seem to be in the same ruts, only without the hangovers. I know it has been way better but my self esteem/confidence is low. And I’m realizing that I’m still afraid of so much, I’m just not covering it up with booze.”

me: it’s hard to hear this, but to begin, just being sober is the project. it’s the goal. what you’re learning to do now is to take good care of you, and remove the booze (solidly sober) and that becomes the foundation of a life to be proud of.  but first you do the things. the concrete-pouring, sober foundation, things.

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m: “Hello Belle, thank you very much for y our email. It actually comes at surprise as receiving am email directly from you. I am feeling pretty crappy about things today as I have been doing really well for the past 3 weeks and then this weekend 3 drinks each night and about 5 cigarettes over the course of the weekend. I have friend that is a big part of my drinking and smoking and I went out with here Friday night, which was too soon. I feel like I need to only be with her for day time catch-ups. You see, I work in the health industry and feel terrible about being such a hypocrite.I am worried about how alcohol is such a major part of my social life with the people around me. Wow, sorry for the verbal vomit. This is such a private thing for me at the moment, as I really don’t want to tarnish my reputation. I can feel I am getting closer to this change. It is hard with how much alcohol is part of the Australian culture as it is in Britain. Thank you for your time. I am so scared to send this email in fear that someone else will see it.”

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HerNoo: “Argh and here we go again. Another reset. I was reading about going back to where things worked. Things only started working in my life when I stopped slurping down wine. It is such a small moment of ‘pleasure’, but what a price I pay the next day. So much anxiousness! I need to renew my penpal slot. Will chat with hubby tonight. I just want to be a good mom now. And my dad lost his job. And my mother-in-law had a stroke. And this tiny human just needs me. I feel so overwhelmed. But I am going for some post-natal counselling on Friday. And hopefully with some penpal magic, all should be ok. Right?”

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Fatgit (Da) (day 103): “methinks she doth protest too much (about AA) … it’s very good to tell people who have had negative experiences of AA, or feel bad about themselves because of AA`s approach, that we are not alone. 
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kitkatpaddywack (day 1333): “I love your travel adventures. East coast fall weather should have been more lovely for you. Maybe you [got] a lovely weekend! … I must admit, I’ve been a bit jealous of Mr. B’s art finding an audience. Indeed I should flip that around to INSPIRED. I am an artist wanna be. I’ve done some painting and have some visions for a show or a book. I’m just too hard in my self critiques and don’t let anyone see my art. Well that won’t take it anywhere. In due time. And maybe an art class to build my confidence. This last piece was gorgeous – and I see a figure approaching the exit sign. Intended? Give my kudos to Mr. B for having fun expressing himself and being bold to put it out into the world.”

me: I talked about your email with mrB, the idea that someone was jealous of him was an eye-opener to him. what we don’t share is his career struggles as an artist for the last 7 years and what it took for him to get to this place. it’s too tempting to look at a ‘result’ and think that there wasn’t 7 years of work to get there 🙂 le hugs le hugs

view from our hike yesterday

Step 1 Exit  •  Step 2 Stay Focussed  •  Step 3 “I Have Potential Because I’m Sober”

original art – potential – this is painting #190

go back to the last place you were successful

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 9th.

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from me:

on our second last morning, we are in vermont again. i’ve developed a sober (life) philosophy that says: if things start to derail, go back to the last place you were successful and build on that. what were you doing before when you felt good? what supports, what was around you. do those things again and add on from there.
so saturday morning we woke in new haven ct, still far from the airport where we fly on monday. stay there another night as anticipated and drive 6 hrs home on the last day? give up and go straight home on saturday? I wasn’t ready for the adventure to be over. didn’t want to admit that the road trip was kind of a bust… so i said to whats-his-name, “i want to go to King Arthur Flour” and he’s like “is it a factory?” and i’m like, they have a bakery and a store.
and so we left connecticut and drove straight north, 3 hrs, on an easy highway, on a saturday with no traffic. compare that to what we tried to do earlier heading south mid-week. no comparison. when you know where you’re going, and why … yikes. so much easier.
king arthur flour was lovely. spoke to a baking advisor about powered vermont cheddar cheese and its uses, had lunch (turkey club, caesar salad, i love that in N.A. we can get half sandwich meals, france needs to do this). then we drove 1.25 more hrs to burlington. checked into a really large, discounted for cold weekend, guitar player in the lobby hotel, and slept like logs. this morning, we have to decide again: go back to montreal today (2 hrs) to be there for our flight tomorrow night, OR stay in vermont as long as possible. we’ll decide after breakfast.

my inbox this morning:

LT: “Dear Belle, I’m lurking. Loving every email I get. When I open my inbox and see you’ve written us something, I get so excited, it’s like hearing from a new friend I hope to get to know better. I am not yet financially free to sign up for the penpal for a year program, but soon, I hope!! I start a new job Monday. Until then, I’m extremely thankful for what you send out. I’m loving your take on sobriety. This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone talk like you about recovery, and it’s so refreshing. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like I might be able to really do this. I love when you include excerpts from the emails you receive. I find myself saying so often, “Me too.” Anyway, thanks for everything. Blessings on your travels. And bless you for doing this work.”

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Reenster (day 9): “I love road trips! They are the best because nothing ever goes as planned!  It reminds me of life and teaches me to be flexible and to adapt to new situations as they come up. But if I’m drinking it doesn’t work as I get paranoid and fixated on the booze. So I just want to stay home and hibernate. Another reason to stay off the booze elevator!! Happy Travels!”

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Gaz: “Hi Belle, absolutely love these holiday emails.☺ It sort of makes you feel more real instead of a sober guru. Thanks — for helping me get my life back. Still doing the sober solstice.”

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Luckiest Jo (day 1): “Date night last night which I fucked up in terms of planning and ended up drinking. We planned a sober activity (movie) but we had left the pooch on his own quite a lot so we went to the pictures, and then couldn’t go for food as we didn’t feel it was fair [to leave dog home alone]. So travelling home at 6.45 pm, it was date night, didn’t want to go home and just watch football [soccer] … didn’t feel I could be grumpy because of not drinking, or go to bed because it was date night, and son at Mom’s, so I bought wine. Need more planning, so if we go out [next time], we do it later, maybe something I have to be sober for, say if I’m driving. But also have something planned after I drop my son off so Wolfie isn’t shouting at me. Or I cancel date night for 3 months. I don’t know. Anyway please don’t give me a hard time (not that you do normally but it’s another reset). I will work it out.  Enjoying your tales of travels.”

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Beachluvin Annie: “For the many of us who find AA to be helpful I don’t understand why you share the negative opinion emails (particularly at 160 days sober)… In 10 years AA has showed me ways to take action every day to not drink for a 24 hour period … our book Alcoholic Anonymous states that our way is not the ONLY way and our hats are off to the man/woman who can drink normally … I never dis ‘your way’ of helping people abstain from alcohol to my AA friends, and I often tell my sponsees, they need to ‘try different’, use more sober supports.  I’m only asking you show a positive opinion of AA and how it can be used in conjunction with ‘your program’.”

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Step 1 Exit  •  Step 2 Stay Focussed  •  Step 3 “I Have Potential Because I’m Sober”

original art – potential – this is painting #188

my ‘coping’ mechanism has been removed

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 8th.

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from me:

this morning we’re in New Haven CT. drove by the beaches yesterday (cold, grey, abandoned). kept hoping for a little fish and chip place to materialize but since i hadn’t researched it in advance, the empty beaches were just doing their regular thing which did NOT meet my expectations. did i check my expectations with reality? no. did i ask anyone in advance where the best fish and chips place was? no. instead, we left the beach, drove into town, i used free wifi to find “best sandwich near me” and we went to Atticus Cafe near Yale University and it was fabulous. really. and they had nice bread, and salted butter, and they turned off the air conditioning when i asked (did i mention cold and grey?). then we landed in a very, nice large hotel, king bed hooray! and mr.B went out last night to see a show without me, he met up with some other random french travellers, got home at 12:45 a.m. while i had been out eating sushi alone, watching 5 channels of friday night football (really?) and 5 channels of HBO variations (really?). so then i listened to a writing podcast and went to sleep. today, we’re bailing on this whole part of the trip and going somewhere else, close, that i’ve always wanted to visit. i won’t tell you where until it’s done. in case it we don’t make it for ‘reasons’ … so, this morning’s agenda so far was sleep late, run (hooray), now heading to shower, and then bfast, then on the road again, a quiet overcast saturday, fingers crossed for less traffic. i may eventually become one of those grannies who only travels on the interstate at 5 a.m. to avoid the nutty people…

 

my inbox, saturday morning:

Sweet pea (day 22): “No don’t go home. I am enjoying the “Travels and lessons with Belle”. Have a wonderful weekend. It is stunningly beautiful today, here in [my stat]. we are in our rainy season, but mornings are spectacular. The sunny, deep blue sky and puffy white clouds just make me feel so happy! Are you taking photos along the way?”

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me to tine: are you able to remove the alcohol from your home so that it’s less of a temptation, and perhaps travel without cash or cards (just like $5 and your ID/driver’s license?) that can help too.

tine: “I don’t have wine in the house. I buy it on my way home from [sport[. I need my credit card for groceries, wedding gifts, smokes etc :)”

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LVL (day 40): “The only thing that keeps me sober at this stage is the fear of relapse and the fact that I don’t want you to ‘reset’ my starting date. Or maybe there is more. Very anxious and need to start to find a way of removing this in a healthier manner! I just wanna say, ‘hey the sun shines and I feel good’, that’s why I didn’t want to email today. And then you emailed me, and I was like ‘screw this’ and then I replied. So Belle I am still sober, but going through a difficult emotional state and my ‘coping’ mechanism has been removed. But then you would say pouring alcohol on too would just make it worse. I know you are right but my head is not so clear on that in the moment.” [update, she’s on day 48 today]

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Lena (day 54): “Turd-Gift. Dear universe, thanks for the gift of being sick. Thanks for the permission to lay on the couch do nothing but reading and waiting for the evening to lay in the bathtub do nothing but reading. Thanks for the gift of sobriety that comes with not laying on the couch not be capable to move anywhere and waiting for the afternoon to start drinking. I remember too well like how that was, when I was sick the last time. OK, to be honest, I remember … not. Dear wolfie, you might be wrong. Selfcare might help. And since nobody died from [my work] being fixed by someone else, I‘ll keep on doing that. Even (no, even more!) when you tell me it’s too hard. I’m sorry, I can’t deliver to your expectations; not anymore. I maybe never could. Dear Belle, I hope, you did not get lost on your trip, but if so, maybe here’s your personal turd-gift 😉 there might be some nice exercise of being flexible wrapped up with a pink bow. Have a wonderful rest of your vacation!”

 

original art – potential – this is painting #187

i’m tired of squishing my potential with booze

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 7th.

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from me:

friday morning. heading into our last weekend of travelling. today we will move from rhode island to connecticut (hopefully). google says it’ll take an hour. i’ll allow for 4 hrs in case there are ‘events’. husband’s ability to ‘make art’ in hotel rooms isn’t quite the same as in rental apartments… my ability to watch bad tv until too late seems to be a well-established skill. we don’t have a tv at home, so it’s a novelty thing. breakfast is coffee from the dunkin’ donuts (again) and one of their egg-muffin sandwich that works as a placeholder. mr. b has just returned with clean laundry. we don’t have liquid tide at home either, so i always plunge my face into fresh laundry here… i’m ok living out of a suitcase if my clothes smell nice!

my inbox this morning:

coffeegirl (day 160):  “Sober. I love how your sobriety philosophy focuses on adding more tools and more self care. I attended AA in the past and it wasn’t for me. The whole self-care emphasis was missing and that’s exactly what I needed. The longer I don’t drink, the more I see sobriety as self-care. AA’s focus on character defects was hard for me to relate to. I already felt defective because my main coping skill (drinking) had failed me. Or, really I felt that I had failed by not being able to drink like a “normal” person. I was in AA for 7 years. I was angry about not being able to drink and it all felt like punishment. Your program is different. It makes me feel like a healthy person who needs to learn new skills that no one ever taught me about self-care. So much less negative than having character defects that I need to work on. This is a program that I can do and feel good about. Thank you so much Belle. I love the down to earth, encouraging way you help us to live happier and more full lives without judgement or defects.” [she’s on day 186 today]
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S: “I’m on day 5 having managed 19 days in July then relapsed because I went on holiday. When I got back, thought that what I would do was just drink on high days, on holidays, and guess what? Got absolutely wasted on Saturday night, behaved in an undignified manner, barely slept and Sunday (a beautiful day BTW) I had to white-knuckle it, barely leaving the house. Pathetic and I hate myself. I’ve definitely drunk my lifetime allowance. No-one would guess this to look at me — highly functioning etc. I feel angry that we’ve been duped. It’s poison and yet the Government (UK) talk about ‘guidelines’ which everyone translates as meaning: ‘can be ignored’. I’m scared obviously, I am addictive and impulsive by nature. But I really want to be on the other side where you are.”

~

Tom: “… We (your followers, lurkers, pen pals etc.) come from a wide range of backgrounds.  I understand what J was saying, because at first glance your husband’s paintings may appear to be financially driven. However, having been around for a while, I very much appreciate the lack of commercially driven content. Constantly trying to sell me something (services, counseling, seminars, the perfect cure, this website, that website and the constant ads and corporate sponsorship, always trying to sell something! putting money in their pocket. making it in their best interests, not mine). Don’t take me wrong, I am all for people making an honest living. That is not Belle’s world. That is not what tired of thinking about drinking is all about. For me, when I found Belle’s Words, they spoke to me in a way nothing had before … Belle provides tools for my tool chest.  Take them or leave them — they are sober tools. If they speak to you and help keep you sober, take them.  If not move on, that’s fine. But her messages are simple, consistent and easy. Exit the elevator and never look back. PERIOD! Sober first! Fuck You Wolfie!
For me personally, it’s remembering where I came from and never wanting to go back there. NEVER! My painting will be professionally framed and hung at my door.  It will be the last thing I see when I venture off into the world for the day and the first thing I see when returning Home Sober. My painting IS NOT a financial investment, it is an investment in my sobriety. It is a reminder.  It is a gentle nudge out of the misery. It is a  message to keep moving away from day 1. Plus, where else are you going to get a one of a kind piece of artwork from a French artist in the heartland of America? Don’t know, don’t care because it’s not about money. It’s about peace, tranquility and serenity for me … Belle, you and your husband keep doing what your doing and enjoy your vacation! Respectfully, Tom”

~
PK: “Thanks [for the welcome email] Belle. I am already all over your site as well as others. But I must admit I didn’t sign up for the pen pal. Not cuz I didn’t want to, I just HATE WAITING. hmmm. Maybe I need to practice a dose of patience? Thanks for pointing out the obvious. Will sign up.”

me: the waiting list is 3-4 weeks and then invitations to start are sent, in order, to the people on the list 🙂 I don’t often open up the class to the public, because then there are too many people at once, and I need to manage the flow and make sure I always have time for you 🙂 www.soberjumpstart.com hugs xo

~

Lee (the pea) (day 42): “Today was challenging but that wonderful Pledge that I made at the beginning helped me greatly. I read it on three separate (loo based) occasions throughout the day and consequently am heading to bed soberly. If in doubt… get the Pledge out!” [update, he’s on day 74 today]

 

original art – Exit the booze elevator – this is painting #179

driving on american freeways without GPS is not for the faint of heart

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 6th.

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from me:

thursday morning. breakfast is coffee from the dunkin’ donuts next door (didn’t know that styrofoam cups still exist!). on our way south from vermont yesterday, ended up going south-east instead and to bypass boston (holy frightful traffic, batman) we decided to stop in Providence, Rhode Island. it is, thus far, very cute and we had a good anniversary dinner last night of scallops (and pork chop for him).
driving on american freeways without GPS is not for the faint of heart. holy. driving anywhere without GPS … causes too much discussion, too many decisions to make, too much arguing in the front seat about who made the mistake that got us here.
without a plan, without a co-pilot, driving around a bit lost, on a very high-speed highway called life, without direction… yeah, that sounds like sobriety, doesn’t it. well, not you. you’re using tools and you’re not just winging it.
don’t make the mistake i did. I did the research (read about it), made notes (good student that i am), neglected to see the one crucial highway change that was required to keep us heading straight south, didn’t check where we were until we stopped for gas (boston seemed like the right direction, but it’s not NYC, and without a map … it SEEMED south. it wasn’t). things SEEM fine but they can be going way off track without you realizing it. without a guide, you’re going all over the place unnecessarily, without enough sleep, without enough direction. lost on the interstate.
so we had to decide to crash where we were after 6 hrs (nowhere near to our destination), or drive one more hour to somewhere cute, which we did, because to stop and give up where we were (Marlborough, Mass) was too depressing. to make a mistake and then give up? not possible, not even when tired.
what i did do, though, towards the end, and should have done earlier (fucking DUH) was to turn on data roaming on my european phone, pay the fucking charges, and find out where we were! i did do this, once in providence, to find a hotel, but could have done it in 5 minute increments many times during the day.

trying to get by with less?
sure, we all do it.
but WHY?

(now that we’re in providence, there’s a fucking simple 3 hr Amtrak train from here to NYC that husband may take, without me, while i lounge around in this hotel, in the grey rainy weather. i will get silence, he’ll get to see his concert. or maybe we’ll leave here and go to … cape cod?)

so while live/driving/sobriety never goes as planned, at least, not the first time you set out, you CAN make sure you have gas in your tank, sober supports, GPS, navigation, and someone to help BEFORE you get lost. better yet, have a coach, co-pilot in the front seat saying ‘turn here’.

my inbox, thursday morning:

Beate (day 2): “It not only makes total sense what you are saying [in Lesson #2 Sober Jumpstart], but you also (and most of all) deliver the content with such compassion and care that it makes me feel like being wrapped up in a nice fluffy blanket and given a big hug. I feel like I am totally safe with you! I could totally relate to the mindset of wanting to do it all at once. Quit the drink, run a marathon and eat a flawless diet of only whole, fresh, organic produce — and of course all prepared myself 🙂 In the past, this has often led to overwhelm for me, and also to a mindset of that if I could not keep up with my self-set high (and unattainable) standards, I would go to the other extreme and have wine and crap food to my heart’s content. Because after all, it did not matter any more, did it? But your audio somehow ‘gave me permission’ to not having to be perfect. As you said, it’s OK to have macaroni and cheese for a week. If that is what it takes to stick to my most important and paramount goal for now, i.e. get off booze, than it is not only totally OK to score less than 100% in the other department, but welcomed. Thank you for that! Just a mindset thing, I know, but being a perfectionist, who usually is very hard on herself, it felt wonderful to hear your words.” [update: she’s on day 18 today]

~

karin (day 89): “belle, same or more amounts of swearing please. thank you for being you. i was afraid at first when i found you that you either were or had become (since the early audios) more polished/sales-y and i am unbelievably grateful that you aren’t/hadn’t. your words are very useful: fuck wolfie, he’s an anus.”

~

professional sober woman (day 1): “Reset to day one. I’m sober today. I found an online sober resource. I cannot do this anymore. I cannot live like this anymore. This is not living. I will die if I drink again, that’s just how I have to see alcohol. I don’t even know how I got home. I’m so scared of myself right now.  If you pray, please pray for me today. I have never needed it more.”

psw (day 2): “I’m addicted to this drug and will drink it until I pass out, each and every time, regardless of how dangerous the situation is. I have no cards, no money and no booze. I’m just really sad that I am 34 years old and cannot travel unattended because I am a threat to myself … I’m sitting here, waiting for my coffee to brew. I could’ve died this weekend. My BAC was 4 times the legal limit. I’m scared of myself. My depression is bad and I need to get this shit sorted out. Therapy, AA, online blogging to other sober people, the whole works. There is no more fucking around, I will seriously drink myself to death if I don’t not deal with this problem once and for all … I will be home by 8:30, at the latest. I will eat and rest and get to bed by ten.”

me: you can eat often, too, before you’re hungry. you can email, often, before you think you need to. you can be kind to you, often, before you think you need it. hugs written from rest stop, last one in Vermont before we cross the border into … I don’t even know! eating tuna melt and blueberries, which we picked up in Burlington before we left. hour 1 of 4 done.

psw: “I love a good tuna melt. I can live a life without booze, just so long as I can keep eating tuna melts. xoxox. Thank you for being my support. I’m working hard and am going to quit being a narcissist, I need to do this. For my health. For my life.

psw (day 3, today): “I’m alive. I’m well. I’m up pretty early, but that’s normal for me … I am learning from my therapist how I cannot go this alone. I cannot go to someone’s house, expect to be a normal drinker for three days, and not end up destroying all my progress. I’m learning, but this time, I really do not want to start the journey at day 1 again, so no [bank] cards, for the rest of the year. I don’t care how frustrating it gets, I do not want them back, for any reason.”

~

Luckiest Jo: “No blueberries in France, you poor thing, I love blueberries. I like the paintings, it’s lovely that it’s a thing that you are enjoying doing together. For me the paintings probably have special powers like the jewellery, I think that because what you do is so transformative. I get a feeling that the physical stuff you send out from the sober store is transformative too hence the special powers. 🙂 Hugs”

 

 

original art – Exit the booze elevator – this is painting #178

wedding anniversary and corn

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling, september 5th.

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from me:

wednesday morning. cheerios and blueberries have been eaten (will totally miss both when back in france). it’s our wedding anniversary today. the activities and celebration, though, have been planned. we’re hoping to find a place to swim. and i expect this day will include a nap and a nice random dinner somewhere. I’m not fussy about how we celebrate. well, he’s not fussy and i’ve learned from him over 12 years (13 together). i didn’t get married until later, and i’m glad i waited. he’s a good guy. kind. very little boastful macho ego. happy with a tuna sandwich. can eat 8 cobs of corn in one sitting (though last night, we had the BEST corn of my life, and only had enough for 1.5 each, will be on the lookout for more today in connecticut). thank you for the continued support of the paintings. it really has changed things for us. we have a ‘project’ together, and while lots of couples can’t work together, we often do for my catering, but not always amicably! this project seems amicable thus far (clearly he likes to paint more than he likes to chop onions or do dishes). mostly i’m in love with all of the paintings, AND he’s happy to do them, so that’s a good combo and a relief… if the people we’re currently renting this house from could see how he moves the furniture, covers the surfaces with newspaper, strips down to his boxers (so he doesn’t get paint on his clothes) and goes to work – well, they’d never rent to us again… to have a husband who is self-motivated and happily puttering away on a sober project that helps me and helps you? it’s a special kind of gift. the holy-fuck kind of gift. the holy-fuck-i-hope-i-can-remember-this kind of gift.
with love from me, in vermont, soon to be in connecticut if today goes as planned, and if not, in Maine. and if not, then in vermont having a nap. with more corn.. .

my inbox:

ShelT: “Wow, are all the posts and emails continuing to get more profound? Really amazing. And as for Mr.B and his 7 years of challenge [with his career] and recent inspiration and your acknowledgment of how that impacts you both and the big reception to his art.. um, wow. Like huge wow. It’s freaking impossible to have any idea what doors will open. Quite phenomenal. So happy for you.”

~

Cryssi (4 years): “I’m four years sober today. Thank you for being there when i was the most lost and helpless and terrified. How do you thank someone for helping you save your own life? Not drinking is such a non issue these days. I rarely think about it. When I was talking with my 9 year old and 21 year old today about being sober, my little guy was like ‘Did you used to get drunk?!’ (He can’t even imagine it — he doesn’t remember his mom drinking every night and all weekend.) My older son does, and he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said ‘I’m really proud of you, Mom.’
Who can measure the impact you’ve had on my life and the impact on my kid’s lives because they do not have a mom whose life revolves around alcohol?! You work on the side of the angels. i love you and thank you so much. Thanks for helping me have a life worth living. XOXO Cryssi”

~

Je: “… Nobody comments about the ‘shameless commercial links’ to sober jewellery. Why are the exit / sortie paintings any different? People are buying something that speaks to them, that they will enjoy looking at, and that will be another support on their sober adventure. I know nothing about art, but I enjoy looking at the picture of the day just to see how the colours make me feel. One the other day just reminded me of the beach and I felt relaxed just looking at it. The ones with a lot of red in are much more intense and dramatic. I quite like seeing what today’s colours are. No pressure to buy and the people who do are buying something very personal to them. Good on him for creating something that is appreciated and good on you for giving people the chance to buy another sober tool. You give us plenty of freebies. In my opinion what you offer on your site is like a sober support buffet. Pick what you like, leave behind what you don’t but no need to throw a drama if there’s something on the table you don’t like because chances are other people will want to pick that up.”

~

Sh (day 426):  how is promoting your husband’s work any different than you promoting someone’s book, podcast or other tools that help stave off wolfie? i believe supporting someone’s creative work is good whether you are buying the piece or just looking, appreciating the colors and compositions. For me, the message and tension in the art captures the sober journey in a unique way.  Different than just words. Those that buy the art as a sober treat have something exclusively theirs. Your penpals and all of your followers suck up a lot of your time and energy.  I bet there are many occasions when you have needed to put your sober work temporarily ahead of your marriage.  If your husband wasn’t so understanding you would never be able to offer the level of support you do. I feel showcasing Mr. B’s art is a great way to honor him.”

~

leener (day 374): “well, its about time someone complained about you showing Mr. B’s art. i had expected to see it sooner, and i was happy to be mistaken and that i wasn’t seeing it  and that people were accepting of it and encouraging it … i decided yesterday that i look forward to new art from Mr. B in the same way that i looked forward to a new [sober fiction] Rayna installment (though of course not AS MUCH =) !! ).”

 

original art – Exit the booze elevator – this is painting #174

(why yes, i am wearing my jammies, why do you ask?)

making space for all views

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling at the beginning of september.

~


from me:

tuesday afternoon, 4:16 p.m. we’ve done some work, gone for lunch, listened to podcasts sitting facing the water. there will be corn on the cob in my future today. it’s not something I would cross town to get, and I don’t ever leave the house at 11 pm on a sunday to go find more (like i did with booze). but corn on the cob is a perfect lovely summer treat. that and blueberries from Nova Scotia. and cheerios. and nice cow-y vermont milk.

my inbox, tuesday part 2:

Andpops (day 43): “Yesterday was hard. But I didn’t drink. Friend and her baby are visiting. My BF was so cute with her baby and it made me sad because I know that he and I aren’t going to have kids together. Normally that emotion would have been my cue to bury my feelings in the bottle of wine. Instead I had to deal with it and eventually the feeling started to go away. At first I wanted to run away and go to bed. I read your emails while sitting on the toilet and it helped. I stopped being mad at myself and just tried to let the uncomfortable feelings move on … if I had been drinking, I know I would have gotten sad and been all sorry for myself for not having a kid even though, in reality, I’m in a really good place about all of that, and the occasional feeling of sadness comes and goes relatively quickly…”

me: it’s nice to see someone adorable with a baby, but also because it shows that they’re a lovely human. I’m good with babies 🙂 I’m a lovely human. I don’t have any babies in my life. I can still be lovely with babies 🙂 it sounds like you did the right things, including bathroom reading! 

andpops: “This was super helpful. I think because I’m always expecting to feel bad about the no baby thing, I end up feeling bad. I think that what I truly felt about seeing BFwith the baby was love — and you’re so right.”

~

AF: “I don’t think the art demeans anything [from this morning’s post]. I love the paintings and feel they enhance your work — not detract!  Someone will buy that and it will remind them forever of how far they’ve come or remind them of where they want to be — either way, it’s helpful. Please encourage Mr. B  to keep them coming!”

~

SmallTownMoon: “Hi Belle, I’m so ashamed and so mad at myself. I drank again last night. I just called a rehab center and am going to check in. I don’t know what else to do. I’m so so sick of this. So down and feel like I’ve hit my bottom. I know I’m better than this. I have so much potential and things to give to this world and my family but I can’t do it like this. I want better for myself and family. My boys ages 13 and 11 tell me I drink too much. That is so painful when I’m sober but when I’m drinking I don’t care. I blow them off. I hate myself for that. They have an alcoholic mother. I never thought I would be this. Life can be so much better. Thanks for always listening.”

~

Unpuzzlingpatti (day 247): “Hi Belle! I don’t email very often – but I love and appreciate every single email you send. I have a huge amount of respect for your honesty and disclosure of different points of view. (I am referring to the email that does not approve of your promotion of Mr. B’s art.) I respect that person’s opinion and would like to share mine. What you do is PRICELESS!!!!! Mr. B is your husband, so he is PRICELESS by association! I hope and pray that you both are financially blessed beyond your wildest dreams. Also, I hope and pray that you never stop doing this wonderful work that you are doing!!!”

~

Mindfulme (day 301): “If you’re taking a vote, I love seeing you husband’s art. It is another carrot to read your emails. What will the painting look like today? Do I like this one? I’m not feeling any pressure to buy.  It’s like a free art show. And like good art, each piece evokes something new. 💕”

~

Hx: “Man I love your correspondents (and even when I thoroughly disagree with their point of view — like I do with J — I love that you make space for all views, there is no CultSpeak, or AllowedOpinionsOnly.”

~

Goofie Roofie (day 124): “Love your email etracts — including praise and criticisms — you are amazing and I appreciate the fact that you include all types of comments.

 

original art – Exit the booze elevator – this is painting #165

it is not a character flaw

This message was sent to subscribers by email while i was travelling at the beginning of september.

~

from me:
tuesday morning, it’s 8:45 a.m. I’ve been up since 6, two cups of instant coffee consumed. we’ve relocated to a new temporary space (in vermont), which is a lovely 3-bedroom home with an upstairs and a front porch where we can sit and drink coffee and watch the world go by. it’s still very warm, and the kettle here whistles, too. but it’s a nice shift after our last place. it’s also nice for me to now be in an english-speaking city for a change. i feel so ‘normal’ and can understand the jokes…

my inbox, tuesday morning:

Road to Soberville (day 663): “… a conversation I had with my dad the other evening that made me realize how far I’ve come. he was bemoaning an upcoming dry wedding — really at a loss for how the heck he’ll get through it without booze. I was that person, 100%. I told my dad that while I know he wouldn’t believe me, alcohol actually detracts from the fun. This discovery still blows my mind! There I was, all of those years drinking to enhance the fun. Now I know I was only enhancing the rate at which I was fading into twilight. All I have to do now is see a friend on their third drink and observe how their spark dims–the twinkle in their eye evaporates. that was me, too. and now? now I sparkle at all times, unless I’m tired and cranky and then I go to bed early and try for a better day the next day 🙂 or I eat some cookies 🙂 but I never fade to twilight. I stay here.”

~

Auntie Briggy: “Hi Belle – I didn’t make it through the weekend and have to leave for a week of drinking in beautiful [northeast united states]. I am spiritually trying to understand why I keep sabotaging what I want with [that man i’m not dating], and booze. I think I have a spiritual deficit. I’ll be back in touch when I can believe in a real day 1.”

me: it’s not a character flaw to be addicted to an addictive substance. there isn’t self-sabotage. there is addiction. it is helped with support external to you, medication, meetings, accountability. it’s not you doing this to you. this is booze doing this to you. I’m here. hugs

~

Lottie (day 35): “I love that you have strong boundaries around your weekends, holidays and creative time, Belle (sincerely, not sarcasm in case that comes across wrong in writing). I love people with good boundaries because (a) I don’t have to dance around them trying to figure out if I am pissing them off or not because I know they will be honest about what they want/need, not expect me to guess. And (b) people who HAVE good boundaries tend also RESPECT other people’s boundaries. I never learned that I was allowed to have boundaries. My kids are definitely learning it. Addicts, I think, tend to be very bad at boundaries, [we] don’t have them and [we tend not to] respect them. Low self respect. Anyway just my thoughts going wild on a Sunday.”

~

d: “I think part of the reason I feel connected to u is because when I signed up for your emails, you wrote back a personal ‘hello’, I just thought that was so special to do. No one does that, unless they think they have a chance to make money from you. You clearly did it because you care about people. Anyway I love Mr B’s art too. I am also an artist and I know how wonderful he must feel to be recognized and selling his ‘passions’. I wish you both love and peace and thanks for being the real deal. Hugs! Xo”

~

J: “Hi Belle, I just wanted (with apologies if it seems churlish) to say that I have found your emails helpful and, often, inspiring. However, I am wholly unimpressed by the way in which you are now using your profile and audience to create a market for your husband. It demeans you and your work.”

 

 

original art – Exit the booze elevator – this is painting #160