about to give up

from my inbox:

L: “I’m seriously about to give up on trying to be sober. I have been struggling since 2009 – when I first went to rehab. Since then I got married and had a beautiful baby boy and didn’t drink for about two years. When my son was about a year and a half I started drinking again at social events and it quickly got out of hand. I snowballed fast and hit lots of rock bottoms. Last weekend was my worst – I drove after going to an event all day where I was drinking. I was blacked out. I got behind the wheel blacked out and tried to drive to my old friend’s house … all while my wonderful husband and sweet boy slept innocently in our home. I was out doing bad things. I have the worst anxiety. I thought that was my break through “aha” moment. But no. I drank yesterday at a baby shower then took an uber to a pub near my house and drank alone bc we have no booze in the house. I’ve been going to rehab after work 4 days a week. I don’t know why I can’t even get ten days recently. I’ve never been this bad. Or sad about everything. I have a great life and I’m ruining it with drinking.

Your podcasts are so inspiring and I can relate so much to you and what you say … I wish I wasn’t wired this way and/or I knew how to rewire permanently. I’m so fed up. I don’t know I am just venting but felt like I needed to actually send this to someone. You are amazing. I wish I had 1/4 if your strength and outlook. Thanks for making me feel like I am not completely alone.”

me: my lovely, don’t confuse my strength and outlook with anything other than being sober. I’m not some special creature. I’m a fucked up human like everyone else. I just happen to have quit drinking. 

and you can do that too. and you can kick some major ass once you quit (for real). 

that you don’t yet know how to get there, doesn’t mean it’s not possible – it means you don’t have the right tools and accountability (yet). 

so here’s what I’d suggest (and I’m not a counsellor, and you should ignore me):

  • 2 weeks of anti-anxiety medication + antabuse for 6-9 months
  • daily accountability to someone (me, sponsor, therapist)
  • weekly one-on-one meetings with someone who’s a booze specialist (me,
    sponsor, therapist)
  • continue with your outpatient treatment
  • sign up for my jumpstart class so that we can be daily penpals, and then
    email me 4 times a day to begin.
  • remove the booze from your home.
  • do not socialize outside the home for the first 6 weeks. going to a baby shower is asking to drink. I have a high bottom and I didn’t socialize outside the home more than 2-3 times in the first 6 weeks, I was too afraid to drink and I didn’t want a new day 1. 

if booze is an elevator that only goes down, then you stop off now. right now. whatever it takes. there is support for you. but as a group, us boozers, we suck at asking for it. support is right there. you have a brain that says it isn’t. your brain is incorrect.

if you do the jumpstart class, then we’re penpals, then  you can set up calls with me once a week for 6 weeks, that might help get you going. and a trial of antabuse + of anti-anxiety medication for the first for the first week (or too) might be really helpful, too.

I know you don’t WANT to do any of this. but you want to be sober. so you do some new things now. and get away from day one.

again. please ignore me. I don’t know you. I don’t know if your situations is truthfully expressed (or if it’s worse or better than what you describe). I can just talk about what I’ve seen in my inbox from other penpals. all i know is that you’ll need tools + support + accountability. and more of it than you think you ‘should’ need. hugs from me

L: “Belle, thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. I read your email over and over and I couldn’t believe you were so responsive and real.  You gave me hope when I was seriously ready to give up on this whole sobriety thing. I emailed you 10 days ago.  I have 10 days sober today. I am so grateful for these ten days. I know I’ve had more time in the past and 10n doesn’t sound like a lot (hmm, I think that’s wolfie telling me that)  but this time around 10 days seems like a fucking long time. I am grateful for each one of them. The urges are definitely not as strong, but I need to stay on top of this and use these tools every single day. Actually every minute of the day. Because I know this shit can sneak up on me and come out of nowhere and tell me I can have one.

But screw you wolfie! Screw you alcohol! I am over you and getting stronger everyday, and quieting the voices slowly.  I am going to sign up for your jumpstart class this weekend. I am really looking forward to it. As far as your suggestions, thank you! I am on medication and I think they are starting to kick in … I’ve cancelled every commitment and social event that has been on the calendar and am ready to turn down any that come up. I simply can not even be in the room as it.  I can’t thank you enough for your support. I’ll be in touch this weekend when I sign up. Thank you, thank you!”

OMM photo essay with sound – grocery store

OMM photo essay with sound

auchan grocery store, tuesday june 6th at about 4:00 pm.

if you’d like a sober pause, something to help change the channel, i invite you to listen/watch. you can come with me for a few minutes. it’s like meditation, but with pictures.


listen here:



photos here:

“regular grocery store, not the market …”



“and we come around [the corner] and we see some vegetables”



“all we get in the grocery store is 3 or 4 varieties of potatoes”



“i don’t make a fancy white sauce, i just use creme fraiche…”



“lots and lots of prepared food”



“mango chutney? no luck, but there is sauce a la mangue…” [haha ethnic delights, i just noticed that]



“eggs are stored at room temperature because they are not ________”




if you’re signed up for the free daily one minute messages (OMMs), then you’ll get a copy of this audio automatically. it’ll be omm229.

sober treats thanks to the Tiny Gift Button.



OMM photo essay with sound – marché d’aligre

OMM photo essay with sound

marché d’aligre, paris, sunday june 4th at about 10:30 am.

if you’d like a sober pause, something to help change the channel, i invite you to listen/watch. you can come with me for a few minutes. it’s like meditation, but with pictures.


listen here:



photos here:


“what i cannot adequately convey to you is the smell of roast chicken …”



“what are the name of these flowers, are they peonies (pivoine)?”



“and i’m thinking: toasted tomato sandwich for lunch” (1,70 for 3 tomatoes)



“this guy’s ordering half a watermelon”



“there’s a lot of romanticism about this kind of market, that it’s all fresh from somebody’s farm”



i see a sober pineapple in here (on the right). but they were too big (strangely shaped), and were 4€ each which is more than usual.

bonne dimanche (happy sunday)



if you’re signed up for the free daily one minute messages (OMMs), then you’ll get a copy of this audio automatically. it’ll be omm228.

sober treats thanks to the Tiny Gift Button.



OMM photo essay with sound – gare de lyon

photo essay with sound

gare de lyon, train station in paris, friday june 2nd at about 7 pm.



listen here:



photos here:

busy for a friday night



“people trying to hand out gifts and flyers”



“there’s a seating area where there are lamps, which creates a nice cafe-atmosphere”



“there’s a guy drinking out of a can of beer, just standing there, sort of looks like it’s normal [for him]”



“and i’m outside, and it’s stopped raining, and there’s a little bit of blue sky …”



if you’re signed up for the free daily one minute messages (OMMs), then you’ll get a copy of this audio automatically. it’ll be omm227.



it was a baseball bat

from my inbox:

this is from B (day 299).

“I used to think that booze was medicine, that it would help me with life’s ills. I was compelled to drink because if I didn’t then something terrible would happen – I would have to face real life sober.  Even if I didn’t feel like drinking, I would still drink because I had to take my medicine or I would get sick from the full force of my life.

I was terrified of getting sober, of how I would cope with the world without my medicine, and it has been really really hard sometimes because the full force of life can be harsh. But fucking hell it can be amazing too, this sober life!  … and of course I have realised that booze wasn’t a medicine at all, it was a baseball bat that I would hit myself over the head with, over and over again until I fell unconscious. As I enjoy the real privilege of a sober life, of being fully present and being able to work on myself to become the best version of me that I can, that suddenly seems like the saddest thing in the world. I don’t do that any more. I have learned to take care of me.

Recently I’ve been passing through a time when I’m far enough away from day one to have forgotten what it was really like. The hangovers, the shame, the health fears, the isolation, struggling through a work day, struggling through any time that I wasn’t drinking, worrying about how much I was drinking, whether people could tell how much I was drinking, which shop to get today’s booze from so I wasn’t rumbled as a boozer, hiding the recycling, hiding my drinking, hiding my best self. I’ve been going through a phase where I have been remembering ‘the good times’, like a relationship break up where you start to remember the fun you had, conveniently forgetting all of the stuff that led to the break up.

Well that’s all bollocks. If there ever was a time when booze and I got along, that time passed a long time ago and won’t ever come back again. But I don’t think there ever was a time when it was ok – it’s all just stupid Wolfie lies.  I am through with believing that bastard Wolfie, if I hadn’t clung to my sober supports I know I would have been sucked in, and I would be sat here now all alone, without you, without my self esteem, right back to where I was, feeling shit about myself and my life.

Emailing you, Belle, every day has been my number one sober support. Knowing that you genuinely care and getting your replies and suggestions (which are always right of course because you are a genius) has been the thing that worked where nothing else did before. And looking at the stuff you produced in your early days and the stuff you produce now and seeing how far you have come gives me real proper hope. And hearing about you having difficult things happen helps makes it all feel real and doable.  Imperfection is required – booze is not.

Love to you Belle, and all the gratitude in the world to you for standing by my side while I go through this amazing transformation. Your virtual hugs keep me going 🙂 ~ B”


Audio: BBC Radio London with Eddie Nestor (May 3, 2017)

turns out i was on the radio twice yesterday (yeah, that never happens). for the second one, my cell phone rings, and it’s: “can you talk for 5 minutes about being a sober coach, and can you get a penpal from London to come on too?” turns out the answer was YES.

what you will hear in this audio is a recording from BEHIND THE SCENES. You hear the show going on, you hear the producer saying “Belle, we’ll have you on in just a second” and you can hear what it sounded like from my side of the microphone (I was on skype in Paris while they’re recording in London). Then at the end, when they’re ‘done’ with me, you can hear penpal Tom continue onward.

Total length is about 7 minutes from start to finish, though my voice doesn’t begin until 2 minutes in, so be patient 🙂

(this audio was also sent out for free as an MP3 file to podcast subscribers and to daily one-minute message subscribers)



3 May 2017 – BBC Radio London – presenter Eddie Nestor


dear alcohol: you lied to me

from my inbox

email from TickleMeShelmo (day 26):

“Dear alcohol,

Firstly, this is the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but make it I must. It’s over. We are finished.

For years I thought we were amazing together. Life with you made the world seem more colourful. You made me feel whole, feel important and feel loved by those we met. You have me the strength to do things I’d never have done without you. 

There was a reason for that.

You lied to me, all of this time. Lie after lie after lie. You told me I was funny, but I wasn’t – I was attention seeking and shaming myself and others. I would share secrets and inappropriate and intimate details because you said it was ok. You told me I could do what I liked – but the casual sex, the flirting, the drug taking – it damaged me more than I’ll ever know. You told me that responsibilities were bullshit – and now I’m trying to sort out years of debt and irresponsible decision making.

The whole time I believed you were showing me real life. Life in glorious colour; busy; hectic; fucked up; hedonistic. But it was a lonely, sad life of hidden pain and selfishness.

The things you told me were just bullshit lies to keep me with you. There’s an odd feeling of achievement in the little things in life; clean washing, an early night, a monogamous relationship, a well cooked meal, holding hands with someone you love. Life without you is calm and peaceful. Don’t mix that up with boring – it isn’t. It’s fun. It’s reliable. It’s better.

So this is goodbye. It’s not me – it’s you.”

[update: she’s on day 618 today]



do i have to count days?

Here’s an extract from the  book

do i have to count days

from Clementine: “Why do you think it’s important to have continuous sober time? Why is it more valuable to have 60 days in a row, than to have 29 days, a week off drinking, and then 29 more days (like me)?”


I think day counting is important because each day represents a day when you said NO. You are building a wall between the ‘you’ back there, and the ‘new you’ over here, and so every sober day is a new brick in that wall. 

There are many forums and online communities that have pledges like “let’s plan to do 15 out of 30 days sober this month,” but they are not continuous days.

This doesn’t help us; we don’t get anywhere. On the days we’re not drinking, we are waiting to drink again. It’s like holding your breath and going underwater for a day. 

To me, the reason for a longer goal (100 days) is that you have to actually go forward and learn something. Once you remove the booze, you practise new things like self-soothing, treats, and learning to change the channel in your head. 

If you don’t pay attention to your sober momentum, then any day can be a drinking day or a sober day. By counting, you’re saying to Wolfie: “I’m not doing this. I’m getting the hell out of here. As far as I can, far away from you. One sober day at a time.”


024. Worth It

Sometimes, when you’re trying to quit drinking, the voice in your head can get really loud. So I send out free one minute audio messages of encouragement (and ass-kicking) to anyone who wants them. This is a transcript of One Minute Message #024.

024. Worth It

I’d like to go into your head for just a minute
and re-program something, if you don’t mind.
I’ll just slip in one ear and come back out the other.
And while I’m inside, I want to change one thing.

This is worth doing
because you are worth it.
Being sober is worth doing
because you are worth it.

Any shitty sober day
is better than a new Day 1.
And any improvement that you can make
to the quality of your life
is worth it for you.

You don’t have to do it for your family
you don’t have to do it for your kids
you don’t have to do it for anybody

you doing it for you is enough.

I go in one ear and I say:
This is worth doing
because you are worth it —
and then I come out the other ear
and I leave you.

*listen to the free one minute messages (there are 200+), by logging into your gumroad library here. if you haven’t signed up for the free one minute messages before, you can do that here (you only need to sign up once and then you get access to all of the OMMs).

~ shameless commercial link: take some action. podcast subscription. 1-2 longer audios per week. i’ve set it up so that it’s low-risk and safe and easy, and the subscription is controlled by you (which means you can turn it off whenever you like).