anonymous confession booth: sex

step right up. for one day only, i’m creating an anonymous sober confession booth about SEX. Yes, i’ve got something running through my head and i thought, OK, let’s blog about it. and really, it’s amazingly hard to talk about sex even when we’re quasi-anonymous online. And so then i thought, OK, let’s make it 100% anonymous, me included.

So here’s the deal.

  1. Post a comment below.
  2. For this to work you MUST leave your name and your email and your website address BLANK in the comments form (if you forget, i’ll go in and delete that info manually). all comments are to be anonymous. one of the comments will be from me, you just won’t know which one.
  3. I have no way of personally knowing who posts what.
  4. In your comment, write two or three sentences (max.) about something about sex that you think is ONLY your problem and that probably no one else has the same problem as you do. For example, i’ll make one up: “I can’t initiate sex when sober but i used to be able to when drinking” … OR … “i worry that i’m the only person who has x problem now that i’m sober.”
  5. Then post ONE anonymous ‘reply’ to one of the other comments already posted, and say something comforting, consoling, forgiving, kind. In fact, it would simply help if you said “i have this problem, too.”

i have a feeling that this will unfold in a lovely way. because you’re all lovely people. and we all have sex shit that we can’t talk about.

PS. if your name/email automatically shows up when you start to enter a comment, you can manually delete them OR you can ‘log out’ of your blogging profile.

 

Interview with Kristi Coulter (2016)

There was a time when Kristi Coulter and I were sober penpals, and we both said "oh you used to be a writer? me too. before drinking. did you also study writing at school and then not really use it? me too."

I'm sure you've done something like this. You were a person before, and then booze soaked into the fabric of your life and you lost some of the old person, some of the fresh-ideas person, some of the adventurous person.

Then you remove the booze, and the real you starts to shine again. (Really, it is exactly like drowning the little orchid with bottles of wine—it doesn't bloom—and then you stop pouring alcohol on it and it brightens up again.)

OK, so time has passed and now KC is here (book writing and widely-shared-viral-article writing) and i'm here (one book done, sober fiction book underway). 

KC is sober penpal #128 and she's on day 1786 today (Saturday). 

And way back, before she was well and truly famous, I interviewed her on my podcast. I've pulled that audio out of the archives and am sharing it as my weekend audio.

Here is a three-minute sample starting at about the 11 minute mark. This was recorded in July 2016 and it's so cool that we mention the Medium article that would then go on to become the viral piece...


If you would like to hear the entire one-hour interview, you can click the red link below. The price is ZERO and then you get the entire MP3 file of our podcast.

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I want to be sober. Should I try vitamins? A French class?

(Update of a post originally published february 2017)

OK, if you don't have a lot of time, I'll cut to the chase: Stop fucking around by building your house out of straw.

~

M (day 1) sent me this email: Belle, I keep trying all these things to help me be sober and nothing works. I just spent $100 on vitamins. I’ve been to a one-day, quit-drinking workshop. I signed up for a French class. You see, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris and with all the money I’m not spending on booze, I could buy a plane ticket.

~

You can hear her thinking, and you can absolutely see what she’s saying.

It seems logical, doesn’t it.

My reply to her would be: “If you are continuously sober, then yes, whatever you’re doing is working. Keep doing it.”

But if you are NOT continuously sober —if you reset after 2 days, or 20 days, or 200 days — then what you’re doing isn’t quite enough to keep you sober. So you add more sober tools.

Argh, I’m on Day 1 again. I’m enrolled in French class. Why isn’t that enough?

French class is something you can hang in the space that booze used to occupy.

But taking a French class is not a sober tool.

Sober tools are things that help you to BE sober.

Imagine this.

You are a little piggie, of the Three Little piggies, and you build your sober house, and wolfie repeatedly comes and blows your sober house down.

We'll note that you've built your sober house out of straw or sticks or tarps, but wolfie blows it over. Maybe not right away, maybe not tomorrow, but as soon as there’s a strong wind, or a celebration, or a death, or a runaway teenager, or Sheila in accounting pulls her shit and refuses to do the cheque run before end of day on Friday.

It doesn’t take much, when your house is built of straw. Wolfie is at the door, blowing.

Your sober house falls down.

But let’s be real, wolfie only has to barely knock on the door of your house made of straw to knock it over. To the house of wood, he’ll knock once or twice, and when that doesn’t work, he’ll add in lung full of hot air and a bit of whining. Doesn’t take long.

(And really, you built a sober house out of straw? You were wishing. You’re were hoping you could do the minimum. You knew it wasn’t going to be enough.)

To the house built out of sober stones, set careful on a sober cement foundation — yeah, that house — well, wolfie will knock on your door and when that doesn’t work, he’ll try to blow you over with convincing arguments as to why you need to Drink Right Now.

You will add in a bit more cement and wave to him through the window. He’ll look for cracks, but you’ve got double-paned glass and a bug screen.

This isn't a stone house. This is your life.

Your life is worth more than the minimum. It’s worth more than straw and tarps.

The soul of you, the essence of you, the real you that isn’t anesthetized, the real you that is empathetic and helpful and has good boundaries —THAT you deserves to be guarded in a solid stone structure.

What helps to build a wolfie-proof, stone sober house?

Advice from an architect. Talking to the girl at Home Depot about the length of the nails and what has worked on similar projects.

Pouring a cement foundation.

Going as slowly as required to NOT have to pour the foundation, dig it up, pour it again, and dig it up again. What a waste of time that is. You need a sober foundation, sure, but if you do it too quickly, or too rashly, or try to do it with inadequate cement, or do it while doing too many other things at the same time — well, you know what happens.

You can see this example clearly when I'm talking about cement.

The colour of the paint, and the carefully selected flowers, and the breeding fruit trees do not build a strong house. The French classes and spin classes and yoga classes and pottery classes and vitamins don’t help you change your behaviour. They’re wonderful (and necessary and lovely) things to add to your life. They are.

But they are not sober tools.

A sober tool is something that helps you to be sober. Not paint colour.

I know you want to paint the room, but you haven’t built the room yet. You want to choose the light fixture, but the wiring hasn't been installed.

You want to focus on the details all around THE THING.

The THING you want is to be sober.

And you’re online spending hours choosing the right French class? You just spent $100 on multivitamins because that should help you be sober?

What if you’d spent that time and that $100 on actual sober supports.

[You don’t though, because wolfie is a sly fucker, taunting perfectly nice people with bullshit logic like vitamins and French classes.]

OK. Sober tools. They are things that help you be sober. That would include anything that directly makes it more likely that you (a) remember that being sober is a good idea, (b) soothes irritation, (c) helps you be accountable, (d) checks in on you, (e) reminds you what you’re doing when you forget, (f) reinforces the idea of the sober foundation and why you need it because you forgot again, (g) makes it possible for you to not drink.

A French class isn’t a sober tool.

It's not just a book. A book about being sober is awesome. But you can stop re-reading the book, waiting for something to click. It doesn't work like that.

(Do you think you can read books about pouring cement foundations, and have the book be enough? Is a one-day workshop on cement-pouring enough? How about a forum of other people on day 1 of cement installation?]

You are probably walking around THIS THING, acting like you don’t know what to do.

You know what to do.

You know that if you ask for support from people who can actually support you, then you have a higher chance of actually getting this done.

You know that if you turn and face the resources and education and accountability that sober support provides, that you’ll learn from people who’ve done it 2,778 times, that you’ll save time, feel better, and have your cement poured sooner.

If you have built a house out of straw AND IT’S WORKING FOR YOU then keep doing what you’re doing.

But if the wind keeps blowing you over, you’ve got to look at having some new tools. Things to read AND accountabilty AND support AND cheerleading AND treats AND audios AND going to bed as early as possible...

Paint isn’t a tool.

Neither is a French class.

 

Duck Ponderings 009 – Vision

In this Duck Ponderings episode I talk about my ‘vision’. ha. as if i have one. Mostly i talk about logistics: how I track penpals, my excel spreadsheet, screen names, marketing, and a (not so) funny story about advertising on Facebook. During this audio, I also record a video which is below. This is literally the busiest day at the park I have ever seen. Ever.

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I also recorded a video near the beginning, just to show the numbers of people at the park … video here [click to begin!]:

 

Music: “Acoustic Blues,” thanks to Jason Shaw, https://bit.ly/2pZvbyu

Donations to support these audios and keep them free 🙂 https://gum.co/DuckPonderingsaudios

Duck Ponderings 005 – The Husband

In this Duck Ponderings episode I talk about husbands. Why don’t i talk about the contents of my marriage, does he resent how much time i spend on the sober things, does he read my sober writing every day as i complete it … and what happens when you don’t have children in terms of the ‘projects’ you create to fill the space.

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I also mention a video that i filmed on sunday morning… video here [click to begin!]:

 

To see the fiction project that I talk about in this episode, go here: bit.ly/sober-fiction

Music: “Acoustic Blues,” thanks to Jason Shaw, https://bit.ly/2pZvbyu

Donations to support these audios and keep them free 🙂 https://gum.co/DuckPonderingsaudios

Duck Ponderings 004 – The Book

catch up on episodes 1-3

duck-ponderings.dp04.book

Duck Ponderings 004 – The Book. The first book was an ‘accident’, the second book was more intentional. My 80% free model. The idea of being led by subscribers. How I’ve ‘stopped pushing’.  Oh, and there are horses at the duck pond today! And I tried really hard to get a photo …

dp4 IMG_8201

dp4 IMG_8203

 

Links mentioned:

”See the peacocks from here” (one minute message 284) >  http://traffic.libsyn.com/oneminutemessage/omm284.when.you.get.here.youll.see.this.mp3

200+ free One Minute Messages > https://gumroad.com/l/belle-omm/100dscb

Longer Podcasts Archives > http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/store/archivedaudios.htm

The blog online > http://www.tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/blog/

The blog collection of Year 1 in a PDF file (“Keeping the Wolf from the Door”) > https://gumroad.com/l/Year1-Blog/

The actual how-to-quit-drinking book (“Tired of Thinking About Drinking: Take My 100-Day Sober Challenge”) > http://www.100daysoberchallenge.com

Bundle of Top 10 Podcasts > https://gumroad.com/l/BellesTop10Podcasts/highjump084

Article on Medium about pushing > https://medium.com/@SoberBelle/ive-stopped-pushing-this-is-living-sober-fe0e09b95b46

Music: “Acoustic Blues,” thanks to Jason Shaw, https://bit.ly/2pZvbyu

~

Donations to support these audios and keep them free 🙂 https://gum.co/DuckPonderingsaudios

 

duck pond video

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. I often record one-minute audio messages from the duck pond, but yesterday when i was there, i filmed a few seconds of it for you 🙂

video here [click to begin!]:

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sample audio recorded at the duck pond here:

to access the 200+ free one-minute audio messages, go here.

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

anonymous confession booth: things we can’t control

step right up. for one day only, i’m creating an anonymous sober confession booth on the subject of “things we can’t control”.

I want to focus on things we need to let go of. Like crazy in-laws, compulsive behaviours, and those people you are forced to visit where you’re afraid to eat in their homes because you’re not sure if you’ll get food poisoning or not. “I just scraped off the mould, they say.”

This came to me because of a one-on-one call i had with a sober penpal this week. We are all carrying around this backpack of rocks of things we just need to let go of.

i personally hate dwelling in the past — unnecessarily. Yes, sometimes we have to excavate. But i don’t want to wallow. And there’s a very fine line between the two. And then there’s the shame. and the guilt. yeah.

So here’s the deal.

  1. Post a comment below.
  2. For this to work you MUST leave your name and your email and your website address BLANK in the comments form (if you forget, i’ll go in and delete that info manually). all comments are to be anonymous. one of the comments will be from me, you just won’t know which one.
  3. I have no way of personally knowing who posts what. Promise.
  4. In your comment, write two or three sentences (max.) about something that you’d like to stop in your life, some weight you’ve been carrying around, that being sober is going to help you let go of. For example, i’ll make one up: “I’d like to step out of the way of my crazy MIL and just recognize that she’s a flawed human and it’s my job to remove myself from her reach.” OR “I have been a compulsive laundry freak, the clothes I wore today must be clean and folded every night when I go to bed. Now that i’m sober I’m going to let that go. I don’t need to be in control of my laundry anymore. I’m going to let it go.”
  5. Then take a second and post an anonymous ‘reply’ to ONE of the other comments already posted, and say something comforting, consoling, forgiving, kind. Pick a comment where someone hasn’t replied to them yet.

i have a feeling that this will unfold in a lovely way. because you’re all lovely people. and we all have a backpack of rocks that we’d like to put down, right? What’s in your backpack?

PS. if your name/email automatically shows up when you start to enter a comment, you can manually delete them OR you can ‘log out’ of your blogging profile.