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.

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

written at 9:30 a.m. local time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy new you 🙂

==

Comments from advance readers:

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

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


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


Would you like a sober penpal for a year?

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

 

This year I will stop …

As part of your re-engage with sobriety campaign, today we’re going to talk about things to STOP doing.

you know that overwhelm is something to avoid. at the risk of being a pretentious shit, let me quote from my own book (says every pretentious shit, ever):

(page 88): Your job is to reduce overwhelm. All around you, there are lists of things to do and when you first quit drinking you are going to take it easy. You will shower once a day, try not to get fired, and skip everything else.
Thinking that you need to push or force yourself to do things is a holdover from your drinking time, when you were hungover and you made yourself do things to prove that you didn’t have a problem. You wanted to make yourself look normal. You took on more than you could reasonably do, so that you looked high-functioning, so that nobody knew how much you were drinking, and so no one could detect how you felt about yourself.

For today, I would like you to put a comment on this blog post of something that you are NOT going to do as part of your Christmas/Holiday celebrations this year. You’re going to make 3 kinds of cookies instead of 10. You’re going to skip midnight mass and go in the morning. You’ll do ‘christmas mugs’ instead of ‘stockings’. You’ll order chinese food on christmas eve (my mother used to do this!).

We’re always looking to ADD new traditions to our holiday season, but for today, i want you to consider what you can give up, in order to help you feel less overwhelmed. You don’t have to be clever or original, you just have to be real. If you can’t think of anything, then copy this: “to help myself avoid overwhelm – which is a boozer’s biggest trigger – i’m going to skip making Christmas Eve dinner and have pancakes instead.”

My blog allows anonymous comments, so you don’t have to fill in your name/email address if you don’t want to.

And to bribe you to participate, to support your sobriety, and encourage you to speak up, I will RANDOMLY select ONE comment from this blog post about 24 hrs from now, and that person will receive a sober toolkit bracelet bracelet for free.

hugs, me

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

from me:

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

===

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

Julie-Joy:

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

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

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

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

[end part 3 of 3]

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

from me:

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

===

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

Julie-Joy’s sister (Krista, day 459):

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

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

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

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

[end part 2]

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

from me:

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

===

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

1. Response From My Wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

[end part 1]

never mind. look away. eyes on your own paper.

from me:

this sober girl got up at 6:15 and wrote some on the new sober fiction writing project. it’s day 6 of 100 days in a row. remember when i said it was 100 days until christmas? yeah, that.

there are so many ways that writing is like being sober.

you show up and you don’t know what to expect. you’ve heard other people’s stories but you don’t know if they will apply to you. you are sure you’re a special snowflake and that “what works for others won’t work for you.” You get advice from people who don’t get it. You get cheerleading in unusual places.

In my case, i writing to be so close to early sobriety that some days, it’s all i can do to just keep going. i’m on day 6. don’t want to break the streak. don’t want to have to start over.

if you’re like me, you do better with accountability and support. and when i say “if you’re like me” and you think you aren’t, you probably are. You do better with support. You do better when someone you respect, who loves you, who has your best interests at heart says something encouraging. Imagine the storybook version of a grandmother. that kind of support. (if you have a grandmother like mine, whenever i’d complain about a perceived slight or a sister squabble, she’d say “Never Mind,” as if to say: look away. eyes on your own paper. keep your eyes on the road. don’t let your sober car run out of gas.)

and like writing, it’s not enough to feel like you have the ABILITY to do it, you also need the right combination of motivation and spark and timing and momentum. And when you get momentum? well i’m not dumb, i know that momentum is hard to get, and even 6 days is hard to get, so i’m keeping going.

i also set up some external accountability by posting the book, in order, a bit at a time, as it’s written. It’s officially called ‘serializing’ your book, when you print it bit by bit. And if the experiment of posting day by day continues to work well, i’ll share it here too. for now i’m being a bit careful of who/how i share (sounds like sobriety?).

mood-wise i’m doing ok this week. I mean, i’m as sloth-y as ever. I’d LIKE to: clean the house, run a 10K, get my eyebrows done, empty the freezer, read a book about Hope, make 4 new recipes, and go to IKEA.

instead of that list of things i’d LIKE to do, instead i’m doing this: emailing sober penpals, hosting a class about worth (which is turning out to be super fascinating, as we discuss in more depth how the “THING is not in the THING”), writing every day, and going to physio twice a week for a sore shoulder (just tendonitis, nothing exciting). that’s it. i’m not cooking meals, i’m not running much (more walking), i’m not making new recipes. in fact, if you must know, i had canned beans for lunch today (3:02 pm) for the first time in 8 years and they were delish. that’s it.

and like when we make any large changes (writing fiction – which really is just like being sober – it’s creating a new something where there was nothing before), i’m being kind to myself to remember that 6 days is a big deal. that writing daily and doing the rest of my life is enough for now. and any ideas of nice eyebrows will have to wait. the freezer will wait. the new recipes can wait. IKEA will still be there on the weekend.

striving for underwhelm so that the magnitude of what i’m doing doesn’t make my head fly off.