married to the beer man

Email from Sunny:

“I’d like to begin the 100 Day Challenge, but my situation is a bit odd. I’m wondering if you think it’s too much to overcome.

My husband is fairly prominent in the beer world. Because of his line of work our lives are very focused on alcohol. It pays our bills, it’s how we socialize with friends and family …. My husband says if I want to quit drinking that’s fine, but he will not change how he lives his life. He will continue to drink at home. I will have to attend beer related events with him

Is this an impossible situation? I need to quit drinking, but I’m worried that in my current situation its not possible. Any info or thoughts are welcome. Maybe you know someone in a similar situation? I hope I’m not the only one!”

me: it is possible. I am a caterer and often host large events where I buy, pour, and serve alcohol to my guests and I make homemade cocktails. I just don’t drink any myself. Booze is not good for me. It doesn’t improve my life. But I know that my clients like it and my job is to be of service, and to take their money 🙂

So if you approach alcohol as a tool that helps you earn income, that’s completely different from needing to drink it yourself.

Imagine you’re a vegetarian who’s a chef. You cook meat for the President because that’s what he’s paying you to do. Then you go home and eat lentils and chick peas and couscous and homemade lemonade with tonic and rosemary…

how’s that? hugs belle xo

~~

And hooray! Sunny is on day 4 today 🙂

You may not agree with my advice. You may think her husband should quit his job, or that she should leave him (!) (she has young kids). Or you might think she can’t get sober without her husband’s support.

But really, the only person we’re in charge of is ourselves (well, and the babies we have around us). Sunny can do what’s best for her. I know that lots of people cannot have any alcohol in the house at all. And I respect that 100%. For others (or at least for me), I seem to be able to shelve booze in my mind as “not for me.”

What would you tell Sunny? Is it too much to overcome? Me, I don’t think so… You?

love, me

==

some of the comments received:

freedom (day 153): “I’d tell Sunny it is possible to do it with alcohol in the house and a husband who still drinks. I have both and I’m on day 153 today. It might be sensible to stay away from the boozy events in the early days..I couldn’t have managed them at that point. And I’ve found going to bed early with a good book can help on the days when I struggle with him drinking. Those are usually days when I’m tired, stressed or struggling with overwhelm and it’s been a real learning curve for me to start to recognise when I’m feeling like that and take steps to look after/protect myself from Wolfie. And remember you’re not alone! Belle is always on the end of an email and has been an incredible support, especially in the tough times…and I have to remember to reach out before Wolfie gets too loud. It gets easier the longer you do it. Keep the faith :)”

Rambling Rose (day 76):
“I think it is up to Sunny as to whether or not she can stay on the sober path and still attend these events/have booze in the home. My roommate has a liquor cabinet full of alcohol, and it doesn’t bother me because I never touched his booze anyway. So it’s not so unusual to stay sober while loved ones have the occasional drink. However, what does bug me a bit is her husband’s attitude (must go to these events? I’m going to drink anyway…). I sense some general resentment between the two of them… and that may make it harder (not impossible) to reconcile while focusing on recovery … I sure as hell would resent being told I have to attend alcohol related events, even if my livelihood was connected to it, because health is more important than people pleasing. Just depends on the person – and the situation. Belle, I think your feedback is good. It’s up to Sunny to decide on her own boundaries.”

Wanda T (day 76): “I am a vegetarian and I know you use this analogy sometimes but it’s not a good analogy because it’s not a valid comparison. Vegetarianism is usually an ethical commitment. So chefs who are vegetarians don’t cook meat. I bake & cook – I wouldn’t even know how to cook meat. I don’t know how the President got worked into the analogy. Sunny is in a very tough spot. If it’s possible for her to go to an in-patient rehab to get the booze out of her system, that would help her I think. She would at least have a running start. Her husband sounds beyond selfish. Going to work-related events where there is alcohol is not the same thing as him drinking at home. There is more going on in this relationship than her husband simply having a social & professional commitment to the Beer Industry. There is also an extreme power imbalance in the relationship if he’s demanding that she attend drinking events while she’s trying to get sober. Sunny could announce at a drinking event that she’s an alcoholic who is trying to quit drinking ….maybe some people there would support her and she’d find out she really & truly is not alone. Good luck Sunny!”

Elyn Jones (Day 143):
“Belle, I think your advice was spot on. We rarely get the ideal environment, so we have to adjust. I’ll bet that most of start out in a less than ideal environment cuz we created it with booze at the center. Doesn’t mean things can’t shift. They can, and thankfully, they do.”

D (not yet a penpal): “Let’s assume for the moment that her husband is not a complete asshole. That may be a stretch, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt. I agree with your statement that the only thing we are in charge of is ourselves … You’re advice was good: put alcohol in the context of a produce / service that provides a livelihood. Separate it from her life. Livelihood on one land, life on the other.”

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 take a second and 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.

 

Sober tools: what helps, and what doesn’t

originally published on Medium

Sober tools: what helps, and what doesn’t

(Stop fucking around with houses built out of straw)

M (day 1 sober) writes: 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 the 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 M’s thinking, you can totally see what she’s saying, and it seems logical, doesn’t it. And my reply 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 — and I mean 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 in 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’re one of the three little piggies who is building a sober house, and wolfie comes to blow your sober house down.

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

Doesn’t take much, then wolfie is at the door. Blowing. Sober house falls down.

But let’s be real, wolfie only has to knock on the door of your house made of straw to knock it over. To the house of wood, he’ll knock, 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 wishi. You’re were hoping you could do the minimum. You knew it wasn’t going to be enough.)

To the house of stone, though, 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’ll 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.

Now this sober 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 gets 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’s 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. Do the sober foundation, yes, but if you do it too quickly, do it too rashly, 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 we’re talking about cement.

The colour of the paint, and the carefully selected tri-season-blooming flowers, the stony garden walks, 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’re not sober tools.

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

You want to paint the room, but you haven’t built the room. You want to choose the light fixture, but the wiring isn’t in yet. You want to focus on the details all around THE THING.

The thing you want is to be sober. And so 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. So sober tools. They’re 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. Just like your drinking husband isn’t a sober support.

What works?

Treats and rewards work for being sober. Accountability works. Actual sober support works. Planning replacement drinks works. Listening to sober audios works. Reaching out works.

(Do you think you can read books about pouring cement foundations and have the book be enough? Is a one-day workshop enough? How about a forum of other people on day 1 of cement pouring? Why are you walking around outside 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, you can get 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 2,593 times that you’ll save time, feel better, and have your cement poured sooner.)

And don’t get me wrong.

If you’ve 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 gotta look at having some new tools.

And paint isn’t a tool.

Neither is a French class.

day 1: don’t toss it away

from my inbox

E (not yet a penpal): “Hi, My day 1 feels like a long time ago now. but it’s only been 146 days. and each one is easier than day 1 was. they’re not all perfect, some are hard, and on some of them, I wish I could crawl into a hole or a bottle. or a hole with a bottle. but it gets easier to resist that temptation.
My day 1 I was hungover. I had told my mom the night before that I had to quit drinking. On the way home from there, I wanted to throw myself out of the car because I had no idea how I was going to stop drinking. I thought it was too hard and I couldn’t picture my life without alcohol to help me.
so day 1 I woke up and went to work hungover…. I knew this change was happening. I was quitting. for real. and I was terrified. I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it. I called a counselling service. I wrote a message to my family telling them I was done with alcohol. I was honest with them for the first time about my drinking. I don’t really remember what I did the rest of the day. it was blurry. I know I cried a lot. I felt sad, lost, confused, scared, but deep inside there was some hope. some tiny hidden part of me believed I could do this. even though the loudest parts of me and my addiction were screaming “don’t do it! you can’t do this!”. I did it anyway …
Those first few days for me were about holding on. So I tell you now, on day 1: hold on to sobriety. even though it feels weird, and like it’s not yours, hold it. don’t toss it away for the comfort of a glass of wine. be uncomfortable, be an emotional wreck, eat a ton of sugar, hide in your room but hold on to that sobriety and soon, sooner than you think, it will feel better. soon it will feel almost normal. soon you will own that sobriety you will feel proud and confident. but you won’t for the first little while. you may feel scared and wrong and doubtful and weak. but you’re not. just hold on to sobriety until it starts to feel right. and it will.”


missing links. (get it?) you know, links you might have missed in the last few daily emails.  

  • discount link where you can get the pdf of year 1 of my blog (500+ pages). you can also read it online, it’s just easier to read it in the PDF when it’s in chronological order and all in one place.
  • the one minute message about julie
  • discount link to podcasts about prelapse. that’s my word for the time that comes before relapse. and when you know what it is, you can learn to identify it and hopefully avoid it …
  • sober is the new black is back. back in black.

 

this makes me feel better

today, let’s talk about things that make you feel better. one of the challenges of sobriety is dealing with uncomfortable feelings.

and when we feel crappy, it’s sometimes hard to remember what to DO to feel better.

For today, I would like you to put a comment on this blog post of something that you know that – when you do it – you feel better (about life, about yourself, about being sober). What one thing can you try the next time you’re having a frustrated, irritated, uncomfortable moment.

OK, I’ll begin. One thing I can do to ‘change the channel’ in my head when i’m feeling crappy is listen to music, turn it up loud, and sing along. Bonus points for singing out loud on public transit.

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 Elevator bracelet for free.

hugs, me

re-entry

written december 30th:

home from trip to australia, all seems well on re-entry thus far. though i do have a full inbox that’ll take 1-2 days to fully answer 🙂 it’s also very cold here (like below freezing) while sydney is having a heat wave.

sober travel. here’s what it means: remember everything. no missed afternoons. no hungover mornings. spend less money (more money for treats; more money for vacations!).

travelling sober means we sleep better, even in strange beds. travelling sober means that even with a spontaneous head cold developed hrs before the flight, even with head/ear pain, you still don’t drink. you sleep instead — you know, that thing you said you never did (sleep on flights), yeah that thing. that’s what you do.

and you eat the food they give you (thumbs down for qantas, hooray for emirates). you take pictures from the window while flying near zurich (no kidding!).

you come home, nap for a few hours, get up and have a regular evening, then you — wait for it — go to bed and sleep all night and are spontaneously adjusted to the time change. yes. sober travelling. no booze to slam me into neutral. no booze to ‘make the time pass’. no booze to ‘celebrate’ or ‘soothe’ the ear ache (which ended as soon as the plane began its descent).

true, i’m home now to 4 loads of laundry (must my husband wash everything in his suitcase? i mean, we did laundry in melbourne and sydney along the way …). i’m home to pledge to eat better (ha. croissants + the best ham/cheese baguette last night). i’m home to sleep in  my own bed (there may not be any better reward for a 25 hr flight than your own bed. the king-sized one. with the right pillow.).

it’s cold outside. the christmas decorations shine and remind us that we weren’t here for christmas. well, we had christmas on the beach, does that count? we had an alternate-reality christmas complete with corn on the cob (hey, i know the last time i had corn on the cob now! it was christmas day).

my husband has (literally) put the map for Portugal into the bathroom as of last night, so he can scope out ideas while in the tubbie for a trip in the spring…

sober travel means that re-entry, transitions are just plain easier.

cuz really, life is plain easier when sober. all of it. the sleep is easier, the travelling, the flying, the thinking.

it’s just easier to be sober. who knew.
love and hugs from me 🙂

p.s. obligatory link you click to indicate engagement (the linked blog post was written april 2013 and is the 3rd most popular on the blog). (i will one day learn to write without parentheticals. (perhaps.))

Sober Solstice

From Sober in Richmond (The Solstice Guy): “I started my 100 Day challenge on Winter Solstice [and is celebrating 2 years sober today] … If there is anyone out there who needs some motivation to start – perhaps they can do the Solstice to Solstice. It really helped me to have the power of the whole darn earth behind me rather than a day or date on a calendar. I like Winter to Summer because the days get longer, and each day brings about more promise and more hope. It’s an incredibly magical thing, the Solstice to Solstice!”

Imagine it’s the shortest day of the year (tomorrow in the northern hemisphere). Imagine you’re sober starting tomorrow, December 21st. It can be your Day 1 or maybe it’s your Day 50. Or 400. Doesn’t matter. Can you see yourself sober on June 21st? Summer Solstice. Stand here. Look ahead 180 days. Because if you think the view from day 100 is great, wait until you see 180 days.

  • If you’d like to be sober from Solstice to Solstice, you can put a comment below.
  • To have 100 audios to listen to, you can get them here. These are archived podcasts episodes #1-#100.

I like the idea of having the ‘whole darn earth behind me’ – how about you?

Day 4: what can i give up

day 4 of the re-engage with sobriety campaign.

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): One of the most important things you will do [in early sobriety] is learn to strategically avoid ‘overwhelm’—I use this word as a noun, it’s a thing on the horizon, like fog.
Your life is like a video game. You can see potential bombs, things advancing, that could blow up and throw you off course. Your job is to navigate them. You don’t walk right into a bomb and hope for the best. You don’t test yourself by repeatedly doing difficult or stressful things. Instead, you ask someone to carpool, you decline social activities, and you simplify meals.
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 today. What one thing can you 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: “Today, to help myself avoid overwhelm – which is a boozer’s biggest trigger – i’m going to skip making dinner tonight and order take out or have grilled cheese sandwiches.”

(that said, i’m having canned soup for dinner tonight.)

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 Elevator bracelet for free.

hugs, me