celebrate

So here’s what Deepak Chopra says: “I celebrate every breakthrough on the way to being free.” And to me, I have to tell you, that sounds a bit light and airy-fairy. So I’d like to rewrite it. Here’s what I’d say:  I’m in my sober car, and it’s not always perfect. I’m going through shitty towns on my way to somewhere sunnier. Yes, we celebrate every breakthrough on the way to being free. But also, we accept that sometimes there are crappy bits on the way to good things. Just like there are crappy towns on the way to nice towns. Just like there are bad meals and then there are great meals. That you’re having a bad meal, a crappy town, or a crappy day doesn’t mean that you aren’t on the way to some place better. [Keep going.]  [listen to this as an audio]

 


these are quarter paintings. mr.belle takes one larger painting, and makes 4 smaller ones, so you get a smaller painting (smaller budget) but also you get to share a piece of art with other sober folks around the world. link here.

did you say boob?

when my stepfather was sick in the hospital, we had time to visit with him, weeks, before he died. I flew 9 hrs from paris. i made beef stirfry for us to eat in the family room. we had a lobster dinner. we did crossword puzzles together. (the funniest part of that story is that i'd read out a clue, he'd say "building" or whatever, and then i'd say "did you say boob?" and he'd laugh every time.)

he was a serious collector. that's a polite way of saying that every time he went out, he came home with things. rocks were his favourite. when he died my mother found bags and bags (and bags) of rocks hidden all over the house.

some stones he polished. some he painted. then he wrapped them in wire and made necklaces out of them.

ok, there's me and my 3 sisters. that'd be 4 necklaces. but he literally had hundreds. probably thousands.

when we were doing crosswords in the palliative care ward, and making lists, and he was telling us where he wanted his stuff to go, he asked that his clothes go to the shelter, but he wanted us to find one that took dogs.

which we did. It's called "Out of the Cold" and their site says: A volunteer-run emergency winter shelter open to men, women, transgender individuals, couples, youth and pets … it aims to offer a meal and a bed for those without other options. 

I told him that i'd take some of his rocks, and that i'd do a fundraiser with them, and that we'd send the shelter some cash, too, in addition to his clothes. (He said, 'I've always needed an agent.")

So i brought home a suitcase of rocks. not kidding. thanks to Air Canada for not charging me extra baggage fees when i tearfully explained what i was doing, and why.


Here's what the stones look like. They're all wrapped in wire.

It’s like all strong things still need protection around them.

He even had boxes of these rocks in his hospital room, encouraging people to take them with them as reminders. He hung them from his bed frame. 
 


 

 

because even strong folks need protection. even those of us who are sober rocks need arms wrapped around us.

And so now it's time. The shelter just hast reopened for the winter season. 

Here's how the stone fundraiser works.

you check the chart with the rock photos. you pick out a strength rock that you'd like to have as a reminder that even rocks need protection.

you go to purchase it, and you manually enter the amount you’d like to pay. the actual “cost” per necklace for me is about $5 each -- for the chain, the padded envelope, and the postage. any amount you pay for a strength necklace that is above $5 will be donated directly to Out of the Cold. all of it.

I’d like to send a cheque with my mom for her to take in to them, to say “here’s what a bunch of sober folks online can do to help.” {especially for folks who need a place to go with their dogs.}

and when you pick a stone and you donate you'll be helping the shelter and you’ll help me too. every time I mail out a rock (or two or three) it’ll remind me of the time spent rock-gathering, crossword-puzzle-doing.
 
can you help?

 


  

Each one will be shipped in a padded envelope with a 17" (42cm) silver plated necklace.

 


can you tell that my t-shirt is inside out?
 

to see available stones, go here > http://soberlinks.me/stones


thanks 🙂
and hugs from me

be open

omm320.be.open

Can you own the part that's you? can you see that even having a high bottom is unsustainable? ​after you listen to this, you can let me know: are you open? you'll have to listen to the audio to know what i mean. hugs, belle xo

 
  • Get these free one-minute messages on Gumroad link
  • Get these free one-minute messages on iTunes (apple podcast) > link 
  • Get them free on Stitcher > link
  • or search for 'Belle Sober Message' on whatever podcast platform you use

link
exit. exit the booze elevator. having a high bottom isn't sustainable.

​yes there is a christmas tree, but it's tiny!

​link to original sober art, here

who are you

omm319.who.are.you

in today’s one-minute audio message, there is a story about two people. which one is you?

  • Get these free one-minute messages on Gumroad link
  • Get these free one-minute messages on iTunes (apple podcast) > link
  • Get them free on Stitcher > link
  • or search for ‘Belle Sober Message’ on whatever podcast platform you use

link

stay here. stay focussed. stay sober. yes, even at christmas. especially at christmas. link to painting #272 here

I have good days and bad, but I persevere until I get to the exit sign

from my inbox:

Moi (day 230): “I think it was brave of you to publish the post by the woman who attempted to trivialize your ‘level of bottom’ as someone who has little right to talk about, much less help others with sobriety. For example, if you had been drinking the night you almost crashed your car, then according to her you would have had your low bottom street cred. And you would be dead. Bullshit on that. I know you have the bottom/drinking stuff figured out, and you have the ego strength to publish that post with the knowledge that many subscribers have your back. She [maybe] feels alone … but I feel for her, too. She’s in a lot of pain, and I choose compassion over being critical of her lashing out. You are not responsible for making anyone happy. We are responsible for our own happiness.”

~

yesterday i asked you to look at a painting and telling me what you SAW in it. the replies were pretty amazing. it was about this painting (now sold):

What you thought the painting was ‘saying’ to you …

Jaded: “It says somebody out there cares. Actually, I think that’s what they ALL say to me:) It’s pretty obvious that I’m no artist/art connoisseur/able to see deep meanings…haha”

D: “I see myself standing in the dark color on the left still drinking. I know there is a bright light at the other end … as I wade my way through the blue, I have good days and bad, but I persevere til I get to the exit sign and I feel a surge of hope as the days go by and I feel I really can Exit the booze elevator.”

S: “I see beautiful colours with the exit sign not coloured in, making me go into it, delving in to the future. Like I will just lose myself into the painting and enjoy the colours, the skill, the art on my journey of sobriety. It’s been a good one so far.”

and then RO sent me this:

Once i saw her interpretation, i asked for a few more, like this one for #265 (sold):

  

and this one is for painting #266 which is AVAILABLE on the site (at the time of this post, anyway). 

  

the ‘continuum’ email

from me:

from me: a couple of days ago, i shared an email i received from KB about ‘high bottom drinkers’ and how my blog didn’t suit her (read it here).
   even more interesting? the emails i’ve received since with feedback, suggestions, ire, and empathy. here are a few of the messages in my inbox:


~

oaktwig: “KB is obviously the kind of person who needs to be reminded that alcohol can be lethal, so that she can stay away from it. And she’s right, it can clearly kill you if you abuse it. But I, for instance, wouldn’t want to read the words of a 100% serious blogger, writing serious stuff all the time, telling me how dangerous and extreme it is, using important words and phrases.
   What I like about you is that you know what you’re talking about, and you don’t TAKE yourself seriously. There’s the difference. Lots of times in your podcasts (most recently, in the one about AA), you talk about serious stuff, you get to the core of it, and then you say something else, and you go back to it, and you laugh about something else, etc. Sometimes, it’s hard to hear because it feels real (death, disease…), but it never feels like you’re patronizing us. I like that about you.
   I also love how you add logic to the mix. Overconsuming is insane troll logic, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Your approach to sobriety is refreshing because it’s clear, it explains why this and why that. You bring logic and order to this fucking mess, it’s quite an amazing thing to do!
   I don’t think your words are light as air, or that you don’t really comprehend the problem of alcohol. I think you nail it, in your own way. You have a voice in your head that tells you that drinking is a good idea. Low bottoms, high bottoms, who cares. It fucks you up. Here endeth the lesson.”

~

L: “You handled that really well, girlfriend. This particular line hurt my heart: “More and more, I have begun to realize that your blog is for the housewife who maybe has a few too many glasses of wine at dinner. And is worried about her waistline, and so wants to cut back.” Oh, is that all I am? Is that all it was? Silly me. 
   This is a good lesson (for me anyway) about comparison. A competition to see who’s “got it worse” serves no purpose. You talked about this once in an email. Just because I’ve never shown up to a kid’s school function drunk, doesn’t make me better than anyone. Just because I have a higher bottom than some, doesn’t make my issues with alcohol any less. If we can put down the measuring sticks and do what we need to do to not drink today, cheering one another on wherever we may be in the journey, using the tools that help us, and laying aside the others, without feeling the need to criticise, we’ll be better off. 
   You handle your poo-pooers with a lot of grace. I wanna be like you when I grow up. :)”

~

Da (fatgit): “For what it’s worth, it was killing me. I was having blackouts, I got sacked from my job, I went to sleep or passed out drunk every night, I felt ill and depressed all the time. I had been to AA several times over the years and got increasingly unimpressed by their message and their methods. I don’t define myself as an addict, or an alcoholic, which AA doesn’t like. Your correspondent has been “saved”. Good luck to them …  I have MY life back, the one I wanted.”

~

licensed marriage and family therapist: “I know we don’t know one another,  but how not to respond to this. This is exactly why you MUST keep writing. People experience this kind of high-bottom shaming from AA. Keep up the great and inspiring work. The recovery part of this email, should this person get recovery and not just sobriety, will see that they looked for what is different and not the same. Just wanted to reach out and say to keep going. You are doing GREAT things for many people.” 

~

What do you think? Have something to add? Send me your ideas, including if you disagree with how I replied to KB. 

 

~

stay here. stay focussed. stay sober. this painting is on the original art page here > link

original art link here.

our heads discourage us from asking for encouragement or help

from my inbox:

Anonymous: “I am trying to figure out whether to sign up to your support or not which includes the 2 calls – it’s a lot of money in one go especially at Christmas! i don’t have support – on day 8 (have done 83 days at start of the year … this is now my focus as i realise this is what’s holding me back! i have bought about 6 of your podcasts and very much enjoyed them [thumbs up]. 
   anything you can add about your support and how it’s helped people?”

me:  Hi there, well of course support looks differently for everyone. for me, what I needed was a sense of feeling ‘heard’ and that someone else could say if what I was experiencing was normal (or concerning) and a lot of the time I just wanted to know if it’d all be “OK” …
   if you’ve been following my emails for awhile, you’ll see the bits I share from some of my penpals. there are some people who sign up with me who go on to do really well — and as you can imagine, there are some people who sign up who don’t listen to the audios and don’t reply to emails  — and everything in between. the thing is, the support is here. the challenge then is usually in whether or not you want to reach out for it and use it. our heads often discourage us from asking for any kind of encouragement or help. even when it’s out there, and all we have to do is ask.
   hugs from me

~

How else i could have answered Anonymous’s email above?

Moi (day 231): “To Anonymous — if you knew you would be happily sober in a year, you would do it. If you paid for it and nothing would be different, then you wouldn’t. So you really want a guarantee — exchanging money for an outcome. It doesn’t work that way. Doing more, doing different (to quote Belle) is a tool (not a guarantee), to help get you where you want to go. It’s not the tool, not the guarantee. It’s all of it. Work with what you have — if you don’t have the money for the package, it’s not failure, you use everything here you can without money. For me, not wanting to spend the money was really me saying I wasn’t ready to avail myself the tool, the help.”

A: “Belle, you didn’t mention in your reply that you accept a payment plan, that might have been helpful for her.  You might have referred to her previous 83 days sober and that showed her she know what it looks like from the other side and how much better it is for her.”

Toe: “Anonymous is kind of like me probably and lurks a bit. I know asking for more help is probably (in the long run) so much easier than day one over and over.”

Tom: “What could be added is that you could tell her to keep in constant contact, regardless of how strong she feels today.  The strength could become misery in an instant; one small trigger can make you go from euphoria and confidence to misery and torture.  Especially early on, these sudden shifts can be shocking and depressing. They will seem to last all day, but slowly (painfully sometimes) will get shorter in duration. One day you realize “hey, Belle’s right, the good won out on the misery today.” Knowing that this may happen allows you to prepare for when, and if, it does. Constantly building a solid toolbox. Changing your approach. Trying new things, yet relying on the foundations of support. For me, knowing one drink was too much, and all of it was never enough AND the alcohol was causing the misery, not relieving it, were my go-to thoughts to push past the dark clouds. Never rest on your laurels. Booze thrives on that and lies in wait. Wolfie is a patient and tricky bastard.”

ladybug11 (day 16): “I would have told anonymous to weigh the pros and cons of the phone calls. If he or she really thought they’d be effective but couldn’t afford it, I’d say to ask someone to give them the extra money towards the calls as a Christmas present. The other rationalization would be to think about how much they spend on alcohol and weigh that against the extra cost of the phone calls. When I was thinking about joining the pen pal program, I was worried about affording the payments, but then realized I was spending $50 a week on alcohol. If the program helped me not drink, it would pay for itself with money left over :)”

ShelT (day 174): “Dear anonymous. Although your question was about how the support has helped others, what you’re really asking, I assume, is if it’s going to help YOU. Or perhaps the question is, “I know it will help but is it necessary? Can I succeed by doing it with less structure and support?” I think that’s something we each have to answer for ourselves. when we try drinking only 2 drinks or just drinking on the weekends and it doesn’t work, we try something different. Belle has lots of different things you can try here. Emailing, treats, radical self care, there are x number of things. One option is calls…”

ckelly (day 10): “Belle, you could say: ‘Joining my jumpstart class and becoming a penpal often times give people the accountability and structure they need to get started, gain momentum, and not feel so alone. This can be part of your toolbox. Your head will tell you it’s too much money or you don’t have the time. That’s just wolfie trying to keep you drinking and you don’t want that. I know you want to stop drinking because you are here writing me’.”

jenwithoutwine (day 351): “I would tell anonymous about the free one minute messages. She likes audios and is concerned about money. And there’s tons of great stuff in there.” 

minaminb (day 206): “One thing about the money: sometimes making a financial commitment switches something else in our brains. Paying for something makes us feel more committed to it.”

Daybird (day 1760): “All I can say is when I was around 180 days sober on my own the itch to drink was all I could think about until I found your website and your supported words which has kept me sober for almost 5 years. Going back to day one is not an option for me. I was not a casual drinker and glad I stand on my own two feet again. Thanks again and keep up your good work and word for those who want it.”

~

exit the booze elevator. it’s time. this painting is on the original art page here > link

original art link here.

there is a continuum of drinkers in the world

From KB:

“Belle – With a heavy heart, I want to tell you that I’m unsubscribing to your blogs, emails, etc. More and more, I find your emails frustrating and “cutesy” when the reality is that alcoholism is a disease that is trying to kill me. Its not a “wolfie”.  I actually like wolves. Wolves are beautiful sentient creatures without any reason to kill humans dead for no reason.
 
… I bought your PDF of the first year of your sobriety, which I cannot get through. The worst for me was reading about your first few months. The description of having 3 glasses of wine and having a bit of a headache so you were tired of that. To me, that doesn’t seem like a problem at all similar to the one I have. I have been a follower for over a year, but honestly, I have gotten more in 2 months at AA than I have gotten in all time I spent reading your materials. 
 
More and more, I have begun to realize that your blog is for the housewife who maybe has a few too many glasses of wine at dinner. And is worried about her waistline, and so wants to cut back. Much like I worry about how too much chocolate might not be that great for me, but yea, sometimes I have too much. But chocolate is not going to kill me. Alcohol is. 

I wish you all the luck on your [new] book. I hope that it works out. But I also hope that you take my suggestion from a few months ago to heart and make it clear that this book may not help someone who is a “real” alcoholic.  
I do not want to say that I have found nothing helpful in your blogs and emails. I have. But I believe that something like AA or outpatient treatment is what is necessary for the alcoholic.”

me:  hi there, I’m sorry that you’re finding me frustrating and cutesy. on my blog, I don’t identify that I’m an alcoholic. my blog is [therefore perhaps] geared more for ‘high bottom’ drinkers who aren’t really represented in the media. AA works for tons of people, but you’re right, those of us drinking 3-4 glasses of wine a night every night often don’t feel like we fit in AA.

we do, though – all of us – have the booze voice in our head that says that drinking is a good idea. and quitting drinking is brutally hard no matter how much we drink (I’ve discovered).
 
is being a sober penpal going to be enough for everyone? no. but for some people it will be.

will penpal+blogs be enough for everyone? no. but for some people it will be.

will penpal+blogs+audios+jewelry be enough for everyone? no. but for some it will be.
 
will all these things and meetings (AA or otherwise) and therapy and medication and outpatient and rehab work for everyone? no unfortunately there are some people where this still won’t be enough.
 
there is a continuum of drinkers in the world.

some things work for some people.

what I think works best is a collection of things, and it might look like this [for you]: 5% help from blogs, 10% help from personalized emails, 30% help from medication, 50% help from meetings + 5% secret sauce … or whatever. But the problem is there’s no ONE prescription for everyone.

your sober toolbox will look completely different from every other person on the planet. because it’s yours. it’ll suit you. it’ll be the things that you need.
 
I can’t write a book or a blog for any one kind of audience, you’re right. I can only write what worked for me. and that’ll resonate with some people and it won’t with others.

but don’t let wolfie tell you there’s only one way to be sober. it’s about finding the right combination of bits for you.

you have used a lot of bits so far: my blog + other blogs + emailing me + jewelry + sober jumpstart class + AA. perhaps it’s THAT combination that has worked for you.
 
and you know, I’m ok with my blog or emails only helping you 5% if that’s what it turns out to be.
 
because a 5% tool is a still a pretty good tool to have.
 
many hugs from me

 

~

stay here. stay focussed. stay sober. on the original art page here > link

original art link here.

buy myself presents

a couple of days ago, I suggested that you think about what you can NOT do this year, in order to avoid being overwhelmed and keep your sober car on the road (in this busy month). i shared some ideas here, and today i’m going to share a few more (i got loads and loads of emails!).

happygal (day 19): “I host Christmas dinner every year. This year, I am ORDERING some of the food and LETTING OTHERS bring things. That is a layer of overwhelm I do not need this year. Also, my grandmother asks us to go to an event at her church that is always very loud and crowded and my children get to bed late on a school night. It always causes me stress and I dread it. This year, I said NO :)”

W: “I am not going to cook almost every night. I am keeping two pizzas in the freezer at all times. No stress to cook those. I began to miss wine while making dinner, a little more stressed at this time of year. SO NOT going to let that happen. Of course i will add a few ingredients on top to make me feel better. Husband can even heat up the oven. Voila. no more stress over a meal at least not until Christmas!”

S: “I’m basing my pre-christmas friend catch-ups in coffee shops, not bars. Also not going to the german markets as we do as the there is too much beer and mulled wine to make my head spin!”

Indian Lake: “Oh man, I love this topic. If I have learned anything from you, it would be how to protect my sobriety. Growing up the child of a Marine, you are taught you put others before self, so this was a new concept for me when I first stopped drinking. But boy, has it saved me. For this holiday season, just like the last three, I will:
  RSPV to (but not attend) the drunkfests that people put out as Christmas parties, all they are are reasons to drink, and turn very grim as the evening wears on. If you say “yes”, but don’t go, you don’t have to explain why you aren’t going until after the event has passed, and plead a belly ache as the reason you weren’t there. Resolves all kinds of angst and explanations. 
   As a treat for not going, I buy myself presents, wrap them, and celebrate my sobriety privately when the time of the event rolls around, tuck into bed, and smile knowing I have avoided another trap and kept myself strong and healthy.
   This process has been working like a charm for four consecutive party seasons, celebrating 1435 days today, and not one bit of sadness on missing a party.”

~

this is ‘exit’ in french. exit the booze elevator. it’s an elevator that only goes down. time to step off.
link

original art link here.

skip the stockings this year

yesterday i asked you to email and tell me what you are NOT doing this year, in order to avoid being overwhelmed and protect your sobriety. holy, i got a lot of diverse and super interesting answers. the magic number winner of the european chocolate is (appropriately) H: “I’m giving up ‘counting calories that I eat’. I’ve got this app on my phone and it tells me how much money, calories & days I’ve saved from not drinking. After just two days I was amazed! I haven’t looked at the app for a few days now, but it’s made me realise that whatever I was consuming in alcohol, was massive in calories. I’m going to enjoy guilt free eating.”

what else are we giving up this month? Roadtosoberville (day 756): “Good morning Belle! This year I am giving up Xmas gifts for colleagues and staff. Year after year I’ve spent hundreds of dollars that I don’t have and loads of time on people at work, out of some sort of weird sense of ‘I should’. This year if I do anything at all, it will be an inexpensive card. I’m also taking two weeks’ vacation. The last and only time I’ve done that with this job was for my honeymoon! While my brain still wants chaos and overwhelm, I am slowly learning how to stop the self imposed madness! Big hugs!” She’s not the only one who is going to stop buying gifts for all the work colleagues. (and if it was me, instead of cards, i’d just take in cookies one day and call it done.)

and now that you mention cookies, there’s this from andpops (day 136): “I’m going to minimally decorate for Christmas. A smaller tree than usual. Fewer decorations around the house. Skip the stockings this year. I’m also going to skip the rolled-out, iced cookies, and go for your shortbread cookie recipe :)” If you didn’t get the recipe, send me an email with what you think the only 3 ingredients are, and i’ll reply with the secret recipe. 

speaking of which, i haven’t done any christmas baking yet. we don’t get our tree until the 15th (tradition). it’s a weird thing, maybe only in france? but the christmas trees are very expensive, therefore small, and they are NOT watered. you buy the lovely little tree nailed to a wooden x-stand thing, and then you not only can’t water it, but no one does… how they keep them more than 10 days i have no idea as they’ve been on sale already for weeks. any other countries where you don’t water your trees? in canada we certain did, regularly, the fear of a dry-tree-fire was drilled into us. here? apparently not. though the days of lights that heat up are gone, so maybe the fire risk with LED lights … i have no idea. just rambling now. drinking my decaf + hot chocolate mixture… other sober treat ideas here.

~

this is ‘exit’ in french. exit the booze elevator. it’s an elevator that only goes down. time to step off.
link

original art link here.