aim for a high, firm bottom

from my inbox:

From E (day 128): “I follow a sober girl and when she was starting off, I followed her, left encouraging comments on the blog. She relapses frequently … and i got frustrated; my reaction is initially to try to fix her. or to say bracing things to her. none of which will help her, I’m sure.  but I do check the blog occasionally, like picking a scab that is irritating me 🙁 so my considered response is probably to back away, strengthen the boundaries between her and me. because her actions are her own responsibility and not mine … and I need to find a way of dealing with that.  but when she leaves sad comments I am at a loss as to how to respond. I generally go for something non-committal, or don’t reply. any thoughts on how I can let this person take up less space in my head?! you must get this all the time in your position!”

me:  I know this feeling, I think that reading blogs of repeated relapsers isn’t terribly helpful. except to remind us that we never want another day 1 again. there are some people’s blogs that i read when i first was getting sober, that started to blog about ‘moderation’ or about how being sober wasn’t for them, I unfollowed them. When i was starting, I want to surround myself with stories of how to be successfully sober … Do I now work with people who AREN’T successfully sober, yes. do I have a lot of patience? yes. do I overinvest in them more than they are invested in themselves? no. it’s about boundaries, I think … wolfie gets into some people’s heads. it’s terrifying to watch. they know that they’re being possessed. they know that the train is coming and they’re standing on the tracks. and they can’t get off the tracks.  it’s not logical. addiction isn’t logical. that’s the horror of it. people die. they can’t figure out how to get off the tracks and then get squished by the train, by wolfie, by booze. it happens all the fucking time.  all we can do is wave from safe land and say “come here” because while giving ideas is helpful, tough love doesn’t seem to work …  huglets

E: “Tx for this. V helpful. Agree totally re harshness not working. I think for me, snippets of things other people have said have unexpectedly made a massive difference. But I can’t guess what those things will be for someone else 🙁 it makes me so sad for that person. Such a waste. Thank you for all you do to be a lighthouse!”

me:  she will find her way. or she will get squished by the train. wolfie sometimes does suck the life out of perfectly nice people. what’s better? quit early. a high firm bottom. better.

E: “Absolutely. One of best things I recall from your podcast was you saying that we think we will quit later, when we HAVE to – as if it will be easier then. When of course the later we leave it, the more difficult it gets 🙁 earlier and firmer indeed!”

you’ve tried it for year. now try something else.

this is an extract from podcast SP206 being sent out to podcast subscribers today.

it’s about you wanting to be sober. During a recent live call, D asked me what she could do to be sober, since she’d been trying for a year. here’s my answer to her. This is a 3 minute extract from the podcast (and update, she’s on day 34 today, so something about this answer seems to have worked).



You want a different result. And it’s not that there isn’t support available for us, it’s that we don’t want it. If your thought process isn’t working now like it did before, then you do new things now. You’re going to need different things to get you going. you’ve changed. the elevator only goes down. The time to step off is right now.

This audio is taken from podcast SP206 (the full version of the audio is 24 minutes long).


Download the audio podcast episode 206

Sign up for the monthly podcast subscription
(1-2 new audios per week, you can cancel whenever you like … but you won’t. more sober tools = good)

(ps, my blog allows for anonymous comments – so you don’t have to fill in a name or an email address to post your comment below).

Question: What phrase do you hear in this audio, perhaps as if for the first time – something that makes you think “oh yeah. that.” I’ll select a comment in the next 48 hrs and will send a present. anonymous comments are fine.


it can’t be that important

if you work in a place with a boozy culture, it can’t be that important to ‘fit in’ that you’ll do something that isn’t what’s best for you.



It can’t be so important to fit in. It just can’t. So you have three choices: you either attend the events and don’t drink, or you don’t attend, or you work somewhere else. And a boozy cruise? I say no to that, hands-down, and here’s why.

This audio is taken from podcast SP204 (the full version of the audio is 20 minutes long).

If you’re not a podcast subscriber, you should be. do that here >


the boozing you is a liar

if you drink, it creates a whole, different version of you, and it’s not the real you.



If you drink, you change the trajectory of your life in a large way. So when we stop drinking, it’s like there’s two people – the old us (the boozer) and the new us (the sober us). Which one is the real one?

This audio is taken from podcast SP203 (the full version of the audio is 30 minutes long).


Download the audio podcast episode 203

Sign up for the monthly podcast subscription
(1-2 new audios per week, you can cancel whenever you like … but you won’t. more sober tools = good)

(ps, my blog allows for anonymous comments – so you don’t have to fill in a name or an email address to post your comment below).



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.))

treats don’t work for me

recently sent this out as a daily micro-email; i’m going to post it here on the blog and add in some of the many emails i’ve received in response. 

email from good:

“i’m totally in the ‘treats don’t work for me’ camp. I eat what I want, when I want, within of course healthy parameters that – if i break them (TWO pieces of cheesecake!) – it doesn’t feel like a treat, it induces shame.

I buy what i want, when I want. Sometimes i have tried to convince myself that an expensive piece of jewelry or pair of jeans I’ve been eyeing or something similar will be a reminder piece to stay sober. But I never can “wait 30 days” to put it on.

I don’t have time for a lot of physical treats. I am craving a good 5-mile hike in the woods right now and it’s been a couple weeks and it hasn’t happened. I have two young kids and my husband and I are to the brim with shared responsibilities.

I cringe when I hear people say “make the time” and “get your partner to help!” – my husband cannot magically get his meetings cancelled to get home early so I can take off. I cannot walk out on my kids who are sitting at the table waiting for dinner. I cannot forget to get the straws or pictures or clothes together for school for the next day or my kid will feel left out and it will be my fault, something I can’t live with. When I’m getting dinner together, husband is busy giving them a bath and has to call his cousin in the hospital.  Later I have to clean or shop for guests or a party we’re having. This is the kind of every day stuff that has to get done. Now. Make time my A%$.  I’m lucky to get a shower in every other day (don’t worry I work from home) and I prioritize exercise, even if it’s whatever I can do quickly and not my favorite kind) over things like bubble baths. If I get a chance to go out for a couple hours and hike, or happen by a cute coffee shop and have a chance to stop, or even get an hour to read at the end of a long day between 10 and 11pm, I will take it, whether I ‘deserve’ it, have X days sober, just got through a tough craving, or not. And honestly, if I feel good enough about however many days of sobriety to deserve a treat, just feeling deserving, that’s treat enough.”

from me: do you agree with Good about the treats thing? i’ve done a lot of writing about this and recorded audios, and talked about retraining your brain … but i wonder if you agree with Good that, no matter what i suggest, it’s all ‘airy-fairy’ wishful thinking …

and if you disagree with Good (or you used to think how she did and now you don’t), you can tell me about that too. I’ll share some ideas in a future email.

i rebel against me.

i’m doing my yearly offline for most of August thing.

and everything is like everything.

there’s a transition, a detox. what do i do with this time now that i’m offline and not glued to my computer. (who am i now that i’m sober.)

how do i unwind without a video game or a tv show or one more trip through facebook. (what do i use to unwind once the booze is gone.)

what’s the point of my life if i don’t get all of my meaning from being online? (who am i once the booze is extracted. once the anaesthesia is removed. how will i interact with friends.)

at first, all the time seems too large. like i’m not my real self. all the things i usually do require an internet connection (all the time i spend in the evenings or with friends requires alcohol.)

when really

it’s about self-care.

naps are fine. healthy food leads to more even moods. running leads to a brighter outlook.

and me? i balk at self-care. i don’t shave my legs, change the sheets, go to bed.

and what would happen to this i feel empty space if i filled it with self-care? shudder.

so yesterday, i did the following: went for a short 17 minute run, shaved my legs, put conditioner in my hair (!), went for a long walk, had a nap, and had a manicure (finally, it’s been 12 years since my last one).

but what does wolfie think i should do? remove the booze (remove the online connection) and wolfie encourages me to just sit here and roll around in how uncomfortable it is.

Why not write longhand.

Why not read or walk or photograph.

Why not cook something new.

Why so inert? Why so uninspired?

Switch to enough sleep. See how that goes. Try different.

I like this new me, I know it suits me. and yet i balk.

i rebel against me.

i resist that which will make me feel better.

“you can be kind of a pest”

from my inbox:

Tina Jeanne (Day 1): “Hi Belle, I decided this morning when I was writing in my journal that I would do this. There was some kind of shift that took place as I was writing. Maybe I could already feel the universe behind me. I just love this concept. I also keep getting these pokes and nudges from you. Your daily emails are relentless. And you sent this one about the solstice twice! I think another sober blogger mentioned this about you too recently. You can be kind of a pest, you know …

me: I can be kind of a pest. a sober pest. the kind that if you didn’t want to be sober, you’d unsubscribe. and if you do want to be sober, you know that I’m here whenever you’re ready to feel better. I’m a consistent pest. a lighthouse. I just stand here. I do the same thing all the time. how I’m interpreted has probably more to do with how much wolfie is speaking. Wolfie says “why doesn’t she shut up” and the sober voice says “thank god she’s there saying that same thing over and over.”

I can reset you. day 2 today. Welcome back to your sober suite. it’s #1553. this spot is just for you.

It’s one bitchy uptight girl

when you feel itchy and shitty, and wolfie is yelling ‘maybe now, what about now, how about now?’ you KNOW you don’t want to give into the voice or else you create the candy in the grocery store syndrome.

but as that rumble of feeling crappy builds, we cannot think of what to do. our favourite coping strategy (Alcohol! The Solution and the Cause To All of Life’s Problems!) has been removed.

you think: what would a parent do for a temper tantrum wielding 3-year old. they’d distract, offer something, suggest not now but maybe later, and move attention to something else. put on a sock puppet. blow bubbles. something else to look at, to think about.

you think: what would a parent do for a sad (“but mom, none of my friends like me”) 9-year old. They’d suggest that you have pancakes for dinner, perhaps even as a picnic in the backyard. Let’s make a tent and ‘camp’ for dinner. Nine year old is unimpressed. Mom shifts tacks. She doesn’t give up. She doesn’t try the same thing again. She tries different. You go and have a bath with big bubbles (you can use some of my special mommy lavender sfuff) and then we’ll make hot chocolate, and you can teach me how to navigate that next level in the Live Action Thriller with Cupcakes video game (clearly not my generation). You want me to braid hair like Jan on the Brady Bunch (that’s more like it). Oh and sweetie, remember when you hear the words “none or always or all or never or forever or nothing” in your head, then it’s not true. It’s not that NONE of your friends like you. It’s one bitchy uptight girl you’d be better off ignoring. It’s not that you’ll feel crappy FOREVER, it’s that you’re having a moment that honestly if we timed it with my old fashioned clicky stopwatch (none of this digital shit), you’d see that your crappiness lasts less than 1.5 hrs at the worst of times, and is usually done in the space of minutes.

and yes. inside of you right now, there is perhaps a 3-year old or a 9-year old. in fact, the “drink now” voice may alternate between the two voices, looking for purchase. it will yell “why can’t I, you’re mean, this is unfair, I want a doughnut right now” (age 3) and if that doesn’t work it’ll flip to “this is always going to be hard, I will never feel better, nothing improved when I got sober, my life is still ALL shit” (age 9).

apply strategies above as appropriate. repeat as necessary. if hot chocolate worked yesterday, it may work today. if it doesn’t, then move to hair braiding.

i should have kept going

[Now that I have finished writing the sober book and it has been sent to the printers … now i’m spending time looking over earlier journals about the writing process. i can see that it took a LOT longer than i thought it would to find out HOW to write, to find a pattern, a rhythm. I discovered that writing is like early sobriety: shit is hard, then it gets easier, then we don’t know what we’re doing, then we figure some things out, and then we make daily, small progress.

i’m going to post some of the writing that i did over the last year that ‘helped’ me figure out the sober writing thing. Because the parallels with sobriety are huge and many.]

July 8, 2015

tuesday. (5:15 am). meditation sucked, i opened my eyes and yawned part way through. i said to myself ‘i suck at this’ right as the guided meditation audio says to be patient and non-judgmental.

i have nothing to say. that first time, with the early morning writing last week, that was luck. It was a fluke I can’t repeat. I should have kept going. I thought I could dip back into it easily enough. Momentum. Would it have been easier to keep going?

once i get started then i can just keep going. even if it isn’t always a lot of fun, because it isn’t miserable. i’m not vomiting. i’m just angst-ing. and the angst-ing is what i’m trying to ignore. for the better good.extract from today’s writing:

I didn’t meet the textbook definition of an alcoholic, and believe me, I’d done the research. I’d read the sober memoirs, done a bit of looking around online, was confronted with all of the anecdotal evidence where people with real alcohol problems lost their jobs, their marriages, and their lives to addiction.


Update from April 28, 2016.

The phrase that I wrote above, on that crappy morning in July, that phrase eventually got written into the book like this:

Source: TOTAD: Take My-100 Day Sober Challenge, page 55, section 2: Permission to