this is weird, and awkward. (Yes, i’m sober. It’s another kind of weird.) i’m struggling to write this. i’ve been thinking for days about how to start this post. whether to write it all. I talked to Mr. Belle and to Lawyer Anne. i can’t come up with a good solution. so i’m going to try this.


Some of the people in the Sober Challenge have said things like “how can i thank you” or “i feel like i’m a burden to you” or “i don’t want to email too often because I know you have a lot of people on your list.”

And i’ve tried before to write about how GREAT it is to be your sober penpal. But there don’t seem to be enough words, or reassurances, or hugs i can give you that convey: yes, email me, i’m glad to hear from you.

I woke this morning to a message from Colleen (day 6), she writes: “I don’t know why you are doing this amazing thing for me and others but I appreciate you so much and hope you are getting something out of all this.”

And here’s my answer to her:

“it’s hard to explain, but really, to read your email [that you’re sober and doing well], it just lights up my day.  I know that drinking sucks us into a pit of despair.  You can’t believe how super fabulous it is to witness people fighting their way out of the pit.  It’s really truthfully impressive. I get to witness your strength and that’s just such an amazing thing to watch.  Cuz this shit ain’t easy!  And I get built-in-sobriety-insurance.  How could I possibly drink now? You’re doing the hard shit.  Me, all i have to do these days is bat away a few ideas now and then. I couldn’t give in to wolfie now when others are fighting much harder …

You inspire me.  How’s that? And all you have to do is get up, run, be honest, send an email, and you’re an inspiration 🙂

… would it make you feel better if you could give me something in return? does it really feel so unbalanced? maybe I’ll go and take out an anonymous post-office box with a really glamorous address, so people can mail me chocolates… not that I need any more, I assure you. Can you mail donuts? Probably not! Too bad, I can’t get donuts here…

So after i send that email, i make a cup of tea, i go for a run in the rain, and i talk to my husband again.

please hear this.  i know that some people are feeling weird about ‘taking’ from me. and they’re not reaching out as much as they want to cuz they’re feeling guilty or ashamed or something that can’t quite be articulated.

I got this message from Lawyer Anne who is Day 30 today: “…many thanks to you!! I don’t think words can express my appreciation. I wish I could mail you a cake 🙂 Thank you, thank you, thank you – you have helped me save my life. I will be eternally grateful I stumbled upon you on the internet and sent you that first email.”


Here’s what i’m going to do. I’ve put in a little button here that links to paypal. It’s a gift button, you fill in the amount. You don’t have to have a paypal acct to use it (link on bottom left after you click for non-paypal-users).

click here > tiny-gift-button

I will use any gift money to buy treats (i.e. I will not use it to pay the hydro bill!) i will buy cake with it. Or new oven mitts, or tea, or fuzzy socks. If you give $1 that’s fine.   There is no link between you making a gift and me emailing you.

and, to be accountable and transparent, i’ll post pictures of the treats that i purchase with the gift money.



I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Hi! This is Megan. Just want to say that today is my new Day 1 of at least 100. 5.20.13. Just to make sure, you really want us to email you every day? Is this the right email address? Hope you’re not in Oklahoma City! Megan

    • Hi Megan. Belle’s the best. yes, email her every day and we all celebrate. Welcome to a whole new gig-you’re gonna love it. This place rocks with love and support and praise and forgiveness and encouragement.

  • Oh wow, I love that you have done this. As I said on the “next” post’s comments, stay the course. We are grateful for you and want to show that.

  • Belle,
    I LOVE that you did this. I want to send you donuts, flowers….and of course, you don’t want ANYTHING, but you have done so much for me, and for SEVENTY other regular emailers you have, ‘sober pen pals’ – that I know it takes at least TWO HOURS of your day to selflessly give back! Just like Paul, and so many others, you are a ‘pay it forward’ person; and we all know how generous you are. And, we all know how much it helps to help others! But spending such a huge amount of your time, well, some people would like to send you things. Like flowers, or cupcakes.

    But here’s the thing. In the REAL world, if I knew who you were, and exactly where you were, I would send you a small gift of thanks. I would. A thank you note, a chocolate bar, something that is a small token of my thanks. But, since we’re in the ‘virtual, anonymous’ word, real-world thankyous aren’t an option. I think it’s great that you answered your requests, and don’t think it’s at all silly that you would put a little post for a few pennies of thanks for those who ask for it. And you know what? if for some reason you got ACTUAL money – like real money – I can see you putting it to a good use and not pay your water bill with it. You don’t need that. But you did fill a need to receive thanks when someone wanted to give it.

    Here’s the thing. This blogging thing is awesome. It’s what’s turned my life around, and the community here has helped me realize what I really needed to do and help me do it. BUT it’s time consuming. Takes me away from work, my family, and ‘real’ life and people. I’ve seen people turn their blogs into books (to buy) of experiences, self-help books and CDs, etc. There will be lots of models of ways to get information, send information, and connect with people – and to help people. Thanks for being the one that’s helped me most with your funny, insightful, helpful emails. And thanks for being brave enough to say, “um, ok, sure…I guess…you can thank, I guess. BUT DON’T” (paraphrasing the way you put it)

    BUT. I still wish I could send you donuts.

  • I am desperately grateful to you for the support. It is selfless and you can’t have known quite how HUGE a commitment this was going to turn out to be. Luckily for us, that doesn’t seem to have overwhelmed you. It is wonderful to hear that you don’t want anything in return and that you feel rewarded in other ways through the feedback and the sober insurance etc, but…
    I might just be tempted to hit that button and send you some cake,if only just to ensure that someone out there is eating as much cake as me! And because you are the biggest cake monster I have never met 🙂

  • Perhaps the money can go to a woman’s treatment center or shelter? Just my first thought. 🙂

    I like what KM said – we all have different ways of giving back. Not everyone is a writer, but may be amazing at organizing things, or rallying people, or building stuff or fundraising. I am not good at any of those things, so writing it is for me, and helping other men in the program. But don’t ask me to be treasurer of anything, or to organize other folks, etc…those aren’t my strengths at all! But Belle, this email thing you have is fantastic – you are attracting so many people with this, which I have always been a fan of. I think the idea of paying it forward to a new person is pretty cool. I think it behooves us to do so, and we feel better too!

    good luck everyone!


  • AA has the saying, “You can’t keep it unless you give it away” Giving back is an important part of recovery and soon it will be the people on your penpal’s list turn to give back and then they’ll understand. Your penpal list is a wonderful asset to those in early recovery who need the one-on-one support that you are giving them. You are making a difference, girl, and that is a miraculous transformation of what we once thought was a burden of shame.

    Some people in this internet age of no meetings and other choices may wonder how they can give back, there are a lot of avenues out there. There is a multitude of forums out there where almost daily newbies come looking for help and guidance. All they want to do is hear your story and know they are not alone, find one that you can relate to and tell your story, that’s all you need to do. Of course, there is always the blogosphere, but not everyone was born a writer or wants to be one. Giving back doesn’t always have to take place in the arena of recovery, there are so many areas that need our attention now that we’re free of that burden of booze. Keep looking until you find one. It is part of the process, it is part of recovering the goodness of you.

  • you know that saying, giving is WAY better than receiving. . . and you give so much, your heart must be full to overflowing!! I too am so grateful for all of the sobers out in cyberspace. Each of them has reached out to me in one way or another. It has been a blessing in disguise. I can’t thank you enough for your support and hope that I can pay it forward as you do. The only reward I need will need is knowing I’ve made a difference in someone life. Keep it up!