Sober Girls’ Photography Project

So one of the things that drinking does, is it sucks up our time. Every night beginning at 6 pm (or earlier!), after the first glass of booze, we descend into a pit of un-productivity! That dinner i was going to make turned into potatoes and nothing else. The plans i had to clean the bedroom closet turned into 3 hours of watching A&E’s Intervention.  Drinking squeezes out other activities. There just isn’t time. or energy. or brain space.

And so once we get sober, there’s this vast time called ‘evening’ that we have to fill. And some weird things have been known to happen.  Like going for groceries after dinner. Like going to dinner and then going to a late movie. Just as recently as last Friday, my husband and I left to go and walk to dinner at 10 pm, not getting home till after midnight… just out walking around the city, enjoying the (finally) beautiful weather. I can assure you there’d have been NO walking to dinner at 10 pm if i was drinking…

One of the other things that can happen to ‘fill time’ is that our passions and hobbies come back.  Used to be a writer, a dancer, a runner. Used to make jewelry, write romance novels. Always wanted to learn Spanish, walk a marathon, get tenure.

And then there’s Christina. I asked her what her hobbies and passion were that she could resume now that she’s sober.

Here’s what our emails looked like over a couple of days:

Christina: I wish I had a hobby, something I was passionate about…

Me: OK, let’s get you a hobby then. want to do some homework about this?  I’ll do it with you at the same time 🙂

Christina (the next day): Still Sober and thinking of my homework, hobbies. Will come up with a list of things i like to do.

Me: How are you doing on the idea of hobbies? shall we brainstorm… I’ll do this too. when you were 9-10-11-12 years old, what kinds of things did you do for fun …  I used to play songs and then try to play them on the guitar or make my sisters sing them (thinking we’d be a band someday). I also always had a pen and paper with me, was a regular Harriet the Spy. I loved puzzles, and bought crossword puzzle books all the time (funny now I like jigsaw puzzles and suduko, so that hasn’t gone away) … I’m a half-decent photographer who doesn’t take my camera out often enough (it feels like it’s too heavy/too much work/too much something. probably just inner critic again saying the pictures will be shit).  OK, for me it’s puzzles.  no inner critic can come out when you’re making a jigsaw puzzle.  think I’ll start one tonight.  well that helped me! your turn 🙂 [and i did start a puzzle that night and it is very soothing…]

Christina: Thanks for the brainstorm. I love to do million things. Taking pictures, two years ago bought myself a nice Canon DS500 reflex I carry it all the time when travelling. I always dreamt of playing guitar, just one tune, but I never find the time to really take a course. I would love to be able to “pimp” old furniture, there again never tried … Belle thank you for everything you are doing. I never felt so much strength to stay away from booze. I have tried everything before AA, doctors but in vain. This challenge and the sober blogging is the best thing that never happened to me.

Me (the next morning): are you ready for some photography homework? sort of like building up to having a hobby?

Christina:   I am READY:-)

And then I sent Christina a little photography assignment, and I told her that I’d do it too.

Then something amazing happened!  Not only did Christina do her assignment right away, she started to gush enthusiasm. Then the next day she sent me another photo…

and the Sober Photography Project was born!

I’m thinking that there might be a few other sober folks out there who are looking for a new hobby, or are trying to find a way to revive an old hobby.  So if you want to join Christina and me, and take a few pictures, i think we could have some fun!  This is open for anybody, you don’t have to be a fancy ass photographer. No inner critic allowed. Are you ready?

Assignment #1 Sober Mornings
Your photo can be anything that deals with the early part of the day, sunrises, work commutes, breakfast, etc. My morning usually includes running, coffee, and emails … What does your morning consist of?

  • DEADLINE: Tuesday, June 11 @ 12 noon Eastern.
  • The format is open: black and white, filters, cropping, all OK.  You can use your camera phone or a nice camera.
  • The photo must be original, and taken AFTER the assignment is received (like, no going through past pictures taken, it has to be new).
  • If you suck at photo adjustments or cropping, send it anyway with a note that you’d like me to adjust.
  • Send as LARGE a file size as you can manage (up to 12MB per image).  Don’t reduce for size.  the bigger the better.
  • Um, you have to be sober …
  • One entry per person per assignment (think of the size of my inbox!)

I will post all of the entries I get in about a week. Then if you like, we can do another assignment.

What do you think?  Here are two ideas on Sober Mornings to get you started:

Christina's view on the way to work
Christina’s view on the way to work
Belle's morning
Belle’s morning


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

  • i want in, too. yay. this is so much like the ‘accountability’ group julia cameron mentions in the artists’ way.

  • Why yes, that could be my submission.. maybe ill come up with more… thank you so much for hearing me out.. not sure what im doing, but i do know it is the right thing..

  • Hah! Loving this! What a great idea. I might just fling instagramee-thingee at something and send over 😀

  • Will take and pic and send it though I have not got a photographers eye at all. I am always framing pics of the kids and then my husband says, “you do realise that is not in focus?” Yes, sure I do! 😉
    Not being amazing and not apologising for it, way to go!
    I’m in.

    • see, that might be the KEY right there — just do it. don’t wait to be amazing. just have fun … I think as boozers we’ve forgotten about fun : ) it’s “where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.” Fun is where there is no grade, there is no judgement, there is no competition. It’s when you play Pictionary without keeping score. It’s when you play Monopoly but led your neighbour money so you can keep playing. With fun, there is no one upping, there is no monetary gain, there is no impressing anybody. There’s just fun. Yes, and Yes, and Yes exactly Carrie!

  • Yay! This sounds like so much fun! I love to take photos and love to look at them. When it’s something within the context of sobriety and creating new hobbies, all the better!

    I definitely have been knitting more, cooking more, reading more, writing more. Lots of time suddenly. And I’m looking forward to reading more about the KEY thing you’re talking about in the comments.

  • I love this idea! Count me in! Can you give us your email address again please!?

    When I read your posts Belle, I can feel your great energy for being sober and hear your chipper tone of voice! You are an inspiration, a breath of fresh air and a friend and angel to so many of us! xo

  • I am not a photographer at all, never have been, but I can take a picture. My husband has this fancy camera that I am thinking about dusting off and using this morning to work on the photography project with all you sober girls. I am at this point in my life right now of major transition and I just feel so… purpose-less (is that a word?) so I am willing to give anything a try. New hobbies are welcome! The photo project is such a great idea and I would love to see all the amazing pictures that everyone takes.

    • Hey there. This is a little sidebar about that purposeless feeling. Have had the same thoughts like “I will have the shortest eulogy ever” while everyone else seems to be doing cool stuff. As a typical drinker I didn’t attend to a lot of my relationships enough. I’ve found that making the effort to foster those relationships (lunch date with girlfriends, dinner with sister and family etc) helps me to remember that me just being in this world is important to people who love me. Sometimes that’s enough.

  • Love love love it! Will it be a photo of my sleeping daughter right before I give her a good morning kiss on the head, or maybe my little garden and the hens so happy that the sun is up? Amy wrote my sentiments exactly, belle. Brilliant! – D

  • It’s kind of like this…..just when I think I love you the most I can love you, you do something that makes me adore you EVEN MORE. Brilliant!

    • you’re very kind … and you can thank Christina for this. she’s so enthusiastic it’s contagious. and I’m learning a lot about (my) perfectionism at the same time. it’s weird but I feel like a big KEY has just unlocked in my head since starting this project with C, and so I wanted to share it with everybody … and I’ll try to write more about it later, this KEY-UNLOCKING thing. but I gotta say that the simple act of taking a not-perfect-picture is so freaking lovely.