this is a sober hurdle that everyone has to face: being worried about what other people think

Things i’m good at:

I make a very good cinnamon raisin bagel. I can talk to anyone — seat me beside your irritating aunt at the wedding reception and we’ll be fast friends. I’m good at building community. I have a strange sixth sense that knows what people are trying to say before they’ve figured out how to articulate it. I can often (quickly) put language to things that are hard to describe, and then someone will say “yeah, that’s it exactly.”

I am self-disciplined. I’m self-employed and i get shit done. Like lots of boozers, i had a crappy kidhood, and felt ‘broken’ for a very long time, until i met my husband, and got some unconditional love in my gas tank. I am mostly happily married except when my husband is grumpy with me for 3 days, but it will blow over, and he may never tell me what i ‘did wrong’ and it won’t really matter.

Here are the things that I suck at:

I’m not great with real, loud anger. I grew up in a pretty wacky angry home, both of my parents are cranky, and there was some third-party domestic violence thrown in for good measure. In my adult life, i’m pretty good at verbal confrontation and I can stand my ground, but as soon as someone is ANGRY or there looks like there might be yelling, then i start to have an anxiety reaction. I think i equate a lot of yelling with violence, and expect it to escalate. I’d never get out of my car and argue with another driver, i’d be afraid of being hit.

My first defense would be to stop the conversation, agree with whatever they’re saying just so that the conversation will end and i can get away and then re-open the conversation again from a better distance (by phone, by email), or just cooled down the next day.  If I get yelled at on the subway, I would get off the train rather than yell back.

Now, in doing this Team 100 thing, and being sober penpals with some jesus large number of people (174), i realize that i have often anticipated anger.  Sober people come with baggage, right? But so far, really without exception, everyone i’ve been penpals with has been kind and respectful and generous and lovely. There’s an occasional temper tantrum (“But I WANT to”), but i know that that’s Wolfie talking, not the person writing. I know when I’m hearing wolfie even if they don’t know wolfie is speaking.

and i guess I’m not afraid of wolfie because i’ve slowly learned that he’s a bully. He’s full of a lot of hot air.  He’s a gigantic liar. He’s a shit, and I just don’t engage with shits in my life. I really don’t.  I don’t engage. I nod and then move on. If you email me about your wolfie voice, i’ll probably say something kind (“tell him you’ll drink at the end of 100 days” or “get yourself a treat” or “go to bed as soon as possible”), and occasionally i might suggest that you yell at him (“tell him to fuck off, and leave nice girls alone.”)

And as this Team 100 things grows — and it is growing — I’m amazed at what the simple act of emailing can do.


Over the past year I’ve unconsciously phased out my Job #2, The baking and catering has increased, job #1 putters along, and i’ve been doing the sober blogging-emailing-thang, and so i’ve just let job #2 fade out.

I’ve talked to my business coach. and i’m looking at ways of adding a small-group coaching thingy to this blog, to provide another level of connection that would be in addition to the sober penpal thingy.

I’m not afraid of wolfie, but I am — in anticipation — weary of conversations that put recovery and money in the same sentence, Comments of 12th step work. Why is it this? What exactly is my problem?

Some days I feel ready to wade in with “who wants to come and hang out over here in this new treehouse” and other days I think “oh god belle, the emails, the comments, the online recovery trolls will come over here and say thou shalt not … ”

or maybe it’s just a good old fashioned case of “who do you think you are.”


so while I can sing in tune, and i can type 130 wpm, and i am NOT afraid of Wolfie, and i have nice hair, and i have an education degree, and i actually have developed and taught a self-discipline and motivation workshop … I am quite nervous of what I — perhaps incorrectly — perceive to be the dogma-backlash to announcing a new group coaching thing.

So i’m doing this, I’m posting this instead. Yes, I agree, this is kind of lame.  It’s like i’m asking for encouragement, when in fact I’m trying to sort out what I think and how i feel, and i do that through blogging. forgive the self-indulgence.

This is a sober hurdle that everyone has to face: being worried about what other people think. I need to take some of my own advice (you see, i’m really writing this blog as a message to myself). And my advice would be:  fuck em. do your thing. be tough.

And then I’d pull me aside, and I’d put my arm around me, and I’d say, “look, your sisters may not like you very much anymore. But not everyone is out to judge you. Not everyone is closed off to growth and change. Not everything has to be a reaction to your crappy family.”

<le sigh>


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

  • Oh…. so glad you pushed through all the self doubt. Else I never would have got to know you at all! ( and pretty much wouldn’t be sober either)
    “I’d pull me aside and say …..not everyone is out to judge you”
    I’d have you as my sister any day ❤️😘

  • I agree with others here. As my friend always said, “Haters gonna hate” And then I heard somewhere else, “Beyonce doesn’t care about Internet haters … and you shouldn’t either.”

    Frankly, you’re amazing and gifted. It would be a crime not to share that with people who want more of our help. Don’t feed the trolls, delete the ugly hater emails and re-read the comments on this and many other blogs. This is your calling 🙂

  • I had a few more thoughts about this post today on my walk. Belle- there is no BS in your help. You don’t have any phony formula to follow or pointing to signs of the universe. It is down to earth good advice. Go to bed early for example.It is HARD work!so rewards! CAKE!!!! You give simple plain good advice and you are supportive. You are helping so many in such a beautiful way. Money is also a practical necessity and your time is valuable as you are helping other people get more time and more life out of their lives. Looks like it is pretty unanimous here!

  • Agree with all the others who say “Go for it, Belle, you have already started.” Your doing a wonderful thing here and you have every right to make a living off it. Love to you as this goes thru…

  • Belle, I am so excited to watch your venture unfold. This cyber sober community is going to burst wide open and take on Wolfie in a big way. I just feel you have the strength and commitment to lead this and we are all behind you, beside you, and carrying you forward. We love you Belle!

  • I agree with so many here. I’ve only been on this journey 7 days and I can’t imagine I would have had the motivation or courage to get started without reading through your blog and knowing that you so selflessly offered me, a stranger, your support. I still can’t believe I just stumbled across your blog, without even seeking out the subject of sobriety. It made me feel like you are little *internet angel*. I’ll write a testimonial to the awesomeness of Belle – you’ve definitely got a talent for helping others in the most genuine way.

  • Belle, You have helped so many people including myself that it would be a shame if you couldn’t reach more. I also believe you have a special gift for getting this community going and you should just go for it!

  • I just want to say ditto to every one of these comments because I was reading along and nodding. And, yes, sure, you may get some flack from *someone* out there. I believe you did about the Tiny Gift button and this is maybe part of what has you running scared here, no?

    But I agree that you have a gift and also that you have been spending a HUGE amount of time on this and there’s really nothing wrong with being compensated for a very valuable skill that helps other immensely but that takes up quite a bit of time. And you’re not forcing anyone to do anything against their will. I can’t imagine you suddenly spamming all your sober penpals with financial requests (because that would be kind of obnoxious sure), but if you were to offer a service that people can choose to partake of… or not? Why the hell not?

    I think Maya June’s advice is good. Maybe the perspective of sober woman who’ve done this already could help?

    Otherwise, go for it Belle!

    Also, 130WPM? Damn and I thought I typed fast. Now I understand more how the hell you can keep up with all the sober penpals.


  • Belle, it sounds like a great idea. You are spending so much time and effort and helping so many people, and you really do have a gift at this building community thing! You have all my encouragement, and it seems like the same from a whole lot more people. Good luck!

  • Ok, I should be prepping my classroom but this is way more fun. 🙂 (I am the person who, mostly unsolicited, searches for friends’ potential wedding dresses, etc. online instead of grading papers). Forgive me if I am over helping.

    Have you thought about trying to start some sort of grant funded non-profit specializing in recovery support? I know there is funding out there (though likely less than there used to be). I found a grant here that relates to research (could be a tie in somehow?)

    Also, have you reached out to Ellie at Crying Out Now or the woman (her name escapes me) who runs She Recovers? Ellie heads a non-profit org and the woman at She Recovers has parlayed her own recovery into a business of sorts. She Recovers also features a link to other life coaches. You might connect with those folks and see how they got started and what advice they have to offer.

    Anyhow, I think you are awesome and should totally tap into and bolster this whole women-based online recovery thing that seems to be occurring. As I said in my reply, you have a gift! Best, Amy (Maya June)

  • I actually used do life coaching. First a friend wanted some advice and felt I enough wisdom to share. She told her friend and then others followed. That was my Hawaii life. When I left after 26 years and moved to Northern Calif, I found that charging money was a big hurdle of fear. The same fears you expressed Belle and fear is our fuel to keep moving forward. I say listen to only those voices that support you and follow the advice of the only expert on the subject of Belle. That’s you!

  • Belle, Speaking of sixth senses, I too must have that gift b/c I KNEW this was coming for you. Or maybe it was just reading your responses to so many people over the last couple of months. Or reading your own journal for the first couple of months and watching your story unfold. I knew you were going to do SOMEthing big and wonderful for many, MANY people.

    You have an innate wisdom and way with words that is aching to be harnessed and brilliantly molded into something uniquely yours that could grow and flower into whatever you want it to be. I would be surprised if you DIDN’T keep moving forward.

    I have been telling some of my closest friends about you and I wish you could hear me describing you. There aren’t many people that blow me away w/ a writing and wisdom combination. I am somewhat of a snob perhaps when it comes to that — and I PINCH myself that I found your blog when I was searching for a way to tackle my “wolfie”. I woke up one day out of the blue and thought — LOOK ONLINE, THERE MUST BE PEOPLE BLOGGING ABOUT SOBRIETY, OR LACK THEREOF. And less than an hour later I had found you.

    You have my vote and complete confidence in you. No question. It’s your path my friend!

  • You are a powerful force. What I am seeing and feeling in my many hours listening to podcasts, reading blogs and reaching out in my own way is that there seems to be a bit of a revolution brewing, in regards to recovery. Women (and some really awesome men) are coming together to hash out this recovery thing in a really powerful way online. I see you in the same category as the amazing women who put on the Bubble Hour. I think the coaching thing sounds amazing. There is nothing wrong with parlaying a skill or a passion into something that could support you financially. You have a gift. Run with it!

  • I think you can do anything you set your mind to and your job is supposed to be your passion! It’s very obvious from your dedication and how much you help so many here that this is DEFINITELY worth pursuing.

    I have aspirations of becoming a life coach at some point – it’s something I have thought about over the years, but first I have to ‘fix’ myself so I can help others. In the meantime, I learn so much from wonderful people like YOU! Go for it!!

  • Good for you Belle!! Your blog was the first and greatest sober lifeline that I found on the internet. You have an amazing gift and I think it would be a wonderful thing to be able to offer that gift to more people and to see it continue and grow into something that is sustainable for you.
    Love you!
    C x