the sewer, the manhole cover, and the forecast is sunny

I’ve been thinking about quitting drinking. It’s a bit like getting out from underneath a manhole cover. It’s a big, weighty thing, that threatens to slam back down on us if we aren’t careful.

When we’re in the sewer (drinking) and we’re covered by the manhole cover, well, we’re dealing with a ‘known’ state. We know that the place smells, we know the view is terrible, and that it’s dark. There’s no future. There is only regret and heartache.

When we get out of the sewer, and we stop drinking, at first we look over our shoulder, and we see the stinky sewer drinking hole. We let the manhole cover slam into place, and then we’re standing alone in the sunlight. Quite terrified. We try to explain the sewer and the manhole cover and the desperation to normal drinkers, and they don’t really understand.  We slowly, block by block, day by day, begin to walk AWAY from the hole behind us. With or without tools, with or without support.  With or without knowing what the fuck we’re doing.

And now there are two choices.  We can continue to look behind us.  See the hole again and again. Periodically test how heavy the manhole cover is.  Sample the delicious aroma of the sewer.  Or we can walk forward, into a place unknown, where it is forecast to be sunny with cloudy periods.

Yes. Bad crap still happens in the sunny place (kid, job, money, health-related), and yes, you might be tempted to turn around and look longingly at the sewer.  You’ll think that maybe it’d be a good idea to go back there, just for a minute, cuz at least it’s dark and quiet and stinky and depressing in there.

K (day 116): “I’m still sober but sort of wishing I wasn’t.  It’s funny how even though I know drinking would make things worse, I want to drink or I should say I want to check out & drinking is the only way to truly stop my mind.  Treating myself to a vacation, a massage, exercise don’t stop my mind or make the stress, worry, sadness, exhaustion go away.  I’m in a bad place & really trying to figure out what needs to be done to get out of it.  I just don’t know how.  Just had to get that out there hoping for a little relief.  The good news is even though in some ways I would like to drink, for the most part I truly have no desire to drink.  It’s not an option & I’m good with that.”

Belle:  my dear, let me say this.  turning to booze as the solution, well it really just is not a solution.  It’s a very temporary pause button (manhole cover) with horrendous consequences.  It’d be like turning to heroin.  It just isn’t the right solution for the problem. You might need time off, help, someone to talk to, a break, to cry, to yell, to vent, to write, to run, to sleep.  You may not know yet what you need to do to feel better.  But with 100% certainty, slamming your hand in the manhole cover (i.e. drinking) isn’t a solution.  I agree you need some solutions.  You don’t need to add problems. Let’s find you a solution 🙂

From my inbox:

Susan (39): “I have been thinking a lot about why alcohol was such a pull to me … I have the memory of feeling overwhelmed and anxious and having a couple of glasses of champagne and suddenly I was happy, all that I was worried about had disappeared. When I realized this I saw that I was using something outside myself to make me happy.  Somehow I felt that I couldn’t do it on my own.  Then this overwhelming thought came over me… I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN HAPPINESS … I cannot express in words how this affected me.  All these years I had been looking outside myself for happiness, when in truth it is me who is responsible for feeling that way.  If I am stressed out at the end of the day, I have to look to the balance in my life.  If things are overwhelming i have to develop the tools to deal with it.   I cannot express in words how deeply this rang in me.  I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN HAPPINESS!  From this place I was able to look at my drinking with compassion instead of shame.  Nothing to be ashamed of … you just didn’t know …  I feel free in such a beautiful simple way. I chose not to drink and instead, I choose to believe in myself.”

PP:  “I am not a joiner, not an extrovert, avoid facebook, cannot see myself joining AA … common sense is with me in the morning and escapes me in the later day. Sometimes I find the days too long. Enough yammering. I signed up for your coaching class. Already this morning, in bed, I decided on my mantra for today: Today I will be sober.”

Team 100 Update:

219 members, welcome to Dawn D (9), Brett (4), and Elizabeth (3). Happy days to Leigh (7), Jen (Mommy) (7), KT (116), Paula (86), Allie (29), JG (17), Colleen (8), Mary (90), Zenmeg (49), Melinda (60), Maya June (60), Lime Tree (60), Pete (50), Liberte (7), Stargal (51), BST (31), Pam (14), Tami (20), Catkin (32) .  Hooray for Elle and Leah – they both hit 100 days!

Here’s what Leah has to say:  “Thank you!  I was calculating a few days ago and realized I was coming up on 100.  I can’t believe it! For so long I would be thinking “oh, I should probably stop drinking” but it felt impossible.  Alcohol really does sap your will, make you think you can’t do without it.  So it took a “hit bottom” moment — a trip to the ER — to finally make me stop. I am happy to be sober, and grateful that my “hit bottom” moment didn’t involve any permanent damage.  But lately I find myself not wanting to look back anymore, shying away from memories from when I was drinking.  Now that not drinking is “normal” I find myself wanting to forget that I ever did anything else.  I think that’s a mistake — both because I think it’s important to remember why I never want to go back, and because it makes me feel less happy and proud of myself for being able to give it up.  I think both of those things are important.  Anyway, I also want to thank you.  Coming across your 100 day challenge happened at just the right time, and I love the community you’ve created at your blog.  And I am so glad you are expanding your blog to start a coaching business and classes.  You are a natural at it!”

</um, blushes, thanks>


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

  • Belle you are truly a breath of fresh air to my oldish sozzled body. I had stopped drinking for 5 days when I came across your book. I’d read some other terrifying sober books that did not resonate with me; just too many “I’ve just crawled out of a cess-pit, fallen down the stairs, crashed the car while drunk, blacked out yet again” etc. I wanted to scream “just get to the point!” And tell me what to do! So I’m on my 8th day sober, second read through your book; still scared and nervous but hopeful. I see the book came out in 2016 so hope you are still online in 2023. 🙂 Patti in Australia. PS have already bought the Wolfie book.

  • I just downloaded your book and followed the link here. I’ve just started university as a mature student, staying in a flat near the campus. On my own. Not a good setup for me – being away from home pushes all my insecurity buttons. And no one checking up on me. I’ve missed two days because of drinking. I know if I carry on I will fail at this which will be a terrible shame and a waste after all the hard work and effort to get here. I need a drastic change because everything I’ve tried so far has t worked. Today is my last day 1.

  • I found your name and blog in Catherine Gray‘a book.
    After reading your emails for a while bought your audio book the other day and finished listening to it today. Went to links and read this post (the first link on your list).
    I found myself finishing alcohol I had in the house last night. Was very proud of myself for 1). not drinking the night before as it was the eve of a long dental appointment to install bridges in my implants so I can wave farewell to a removable partial denture that I had to put up with since June 2002; 2). being able to pay cash for the bill, 1/3 of which was from my Russian pension account (which was tricky given the war going on in Europe). I totally agree, ‘celebrating’ these awesome events by pouring alcohol on my head is lunacy, but like so many others, I don’t have easily accessible and reliable ways to celebrate. Yet. Don’t want to pick under the manhole cover any longer. Utterly hope today is my last day one. Was totally blown away by your reason to get pen pals – I want that kind of sobriety insurance too!

  • I just bought this book tired about thinking of drinking. I am only in part 1 and saw this blog. I have not given up drinking but I really want to. I have been drinking consistently for years. Always functioned, went to work did some chores so I felt I didn’t have a problem. I have been very happily married for 33 years but throughout the last two have been drinking more. My wonderful husband has been so good but now had enough of my drinking. Understandable. He said he can’t take much more but happy if I seek help and try and quit. This book so far is inspirational … I am an alcoholic and want to be sober.

  • Thank you for the mancover analogy and the blog and sending me this link today, because I needed it. I am responsible for my own happiness, yes, and also for reaching out for help! I searched and found your blog. I’m grateful for you and your 100-day challenge, all your insights, everyone’s insights.

  • Another fabulous post by the inimitable Belle. How blessed are we to be able to access your wisdom and your experiences and apply them t o our own lives ?~! We don’t have to re-invent sobriety, you steer us there with certainty and support.

    Happy 100 days Leah and Elle; here’s to the next hundred !~!

      • You’re welcome. Words are inadequate to express how important a job you are doing here. I think of how my journey may have been made less lonely with the Web and you and others like you who have this gift. AA didn’t appeal to me and so I stumbled thru it mostly alone and made it, don’t get me wrong; but with this type of support it would have been a lot different and that’s the blessing that I see you are to the 100 club and who knows how many other lurkers…

  • I love this. If you look at it this way drinking is NEVER a good idea. I hope I can get to that place eventually! I am patient. I am patient. I am patient. 🙂

  • Oh MAN is this exactly what I needed to read right now. BOOM. Thanks B. I have been meaning to blog about the fact I’ve been struggling with the ‘will I drink now’ and ‘is this forever’ and ‘what next’ thoughts and realised I need to stay close to the sobersphere and read and post and comment and get my head back on right and I log in and here is this perfect post.

    LOVE with an extra <3 on top

    Lilly xoxox

  • I agree with you Susan…”that it’s my responsibility for my own happiness”! I think that’s awesome that at 39 days you can feel compassion rather than shame for drinking. It took me a long time to let go of the shame and guilt and ‘what a bad person I was for getting so lost’ feeling. Freedom is exactly right! Isn’t it so nice?! 🙂
    Belle that is a great metaphor! EXACTLY! It was dark down there and I never want to go back there. I chose sunny days with periods of clouds for sure!
    Congrats on 100 days to Elle and Leah!!! Hugs!

  • Yes, yes, yes. YES. Sometimes (OK, a lot) I think it might be a good idea to drink; but then I grudgingly (at first) admit that it’s simply not a solution. And, that takes the pull of the buzz away, enough for me to even more clearly think (and feel really, really grateful to myself for making the right choice again), Yeah, NO, drinking is the opposite of solution–like you said, a big fat pause button. I’m tired of pausing! I want to hear the rest of the song!