what could you add?

How the fuck did i ever get here, to a place with 437 days sober…

Kay (day 3): My gosh, I *HAVE* to ask: how did you basically get to where you are now with only ONE day 1?!  I know you went about 9 days in June 2012, but egads, once you started July 1, 2012 you were like the Energizer Bunny … you just kept going and going and going.

This question is both simple and complicated to answer.  I’ll try simple first:

Everyone who has a longer period of sobriety has a very last day 1. We have a time when we quit drinking AND we have the right supports in place AND it works, however clumsily at first. Yes, there are gigantically hard days, and yes there are tears. Yes we make deals with ourselves to drink again in some imaginary ‘future’, and yes we think of quitting sobriety at times (or often). Yes and yes.  Yes I still have to move the catering booze to a place where I can’t see it.  Yes, I wear my Fuck You Wolfie™ bracelet. Yes, I go to bed early some nights, still, just to make this day be finished so i can start again tomorrow.  But yes, I had one last day 1.

Thankfully, now, my fear of fucking that up is GREATER than any fleeting desire, craving, or urge to drink. And for me, once I had 77 days of sobriety, i realized that i feared regret more than I wanted to drink. I can and could still fuck it all up in the future, i’m not idiotic enough to think that i’m special in that regard. I continue to take the advice of people with longer sobriety than me. I trust that they have no reason to lie or exaggerate. If they say ‘watch out for this’ then i watch out. I do not have to learn all of life’s lessons first-hand: i am willing to take advice and support from other people.

Here’s the not-simple answer.

If you quit drinking, struggle through two days sober, drink again, then wake up to a terrible hangover deciding to quit forever, and then crawl through three days sober only to drink again… I admire you. I really do. You’re continuing to try to quit. And it’s hard. I get that. I get many emails from Team 100 members just like this. They’re heartbreaking. The feelings of despair and shame and fatigue. It’s ‘sucky’ in the extreme.

But if YOU try to quit repeatedly, and you don’t change anything about HOW you’re quitting, then you’re opening the door to misery and you’re welcoming it in.

Sometimes when someone emails me and says “do you have any advice on how I can make this be my last time quitting?” I’ll say something like: “Look at what you’ve been doing up to now to help you be sober.  It’s good, but it’s not enough. You need to add more support. Do you know what that might look like for you?”

Support for you being sober could be a whole bunch of things.  What have you done up to now and what could you ADD?

I wrote a version of this list in an email to A back in July (she is now thankfully on day 49 after a couple of restarts):

me: if I could wave my magic wand for you, I’d recommend the following (you can take from this whatever seems useful to you).

Email me twice a day for at least the first 30 days.

Get up and read a sober blog (unpickled, mine, and others with good recounting of their earlier days). Start your day with some kind of re-commitment to being sober. Listen to an audio. Write in a journal. Decide to be sober for today.

Make sure you get enough sleep at least 5 out of 7 nights a week, make this a super high priority.

In early sobriety, you can and should completely avoid situations that feel like they’re going to suck (don’t TRY to drop by the office party for half an hour … just skip it entirely.)

Let friends know in advance that you’re not drinking when you’re meeting for dinner … I am meeting my former landlord today, he’s in town and wanted to take us out for ‘drinks’, I said we could meet at the local café at 4 pm for a Perrier because I’m working. I didn’t say any more than that, but at least I won’t arrive to find him there with an open bottle of wine and a look on his face expecting me to drink half (which I wouldn’t now, but I don’t want him to waste money either).

Get the phone number of at least one person you can call if you’re feeling spectacularly crummy.  One friend, sister, sponsor, spousal-unit, anybody. Sober friend. Even if long-distance.

Book coaching calls in advance so that you know you’re going to be accountable in the future.

Be very kind to yourself. If you don’t feel like doing something, don’t do it. Pretend you’re sick.

Get a treat at least every 2 days. Every day if you’re feeling shitty.

Find one hobby that you have already that you can reinvigorate and/or the photography project, and/or something else. Running.

Have a plan for the evenings at least for the first few weeks.  Like, specifically plan what you’re going to do during the early evening.  Buy movie tickets in advance. Sign up for a spot at the gym. Whatever. Something where you are unlikely to cancel.

Eat as much cake as you feel like for at least the first 60 days. I used to start with raisins and apple at about 7 p.m., but I would escalate to cake if that wasn’t enough.

Some kind of exercise — even 15-20 minutes, 4-5 times a week. Walking, running, swimming.  Something where you can just think and sweat and get away from swarming grey thoughts of sobriety.

Have a replacement drink for 6 p.m. (tonic + grapefruit juice, something bitter works better for me).

Don’t get too hungry, eat before you’re hungry.

You can decide that you are going to drink again, but NOT until after the 100 days.  That will usually get wolfie to shut up.  it still works for me.

It’s better to have too many supports than not enough.  Some others in Team 100 are going to AA, or other recovery meetings. Maybe you’d like to add some of this kind of support. In person or online.

Finally, I don’t think quitting drinking is simply a matter of willpower.  We boozers have confused thinking and it leads us to NOT act in our best interest (i.e. wolfie convinces us to keep drinking). I don’t think it’s a matter of waiting until life is less stressful. I don’t think it’s (even) about waiting for the click, although having a click can certainly help …

I think it’s about lining up the right kind and amount and intensity of support. What does that look like for YOU? well, depends on what you need. Do you need a sober penpal, have you tried blogging daily, have you tried meetings. Have you tried talking with your doctor, have you tried reaching out when you feel shitty.

What can you do this time to help make it more likely that THIS will be your last day 1? Well, what have you NOT done before that you can add to your toolbox.

(And a note about toolboxes … they’re not just for carrying around, you know. Don’t get sucked into thinking that being sober is just a matter of collecting tools. You have to actually use the tools. ahem.)

Poor Kay! sorry, this long rant is probably not what you expected from me this 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

  • Exactly the kind of information what I was looking for at the beginning, so scared- I was desperate to find steady footsteps to follow. (get away from swarming grey thoughts of sobriety: hits home indeed) Thank you for your candour and inspiration.

  • Belle – thank you for your support – I managed 73 days sober but find myself back again at day 1. Please continue with your e-mails and support it is really appreciated – I will do this. I know I will.

  • I’m at Day 10 , Definitely better than the first three or four days, Last night was a good night sleep, A good cup of coffee this morning a hot tub in the early morning with an almost a full moon , walked the dog and I’m Feeling gratitude For this moment

  • Well, here I am again, after a long break from “being sober” – not drinking every day, not getting passing out drunk, more than a few times. But drinking alone, stealing drinks, sneaking off to buy a bottle of Scotch, which I can just about make last two days, and then not drinking for a day, 2 days, a week. But still feeling shitty about it, about myself, about lying and pretending. This is Day 6. My previous best was over a year, so I have a long road to walk yet. We’ll see.

  • I love how “do different, add more layers or tools to your sober toolkit, and oh btw, you have to actually use the tools” is still relevant to me right now, at day 37 of multiple quits. For me it will always be relevant. Because we must always continue to learn, grow and develop, experiment and even risk getting it wrong to try to live our best lives. This is the first time I am working on living my best life with positive anticipation of my future, no longer looking at what I can’t do, have to not do, have to give up, have to stop doing. And guess what? So far I’m no longer tired of thinking about drinking, cuz I’m not! Im not thinking about drinking and I’m not tired. I’m actually living my best life and being my best self for today. Tomorrow is a new day.

  • I think hindsight is a wonderful thing 🙂 When I was going through repeating the early parts it didn’t seem as clear as “do something different” and frankly I’m not really sure what was the final layer of support that helped to keep me going….
    I do think it’s about not giving up and keeping on trying different things; and I think before I got to the point of realising that sobriety was probably the best option: I had to get to a place where drinking wasn’t really working anymore. It wasn’t enjoyable; I was only drinking because I didn’t know how “not” to.
    But I think it’s different for everyone. I also think that if I can do it then it’s totally possible for anybody to- because I spent years and years trying to stop before I finally managed to. I would highly recommend not doing it that way! Because really; alcohol adds absolutely nothing to life; despite what all the messages society gives. It sure does heap a load of misery though!
    But I think if someone is already at the place of stopping/starting then there is probably already almost enough tools in place to stop for good- just never give up looking for extra support….. it’s totally possible and not at all about willpower….

  • 28 days without s drink of alcohol. I tried to find a balance with it but then revert to tye wine again. Its not over til its over but Im in bed early and watching lots of escapism. Im dreading the end of lockdown as all my socialising involves drinking and getting drunk! And i dont know whether its my mental health but my mind is racing!

  • For me – a great blog. I do well with lists so a list of tools definitely a go to when I feel rough. Thanks Belle and all others who reply because you are all helping me, you’re all one of my tools – day 8.

    • I have said a million times I’m never drinking again but, I always end up going back to it. I have been able to stop drinking for periods of time successfully. I even have short term healthy relationships with alcohol, like having a glass of wine say once a week without getting drunk. For me though there always comes that one time where i drink too much and it’s like a switch is flipped. I quit drinking about 33 days ago but, have had a beer (at three weeks) and two glasses of wine at a month sober. I can see my brain is trying to convince myself I can be “normal” that I’m fine to just drink occasionally. Where do I go from here? Is this normal ?

      • I am not a huge fan of AA, however the ‘one day at a time’ saying seemed to help me. Sometimes it came down to 5 minutes at a time, but still. If you can get through the next hour, then the one after that until bed, you have another whole day behind you! I’m now sier. Keep using your tools. I am still reading what Belle writes every single day. Distract, sleep, treat….all good things. That voice telling you you can be normal is Wolfie! Tell him vehemently to shut up and get off your shoulder!

  • Ugh. Reading and commenting on this blog is the “tool” that I’ve added since my last relapse. It helps. But it is still hard – today I’m sick and feel awful, and it seems like nothing will make me feel ok except a drink. I’ve had a bath, I’ve done this and that. But that voice is still hammering away in my head, “have a drink, just have one”. This is wolfie, I suppose 🙂 ssh! It doesn’t help that there are others drinking in my home – but I was reading (an email from here?) that popped up right at the right time: the gist of it being – there’s only enough strength to get myself sober. Not my boyfriend, not the others drinking. Stop, breathe. Be quiet now racing thoughts.

  • Today is my first last day. Yes, I said it many times before, but I’m just so, so, ever so tired of drinking and hangovers…
    I came across this blog some hours ago, while doing my usual routine after a night of drinking: finding support to help me stop. So, fingers crossed everyone, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak 🙁

    • Fingers crossed for you, SheWolf. It’s scary and hard, but you’ve got nothing to lose. I hope your first last day goes well, and I’m sending positive thoughts your way.

  • Thank you so much for this today. I flew threw my first 20 something days and even mentioned to my Hubby how easy it was to just stop. He was surprised too and mentioned how impressed he was with me just stopping all on my own. Than I drank again. Just for a day but I binged. I think I need more, I need to get a tool box and start using it. I want this to be my last day 1 forever.

  • I love the advice about being kind to yourself and pretending that you’re sick. Before, I’d swear to myself I was going to stop drinking, then kept being so hard on myself, basically mentally beating myself up for the situation until I just said, “screw it,” and drank more. I very much like doing things FOR myself instead of TO myself. 31 days today!

  • Are there crucial warning days? I know when I quit smoking over 15 yrs ago there were certain high risk days. Eg 7 days. 3 mons. 6 mons. When those high risk days arrived. It gave me incentive to not smoke. Any tips out there. Btw. On day 5 for the umpteenth time

    • for me, there were crucial celebration days 🙂 the first 7-9 days are yucky and then it’s much better. a big upswing in happy around day 16. then again at day 30 and day 60. wolfie likes soberversaries but you can sort of see him coming and you know what it’s about …

  • I love this; I’ve had too many day ones. I have tried lot of methods. Meetings, rehab all that stuff doesn’t seem to work anymore. The funny part is it’s not that challenging for me to stop; but staying stopped is! Thanks a lot for sharing 🙂

    • if you can stop, then I think you can stay stopped. a lot of people can’t stop at all, so I think maybe you’ve got to just get some momentum going… there’s probably a magic day where you seem to lose the feeling… maybe it’s day 7-9 (which would be typical). if so, then email me and I’ve got some ideas on what you can do instead to get you through the hump. cuz once your sober car starts to roll downhill, it’s the best feeling EVER! hugs, belle xo

      • One more idea…a written contract. We will see of it helps – I’ve had more 1st day repeats than I can count. In fact, several since I said I would quit on 2/9/14. Guess what? That didn’t work. I’m now “tapering down” for next two days with beer (I’m a wine drinker) so it’s not such a shock to my body. And my new “final” 1st day…April 1st. 1. It’s easy to remember. 2 every year I can celebrate how I’m no longer acting like a fool.

  • Belle, late to this post but being on my second Day One this is just what i needed to see. You helped me so much the first time around and I see you are still helping so many. I look forward to your motivating presence in my life once again.

  • It really is a case of not getting complacent! Made the mistake of thinking “oh I have done a week & it’s been easy, I can have just one!”

    Fast forward 24 hours & full of regret – blew my first Day One so having day One (part 2) and spent afternoon re-reading this blog

    Sorry for letting Team 100 (& myself down) but feeling remarkably positive. Sometimes you need a fall to make you get back up stronger!!

  • You are the best sobriety advice on the web these days, Belle. I so enjoy reading your blog and especially the comments.

  • Wonderful advice Belle, as always. We never know which Day 1 will be the last. Each time you try, try with all your might and then some. It will work and then you will want to get as far away from that last day1 as possible and never go back.
    Look at you with all go those days!! Fabulous!

  • I found your blog today, and over the past ten hours or so, I have read every entry, signed up for the challenge and am thinking there is a solution, having tried so many times before. I’m a bit sad/scared at having finished the blog that I dont know what to do next, maybe keep reading other blogs ? I am not naive enough to know that it will be difficult and wolfie can change your whole mindset in a matter of moments.

    Thanks for the inspiration

    • well, I think that once you get yourself focussed, and you reach out for help, then you have begun already. You’re doing what needs to be done right now : ) Read, sleep, run, sleep and eat cake. Practise reaching out when wolfie is screaming. and wait … it gets better, and quickly.

  • This was really helpful for me, thanks. I’m a bit more “evolved” than sober two days, drink, sober 3 days, drink. More like sober 5-6 days, then drink again but not as much as I did before. First, thanks for admiring those of us in the cycle. It’s nice to be acknowledged and recognized 🙂

    Mostly, thanks for such good advice. I never thought of changing what I do as I endeavor to be sober, but it seems so obvious now. Don’t do it the same way that failed in the past, and add more support. I need to spend time thinking about what support would be for me.

    • nice to hear from you : ) I think the natural tendency is just to “try again harder” but not really do anything differently… this seems to me to be a recipe for sadness. if each time you tried again, you added more stuff, then you’d be in a more successful place each time. and then you can have a final day 1 and move on : ) hugs from me.

  • Timely reminders as I find myself adrift emotionally (but sober)…not good to feel alone, grasping for that solid, forward momentum…so, reminded…I make a plan..call a friend, get out of the house and go to the gym…decide on that hobby. And, “changingcoursenow”…thank you for the reminder that sobriety is a gift that one gives to oneself. It is a gift to be clearly alive, no fuzzy edges.
    Thanks all.

  • Belle,
    I only really had one Day One and am now on day 94. I keep waiting for the bomb to drop because this has gone so smoothly. But I did have my toolbox in place and I used each of my tools. I did much of the same on June 17, 1983 when I quit smoking. Although I had many day one’s back then, once I really had my head around it, I threw the nasty pack away and never looked back. I read a great little book back then called “You can quit” which can be used for any substance. It convinced me that I was not giving up anything, but rather I was “Giving” myself a huge gift. That really struck me. I use that visual for alcohol as well. I have given myself such a wonderful “Gift.” Why would I want to give it back? Hugs!

    • I love the idea of a gift. I have been going to AA (which I don’t like by the way) and someone keeps talking about the gift of alcoholism, because through that she became a better person blah blah blah. I much prefer the gift of sobriety, especially at my age (67) and with my physical problems (diabetic, etc). Being sober has been much more of a gift to me. I will remember this! Day 193.

      • Great way to look at sobriety as a gift. As you were writing your reply to Belle I was taking my last drink. Sober since April 2 and loving who I am becoming even at the age of 52.