The Parts That Work

I caught myself in a self-sabotage this morning.

Over the past few days I have lucked into a routine that working. As a girl who requires a lot of sleep (!), and being someone who routinely finds herself trying to function on not enough sleep, I read something this weekend and it spurred me to really take some action. Like for real.

So starting on Sunday night (and again on Monday and Tuesday), I did the following:

  • Turn off computer at 9 pm.
  • Go for a walk outside in the fresh air somewhere I’ve been before so that it’s pretty routine. No ipod, no music, no phone. Just head out in one direction for 15 minutes and then turn and come home. Use this time to think about the day. The Parts That Worked and the Parts That Could Be Fine-Tuned.
  • Come home and go straight to bed at 9:30 pm. Don’t stop to do anything.
  • Get into bed, no book. I have turned on the pink fairy lights in the bedroom before I left for my walk.
  • Now that I’m in bed with the pink lights, no book, I can just rest. Looking around.
  • Asleep by 10 pm. I then sleep for (no kidding) 9 or 9.5 hours straight.
  • Get up whenever I wake, which today was 7 a.m.
  • No computer. Run first thing (even if only for 10 minutes which is my magic amount to feel better).
  • Home to shower, make coffee, eat breakfast, write 2 pages of morning pages.
  • No TV while eating lunch (I’ve been reading instead).
  • No sweets during the day (lots of apples and raisins), saving dessert for after dinner. I had gotten into the habit of having dessert with lunch and dinner (!)
  • Turn off computer at 9 pm.
  • Repeat 🙂

This particular routine has given me the best, even moods since … forever. This isn’t a magic cure-all formula, but it’s working really well for me. At least this week. I’m also symptom-free on new medication but only for the past 3 days. Coincidence? How much of my general well-being is linked to self-care? Probably a lot more than I’m willing to admit. How important is enough sleep so that I feel competent the next day? Huge.

So here’s the self-sabotage. You do this too, right?

Remember, I’ve found something that’s really working for me (like in early sobriety, reading lots of blogs, emailing penpals, removing ourselves from temptation, going to meetings, whatever).

But because Mr. B. was up with me at 7 a.m. this morning, he made coffee.

I usually make coffee after I run, after I shower.

But once he had made the coffee already, my brain went like this:

Oh look there’s coffee, I can just skip my routine today. I don’t have to do this whole thing today. I can have sugar for breakfast – how about banana bread and coffee right now? And some coffee right now. Just skip the run. Skip the sugar before dinner thing. Yeah that sounds amazing. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

And RIGHT when i started to think like this, i thought holy this is just like early sobriety. We get a mini-routine going, we figure out what is working. And instead of doing more of the same, we often immediately start to pitch the parts that are working.

In favour of what? In favour of the unknown?

Sure a bit of adventure is fun. Change things up a bit.

But if the goal on my nightly walk was to review the Parts That Work and fine-tune the other parts, nowhere in there would it make logical sense to toss the parts that work.

You’re newly sober for 10 days. You think “I’m good. I don’t have to follow this so carefully. It’s been really easy for me. (Or the hard part is over already.) Maybe today I’ll go have lunch in a bar and order water.”

So that’s when it hits me. Just because we know what will make us feel better (my sleep routine / implementing sober tools) doesn’t mean we actually do them. We fuck ourselves up all the time.  All. The. Time.

Did I have to drink coffee because it was there? No.

Do you have to meet your girlfriends for drinks on a Friday night at 9 pm in a club? No, you don’t. Can you maybe get by and survive? Sure. Maybe you can.

But why fuck with something that’s already working.

Being happily sober is kind of a fragile thing in the beginning. Sort of like being happily symptom-free and sleeping well is for me right now.

Did I drink the coffee?

Nope 🙂 I went for my run. Came home and showered. Did my morning pages. Had coffee after. No banana bread. yet.

am i a moralizing preaching wannabe? maybe. but i’m writing to myself. and my message to me is “for fuck’s sake, stop fucking with things that are already working ‘just to see what happens’ … there’s no great benefit in finding where the edge of the cliff is. Lest you fall off.”


~ Happy Day 50 to Vero!

~ Happy Day 180 to Quinn!


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

  • Another subtle wolfie move is to try convince us to take on too many good/hard things at once, thereby creating good-habit-overload-syndrome, which increases the chances of failure.

    We have all done this: “hey, I’ve quit drinking for 3 days, I think I’ll lose 20 pounds, get up every morning at 5:00 a.m., run a marathon in May, etc. etc.” This makes it easier to say “fuck it” and go back to the old days the first time the scale goes up or you miss that marathon running workout…

    Belle: I think one of your great insights is resisting this pressure to pile on in this way, especially in the early days of soberness. Keep first things first, in other words.

    • thanks for this reminder. the whole “I can quit drinking, go on a diet, leave my husband, run a marathon” the same week trick. and then the fuck-it comes too quickly thereafter…

  • I feel like this was written for me. Things were going pretty easily for me..I had a routine going it was working. I now realize that the things that took me out of my routine ended up hurting me. I gave myself too much credit and was around too much temptation. Early sobriety is fragile. I have to learn that it’s ok not to go to happy hour and drink water. Not until more sobriety is gained. Routines need to be kept and thinking about what worked today is a great idea. Focus on the positive! Thanks for this post Belle!

  • Hey Belle.. I love reading about your journey and your thought processes and your techniques and you’re figuring-stuff-out… I love watching what you are doing in helping so many people.. I love your focus on all the small little details about life and how the days pass and how to get through them being the best, most whole, most authentic version of yourself. I love all of it. I haven’t commented for a while but I always read and am a huge fan. Sending big love from New Zealand xxx

  • I could have written this post! That self care stuff is so hard to stay on top off – especially if you have a variable schedule. I’ve been sober for almost 10 months now, and the sobriety part gets easier, but my overall impulse control has just gone to hell, especially with sugar. If I have any sweet thing in the house – cookies, ice cream, I will eat it. All of it.

    I’ve read articles before that say that willpower is a finite thing – so, if you expend it in one area of your life, you lose it in others. When I was first getting sober and using all my willpower to fight those cravings, I didn’t care if I lost willpower around sugary things, because getting sober was the goal. But I established bad sugar habits (well, honestly, I’ve always had bad sugar habits – they just got worse when I got sober), and I’m finding it hard to break them. I’ve also been really good about saving money for the last few months (which is way easier to do when you’re not drinking), and so I feel like I’m expending all the willpower in the sobriety/spending area of my life, and all the self care stuff is getting neglected.

    Glad that you’ve found a routine that works for you, Belle. I say stick with it and prioritize it. I personally am inspired to try to stick with my 9:00 pm bedtime and no-sugar-before-dinner goals tonight!

  • Thanks for that FFF and Belle, even after 240 some days I’m still into coffee drinks and cookies. Keep blaming the weather for it. But there really isn’t any rush, once I can get out and walk and garden I won’t have time for so many cookies and coffee drinks. ( I hope). And I need to come up with a healthy but fun routine to follow and STICK to it.

    • This just struck every nerve in my body. I self sabotage all the time. At least I did. I am working really hard to stop doing it. I had a great daily routine going for me and then got sick – not hospital sick – just one of those fever, chills no way going to the gym is going to happen because I am coughing my lungs up – sick. Just starting to get better now. I started to make every excuse in the book to not eat right…. i’m sick so eating crap if fine…I can’t to a kick ass workout so don’t even bother to take a walk instead…how bad could a glass of wine really be, it will sooth the cough…..I didn’t eat crap, I took a walk in the park (after the fever broke) and I made a cup of tea with honey & lemon. I feel proud, but in the back of my mind I’m still saying maybe just one more drink. Damn I hate that voice, but for now I’m not listening. It is reassuring to know that I am not alone with this whole self sabotage thing. Why is it so easy to help others stay strong but so so hard to keep myself from f-ing up?! Thanks for being here Belle!!

  • Ahh yes, I know this feeling!

    I self sabotage more now that I’m sober, I think. It seems to be part of my early sobriety adjustment. Sugar and coffee are the two things that all my sensible thinking goes out of the window with, because I just want to feel better NOW and coffee and sugar give me the boost I want when i want it…

    Your fair lights idea sounds heavenly- it’s just reminded me that I’ve got out of the habit of lighting my Sober Cocoon Candle every night like I used to- I’ll start on that tonight again, it makes my room smell like roses and Happy Places :0)

    • I think though that in early sobriety, we’re still figuring so much stuff out. all of our patterns, and stuff. sometimes sweets are required to deal with cravings. that’s just the truth. then over time we sort through everything, bit by bit. but there’s no rush. you’re going to be sober for a long time …

      • I like that. There ISN’T any rush, you’re right. And feeling my way is working to keep me sober, rather than trying to fix everything at once…

      • and to be fair, I’m on month 20 something. when I was on month 2, I still felt a lot like a good wind could tip me over. I knew I needed more sleep, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to actually do it. sober first. everything else works itself out later…

  • Hi Belle,

    I love this post! It is soooo me! If I start a new routine that is healthy, which is always away from my norm(!), then it takes one thing to fuck me up!

    Yesterday, a new routine is trying to emerge. As I am off from work for a month of medical leave, I will only be receiving 60% of my usual pay, and without any of the over time I was used to. I haven’t received that first check yet, so I don’t know what the exact amount is really going to be, although I have guesstimated.

    In an effort to see where I could cut back, I called the cable company to reduce my TV service. I don’t need all those premium channels! They used to be a treat because I worked hard and I deserved treats. At the same time, the rep suggested I boost my internet service. Great, I said. Then she hit the switch and the TV is still out! So was the internet, but I got that back.

    So there I was at 5 PM with no TV for the night! Ughhhhh! What was I going to do??? Well, I had just enough time to change clothes and out the door I went to a women’s meeting at 5:30 that I have been meaning to go to, but (during happy hour, really?). Then I read my AA Big Book when I got home and to bed early.

    TV is such a time suck!

    Doing really well here! Thanks for your support!


    • I agree about your thoughts on tv… we don’t have a physical tv set anymore (9+ years for me). too much of a time suck. we periodically watch something streamed on the internet, but not just ‘having the tv on for the sake of having it on’…

  • I have been there so many times. Thanks for always being so open and honest. Every single one of your posts helps me in some way. Sometimes big and sometimes just a little. It’s nice to know that I am not alone. Thanks.

  • Sometimes I think I get stuck there. How dare circumstances take away my right to be spontaneous! It takes an effort for me to think about the shit I’ve gotten myself into and howme being “spontaneous” is what helped me get into trouble in the first place.

    • I think that getting stuck there, for me, is a kind of wolfie thought. the one that says ‘fuck it’ – even when my routine isn’t very rigid – I mean, I’m not giving up carbs or eating whole food, or doing anything terribly radical, just trying to ensure I get enough sleep. how spontaneous do I have to be to disrupt routines that support me?