trying to find what works. try DIFFERENT.

[Now that I have finished writing the sober book, and cover art is being designed (!), I have spent some time looking back on earlier journals about the writing process. i can see that it took a LOT longer than i thought it would to find out HOW to write, to find a pattern, a rhythm.

i discovered that writing is like early sobriety: shit is hard, then it gets easier, then we don’t know what we’re doing, then we figure some things out, and then we make daily, small progress.

i’m going to post some of the writing that i did over the last year that ‘helped’ me figure out the sober writing thing. Because the parallels with sobriety are huge and many.]

June 29, 2015 – 5:15 a.m.

i explained to Mr. B. last night in bed, i have the writing tools, i have the talent, i have something to say, the part to figure out is psychological. How to find a routine (like getting up at 5:15 a.m.) that i can just move into without too much wrestling. How to self-soothe enough (i demonstrate what self-soothe means to him by stroking his arm, once, twice, three times). I know he doesn’t understand, so i say “i’m going to try different things until something clicks.”

Maybe I need this AND this (it’s not either/or, it’s And+And) …
i have more to share from the June 29th morning journal, but i also have this from the real writing session. this has since been edited and condensed. but this general section made it into the final version of the book.

<begin writing extract> This physical sensitivity, it extends beyond clothing. I’m super ticklish and so I have only had two pedicures in my life. (And you’re like oh I love pedicures, maybe I’m NOT super sensitive, I’m NOT like her at all, good I can STOP reading this book now, I don’t HAVE a drinking issue, because I don’t do THAT.)

I’m jumpy. Highly tuned central nervous system. I hate the dentist because I am so squirrely. I’ve been known to bite the hand that drills me. He’ll say “let me know if this hurts” and I’m like, oh, you’ll know.

The chiropractor: this won’t hurt much (oh god it hurts a lot). In the hospital after surgery, he just rips off the double sticky tape from my groin in one big yank (but he’s got his cell phone up to his ear while he does it, so I feel like I can’t yell out loud, the savage, he trapped me into being silent while he yanked at me. I wince and wrench, and he’s like what? You don’t have big man-hairy legs …) I don’t. But it’s hard to explain. You see I feel things. I feel a lot of things (physically) that you don’t Mister Doctor Man. That you don’t feel them (sir, doctor) doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

I get motion sick. Cars are bad news for me. Unless I’m in the front seat, or the journey is less than 35 minutes. There are no boats in my life. No small tippy ferries. I don’t sit facing backwards on the train. (My sister is much worse, she’s green and heaving as soon as she sees water, a plane, a car ride.) …

Do you see how I’m telling you about me? I’m doing it on purpose. It’s less overwhelming if you watch the movie and see how wacky I am. It’s easier than reading this:

YOU are probably more sensitive than most people.

If I write it like that you think you’re broken, or there’s something wrong with you. When I tell you about me, it seems entertaining because it’s not YOU, it’s THAT OTHER PERSON.

Emotionally sensitive. Oh god, to everything. Feelings easily hurt, weepy at a dog food commercial, cry when happy or sad. Easily offended, irritated, sensitive to criticism. Impatient. But also emotionally intuitive, can tell at a dinner party who’s feeling ignored, who wants to talk more, who wants less attention focussed on them, who’s overwhelmed. I can see that she loves her husband. And that this one over here doesn’t. I’m tuned in. Yes, this can go too far (well, all of these things can, right? Like the number of pillows to sleep, the tightness/smoothness of the bed sheets can extend right into craziness). Being tuned in too much also means that I will read you and put your needs ahead of mine. I scan and continuously try to keep myself under the radar so that you don’t react. I’m familiar and comfortable with watching your face, gauging your mood, to choose the jokes that will fly and those that won’t. To see if you’re in the mood for me or not. I can shape-shift to be the person you want right now…

</end writing extract>


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 recently discovered that there’s a term for being highly sensitive called Highly Senstive Person (HSP). Maybe read Elaine Aron’s “Highly Sensitive Person” if you want to know more. Achieving a better understanding of this personality type may help people redesign from turning to alcohol to escape it all… I’m 72 days sober 🙂

  • The last three or four sentences are ME. It’s exhausting. Why do we do that? What good is it? It seems like being sensitive to others would be a good thing. Or is it that we just take it too far, too personally? I’ve been this way my whole life, but it’s never bothered me until now. Now it’s just painful and uncomfortable…Hello, boundaries!

  • I find such comfort in reading this sight Belle, I know what I need to do but I keep saying tomorrow which still has not arrived. Something has changed with my body when I drink wine now it’s beyond buzz but blackouts and falling asleep on the couch at 9pm. This is not normal and such a beast how did I get here?

    • this is pretty common for all of us. we ‘get there’ a bit at a time, maybe without even really noticing. and then you reach out for some sober support and then things change …

  • Wow, Belle, your observations are fascinating (and so wonderfully written that the images made me wince!).

    That said, regarding physical sensitivity, I wonder if any of your readers have the opposite reaction? For whatever reason, I’ve always been the “tough girl.” “Sure, I can take that surgery without anesthesia!” “What, that giant gash on my leg spurting blood? That’s nothing.” “Oh, that was your car that ran over my foot? No worries!” I think it’s the the same voice that said, “Six drinks? I’m fine!”

    I wonder if this isn’t just the yang to someone else’s yin, and if I paid more attention to how I was really feeling, I might discover that I’m not so “tough.”

    (P.S. Be kind, I’ve just decided not to lurk.)

      • “let me know if this hurts” and I’m like, “oh, no, long steely spikes driven deep into my bleeding gums do not hurt me because I love pain! Please, feel free to rip out some teeth while you’re at it. I thrive on this because usually I have to resort to self-flagellation. 🙂

      • the gumroad application also sends you an email with a link to your audios. you can listen online (on your desktop computer) or download the MP3 files. you can probably open that same email on your droid and click the links that way too 🙂
        do you get the One Minute Messages? it’s exactly the same system.

  • The sensitivity to water when my nails are not painted.. I could go on but may terrify you..
    I love when you talk about ” being so in tuned I put you before me” WAWow.. I cannot wait to have this book on my night stand.. Proud of you!

    • Auntie Lex, I truly thought I was the only person in the world with sensitive fingernails, for crying out loud!! Chipped nail polish off, new nail polish back on immediately!

      • Brilliant writing, Belle. It’s truly fascinating to me that we share those emotional sensitivities and empathic qualities (your dinner party example is spot on!)… I think part of why I drank is because I’m so overly tuned-in, it was one of the only ways I could tune out. Drinking felt like turning the volume down in my brain. (Of course, if I didn’t drink enough, the volume actually got louder.)

        I am so excited for the book!! 🙂

      • Festie, that makes 3 of us! I’ve never met anybody else with the fingernail sensitivity thing before! People think I’m nuts, but I can’t have bare nails for a few hours without them starting to hurt. How funny! 🙂

  • I believe sensitivity is a common issue among us. Put others ahead of yourself. Then drink to reduce the anxiety you feel because you were not on today’s “to-do” list. Right now I am trying to bleach the grout around the tiles in our bathroom. I KNOW I need to be reading a sobriety book, taking a long walk, working on my quilt. Why am I avoiding my own needs? (although clean grout would be nice 🙂 )

    • I would add that we put others ahead of ourselves and then (for me at least), drink to numb the pain because not only was I not on my own “to do” list – I wasn’t on anyone else’s either.

  • Yes, sensitive. Tags in my shirts. Thank God for printed labels but now there is one you have to cut off that jabs you in the side.
    I took the Myers-Briggs test in college and I was an INFJ, one percent of the population.
    I love this post, Belle.

  • I have found in early sobriety (Day 266) that just telling someone makes it better. I was a private drinker suffering from loneliness and fear that I would never go a day without drinking. Well, guess what Wolfie? I don’t need you anymore but I do need other people who get this, who get me, who have been there, done that. Thank you, Belle, for being part of my journey of a better life without alcohol.