novelty and sobriety.

Novelty. What’s that got to do with quitting drinking?

Our brains want excitement. Life is deemed boring or uninteresting, so we drink to have ‘fun’. It’s like jumping from an airplane without a parachute: fun (perhaps), but dangerous. It’s like gambling: the losing, the waiting to win, then winning but wanting more, not knowing why. The thirst not even quenched by winning. It’s like wanting that one mythical drink, and then drinking more, and more: you’re pouring two bottles of wine on your head and you don’t even know why.

So let’s say you are sensitive, often over-stimulated, a bit ADD. Being sober seems dull. What will I do for fun? How will I unwind (how will I lose track of time and just turn off my brain?).

How do you get novelty when you’re sober? You actively, constructively, with intent. Manufacture it.

Novelty = read, learn, sample, create.

If we need novelty, then we count days. Record our sober momentum. Get high numbers of continuous days sober, don’t break the streak, have a new personal best every day.

If we need novelty, we train for a 5K run. A 10K. A half. A full. Trail runs, triathlons, relays, midnight ‘over the hill and back again with a flashlight’ runs.

If we need novelty, we actively create it. You’ve seen me do this. I’m always experimenting with different ways to build community (what can I learn if I do this? Does this work? Can I apply that technique to this situation?). You’ve seen me create novelty: host a live call on Mixlr, a group conference call with free conference software, send out paper newsletters (with lovely French stamps), write case studies, record one-minute audios, film videos, make longer (ranting) podcasts, conduct interviews, write blog posts, write for Medium, write a book.

I’ve also created a lot of novelty in the catering work that I do: naked wedding cakes, savoury pancakes, can you make a good vegetarian panne cotta, can you use the whey from home ricotta to make bread? (yes)

You say: Being sober is so boring. Without alcohol, my whole life seems dull.

And I say: it’s ok to crave novelty. in sobriety, you CREATE your own novelty. Here are some ideas, you can read them, dismiss them as not applicable, and then pick 5 and do them (ha!).

  • Survey: go to all restaurants in the Washington DC area that serve dulce de leche cake for dessert. Or find the best tacos. Or sample all of the food trucks outside your office. Or eat a different sandwich every Friday. Document with photos.
  • Go for a long run, and take a new picture of something every 10 minutes.
  • You’re a parking lot attendant? Why aren’t you learning Italian on headphones for 8 hours a day?
  • Read. There is no frigate like a book. Donna Leon, Susan Hill, Nicci French, Timothy Taylor, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Read all of Dickens in order, sampling one perfect phrase per day and posting to Instragram
  • Write. Get an app like Commit, and do 15 minutes a day, every day, of writing or editing. I’m on day 163 of continuous writing.
  • Keep an end-of-the-day gratitude diary. It causes you to scan your day while you’re living it, to see if THIS is the best moment of the day.
  • Track your weekend cycling logged against a map of the country, and ‘ride cross country’ marking your progress.

You want novelty? The world is an amusement park. Your life is as interesting as you make it.

  • Buy dishes at yard sales and resell on eBay. Or silver. Or baseball cards. Or Led Zeppelin memorabilia.
  • Use your photography skills to take quirky photos for Airbnb listings in your city (contact the ugly ones, offer to fix for free, create a before and after series on Facebook). do it for free. for fun.
  • Collect clothes from co-workers and cut them up to make quilts for the women’s shelter.
  • Grow ten different kinds of roses and document their progress.
  • Do a daily photo diary of your lunch for a month.
  • Learn how to make an alcohol-free version of tiramisu with regular grocery store ingredients.
  • Visit 10 small grocery stores until you find one who will save their dead bananas for you so you can make banana bread and donate it to the food bank.
  • Watch YouTube videos to learn to make doughnuts, paint leaves, promote your real estate business, or put on makeup.
  • Take piano lessons with the sole intent to be to learn how to play the Peanuts theme.
  • Watch 2 versions of West Side Story and 3 versions of Romeo and Juliet and compare. Create a version with sock puppets.
  • Sample 8 kinds of vanilla ice cream then try to make your own.
  • Take the train/bus/car to a new town. Eat in a new place. Walk a new way. Go to the new theatre. Novelty.

(Wake up every day with a hangover, mentally wrestle with your brain, dreading the day ahead; quit drinking every only to buy wine at dinner time and begin again.)


Wake up every day without a hangover, and see the world as an amusement park, where the biggest wrestle of the day is: What should I do first?



link here

stay here in the sunshine. stay focussed. stay sober. – this is painting #378.


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

  • This is BRILLIANT, Belle, thank you! So many wonderful ideas…all things I’d like to try…sober. Hugs

  • Just what I needed to read and the ideas were great as I attempt Day 1 again ,after 3+ years of false starts. This blog post really made me think about the fun, creative possibilities out there in living a sober life.

  • I love tiramisu but the versions everyone sells are so boozy I’ve been staying clear… of course I can make my own booze free version and maybe even substitute some of the ingredients to make it a “healthier” version without compromising taste yum.
    On my sober journey I’ve not felt bored I love the sober joy I get out of my Daliah patch, out of sketching, out of waking up feeling great… but even on day 147 yesterday I had a Wolfie moment sitting at my desk at work when he said to me “awwww why can’t you just enjoy a nice Friday night glass of wine like everyone else who’s “normal” “which we know I can’t… which is why I’m here engaging in sober support… which is why i was so pleased to hear your radio show last night with 59 other sobies and because even at over 600 days Wolfie can still appear and make you throw all your sober momentum away if your not using the right tools.
    Thanks for the daily reminders to work it Belle xx

  • I love the sentiment. And love the ideas. I’ve been thinking of taking the piano back up for a while now. Perhaps being sober is the space to do it

  • Thank you Belle! My novelty is trying to write an essay collection before I turn 40. Something I could perhaps self-publish and have around for my kids in the future.

  • True for life..lets get out of the ‘boring’ trap…I drink because I’m bored…my son plays ipad because he is bored…what kind of addictive world do we live in that we can’t learn that putting an inch of effort to do something simple and different will make us feel better…it doesn’t have to be expensive or outrageously unique…make brownies from a box mix…it is HOW you approach it…like a treat…life is a gift…let’s play

  • All of those things frighten me. I just want to blend in. I am on day 12 today. Aiming for 30 and will reassess. Thank you for being here in cyberspace support land x

  • What if the one thing you do first in the morning as a novelty since being sober (walking) gets boring? You sign up to do it as part of a new challenge!
    So in my case I‘ll obviously join a 100km in 24 hours hiking event next april 🙈
    Dear Belle, can you please record sufficient audio until then? 😉

  • Day 4 and feel so calm. Snowing a blizzard outside and so glad not to have wanted a glass of wine
    Thank you for this blog

  • This is amazing, how you just nail it completely.
    Are we all exactly the same ? it’s like your inside my head….. I am in awe

    • we are shockingly similar, it’s true. the good news about that is that what’s worked for me might work for you, too. huglets

  • I’m on day 59?, that in itself is a bloody miracle!! waking up and it being a new day sober is a novelty. It truly is a wonderful gift that I’m proud of every day… everything else is a bonus…life is good❤️

  • Going to buy this book … just hope I read it , not sure if audio would be better for me as I’m not a big reader … but will do my best .. thanks ?

  • Inspiring as always.

    (And I really needed this after a day spent stuck indoors because of the heavy snowfall here. Stir crazy…)

    But I am loving some of those ideas!
    This definitely gives me pause for thought before I begin wrestling with Wolfie this evening …
    ….and I think he’s down for the count now.

    Thanks, Belle!

  • I love the idea of learning the peanuts song. I played piano years ago so don’t need to take lessons … just need to spend the time doing it. My son would absolutely love that. I think I’ll do it as a surprise.

  • This was just what I needed to read today as I sit nursing a small hangover. I need to do different. I am too much relying on the wine and I need to stop that s!@# and get my life back.

    I don’t do the stuff I used to love to do. I don’t see the people I used to love to see.

    If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different time result, then that’s me. Insane. Pour wine out every morning just to buy more on the way home from work. Ugh!

  • Yes! I have delved into many new things just to “try them out” in sobriety. I don’t even care if I fail or am no good or find I’m not that interested in it. At least I am out there looking for new ways to be creative and construct new routines to my sober days.
    IC Momentum