The sober coach shows up with a lantern

Article originally posted on Medium.

photo courtesy of rob taylor

She writes a depressed, hungover letter to her Sober Coach.

Dear You: I need to have you in my corner. I need to know that someone thinks I can do this. I know you’re not me (you’re sober!), and maybe I really am broken, and you’re not and that’s why you’re sober and I’m not.

Or maybe it really IS the booze that makes me feel like this, like you keep saying. Maybe if I remove the alcohol, this all low emotional garbage will stop.

I’m afraid to quit drinking. There I said it. I’m afraid to leave behind the toxic, lying, cheating boyfriend that is alcohol.

Well, because, who am I without this backpack of rocks?

I don’t know who I am.

Is it possible that I’m in here, under all the false promises to quit drinking each morning only to drink again by dinnertime.

What kinds of thoughts will be in my head when the “Drink Now” noise is gone. Is it really possible to drink coffee on the balcony at 6 a.m. like you do, sober coach, and just be there peacefully, looking forward at your day.

Is it possible that I will discover that once sober, other aspects of my life are fixable, and that instead of wanting to continue hiding, I’ll view my life (like my sobriety) with an attitude of: “OK. What is this gonna take to do this?”

Sober Coach, it’s good to know that you’re in my corner. Does that expression come from boxing? Maybe I am boxing the ‘Drink Now’ voice in the ring, and you’re there putting my mouth guard back in (saying: take care of yourself), and you’re handing me the water bottle when the bell rings for a break.

Ever notice that the coach does not hand the boxer a bottle of alcohol? (You know, to take the edge off, to give her liquid courage, to make it more fun.) The boxer needs mental clarity, physical agility, so that she can box, as well as get through life, soothe a rabid 2-year-old, and safely walk down the stairs.

I’m worried, because I have a voice in my head that says: Fuck this boxing thing. You suck at it anyway.

The voice in my head never says: You’re becoming a better boxer, keep training, learn new things, maybe you need another strategy for this situation, keep your wits about you. I need you, Sober Coach, for that.

My voice says: Go home, wrap yourself in a blanket like a burrito, prone on the couch, drink a shit ton of booze, because what’s the use in even trying. Tell that fucking coach to go and peddle her ‘hope’ somewhere else.

Because the coach must be crazy, right? I don’t need her. I have to do this on my own. I got myself into this and I have to get myself out of it. Will have to do that alone.

I am waiting for the day when I wake up and KNOW that it’s the right time to quit drinking.

It will feel different, there’ll be some magic day when it ‘clicks’ and in the meantime I wait. No coach, please. Pass the wine. I’ll just sit on this short stool in the boxing corner, in the dark, and I’ll wait. I’ll wait to feel like it. As I pour the will-never-feel-like-it liquid on my head. And as that liquid wears off, I will apply more.

Where are you, Sober Coach? On the balcony drinking coffee?

I am riding the booze elevator in a downwards direction but I’ve heard that there is another boxing ring on a lower floor down, where I can sit alone in the dark. What do you mean it gets harder on lower floors?

I disagree. It’s too hard now but if I wait for things to get worse then I’ll have to quit. It’s not worse enough yet. It’ll be easier to quit if there were some shitty and terrible consequences.

What do you mean that I can’t play this like a game; how do you know that I want to drink as long as possible, and then quit later just before it all goes wrong.

And who fucking says that the booze elevator doesn’t open on every floor? You mean I might get stuck wanting to get off, and then the door won’t open?

When the Sober Coach responds, she says:

Even if you have two days sober in a row, or three, or four, then that’s momentum. And it’s a gift because the elevator door opened, and you stepped off. How many days until you can feel proud of yourself? How about today. You’re heading to a better place. Lots of people can’t find the door, ever. And you may never find the door again later, tomorrow, next week.

Consider how long it took you to find the door this time.

You have 30 days sober? You’re out in the sunshine on pale thin legs after (years) of sitting on a stool like a burrito in the dark. No shit you feel better — and not yet good enough. But it’s not Day 1. You’re at least progressively getting better (not riding down and down).

You’re on Day 100 sober? You think maybe you’ll drink again, since you could quit this one time you believe you could maybe quit again later whenever you like. You think: I did it once, it’ll be fine.

You misremember how it feels.

You misremember the pride of new days, beating your personal best, never having been HERE before. You misremember the feeling of accomplishment as you get your sober days for the first time. How much fun is it to do it again? Decidedly less fun, but necessary. Then a third time? Grinding, but required. A fourth? You misremember that the ceiling light in the boxing ring is on a timer, and that the light eventually turns off.

Then you can’t find the door out even when it opens.

You’ll bang on the walls trying to turn them into doors.

So if the Sober Coach comes towards you, with a lantern and a flash light and a lighthouse, saying “the way out is over here,” then you will say …


from Belle: Here’s the email I received that prompted today’s writing. Yes, it was written on the balcony with a cup of coffee at 6 a.m. This email came to me from H, thanks for the inspiration: “Thank you, Belle, for always being in my corner. I know that you know what it’s like to wake up the morning and think ‘oh fuck, what did I do’. I’m so sick and tired of that feeling. I’m an adult, I like to think I’m a pretty responsible adult. I need to have people like you in my life so I know what sobriety can look like and know that it’s possible.”


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

  • Such an amazing post, Belle. You’re such a gifted writer. This really touched me, as I have gone back and forth so many times as you know. Thanks for never blowing out the light.

  • Best thing I ever did was to follow your lantern out of the darkness. Thank you again for the past 706 sober days!