fill your own holes

extract from a new, undefined writing project:

Question from Grateful Girl: “Why do you do it? Do you get a lot of personal satisfaction?”

What’s the part of being a sober penpal that I like the best?

I have a front row seat while you do some something brave. You dehydrate Wolfie. You learn to ignore the voice in your head that says Drink Now. I throw the glitter, rustle some pompoms. I listen. I point out possible (maybe, theoretical) potholes in the road. But let’s be clear. You do all the hard work. You figure out who you are as a sober human. You have very large realizations and feel proud of yourself and feel relief. So having a front-row seat to that? It’s really very lovely.

Apparently I have a soothing voice. That anyone can feel calmed by me is funny, because I’m anxious by nature. Maybe I sound soothing because I’ve been right there. And I’m a good rememberer and a good describer. I have a few talents – communicate, write, build community, sense of humour, empathy. I’m determined and mostly upbeat, and when I’m not, my husband drags it out of me with his insufferable easy-going-ness.

Where do any of my traits come from? Childhood, I suppose. For some reason, and I really don’t know why, but I could not conform. I was a good student, easily bored, teacher-pleaser. And also insecure, unsure, with poor boundaries. I drank to fit in, and it worked until it didn’t. I don’t want to write a  memoir, and I don’t want to talk about family shit because it’s not my story to tell. This part is my childhood story, I can tell this part: low income family, parental job instability, parental divorce, domestic violence, a time without a telephone, eldest of four children to young parents.

So what happens when you don’t get all of your needs met (and no one does, it’s just not possible)? You either resent those people for not gifting you with attention/self-esteem and a perfect life (I did this, resenting). Or you move on to a place (with therapy? with coaching? with time? with sobriety?) where you can accept that they did the best they could, and that while it wasn’t good enough (it never is), you can now go out into the world and fill your own holes.

My needs weren’t met (no one’s are), I can bang on the drum of “why me, why not this, why that, why this over here.” I can stand there with my needs not met (they never are) waiting for those holes to be filled by someone else. Or I can go out and make shit happen, pay someone to help me change the inside of my head, speak to counsellors, learn new strategies, and fill my own holes.

I’m not broken. I’m learning. Learning what I need.

We all have to do this learning anyway, even when we have cushy lives with money and smothering parents who love each other (!). If that was you, then the challenge would be autonomy, self-direction, internal motivation.

Nobody gets what they need.

OK, so what. So we learn how to do it for ourselves. We learn to self-soothe and have agency and get our shit together. We figure out what our hobbies are, we figure out how to move our buttons so that other people don’t push them so easily.

That’s the part that’s cool about being sober.

And that’s the part that’s cool about being a sober coach.

I get to watch YOU do THAT.


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 have done a fair bit of ‘work’ with a couple of great therapists over the years on moving on from resentment and hurt at my parents. I became able to see that they were doing the best they could with what they knew etc. But the work wasn’t able to stick because, on the quiet, I went from one maladaptive self soothing strategy to another! Getting sober, dehydrating wolfie, has left me able to finally learn what positive self care is and how much it is what I do everyday that counts (the small every day changes that accumulate). Turns out that being sober helps my empathy, and ability to let go of others and my own mistakes. I am in my mid 50s and really appreciative of this next stage of self development, and fun! In my second year sober and I stay close to my sober supports too. Thanks belle xx

  • I am now just starting to learn how to fill the holes…..just started therapy, this time with someone that i think can really help me to do this. I have had a couple other tries at therapy but do not believe they were the right fit for me. There are a lot of big holes to fill and i love my parents deeply, but they were young and did the best they could. There was not a lack of love….but i believe a lack knowledge on how to teach useful skills to us. So thank you for your insights into this. It makes sense.

  • Did you ever feel that you couldn’t be bothered to fill those holes, that you weren’t sure you needed to get down that road, that there wasn’t much point to it all? Oddly, I’m not feeling like filling them with Sauvignon, just sitting by the side of the road feeling a bit sad and tired. Better than sad, tired, scared and hungover I guess! 555 days

    • sometimes this happens. it can be a phase, a series of shit days, or a slump. some slumps respond well to medication. some slumps respond well to more sober support – you might be trying to do it alone too much, which makes the noise in our head just get too loud …

  • Great insight Belle, thank you. Really true – we need to learn to fill our own holes. Your voice gets me through many hard hours – soothing and wise.

  • It’s amazing to feel like I am not alone in recovery.
    I am at the dehydrating Wolfie stage.
    I am Day 6 ( again )
    This time I am loading up on my sober tools and watching out for overwhelm
    I know this will take focus and commitment.
    I want off the booze elevator permanently

  • Great insight and congratulations to 5 years on June 30th. You are awesome and I am glad you are watching. DAY MCCL – 1,250.

  • Thanx Belle, this was something I needed to hear, both as a daughter and a mother. It’s mind opening to look at things from different angles.

  • Parts of this resembles me and the reason I think drinking became a part of my life. I too was insecure, anxious, shy. Drinking to fit in worked, drinking to relieve anxiety worked and drinking made me less shy. Like you say it works until it stops working. I am trying to fill the gaps, get my needs met but tough to do while still drinking. Great piece…enjoyed reading it. Thanks for your faith in me and all of us for that matter.

  • This should be required reading before everyone’s first therapy appointment. Seriously! My therapist got me to this place of “filling my own holes” with self-care after years of therapy and now I go back for tune-ups.

    It all comes back to self care, doesn’t it? My therapist taught it to me but then I took a five-year detour into the land of alcohol because I thought I had found the easy secret to happiness. We all know how that story ends. It worked until it didn’t. I was surprised when I first found Belle and she talked a lot about self-care. Full circle. It felt like coming home.

    The reason I can forgive my parents is I can see how they couldn’t teach me self-care because they didn’t understand it. When I think of it that way, I can forgive them and have a relationship in the present with them. The hardest part for me is forgiving myself. I tell my therapist that I wish I could have been smarter, quicker to realize the need for therapy sooner. Forgiving myself is what we work on these days 😉

  • I spent so many years being angry, and all of that anger and alcohol combined did nothing to fill in the empty spaces. Through many experiences, and failures and missteps with my own daughter I started to realize a few years back that everyone I grew up with had done the best that they could. And now, finally with a clear mind I am taking steps to help myself. To do the work I have avoided for so long because it is uncomfortable and awkward. Thanks for helping me to help myself!

  • Good morning, Belle. The parallels of our lives are uncanny, or perhaps they aren’t 🙂

    The concept of filling my own holes is not unfamiliar to me, but this is the first time in my life that I feel truly worthy of being filled/fulfilled — and, thus, truly ready to do the work, which makes it all the more meaningful, I think.

    I am feeling increasingly grateful for having discovered you and this lovely community.

    Today is day 4 and I feel strong, not to mention super supported.

    Onward and upward!

  • I’m living the part of dehydrating wolfie. Man, that’s hard. I’m looking forward to discovering the sober me. Thank you for the constant reminders there’s more to being sober than not drinking….Ill actually learn some things about myself. For now…. I’m dehydrating wolfie……..

    • Julie – that’s me, too – I am on day 21 and still dehydrating wolfie. Doing the self-care for my body seems to help with the self-care for my mind (and probably soul, too).

  • I love this perspective! I’ve paid a lot of $$ to a counselor who tried to get me to “parent my inner child” to “fill the unmet needs”. For god’s sake, it makes so much more sense to fill the damn hole myself. The hole in my life that I filled with wine is now overflowing with exercise, art, reading, creating, with gratitude. Thank you!

  • Thank you Belle, so well written. Finally understanding I need to fill “my own holes” – no one else can however much I want them to!

  • I needed to hear this tonight. I need to “fill my own holes” and although it is difficult and takes time, it is worth it. Because I am worth it. We all are! 🙂 thank you Belle.

  • Thank you… exactly. They did the best they could. Now it is up to us to figure the rest out. That hole will never feel filled with alcohol.