Audio: “I’ll Take the Stairs”

This is Sober Podcast Episode #185 for my weekly sober podcast series.

What do you say to someone, who believes that while the booze elevator may only go down, “if it does reach bottom and the elevator door won’t open, and I’m stuck there – then I’ll take the stairs.” What do you say to that? Are there stairs?

Why does wolfie think that going down further before we quit is a ‘good idea’? I talk about bravado, not using your supports, and the voice that is (always) trying to convince us “to keep on drinking, it’ll be fine,” no matter what.  and really, if it’s hard to quit now, what’ll it be like to quit later?

Below i’ve posted the entire 21 minute podcast. usually i just post a clip but today, thanks to some really lovely donations to the Sober Good Works fund (thanks!), i’m posting this audio for everyone to listen to – even if you’re not a paying podcast subscriber. I’ll leave this link up for 48 hrs, so have a listen now.


after you listen, post a comment and tell me how long did you know you were over-drinking to the point where you knew you were going to need to do something about it, and then how much longer AFTER that point did you keep on drinking, cuz wolfie said “quit later…”
Yeah, me too.
after 48 hrs, I’ll pick one comment and that person will get a present. 

[ link has been removed ]


Download the audio podcast episode 185

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(1-2 new audios per week, you can cancel whenever you like … but you won’t. more sober tools = good)

(ps, my blog allows for anonymous comments – so you don’t have to fill in a name or an email address to post your comment below).

Over the next 48 hrs, I’ll select a blog comment and that person will receive a present funded by the Sober Good Works donations.


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 look around and see what booze has done —- I look and feel terrible – my once beautiful apt. is a mess – my finances are in shambles — I have alienated my family – I need to get off the elevator now before I don;t have a choice –

  • “Alcohol has lost its sparkle for me, it just makes me feel puffy, bad, blah, unproductive. I don’t even like the taste of it anymore – craft beer, fancy wine, champagne, I can taste the life sucking poison in all of it now.”

    Thank you for this, JF. I’m 58 and stopped enjoying alcohol ages back but kept at it for the ‘high’. I thought I must be the only one who drank even though I no longer liked the taste and knew inside what the poison was doing to my body. I knew I was going down and although I never reached the bottom, I got close (and how many days and nights have I lost and, as you say, productivity?). I thought it was a question of willpower, but thanks to Belle I now realise it’s about doing things differently and having enough tools and support. Day 8 today (although I don’t like to count it until I’m through the witching hour). It’s not easy, but I keep thinking of the pledge I’ve made to do 100 days. It helps to know others are working hard at this too. Thank you all, and Belle.

  • I’ve been struggling with this now for the last year, to look at me no one would really identify that I have a drinking problem, apart from my husband or closest friends who I have discussed my struggle with. I’ve had no low bottom, but the fact is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol is 27days on my attempt at the 100 day sober challenge before it all became too hard and I forgot why I was doing it in the first place. If I had stayed off that elevator I would have hit day 100 on the 11th April. (Sober Sass signed off Belle) I’m now on the elevator again and I’m getting so damn tired of the same elevator music, I’m pressing the button to get off but the doors just won’t open. I want to get off but wolfie is singing to me in that elevator that you are going on holiday next weekend back to your hometown, your family and friends won’t understand that you don’t drink anymore, you tried that last time and that’s when you failed to reach your 100 days. I hear that so loud, but I would love to get off now.

  • I keep getting on and off this Damn elevator! I’m afraid the emergency switch is about to break, can’t get back on that thing, may not be able to stop til I hit the bottom. I’ve had too many day ones, don’t want to go back there. Been using my tools ,not just collecting them, been doing things different and making plans to keep doing this different. I’m driving away from that crazy elevator. I’m not going back there.
    Thanks for these audios Belle, they’re the best tool in my box.

  • Day 156 today. One thing I’ve notice it has changed, is that now I CRY. I cry when I’m angry, like a full blown 5 year old tantrum. I cry when I’m frustrated, I just cry. And i’m okay with that, it doesn’t make me weak. It makes me feel strong standing up to Wolfie and his pack. I masked and drowned my problems with wine for so long… I forgot how therapeutic it is to “feel” your feelings and deal it with them. It sounds corny, I know… I’m okay with that too. Thank you Belle, for everything you do for us.

  • Knew drinking was going to be a problem for me after the first time I tried it at 16 and ended up in the hospital. If only I could have quit then. Now at 36 I wish I could go back to my 16 year old self and tell her to never drink. Because I think my drinking ultimately changed the trajectory of my life. Something I have only just realized. After listening to Belle’s audio and her analogy of the elevator going down, down, down it made me think–if I am so sad and regretful about my past, what makes me think it will be any different if I continue to drink now? Will I be 50 years old and wishing I could have shaken my 36 year old self and convinced her to stop? I don’t want to feel like that. My life isn’t over yet, there’s still a lot of great things to be done. I don’t want to miss out on anymore, miss out on my kids growing up under the numbing haze of booze. Have felt deeply unsettled about my drinking for YEARS now and was even sober for 6 months at age 26 after a horrible drunken incident but I thought AA was the only way to get sober and I didn’t feel comfortable there. Fast forward ten years and I drastically changed my drinking habits (eliminated all daily drinking but still drinking on social occasions) thanks to yoga, Belle’s blog and others, meditation, and exercise. That was more than a year ago but I was still experimenting with ‘moderating’ which, while I could do successfully, didn’t always work and again the drinking was seeming worse and making me feel stagnant in my growth and chipping away at my self esteem. So I am stepping off the elevator now. Blissfully and gratefully sober today, day 36.

  • Guilty as charged:( I bought a sober jumpstart class, listened but never pledged so a sober pen pal isn’t in my tool box. I listened more than once to this podcast and I’m in it, I keep waiting for my shit to get together to pledge and guess what I’m still drinking. For nearly 15 years I’ve been trying to sort this out, 2 years now checking blogs, reading books ‘looking’ for help but still drinking. I don’t know which floor I’m on but it’s time to get off at the next stop.

    • you don’t wait for the elevator to go to the next stop. you press the emergency button now and get the door forced open. now. the next stop might not be for awhile. when it’s time to get off, you do it now.

  • When my dad died unexpectedly 3 years ago I started drinking more than I should have. A year ago I knew I had to do something about it so I dabbled in moderation. It didn’t stop the fact that when I drank, I didn’t want just one glass of wine, I wanted the whole bottle. I recently listened to a podcast in which a woman named Louise Rawlinson said , “Trying to moderate and failing spectacularly is part of the journey”. It’s like a diagnostic tool. She even mentioned you, Belle, as a sober support to her when she was getting sober. For me, I think I needed to go as far as I did down the elevator. I feel different this time, like I got off on the right floor with my suitcase in my hand. I don’t want to ride it to the bottom of the cold, dark, crappy, lonely elevator shaft, where the doors won’t open. If you can’t open the doors, how the hell are you going to get to the stairwell?

  • Belle, I was one of those Sober Jumpstart people who didn’t use the call. What was I thinking? It’s hard to remember 3 years (!!) on. I seem to recall Wolfie saying, “What would you talk about? She doesn’t have time for you. You’re weak. You’re a whiner.” You know, the usual Wolfie bullshit. Sometime after my one year soberversary, I hit a rough patch and I finally signed up for a sober call. You were warm & easy to talk to, and you helped me get unstuck. To anyone who is feeling shy, like I was, I encourage you to give it a try. There was no judgment, only down to earth support. My nervousness lasted about 30 seconds and then I felt a flood of relief. Thanks for always being there!

  • Thank you, Belle. This podcast really resonated with me. I am one of those starter/stoppers and this podcast really motivated me. I also listed to the one about taking care of yourself. I need to use one of the many tools other than booze to take the “edge” off.

  • Multiple day ones. Today is day 62. And on every one of those days the elevator has gone up a little more. Even though my life is very hard right now (other things) it is ultimately so much easier to be dealing with this shit sober. It keeps going up, I can see the sun, I can see the grass, I can see the view – inch by inch, day by day, it keeps going up – and the stupidest stuff – like making phone calls, or doing laundry is easier. When I drink, everything is insurmountable – because my elevator is so far down the well that the light is a pinprick if at all – so why bother – I’ll just have another drink. Now the well is underneath me and getting further away all the time.

  • Belle, you have a way of making matters so clear, of demystifying Wolfie, of turning overdramatic events into simple truths, into concrete situations that can be dealt with, I’d like to thank you for that. Listening to you is always helpful. I listened to the whole podcast and I agree with everything you say. Enough with the excuses, enough with the incessant thinking, enough with it all! Been drinking way too long, way too much, for six years, but didn’t quit, didn’t do anything about it, didn’t stay sober long because Wolfie kept telling me I didn’t have a problem. I wasn’t sleeping on a bench, because of alcohol, you see. I wasn’t in jail, because of alcohol. Etc, etc, etc. Now I’m 323 days sober and I feel incredible. I feel free! Emmylou Harris says in one of her songs : “the thing they don’t tell you ’bout the blues when you got ’em, you keep on fallin’ ’cause there ain’t no bottom, there ain’t no end…” One could easily replace “the blues” with “the wolves”. The drinking elevator is only going down. There ain’t no stairs. They’re an illusion. A mental illusion created by Wolf(uck)ie.

  • Oh my goodness! Does this ever hit home with me. Even though I’m claustrophobic in elevators I continue to ride the elevator up and down for probably 10 years. There was always a party on floor 10 or a get-together on floor 5 or a wedding on 420 or some celebration of some sort or some disaster of some sort on many of the floors I travel to in this elevator. I knew I had to quit my habitual drinking however there was just never good enough time to get off the elevator. I tried several times with limited success. It was only when I understood the Wolfie voice AKA Belle’s interpretation of that mean narcissistic lying son of a b**** that I understood I could say no. So I exited the elevator on a high floor that had tools, support, sober jumpstart classes, sober blogs, all sorts of Creature Comforts that would get me through the first couple 3-4 weeks. Today is my day 90 period I Know by Sam this is still a short time for sobriety however to me it feels really good it feels really strong and I will continue through my Hundred Days and forward from there. I think Belle’s program and my desire to get off the elevator as contributing factors to my continuing sobriety and I don’t even think about drinking anymore seriously that wasn’t a joke.

  • Excellent podcast. I have been over drinking since I was 13. I am almost 45. That is so sad. I had glimpses of knowing I needed to get off the elevator in my 20s and 30s. I really started reading sober blogs and others’ stories and understanding that I had an actual problem for the last 3-5 years. I started with ‘rules’ and trying ‘moderation’ in the last year. Alcohol has lost its sparkle for me, it just makes me feel puffy, bad, blah, unproductive. I don’t even like the taste of it anymore – craft beer, fancy wine, champagne, I can taste the life sucking poison in all of it now. I NOW understand I need to stay off the damn elevator for good. I get it. Glory Glory Hallelujah! I am 18 days sober today. I am starting to feel really good and can see a beautiful life without alcohol in my future. I have a beautiful life and plan to keep it that way.

  • Brilliant! Quitting drinking doesn’t require desperation! Why would we possibly think for one second that it will be easier if we let it get worse? Because drinking is NOT logical and NOBODY, I mean NOBODY wants to stop drinking. When I heard you say that the first time I actually started crying. Oh wait. Nobody wants to quit? It makes sense to quit before I need to go to rehab? Well ok. Let’s do it!

  • Thank you, Belle, and for everyone who’s written here. I haven’t listened yet to the audio, but I carry the book everywhere with me – I even found myself in a car park recently having a row with Wolfie. I grabbed the book from my rucksack which not only saved me for another day but left me feeling much calmer. It’s helped me particularly to hear from older people. I’m 58 and have been drinking for years. I think the question of how much is too much and ‘is this normal?’ entered my head in my thirties. I started getting really worried in my early forties and gave up for a while – felt really good and gave me lots of time for other things. But it never went away because I’d made the bad choice of making it my coping mechanism. So now I’m wanting to save my life and everything dear to me.

  • Wow… great audio. I was that 24 year old (years ago)… now I’m over double that age so I’ve definitely waited until it got much worse (which just means I wanted to keep drinking). I wasn’t desperate enough back then, I thought it’d get easier or there would be a better time to deal with it. Or get this, I thought I would learn to be able to control it somehow and I would turn into a normal drinker! Well that didn’t happen… but what did happen? It got a lot harder now to quit! Drinking patterns became well established, my friendship groups all involve drinking, I crave the numbing, I’ve wasted so many days that I will never get back. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, I sure had a lot of fun at times. But this audio made me realize my obsession with alcohol and how much time it has sucked away from me. I thought I could quit anytime I really, truly wanted to for so long. I just bought your book and I can’t stop reading it, I can resonate with so many things you are writing about Belle. I had to put the book down long enough to write this. Thanks for hitting me between the eyes with this. I just got off the elevator to hell a couple days ago and I’m not getting on again, I’m walking away from the manhole/sewer (can you tell where I am in the book right now?) and I’m walking into sunshine with some chance of clouds.

  • One of my favorite lines in the book:
    “Sobriety – it’s not just for alcoholics anymore.”
    I love this because we DO have a choice. For years, I drank with belief that I didn’t, that I was diseased and powerless. I am on Day 8 today, sober with the help of tools I had never heard of before, such as replacement drinks and daily rewards. It feels good to take charge of something I had resigned myself to, and be surrounded by people who understand. Thank you all.

  • When I was 21 the voice said ‘go ahead and drink this is the year for it’. When I was 22 the voice said ‘it’s ok, one more year won’t hurt’ and so on and so on for another 8 years and even then after ruining my wedding anniversary, after getting pulled over, after going bankrupt, still the voice said “it’s ok, no one noticed, it wasn’t that bad, you’re fine….you can stop or cut back at anytime”. But I never could. My elevator was broken and the door hadn’t opened for a long time and there was no bathroom so you can imagine the mess when it finally stopped and opened up! Now I am 32 and 110 days sober for the first time. 🙂 still a little shell shocked though….

  • Thank you Belle, that was what I needed to wake up to this morning. It’s learning to recognise Wolfie when he comes dressed as a sheep – I got to day 97, and then kidded myself myself with “see I am in control, I’m doing this for me – I can have just one and go back to the sober wagon” – and how quickly those old habits rush back in. Back to day 1 again – but this time I am going to get more sober supports around me. Time for some phone calls and other sober supports. I work as a therapist – spend my days supporting others with Wolfie and getting them to put their life back together, so Wolfie tells me I shouldn’t need any extra help – that somehow I should know how to heal myself, and for too long that has looked like the bottom of a wine bottle. Day 1.

  • I probably knew I needed to stop at around age 30. I wasted a decade drinking and causing a whole lot of problems with myself. I always said I’d stop if I ended up in the hospital. I did after a bad fall. It took me a 1 1/2 years after that to get sober. So great to get off the elevator. Thank-you!!

  • A big difference between being young and being not-young for me is that now I do know there may not be any stairs. I started over-drinking quite suddenly in response to a trauma and knew it was dangerous right away. I started Belle’s 100 day challenge 16 years later. Today is day 100 (!!!!!) and I want to thank you, Belle for sharing a point of view which enabled me to step away from shame and toward positive action. Also, thanks to Sober Good Works people for the audio.

  • I was that dumbass 24 year old. And before I knew it I was a heartbroken, worn out, hopeless 47 year old dumbass with a lot of regrets. Wolfie steals our time, our potential and our options while we make excuses and pretend everything is ok. We can’t get that stuff back. So to anyone on the fence about quitting, go, hurry, run off that elevator!!!

  • I started doing the google searches about problem drinking, “am I an alcoholic” quizzes about 10 years ago. At that time, I didn’t find any sober bloggers or other support besides AA, and I felt (and still do) that solution is not right for me. I saw a therapist for years. She helped me sort through 99 of 100 things, but sobriety wasn’t one of them…her brain didn’t work that way (which she readily admitted). I found Belle a few years ago and did the 100 day challenge successfully. I signed up for 180 and fell apart about 30 days in. “Just one” of course led me down the slippery slope. I still drink…sometimes “normally” and sometimes way too much and way too often. I started hanging out on this blog again recently. I’m a smart person and I know intellectually it’s stupid, but I just cannot seem to tackle this, and if I’m being honest, I’m in the “I don’t want to” camp. That said, I’ve started refilling my toolbox and will continue to do so until it “clicks” for me.

    • nobody wants to quit while they’re still drinking. that’s wolfie speaking. once you move away from day 1, that voice stops. you can add in some new tools and get going, and feel better again. waiting for a ‘click’ is wolfie too. it’s his way of saying “keep drinking until it gets harder …” ~hugs from me

    • Hi – something about your post resonated with me. I, like you, lurked around the internet trying to find a label for my over-drinking for years. AA did not seem to fit. Then I found the blog, Off-Dry and Belle. So fast forward. I have completed two 100 day challenges. I love myself sober, even though it is sometimes so sucky and hard. But I can count on myself. But both times I have started “moderation” on day 102. And now, this second time I realize that once again my fantasy of enjoying wine once in a while with friends is falling short. I am enjoying wine daily. It is creeping up and up. I am starting to look like shit in the mornings. Trying to moderate (meaning drinking a few times a week,) is becoming impossible. I start to think about a big old glass of wine mid-afternoon. And when I drink that big old glass of wine everything stops. Thinking feeling, doing projects . . . everything. And know what? I am pissed that once again that I can’t do this. I am pissed that I can’t be a normal drinker . . . : ( And I am also a smart person and think that I should be able to will myself into being a normal drinker . . . instead of an over-drinker.
      And then I remember somewhere Belle says, you are not broken. Remove the booze and things get better.
      So another 100 and then this time really go to 180 and beyond? Think if might be worth it.

  • Great message. I knew I had a problem way before it actually became a problem, or anyone else knew. I can clearly remember thinking to myself…you’re going to turn into an alcoholic if you keep this up. And I looked down on people that had that problem. So I continued, telling myself I’d get it together one day and I wouldn’t turn into that. Well, that didn’t happen. I kept going, listening to that damn voice, telling myself I’d stop later. I pretty much did hit bottom almost losing my family. I went through hell dealing with all that, being kicked out of the house. It would have been much easier to attack the problem earlier and get support like yours that made sense of the illogical thoughts that would run through my head every day. I thought it came down to willpower but it’s way more complicated than that. To anyone struggling out there, get off now. No, it’s not easy, but it only gets harder if you keep going and you’ll probably get more consequences along the way. I think a big part of my problem was that I was actually scared to stop – which makes absolutely no sense when it was causing so many problems. That’s how messed up my thinking was. I still sometimes get bummed that I should never drink again – but when I look back at the last 2-1/2 years and ask myself if I’ve missed drinking. Hell no! I haven’t missed out on anything and I’m a much happier person without it. Thanks for all you do Belle 🙂

    • Yes, it’s always going to be hard whether you’re 22 or 57. I stopped drinking when I was 22 for 2 years and remember those years were so so awesome! I picked up again at 24 and now I’ve tried stopping for almost 2 years (since 2015) I don’t know if I can do this again. I am 57.

      Keep going with your good work Belle. You will save a a lot of lives.

  • Years I have known – I was never right at the bottom but booze has impacted on every aspect of my life. For the last 5 or 6 years I have stopped drinking, sometimes for months and then something has led me back to ‘just one’ and then perhaps I stopped for a week after that then had just ‘one more’. And then I slipped down that slippery slope and found myself back to square one. Sometimes it would be months and months before I could re-start being sober again as the time wasn’t right … ha!! I am re-starting again, day 7 today. I need to make sure I never forget that ANY voice that suggests having a drink is wolfie. Any voice that suggests just one will be okay is wolfie. And when I hear that voice I need to make sure I show him the door … and quickly! Thank you Belle!

  • Ah Belle, it’s like you have some weird clairvoyance- knowing what people need before they do. After listening to this audio again, I realize I’m exactly that person who has been “saving” her last call. And in my mind, it did make sense, but of course, I can get more calls…’s more important that I don’t ever think I can take the stairs.

  • Belle, I have been following your posts for a while but now at day 18, I can really appreciate your message. I have seriously considered my wine habits for the last 4 years (long story) and did not “hit bottom”. The message that resonated with me was to “stop before you are ready”. My wolfie said “really,are you kidding me?” But I have stopped and will continue with the support (however virtual) with you! and others

  • I knew there was a problem for 5 years and then for two years I would quit for a month or longer, then start again. Then did 100 days with Belle and other supports and then went right back to the same place. Now I am going for a year.

    This was a really good audio – you will never feel like quitting. Only other people with the same brain get this. Thanks Belle!

  • free at last day 254:)
    Thank you Belle, Thank you generous donors:)
    this came at a perfect time, I am about to leave for Florida, my mom (age 86)
    fell and broke her hip yesterday. I have not heard wolfie for a a couple or months…but today he is yelling!! so thank you for the exact words I needed to hear today.
    you are a blessing

    • First time I ever thought I had a problem was more than ten years ago. Drinking caused a huge fight in my relationship, and I even talked to my therapist about it because I was concerned I had a problem. He, like the next one, assured me it sounded more like “emotional drinking” vs alcoholism.

      Ok… Thanks guys.

      Fast forward ten years (minus 229 days!) and I quit for good.