i’m not going to pout …

triggered. and i know there’s an old-timer out there who’s going to give me an ear-full. and i’m ready for it. really, i am.

i have a friend who’s been a big drinker. drink till it’s all gone, mix in some drugs, take some sleeping pills. that kind of drinker.

He’s been sober for several months, white-knuckling it, self-medicating with all that is not alcohol. but he’s being doing a damn good job of being sober, which was his first and primary goal.

he’s just recently started drinking again, albeit “controlled” amounts of “beer only” and “not to get drunk” etc.

Now, this is making me irritated … and it’s hard for me to articulate why.

[here’s where the old-timer chimes in and says, very sternly, “Belle, look away. Not your business. Not your shit.”]

the friend keeps asking for advice. i’ve offered some bits before, months ago, but recently i’ve stopped most communication.

So my absence to him means that i’m “still drinking” …

the irritated me would like to fire off a missive filled with advice on what i think he should do or try, like the Jason Vale book, or hanging out with you folks, or even trying AA … but i know it would fall on deaf ears.

I’d also like to chime in with “i’m NOT still drinking, i’m in fact 37 days sober and doing quite well, thanks for never asking, never following up, on how i was doing.”

i am not going to email him, and i’m going to leave it alone.  i’m not going to say or do anything, and i’m going to look away. i’m not going to pout and say “i’m quiet because i’m sober, not because i’m drinking.”  and i’m NOT offering this particular friend any advice. He won’t take it anyway, and when asking for advice i think maybe it’s just to hear himself talk …

So here’s my question “old-timers” … is there a sobriety rule about hanging out with people who are trying to quit and who aren’t managing to do it very well? I know i’m supposed to take care of me FIRST. but is there any duty to help, offer a hand, listen to the particular ongoing saga? where’s the line between being supportive, kind and helpful, and being irritated as shit?

There is nothing to wait for

i think we all WAIT for things to happen. but as drinkers, it gets worse.

We wait ’til Monday to start a diet. We wait for the phone to ring. We check our email to see if something interesting is happening OUT there. We wait.

As drinkers, somewhere along the line, we give up and we stopped doing the reaching out, and instead we do the waiting.

I think alcohol makes us draw more into ourselves, and we forget to do the reaching out.

We forget that if life is like a car, then we’re the one driving it. it’s like we’ve pulled the car over for some self-examination, and now we’re waiting for someone ELSE to come along and say ‘it’s OK, you can start driving again’.

Well no shit, it’s your life. (my life, whatever). no one comes and says ‘PS, don’t forget to keep driving, don’t waste time sitting around waiting.’

No one shakes us and says ‘stop looking back, stop looking around, start looking FORWARD’.

So I guess we’re here to do that for each other. There’s nothing to wait for.

Time to make things happen.

oh god, this might just inspire me to make puff pastry and check on my health insurance and file my husband’s taxes for last year.

and you?

stay alert

the first thought i had this morning was “i don’t have time to be *sober* today, i’ve got too much to do.” Not that i plan to drink, but feeling i don’t have time to delve into the last pages of the Vale book, check on blogs, and comment on my own.

But if i’ve learned anything from other bloggers, most recently from Imogen, then it’s this: feeling like i don’t need to do this doesn’t mean that i don’t. how’s that for a sentence with a bunch of negatives.

ok, here it is again.

My advice to me:

Dear Belle:  write and comment and blog every day for the first 60 days or maybe 90 days. longer than you think. don’t give into complacency. don’t think for one second that you have it figured out. Yes, you have a lot to do today, but if you drink champagne today, when everyone else is drinking champagne today, you’ll fall over and this journey will end abruptly. stay alert.

stay alert.

there may be moments of wondering IF, and seconds of feeling like it isn’t worth it.

it is.

the postcard ‘ideal’ life

Last night, husband and i sitting at opposite ends of the couch, my feet wrapped around his legs. It’s 10 pm and we’re both … wait for it … reading. I’m reading jason vale’s book, and he’s (finally) reading the second stieg larssson book. The big floor-to-ceiling windows are open because it’s summer and a warm evening.

The last time we sat together on a friday night on the couch reading?


Maybe you had this experience as a kid, because maybe you had a completely fucked up childhood too.  did you ever have the experience of trick-or-treating, or of driving by other people’s homes, and just getting the tiniest, thinnest glimpse inside, and instantly have a deep feeling of jealousy? i’d see a bit of someone’s living room, it looked tidy, nice couch, dim lighting, someone sitting in a chair reading … and i’d want them to adopt me. I want to live here, I’d think.

Or as an adult, driving through a neighborhood, brief glances into living room windows, i’d feel terribly jealous that i don’t live there.  or there.  or there.  They’re all having such nice lives in there, I’d imagine. I wish i could go to bed and wake up in THAT life.

well last night, maybe for the first time in my entire life, i was having one of those moments that i used to feel jealous about.

i crawled right into the postcard ‘ideal’ life that i’ve been pining for.  quiet people, together, having shared quiet time, in a clean home – no yelling, no cigarette smoke, no clutter, no chaos, no alcohol, no screaming. Nice yellow light, couple on the couch together. Reading.




i feel less foggy

i feel better today. i feel less foggy. i feel less preoccupied. i’ve stopped counting days in my head and have to look at my excel spreadsheet to do the math (day 34). it is sunny. i’m on vacation. my copy of the jason vale book finally arrived yesterday by mail and i’ve started reading it. i’m glad i had 30 days sober first before i got the book, because i feel like i’m already underway, on my own, and now his writing can lift me up. it’s not a struggle to believe his ideas, because i’m already living them.

was out for a walk yesterday, ran into a random friend i haven’t seen in months. joined her on a patio in the sun for a drink. I had bottled water. two of her friends joined up. everyone had a glass of wine. i had my water. I listened to what other people were saying instead of waiting for a pause so i could interject my own damn insightful wisdom.

went out for dinner last night with the hubby to our corner restaurant, we both had water.  husband has stopped drinking at home, or in front of me, and now only has a few drinks a week when he’s out with friends. no big pronouncements. he was only drinking because i was, and that’s quite a realization.

i feel as good today as i’ve felt in a long time. vacations rock (or vacations rule, depending on your continent). having a sober vacation is like having a big christmas present i’ve yet to open. can’t wait to see what’s inside.

Belle is off-duty. Ask someone else.

When I was trying to quit drinking, i did some unusual things.

I’d drink the better part of a bottle of wine while watching downloaded episodes of A&E’s TV show “Intervention” (about drug and alcohol intervention and recovery). And I’d cry.  Other nights I’d inhale champagne, compulsively eat peanut butter cookies, and watch “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” online.  And I’d cry.

Very late in the game, like two months ago, I found the sober blog Unpickled, but only after someone else directed me to it (a guy i know is 5 months sober, doing it all on his own, white knuckling it really, and not entirely successfully and he offered up the Unpickled blog as an example of what wouldn’t work for him).

Right before I began Dry July, i read the entire Unpickled blog from start to finish, a few pages at a time, and i thought “hey, here’s someone like me. no big bottom, probably not a ‘real’ alcoholic, but drinks more than she wants to. watching the clock until it’s Miller Time. That sounds like me. maybe i can (happily) quit drinking, too.”

When I started this blog, i didn’t have any idea that there was a sober blogging community out there. Like i said, i never put “quit drinking” into Google. i wasn’t lurking on a half-dozen sites waiting for motivation (god, i wish i’d thought of that, i could have sped this whole process up by a couple of months at least by starting earlier!).

I started this blog because I was stuck and scared. I wanted to do 30 days sober and i KNEW that i was just about to fail. so i started writing, in the faint hope that someone would find the site by accident. Since Unpickled hadn’t posted in months, i knew it wouldn’t be her.

well i got “welcome” comments right away (how shocking) and i slowly started to fill up my blogroll with people who reached out.

I’m still in baby steps here (day 33) and i’m super hesitant to offer any advice or approach that i haven’t already tried myself. I didn’t start this site, as some people do, with the intent to “help myself and help others” … honestly, i was only thinking of myself. don’t get me wrong, i think it’s great to help others. and i think it’s probably necessary to stay sober, but i just never thought of it like that.  i was in a selfish and desperate place, and i was thinking only of

Anyway, 33 days later, it’s super very cool when someone who has one or two days sober emails me (who knows nothing) to say thanks for being their motivation. or i realize that i’ve been linked, without even realizing it, to someone’s blog who has never actually posted on my site, but is following me quietly.

And it makes me nervous.

Here’s why.

In my real life, i have an unusual career that other people consider glamorous, i get to vacation a lot, and I live in Europe. i have a couple of university degrees, run a business, and (usually) have 9 plates spinning at the same time. i teach and lead and motivate a team. i have clients who pay me well for my advice.

And in my real life, I don’t have a peer group. not really. i have a few friends from school that i’ve had for ages. and everyone else is an employee, previous employee, client, or previous client. or potential client.

maybe everyone feels that they ‘don’t quite fit in’ in one way or another, but this has been my experience most of my life.

NEWS FLASH:  This sober blogging thing is the first time in forever that I feel like i have a peer group of people “just like me.”  Careers don’t matter, our ages barely matter, and to some extent our length of sobriety doesn’t matter either. There is love and support here.

And I don’t have to act like I have it together 24/7.

Best of all, i’m not in charge here (the host, the leader, the manager, “go ask Belle, she knows”). And I’m not trying to teach anybody anything. I don’t have to put on a good face, my business face, my I’ve-got-it-together face.

it’s such a relief.

so while i might occasionally slip into teaching mode and say:  “Let this be a lesson to you and you and you, do this, and you’ll feel better,” i’ve tried very hard to resist that aspect of my personality in this blog, even though it’s sooo engrained. and i gotta tell you, I adore this new way of being, where i’m under the radar.

[side note: I found this blog yesterday and thought “shit I could be her,  i should turn this sober thing into a business, i should come “out” to my clients and i should turn this sober THING into a platform.” OK, i am jealous of Nicole, and the way she gets to be a successful business chick AND an amazing writer AND she can swear in public AND talk openly about giving up booze and sugar.  My public face is quite a bit different …]

I guess what i’m saying is I don’t want to bring my public face IN HERE and act like i know what i’m talking about (cuz i don’t).  and i don’t want to take this sober life OUT THERE and share it with the world. i like being in here, in the sober blogging world. and i’m glad that the two worlds are separate.  If i’m helpful to Rigorous Honesty, then that is a delicious side-bonus. but this is the first time in forever that i’m doing something just for me. not trying to help anyone, not trying to make a business out of it. not trying to drum up clients.  I’m hiding here, safely, until i get my sober sea legs.

Belle is off-duty. Ask someone else. god, isn’t it great when someone else is in charge. In here, i’m a participant, struggling, just like everyone else. i’m not an example of anything other than ‘robust honesty’ as Mrs D puts it : ) Some other day i’ll write about the feeling of being in charge, and when it started (i was 9 yrs old) and how it makes me feel.  for now, let me say that i’m off duty.  saving the world is someone else’s responsibility.

gentle gifts from strangers

i had ‘drinks’ with some friends on Sunday. No, I didn’t drink. I had tea. But I did realized that only 2 of 4 people at the table had alcohol, and those who did only finished 3/4 of their drinks. If that was me, i would have had 2 glasses of wine during that same time period.

I kept watching the friend across from me. Her wine came, and she didn’t sip from the glass for what seemed like ages (at least 15 minutes). and that one glass lasted her the entire 2 hours. Shocking. I just don’t do that.

What I did instead of guzzling two glasses of wine, was i actually listened to what people were saying, and i said nice and kind things in return. There was one woman i hadn’t met before, and i said something like “nice to meet you, hope to see you again soon” as we were parting, and she responded with “gee, i sure hope so.”

that struck me. When was the last time someone was that happy to meet me? like genuinely happy. I used to say, sarcastically, “people either love me or hate me” – meaning i wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

And while that may still be true, i’m not everyone’s cup of tea, i now see that reflexive sarcastic, in-your-face-ness “take me or leave me” as just another bunch of bullshit from a chick who drinks too much.

“You don’t like that I get louder and talk more when I drink? Well, some people like me and some people don’t.”


Well, stuff is CHANGING brothers and sisters! For the better!

This no-booze thing is giving all kinds of cool gifts in return.  Now that i’m not drinking, i’m quite touched by the number of people who LIKE me.  God this sounds so sucky and narcissistic as i’m writing it, sorry sorry sorry.  i guess what i’m trying to say is that i’m noticing that i’m no longer such an “acquired taste” like olives or horseradish. I’m a bit more like chocolate now. I got this email last week:

“I had a lovely time, surrounded by lovely people, and a charming great host (Belle). Thank you very, very much for making my first [trip to your company] a really memorable and soothing moment. Thank you Belle.”

I can assure you that i used to drink through these events, even if i was ‘hosting’, and i never got feedback like that before. never.

what’s different? the sarcasm is gone. Like, 100% gone. Where did it go? When did it leave? Why was it here? No idea. But i like this new me. And thankfully people are kind enough to give me feedback that they notice.

I bet someone is telling you that you’re doing the right thing, and they’re cheerleading in their own, quiet ways.

now that i’ve stopped the bullshit, i can HEAR my cheerleaders better, and i realize that there’s positive feedback out there. I don’t have to bang on my chest saying “see how great I am” – (well, you might argue this blog is doing just that!) – i’m now getting unsolicited lovelies by email, each one gentle and kind. the sarcastic shit-haters just aren’t there. or they’re finding new company. As am I.

[who knows what i am trying to say here, this is just so all over the place. i guess i’m trying to say “YIPPEE” for me, and “check out who’s cheerleading you” to you … OK, i’ll stop now.]

Bring on Abstinence in August, or August Rush, or Whatever We’re Calling It… cheers to another 31 days sober.

oh god, i guess what i’m saying is “are we there yet?”

i realize now that i have some mood fluctuations up and down, some pink cloud-y days followed by some rancid thoughts. i realize now that both are OK, and neither mean i’m going to drink.

Today is the end of Dry July and i have to say i feel relieved. Like it’s about to get easier, finally. It is going to get easier, right?

well, maybe everyone feels the same way during their first 30 days:  you’ve got your head down, you’re singularly focused, kind of obsessed with the blogs, putting one foot in front of the other, not really looking around, just trying to reach THE GOAL.  The goal might be one day or one week or one month or forever. But you’re doing it head-down, focused.

i am at my first goal now (30 days) and i feel like i want to start to look up now. It’s like i pressed a giant PAUSE button on my life for July, and i really didn’t accomplish more than I had to.

OK, that’s not fair. i accomplished sobriety and that’s something! it just took a LOT of concentration to get here to July 31st. This past month, my goals were pretty simple:  get up, run, shower, eat 3 meals a day, and do the minimum to not get fired from my job. get to bed before midnight.  read a book a week? not much. feed my husband? not always.  laundry? nyet. Begin any other new projects? nein. Plan work stuff for September? não.

Now that Dry July is finished it’s probably a dangerous thought process i’m having today, but what i think i’m exploring now is HOW MUCH ATTENTION and focus and concentration do i give this thing… i’m sure it gets easier over time. But i’m really looking forward to getting back to my regularly schedule life, and i don’t want to miss out on any more summer.

Well, I can maybe predict some ‘reasonable’ answers… “Belle, you have to give sobriety as much ongoing time as necessary to maintain it, because it’s the most important thing.”

when really i want to dance. i want to suntan. i want to be free of restraints.  i don’t want to drink, i just want to be done with this part.

i’m not sure this makes sentido (sense).

oh god, i guess what i'm saying is "are we there yet?"

today I have 30 days

Ten good reasons to be 30 days sober:

  1. Celebrating a new ‘personal best’ every day. That doesn’t happen much when you’re an adult, taking on a new skill and seeing progress and improvement each and every day.
  2. Sleeping through the night. Doctor thought i was premenopausal when i complained of waking at 4 am. she should have asked how many glasses of wine i was having every night (answer: 3+).
  3. No arguments.  I haven’t had one disagreement with my husband in 30 days. I can’t tell you how often I used to go to bed teary, feeling completely misunderstood. That seems to be over.
  4. Supportive sober (online) friends. This blogging world rocks, is beyond anything i could have imagined. advice to lurkers: don’t lurk. you’re missing out on a life-line that’ll make the difference. my advice to lurkers is to be brave, read, comment and write every single day (well, for the first 30 days at least!).
  5. No one really gives a shit that i’m not drinking. All the worries of not ‘fitting in’ or being ‘different’ if i gave up drinking were totally bogus. no one gives a rat’s ass. I drink tea and you drink wine? who cares. We go to dinner, you guys order wine, I say i’m not drinking, only one comment in 30 days from Mister, a social acquaintance who i see about every 6 weeks, and now will probably see even less…
  6. It is quiet(er) in my head. This is the main reason I have given up drinking. I’m fortunate to have a “high bottom”. I wasn’t convicted of a DUI, and my marriage was not in jeopardy. But I drank much more than I wanted to, didn’t seem to be able to string together many days alcohol-free. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about when I could drink, how much, was there enough, should i start drinking from my husband’s glass when he left the room…
  7. I’m a nicer person. I’m kinder and more patient and less sarcastic. Much less sarcastic. I think I see people more clearly now. now I meet a new client who talks too much, and i see lonely instead of irritating.
  8. My irritation and frustration levels are diminished. This is a side by-product of being sober that I did not anticipate. Didn’t realize that drinking made me really grumpy, and itchy in my own skin. I think i’m less impulsive, too. Certainly there’ve been NO late-night stupid emails (to friends and clients) promising the moon.
  9. Motivation levels are higher. I used to get a lot done before. Now i’m getting things done with purpose. I’m not just running all over town on some kind of ‘urgent’ mission. Now i make plans and cross things off the list.
  10. I’ve stopped straightening my hair. OK, you can laugh if you want to. But straight hair is all the rage, and for the last 30 days i’ve just stopped. (Honestly some days it takes all of my concentration and focus to get up and get through the day, remember to run, to eat 3 times a day, and to not-drink.) I have naturally curly hair that i’ve been forcing into ‘style’ with a hot iron. this has stopped. my husband now tells me he likes the curly hair better (really? you didn’t say anything for the two years you’ve watched me straighten it?) He says i look younger and less like someone’s “aunt”  (i.e. less like a cougar)…) I think it’s also an outward expression of being more comfortable in my own skin … or it shows a complete abandon of personal grooming while i focus hard on being sober.  we’ll see.

i feel i should now re-order the list, to end with something punchy and strong. Instead it ends with a vain comment about my hair. oh well. there you go. I have cute curly hair, that isn’t the least bit in style. I’ll keep you posted.

today is day 29

today is day 29 and i’m happy for that. i hadn’t strung together more than 9 days before this attempt at Dry July. I started having regular beer/cider every day after work in 1987. I was 21.  Just one a day, it gave me a good buzz. I never drank in high school, was always afraid of alcohol, in fact, still am. That one beer a day, or every second day didn’t really expand at first.  I could buy a 6-pack of cider, and drink my one per day, taking a day off, then go and buy a new 6-pack. After about a year, i started working in a restaurant, and at the end of our shift we were allowed to have one staff drink, at $1 each. Again, i’d stay for one drink late at night, then head home. One or two beer or cider, that’s it. Go to a party and I’d have beer. I’d host an open house wine and cheese party at my office once a year, and I’d have 2 Coronas in the fridge for me.  I used to go to the store and just buy 2 beer at a time. That’s all I  wanted so that’s all I bought. I used to joke and say “i don’t buy more because beer speaks to me.” Beer hanging around my house says drink me now so i only bought two at a time. my friends though that was funny, kind of comedic, isn’t she hilarious.

in 1995 i remember being on vacation, and i bought a 6-pack every two nights, having 3 beer each night in my hotel room, putting the ice in the sink with the plug in. hotel too cheap for an ice bucket (and you can’t fit 3 beer in an ice bucket anyway).

i think there was a post-bad-boyfriend time, the business I was running wasn’t going so well. maybe it was 1999. i was drinking 3-4 beer at a time.  not every night, but often enough.  probably two or three times a week. i really hated drinking beer, though, because i hated the repeated trips to the bathroom. i know. first world problems.

things stayed right there, 3 beer at a time, and not every night, for years. Later, much later, I met my husband (2005) and we started dating. Now i had my partner in crime, my buddy, my traveling partner, my drinking companion. wine or beer at all events. it’s really not his fault. i thought i was playing house, putting dinner on the table, the bottle of red wine. i knew someone would help me drink it. I’d buy different kinds of pinot noir and open them all at once, and we’d do taste tests. he drank to keep me company, never initiated it himself, but would always go out to get more if i asked. (left on his own, like he is now, he has 1 or 2 beer a week… oh god.)

so for seven years, the husband years, the good years, the happy years, the years where we could argue that problems with loneliness have been solved, that boredom had been erased, the years with unconditional love finally provided … yes, for these seven years i’ve been drinking 5 out of 7 nights, then 6, and then 7 out of 7.  right up until 29 days ago.  you might say i was drinking to fill loneliness back when it was 3 beer alone in a hotel room. but now? got no good excuse. except laziness. i took my eye off the ball.  I’d always been afraid of alcohol, knew what it could do to ruin your life, and i’d always been very very cautious. but in the safety of married life i got lazy and complacent and forgot to watch out. cuz i knew it was calling me. back when i joked that beer spoke to me, i knew it was waiting to suck me in … as soon as i took my eyes off the ball …