small notes about christmas (7-8)

#7

oday is boxing day. it is a day to decompress. you might be travelling today. you might be lounging. you will still plan a sober treat, either way. you plan for a bath and then you TAKE a bath. it’s not just ‘maybe if there’s time – it’s “this is non-negotiable because being sober is more important than …” whatever else you’re doing 🙂 the reward for doing a hard thing, it can be as simple as a bath. so long as you then TAKE a bath. otherwise it’s just a promise you don’t keep. and you’re not doing that. no sir. not you. not this year. not today. you’re taking care of you. if you’re flying, then you’re planning for some special snack mid-flight. or you’re aiming for a 10 pm session of the Ellen special on netflix (ok, it’s funny in places, but i thought it was dull, but you know – dull might be just what you need, soothing in its dullness). plan and implement rewards and treats. non-negotiable. cuz you being sober is a big fucking deal. and you’re here. and you’re protecting it.

we need daily reminders that what we’re doing matters. we reach out for support AND we cheerlead for ourselves. we exit the booze elevator. this is exit 286. there is only one.

 

#8

if you’re like me, then as soon as one thing is over, you’re already trying to fill the space. have you ever planned lunch while still eating breakfast? yeah, that’s me. I arrive post-christmas and think “i should go to culinary school in january, i should finish my novel, i should make every recipe in this book.” those are all my examples of thinking from the last 24 hrs.
as part of decompressing after big things, we need to remember that our heads take a while to un-tense. we sit there and think “i can’t just sit here I should be doing something.”
and then we sit some more.
   head: do this and this and this
   body: are you kidding me? i’m sitting on the couch, thank you very much.
while you and i are both familiar with push-push, there’s a time when it’s ok to take the lead from your ass as it sits on the couch. you might need this. you might need to do less. especially after a big thing. go for a walk? great. lounge on the couch? great.
sober? required.
so far today husband made 6 boxes for paintings sold over the weekend. he then took them to the post office, and bought us cream for coffee. i remain in my jammies. i did 3 hrs of emailing and then an hour of pastry-textbook-reading. i am contemplating going for a walk, but then my ass returns to the couch. where it just might stay.

 

 

small notes about christmas (5-6)

#5

email from C: “Having a SUPER tough Christmas morning. Usually about now once the gifts were open, I would have a mimosa (or 6) as a ‘job well done’.
Got this gift from my 11 year old daughter though.
I’m on day 8 (had gone 46 before Thanksgiving) … this and lots of deep breaths will get my through a Tuesday! Thank you for your emails ❤️”

 

#6

it’s ok to leave early. it’s ok to get up and go for a walk, to play with the baby, to snuggle with the dog. it’s ok to sit in the bathroom and listen to an audio. it’s ok to leave early from any event (at any time, always). if you’ve gotten to here, then that’s enough. you don’t have to stay for dessert. you can excuse yourself and say that you have to go and lie down, have been up since early, have a bit of a headache. it’s ok. you’ve gotten to here. you protect this now, going forward. that’s your job for today (and any day).

~

we don’t drink. we exit the booze elevator. we take exit 284 and we get off now.

small notes about christmas (1-4)

#1

you don’t drink at christmas. you’ve tried drinking before, doesn’t suit you. today is a regular monday or tuesday. it’s just like any other day. it’s a day when you don’t drink. really, to add alcohol (addictive depressant) to an already stress-y day, would be madness. and waking up feeling proud of yourself is worth doing. even if you’ve never done it before. now’s the time 🙂

 

#2

it’s not all sunshine. there will be illness and temper tantrums. there will be burned food. there will be grief as you celebrate without someone. all these emotions exist. you don’t pour alcohol on them. you’re having a sober christmas this year. even if. even if all the things happen. even if the HGTV event you’ve been trying to pull off turns into a crazy-house. even if. you can make a list of all the things that go well compared to the things that fly sideways. you showing up, you being here, that counts. write that one down twice.

~
make some time to listen to the christmas audio here.

 

#3

email from Fridgkit (day 24 today): “OMG! I woke up this morning finally realizing what I’ve been trying to do the past few weeks, besides staying sober. I’ve been trying to find a way to reconnect with other people (or maybe to connect with them for the first time) without losing me. When I drink, I lose me. I thought losing me was the way to be with other people, but it’s not. The way to be with other people is to be there: maybe grumpy, maybe withdrawn, much less than outgoing and perky, but there. Sounds easy, but I know it’s not.  It’ll take a lot more work and a lot more of telling Wolfie to go to hell.  But I’ll use every device I can to get there.”

~

you have potential because you’re sober.
comes in goldsilver and purple-speckled

#4

in sydney, australia it’s 7pm on christmas day which reminds me to say this: you will want to watch for post-goal-letdown. you do a big thing, then you need to plan some kind of treat for afterwards. your head will come in and say “but i deserve this” and your head is right, you do deserve something, but it’s not alcohol that you want. you want a piece of raspberry pie, or to sit with a cup of tea and flip through your new magazine. you want to leave some of the cleaning for tomorrow. you want to soak in the bathtub and then get out and put on your new fluffy slippers. you didn’t get slippers this year? fine, write them on your list to go buy first thing tomorrow morning. your treat for doing this big thing. this sober at christmas thing. you can send me a photo of your sober post-christmas slippers. i’ll be watching for you 🙂

~

it’s only early in paris, husband is still asleep. no gift opening yet. no new photos taken yet 🙂 original art from mr.belle here. merry hoho to you.

This year I will stop …

As part of your re-engage with sobriety campaign, today we’re going to talk about things to STOP doing.

you know that overwhelm is something to avoid. at the risk of being a pretentious shit, let me quote from my own book (says every pretentious shit, ever):

(page 88): Your job is to reduce overwhelm. All around you, there are lists of things to do and when you first quit drinking you are going to take it easy. You will shower once a day, try not to get fired, and skip everything else.
Thinking that you need to push or force yourself to do things is a holdover from your drinking time, when you were hungover and you made yourself do things to prove that you didn’t have a problem. You wanted to make yourself look normal. You took on more than you could reasonably do, so that you looked high-functioning, so that nobody knew how much you were drinking, and so no one could detect how you felt about yourself.

For today, I would like you to put a comment on this blog post of something that you are NOT going to do as part of your Christmas/Holiday celebrations this year. You’re going to make 3 kinds of cookies instead of 10. You’re going to skip midnight mass and go in the morning. You’ll do ‘christmas mugs’ instead of ‘stockings’. You’ll order chinese food on christmas eve (my mother used to do this!).

We’re always looking to ADD new traditions to our holiday season, but for today, i want you to consider what you can give up, in order to help you feel less overwhelmed. You don’t have to be clever or original, you just have to be real. If you can’t think of anything, then copy this: “to help myself avoid overwhelm – which is a boozer’s biggest trigger – i’m going to skip making Christmas Eve dinner and have pancakes instead.”

My blog allows anonymous comments, so you don’t have to fill in your name/email address if you don’t want to.

And to bribe you to participate, to support your sobriety, and encourage you to speak up, I will RANDOMLY select ONE comment from this blog post about 24 hrs from now, and that person will receive a sober toolkit bracelet bracelet for free.

hugs, me

Day 4: what can i give up

day 4 of the re-engage with sobriety campaign.

you know that overwhelm is something to avoid. at the risk of being a pretentious shit, let me quote from my own book (says every pretentious shit, ever):

(page 88): One of the most important things you will do [in early sobriety] is learn to strategically avoid ‘overwhelm’—I use this word as a noun, it’s a thing on the horizon, like fog.
Your life is like a video game. You can see potential bombs, things advancing, that could blow up and throw you off course. Your job is to navigate them. You don’t walk right into a bomb and hope for the best. You don’t test yourself by repeatedly doing difficult or stressful things. Instead, you ask someone to carpool, you decline social activities, and you simplify meals.
Your job is to reduce overwhelm. All around you, there are lists of things to do and when you first quit drinking you are going to take it easy. You will shower once a day, try not to get fired, and skip everything else.
Thinking that you need to push or force yourself to do things is a holdover from your drinking time, when you were hungover and you made yourself do things to prove that you didn’t have a problem. You wanted to make yourself look normal. You took on more than you could reasonably do, so that you looked high-functioning, so that nobody knew how much you were drinking, and so no one could detect how you felt about yourself.

For today, I would like you to put a comment on this blog post of something that you are NOT going to do today. What one thing can you give up, in order to help you feel less overwhelmed. You don’t have to be clever or original, you just have to be real. If you can’t think of anything, then copy this: “Today, to help myself avoid overwhelm – which is a boozer’s biggest trigger – i’m going to skip making dinner tonight and order take out or have grilled cheese sandwiches.”

(that said, i’m having canned soup for dinner tonight.)

My blog allows anonymous comments, so you don’t have to fill in your name/email address if you don’t want to.

And to bribe you to participate, to support your sobriety, and encourage you to speak up, I will RANDOMLY select ONE comment from this blog post about 24 hrs from now, and that person will receive a sober Elevator bracelet for free.

hugs, me

christmas food memories shared

yesterday i sent out an email about the new ‘open your sober emails’ campaign. over the next few days, every email i send will have a gift or a discount or a give-away. each email will have a story or a motivation or entertainment. consider it an ethical bribe: i send you good stuff, you open your emails, you win in more ways than one. if you are not receiving the daily emails, sign up for them here.

for the first Re-engage with Sobriety, Don’t Forget to Reach Out and Be Sober Christmas email campaign, i asked you to share your christmas memories about food. and i can tell you the number of emails i have in my inbox today is triple the usual number. so it’s working! in my email. i said i would choose one story and send out the Top 10 Best Sober Podcasts from the archives. if you didn’t win, i’ve created a runner-up prize 🙂 here’s a link where you can download the Top 10 Archived Podcasts for 25% off for today only.

OK, here’s the winning story

(i don;t know why but this made me laugh and and laugh):

Pam: “Went to my brother and new sister in laws for Christmas dinner a few years back. Was enjoying a nice dinner with family, when I bit into something hard in the scalloped potatoes. I tried to chew it, but no way, so I tried to discreetly spit it into my napkin but noticed my sister in law was watching me like a hawk. When the hard object landed in the napkin to my complete horror, it was a fake finger nail with polish and everything! I thought I was going to lose my dinner right there. Before I could utter a word my sister in law exclaimed “thank God it was you! I was so worried your dad would of been the one that found it” (my dad is always the one that seem to find odd things in meals).  Still don’t eat scalloped potatoes and count her nails before family meals.”

and here are three runner-up stories.

j: “My mother is not the traditional type, not warm and fuzzy, and we often have a strained relationship. I am her only child and I carry a lot of guilt around this. I moved in with my dad at 10 years old but would visit my mom around Christmas every year and the one thing she always did before I came was bake a lot of cookies (out of character for her). She made my grandmother’s recipes, about 10 different kinds, from scratch. This year, she invited my teenage daughters to bake cookies with her (again, very out of character – she hasn’t baked in years and years). I invited myself. My daughters and I went to her house last week and we baked together – reading my grandmother’s recipes straight from index cards in her own handwriting – they had to be 40-50 years old. We burned the first batch, my mother didn’t have half the ingredients we needed (despite planning this for a week) and had to run out to the store, she had opera on rather than Christmas music (until I straightened that out), and we did it. I was sober (not sure if she was, but that’s not my issue), and I know that it’s a memory that will last forever, as imperfect as it was. ”

newg: “I have never seen a single member of my family actually go to McDonald’s and get an egg Mcmuffin.  But every single Christmas as far back as I can remember my mother has dozens of eggs,  crappy processed cheese,  Canadian bacon and English muffins and makes the homemade equivalent of egg Mcmuffins and we eat them until we cannot move (mine is baconless but I eat nonetheless). One year many years back my then new sister-in-law suggested she make her famous ginger pancakes.  Seems reasonable right? Sounds good?  So being mature adults we said ok.  They were fantastic. But we all secretly died a little inside! She must have known because she never asked again and to this day (and we are spread over 3 provinces) we all still make the Mcmuffins in our respective homes. My one brother now has his wife’s very large Chinese family over for Christmas egg Mcmuffin breakfast every year and they love it.  The moral: traditions are strange, but don’t mess with them.”

AverageJoe: “It was Christmas of 1994. Our first daughter was born in March of that year and all was right in the world.  We had just moved into a new house two weeks before her birth and my oldest brother was helping me build a redwood deck.  He was a bit of a lost soul and we tried to help him out whenever possible. I say was because he has since passed away.  I had taken some time off the week before Christmas to work on the deck with him, and the two of us managed to get quite a bit accomplished. I treasure those memories. My wife was pumping and freezing her breast milk.  She would store the breast milk in the little plastic bags that went into the baby bottles in the freezer in the kitchen. When we would go out and it wasn’t convenient or appropriate to feed the little monster in public she would take a bag out and — problem solved! Our family tradition was that my sister would host Thanksgiving and we would host Christmas. That Christmas, we all gathered around the table and were having a wonderful meal.  At some point during the dinner, my brother turned to my wife and asked her “what the hell kind of popsicles are those in the freezer? They’re terrible!”

comments:

j: “Thank you for this.  I’m feeling low these days, and I know that I have to dig deep into my bag of tools to keep my sober momentum.  Otherwise I will become complacent and at some point say f-it, I can have just one or two glasses.  I don’t want to go back there, and so I’m adding this contest to my tools for today.”

chef L: “I’m usually much better at staying positive this time of year, but we just nominated Drunk Uncle president. These next four years are going to be like the longest Christmas Day ever. I’m going to stay sober, but it’s not going to be easy. I’ll be opening your emails every day, Belle. I can at least promise you that.”

d: “I like this idea a lot. I’ve been finding it difficult to focus on myself at all. My husband had surgery and needs a lot of help so my sober habits have had to be on the back burner. That is not working well for me.”

r: “your email bothered me. That fucking election. I can’t stand to think people are giving up. That is not OK. We all need us right now. I can’t do anything about anybody else, but I will not give up … Thanks for what you do. I don’t think I need contests. Treats, yes. And emails to remind me that I should do my best to not give up.”

weenie: “Wow.  I didn’t realize the election results would have an impact that even you would notice in the sober world.  I know politics is polarizing, but this is ridiculous.  You should start a campaign to Vote Out Wolfie.”

~

watch your email inbox for another Re-engage with Sobriety message 🙂 and here’s a link where you can download the Top 10 Archived Podcasts for 25% off for today only. hugs

 

facing things head on

I recorded a podcast today about having a sober Christmas. Thanks to Momma Bee (18) for the idea.

Last year was my first sober christmas, and like our first sober anything, it was a bit weird. This year we’re going to be in a hotel room on christmas day, so that’s a pretty big routine-change. It means no tree this year, no baking, no big meal, and no Christmas Eve or Boxing Day catering (phew!). It means, instead, i’ll be having my favourite kind of adventure: a vacation in a new place. Lots to look at, see, photograph, explore. And no kitchen, no baking, no cooking, no food prep, no cleaning out cupboards, no recipe testing. Oh and the apartment we’re renting has a TV. that’ll be a treat in itself 🙂

The key for me is to continuously create new routines that support me — do things, create things, set up things that make me feel better. Sometimes that means showering before 5 pm (!). But it also means (in future) going to the doctor sooner so that i don’t worry as much. It means dealing with things as they come up rather than stalling, procrastinating, waiting.

When i was drinking, i just let EVERYTHING slide – paperwork, trips to the dentist, paying my taxes. I was just too fucking lazy to do anything. (Well, i was too boozy after 6 pm to do anything.) Now that i’m sober, i’m slowly figuring out how to get things done.

and some of what i’m learning (this week anyway with my heart thing) is about facing things head on.Note to Belle: don’t be avoidant. just deal with it. call the doctor to ask a follow-up question. Wake up my husband at 5 a.m. if i feel weepy (which i did on tuesday). He said some amazingly supportive things and i could nearly cry now in writing this to describe the relief he gave me at 5 a.m.

Here I am now on saturday evening, symptoms 95% resolved, feeling better than i’ve felt in about 6 weeks. The brain space that was occupied with even 8% worrying, is now gone. Yes i could get squished by a car tomorrow. but my mortality can happily go back into the background again. where it belongs.

and lemme tell you, anticipatory anxiety is such an energy-sucker. worrying about impending doom is just sooooo depressing and never-ending. Just like putting off going to the doctor is crazy-making. Just like letting things slide (in some cases too long) is a kind of self-torture. Just like worrying about christmas instead of taking steps to ensure a good one is a recipe for disaster.

Look, it’s november 9th. lots of time between now and December 25th to get some new strategies in place to ensure that we are (I am) taking good care of ourselves. You and me both. Let me know if you want me to post an extract from the christmas sober podcast.

PS/ And yes, i’m taking it easy. i have a frozen lasagne in the oven as we speak. i haven’t cooked anything since thursday. i did shower before 5 pm. i went for a small walk to buy chocolate.

From my inbox:

Brett (day 3): “Belle, Zenmeg’s e-mail really hit home for me.  I struggle so much with finding happiness.  I think that’s why it’s so hard for me when I pass by others laughing and enjoying a glass of wine.  I immediately think it’s the wine that’s making them happy.  But it isn’t, and that realization is a wondrous yet terrifying revelation for me.  If it’s not the wine, then, ultimately, these people are just genuinely happy?  I have been turning to wine searching for happiness for so long, and it’s not there.  So that means I have an awful lot of work to do, to undo the wine = happiness fallacy and to redefine happiness for what it truly is.  The problem is, I don’t know what that is yet.  But I have a teeny little positive voice in my head that tells me someday I will find out…”

Matt S (12): “Every time I get here I start thinking about moderation also. It is such a mirage, such a myth. It’s like when you are in a fancy store and you wonder aloud how much something is because the price isn’t marked and your friend tells you ‘If you have to ask it means you can’t afford it’…. Moderation is the same way, if you find yourself thinking about it, it means you can’t do it.”