I can control what I do today to help myself

email from MelMel (day16):

“Hi Belle, I feel a bit better this morning. I figure it’s all like this COVID-19 – I don’t have any control over it. But I DO have control over myself.  I can’t control what damage I’ve done already with my drinking, but I can control what I do today to help myself. The virus is similar to drinking: in order to assure these two things don’t kill me, I will follow the experts which includes WHO, the CDC, and Belle. The guidelines and sober advice. The government rules and 100 days no alcohol. I will also follow  the precautions and being aware of prelapse. These are the things I can control  in order to keep the virus and booze away from me. I will immediately reach out should I feel sick or the need to drink. I will take this time to mend my body and calm my mind. I will remind myself that thinking about doomsday catastrophic events that have not happened, are not helpful to me or anyone. I certainly wouldn’t go to a place where I know the virus would  infect me, just as certainly I wont go and consume alcohol with the intent to infect me. That’s my ‘everything is like everything’ for today! Ha!!”

[update: she’s on day 29 today]


Grace when times are hard. Kindness to yourself and others. Taking care of you.

new painting posted
this is #602: Grace
link here > www.artsober.com

thanks so much for your support 😉 at one painting per day, that’s enough to keep the lights on …

see this new painting here > www.artsober.com

~ hugs from me (and him)


for whom the belle tolls

subscriber ‘Thursdays Heather’ was one year sober on Tuesday, and she wrote this:

“We all have an inner-dialogue, whether we’re aware of it or not. This fact was amongst the many I took for granted as I began my quest to be alcohol free. I was on auto-pilot long enough that my sensible voice of reasoning was all but a tiny whisper. The war within my mind was growing ever increasingly louder; I needed living, real-life examples of how this newfound alcohol-free life worked. I needed to know if there was anyone else who felt, thought and behaved in the manner I did before toying with the notion that I was indeed certifiable (again) … I happened on a book, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober …” >> click here to read the full article <<


mags2020 suggested that I make a magnet with ‘xo’ on it, like how i sign my emails sometimes. so i go looking around this morning and the only blank magnets I could find are these special rectangular ones. I asked him to stop his breakfast (!) and put ‘hugs’ on it in lower case. then I wrote on the xo. This is an experiment …

special edition rectangular magnet
acrylic & ink on handcut card stock
approx. size is 5.5 x 7.5 cm (2.25″ x 3″)
magnet 401 > link




What is your old habit that weighs you down?

email from Runlily (day 17):

“This morning I picked up my handbag that I carry everyday. I pulled out a pair of gloves, thinking, I dont need these today. then I pulled out a small can of hair volumizer spray (that I have not used one time), a pair of socks, an ace bandage, 3 tubes of lipstick, a baggie of vitamins, perfume, a package of thank-you notes. I placed all these items on my table and thought, if i am not using these things, and they dont serve a purpose in my day, why the fuck am I toting them around with me?!?! seems ridiculous.

and I realized…

this is just like alcohol.

why carry an old habit when it weighs me down, worrying that if I don’t have it, I won’t be able to get through the day????

I’m free! I remember you saying that ditching the booze is like putting down a bag of rocks. I finally get it. I dont need those things from the bottom of my bag to make a day better, and I dont need booze to make me better.

how fortunate we are to have you describing this!! many hugs”



the problem with adopting magnets is that the ones with different or new words, well they often feel left out. There haven’t been many ‘s’élever’ magnets. you know what it’s like. you watch all the Exit and Stay magnets go by, and you wait. so today i want to share s’élever with you, this is magnet painting #386. In order to facilitate her adoption, i’ve taken two photos of her — one where she is standing strong in the bright light, and one where she is quietly working away at protecting your fridge …

you can find her on this page here > www.artsober.com

[ She will be on this page until she is adopted, and then once adopted, I will remove her from the page. so if you go check, and she’s not there, it’s too late 🙁 ]

s’élever = to rise up, to raise yourself up, like an elevator …


Go on vacation? (feedback) You may need to do a little less, not more…

from me:
Yesterday, I shared an email from Katie143 about her new day 1, and an upcoming vacation that she wasn’t sure she should take. I asked you to share ideas on what you thought I would reply to her …

First i’ll copy in a shortened version of K’s email, and then below i’ll start to share some of the MANY replies I’ve received.

What about you? Do you think K should attend a girls weekend on day 5 sober?

email from Katie143:

“… I am on day 1. I wanted to lie to you and say it was day 11 but it is not. I am starting over and what a bummer. I went to our family club last night and I indulged . Everyone was having drinks. No one pressured me or asked me. I was just having fun and made an impulsive decision … I planned a girls’ weekend with friends from school, only us ladies. No kids! I planned the trip and also planned a lot of activities so the entire trip would not just be sitting at the pool drinking. However, I am not sure if I should go. Yes, I can tell them I plan on not drinking. They would not care much. I am just not sure I would be able to control my impulsivity and not just say what the heck. Especially since I am starting over at day 1 today. I am supposed to leave this Friday. What do you think? Should I cancel? Any words of advise would be great.”

from me again, here are some of the emails i’ve received. how do you feel when you read these?

  • It’s early days. This is in the ‘too difficult’ box. If she wants to stay sober, she should not go. The price of the rest of her life vs a holiday, there will be others. Plan an extended sober treat instead.
  • Wow, Katie143 is in a tough place. She does not sound like she’s ready to stop drinking … I would definitely not go on a girls’ weekend trip in very early sobriety (less than 30 days).
  • I would recommend that you go on the vacation with her girlfriends as it is quite likely one of them is struggling with a similar addiction or hardship. Staying home and being a martyr does not work; it only makes it worse. We need our deep friends and connections from the past to remind us of who we are and why we chose them as friends in the first place.
  • I would say don’t go on the trip until you’re at least 30 days sober, especially because you just had a setback at a drinking type event. Stay home drink tea and get some momentum … and wrap yourself in bubblewrap for extra safety 🙂
  • Belle, I don’t know if this is the answer you want, but lots of people are cancelling travel plans now because of the fear of Corona virus, especially if they are older and/or have pre-existing conditions. Or she could have been advised by her ‘medical adviser’ not to drink at the moment.
  • Of course you should go! Tell wolfie to shut the f&£k up … why should he ruin your time away with your girlfriends!?! And without kids too! Total bliss 🙂 Your friends won’t give a shit you’re not drinking … Being the sober one is great! You see and feel everything. You remember everything and you feel bloody fantastic 🙂 Please don’t let wolfie rule your life anymore!
  • K, since you are asking, it might mean that you’re thinking it would be a good idea to skip this trip. Especially since you are on Day 1, your only goal right now should be to stay sober. You may need to do a little less, not more. There will be trips with friends in the future, but they don’t need to happen on Day 5. Day 5 is for lots of treats, going to bed early, and avoiding overwhelm.
  • I just had this experience in the fall. I was at 73 days and went away on a girls’ weekend with every intention of not drinking and then I did. It took me 6 weeks to restart after that, because I kept finding excuses not to restart once I let alcohol back into my life. I think it would be best if Belle strongly suggests that she does not go at this time. There will be other girls’ weekends further down the road when she has more sober momentum.


Magnet painting #387 needs to be adopted. In order to help him to find his forever home, I’ve taken two photos  of him — one where he poses in the good light, and one where he’s ‘in action’ on the fridge …


you can find him on this page here > www.artsober.com

[ well, he’ll be on this page until he’s adopted, and then once adopted, I will remove him from the page. so if you go check, and he’s not there, it’s too late 🙁 ]

should I go on vacation?

I received this email today from Katie143, and i want you to imagine how i will reply to her:

“Hi Belle, So Sunday did not go as planned and I have no one to blame but myself. I am not on day 11. I am on day 1. I was so disappointed in myself I wanted to lie. I wanted to lie to you and say it was day 11 but it is not. I am starting over and what a bummer. I went to our family club last night and I indulged . Everyone was having drinks. No one pressured me or asked me. I was just having fun and made an impulsive decision. My husband was not there (he is my police and maybe I would not have done it or I might have and would have tried to hide it) but I have no one to blame but myself. I was having such a great time I just grabbed a glass. And then another. I am so disappointed and embarrassed that I have to tell someone- which I guess is the whole point of this. So I am glad you are here to keep me accountable.

I have a question for you. I planned a girls weekend with three other girlfriends from high school that I am still in touch with. We try to go every other year and all fly somewhere and meet up. Only us ladies. No kids! I planned the trip and also planned a lot of activities so the entire trip would not just be sitting at the pool drinking. However, I am not sure if I should go. Yes, I can tell them I plan on not drinking. They would not care much. I am just not sure I would be able to control my impulsivity and not just say what the heck. Especially since I am starting over at day one today. I am supposed to leave this Friday. What do you think? Should I cancel? Any words of advise would be great.

Thank you for listening and being here. I have never been so honest about my drinking. My husband hates when I lie and say I have not been drinking when I have but I only lie because I don’t want him to be disappointed and I am ashamed. It is so much easier to talk to a person who doesn’t have to see my face.

All my love and gratitude.”


now, what do you think i would say to her this morning? She’s leaving for her trip on Friday.

Post a comment below with your ideas, pretend you’re me, what would I say to her in this situation? i’ll pick 3 or 4 replies to share with Katie143. Don’t delay, do this now 🙂


Just when I think he can no longer surprise me, he presents me with a birthday gift, hand-painted, just like the painting below.

It’s so beautiful that I take it to bed with me, prop it up on the side so I can see it night and morning.

“When did you do it?” I ask.

“Hiding upstairs in the studio. Sometimes you asked me what did I do ‘today’, and I had to lie.”

“Oh wow. It’s so lovely. Can you other ones, similar but different?”

“Yes,” he says. “Each one will vary a bit, in colour and tone.”

“OK, fine.”

This is the fourth one …

From Lake to Sky IV

From Lake to Sky IV
canvas itself is 30 x 30 cm (12″ x 12″)
oil on wrapped canvas, varnished, edges of the canvas are painted black
Wood frame is African ayous (hardwood), pale straw colour.

Free shipping included.

Available with frame
($195 USD; approx 155 GBP)

Or without frame
($135 USD; approx 115 GBP).

The colour of this painting changes dramatically depending on the lighting in the room. Screens on computers can also give inexact representations. The painting will always look better in real life than on the screen.

Please allow 3 weeks for delivery; this painting is halfway through its drying process but needs a few more weeks before it’s ready to be varnished.

hugs from me & him

… thanks to vermont for the inspiration.

drinking is something I MUST do each night

from me:
sober momentum is hard to get. and when you have sober momentum, you protect it. like a little chick that is easily squished in traffic, your sober chick needs protecting, too. 

November 19, 2019
email from ML: “Hi Belle- I did sober October and it was great- not even that hard because I knew at the end I ‘could’ drink again. I told myself that it was a re-set, that I would be able to be moderate afterwards. Well, tonight is the 19th of November and I’ve drank every single night since my 30 day experiment. I don’t drive or get in any type of trouble, I just know that drinking is something I MUST do each night, and that scares me. My daughter just finished her 100 days and now is planning to extend it to the end of the year. She tried to get me to keep on past the 30 and I refused, which makes me feel shitty. I had hoped to lose weight during the 30 days … which was disappointing. I’ve read every book and article about over-drinking there is, but something about your writing really hits home for me. And tired of thinking about drinking is spot on. Every morning I think, ‘tonight I will take a break, just have seltzer or tea’, and then I disappoint myself, again and again and again. Thanks so much for doing what you do!!”

from me again:
if what you’re doing isn’t quite enough to get you going, then you can add on more supports. things external to you. not just books and journalling (though those things are lovely!). when you add in accountability from someone further along sober than you, it’s WAY easier than trying to do it alone in your head. that ‘person’ could be a therapist, counsellor, longer-term-sober friend, 12-step sponsor, coach, or sober penpal. 

email me if you’d like a list of supports on my site (free and paid).

hugs hugs


LARGE magnets
approx. size is 7.5 x 7.5 cm (3″ x 3″)these can be personalized with whatever word you choose …
or maybe your soberversary date 🙂
do you see how they go together?

link for magnet #384 > link
link for magnet #385 > link

sunday audio. something has to change

this week’s sunday audio is about changing things to get different results. imagine you were cold and wanted to get warm. would you remove the blankets that you already have, or would you add new blankets—new layers of supports?  being sober is just like this. adding layers of things to get new outcomes. in this audio i talk about something i read this week by Sean McCabe on the subject of habits and outcomes, and how it maps exactly to how we can change our approach to being sober.

show notes:

  • the blog post about habits by Sean McCabe (seanwes). link here
  • the music, “Ibiza Dream,” thanks to Chris Haugen. link here
  • the photo for ‘adding blankets of support’ thanks to The Bees. link here
  • the unedited version of today’s audio, where i talk about ‘across the pond’, my plans for an extended rant, and the idea of naming these audios ‘clutch/fart’ will be sent in its entirety to podcast subscribers. link here



original art, thanks to mr.belle
you have potential when you’re sober
this is a close-up of painting #589
click link here


this is an extract from the longer sober podcast “Episode 218: Bored.” Someone asked me to talk about what boredom in sobriety means, and what to do with your time. Like, how do you deal with having an empty evening?


  • Get more one minute messages on iTunes (apple podcasts) > link
  • Get more audios on Stitcher > link
  • or search for ‘Belle Sober Message’ on whatever podcast platform you use
  • Get the full audio for the Bored podcast episode #218 here > link ($4.99)


painting 732

if booze is an elevator that only goes down, then you look for the exit. and you get off, and stay off. and in some parts of the world, the signage is different. it doesn’t say ‘exit’ – it says ‘way out’ …
link > www.artsober.com

link > www.artsober.com

from me: 8 things i discovered in a short period of time

from me:

husband was away for 36 hrs (thursday to friday), which allowed me to focus on myself without distractions. the things that i can discover in this very short period of time are … well, they’re large. a large number of large-emotionally-space-taking things.

1. i’m not lonely when i’m alone, i’m pretty self-contained and can entertain myself quite happily without input.

2. i go to bed earlier. 8:30 pm in fact, reading, and then was asleep by 9:30 pm and slept 10 hrs. When he’s here, we eat later, we watch a one-hour show. he likes to finish the show, whereas i can turn it off part-way if i’m tired. he will stop if i ask, i just don’t ask.

3. the eating-late thing is from inertia. i’m waiting for him to start, he’s waiting for me (or not). i’m hoping i won’t have to cook at all if it gets too late … and while he was away? I pulled vegetarian lasagne sauce out of the freezer, the kind he doesn’t like with capers, and had that over pasta, cooked enough for two servings so i’d have an easy lunch the next day, and then – wait for it – did the dishes while the pasta was boiling.

4. when he’s not here, i experiment more, worried that i am (apparently) of the judgement of even one person i guess, didn’t notice this before, makes me try safer stuff? anyway, i made my regular banana bread (cake) recipe with a chocolate cookie base layer, and mixed in a half cup of homemade cranberry sauce into the batter. and it was quite lovely. (how could it not be.)

5. i ate and then put dishes in the dishwasher. i didn’t wait for him to load/unload. i just did it. the mental energy spent deciding to do it or not was removed. (deciding to drink/not drink every day is harder than saying having none.) when it’s just you, you do the dishes. when there’s two people (if you’re like me) you’re waiting. (when it’s just you in your head, you’re sober. when there’s you and an active wolfie, you’re negotiating.)

6. when he’s here, i ask what his plans are for the weekend and then build around him. he doesn’t ask me to do this. and he doesn’t do this for me. like today he’s working for the morning (since he was away), and then we have a new-apartment viewing (the 4th one so far, all with no luck – so far). so now that i know he’s working, i look at the time, judge what i can do in that time. so far i’ve done none of it, mind you. i’m here writing to you AND i watched 30 minutes of cake decorating videos on youtube. i can watch them for hours. but actually ice a cake? too messy to experiment. and then i’d have to eat the cake … and we don’t have the same ingredients here so it wouldn’t work out, oh how i LONG to live in a place with all-purpose flour again. if you’re from the UK and you don’t know what that is, go to google and look it up. go to the King Arthur Flour website or the Robin Hood one while you’re there …)

7. When he’s not here, i take down the nice fairy lights in the living room, hang them in the bedroom, open the bedroom window to sleep (!), and read for an hour to finish the quite-ok-not-booker-prize-y new margaret atwood book. (when he comes home, he says the light isn’t bright enough to read (on his side of the bed, which was true), and he hasn’t noticed yet that i’ve opened the window but later i’m sure it’ll be closed again. he’s a little bird that way, easily cold. whereas i’m a 53 year old woman. nuff said.)

8. when he’s gone for an hour, i sort of wait for him to come home. when he’s gone for longer, i get on with things. (when you quit drinking for a day it’s harder than quitting for longer. when it’s longer, you settle into it. you do. really.)

so today, on this saturday, i’d like to find the release catch that opens the setting that allows me to behave like he’s away all the time, even when he’s here.

you can relate?


s’élever means to rise up, to raise yourself up. i like how the root of the word elevator is in there. and i like that it’s in french, like my guy is, he who is the maker of the art.
this is painting #588 here > link