AA Evangelists [audio]

There is sometimes tension between people who go to AA and people who don't.

Me, i'm not fussy, if you're long-term sober, it doesn't matter what you're doing, so long as it's working. Meetings or no meetings.

But I got this email from Emsyface asking for more clarification: “​Can you could talk about the tension between people who attend AA, and other approaches to being sober. There’s always this unspoken tension between a family member and me because I don’t do AA, like I’m in disagreement or something.”

In this full-length podcast audio, I talk about how to have an open mind when considering being sober, how it feels to be sitting on this side of the microphone ... and even if you think this topic has NOTHING to do with you, you'll be glad you listened.

there's something in here for you.

​This is a brand ​​new podcast (episode 279) that is going out later this week ​to podcast subscribers.

​I'm posting a link to the entire audio, and I'll leave it up for 48 hrs so that you can listen right now. 

[ link removed ]

​Sober Podcast 279. ​AA Evangelists

​Links mentioned in the audio:

  • Micro-email sent out with the title "I wish I had gotten ​arrested" > link
  • Ranty Belle podcasts > link to part 1, link to part 2
  • Dry Drunk podcast > link
  • Original Art Page > link

You can ​​leave a comment below, anonymous is fine. ​Have you been to AA? What part of it was helpful for you?

​Podcast subscribers will receive a copy of this audio #279 later this week.

Sign up for the ​podcast membership
(1-2 new full-length audios each ​week, you can cancel whenever you like ... but you won't. more sober tools = good)

Update from London 2018

This is a brand new podcast (episode 273) going out today to podcast subscribers.

Recorded this ​new podcast on the train coming home from London, so the audio quality is a bit weird.

I'm also experimenting with recording and then not editing. Just letting it end up 'however' — I think this may encourage me to record more often, if i'm less worried about the right microphone or whatever.

We'll see 🙂 work in progress... everything is like everything.

I've posted the entire audio and I'll leave it up for 48 hrs. ​Listen now.

[ link removed ]

​Sober Podcast 273. ​London 2018

You can ​leave a comment below, anonymous is fine. ​

Question: Would you come to a meetup if i held one in your nearest major city? Would you come and eat homemade cinnamon doughnuts and chat? ​

 To download the entire audio, you can use the link below.

​Download ​SP273.  London 2018​

Sign up for the ​podcast membership
(1-2 new full-length audios each ​week, you can cancel whenever you like ... but you won't. more sober tools = good)

​This is original Exit painting #253. If booze is an elevator that only goes down, it's time to exit. here's the reminder you can hang on your wall.

results: … if I disappeared

I recently sent out a questionnaire to a small group of my subscribers (n = 458) to ask about what people would miss if I disappeared.

No, I’m not planning to disappear. But it turns out if you ask people “rate these things in level of importance,” you get different results than if you ask: “if all of these disappear tomorrow, which ones would you pay to make them come back.” Again, I’m not really asking about ‘paying’ for anything, but asking the question this way helps to figure out what things are ‘worth’.

I do approximately 8 discrete sober things. My goal as to try to begin to figure out what might change if my live evolves in some way that would limit the amount of time I spend physically sitting at my desk. Like if I was travelling more to meet sober humans. or doing media stuff (ha!). or if I’m flown first class to New York for a talk show (I’ll request this from the universe, now. and we might as well let the stewardess know that I’ll take the fish, please, accompanied by a litre of tonic water. and a newspaper in English. and a non-scratchy blanket.)

The 8 sober things that I do now are:

(1) sober penpalling

(2) compiling and sending shared stories for the daily micro-email

(3) designing, receiving, packaging & mailing sober jewelry and treat boxes

(4) recording original audios (one minute messages, longer podcasts)

(5) writing original text (either for the emails, or for the blog, or for some other writing project)

(6) one-on-one sober coaching calls

(7) live group calls (like on Mixlr, or on conference calls)

(8) travelling to host sober meetups, eat in a bakery, hang out together


When people had to pick only 4 things from the list, then the results look like this (in declining order):

  • sober penpalling (this received 111 votes)
  • writing original text (either for the emails, or for the blog, or for some other writing project) 104
  • recording original audios (one minute messages, longer podcasts) (96)
  • compiling and sending shared stories for the daily micro-email (69)
  • designing, receiving, packaging & mailing sober jewelry and treat boxes     (22)
  • one-on-one sober coaching calls (22)
  • live group calls (like on Mixlr, or on conference calls) (11)
  • travelling to host sober meetups, eat in a bakery, hang out together (11)

Interesting to me was how the penpalling and the writing ranked higher than the audio stuff. And yes, I know it’s all ‘important’ but it’s curious how the written came out ‘higher’. Not for everyone, of course. And some people adamantly insisted that all 8 things HAD to stay, and that I needed to change something else, but not the 8 things 🙂

Here’s some of the comments that accompanied the survey results:

E-Z (day 270): “I vote for the one-on-one sober coaching calls. The one I had was awesome, and really helped me. I think it’s important to talk about the process of getting sober with someone who understands. Places like AA can be good for that, but I honestly hate the idea of feeling like I have to keep going to maintain sobriety, or that people will judge me if I stop. Being able to work through it one-on-one with someone was a lot more manageable and relaxing. Plus, I was able to have this call with you while sitting in my jammies on the floor of my closet, which was a big plus.

Bruna (day 47): “I love love love the OMMs sometimes I’m folding laundry and listen to 15-20 in a row.”

Carly (day 8): “Penpalling is by far the most important. Drinking is so isolating, having your voice come across the interwebs with a specific response to me in a specific moment has literally saved my life multiple times. You have a true gift for saying exactly what we need to hear, and it’s not a formula or duplicable (I know that’s not a word). Audios are super helpful. Original writing is a clear talent of yours, and important. The daily micro-emails and the jewelry could be done by someone else and we’d all survive. =) Proud of you for thinking through this! I might have to do this myself to see places I can streamline my workload as a teacher!”

Grateful Girl (day 397): “The micro email reminds me I am not on my own and gives me the feeling of being in a lovely sober club.”

Trixie (day 477): “Penpalling. I’m sure that people who are more ‘joiny’ than me appreciate different things like personal and group calls.  I think I was just too engrossed in my own shame and fakery to talk outloud to anyone at all, especially about that.”

Phoenix (day 178): “In terms of the list. I think all are very valuable to a range of people at different stages. Now that I’m almost 6 months, I love the idea of a sober meetup and it’ a goal worth striving for.”

Clear-Eyed Girl (day 911): “My starting point is that everything you do is valuable and that it would be better to involve others than to stop doing any of it. If you don’t agree with that premise, please feel free to ignore the rest of this e-mail …”

AmandaJ (day 74): “We all need help with decision making, all of us types I mean. I you didn’t need advice, opinions or need to ask for feedback –if decision making was naturally so black or white to you, then you wouldn’t be the wonderful being you are, doing the wonderful thing you’re doing. You’d probably be a hot headed bell-end of a narcissistic CEO with pots of money but no soul. And that would never do.”  me: that’s hilarious. if it was ‘all about money’ you’re right, I wouldn’t ask. I’d just maximize for profits … what a soulless kind of sober support that would be 🙁

Yogayamagirl (day 462):I would miss the penpalling the most. It is so important to me when you answer me.  One word, two doesn’t matter. I know you read it and heard me.”

Fern (day 150): “Sober penpal – I like having someone who is interacting with just me – not on a blog or through comments etc. but someone who is personal to me. Don’t think I would be on this sober journey without this.”

Coco (day 155): “Love the podcasts, audios, and one minute messages because I like to hear your voice, it makes it more real. Also, no matter how busy I am I always have time for a one minute message and they are very powerful as I often hear  your voice in my head standing up for me against Wolfie.”

Miss Kell (day 15): “I’d miss the phone calls although I do love the original writing too. I know I’ve only spoken to you twice, but when thinking about what I would really miss, the choices with personal connection won out. In your penpal emails and in the phone calls, you  say exactly the right thing every time. Off the cuff, tailored to my situation, you really get it and you really help. So while I love all of your writing (I bought the book can’t wait to get it!) I had to choose personal responses/ connection as part of my top 4.”

Shorttermnoterm (day 344): “The fact that you have been where we are and you both hold your shit together and admit it can be tough to hold your shit together is beyond helpful. So when I get a personal email from you — albeit rarely because I don’t personally email you very often, it’s like “Oh, Brad Pitt waved at me today, yes ME” – that’s how I feel. “My good friend Belle who gets me even though we have never met but travel the same road emailed me” – I also believe you need to limit this, and say “OK 20 a day, or one hour, that’s it.”

Hank (day 830): “Jewelry. I wear either my “Stay Here” or “Not Today” bracelet every day! I got one for my 100 day treat and the other for 180, I think.  They are like a secret super power.  I think they serve the same purpose as an AA sober coin –a tangible symbol of success and strength. I feel strong when I put them on and when I look at them throughout the day.  Or when I’m having a shitty day, they make me feel better. And one on one calls, when I was obsessing about wrongs done to me in the past, a sober coaching call with you did more good that six weeks of (poor) therapy, so also an excellent resource.”

Molly Jones (day 12): I love the live mixlr chats! The immediate interaction and conversation is such another good level of connecting with you and others…it’s really fun and helpful.”

Lyra (day 358): “I vote for original text, but I think your writing combined with the stories also counts as original work. You are doing a lot of awesome sifting and the comments you add to the stories turn them to gold. We get the benefit of feeling like we are sharing this journey with others without the risks of connecting directly with hordes of strangers.  (Like getting discouraged by their relapses or bad advice or shaming.)”

Unwined Gal (331): “For those of us that don’t attend AA or don’t have other social supports, receiving your insightful emails is tremendously helpful. I feel like I am not alone and know it is always good sound advice from someone that has been there. Also, you are super funny and if we can’t laugh, well, then we…”

Beachluvin’ Annie: “Sober jewelry is available on sober sites (tho not today and the subtler texts are nice), and … sober meetups (i.e. meetings) are available all over the world.  Sober penpaling and one on one sober coaching calls (i.e. sponsorship) are necessary for permanent recovery. Daily micro emails, audios and your writing are helpful for “seekers” or peeps having “moments of clarity” that their drinking is going to heck in a hand basket FAST … Prayers and kind thoughts for the book launch. Keep your focus on your sobriety as none of this happens without it. Love you, Annie”

MichelleS (day 173): “Coaching calls – I appreciate that these may be considered a ‘luxury item’ by some.  Struggling to articulate why I value these.  Maybe it’s like Oprah says: we all just want to be heard and to be validated:  ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me’.”

pre-order new book (hooray!)

Pre-order your copy of the new book today. 

This is an advance pre-order.
Book will be finished and ready to ship
on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 


The book is not ready today but you can reserve your copy now.
You are going to email me and ask me where the book is, I can tell.
So read this again (ha). This is a pre-order.

Book Introduction

THIS IS WHAT I THOUGHT: There isn’t enough to drink.

I should go to the liquor store now. I’m not sure what we have planned for tonight and I won’t want to go out again. One bottle won’t be enough. Two would be cutting it close. There isn’t enough.

I will put our glasses side by side on the counter when I pour the wine each evening. I will line the glasses up to
make sure that you don’t get more. There isn’t enough.

And this really happened to me. I was alone in a hotel room, and looked into the mini bar, and saw:
~ one tiny Toblerone bar
~ one KitKat bar
~ one bottle of water
~ two tiny cans of beer
~ two tiny airplane-sized bottles of red wine
and I thought, I can’t start drinking now, there isn’t enough.

Not enough for what?

To fade out. To be numb.

Because despite what I may have said, I never wanted one glass of wine with dinner. I wanted three glasses. What’s the point in one glass?
And despite what I may have said, I never drank because I liked the taste. I romanticized expensive wines, but they are all basically the same. Alcohol is a vehicle, and I didn’t care which vehicle I used to travel. When the fancy stuff was gone, I was content to drink boxed white. I didn’t let a room-temperature light beer stop me.

pre-order your copy now

Available in print, e-book & audio formats


Sure, I can quit any time

I am an unlikely candidate to have started a sober blog. Call it desperation if you like, I just had NO IDEA how to stay sober on my own.

I don’t drink that much, I say to myself. Yet I drink mostly every day. Some weeks I manage a few off-days but I hate them. Why can everyone else drink except for me? And then I cave as soon as someone offers me a drink. I read my morning pages, and I have written “drink less” and “you drink differently from other people” and “from now on I will only drink wine only on special occasions or when we have company or when on vacation or if it’s a really good reason.”

Yeah, that never worked. Ever. Not once. Never. Not one time.

Alcoholic? Well of COURSE I’m not an alcoholic. I mean, for christ’s sake, just look at at that guy panhandling in front of the liquor store. I’m not him. I don’t drink from a brown paper bag. I never miss work.

I’ve got alcoholism in my family and I’ve seen what it looks like. It’s grim. That’s not me. I just drink a bit more than I should. Sometimes. And not all the time. Sometimes I drink a regular amount. Mostly. I would never quit drinking forever. That would be like cutting off my right arm to deal with a hangnail. I just need to learn how to ‘manage’ my drinking.


I see something called Dry July and I think, hey that won’t be so hard. I’ll do that. It’ll be good for me. I could really do with a drying out period.

I don’t feel desperate when I decide to quit. I just feel tired of all the wine. And I really think I’ll like the challenge of it, like marathon training had been, like learning a new language, getting married, moving to Europe. All challenges. Giving up wine for a month? Should be pretty straight forward.

Sure, I can quit any time. Until it’s actually TIME to quit, and then man it kinda sucks. In a big way. It sucks ass.

I’d done a bunch of self-discipline things before. I’d quit for a couple days here and there. It’s not that I couldn’t manage my drinking (I told myself very smugly). I could manage it all right, I just hated managing it. Who wants to skip a day? Who wants to have one glass and then stop? I resented managing my wine consumption and I resented every person on the planet who happened to be drinking at that second. And every person past or future who might drink. Because I wasn’t.

Sure, I can quit any time. Until I’m sitting in the bathtub on day 7, really pissed off and irritated. It’s 7:30 pm or so. I decide: fuck it, sobriety is just too hard. I’m going to get out of the tub and go buy wine. You deserve it. This is too hard. You hardly had a problem anyway. You can quit again later. I decide to stay sober. I change my mind to drink. I change my mind to stay sober.

I’m about as irritated as I’ve ever felt. Maybe in my whole life. I feel like my skin is going to fall off from irritation. That I’m itchy on the inside.

I dry off, put on pyjamas, come in the office, right here, in front of this Apple cinema display screen, with this Dell wireless keyboard, and I read a sober blog.

Yes, apparently there are other people in the world who have quit drinking and have lived to tell about it. Fuck, they even seem to LIKE being sober. What’s the matter with these people?

I keep reading. I believe the words on my screen, and don’t believe them at the same time. It worked for her, it won’t work for me. I’m different, special, different, this is me, I’m not like that.

The next morning I write my first sober blog post.

My list of things ‘up with which i will not put’ …

so i have this blog, see. and i post shit. and sometimes i post shit that seems to resonate more than other shit.

yesterday’s blog post about knowing what’s best for me is one of those resonating blog posts. Some people email me their comments rather than posting on the blog. here is some of what’s in my inbox today:

Cat Girl (day 26): “Yesterday’s post was a triumph.”

Me: It’s hard to say why. I’m getting a lot of feedback about the post, which strikes me as unusual 🙂 Doesn’t everyone have a list of things up with which they will not put?

Cat Girl: “I think it’s because the list shows that you know your triggers incredibly intimately. Which is, perhaps, the key to successful sobriety … I, for instance, am only just discovering things like: I really prefer reading to TV, I like mornings, swimming is my sanity saver … I’m not lazy after all…  I think it resonates with people that you really know yourself. Because we don’t. PS/ Yes. YES. As boozers we are just mean to ourselves. No, you shan’t have eight hours sleep, you shall have FOUR. No, you shall not eat, you shall be starving and irritable. I know that running makes you feel good, but *throws trainers out window.* It’s a really weird self-flagellation thing. Oh, there’s something sharp. I know, I’ll stick it in my eye! Fabulous idea.”

And then I got this great email from Lex.
Is this your idea of a bad day?

Lex (day 12): “When someone asks you what is the worst possible thing you could imagine, what do you think of. I’m sure people think of murder, or terrible things of the sort. Me, the worst think I could think of it this: … friends ‘dropped” off a case wine … wines that sparkled in the sunlight off my back porch, white ones red ones and ever so pink sparkly ones. Seriously Belle it was my fucking nightmare. Me sitting atop my pink cloud thinking life is good, I am in a good safe spot. and BOOM! Why meeeeeee?  Well I am sure you are wondering what I have done with them… I did not consume a one. I considered sticking one downstairs in the bar fridge and drink the whole fucking thing. but no I didn’t. No sir I did not drink one.. I am a MONSTER, A FUCKING ROCKSTAR (in my mind at this moment). I immediately called my sister to pick up the wine … I know I have my moments. You have seen me fail time in and out due to things just like this. … Now I’m the girl who is sober, getting rid of all that shit.”

and a busy day for me. one more catering day tomorrow then i’m off to London for the meetup and to do bakery research and to hang out in English with Anglophones! how exciting! hope i don’t get squished trying to cross the street, looking in the wrong direction.  always look down first to check the big yellow arrows 🙂

cinnamon buns and blue walls

From me:

Only 4 more sleeps until we head to London for a long weekend. can’t wait, it’s been over a year since we’ve been in england and i’m dying for a real hamburger PLUS a real breakfast PLUS the sunday newspaper in English! we’ll also probably load up on cheese. and when I say ‘we’, i mean me, but he’ll carry it. Are you coming for tea and cake? there are 6 of us so far 🙂

I have to tell you a story. That this past Sunday we went out for ‘breakfast’ (which was really quite terrible). Across the street from the restaurant is a newly renovated teashop that has recently closed its doors. All closed up. All the glassware spotless, tables still set, blinds open … but there’s a chalkboard in the window that says giving up their lease due to health reasons. It’s so sad, someone’s dream is now just sitting there. empty.

I said to Mr. Belle:

“That’s what I want. I want a store. Look at her tea pots, aren’t they adorable? I want a bakery that’s open 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. with continuous production. I want a place where you can order a club sandwich with smoky mayo at 1 a.m. with a side of homemade potato chips. I want to have tea tasting and some non-boozing social events. I like her spot here, isn’t it perfect? OK, i don’t like her orange and the purple colour scheme, but look how spotlessly clean it is. I’d put the cinnamon buns right there. Look, the sound system and the candles and everything is ready. Look.  Look.”

[what is hilarious about this, to me, is that i always said i didn’t want a store. I didn’t want to grow the baking/catering any bigger than it is now. I said: i’m happy with my 3 different jobs cuz i like the variety. I said: I’m happy doing the catering when I feel like it. I said: i’m good staying small, it’s manageable, it fits nicely into my life.  And then boom, i see an empty store, two blocks from my apartment, on a corner, across the street from a late night pub that serves TERRIBLE food. and that’s it.  Now i think:  the people from the shitty pub will come here to get sandwiches. i could have takeout bagel sandwiches at 2 a.m.  with a side of cinnamon buns. And breakfast at midnight. and Jones Cola.]

I didn’t want a store, i was happy being small.

Until i got to 465 days sober and saw an empty store near my home. and now the possibility wheel is turning. I say to Mr. Belle: when we’re in london, i’ll take pictures of bakeries to get ideas. And hey, Mr. Belle, can we have blue walls? or do you think that’s too foreign-american-looking… can it look like this?


when we wanted to move to europe, it took 2 years to get the finances/plans/schemes/legalities ready. this may take about as long. i’ll start dreaming now. i’ll dream it into being the way i dreamed being in europe. except this time i’ll be sober. so i won’t waste as much time (or money) trying to dream into a bottle. there are no dreams in bottles. only heartache. there are no bakeries in bottles. only smelly bad sleep. there are no cinnamon buns and blue walls and the smell of coffee in bottles. only desperation, depression, and other d-words. disgust. disdain. disease. degradation. degeneration. dandruff.

From my inbox:

Erinup (day 93): “I’d think that I had a good enough reason to have a drink it might be today … but I know if I drink things will still suck, in fact the suckage will increase. So I won’t drink today and there is a pretty high likelihood that I won’t drink tomorrow.  This situation did get me to thinking about how I can always find a reason — slash that — excuse to drink. Bad day, good day, Friday, dinner with friends, celebrations, sad occasions. If I need an excuse to drink I can find one any day of the week. I can justify my way into drunken oblivion. At the end of it all the greatest excuse still doesn’t overcome the suckage the drinking will bring.  I’m good, I don’t need a reason to drink. I have plenty, but the thing is I don’t drink anymore.”

Reading Creature (6): “When I woke this morning I remembered the promise I’d made [to Team 100] and rather than feeling like a burden I suddenly felt relieved.  I didn’t realise how much of my mental energy was used in in the constant dialogue of ‘I want to drink’, ‘I shouldn’t’, ‘a drink would be nice’ ‘ I ought not’ ‘just one’. Round and round.  Today is simple.  The decision is made. I don’t have to debate it or worry about it or justify or rationalise.  I simply won’t drink.  I can get on with my day.  I feel like a burden has been lifted from me.”

The Soberist (54): “Today has been a little easier! I am beginning to see a bit of light peeking out of the clouds. I know that will probably come and go, but it is nice to see. I also realized that the way I deal with stress sometimes is to TOTALLY FREAK OUT! I got invited to a friend’s wedding in a few months and I began worrying non-stop about what to do … Ahh, Just calm down!”

Donna (day 1):  “I may email you twice a day for a while if that’s OK, not because I am craving a drink, but because I’m not. However, I know that Wolfie is a mother-fucking sneaky fucktard who is playing with me and will knock me on my arse if I become complacent, so rather than become less vigilant at my lack of cravings, I want to become more accountable. What I did last time didn’t work, so I need to do it differently this time (also good advice from you 🙂 Have a great day”