Photos: Sober Morning

Assignment #1 Sober Morning

OK, it’s time for the big reveal of the Sober Girls’ Photography Project. What a lot of fun!

Thanks to everyone who sent in pictures, this post is now closed to new submissions.

BUT if you want to join in for the next assignment, Christina and I are working on some new ideas … assignment #2 coming up …

This post is now closed to new submissions.

“it’s like erasing the loneliness and anxiety”

News from Team 100:

Sara (day 22 now):

I am so amazed by this.  This is so weird. Weird to be on day 19 — sober. I have not been sober for 19 days in a row for the last 8 years. 8 years! Imagine that. That person I see in the mirror has been drinking more or less every night for 8 years. It’s hard to face.  When I was headed this way I would never had thought I’d be this person who drank every night out of loneliness and to be able to fall asleep. Later for anxiety and to get some sleep — what a joke it is to think alcohol makes you sleep better! I had maybe a few bad nights in the first few days but sleeping like a baby these days …

It’s like erasing the loneliness and anxiety; the crap and the bullshit you tell yourself — when you stop drinking. Just stop drinking and slowly your eyes open and your mind awakens. It’s amazing. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

I’m glad I’m headed in the other direction again; where my mind can exist without the blurred reality and disappeared evenings. So tired. But so glad.  Thanks again, Belle for the 100 days.

Chelsie (day 35):

You know, I just realized today how many more little moments I am having — you know those times where all of a sudden every one of your senses is on fire and you’re so IN THE MOMENT, and PRESENT and as this comes to light you’re trying your best to hang on to that feeling. That feeling of complete self-awareness, acceptance, openness. In moments like that I am reinforced with the notion that the entire world is mine to explore and experience. That I am in charge of creating my own life — and how amazing and wonderful of an opportunity is that ?

On one hand it makes me sad knowing how many of those moments I’ve missed out on, but on the other I think I value them much more now. Moments like that keep me sober. They make me excited for my life.

OK, I know it’s not always sunshine and roses. If you’re having a crummy hungover Sunday morning, then reading this kind of post probably smells a lot like bullshit to you. Or not. Maybe it smells like “what are those sober girls doing, and can I get me some of that?”

a bullshit-free Saturday

Something tremendously bizarre is happening with me in Month #11. I honestly didn’t figure there was much ‘big growth’ left to do and yet here we are … evolving nearly daily. It’s the weirdest fucking thing. I’m dropping old shit left and right. But not just dropping it… i’m dropping it with ease. The “will I or won’t I” has temporarily stopped. There is just WILL. And it’s WILL without clenching. If that makes any sense. Who the fuck am I? I’m sooo not used to this person!

I think my gloating/smug/superior button is also broken, as of very recently.  As a life-long bragger, I just don’t feel comfortable now drawing attention to myself at the expense of someone else.  We were out for dinner with a group and three separate times this girl, R., said to me:  “take the credit already!” I just sort of shrugged.  It was silly stuff like R. said “you ordered the best desserts!” And I answered “the waitress said there were two kinds of dessert pudding and suggested we try both.”  R. says: “just take the credit already!” And — apparently — I can’t.  Where the hell did THAT come from? My sisters won’t recognize me! I’m 11ish months sober.  maybe this is a normal progression. god knows what happens at 13 or 14 months … holy evolution batman!

I can tell you it was not a conscious decision. I didn’t wake up this week and say “let’s try to work on the gloating, OK?” Though i have thought that, a billion times, over the course of my lifetime.

This week, though, it seems to have just (at least temporarily) stopped.  On its own.  Like, who does that?

Those with lots more sobriety than i have can probably relate to this, in a “pat-me-on-the-head, isn’t she cute” kind of fashion. “yes, belle, stop drinking and slowly ALL of the other bullshit in your life stops. Bullshit around you, AND bullshit spewing from your mouth.”

here’s to a bullshit-free Saturday. no gloating, no bragging, no smug self-satisfaction. Just a good old-fashioned Saturday. Coffee, reading, groceries, spend some time outdoors, some bad TV. Unclenched.

{who KNEW!}


Here’s a Quill-Quotable (she’s on day 11): “The way you and other Team 100 members talk about sobriety (like a comfy lavender hug, like a clear horizon with a cold fresh scent) make me want to keep plugging away and see if I can get the same thing.”

Team 100 update:  102 members, welcome to Meka (3). Happy days to Suzanne (14), Mel (20), Jackie (45), Em (7), Laura (28), Sunny Sue (95), Erica (130), Simpson Sister (50), and Carrie (90).

i’m broken now in the ‘sober’ position.

As this month putters along, I am surprised to find myself nearly one year sober. I can assure you, this was completely not my intention. “Really, officer, I tripped and fell and got sober. Not my fault.”

i really am a weird poster child almost advertising sobriety: “You’ll Like It. You’ll Feel Better.”  The biggest and best truth, though, is how much better I really do feel. Like, A LOT. Yes, there are days (and even that’s an exaggeration, it’s more like hours or even parts-of-hours) when i feel gigantically shitty and my habitual “let’s throw wine at this problem” kind thinking comes up. I still don’t drink. It’s like i’m broken now in the ‘sober’ position. I can’t drink now. I just couldn’t do it. Even in my dreams, i’m always telling people “i don’t drink.”  I could not start again at day 1. I will not feel that kind of regret, i just will not. I can’t. Every day forward is a day moving away from ‘there’ and moving towards the ‘new me’ over here. And i like it here.

Malia says it well:

“I feel like I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop, and the mad, crazy cravings to begin. However it’s still very quiet. I’m past the pink cloud stage definitely. The desire to drink (and drink and drink), is gone. I even went to a family party yesterday without my supportive husband, and it was, easy. Enjoyable even. My family is supportive in the way that they still ask if i want any wine, but accept the no, and don’t ask again … The only difference I notice these days is that its earlier than it used to be where I get to the point of OK kids, time to go!

“I think maybe I just needed to get some sober days in front of me to clear my head of all the “noise” drinking was causing? Of course, this also brings up the question as to whether or not I was as bad as I thought, was (am) I a real alcoholic? Could I possibly…..someday….? However I have no time for that nonsense. I still need to get through these 100 days, then perhaps another 100, then probably the rest of 2013 and heck lets throw in 2014 while I’m at it. Then I can reassess!” (She’s now on day 48).

Photography update, received 5 photos already for Sober Morning. Holy Lots of Fun Batman.

Team 100 Update: 101 members, welcome to Designer-Rachel, CB and Ingrid (all on day 3). Celebrations for: Amy (6 months today!), Lilly (35), Jen (131), SoberInMtl & Victoria (7), Lynda and Mr. Lynda (81), Lawyer Anne (60), Lauren (75), Brandy (31), Mr. Belle (51), Anathu (20), Roxanne (45), Debra (131), KT (40), Paula (10), Mary (14), Erika (33), Cam (30), Sara (20), Julz & Quill (10), Camla & Tiffany (7). And DDG is on day 81.

Just to note, when someone stops emailing or goes ‘missing’, I still hold your spot for you. Your name stays on the chart and when you’re ready, you can just email and give your new day 1 and we keep rolling. If you reached out asking to do the challenge, then I save your spot. That means that Emily is #16 and JMM is #62.

Sober Girls’ Photography Project

So one of the things that drinking does, is it sucks up our time. Every night beginning at 6 pm (or earlier!), after the first glass of booze, we descend into a pit of un-productivity! That dinner i was going to make turned into potatoes and nothing else. The plans i had to clean the bedroom closet turned into 3 hours of watching A&E’s Intervention.  Drinking squeezes out other activities. There just isn’t time. or energy. or brain space.

And so once we get sober, there’s this vast time called ‘evening’ that we have to fill. And some weird things have been known to happen.  Like going for groceries after dinner. Like going to dinner and then going to a late movie. Just as recently as last Friday, my husband and I left to go and walk to dinner at 10 pm, not getting home till after midnight… just out walking around the city, enjoying the (finally) beautiful weather. I can assure you there’d have been NO walking to dinner at 10 pm if i was drinking…

One of the other things that can happen to ‘fill time’ is that our passions and hobbies come back.  Used to be a writer, a dancer, a runner. Used to make jewelry, write romance novels. Always wanted to learn Spanish, walk a marathon, get tenure.

And then there’s Christina. I asked her what her hobbies and passion were that she could resume now that she’s sober.

Here’s what our emails looked like over a couple of days:

Christina: I wish I had a hobby, something I was passionate about…

Me: OK, let’s get you a hobby then. want to do some homework about this?  I’ll do it with you at the same time 🙂

Christina (the next day): Still Sober and thinking of my homework, hobbies. Will come up with a list of things i like to do.

Me: How are you doing on the idea of hobbies? shall we brainstorm… I’ll do this too. when you were 9-10-11-12 years old, what kinds of things did you do for fun …  I used to play songs and then try to play them on the guitar or make my sisters sing them (thinking we’d be a band someday). I also always had a pen and paper with me, was a regular Harriet the Spy. I loved puzzles, and bought crossword puzzle books all the time (funny now I like jigsaw puzzles and suduko, so that hasn’t gone away) … I’m a half-decent photographer who doesn’t take my camera out often enough (it feels like it’s too heavy/too much work/too much something. probably just inner critic again saying the pictures will be shit).  OK, for me it’s puzzles.  no inner critic can come out when you’re making a jigsaw puzzle.  think I’ll start one tonight.  well that helped me! your turn 🙂 [and i did start a puzzle that night and it is very soothing…]

Christina: Thanks for the brainstorm. I love to do million things. Taking pictures, two years ago bought myself a nice Canon DS500 reflex I carry it all the time when travelling. I always dreamt of playing guitar, just one tune, but I never find the time to really take a course. I would love to be able to “pimp” old furniture, there again never tried … Belle thank you for everything you are doing. I never felt so much strength to stay away from booze. I have tried everything before AA, doctors but in vain. This challenge and the sober blogging is the best thing that never happened to me.

Me (the next morning): are you ready for some photography homework? sort of like building up to having a hobby?

Christina:   I am READY:-)

And then I sent Christina a little photography assignment, and I told her that I’d do it too.

Then something amazing happened!  Not only did Christina do her assignment right away, she started to gush enthusiasm. Then the next day she sent me another photo…

and the Sober Photography Project was born!

I’m thinking that there might be a few other sober folks out there who are looking for a new hobby, or are trying to find a way to revive an old hobby.  So if you want to join Christina and me, and take a few pictures, i think we could have some fun!  This is open for anybody, you don’t have to be a fancy ass photographer. No inner critic allowed. Are you ready?

Assignment #1 Sober Mornings
Your photo can be anything that deals with the early part of the day, sunrises, work commutes, breakfast, etc. My morning usually includes running, coffee, and emails … What does your morning consist of?

  • DEADLINE: Tuesday, June 11 @ 12 noon Eastern.
  • The format is open: black and white, filters, cropping, all OK.  You can use your camera phone or a nice camera.
  • The photo must be original, and taken AFTER the assignment is received (like, no going through past pictures taken, it has to be new).
  • If you suck at photo adjustments or cropping, send it anyway with a note that you’d like me to adjust.
  • Send as LARGE a file size as you can manage (up to 12MB per image).  Don’t reduce for size.  the bigger the better.
  • Um, you have to be sober …
  • One entry per person per assignment (think of the size of my inbox!)

I will post all of the entries I get in about a week. Then if you like, we can do another assignment.

What do you think?  Here are two ideas on Sober Mornings to get you started:

Christina's view on the way to work
Christina’s view on the way to work
Belle's morning
Belle’s morning

“My feelings this afternoon are like a yowling cat …”

ack, the days of early sobriety, when your mind is a whirlwind of thoughts.  with permission, here’s part of an email from Quillian (when she was on day 2):

My brain simultaneously wants me to know that:

  • I don’t have a REAL problem with alcohol like the people I hear from in meetings or read about on blogs, so it’s only worthwhile when they struggle, not when I struggle
  • I have a huge problem with alcohol because I should be incredibly ashamed of the shit I’ve done while drunk, it was awful, like seriously I should just sit here and feel like dying of regret for the rest of the day and/or until I actually die. Of regret.
  • So I really, really need to stop drinking.
  • But I don’t have a REAL problem so it’s not like sobriety is anything to be proud of.

And then I say, Wow, thanks, brain, you’re a real help. Did it ever occur to you that I drink so I don’t have to listen to you?

And then my brain replies, Are you trying to start something? And a chorus of voices in the background is all, Ooooooh, girrrrrrrl, and Oh no she diiiiiiidn’t

And then I wonder if I have actually finally snapped and gone completely around the bend, mental-health wise. And everybody in my skull kind of gets quiet like kids who have noticed their mom is in a mood and don’t want to attract any wrathful attention. The voices went away! I must be fine. Totally sane.

Then I pretend to work for a little while and try not to notice how unproductive I am being, because heaven knows my brain will have opinions about THAT too …

But anyway.

Still sober today. WHETHER OR NOT THAT IS LAUDABLE. I guess I can figure that one out later? And for now just BE it, regardless of merit.

Gah. I swear. My feelings this afternoon are like a yowling cat hanging around a front door. DO YOU WANT TO BE INSIDE OR OUTSIDE? PICK ONE. I don’t knoooooooooow, whine whine whine.

Thanks for letting me ramble more. ~ Quillian

And just so you know, she’s on day 8 today 🙂 Go, Quill, Go!

Team 100 update: 3 members have rejoined the challenge after a period of ‘research’ — welcome back to TMcA (4), PP (2), Moonbeam (3), and SoberInMtl (5).

Just to note, when someone stops emailing or goes ‘missing’, I still hold your spot for you. Your name stays on the chart and when you’re ready, you can just email and give your new day 1 and we keep rolling. If you reached out asking to do the challenge, then I save your spot. That means that Lurker Mum can come back any time and resume her spot #32 (i’m teasing you specifically cuz i know you’re right here with us…).

Celebrations for: MG who is not telling me (yet!) what day she’s on but she’s doing well, Sunflower (75), Ellen (50), Lane (60), Sober Kat (240), Christina (60), Marie (45), Laura (25), Erin (45), Diane (60), Carolyn (10), Cam (28), Gindy (60).

And hugs to Lurker B and Helene for bravery.

“my true self is showing up”

When Erica got to 100 days sober, I asked her to write about how she was feeling. Here’s what she wrote:

Erica: Well, it’s been a week since you asked me to write about how I feel after 100 days. I’ve put it off because, well … it’s really hard to say how I feel. I had a really long ‘pink cloud’, a good 60 days’ worth.  Where I felt amazing. Super happy, set the world on fire kind of energy, cried at the birth of spring, etc. Now I’ve kinda come back to earth to join all the ‘normal’ people.

Here’s a couple of things I now know:

I’m not awesome. I blamed alcohol for all the things I felt I should be doing.  Volunteering at the animal shelter more then once in a blue moon, writing thank you cards, being the friend that just listens instead of waiting to jump in with my perspective, set things on fire in the bedroom, do a weekly deep hair condition/face mask, clean my house…. Still don’t do any of that.

I will never be “that mom.” You know-the one that makes the awesome designer cupcakes for the class, etsy level kids crafts/projects, SAHM who drops the kids at preschool with complete hair/makeup/super cute outfit (all the while holding a 2mo/old), has kids that never hit, curse, or have a big brown blob on the front of their pants.  I would settle to be the mom that remembers to bring an extra diaper.

Not going to look like a supermodel. I knew that at a young age. Really has nothing to do with alcohol. But you just never know! At 40, I have now accepted it.

But the little things. The little things that you sometimes don’t notice ’til you’re in bed going over your day.  Like enjoying my day. My whole day.  Even the bad parts.  Because I’m there for it, my true self is showing up. The person that is showing up everyday is happy, feels healthy, has good (better) breath, less critical of herself & others, has more patience, can wear clothes that she hadn’t been able to fit in, is interested in everything around her, & has a big ol’ “what the hell is wrong with her” belly laugh for all amusements.  And I really like that person.~ Erica

And hooray for Erica, she’s on day 126 today 🙂

Team 100:  98 members, welcome to Tiffany (4).  Happy days to: Amy 180, KC (45), TMcA has rejoined the challenge (yippee!) and is on day 3, J (200), Sober Journalist (60), Brandy (28) and this is a super big deal so let’s all have a big shout-out for her, Kirst (40) her wolf is a hyena which i think is hilarious, Paula, Julz, Quillian, Dana & Sam (7), Chelsie, Erika, & Anna (30), Suzanne (10). And me (339).


Happy to be mailing out the first 5 bracelets today 🙂 super powers are on the way!

I got a great email from Colleen in my inbox on the weekend:

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could live out two lives — sort of like the in the Christmas Carol?  So we could see our life with alcohol, and the one where we chose sobriety?  How interesting would it be if we could see how our lives would be played out with each scenario.  What would we lose, gain?

I play this game in my head it scares me…because I know that alcohol would take everything away — my family, friends, health, finances, looks,  I am so glad I am not on that path and am choosing sobriety — the upward path.  But I know that the downward path of self-inflicted path of misery, pain and suffering is waiting for me — hiding and ready to pounce on me at places like backyard bbq, birthday parties and other seemingly innocuous places. I am grateful that I am on the path of sobriety and I don’t want to ever give up this freedom.

Had a nice time at my friend’s party … I didn’t have the desire to drink at all and this is SUCH a blessing.  I have made it this far before, but always white knuckling it — feeling deprived that everyone could drink and I couldn’t.  It is different this time.  I feel like I am the lucky one

Team 100 update: 97 members, welcome to Gindy (58), Lex (3), Camla (3).  Happy days to: Suzanne (9), Sara (16), Rebecca (72), Mel (15), Carolyn (8), Leah (22), Jackie (40), Elle & Helene (22), Mary (10), Colleen (32), JG (31), Lurker B (7), Debbie (21), Sunny Sue (90), Lilly (31), Thirteenpointone (365!).

imagine a 3 year old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store

R: “Is it wrong to think ‘I can’t seem to get more than 3 days in a row, yet I’ve had more sober days in the past 6 months than I have had in 6 years’?”

The only thing I’ll say about percentage of sober days, is that individual sober days are HARD and we’re just *waiting* to drink again.  part of how you get wolfie to shut the fuck up is to say “no not today, not tomorrow, see you again in 100 days.”  Then he backs off and leaves you alone.

I certainly found that “drink one day, be sober one day” was just too hard.  I tried it. It took too much energy.  It made me feel bad on the days I was drinking AND white knuckling tense feeling bad on the days I was not drinking.  Frankly, being sober for a longer period of time is just plain easier OK, we can argue that it sucks temporarily for the first few days, but that’s only for a VERY short period of time.  Then it gets easier. Wolfie acts up, you ignore him, and then he comes around less and less…

And I wrote this to MG, who also mentioned the idea of making ‘progress’ with her drinking:

Every time you drink, you wake up wolfie, and have to – to some extent – start again. OK, we can argue that it’s not all the way back to square 1 starting again, but it’s probably at least 50% starting over. Wolfie is awake, and he has learned that if he tortures you, you will give in. You have to shut the fucker up. Dehydrate the wolf.

imagine a 3 year old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. if you give that child candy … well, good luck ever going for groceries again without having candy on hand. sure it can be done, but it’s waaay harder than avoiding the situation entirely)

no more candy for the screaming child in the grocery store.  Anyway, that’s the goal with the 100 challenge.  just to see what 100 days continuous feels like. THEN you can make decisions going forward from there.

Fuck you wolfie.


sober inspired art, thanks to mr.belle
this is painting #527. Stay here. you’re sober now. stay here.

the story of the potato peeler

when we last left our heroine…

i was having an ‘incident’ at the airport. You can’t just refuse to reboard your own plane. everyone else was seated, waiting.  I was quite calm, i went to the counter, crying, and i said “that thunder storm scared me. i’m not ready to get back on right now.”

this becomes an ‘incident’ in an airport.  And the counter agent calls for help. Security sends out a nurse and a policeman on a golfcart scooter. The nurse is there to medicate me (i declined medication). The police guy’s job is to write up the ‘incident report.’ Are you on any drugs? do you have any psychiatric conditions.

No really, I just don’t to fly right this second. Yes, I was crying. but mostly from being freakishly overtired, and i was crying in that way you get when you start crying and can’t stop.

The counter chick checks and there are no later flights available. The nurse finally talks me into going down to talk to the pilot. She walks through the boarding tunnel with me, drops me off in the cockpit.  I talk to the pilot. He says: “that storm was a bit rough? well, you know we wouldn’t do something that wasn’t safe.”

I say: “it’s not about what’s safe, it’s about how i feel.”

they settle me into a new first-class seat, with no one around me, and assign a first-class stewardess to ‘take care’ of me.  (they don’t want to risk that i am psychiatric and might start screaming “help me help me we’re all going to die” on the plane. I didn’t.) mostly i just cried.

I arrive, wrung out. and i swear to myself that i will never fly again.

And after that, i didn’t fly for two years. i drove 9 days cross country (alone) 4 times, instead of flying.

and really, by then, i had talked myself into a big gigantic anxiety loop. i was afraid of everything. being a passenger in a car, riding the ferry.

After two years, i decided that i’d had enough, and i called up a psychologist who specialized in panic and anxiety.  After a mere 5 hours of one-on-one talk therapy i was mostly fixed.

Well, fixed enough that i could fly again.

I loved my therapist guy. he was smart and very hilarious. after even the first session with him, i felt like like my very firm ideas about my well-earned and (naturally) correct self-preservationist anxiety about flying were going to dissolve. It’s like i had a tight gridwork of ideas, and after just one session i could see the puzzle of ideas wasn’t made of concrete, it was made of Jell-o.  and he had started to push on one corner of the puzzle and now i could see gaps in my logic.

two great anecdotes from my time with him:

(1) Potato Peeler

one activity was to describe what was the worst thing that could happen. I said i was afraid of flying, and of having a panic attack, and that i’d lose control in some way while on the plane.

He rolls his eyes and says: “i wish i could show you the transcripts i have in this drawer here.  Everyone with a flying phobia says the EXACT same thing. Lose control.  Now tell me Belle, when you’re making dinner, do you ever peel potatoes?”


“Do you use a potato peeler?”

um yes.

“Do you ever take the potato peeler and jab yourself in the eye?”

ah …no.


“Of course you don’t. you don’t ‘lose control’. on a flight, you might feel bad, and so what’ll you do? you might start crying. no one will notice. They’ll think that you’re missing your boyfriend back home. They’ll think you’re traveling to a funeral. No one will care.”

(2) Toilet handle

When i tried to justify that my phobia was based on real facts, like planes do crash you know, he countered that with logic and statistics.

and he said, “you should come with me sometime when i do group therapy with my compulsive hand-washers.  They think their phobia is logical, too. I have this activity where I take the whole group of them into the bathroom, and i TOUCH the toilet flusher lever thingy … and then i RUB my hands all over my face!  They start shrieking and groaning!”

we laugh. of course, their phobias are ridiculous. aren’t they.


OK, so maybe i’m a particularly good poster child for therapy. Yes, some people need more help, need medication, need longer therapy. need different kinds of ongoing treatments. I was clearly in the right place, with the right guy, at the right time, and I was motivated to change.

and now, thankfully, i not only can fly (!) but i also feel quite solid in realizing that our self-destructive and limiting thoughts don’t have to be listened to. It’s like a mis-firing, a weirdness that gets started. but that doesn’t mean we have to give in.  “I feel like a glass of wine” does NOT mean “I will drink a glass of wine.”  a thought is just a thing that flits past.

and i wrote this to heidi: yes, your brain may have thoughts, but they’re not truths. they’re just thoughts. compulsive thoughts are irritating, they’re the wolf, but they’re not the truth. you just look in the mirror and look in the eyes of one of those babies. the truth is in there.

Fuck You Wolfie.