Good-bye summer. I’m done with you.

This is going to be controversial. But here goes. I don’t like summer.

It’s true that I love vacations, and i really like living in a temperate climate. I i certainly don’t much care for winter of any kind.  I like 20C/72F with blue skies. I can skip everything else, thanks.

summer is filled with expensive events, sloth, gluttony, and a general lack of structure and routines. and me, I’m a girl with a plan. I don’t like to be tightly belted in (like, for example, i never get up with an alarm clock, year round), but I do like to do the same thing pretty much every day. Summer throws me off.  Because everyone ELSE is off doing random things. and I’d prefer everything stayed the same.

Want to go visit friends? “Sorry we’re away for July.”  Want to get the dishwasher repaired? repair guys aren’t working on Fridays for August.  Want to send a business email and get a response? Fat chance.

I like to work, and i have very cool job(s). But in the summer both of my major sources of income dry up for different reasons, basically because everyone else is on vacation.  I can send out a newsletter to my clients in May and get 100 responses. I can send out something in July and get 10 tiny answers.

Also, in lots of places in Europe, there’s very little going on in August. It’s Superior and Painful Deadsville. Stores closed, favorite cafe closed for 3 weeks, butcher shuts his doors, the limited Sunday shopping halts, the farmers’ markets have very few stalls. There’s no car traffic. The neighbors above and below are away.  It’s quiet.  Too quiet for me.

I’ve experimented with working minimally in August, to try to match the European trend where little gets done, but mostly i struggle the entire month, yearning for things to get back to normal.  In my regular school-year life, i’m creating projects, i’m selling events, and when I send out an email there are actual physical humans on the other end reading them.

Also, this summer, i’ve been … well it’s obvious, isn’t it? … i’ve been working on being sober.  since july 1st.  that’s my entire summer.  and now i’m super very thankful that the ‘working hard at being sober’ part is over.  So thanks summer, see ya later.

Let’s raise a toast to September, the time of cooler temperatures, red leaves (depending on where you live), and NEW notebooks with NEW erasers and NEW pens and NEW shoes, and NEW possibilities and NEW opportunities, and NEW friends, and NEW plans, and NEW projects.

Calculations: Today is my 6 year wedding anniversary : )  Today is Day #67 sober. I have been writing 30 minutes a day since September 1st, and even managed to write 3 of 4 days while on vacation; will make up the missing 30 mins this week. So far my 30-day September writing project is quite easy and fine (go figure!) Compared to quitting drinking, maybe all of the rest of my 30 day projects will seem painless by comparison! Let’s hope.

i like vacations more than real life

If you knew me in real life, you’d know that I say this all the time:

“I like vacations more than real life.”

And maybe everybody says this. But i really mean it.  I’m a goal-directed girl, and i can work really really hard if i know that there’s a reward coming.  vacations are the best reward for me.  four days of beach, movies, french pastries, reading on the beach, listening to podcasts. Even the travel itself is part of the vacation: planes, trains, metros. I just open up my book and read until we get there.

This was my first sober vacation (yes, thank you very much, today is day 66). I did OK 3 out of 4 days, which is pretty good.  I drank lots of tonic water, tons of tea, gallons of bottled water (Badoit with tiny bubbles), and only one day did i want to kill my husband.

We had a movie pass for one full day during the 4 day vacation, and the movie pass gave us unlimited access to see movies back to back. The first one we wanted to see started at 11:30 am. Seems reasonable. Woke up at 10:30 am (gotta love quiet hotels with dark curtains that let you sleep forever). Headed off on foot to the movie part of town. Figured we’d get breakfast on the way.

Now, breakfast in France is tricky business. France is an entire country full of people who don’t eat eggs (or protein) for breakfast. Coffee, pastry and juice — YES. Eggs and home fries and bacon and toast — NO.  Yogurt and fruit and granola — NO.  Tofu scramble? Definitely non.

So let’s take this newly sober girl, who’s used to eating lots of protein, and let’s give her … oh, i don’t know, a regular french breakfast which is straight sugar and adrenaline:  coffee, OJ, croissant, and then white bread with butter and highly processed strawberry jam.

She eats it all, of course, it’s very yummy.  And off she goes to watch the first movie.

Fast forward 2.5 hours, the end of the first movie. Starvation isn’t really the right word. It is more like an all-encompassing feeling, head-to-toe blanket of murderous rage.

I cannot seem to communicate to my husband that i am STARVING and that i have to eat right now.  No i can’t sit on the beach and eat baguette with cheese. I need to eat an entire cow. Are you listening to me? If i don’t eat a whole chicken, head first, in the next three minutes, i’m going to fucking implode.

My husband really cannot figure me out, and so i say something shitty like “why don’t you pretend just for one minute that you love me, you know, like you used to, and just for one minute imagine that what i’m saying is important to you.” He glares, he really has no idea why i’m yelling. And this makes me even more furious so I start shrieking, in a crowd, and yes people actually turn to look at the poor man whose wife is going off on him.  He says “do we have to run?” (i’m walking very very quickly, yelling, not looking back to see if he’s behind me any more). Yes, we have to run, I say, I have to eat something. He says: “fine, you can go alone then.”

which means we’ll get separated in this big crowd.

And I really really don’t care. At all. I keep walking and i don’t look back. I’m as close to drinking as i’ve ever been in 66 days. murderous rage. completely out of proportion to the event, and i know i’m hungry but i can’t seem to control my mouth, or my mood, or my pace of walking, or my yelling.

i arrive in front of a bad hamburger place. Husband is behind me (of course). We eat. I try very lamely to explain. I say “please don’t be a dick.” and he says “please don’t be crazy.” and then i start laughing.  because crazy is exactly what I am.

There was no alcohol involved. I ate some cow and felt better. The burger was terrible but did the job (the French aren’t great on making American-style hamburgers either, but in a pinch they’ll do).

The next day (yesterday) I ate terrible runny eggs for breakfast (runny yolks and runny whites). Husband had to avert his eyes, it’s truly gross. I didn’t care what they looked like, i knew i needed protein. And thus, yesterday, the runny egg day, i had the best day of the entire vacation. Relaxed, happy, even, un-anxious, well rested. We sat on the beach for 3 hours reading. We had tea and quiche for lunch (Look!  More Eggs!).  We bought apples to eat on the trip back.  We got home late last night (11:00 pm) and went out to our favorite corner place for roast chicken.

I have more to say about vacations, about september, about this time of year. but i’ll save it for later.  this is already too long and i want to put in a few more pictures : )

i want prizes. i want parades and fireworks.

i’m not gone yet. i leave for vacation tomorrow. the sober-blog-o-sphere is quiet this morning.

i will stir up some shit.

i continue to be surprised at how no one cares that i’m not drinking.

last night, I hosted a client dinner, just me and four guests. There was plenty of booze (champagne to start, wine with dinner, a 10-year tawny port that i selected to go with desserts). i had tonic water and cranberry juice.

In the beginning everyone has their champagne glasses, we’re standing around in the kitchen, talking.  my glass clearly contains something red/pinky. i’m different. no one cares. seated around the table at dinner, everyone is having red wine. my glass has more pinky liquid. no one cares.

right around dessert time, i get frustrated, like i want someone to notice. i want to have a conversation about not drinking (i guess this happens when you hit 60+ days, because i certainly wasn’t feeling like talking about it before). in my frustration at the end of the night, i stop filling my glass in the kitchen and instead bring the bottle of cranberry juice and the bottle of tonic water out and set them on the dining room table. then i mixed myself another drink.

still nothing. no one cares.

I can hear you.  and yes, i know. i know. i’m doing this for me (blah), they’re all too drunk to take much notice of me (blah blah), stop looking for the adoration society to kick in because no one cares about your alcohol consumption as much as YOU care … (blah blah fucking blah).

let me say this.  i’ll only say it once and then i’ll stop.

i want prizes. i want parades and fireworks.

in the absence of disco balls and streamers, i at least want someone to notice.

nothing. really, nothing. crickets-chirping-silence nothing.

<le sigh> all those worries that i’d stand out, be different, on the edges of society if i quit drinking … were all bogus.

no one cares.

60 days

Who would have thought that I’d arrive here.  60 Days today.

When I quit drinking on July 1st, i knew i wanted to be sober for 30 days, but beyond that I knew very little, and i struggled a lot. I didn’t sneak a drink or relapse, but i definitely struggled a lot with my thinking.  Thankfully that tumbling of ideas and words and anxiety about “not drinking” has stopped, and not a moment too soon.

I have a reward planned for today, i’m going to buy some fancy hand cream that smells like ginger (that when i used a sample, i kept sniffing my hands for hours).

I had planned to blog every day for the first 60 days as a way of holding myself accountable.  Mission accomplished : ) I’ll probably still blog lots, just not daily.  We’re heading on vacation this weekend (finally) and i won’t be writing then.

As well, starting September 1st, i’m adding a new layer to this recovery journey, and i’m tackling a project that has been on my to-do list for 18 months.

I’ve been looking ahead to September and part of me is quite happy to be getting back into my regular routine.  I like autumn, the cooler temperatures, the ‘new beginnings’. The leaves don’t change colors here like they do at home. They just turn brown and fall down all at once in a big wind. Lots are down already. But before I get too day-dreamy about September, first there’s the BEACH vacation, starting on FRIDAY, that’s 2 more sleeps! i do love vacations (when my husband is off work at the same time as me).

In closing, I wanted to share with you some of the best (and worst) search engine terms that have brought people to my blog over the last 6o days.  How fun!

  • does your metabolism change if you stop drinking wine
  • why sabotage a spouse’s sobriety
  • why can’t i sleep well after drinking red wine
  • swarming thoughts of you
  • ode to red wine
  • wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful
  • why are you tired when you stop drinking booze
  • big anuses
  • chinese chocolate swiss roll
  • first day sober from alcohol
  • advil and alcohol
  • 60 days without a drink and i am resentful and want a drink
  • allen carr vs. jason vale
  • sadness
  • belle’s tired of drinking blog

And YES … the answer to the question is YES.  Yes, I will be sober after today. I will continue to not-drink, even if I don’t blog every day. 

Forcing Self Improvement

Tuesday Weigh In: I am down 1.4 pounds since i quit drinking wine. Yes, this is up from the last time I weighed myself. I don’t seem to care very much. Which is probably why the number is not changing even when i claim that i want to lose weight. I clearly want to eat chocolate cream roll MORE than i want to lose weight.  And in these early days of no-booze, I know that sugar is a darn good replacement strategy.  Clearly it’s not a permanent option. i will eventually blimp out and my long-sleeved shirt will become a billowing sail in a strong wind.

Otherwise, all is well. nothing new over here.

except this.

Over at Abstaining in August, there’s a thoughtful post about what else we could do for 30 days, if we were to extend this sobriety thing into other self-help-y topics in our lives.

I commented with a lovely list of things I’d like to try to do for 30 days. Some typical stuff (run more, lose weight, read more) and some minor but important bits (very clean house, empty inbox every day).

So since it’s nearly September 1 and that seems like a good day to start a 30 day trial, this morning I opened up MS Word, turned on the auto number feature, and put in my list of things i’d like to do for 30 days:

  1. run 5 days a week including one long run
  2. lose 1-2 pounds a week
  3. make 30 new recipes in 30 days day
  4. write 30 minutes a day (for work) for 30 days
  5. read an hour a day (or read at least one book per week)
  6. empty inbox every night before bed
  7. run + read in the mornings before checking my email
  8. Set email checking to download new messages every 60 minutes (instead of every 1 minute).

And then I used the magic random number generator to make my selection for me.

It came up with #4.

Now let’s clarify a few things. Firstly, I don’t like this choice. I even considered pressing random again, to see what else it gave me.  Which is kind of silly since i’m the one who put #4 on my list in the first place.

Also, to be super clear here, i’ve been writing on this blog at least 30 minutes a day for almost two months, and i have more than 60 posts, cuz some days i’ve written more than once.  So we can argue that i have the time and the ability. I have a degree in writing.

I’m mad at this random number generator thing, even though i picked the 8 items myself, knowing that each one would improve my life and stretch me in some way.

and before we say “just don’t write,” i should say that I really do have to do it, because i’m behind on a deadline that i’ve already been paid for, and i still cannot seem to make myself do it.

i think the biggest difference between blog writing and professional writing is … audience. I get no feedback when i do the professional writing.  the client hardly ever says anything, ever, though they continue to pay the invoices. The topics i have to write about are self-generated, so i get to pick how interesting they are — and they are interesting in a technical kind of way — but i just hate it.  Really hate it.  Cannot make myself do it. Which is why i put it on the list in the first place.

All the normal resistance voices start up, just like with giving up booze:  “how can i start September 1st? i’m going to be on vacation.  How can I write every day while i’m on vacation?”

Sound familiar?  Not long ago i was thinking “i can’t quit drinking now, i’m going to be on vacation in X days.” Or I can’t quit now because of this wedding coming up, or until I move, or whatever.  There’s always some imaginary better time to do the thing that we’re avoiding.

and if writing every day for 30 days is like early sobriety, then i’ll hate mostly every minute of it in the beginning, and then it’ll get easier. i’ll reward myself, and then i’ll forget the rewards.  I’ll count days, and then i’ll lose track.

Fuck, i can hear myself talking myself into this 30 day trial, even as i’m writing this post.  Which i didn’t want to do.  Honestly i thought i was going to write something about quitting the professional writing gig and just refunding their money.

I wish i had this sober community support for the rest of my life, and i could post my stoopid professional writing and get thoughtful feedback from you-all.

i wish that there were easier ways towards self-improvement that didn’t feel like forcing myself to do something i don’t want to do.

anyone got a genius idea about forcing self-improvement? blech. double blech.

I cannot learn all of life’s lessons by experiencing them myself

before, even earlier last week, i really was holding myself back from drinking. I wanted to drink but i wasn’t doing it. I’d periodically get some good feeling moments of “yes i like this” and i definitely had positive and pink cloudy times, especially when reading Jason Vale or Allen Carr.

then things changed and now, based on yesterday’s experience, i think it’s pretty clear that now i don’t want to drink. I don’t want any, even by accident. That’s a big huge change.

i credit this shift with several things:

  1. i knew this shift was coming, because other sober people told me that the obsessing would stop, for some it was around 60-90 days.  i was always encouraged that it got MUCH MUCH better, and not to give up before i got to the much better place. i have been able to trust the wisdom and counsel of others who’ve been there before me. I do not have to put my hand in fire to know that it burns. you can tell me and i’ll believe you.  some days i’ll fucking hate your guts, but i won’t quit and i will believe you. here’s the truth:  I cannot learn all of life’s lessons by experiencing them myself. I have to be able to follow sensible, sage advice.Life is short and there’s lots i want to do and accomplish. i’ve always had mentors (and i have to listen to their advice!). This online community is my group of mentors for this task. You rock. In ways you can’t even imagine.
  2. i asked for a sign from the universe that it would be OK to drink, and instead the universe gave me a van on its side on the sidewalk. I barely even believe in signs, but i was feeling pretty desperate that day. the sign was so large, so fast, and so clear that i felt like my insides were shaken. in a good way.
  3. i also still feel like a bit of the 20-year-old’s serene life view has been distributed amongst her family and friends now that she has passed. When she stayed here in our apartment with us, she was like a snail. you couldn’t make her do anything quickly. she had her own time and her own way for everything. She didn’t fight back, she just did her own thing. She didn’t wrestle, or even seem to struggle.  She was just gliding along, singing, this ideal smile on her face.  She was always looking for the best and most enjoyable way to do everything. She took her time and the overwhelming feeling that everyone has in knowing her is that she always seemed to be ‘at peace’ with whatever was happening in her life.  Now that she’s gone, it’s like her attitudes and her life view have overflowed and affected everyone who knew her. and her impact is clear:  from the tributes on FB, to the memorial service held for her outside in the sun, to the cupcakes people brought to the service instead of flowers. Please know, I do not wish a 20-year-old death on anyone. but death does have a way of making your own life crystal clear.

i don’t want to drink. that’s a great feeling.

hosting a client event yesterday, breakfast. i’m drinking OJ. the guy beside me is drinking champagne and OJ for the first time. he says to me “it’s all foamy on top, like there’s soap in the glass. is it supposed to taste like this?” hands me his glass, I take a big glug.


talk about a reflex!

his drink was fine. i handed it back to him and then said to myself: “stoopid, stoopid, stoopid.”

I quickly filled my glass with more OJ and drank it down. then i looked around for something stronger. Tea. drank some.

I waited. afraid that the wolf would be awakened by that mouthful.

shit, double shit.

there was only one small thought:  “you’ve had some, you might as well have a glass now.”

i cornered my husband and quickly explained what had happened “i had a drink of champagne!”‘

he calmly said: you’ve had beer in pork stew, you’ve had beef baked in wine. it doesn’t mean anything.

he’s right.

i haven’t had a ‘drinking dream’ yet but i’ve had a strange near-miss in real life. the feeling of panic was a new feeling.  “Oh my god i drank some alcohol, HELP!”

i had oj and tea and coffee and water for the rest of the day. at the end of the event there was a half-bottle of champagne left and i put it in the fridge for my husband to drink later. it was of no interest to me.

i don’t want to drink. that’s a great feeling.

and it’s a relief.

my first reflex

I wake up in the middle of the night with stiff legs, tossing and turning.  too much running, too many hours on my feet in the kitchen. and i think: Well, here we are. This is sober life. This is real life. There are no blurred edges.  What would my husband do? Would he drink cough syrup so he could easily get back to sleep?

There’s a section in the Allen Carr book about sleeplessness — he says (not surprisingly) that this just happens sometimes. Some nights, you just can’t sleep.  Just like some days you have a cold, and some days you feel out of sorts. Nothing to do with booze.

So i got up and took one advil (ibuprofen) for my sore legs.

It sounds like nothing, but it’s something.

Carr refers to learning to live without alcohol is like buying a new make and model of car.

The turn indicator may be in a different place, and you’re going to try to shift gears with the windshield wiper handle … but don’t worry, that’s just your brain readjusting.  Your hands may reach out and you’ll turn on the wipers when you meant to blow the horn. and the solution is to just shrug, and then take the right action. Same with booze/drugs/medicating yourself. You may instinctively reach for a medicated solution, but that’s just because all of your motor reflexes haven’t been adjusted yet (to the new car!).  If you make a mistake and reach out for your old solutions, just wait a second and then readjust.  Over time your brain figures out where the switch for the windshield wipers are. And don’t give up. You wouldn’t return a new car because the lights are in a different place and your hands kept reaching for the wrong thing. You’d be patient while you learned new skills.

so, do I take a glug of Nyquil [nighttime cold medicine in north america] to help me sleep, when I wake up with sore legs? No. It might be my first reflex, but that’s just me getting used to the new model of car.  Instead, I take an ibuprofen and then roll over and go back to sleep.

10 things i’m grateful for

thanks to jen for the prompt to write this post. Ten things i am grateful for:

chocolate swiss roll
  1. my health: there is nothing the matter with me. i sleep through the night, my heart beats, my lungs function, i run, i eat, i have nice hair.
  2. my husband: my first experience with unconditional love. he really really loves me. a lot.  he’s doing the dishes right now. oh, he just came and filled up my cup of tea while i’m typing … he’s adorable.
  3. the online blogging world: never knew this existed, can’t believe i achieved anything in my life before, without this kind of support.
  4. i’m super grateful that we live in europe, in a beautiful city filled with amazing things to look at, things to do, and provides us with new adventures every day
  5. high school:  i hated the popularity contest stuff, but i’m damn grateful for the second language i studied, which now enables me to live in europe … and i learned to type 65 wpm in high school and that means i’ll never be out of work
  6. junior high school: i hated the pimples, the ‘family living’ classes, and the conversations about birth control.  but i LOVED my cooking class and the independence and freedom that i learned from making apple crisp changed my life, and influenced my career
  7. vacations: my work life is super busy and creative, and so i love having scheduled vacations. they really rock, and they give me something to look forward to. and we’re fortunate enough to be able to take one long weekend a month and go somewhere different, even if it’s just for one night (living in the ‘middle’ of europe means just about everywhere is 2 hrs away). we’ve been to portugal, spain, italy, france, germany, england, belgium, and holland. next vacation is a beach in the north of france where they’re holding an american film festival (movies! in english!) … the countdown has begun, we leave august 31st. i’m looking forward to a sober beach vacation with lots of sleeping, reading, sand, and miniature golf where my husband kicks my ass.
  8. my friends: both those ‘back home’ who’ve known me forever, and the really great group of international friends i have here in my new city. here I have friends from all over the world; the ex-pat community is pretty amazing. i learn lots. like how the woman from tunisia can’t serve herself wine but can drink if someone else pours for her, and how one polish woman will overeat rather than say that she’s been served too much … And the woman from china who always shows up with a gift at all events, even if they’re paid events, because she really really has to give the host a gift… all the subtleties of international cultures and traditions i find endlessly fascinating. i learn so much from everyone i meet.
  9. chocolate swiss roll: it’s chocolate sponge cake, rolled up with whipped cream and shaved chocolate inside. if you think it can’t fix a bad day, you’d be mistaken. there’s a bakery near me that has these.
  10. sobriety, how great it is, even when it’s not: i’m 55 days today. i’m grateful that (for now) i’ve stopped struggling and i’m just looking forward instead of looking back.

… and that I can do

i am well. i am strangely at peace. it is very quiet in my head and i can assure you that NEVER happens, so i have to take note. it’s momentous.

nothing like a bit of young-kid-dying-too-young to make the penny drop. does tend to put one’s life into perspective.

and it’s like the 20-year-old’s “serene, can’t be rushed, all is good” energy has been distributed amongst her friends and family. all at once. you should see her FB page. we’re all feeling and saying virtually the same thing …

So yesterday and today, for whatever reason — because i’m grieving or because i’m awash in 20-year-old’s serene spirit — i have simply stopped resisting alcohol. the white knuckling, counting days, feeling tempted, trying to distract myself — it has all simply stopped.


Facing backwards in a car never suited me, anyway, as I get car sick. And now i’ve stopped facing backwards, I’ve stopped yearning for the thing i’ve left behind (wine). when i face forward i realize it’s not part of my world view. it has just vanished.

why? because i realize now, thanks to everyone, that living sober is NOT about resisting booze. It’s about dealing with life without having blurry edges.

I can do that.

It’s a weird sense of relief.  it’s like i’ve just been handed the ticket to understanding and surviving sobriety:

Here’s the HARDEST part, Belle.  You can no longer stuff down your feelings, and you can’t numb yourself with booze.

Hooray! I’m not wanting to make light of the situation here, but man-oh-man my response to that is it’s WAY EASIER to confront my emotions than it is to resist drinking. Resisting drinking is freaking nearly impossible.

[I wonder if that even makes sense.  If i was 3 days newly sober i’d think that Belle was delirious.]

Let me try to explain it again.

It’s a relief to know that the way THROUGH a life without wine is entirely within MY control, within my ability, and is something I can DO. There’s an action I can take that makes this easier.  It’s called: living life in its natural state. No artificial coloring, no additives. No booze, no smoothing the edges, no hiding.

Fuck man. Really? This is great news because I CAN DO THAT. 

yeah, i can’t do it all at once, and I can’t do it all today. But it is something i totally have within me to do.

cuz white knuckling and feeling tempted by wine and continuously having to turn away … that I can’t do.  I just can’t do it any more.  it’s exhausting, and unfulfilling.  I realize that’s what I was writing when I said that I was tired and couldn’t do this any more.

for today at least, i feel like i’ve got the ticket out.  it’s accepting life. No artificial colors, no additives.

and that I can do.