keep your head attached

if you’re signed up to get the free daily emails, then you’ve seen some of the extra sober support bits i’ve been sending out. here are a few of the recent messages.

small notes about the corona virus (and other things) #1

dear you,
you’re good in a crisis. you keep your head. you are thoughtful, pensive, and you manage what’s right in front of you, right now, without going ‘madly off in all directions’. you do the next right thing. you don’t catastrophize about things that haven’t happened yet. and you remember to pat yourself on the back, a lot, for dealing with hard things while staying calm.

small notes about the corona virus (and other things) #2

you being sober is how you do the big things. it’s how you keep your head attached. by NOT engaging in additive things, you have room in your brain to focus on what needs to be done now. giving time to the rabbit holes of addiction? no time now. literally. no time. you’ve got things to do. kids to arrange. parents to check on. you’ve got colleagues who need someone to feed their horses for them because they’re stuck out of town. you are focussed on what needs to be done today. you’re awake and present. this is you here. right here. doing this.

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 >

[ 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 >

[ 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

“Click here to see what you’ve won!”

email from t: “Hi Belle, right around new year, I noticed that a lot of people thinking about their drinking and thinking that they might want to stop.
But as they recall numerous other moments when they thought about quitting, but didn’t, they figure, “‘What’s the    point of trying?”
I know I thought this for a very long time.
While I wanted to stop waking up every morning feeling awful, I never realized that there is a part of alcohol that makes me think, ‘Maybe I should have a drink now’ which always led to ‘Maybe I’ll have another drink’.
It’s like alcohol comes with a virus.
It’s like getting an email every afternoon that says’“Click Here for an Amazing Rube Goldberg Video!’ The video is fun, but it has a virus that messes up your computer so you spend the next day waiting for your wifi to reconnect and babysitting your computer
Eventually you get the email every afternoon. Sometimes the link is the same and sometimes it’s something new like ‘Click Here for Amazing Wildlife Pictures!’ or ‘Click Here to See What You’ve Won!’
Over time, you notice that the link says, ‘Click Here to Celebrate’.
‘Click Here Because You Are Tired’.
‘Click If You’re Sad’.
‘Click Here When Out With Friends’.
‘Click Here Because You Always Click Here’.
After days and weeks and months with no wifi and endless hours waiting for your computer to reboot, you realize, ‘I need to stop clicking this link’.
And this is what I didn’t realize about alcohol — It’s not just a drink. It’s malware.
Thanks for all the work you do. xo T.”

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

“No Mom, not now”

From ladybug11:

“My parents being here is always a major issue for me … rest and self care go out the window. My parents have no boundaries with me and impossible standards. I clean my entire house a week before they arrive and it’s still not good enough for them. They are constantly going from 7 am to 10 pm. Errands, paperwork, cleaning chores, household projects, nonstop. If I tell them I don’t feel well and want to rest, they will either accuse me of not being sober or will tell me to ‘go rest for an hour’ and then come into my bedroom every 5 mins asking me to help them with something that ‘cannot wait’ like finding old tax records or asking me to check if the dishwasher always makes that noise, or show them where my duct tape or mustard seeds or whatever fucking random weird thing they need for their project is … What should I do? I feel trapped. Audio ideas?”

me: it does sounds like a lot of pressure. you may have to be very firm with your mom … if you feel like she’s not giving you space, and interrupting you even when you’re in the bathroom (!), then you’ll have to be firmer. ‘No Mom, not now. No Mom, not now’ — as if she is 5 years old, and you would just repeat the same phrase, without being angry. By the third time she asks and you repeat it again, she’ll get it, but you might have to say NO three times in a row before she hears you.

and how about these audios [i can make up a bundle too]:

  • SP103 – Boundaries (i’m doing this to take care of ME, you say. i’m learning how to say no)
  • SP163 – Good Boundaries (we care so much that other people like us, that we don’t care if we like ourselves …)
  • SP169 – Interview Practise 1 (how to maintain boundaries, why do we over-drink (is it family history?)
  • SP211 – The Sprinkler (how to avoid dealing with someone (or some situation) that is making you feel nutty)


  • a 2-minute clip from SP187 – Take Care of You (this is not the whole podcast, just an extract) – what does it mean to ‘take care of yourself’?
  • OMM020 Boundaries: there are toxic people around you, there is shit-pouring. you need an umbrella. how do you get one?