small notes about christmas (1-4)


you don’t drink at christmas. you’ve tried drinking before, doesn’t suit you. today is a regular monday or tuesday. it’s just like any other day. it’s a day when you don’t drink. really, to add alcohol (addictive depressant) to an already stress-y day, would be madness. and waking up feeling proud of yourself is worth doing. even if you’ve never done it before. now’s the time 🙂



it’s not all sunshine. there will be illness and temper tantrums. there will be burned food. there will be grief as you celebrate without someone. all these emotions exist. you don’t pour alcohol on them. you’re having a sober christmas this year. even if. even if all the things happen. even if the HGTV event you’ve been trying to pull off turns into a crazy-house. even if. you can make a list of all the things that go well compared to the things that fly sideways. you showing up, you being here, that counts. write that one down twice.

make some time to listen to the christmas audio here.



email from Fridgkit (day 24 today): “OMG! I woke up this morning finally realizing what I’ve been trying to do the past few weeks, besides staying sober. I’ve been trying to find a way to reconnect with other people (or maybe to connect with them for the first time) without losing me. When I drink, I lose me. I thought losing me was the way to be with other people, but it’s not. The way to be with other people is to be there: maybe grumpy, maybe withdrawn, much less than outgoing and perky, but there. Sounds easy, but I know it’s not.  It’ll take a lot more work and a lot more of telling Wolfie to go to hell.  But I’ll use every device I can to get there.”


you have potential because you’re sober.
comes in goldsilver and purple-speckled


in sydney, australia it’s 7pm on christmas day which reminds me to say this: you will want to watch for post-goal-letdown. you do a big thing, then you need to plan some kind of treat for afterwards. your head will come in and say “but i deserve this” and your head is right, you do deserve something, but it’s not alcohol that you want. you want a piece of raspberry pie, or to sit with a cup of tea and flip through your new magazine. you want to leave some of the cleaning for tomorrow. you want to soak in the bathtub and then get out and put on your new fluffy slippers. you didn’t get slippers this year? fine, write them on your list to go buy first thing tomorrow morning. your treat for doing this big thing. this sober at christmas thing. you can send me a photo of your sober post-christmas slippers. i’ll be watching for you 🙂


it’s only early in paris, husband is still asleep. no gift opening yet. no new photos taken yet 🙂 original art from mr.belle here. merry hoho to you.

Christmas Audio

In this special Christmas edition of the podcast that i've just sent out to ​podcast subscribers, i talk about how to avoid getting too wound up, the things that children remember, and how to deal with attending a dinner where host is an over-drinker. 

Oh, and a good reminder, that needs to go on a t-shirt, which is: You don’t need to engage with every idiot.

I also mention Sober Party Bingo > use this link (the 10 rules for sober party bingo are about half-way down the post)

As a gift today, I am going to post the full 50 minute audio here, and leave it up until December 26th. You can begin to listen now, in 10 minute increments, even if you are not a podcast subscriber.

happy merry to you. may you have good food, good moods, and one gift that makes you smile. and a lot of sleep. and a treat for doing this sober thing. it's hard work. it's worth doing. it suits you.​

Audio will be available until December 26th. Listen now.​

[ link removed ]

​Bonus Sober Podcast C18. Christmas 2018​

You can ​leave a comment below, anonymous is fine, and tell me if there's anything that stands out for you ​​... To download the entire audio, you can use the link below.

​Download C18. ​Christmas 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)

​sober art thanks to mr.belle, this is painting #282 here.


sortie is ‘exit’ in french. exit the booze elevator. new painting posted, this is #279 at the top of the page here.

from me:
i don’t do it very often, but when i share an email like the one earlier today, i get a lot of feedback like “i’m so glad you share the shitty parts” or “i’m relieved that you’re real.” i suppose i could share more stories of ass-air-conditioned pyjama bottoms, but mostly i restrain myself. this isn’t entirely a belle-blog space; this is a me-space AND you-space and sharing-space. it’s a mixture of information and support and cheerleading (and entertainment and swearing and motivation). and hope.

anyway, just wanted to say thanks for all the email responses (34 so far and counting), and at the risk of total self-indulgence, i’m going to share some of them here. (skip down to today’s give-away if you’re bored with me.)

B: “All my life I’ve tried to be the Instagram perfect life, that I had it all together and is it BS!! Chasing it for every occasion and for others. I am flawed, we all are. I’ve always felt it, but better not let anyone else know my faults or struggles. This is my second sober Christmas. There have been moments I want to go back to having that glass of wine out, or while wrapping, or whatever Wolfie throws my way, but know I would end up having three more on the couch. I now know better. I also am learning even though it’s been over a year (day 424) I am still figuring it out, figuring me out. Today’s lesson – I am flawed, I need to ask for help, and that is ok, I am ok. Merry Christmas!”

D: “This was a wonderful email that truly struck a chord with me. Not only are you showing up for “us”, you show up for yourself, bad pajamas and all. I have spent a veritable lifetime showing up for everyone else, being thoughtful, dealing with illnesses both mental and physical of my parents, children, husband. I have cooked, cleaned, worked, listened. But, sadly, not to myself. Insight is a precious gift and I received it this morning … It’s time to show up for myself. Merry Christmas.”

SoberHager (day 98): “This email made me cry tears of joy! This will be my first sober Christmas in a couple decades. And, I had an “a ha” moment. I don’t need anything else but this! Being sober has helped me appreciate how far I have come, but most importantly that I deserve every bit of goodness in my life. I realize I have stopped comparing my life to everyone else’s life. My goodness may not seem like goodness to someone else but I don’t give a shit!  Thanks for sharing about your buttless jammies!”

German Lena (day 159): “Days of thoughtfulness? I never thought I could actually crave them. I was instead trying to avoid the whole ‘being aware and open’ thing … I had similar questions in my head these days. Like when did I effectively reach out for help? What made the difference? I went through some of my – our! – first emails and there was one that still makes me want to cry, you wrote “I’m here” … I don’t think it’s easy to do what you do (find a way to reach people) with words. Because honestly, why isn’t anybody else doing it this way? Why is everybody so focused on “visibility”, easy going, comfortable social media exhibition and glamorous perfect-moment-pictures? What’s it all about to get people’s attention without sustainably touching them? I don’t know. But I know, what’s going on here: You make me laugh (about jammies and a husband with serious cardboard preferences) and cry in just one email. There is seriously heavy stuff going on, but you have a the talent to inspire to look outside the “it’s all too hard” world. You’re anonymous and you’re real. And if I didn’t know better, I would consider that’s impossible. But as it is working, it must be genius.”

give-away for today: i think tomorrow i’m going to mail some postcards from france. would you like one? i will NOT write anything ‘sober’ on the card, just a general greeting. maybe there will be an eiffel tower on it. sure, why not, should be easy enough to find some when i go for my walk tomorrow. if you’d like to receive a postcard, you can hit reply and send me your name, and mailing address. I’ll mail a card to the first 5 emails. Please be careful with spelling, and include the complete address with zip code and country. ready?

[photos submitted for my ‘send me a seasonal photo’ contest last week]

i’m not thin. i need a haircut. i’m wearing jammies with the butt torn open.

from me:

when i think of how hard it is to admit that we need help (or encouragement, or cheerleading), when i think of how much bravery it takes to show up, raise your hand, and say “can someone help me with this,” when i think of how easy it is to listen to the lying voice in your head — well, it really is a miracle that we’re here, doing this online sober support thing. together. you and me.

i know, i send out emails, i do lots of cheering. and then sometimes I get a message that really reminds me — fully and fundamentally — that this makes a difference.

and i think: would I do what she’s doing? would i email a stranger? (that stranger being me). then i wonder if there’s anything about what i’m doing that makes it seem easier for you to share. if there is, of course, i’m unaware.

i think of the anonymous part of this — how much easier it is to do this with ‘words’ and not with instagram-worthy-glamour-shots of how FANTASTIC my life is. which is all a bunch of bullshit anyway. i’m not thin. i need a haircut. i’m wearing jammies with the butt torn open (my new ones – well, i don’t like them much, but don’t tell my husband, i wear them so that his feelings aren’t hurt, but i like my air conditioned ass-less ones better). i haven’t done any christmas baking. i haven’t cooked a meal yet this week.

but i show up, every day. there is consistency here in a way that our regular life often lacks. i didn’t realize the consistency would be important. i didn’t realize that your shitty childhood would make it seem like we share something fundamental. i have landed here, on this side of the screen, by accident. i suggested to someone that instead of trying to quit forever, that she quit for 100 days and then see how she liked it. and now it’s 6 years later.

i don’t know what’s making me so ‘thoughtful’ this morning. maybe it’s christmas. or finally being on vacation from job #1 in a way that makes my head open up. i’m about to trudge off to the grocery store (saturday before christmas? are you crazy?) and pick up a small chicken to roast, some canned tomatoes and fresh basil to make lasagne, and my husband asked for some raw coconut (which tastes like cardboard, but whatever).

happy saturday to you. the day after the shortest day of the year for the northern hemisphere. each day getting brighter. we show up. we do the thing. we are open to possibilities. we stop planning so much and wait to see how we feel when we get there.

today i feel like sloth but i’m going to make one kind of cookie. maybe shortbreads. i’m going to buy apples. i’m going to read my book. i’m going to be very happy to be off the booze elevator because i’ve ruined plenty of christmases with alcohol, and this year will not be one of them. this year i may be lazy, wearing old clothes, with bad hair. but i’ll have a gift that is better than all that combined.

le huglets from me



this is painting #277 here.

hope gets sucked out of us when we drink …

from my inbox:

photos from last week’s ‘send me your seasonal pictures’ email.

hope gets sucked out of us when we drink …

    email from Leener (day 480): “I’m beginning to suspect that somewhere along the way, with all of the sober reading I was doing, someone (me) sold me a lie. I keep ‘waiting’ for sober life to be ahhhmaayyyziiinng! This wonderful, beautiful, amazing thing I keep reading about and then find myself disappointed over when it eludes me.
YES, I’ve had hormone issues and mental health issues that frustrate the ‘sober life is amazing cause’. But really, have I ever been that effusive in my lifetime? Have I been that liberal with the use of superlatives? Wasn’t I raised to eschew hyperbole? Is it really a surprise that I’m not waking up every day declaring everything amazing? Now I am annoyed with myself for mentally beating myself up for being unable to embrace a descriptor that has not otherwise been on rotation as part of my vocabulary …
I’m going to stop chasing this story about someone else’s sober life that I bought into, and enjoy the one I have. My sober life. The one where I wake up in the mornings feeling good. The one where I can do hard shit. The one where I can be helpful to others and therefore feel useful. The one where I can take care of my kids, or my dog, no matter what time of day. The one where I am always able to drive. The one where I don’t (with dread) try to piece together the patchy memories from the night before. It may not be “amazing” — because I reserve that shit for unicorns — but it sure is swell. So there.”

me: happy day 480 to you. you know, life may not be AMMMAAAAZZING. but things are ‘possible’ in a way that they are not when we’re drinking. and that possibility thing, it’s a huge big difference. when drinking, I had this sense of everything being ‘so hard’ — and that feeling in itself is just too overwhelming and unsustainable. it’s better to be sober and be able to make some progress, even if it’s just in tiny little bits. at least it’s PROGRESS. compared to being stuck. or sinking.
and then when we quit drinking, it’s like ‘oh wait, you mean this isn’t inevitable? I can do something differently going forward?’ That feeling of being able to impact the future is the thing that gets sucked out of us when we drink.


Day 21 gift:

Today i have a package of homemade granola to put into the mail. I know, it sounds boring, right? but it’s made with maple syrup and dried cranberries. and you can sprinkle it on yogurt, or on top of your breakfast cereal. or eat it like a snack. I will send the granola out to the 21st person who can correctly fill in the blank:

Luckiest Jo: “I am a constant resetter a new day 1 most weeks, and I keep adding new things, I think though that there is a voice that tells me I don’t have the willpower, although sober me listens to what you say about not having the right tools and so i keep adding them, thank you for telling me i’m not crap. I get the thing about the Wolfie voice more and more … last weekend the Wolfie sounded completely logical, and ok to make the decision to drink … I try and follow your advice on being a ________ but I don’t normally manage, and feel overwhelmed pretty much all the time, but I think i’m getting that the volume of my Wolfie is at a level where I have to keep doing more sober stuff and the reading and listening this week is at least an hour and a half, but I will up that. I think I get now that it doesn’t matter what it takes to stop drinking, as long as I stay stopped.” [update: she’s on day 61 today!]

can you fill in the blank above? send me your guess, and i’ll send out a package of homemade granola!

toasted oats, rice krispies, raisins, dried cranberries, maple syrup — here served with greek yogurt and honey …

solstice to solstice

From Sober in Richmond (The Solstice Guy): “I started my 100 Day challenge on the Solstice [and am celebrating 3.5 years sober tomorrow] … If there is anyone out there who needs some motivation to start – perhaps they can do the Solstice to Solstice. It really helped me to have the power of the whole darn earth behind me rather than a day or date on a calendar … It’s an incredibly magical thing, the Solstice to Solstice!”

Imagine it’s the longest day of the year (tomorrow in the northern hemisphere). Imagine you’re sober starting tomorrow, June 21st. It can be your Day 1 or maybe it’s your Day 50. Or 400. Doesn’t matter. Can you see yourself sober on December 21st? Winter Solstice. Stand here. Look ahead 180 days. Because if you think the view from day 100 is great, wait until you see 180 days.

  • If you’d like to be sober from Solstice to Solstice, you add a comment below.
  • Audios to listen to for Solstice to Solstice? Sign up to receive one archived podcast every 2 days for 180 days. That’s 90 audios in total, starting with SP001 Accepting Help all the way to SP090 Magical Time. Audios discounted 40%.

I like the idea of having the ‘whole darn earth behind me’ – how about you?

belle xo

[if your brain likes special numbers to get started, this might be a good one]

picture thanks to trigirl who sent it in for a photo project last christmas

is it everyone around you? or is it you?

Here’s what I know about the voice in our head that says
'Drink Now' 

It likes to make us focus on other people
And other people’s problems
Instead of ourselves
I can’t be sober because he isn’t
I can’t be sober because they aren’t


I can’t be sober because my job is too hard
Because my husband still drinks
Because I have an autistic child
I can’t be sober because of other reasons
External to me

You’ve heard thoughts like this before
What you may not know is that
It’s all Wolfie
It’s all the voice that says
'Drink Now'
Distracting you
From you taking care of you
Which is the goal

So just for today
When you find yourself focussing on what someone else is or isn’t doing
Stop for a second and wonder
Is this Wolfie, winding me up
So that drinking will seem like a good idea?

Because if it is
Then you're on to his shit ...


this is 'exit' painting #276 here in chinese (mandarin)
(yes, the tree decorated now!)

AP: "this paitning ​​hopeful. Like the calm after the storm where the sun starts to peak through the clouds. It’s very calm and serene. The mandarin reminding me that I’m entering foreign territory ie being sober."

snickerdoodle: ​"​​​This one appeals to me more for whatever reason. What I see looking at this is restoration. Scraping off decades of layers of paint to find and restore the beauty of the original wood piece."

​Inspired: "I see the sun rising on a day where the clouds are lifting and the sky is clearing to a beautiful blue hue of hope."

tierrazul: ​"​In number 276 I actually see the person leaving the elevator - pretty cool."

newme50: "​I do see a peaceful beach, but it's not an "Up North" beach like I'm used to. It's more of a Miami Beach vibe with the turquoise and coral hues. The beaches we visit in Michigan have deep blue water, dark green pine trees and gray rocks alongside the sandy beaches. It's all beautiful to me though definitely a different feel about them."

TS: "276 looks like what I see when looking out a rainy window. Beyond the blur, our exit has always been there."

C: "​I see a calm Hawaiian daybreak where the sun is rising and the ocean is still a gentle blue against an even gentler blue sky and soft sand. A new beginning. A completely new view and fresh horizon. Exit the old. Seize the new. Step out of the habits of the past. Begin again."

Alana: "276 reminds me of my childhood on a sailboat or catamaran in the gulf of mexico, no phone or technology to keep me occupied, just me daydreaming, sleepy from the sun, watching the colors of the ocean shift from the sun and the waves."


​link to original sober art, here

you can order pizza in palliative care

When my step-father was sick, i went to visit him in the hospital before he died. I talk about this story in the free audio Duck Ponderings Episode 08. Stones.

Here’s an extract of the audio transcript. My step-father and I had been talking about where to give his clothes and things, and he wanted to name a shelter in his obituary.

He asked me if I thought there was a [homeless] shelter where people could take dogs, because he was a huge dog fan, but he was very particular. They had to be large dogs. He was not a fan of small dogs (laughs). He said that small dogs weren’t actually dogs. And when they brought dogs into Palliative Care to snuggle with you, he loved it, he waited for it, he was so excited, and then when they left, he told my mother that they weren’t real dogs. That it probably wasn’t worth it, they weren’t real dogs. So he wanted to know if there was a shelter that would take dogs, because oftentimes people are refused admittance to a homeless shelter because they have a shopping cart full of stuff or they have three dogs, or a dog, or two dogs, or whatever.

So sitting in their hotel room – I keep calling it a hotel room – in his hospital room, he had private room, of course, because he worked there so they gave him preferential treatment — preferential treatment on the Palliative Care ward isn’t saying much because everybody gets everything. You can have a bath, you can have ice cream, you can have anything you want at any hour. You can order pizza. I think anything short of smoking cigarettes, but just about anything else can occur on that floor, in those 10 rooms. So while I’m sitting in front of them, I pull out my phone and I search …

Links mentioned:

  • Listen to all of the free “Behind the Scenes” Duck Pondering audios > link
  • Instagram page > link
  • Cinnamon Toast podcast >  link
  • Stones fundraising page (with all proceeds going to a homeless shelter that accepts, men, women, gay, straight, transgender, and their dogs)  > link

Music: “Acoustic Blues,” thanks to Jason Shaw

If you make a donation TODAY to the Sober Stones Fundraising Project that I talk about in this audio, then I will put all of today’s donor names into a hat. At midnight Eastern, I’ll randomly select one name, and that person will win a sober podcast bundle that is worth the same amount as their donation. Sponsor a stone for $100? If I pick you, you’ll get an audio bundle worth $100. But the minimum donation is $5, so the amount is up to you. There are a limited number of stones available, so your odds in winning are quite good 🙂 more here.

Duck Ponderings 010 – Small Goals

What happens when we try to fix everything at once? I talk about how I use this in other parts of life (sober + writing + running very slowly). And about how I’m bad with endings, and so this won’t be the last episode. I probably have one or two more to go…




Music: “Acoustic Blues,” thanks to Jason Shaw,

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Duck Ponderings 009 – Vision

In this Duck Ponderings episode I talk about my ‘vision’. ha. as if i have one. Mostly i talk about logistics: how I track penpals, my excel spreadsheet, screen names, marketing, and a (not so) funny story about advertising on Facebook. During this audio, I also record a video which is below. This is literally the busiest day at the park I have ever seen. Ever.



I also recorded a video near the beginning, just to show the numbers of people at the park … video here [click to begin!]:

[evp_embed_video url=””]


Music: “Acoustic Blues,” thanks to Jason Shaw,

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