i depend on other people

email from Sober in Seattle (day 210):  “I relate to your penpal who said: ‘I have never used…support…i have never consistently reached out to another person…’ — not just for sobriety, but for anything. I am 54, and my whole life i have tried to tread very gently through the planet, asking little from anyone, because i don’t want to be reminded of my childhood, where all need was an admission of weakness, and any request for help would be turned down.

Of course there are a hundred million ways every day that I depend on other people. The farmers who grow my food, the writers who create the books i read and shows i watch, the folks who maintain my car and my apartment building, the police and fire and emergency responders who make my world as safe as it can be. But none of this help requires me asking for something, me putting myself out there to get what i need.

I have not written emails every day of my sobriety to my sober pen pals (Belle and Apprentice Elise), not because i am trying to hide anything, or because i don’t have time, but because i have a habit cultivated over 50 years of not reaching out to people. Not asking for anything. Not being vulnerable.”

[update: she’s on day 229 today]

~

 

stay here bracelet
stay sober. stay focussed. just do today. stay here.
14 karat gold.
mailed from france.
complete with sober superpowers.
link

motivation is hard to find in a pandemic

first i want to say thanks. for all of the things. for being here, opening emails, listening to audios.

we’ve been going through a weird time, haven’t we? today is day 55 of full lockdown for paris, and we have 3 more days to go until the duck pond, a walk outside the neighbourhood, and being able to open the front door without paperwork to prove where we’re going.

during this weird time, you have struggled with pressures, you’ve had more than your share of anxiety, and in some cases you’ve seen illness and death first-hand (covid, suicide, alcohol-related, in-laws).

every morning i get up and i check my email to see how you’re doing. to see if you got the treat you said you were going to (take-out quiche!), or if you made the virgin lime drink for may 5th, or ordered the candle.

i have to say that after the first week or so, my inbox has settled down remarkably well. there were some large moments of ‘what the fuck’ (yeah, me too!), but we are a resilient bunch. we show up. we are learning to experience emotions in real time.

With all of the opportunities you have had to unsubscribe from sober support (who’s got time for self-care during a pandemic!, you might ask), you did NOT unsubscribe. you’re here.

it’s been so great to see the lovely and continued support for the sober art that i share in the daily emails. i haven’t talked much about how mr.belle has been dealing with the confinement as it’s not my story to tell. he’s a bit more nervous about health things than i am, and has really been missing his concerts and seeing his ‘concert friends’ (he’s usually out 4 nights a week). his motivation, to begin, wasn’t great. go to work every day, come home, go to bed.

and then the paintings started to sell again. we’ve been selling on average one painting per day. isn’t that amazing?

he paints and shows me what he’s done and i pick the ones i like. i photograph, upload, edit, and create the button to purchase. you open the emails, click the links, pick the paintings that want. then he varnishes them.

over time we run out of canvases, and then run out of frames. he’s out of white paint. then black. And then the complete tragedy of running out of cardboard for shipping because the fridge store is closed. We order more canvases, more frames, and we break down and BUY cardboard for shipping 🙂

and still the paintings are going out, one per day. we ran out of regular paintings, and so i posted other framed ones, like the lemon one, or the starbucks ones, and they sold. he produces a set of 10 journals with painted covers, and i’m in the process of posting those.

every day he makes a box, or paints something, and goes up and down the stairs to the studio. every day even weekends.

every day we talk about what to do first (this one has been waiting longer, so it should be varnished first, this one is in oil so will take 4 weeks to dry). i know that art doesn’t make up for missing concerts, but let me tell you, it’s close! it’s art at home 🙂

so when i show up every day, and you ask how i’m doing, and you’re worried about me, you have no idea how ‘good’ things are for me. for us. really. Paris is fully locked-down, more than most places. and we’re fine. i’m emailing and editing audios and making lime cheesecake (that was today’s project). today he made 4 boxes (at 45 minutes each), then i printed the courier labels, then he went to the post office and waited in line for an hour to hand them over (they were prepaid, that’s just how long the line takes to advance in the line). then he came home and went back upstairs to continue.

motivation is hard to find in a pandemic. sleep is erratic. concentration is fractured. our brains are busy processing even when our bodies are still. it’s tiring 🙂

and every single day you show up and support us. and i just want you to know that it doesn’t go unnoticed 😉

i’m happy to be here, doing this. supporting you. you supporting us. anyway, just wanted to say thanks and now i’ve written a book!

many many hugs from me (and him). the non-contagious kind. the best kind.
love, me

~

this is #614

if booze is an elevator that only goes down, then you want to exit; now would be a good time

Particulars: Acrylic & ink on paper. Dimensions: 30 x 42 cm (11.75″ x 16.75″) – this is standard sized A3 paper and will fit in an A3 frame from amazon.com

Shipping: Mailed flat with 3 sheets of stiff cardboard (carton) so that it doesn’t bend in the mail. Mailed direct to you from France.

Original or print? Original paintings, so there is only ONE available.

link to this painting > https://gumroad.com/l/exit-614

from me: You’re trying to contain something uncontainable

from me:

I’m going to say some things that you know are true, but that you have perhaps not thought about in this exact way.

The problem with the moderation thinking is: If we could do it, we’d already be doing it. We wouldn’t be here reading this.
I wouldn’t have quit drinking at all, frankly, if I’d have been able to drink only at Easter and Christmas and special occasions, or only on weekends, or whatever the rules.

You may not have called it moderation.

You might email me and say, “But Belle, I never tried moderation. Maybe I should go try that now, I’ll be right back …”

And I’ll say, “That’s what you’ve been trying. You just didn’t CALL it moderation.” If you are alternating drinks with water, trying to slow down — if you make rules with yourself (only on Thursdays, only on Fridays, only on special occasions) …

this means that you’re trying to contain it.

You’re trying to contain something uncontainable.

“Maybe if I only drink bad alcohol, then I won’t crave it as much. Maybe if I only buy expensive stuff.”

You’ve tried this.

I tried this.

I remember once I bought a case of wine, mistakingly thinking that if there was more around, then I wouldn’t obsess about it. I thought my obsession about ‘running out’ was about quantity. I didn’t realize that it had to do with wanting to drink in every available moment, from the second I was ‘allowed’ to drink (when was I allowed? well, at wine-o-clock, some days it was 6 pm, or 8 pm, or when on vacation or Christmas morning it could be 10 am) – I was waiting to drink. And I was always trying to make rules on how to navigate all that.

Exhausting.

 

[this is extracted from lesson 2 of the 5-part Exit → Exist audio series, you know: Exit the booze elevator so you can Exist.
all you have to do is sign up and you’ll get the first audio right away.
thanks to donations, three-quarters of the price has been covered for you, so this series of audios is $10 US. one payment. not recurring. nothing weird. just 5 audios for you.
yes, that’s my voice. you’ll hear me — talking directly to you.
Sign up here.]

~

One New Journal Each Day for 10 Days

Journal 6

​spiral journal, 100 pages/50 sheets
6″ x 8.5″ (14,8 x 21 cm)
​front cover hand-painted in acrylic
mailed in a padded envelope from France

​Available at auction > www.artsober.com

~

for you. because you like to write. you take notes. you keep a journal of your sober thoughts (ha!). or maybe you keep a gardening journal, and that’s how you know that this year the tulips are early.

every day for 10 days i’m going to post a new journal, each with a distinctly different cover, different colours, all hand-made, one of a kind.

each journal will start out with an opening bid of $5 and will be open for bidding for 2 days only. short bid. you have to watch what’s happening 🙂

like this one above

the journals are proudly being shown on Daily Paintworks (thanks to them for sponsoring this auction!).

opening bid is $5. you can go and have a look here > www.artsober.com

hugs from me & him

“I lower my expectations to match the amount of alcohol I drink”

from my inbox:

R: “Hi Belle, listening to the first audio lesson [in the Exit → Exist lessons] and I was just blown away. It was like you were speaking directly to me. You always say ‘you’re not alone’ but listening to this really made it sink in that I’m not the only one! There are other people out there sitting on the sidelines wishing they could do this sober thing too, watching, lurking, listening. I wish I could be happy sitting on the sidelines but I’m not happy there/here. Then in the second lesson, explaining how I lower my expectations to match the amount of alcohol and that I can’t count on myself and I’m always letting myself down — wow just wow. Thank you for this. I’m on day 6 today.”

C:
“Hi Belle — I just listened to this and was gobsmacked at how your drinking experience matches mine: needing more wine in the house, not making plans because it cuts into drinking time, expecting a ‘bottom’ that will be the thing to make me stop. It was like you’ve been living with me. I was relieved to hear that these patterns, expectations, etc. are common and that I’m not alone. I feel like I can approach getting sober with less self-blame, beating myself up, etc. This was all news to me so thank you, thank you, thank you!”

R2: “Read that is is a noreply email so I’m going to see if it doesn’t go through before I begin … OK then, well I must say I am impressed. I like very much what you say and how you say it. Your voice is soothing and confident as well. No bullshit, you get to the point, you are clearly well versed in what you speak about. Thank and well done my dear. Seriously. While I am far from new, I am new to this kind of internet support thing. I used to live in the US, ride my motorcycle up and down hills wearing Italian heels but now I’m older and overseas … I only mention me to indicate that I have been around a while and believe I know quality when I see or hear it. Thank you again I think you are doing a seriously important work, but then you already know that.”

~

from me:
i have a 5-part Exit → Exist audio series, you know: Exit the booze elevator so you can Exist. all you have to do is sign up and you’ll get the first audio right away.

thanks to donations, three-quarters of the price has been covered for you, so this series of audios is $10 US. one payment. not recurring. nothing weird. just 5 audios for you. yes, that’s my voice. you’ll hear me — talking directly to you.

Sign up here.

In these audios, I will talk about getting started, how to THINK about the idea of quitting drinking, advice on tools and supports, and we’ll talk about how to get ready to begin.

If booze is an elevator that only goes down, it’s time to find the exit.

Exit → Exist [audios for lurkers, sober-curious, not sure sobriety is for you] > Sign up here.

huglets from me.me

~

One New Journal Each Day for 10 Days

Journal 4

​spiral journal, 100 pages/50 sheets
6″ x 8.5″ (14,8 x 21 cm)
​front cover hand-painted in acrylic
mailed in a padded envelope from France

​Available at auction > www.artsober.com

~

for you. because you like to write. you take notes. you keep a journal of your sober thoughts (ha!). or maybe you keep a gardening journal, and that’s how you know that this year the tulips are early.

every day for 10 days i’m going to post a new journal, each with a distinctly different cover, different colours, all hand-made, one of a kind.

each journal will start out with an opening bid of $5 and will be open for bidding for 2 days only. short bid. you have to watch what’s happening 🙂

like this one, below.

the journals are proudly being shown on Daily Paintworks (thanks to them for sponsoring this auction!).

opening bid is $5. you can go and have a look here > www.artsober.com

hugs from me & him

do the things whether i want to or not …

from me: we got news of our confinement ‘easing’ beginning on May 11th. groups of 10 allowed, parks-reopened (!), can go up to 100km from home without paperwork, can run day and night. kids back to school in groups of 10. shops reopened with social distancing in place. no concerts, theatres, restaurants until june 2nd at the earliest (before they were saying mid-july). i can tell that already they’re not checking our paperwork anymore, and while the duck pond is ‘closed’ there’s no one enforcing it. i’ll be there on may 11th, that’s for sure. hope i didn’t miss all of the lilacs. i feel ok about the easing as of today. we’ve had lower ICU numbers every single day since our high of april 7 (22 days). by the time we reopen it’ll be 35+ days of downward numbers.

we also had our first shipment of art supplies come by mail, and mr.belle got 6 blank canvases (with plans for 4 ‘mountain’ paintings and & 2 ‘lake to sky’ paintings). the second mountain painting is at the bottom of this post.

and yesterday i made praline (nuts and caramel that you then pulverize into a chunky powder). the first time failed miserably, the sugar gathered in large crystallized clumps, all the good nuts straight into the garbage. the second batch was lovely, with dark brown runny caramel and bright green pistachios.

what changed?
i tried different …

   

 

~
from me: 
sometimes when someone is having a hard time getting going after a relapse, i’ll suggest an ‘intervention’ of sorts, with a couple of calls a week, and audios and homework, until they get rolling. I got this email from EMW a few days ago:
~

EMW (day 8): “Well I can’t believe it. I added tools and did them whether I wanted to or not, and here I am on day 8. I have a 1 pm AA phone mtg scheduled today, 5 podcasts to listen to, and I’ll email you 4 times. And I have Jason Vale’s book which I love to read for motivation as well. I will email you later and hope you have a great day!…”

me: well you know, I think we need to put this on a poster 🙂 I did the things, whether I wanted to or not, and now I’m on day 8 🙂 this is lovely! hoo-fucking-ray for YOU.

[and now she’s on day 11 today]

~
we received some blank canvases in a special delivery on Saturday. only a few though! so mr.belle went right back to work and made this one on monday and it was dry enough on tuesday to add the word when he came down for his lunch break (roast beef and salad from the take-out deli across the street, our first take-out meal in 7 weeks)…]

Here 10. mountain painting

Here 10.
canvas itself is 30 x 30 cm (12″ x 12″)
acrylic 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 or without frame
link here > www.artsober.com

Shipping
This painting is dry and ready to ship. You’ll get an email when your painting is in the mail.

hugs from me & him

~

here’s how the original story unfolded:

me to him: “what are you doing upstairs in that studio?”
“just experimenting with things.”
“what sort of things?”
“mountains.”
“on paper?”
“on canvas.”

he shows me the painting below. “wowie,” i say. “this is something new. you travel over the mountains. there are more mountains coming, perhaps. you have stay here. stay in the now. do today. The way you get ‘there’ is to do here. The changes start from here. From today.”

he smiles, and says “ok, but what word do you want then?”
me: “here.”
“stay here?”
“no, just ‘here’ – and it should be in lowercase. and kind of pale, to blend in a little with the background.”

~

and so we have this new mountain painting with ‘here’ on it 🙂

it’s like one of those maps in the park?
You are HERE. 

and what you do from here forward changes everything. 

I Suggest That You Delete Every Second Message of Mine, Without Reading It …

from my inbox:

Lars (day 297): “Much like quitting drinking, I can’t look at the entire future [to do with changing jobs], I have to just do it one day at a time. Yes to external motivation! I tend to get lost with my own goals, but I am trying to be more organized in this sense. I like to think of it as if I’m creating a school for myself, and each day I need to spend x amount of time doing x,y,z. Of course there are off days, but getting into the habit of spending x amount of time each day learning, working, or being inspired seems paramount. My goal is to be out of job #1 within a year. There, external motivation! I’ve said this before, though, much like quitting drinking. 😉  I do think that goal of a year is possible, especially if I stick to my goal of doing shit 5 out of 7 days a week. I CAN DO THIS!!! And I get so excited thinking about all the doors that will open once I decide to take a chance on myself.”

me: yes, there is no future (!) 🙂 there is just today. stay here. there are just the actions we take today. if your goal is to be out in a year, then what 15 minute progress can you make towards that today? then you do it again tomorrow. not hours and hours a day, but bits. and sometimes you’ll feel inspired and do more, and if you just do 15 minutes that’s enough. keep incrementally advancing towards the thing.

Lars: “Thank you, Belle. I’m saving this. Going to scribble it down. Read it. Remember it. It’s lumped into the Shit Belle Says, and it’s so true and yet so easily forgotten.” [update: she’s on day 472 today]

~

J: “Hi! Love you and our story shares but I’d like to receive an email only about 1-2x per week and right now I’m receiving two per day or so I didn’t want to hit unsubscribe because that is entirely what I want. I was hoping when it said *email preferences* that it would give me the option to chose; hence I chose to write you instead. thank you again.”

me: hi there, the only thing I can suggest is that you just delete every second message. Without reading it. I have some subscribers who press refresh waiting for new messages. I generally limit to two emails a day, but in times when things are stressful like now, it could be more. If it’s not for you, I’d just delete some of the messages. Of course then you might miss a lovely bit of support 🙂 hugs from me


 

i like this one. i say that often, i know, but i really like this one 🙂

[update: we received some blank canvases in a special delivery on Saturday. only a few though! so mr.belle went right back to work and made this one yesterday and it was dry enough to add the word when he came down for his lunch break (roast beef and salad from the take-out deli across the street, our first take-out meal in 7 weeks)…]

Here 10. mountain painting

Here 10.
canvas itself is 30 x 30 cm (12″ x 12″)
acrylic 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 or without frame
link here > www.artsober.com

Shipping
This painting is dry and ready to ship. You’ll get an email when your painting is in the mail.

hugs from me & him

~

here’s how the original story unfolded:

me to him: “what are you doing upstairs in that studio?”
“just experimenting with things.”
“what sort of things?”
“mountains.”
“on paper?”
“on canvas.”

he shows me the painting below. “wowie,” i say. “this is something new. you travel over the mountains. there are more mountains coming, perhaps. you have stay here. stay in the now. do today. The way you get ‘there’ is to do here. The changes start from here. From today.”

he smiles, and says “ok, but what word do you want then?”
me: “here.”
“stay here?”
“no, just ‘here’ – and it should be in lowercase. and kind of pale, to blend in a little with the background.”

~

and so we have this new mountain painting with ‘here’ on it 🙂

it’s like one of those maps in the park?
You are HERE. 

and what you do from here forward changes everything. 

I’m trying anything new

email from P (day 57): “Dear belle. Quick question. Is the PDF of the first year of your blog free as part of my jumpstart or is it to be purchased? Hugs

me: it is separate, but you don’t have to buy it – you can read it all online if you’d prefer. it just might be easier in one file but certainly not required.

P: “OMG. You really are a human at the other end! Despite following your correspondence in minutiae for weeks, I’d somehow in the depths of my mind wondered if you, a real flesh and blood human, would write to me! I’m sort of over the moon. Electrically generated? Using a standard response and putting name at top to personalize it? These are some of my dark cynical thoughts. I’ve never done anything like this — reaching out to a support online. I’m trying anything new, and guess what, it’s working. I’m sooooo far out if my comfort zone (I’m a medical doctor used to telling everyone else what’s right and wrong, what the evidence shows blah blah. Big hypocrite).
Can you imagine running a drug and alcohol unit, dressed in your little nighty expensive suit, walking around writing drug charts, counseling and “knowing it all”, when knowing … that you’re messed up and out of control — not on the outside — that was as clear as day going to come one day, but the feeling of being a big fat phony and using my intellectualization as a big excuse. I’ve known that having degrees and money and fancy cars and beach houses doesn’t protect you — makes it easier to hide, but it does and will catch up. I’m nowhere near ready to tell my story. I couldn’t even put it into a journal and then burn.
But, Belle, whoever you are, this thing you’ve given birth to is the first time in 20 years that I see light and hope and freedom. I’ve had the best 8 weeks that I can recall since stumbling on The Bubble Hour and then to you. We are a similar age. Your words ring true and hit the notes that resonate. I get it. Thanks. I’m rambling and writing as getting the teenagers off to school.”

[update: she’s on day 1344 today]

#100DaySoberChallenge – Day 2 – Nice to meet you :)

just thought i’d open up this space where we can introduce ourselves. the goal for the #100DaySoberChallenge is continuous days sober. you can say what day you’re on today, and later i’ll do another post and you can report in your continuous days so far.

you can put in a screen name when it asks for your ‘name’.

and email addresses are NOT displayed (EVER). i also approve every comment before it is posted 🙂

you can say who you are, what day you’re on, and WHY you’re doing the #100DaySoberChallenge

ok, i’ll start …

this is something i should actively pursue

email from minttea (day 111): “I still definitely sometimes push too hard and then crash — but I’m a little more conscious of that pattern now than I used to be, so I try to be more mindful of how things will affect my energy level and overwhelm level when I’m scheduling things out. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but there’s a lot that I CAN control when I’m paying attention. Aside from accountability and your general delightfulness, I think that the biggest lesson/gift I’ve gotten from you is that taking time to rest/relax/take care of myself isn’t just something I can give myself “permission” for or “allow” in my life, but something that I should actively pursue. There’s a lot of language about self-care type stuff that still has some veiled judgement to it. If I have to give myself “permission” to rest or relax, that still carries with it a hint of negative connotation. Like, why do I need permission for it? It’s actually something I should seek out. It’s something that should be a given in my life that I fiercely protect. No one ever says we should give ourselves permission to do chores, or go to work, or pay our bills. And yet we need permission to get enough sleep, take time to do things that make us happy, enrich ourselves with travel and new experiences, or give ourselves treats for being awesome and sober? Nope, no permission needed =)”

[update: she’s on day 138 today]

[and i used Minttea’s email (sort of) as the basis of a facebook live video here]

~

new painting posted

This is painting #418

now this one has an interesting story. last summer, when i first started to post the paintings on the site (august 2018), mr.belle had painted a few extras so that we’d have some to put up while travelling to canada. but once we got to montreal (and then vermont, and then RI and CT), it became very clear that we wouldn’t have enough. i mean, one day in particular, every painting i posted sold within minutes to a total of SEVEN in one day! so in the dumpy rental apartment in montreal, above the sex shop, mr.belle pulled back the carpet, spread out newspaper, and got to work. This painting below is, I think, the very last Montreal painting. So it was created in Montreal, came back to Paris, travelled to Tennessee in May for the art show, back to Paris, and I just photographed it 11 minutes ago on the balcony while it’s still cool outside.

and now it’s ready for you.

(p.s., on the back it says MTL in addition to the signature and the painting number)

 

link here > https://gumroad.com/l/Exit-418

~ hugs from me

 

most popular videos

I’ve been recording Facebook Live videos, just about daily, since January.
and in the last couple of weeks, these ones have gotten more responses than others (who knows why!).

“I Needed Permission to Begin” > LINK

“I Was on the Phone with Facebook Today” > LINK

and this one recorded in Nashville about how being sober is like driving in the rain:
“How Long Until You Get Used To It?” > LINK

Facebook is not private, though, so you may want to decide if you’d like to “like” or leave a comment on the videos.

hugs