that’s what addiction is. it’s a head that lies to us.

from my inbox:

bluesparkles (day 0):  “FUCK I hear you Belle. It just seems so damn boring and exhausting without the buzz of wine to keep the night going. I don’t know what to do instead. I mean, I do, and i’ve done it, but I’ve forgotten the past few weeks since i’ve been back at school and it’s ramped up the tension and need for release. I am so goddamn sick of thinking about it.
Belle, if I could tell you all the things that are running through my mind every day with school, the three kids, my job which is filled with children, colleagues, the new fire pit in our backyard so my hubby and i can enjoy a date night at home since we don’t have any damn help – well firepits don’t seem that fun with just coffee and creamer. I bought decaf coffee and creamer just for that reason, but it’s more fun with wine. and I hate that. Hate hate hate. I can do a trillion strong ass things, give birth, deal with marriage stuff, family serious health things, I don’t want to deal with one more damn thing – i.e. giving up something that relaxes me. does that make sense? I feel like your response is going to be unintentionally condescending because it’s just not that easy to find other sober supports and treats in the midst of life.”

me: I know that I will be unintentionally condescending when I say that you being sober is a big deal, for you, for the kids, and for feeling proud of yourself. if you’re missing out on a ‘buzz’ then yes, you can find it in other ways. you’re here [reading this, emailing] because on some level you know that you’re drinking more than you want to be. it’s not easy to find sober supports. but I’m here, and you can be emailing me 4 times a day. you could listen to the audios and set up calls with me. you have a voice in your head that tells you that alcohol makes things better. that’s what addiction is. it’s a head that lies to us. and on some level you know this. that’s why you’re emailing me. to ask me to say this. so I will 🙂 hugs

 


​you enter into a new space, a new phase of life.
you go into new territory.
you enter a new you 🙂

link

www.artsober.com

 

if you’re happy, then something’s wrong

from my inbox:

zenmeg: “I am very good. Thanks for checking in. I have been benefiting from a recent sober revelation – an old hobby. Knitting has burst back into my life like a long lost friend. So good to be reunited again … i am reveling in how lovely it feels to be happy as pie and not feel the urge to drink away that happiness. Being happy and staying happy and learning how to be comfortable with sheer happiness has been a BIG part of me embracing sobriety.  I think I was raised with some sort of underlying vibe of “if you’re happy, then something’s wrong.” I remember having a conversation with my mom where we were scoffing at people who seemed carefree and happy – saying there must be something wrong with them or that they’re not taking life seriously enough. My mom was the eldest of 7 kids and her parents were alcoholics. She pretty much raised her siblings and never got a chance to live her own life or acknowledge her own feelings or even learn how to feel; she’s never been to therapy to deal with all the crap that has been hanging on her since her childhood. So surely she has passed some of her baggage onto me. Thankfully I’ve seen a few different therapists over the years. So this happiness thing is fabulous. I even cry sometimes b/c I am so happy.

How are you? Love reading your emails and blogs and anything you send out. You’re on to something here. Wait until Oprah hears about you.”

 

 


 

NEW – Where are they now? Sober support paintings …

North Carolina

 

Georgia

 

available

 

New Jersey
available
available

The train was like a zoo without containment, running wild.

from my inbox:

A: “I’m on day 17 today, I went out to xx with my husband to watch a show at the theatre. The evening was jam packed full of triggers for me – a child-free evening out, a trip on the train with a buffet car, a venue with a bar, an interval promoting time to drink and people everywhere holding drinks … I held a bottle of water.

My senses were on high alert and in that moment my Wolfie was saying ‘why can’t you do what these people are doing? Why shouldn’t you? You deserve it, just because you drink tonight doesn’t mean you will drink tomorrow. Go on, let your hair down!
It didn’t spoil my night but it was definitely with me throughout the event. This was, until the moment we reached the train station to return home.

Suddenly I was on the other side of ‘it’, like some kind of parallel world switch had been struck. What is the ‘it’ that I was in the otherwise of? Well the station and train was packed with drunk people. People swaying, slurring, shouting and obliterated through drink. People who were looking for trouble. Girls hardly dressed and throwing up, phones everywhere. People taking selfie after selfie whilst pouting or kissing strangers. There were elongated over-pitched shrieks and bodies falling in the aisles.
The train was like a zoo without containment, running wild. I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing and then realisation dawned; this was me in the past … I definitely remember behaving that way and not giving a shit who saw me and I never gave a thought that my drunken behaviour might be a tad excessive.

…The point I’m trying to make is this unruly zoo on the 22:02 train from xx were all symptoms of much much deeper issues for each and every single person on that train. I felt I could see inside some of them. Their despair, self loathing, lack of self compassion and care; and for me it was a lightbulb moment. I thanked goodness that I didn’t give in to Wolfie on that night. I could hold my head high, I felt proud of myself and oh so grateful that I was not that person anymore and I didn’t have to wake up with the hangover, the remorse, the empty purse, the shame or embarrassment.

So the next time my Wolfie pipes up I’m going to try to conjure the image of that wild zoo and remind myself that they are the reason why I’m on the right tracks.

This was my first sober night out in years. It was hard but if I can do it, anyone can.

Thanks for listening, A.”

 


 

NEW – Where are they now? Sober support paintings …

British Columbia
Tennessee
Connecticut
North Carolina
Georgia
available
New Jersey
available
available

You will never change; I must change.

from my inbox:

W: “As soon as I started looking at quitting drinking like ending a toxic relationship, all of a sudden I was back in familiar territory (um, yay?) and had a whole arsenal of tools to use (yes, yay!).

  • Yes, there is good between us.  But it will always be outweighed by the bad.
  • Yes, we have history.  But what we have is no longer healthy, so I am choosing a different future.
  • Yes, for a long time I turned to you as my safety blanket.  But that “safety” kept me down, and kept me from growing. I need to grow more than I need that safety blanket.
  • Yes, you want to go back to the good old times when everything felt ok. But you are a one-trick pony, and I am not. You will never change; I must change.
  • Yes, you want us to keep trying. But I cannot live this life, or lie to myself, any more. I refuse to stay miserable just to keep you happy. So I am leaving.
  • Yes, you will call, and text, and write, and cry, and plead, and threaten, and sulk. And I may have compassion, as for a scared 2 year old, but I will still say nope, no, nuh-uh, not happening, buh-bye, go away, too bad.
  • You’ll be ok on your own, Wolfie.  You don’t need me any more.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  -Anais Nin

huglets, W
Day onehundredfreakinfortyseven!! 😀
(I never, never, never in my wildest dreams, when I was down in that tar pit, ever imagined I’d actually get here. I feel like a swamp leech that woke up one day as a hummingbird…kinda like WT holy F WOW how’d that happen?!!!)  (thank you 🙂 )”

 


NEW – Where are they now?

British Columbia
Tennessee
Connecticut
North Carolina
Georgia
available at auction ($21)
New Jersey
available
available

drinking bathwater

email from Hernoodlyness (day 6): 
“Tonight is regular Drinking Tuesday with my two very good friends. I bought them a bottle of wine (i think it is my turn), but also have my special drink ready. I need to tell them that I will not be drinking alcohol with them any more (well for at least 100 days), but that I would still love to have an evening once a week to catch up. I am a little anxious about their reactions, as I used to be the drinking friend. But I am hoping that I can also just be a very good friend. Perhaps even better, now that my attention is not focused on how much alcohol is left and if I have enough after they left.”

me: you’ll find it easier with your friends if you mention it in advance. like send a text that says “can’t wait to see you tonight, I’ve got the wine, I’m not drinking these days so I’ll have tonic for me but I can’t wait to hear about xx and yy. see you soon.” just be matter of fact about it. it makes it easier for when you see them face to face. huglets

hnn: “I emailed them like you suggested and ended it with a funny story about how I found my little M was in the bathtub this afternoon drinking bathwater out of his shoe. They cared more about the anecdote, than my actual non-drinking warning. I am pretty sure you are thinking: YUP! 🙂  Thanks for the great advice. No anxiousness here any more!”

~

​exit the past situation. move into the new place. the door’s open. 


this is painting #399 here > https://gumroad.com/l/Exit-399

dry july (happy soberversary)

today is canada day. first day of july. it’s moving day in Quebec. it’s a day for fireworks and corn on the cob and watermelon (let me know if you’re having all three). you will have strawberries still in canada, in france we’re into peaches now. today is also my soberversary, not because i wanted my day 1 to coincide with canada day (though i like it!), but because of something called Dry July, a cancer fundraiser based in australia. technically you’re supposed to sign up on their site, let your friends and family know so they can sponsor you, and you give up drinking for a month to raise money. i didn’t do that part. to be fair, i didn’t do any of it except the sober part. I didn’t tell friends, i didn’t even tell my husband. I was too terrified, because my previous longest was 9 days, so going for a whole month seemed impossible. sure, i could have raised a few bucks from my facebook friends, and my generous uncle if i had shared what i was doing … but you know what? i couldn’t share. I couldn’t fundraise. i couldn’t deal with any questions, because i was barely holding on — going to work, not getting fired. that’s it. that’s all i could do to begin. any mild joking on my FB page? i wouldn’t have been able to handle it. i did ask for support online but only from other sober people, and before that moment where i reached out for support i had no faith that it’d even work. i just knew i was stuck. It was day 9 of dry july, when i realized i was going to fail if i didn’t try something else. so here’s my message for today. try different. if today is your day 1, and maybe you’d like to do dry july and we can be soberversary twins, then try different. if what you’ve been trying ins’t working, try something else. if you’ve been ‘waiting for a few clear days on my schedule’ you can try something else. if you’ve been ‘waiting until the vacation and the funeral are over’ then try some else. if you’ve been waiting (for anything), then you begin now and add in new supports. new things. try different. oh and p.s., it’s entirely possible to quit drinking, tell no one, say ‘no thanks it was giving me headaches,’ and go on your way without large declarations. sometimes people like announcements — and you should do you. but me, i liked doing it under the radar. I still do. #dryjuly – that means today is day 1 if you’re not already underway. you’re ready. today’s the same as any other day. it’s a day you don’t drink. hugs xo

send me a picture of your summer fruit – whatever you’re eating today. strawberries, peaches, watermelon? if you’re in tasmania, send me a picture of your lovely root vegetables 🙂 I’ll share some of your photos in my long-weekend emails, today and tomorrow.

 


my favourite canadian breakfast, photo taken last year when i was in canada having cheerios and fruit from the market. today i’ll be having french granola and peaches 🙂 well, as soon as i drag my lardy ass out to get some peaches! my husband just left for a walk, i gave him cow eyes, but i don’t think he’s buying any for me…

Duck Ponderings 007 – The Bracelets

Duck Ponderings 007 – The Bracelets. It started with me wanting a bracelet that I could wear (and that I did wear), and the second one came about because I heard a voice while flying (no shit). And there’s a video I filmed at the end, with the man and his yellow bucket, bailing out the boats.

 

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video here [click to begin!]:

[evp_embed_video url=”http://soberpodcasts.s3.amazonaws.com/duck.pond.7.MOV”]

 

 

Links mentioned:

  • Elle Schoenberger podcast episodes 71-74 and 96-99 > link
  • All bracelets — Fuck You Wolfie in both aluminium and silver, the Stay Here bracelet in brass and silver, and the Not Today bracelet with the good capital “O” > link
  • The Stay Here original story which WAS just after my one year soberversary > 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, https://bit.ly/2pZvbyu

Donations to support these audios and keep them free 🙂 https://gum.co/DuckPonderingsaudios

“I have asked for help and you have given it”

email from mygi (day 1): 

“Hey Belle, just finished listening to Lesson #1 of the Jumpstart class, and I’m in floods of tears because it’s real now and I’m not lurking any more and I’m real. I thought I was broken but maybe I’m not? Sobbing with reality and relief that I don’t have to fight any more.

My longest time sober was about 10 years ago. I’ve always feared quitting outright because I hated that time, it was boring and difficult and I thought that was difficult because I was sober. So I tried moderation, lots of different kinds of moderation, none of which have worked …

What’s different this time that gives me hope is that I’m not going to change anything in my life apart from this one thing. Everything is ok, I’m in an ok place. And I have support, I have asked for help and you have given it. Maybe it will happen to me this time, because I can see the future in you and your sober penpal gang and it doesn’t look so different from who I am now.

I can’t tell you how many times I gave that three year old a doughnut since I returned to day one. Sooooo many doughnuts, soooooo many tantrums. Day one is today again, and it’s shit. I don’t want to be here any more.

And I laugh/sobbed so hard at the corn on the cob thing. Yes, that’s it entirely. I can’t MAKE myself be like that about booze. You’re like that or you’re not. But I’m getting into scary never territory again so I’m going to return to the fact that I’m not drinking now. Not today.

Thank you Belle :-)”

[update: she’s on day 396 today, just celebrated one year sober]

aim for a high, firm bottom

from my inbox:

From E (day 128): “I follow a sober girl and when she was starting off, I followed her, left encouraging comments on the blog. She relapses frequently … and i got frustrated; my reaction is initially to try to fix her. or to say bracing things to her. none of which will help her, I’m sure.  but I do check the blog occasionally, like picking a scab that is irritating me 🙁 so my considered response is probably to back away, strengthen the boundaries between her and me. because her actions are her own responsibility and not mine … and I need to find a way of dealing with that.  but when she leaves sad comments I am at a loss as to how to respond. I generally go for something non-committal, or don’t reply. any thoughts on how I can let this person take up less space in my head?! you must get this all the time in your position!”

me:  I know this feeling, I think that reading blogs of repeated relapsers isn’t terribly helpful. except to remind us that we never want another day 1 again. there are some people’s blogs that i read when i first was getting sober, that started to blog about ‘moderation’ or about how being sober wasn’t for them, I unfollowed them. When i was starting, I want to surround myself with stories of how to be successfully sober … Do I now work with people who AREN’T successfully sober, yes. do I have a lot of patience? yes. do I overinvest in them more than they are invested in themselves? no. it’s about boundaries, I think … wolfie gets into some people’s heads. it’s terrifying to watch. they know that they’re being possessed. they know that the train is coming and they’re standing on the tracks. and they can’t get off the tracks.  it’s not logical. addiction isn’t logical. that’s the horror of it. people die. they can’t figure out how to get off the tracks and then get squished by the train, by wolfie, by booze. it happens all the fucking time.  all we can do is wave from safe land and say “come here” because while giving ideas is helpful, tough love doesn’t seem to work …  huglets

E: “Tx for this. V helpful. Agree totally re harshness not working. I think for me, snippets of things other people have said have unexpectedly made a massive difference. But I can’t guess what those things will be for someone else 🙁 it makes me so sad for that person. Such a waste. Thank you for all you do to be a lighthouse!”

me:  she will find her way. or she will get squished by the train. wolfie sometimes does suck the life out of perfectly nice people. what’s better? quit early. a high firm bottom. better.

E: “Absolutely. One of best things I recall from your podcast was you saying that we think we will quit later, when we HAVE to – as if it will be easier then. When of course the later we leave it, the more difficult it gets 🙁 earlier and firmer indeed!”

move the box.

(from thursday august 4)

a day of chaos. At 6 p.m. the computer crashed and it took AN HOUR to recover Outlook, all the chart updates from the morning were lost, T. seems to not know I’m away, L. from job #1 emailing @ 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Argh. Worked to 7:30 p.m. frustratedly. This is supposed to be my offline time. From now on, i have to save/close all files every time so that if it crashes, i can avoid this whole restore thing. Every time. This cannot happen again. (you have a new day 1, you review what happened, you do not do the same thing again.)

Not everyone learns from their mistakes or from their weird situations. It’s surprising, really, our capacity for not-learning. My husband does this: nearly trips over the box by the dining room table, but he doesn’t move it. I’ll just be more careful next time (try harder) he says. Really? Why? Why isn’t one time, the first time, enough. Booze in the house makes you feel weird? Remove it, ask your partner to store it where you can’t see it and if they ‘forget’ you can also forget what you’re doing and pour it out.

If you trip on a box, then you move it – you don’t ‘try harder’ to avoid it.

I’m not really talking about a paralysis of trying to prevent or foresee every eventuality. I’m talking about small, sensible, realistic adjustments. You relapsed last time when meeting your friends for dinner. This time i’ll be careful. OR you could assess, pivot five degrees, and see your friends (a) for brunch, (b) for lunch, (c) at your place for a potluck indian meal where you all make new recipes from cookbooks, (d) meet them when you’re 6+ weeks sober or beyond.

But Belle, that’s not realistic. I can’t move all the boxes that are on the floor, not even those right by my chair, not even the one i tripped on yesterday.

(Side note. Bottom drawer was pulled out, I got up, and turned forgetting the drawer was open, fell hard on concrete, knocked myself out for a few seconds, scared the clients in my office, scared myself, left the store with cash register open to go get help, got off relatively easy (bruised head to waste, chiropractic for months). Did i ever (and i mean EVER) have that bottom drawer pulled all the way open (and leave it like that) again? No. Because me, when i personally was doing my ‘best’ … i had fallen hard. That was me at my best, trying hard. and i fell hard. so do i try hard again? or do i remove the obstacle. (But it was only once, but i can’t avoid all of the triggers…) Can you move some of the boxes, close some of the open drawers?

What’s the fascination with seeing how few changes, how little support, the least amount of the time we can spend, the least a mount on money on support on treats. For what? To have a new day 1? What’s the fascination with running on such a small margin? Stop this shit. Stop it right now. Put some gas in your sober car, move the box, close the drawer; learn from errors.

AND put some other preventative things in place. Stop falling down. Just. Stop. It.