this isn’t a problem that can be solved by thinking

From my inbox:

ReBuilding Anne: “I am 21 days sober — I can’t believe it. I treat myself every Tues, Thursday and Sunday. Yesterday I bought myself a new pair of Nikes — what a dream! Now that I don’t have any more boobs per say (remember me, I am the one who had the double mastectomy last fall), I can actually semi jog without hurting myself :). I am back at work full time and although I love my work I have a very needy staff and a worthless manager. I don’t think a single thing got done while I was gone…. normally this would have driven me crazy and instead of calling them out on it, I simply would have come home and drank. This time I came home and baked. I found a recipe for Cranberry Bliss cookies and baked my heart out! Chemo starts soon. I will not however let that stand in my way of my new life.

Maybe my stage name should be sober and boobless instead of ReBuilding Anne. So glad I found you!!!!!!. ~RA”

[she’s on day 85 today]


Br: “Why am I so afraid to make choices that are good for me?”

me: I guess that you must, on some level, not really think that being sober would be good for you. you must have some wolfie voice saying “this is going to suck and won’t be worth it.” That the fact that wolfie exists does not mean you have to listen to him 🙂 especially when he’s lying. which we all know he is.

Br: “Belle, is that the truth? Is he really lying? Because you just boiled it down for me. *This is going to suck and won’t be worth it.* That is my albatross.  It is what keeps me mired in this madness. I want to overcome it. How do you quit long enough to get to the point where you realize it IS worth it, and doesn’t suck, and my life is wonderful and happy again? Do I have to do this all on faith? I wish I could hypnotize myself and put all doubts aside and listen to my true, inner voice which knows it will be worth it.  There is just so much noise from the wolf — he makes it so damn hard.”

me: “my dear, let me say this. you’re overdramatizing just a tiny bit. it will suck for 10 days. but it will be NOTHING compared to the stress you’re living [ton o personal crap]. getting sober is going to be a cakewalk by comparison. you will swiftly identify what is you and what is wolfie, and you’re going to be amazed at what 10 days, 16 days, and 30 days sober feel like. honestly. enough with the thinking 🙂 this isn’t a problem that can be solved by thinking 🙂 hahaha that should be a t-shirt!”


Happy Day 50 to Maureen!

Happy Day 50 to Challenges!

Happy Day 50 to Rlynn!

Happy Day 100 to Primrose!

Happy Day 100 to Sadie!

Happy Day 180 to SelfSearcher!

Happy Day 180 to Jenisthesoberist!

Happy Day 200 to Jennifer!

Happy Day 300 to Mr. Belle!


I’m drawn to staying up too late (audio)

i am so in love with my hand-held recording thing. I’ve had it for a long time, tucked away in a drawer, but just realized i could use it for the podcasts (duh!).

so in my excitement, i’ve recorded a new podcast this morning… about compulsive behaviour. (Thanks to an email from D. asking about weight loss, compulsive overeating, teenage dieting issues, and drinking…).

I talk about how we’re ‘drawn to’ doing things that don’t serve us. Even though we know there will be consequences.

On the list of behaviours: overeating, hair pulling, staying up too late, video games, gambling, oh and drinking (duh!). and eating chocolate chip cookies when we’re not hungry.The full audio for the podcast is (gasp) 19 minutes long.  Here’s a 2.5 minute extract.

The clip begins when I’m talking about examples of compulsive behaviour … and one of mine is staying up too late.


click here to try a podcast subscription (1 month trial) – and of course, when you get bored of me, you can cancel whenever you want

backpack of rocks

from me:

“Dear SD: I had no big ‘bottom’ with my drinking. My life was *fine* on the outside … but on the inside, i knew it was only a matter of time.

Trying to think your way through sobriety is so hard, because often our thinking is muddled and full of wolfie. Really, all you can do is ‘get through it’… you’re on day 98 today, that’s already a huge achievement.

You may be wondering “what now” but really the answer is keep doing what you’ve been doing.  It’s working. You’re sober.  You maybe are looking around wondering why this is so hard, why did it take you so long, why are you such a fuck-up. You might think you’re supposed to be doing something differently.

You aren’t. You’re sober.

It might be time to figure out a sober hobby now that you’re 100 days. Before it was too confusing, but now you can begin to explore a bit.

Oh. And you can put down the backpack of rocks now.  (Not sure if you’ve done my sober jumpstart class, i think the backpack is in lesson #1 or it might be in the intro).

hugs, me”

[and today SD is on day 100!]


Happy Day 50 to Melinda!

Happy Day 50 to KeviKev!

Happy Day 100 to Debs!

Happy Day 100 to James!

Happy Day 100 to SignGurl!

Happy Day 100 to SD!

Happy Day 100 to Moon Alley!

Happy Day 100 to Jeannie Yogini!

Happy Day 200 to LD!

Happy Day 200 to Donna!

Happy Day 200 to Laurie!

Happy Day 200 to BST!

“an ode to trader joes”

From my inbox

S (day 18):

I used to love trader joes because of the ultra-cheap wine. It is this awful, shitty wine that costs $2.99/bottle and is produced in a factory like soda. It is the worst and I am appalled at how much of it I drank over the years.

I have a whole new appreciation for TJs and now consider it one of my main tools in sobriety. I would advise any team 100 members that are lucky enough to live near one to get there ASAP (preferably during off hours!) just stay away from the wine aisle.


1) The line is always crazy-long but moves quickly and is a good exercise in patience and living in the moment.

2) Amazingly low prices on good, organic foodstuffs, supplements and environmentally friendly home and body care products.

3) Lots of healthy ready-made and frozen meals that are easy to prepare. I love cooking but wasn’t much in the first few weeks sober because I was too cranky to cook without drinking wine… it is so nice to be able to just throw something in the oven for half an hour without thinking.

4) Limited selection. They don’t have tons of brands so it is easy to make decisions when one is feeling overwhelmed. You aren’t faced with a wall of olive oils – there are just a few options.

5) TREATS! They have killer treats and lots of fun, fizzy drinks there. I’d much rather spend my two bucks on a big-ass chocolate bar.

Hugs to you too Belle! I have a romanticized idea of life in Europe and totally take our grocery stores for granted over here 🙂  If you ever want anything from trader joes you just let me know and I will send you a care package.  xo, S” [she’s now on day 38]


from me … it’s true that we don’t have this kind of ‘all-under-one roof’ store in europe, but we have the best chocolate here. and great tea. and there are lots of great bakeries. and meals on the patio in the sun.

what i miss from North America is the mayonnaise (hellman’s diet). And plain cheerios (we can get honey nut here, but not plain, and honey nut is gross).  mostly i stock up when i’m home. I also buy maple syrup and a certain brand of chocolate chips. i buy my running shoes at home (sneakers? runners?) because they’re cheaper. i buy socks and underwear at walmart each trip. there’s a certain shampoo that my husband likes. oh and he buys his deodorant at home because it’s unscented and everything here has perfume of some kind …

um, and i have my mom mail me a few spices, like savory, and chili powder blend, and ground mustard. and something called ‘greek spice’ made by clubhouse. sometimes my sister will send me an english-language cooking magazine, and mr. b likes the newspaper from home.

oh. and cranberries. should I go on? tommy hilfiger perfume “freedom” … clinique face cream is twice the price here so i try to get it at home. and there’s a certain brand of pens from staples… now i’m just making myself sound crazy.

oh, and there’s no ‘legal-sized’ paper here, and i like to write on yellow pads of legal paper (compulsive much?) …

and i have all my baking pans shipped from the states… really. i could go on and on.

that said, i know an american expat living here who buys her toilet paper in the US.

so i’m not THAT bad (and you know how us boozers like to compare our badness to others).

happy sober sunday

cement and jello

i recorded a podcast this morning (using a new recording device so hopefully the audio quality keeps improving).

i know that i’ve written lots before about how everything is like everything, but oh-my-baby-cheeses i can really see it today, so i wanted to post a little extract from today’s new subscriber podcast.

This audio is about cemented ideas in our head. And jello. It started with yesterday’s conversation about art wolfie. And it morphed into my (old) fear of flying. The full audio for the podcast is about 14 minutes long.  Here’s a 2.5 minute extract.

The clip begins when I’m describing what happened after i visited a psychologist for the very first time, to talk about my fear of flying.


click here to try a podcast subscription (1 month trial) – and of course, when you get bored of me, you can cancel whenever you want

the passion project (sample video!)

in yesterday morning’s blog post, i mentioned that I have an art wolfie. he comes out when i want to create something new, telling me that i’m not good enough.

So in preparing a new workshop about pursuing Sober Passions, i’ve been asking Mr. Belle if he’d let me record him. You see, my darling husband has a different art noise in his head than I do, and I wanted to see if i could get him to share his ideas of what he does when confronted with negative thoughts.

We recorded the first video slideshow this morning (17 minutes long!).  With some encouragement, i may be able to get him to do more. But i’ll probably need some help because he’s super shy, and was nervous about his lack of english… All going well, i’ll get him to do some more audios/videos and i’ll put them into the Sober Passion workshop 🙂 hooray.

For now, i wanted to share with you a tiny extract from our first video (you only see one photo in this short clip, but there are others!).

>>>> Click here to WATCH a 1.5 minute extract of our video conversation


i have an art wolfie

from me:

I’m working on a new Passion workshop, you know, how do you get more passion/hobby things into your life once you’ve been sober for a bit.  Drinking often squishes out all of our hobbies, and if we’ve been drinking for a long time, then even the idea of having a hobby is hard to fathom. So i’m working out exactly what i want to say in this workshop, like “developing the curriculum” – which means i have a big sheet of brown paper on the wall beside my bed and i’m adding ideas in different coloured markers, visual girl that i am. i really am a 5 year old inside, happy with my crayola markers.

As a preview for the new class, I had this great (terrifying) idea to audio record my thought process when i try to do something hobby-like. You know, try to actually record the wicked noise that starts up in my head right away … maybe you know that noise! Hmm, sounds quite a bit like wolfie in fact. maybe i have an Art Wolfie.

Anyway, because my husband is so calming (for me) i thought i’d record me saying aloud what i think when i look at a painting project, and then he could chime in with what he’s thinking (since he doesn’t have a wolfie, the fucker).

So far i’ve floated the idea past him a couple of times but he’s not biting. I’ll try to tempt him again later today. stay tuned. i may have to make him some lemon bars as a bribe. if you’re interested in learning more about the Passion Project, make sure you’re on the list here. If you’re already on that list, then just hang out. it’s coming..

from my inbox:

Annie2 (day 100): “It’s my day 100!  I was thinking of this day last night remembering the desperation I felt 100 days ago… I expected so much more emotion today but realized last night that I’ve settled into this new me and am content to make this commitment of not drinking my reality.  It feels good and could not have been done without you and checking in daily (and sometimes for hours multiple times a day) with you and your blog.  I don’t remember when I stopped thinking about being tired of thinking about drinking, but I did, probably around the time midway thru that I realized I went a few days without emailing saying I was sober… I knew I was and knew you were there regardless.

The magnitude of what you are doing is unbelievable and resonates with so many people.  Thank you from me! Annie2 ~ committed for another 100!”


Happy Day 50 to Renee!

Happy Day 50 to StevieM!

Happy Day 50 to SaraN!

Happy Day 50 to Lizzy!

Happy Day 50 to DeeN!

Happy Day 50 to TracyG!

Happy Day 50 to OneDayAtATime!

Happy Day 50 to Lo!

Happy Day 100 to Carrie Kaffer!

Happy Day 100 to Raquelle!

Happy Day 100 to mkstafford!

Happy Day 100 to Annie2!

Happy Day 100 to EmilyJane!

Happy Day 200 to Catkin!

the plural of anecdotes is not data

In yesterday’s micro-email RM asked me about the number of people with drinking problems… [and if you’re not signed up to get the micro-emails, you can do that here].

Today i got a reply from Tim that said, “from somewhere I stole a default put down for those who seek to extrapolate small samples into a general picture … ‘the plural of anecdotes is not data’. Emphatically not directed at you…”

and it’s true. I get asked all the time to quantify things. to put numbers to ideas and feelings.  So i usually give a gut-based answer, drawing on instinct or a well-educated guess, and experience from reading emails from whacks of people.

But when i give a number, it’s not really ‘data’, it’s a guesstimate.  Like, how many emails do i get per day (50-100 – when really i never count them, i just know that i answer what comes in and i enjoy every single message – it’s like christmas morning every day in my inbox).

How many people have signed up to do the challenge since last year (700+). How successful is the challenge, as in what percent get and stay sober? (my guesstimate is about 25-50% with another 25% really actively trying, who have new day 1s but who have not given up; that leaves 25% who sign up and then disappear forever or for extended periods of time – someone emailed me 2 weeks ago who had first contacted me a year ago. she’s sober now. what category do i put her in? 25% disappeared? or 50% successfully sober?).

How many times do people relapse (anywhere from never to as many times as it takes).

How much is too much to say you have a real problem that you need to get serious about (Is 1 bottle of wine a night too much or is 3 bottles a wine a night too much).

When should you decide that what you’re doing isn’t enough and you need more support? (are you repeatedly relapsing? then you need more support! you can’t just quit harder, try harder; instead you may need to consider what more support would look like for you).

The answers to most of these questions might be “I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Are you drinking more than you want to? Yes? Then that’s the answer to the question.”

Do you think that alcoholism is a disease or a bad habit?  my reply: Are you drinking more than you want to? Yes? Then that’s all you need to consider. It’s too much for you. Doesn’t matter about definitions or percentages or probabilities. 

The questions continue with: how many people do i think have a problem with drinking in the general population (more than you realize). How long should i feel this bad? (usually it’s better by 30 days). Shouldn’t i be losing weight in the first month (so terribly sorry, but not likely). Can people moderate after some time spent sober? (in my experience – and this is NOT data – i have found that very very occasionally some people do work at ‘controlling’ their drinking after a period of sobriety. but they don’t spring back to being normies. and for me, i’ve just found that being 100% sober is easier and less tiring and more successful for me 🙂 is that data? no. does it resonate with you? good. if not, you have my permission to stop reading now :))

Do i sometimes feel like this sober penpal thing doesn’t ‘really’ help, it just looks like help. Yes i do feel that sometimes. But anecdotally i know it works – well something is working for some people. some combination of the posts, the emails, being a sober penpal, the podcasts, the optimism and the get-real-ness.

And i get emails like this one every single day, hundreds of times a month. And maybe, for now, Lindsay30 is all the DATA I need.

Lindsay30 (day 1): “Finding this blog may be the best thing that has happened to me in a long long time. I woke up this morning hangover and feeling like total crap. I feel so much guilt. I feel so powerless. I feel shame. Like so many other mornings I woke up thinking “this is not who I am. How did I get here”? I stumbled across your post about the 100 day challenge and found myself needing to read more and more. After 2 hours of reading I took the plunge and signed up for the 100 day challenge. Suddenly I feel optimistic. I realize that I am NOT alone nor am I the only person who is going through this. What a wonderful support system you have created for so many people who need this. Thank you thank you!”