“my true self is showing up”

When Erica got to 100 days sober, I asked her to write about how she was feeling. Here’s what she wrote:

Erica: Well, it’s been a week since you asked me to write about how I feel after 100 days. I’ve put it off because, well … it’s really hard to say how I feel. I had a really long ‘pink cloud’, a good 60 days’ worth.  Where I felt amazing. Super happy, set the world on fire kind of energy, cried at the birth of spring, etc. Now I’ve kinda come back to earth to join all the ‘normal’ people.

Here’s a couple of things I now know:

I’m not awesome. I blamed alcohol for all the things I felt I should be doing.  Volunteering at the animal shelter more then once in a blue moon, writing thank you cards, being the friend that just listens instead of waiting to jump in with my perspective, set things on fire in the bedroom, do a weekly deep hair condition/face mask, clean my house…. Still don’t do any of that.

I will never be “that mom.” You know-the one that makes the awesome designer cupcakes for the class, etsy level kids crafts/projects, SAHM who drops the kids at preschool with complete hair/makeup/super cute outfit (all the while holding a 2mo/old), has kids that never hit, curse, or have a big brown blob on the front of their pants.  I would settle to be the mom that remembers to bring an extra diaper.

Not going to look like a supermodel. I knew that at a young age. Really has nothing to do with alcohol. But you just never know! At 40, I have now accepted it.

But the little things. The little things that you sometimes don’t notice ’til you’re in bed going over your day.  Like enjoying my day. My whole day.  Even the bad parts.  Because I’m there for it, my true self is showing up. The person that is showing up everyday is happy, feels healthy, has good (better) breath, less critical of herself & others, has more patience, can wear clothes that she hadn’t been able to fit in, is interested in everything around her, & has a big ol’ “what the hell is wrong with her” belly laugh for all amusements.  And I really like that person.~ Erica

And hooray for Erica, she’s on day 126 today 🙂

Team 100:  98 members, welcome to Tiffany (4).  Happy days to: Amy 180, KC (45), TMcA has rejoined the challenge (yippee!) and is on day 3, J (200), Sober Journalist (60), Brandy (28) and this is a super big deal so let’s all have a big shout-out for her, Kirst (40) her wolf is a hyena which i think is hilarious, Paula, Julz, Quillian, Dana & Sam (7), Chelsie, Erika, & Anna (30), Suzanne (10). And me (339).


Happy to be mailing out the first 5 bracelets today 🙂 super powers are on the way!

I got a great email from Colleen in my inbox on the weekend:

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could live out two lives — sort of like the in the Christmas Carol?  So we could see our life with alcohol, and the one where we chose sobriety?  How interesting would it be if we could see how our lives would be played out with each scenario.  What would we lose, gain?

I play this game in my head it scares me…because I know that alcohol would take everything away — my family, friends, health, finances, looks,  I am so glad I am not on that path and am choosing sobriety — the upward path.  But I know that the downward path of self-inflicted path of misery, pain and suffering is waiting for me — hiding and ready to pounce on me at places like backyard bbq, birthday parties and other seemingly innocuous places. I am grateful that I am on the path of sobriety and I don’t want to ever give up this freedom.

Had a nice time at my friend’s party … I didn’t have the desire to drink at all and this is SUCH a blessing.  I have made it this far before, but always white knuckling it — feeling deprived that everyone could drink and I couldn’t.  It is different this time.  I feel like I am the lucky one

Team 100 update: 97 members, welcome to Gindy (58), Lex (3), Camla (3).  Happy days to: Suzanne (9), Sara (16), Rebecca (72), Mel (15), Carolyn (8), Leah (22), Jackie (40), Elle & Helene (22), Mary (10), Colleen (32), JG (31), Lurker B (7), Debbie (21), Sunny Sue (90), Lilly (31), Thirteenpointone (365!).

imagine a 3 year old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store

R: “Is it wrong to think ‘I can’t seem to get more than 3 days in a row, yet I’ve had more sober days in the past 6 months than I have had in 6 years’?”

The only thing I’ll say about percentage of sober days, is that individual sober days are HARD and we’re just *waiting* to drink again.  part of how you get wolfie to shut the fuck up is to say “no not today, not tomorrow, see you again in 100 days.”  Then he backs off and leaves you alone.

I certainly found that “drink one day, be sober one day” was just too hard.  I tried it. It took too much energy.  It made me feel bad on the days I was drinking AND white knuckling tense feeling bad on the days I was not drinking.  Frankly, being sober for a longer period of time is just plain easier OK, we can argue that it sucks temporarily for the first few days, but that’s only for a VERY short period of time.  Then it gets easier. Wolfie acts up, you ignore him, and then he comes around less and less…

And I wrote this to MG, who also mentioned the idea of making ‘progress’ with her drinking:

Every time you drink, you wake up wolfie, and have to – to some extent – start again. OK, we can argue that it’s not all the way back to square 1 starting again, but it’s probably at least 50% starting over. Wolfie is awake, and he has learned that if he tortures you, you will give in. You have to shut the fucker up. Dehydrate the wolf.

imagine a 3 year old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. if you give that child candy … well, good luck ever going for groceries again without having candy on hand. sure it can be done, but it’s waaay harder than avoiding the situation entirely)

no more candy for the screaming child in the grocery store.  Anyway, that’s the goal with the 100 challenge.  just to see what 100 days continuous feels like. THEN you can make decisions going forward from there.

Fuck you wolfie.


sober inspired art, thanks to mr.belle
this is painting #784. if alcohol is a dark room, it’s time to exit.

link > www.artsober.com

Fuck You Wolfie Lemonade

this is my go-to fancy drink to have when others are guzzling that junky booze stuff.  Me, i like fresh and homemade and a bit tart:

Fuck You Wolfie Lemonade Concentrate

In a saucepan, stir together 1.5 cups of granulated white sugar (300 g) and 1 cup water (230 g) [for fancier drinks, add a stick or two of fresh rosemary to this while boiling.]

Heat until the mixture boils and the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

Meanwhile, juice 8 medium-sized lemons until you get 1.5 cups (340 g) juice. Strain the juice to remove pits and pulp.

Once the sugar syrup has cooled a bit, add the lemon juice, stir, leave the rosemary in, and then put in a container. You can freeze this (for 3-6 months) or store in the fridge for a week.

You now have about 3 cups concentrate.

When you’re ready for drinks, you add 50% concentrate with another liquid – regular water, carbonated soda water, bitter tonic water, or ginger ale.  I also put in a slash of cranberry juice.

It is dynamite, let me tell you.  I’ve served it in the ‘restaurant in my living room’ and the drinkers often like it better than the wine being served!

Marie (day 40) says: “I made the lemonade concentrate you gave me the recipe for and WOW!  That is amazing!  I may be stressed out, frustrated, a little depressed, and overwhelmed today, but I know that I have a yummy rosemary lemonade (made with seltzer water) waiting for me after my run tonight.  Thank you so much for that.”


the story of the potato peeler

when we last left our heroine…

i was having an ‘incident’ at the airport. You can’t just refuse to reboard your own plane. everyone else was seated, waiting.  I was quite calm, i went to the counter, crying, and i said “that thunder storm scared me. i’m not ready to get back on right now.”

this becomes an ‘incident’ in an airport.  And the counter agent calls for help. Security sends out a nurse and a policeman on a golfcart scooter. The nurse is there to medicate me (i declined medication). The police guy’s job is to write up the ‘incident report.’ Are you on any drugs? do you have any psychiatric conditions.

No really, I just don’t to fly right this second. Yes, I was crying. but mostly from being freakishly overtired, and i was crying in that way you get when you start crying and can’t stop.

The counter chick checks and there are no later flights available. The nurse finally talks me into going down to talk to the pilot. She walks through the boarding tunnel with me, drops me off in the cockpit.  I talk to the pilot. He says: “that storm was a bit rough? well, you know we wouldn’t do something that wasn’t safe.”

I say: “it’s not about what’s safe, it’s about how i feel.”

they settle me into a new first-class seat, with no one around me, and assign a first-class stewardess to ‘take care’ of me.  (they don’t want to risk that i am psychiatric and might start screaming “help me help me we’re all going to die” on the plane. I didn’t.) mostly i just cried.

I arrive, wrung out. and i swear to myself that i will never fly again.

And after that, i didn’t fly for two years. i drove 9 days cross country (alone) 4 times, instead of flying.

and really, by then, i had talked myself into a big gigantic anxiety loop. i was afraid of everything. being a passenger in a car, riding the ferry.

After two years, i decided that i’d had enough, and i called up a psychologist who specialized in panic and anxiety.  After a mere 5 hours of one-on-one talk therapy i was mostly fixed.

Well, fixed enough that i could fly again.

I loved my therapist guy. he was smart and very hilarious. after even the first session with him, i felt like like my very firm ideas about my well-earned and (naturally) correct self-preservationist anxiety about flying were going to dissolve. It’s like i had a tight gridwork of ideas, and after just one session i could see the puzzle of ideas wasn’t made of concrete, it was made of Jell-o.  and he had started to push on one corner of the puzzle and now i could see gaps in my logic.

two great anecdotes from my time with him:

(1) Potato Peeler

one activity was to describe what was the worst thing that could happen. I said i was afraid of flying, and of having a panic attack, and that i’d lose control in some way while on the plane.

He rolls his eyes and says: “i wish i could show you the transcripts i have in this drawer here.  Everyone with a flying phobia says the EXACT same thing. Lose control.  Now tell me Belle, when you’re making dinner, do you ever peel potatoes?”


“Do you use a potato peeler?”

um yes.

“Do you ever take the potato peeler and jab yourself in the eye?”

ah …no.


“Of course you don’t. you don’t ‘lose control’. on a flight, you might feel bad, and so what’ll you do? you might start crying. no one will notice. They’ll think that you’re missing your boyfriend back home. They’ll think you’re traveling to a funeral. No one will care.”

(2) Toilet handle

When i tried to justify that my phobia was based on real facts, like planes do crash you know, he countered that with logic and statistics.

and he said, “you should come with me sometime when i do group therapy with my compulsive hand-washers.  They think their phobia is logical, too. I have this activity where I take the whole group of them into the bathroom, and i TOUCH the toilet flusher lever thingy … and then i RUB my hands all over my face!  They start shrieking and groaning!”

we laugh. of course, their phobias are ridiculous. aren’t they.


OK, so maybe i’m a particularly good poster child for therapy. Yes, some people need more help, need medication, need longer therapy. need different kinds of ongoing treatments. I was clearly in the right place, with the right guy, at the right time, and I was motivated to change.

and now, thankfully, i not only can fly (!) but i also feel quite solid in realizing that our self-destructive and limiting thoughts don’t have to be listened to. It’s like a mis-firing, a weirdness that gets started. but that doesn’t mean we have to give in.  “I feel like a glass of wine” does NOT mean “I will drink a glass of wine.”  a thought is just a thing that flits past.

and i wrote this to heidi: yes, your brain may have thoughts, but they’re not truths. they’re just thoughts. compulsive thoughts are irritating, they’re the wolf, but they’re not the truth. you just look in the mirror and look in the eyes of one of those babies. the truth is in there.

Fuck You Wolfie.

your brain got confused. no bear here.

Allie: I’m having a lot of anxiety today which is bullshit because I walked/jogged almost 5 miles this morning which is supposed to help me relax. Anxiety/nervousness is my #1 trigger. My usual solutions are #1: drinking, #2: exercise, #3: reading. Fuuuuuuuck. It’s a beautiful day, my life is overall pretty great and I’m still miserable. Any suggestions?:) thanks for listening!!

me: is your anxiety directed at anything that’s happening now? or are you worried about later?  just sit with now for a minute.  is there anything happening right this minute that is scary or gross or difficult? got both arms and legs attached? no bear in the room?


If your body is having a ‘feeling’, that doesn’t mean it is in reaction to anything.  It’s just ‘misfiring’ because it thinks there’s a threat to you, but there isn’t.  look around.  is there anything scary happening right now?

you’re smart to reach out and to ask questions. take a minute and figure out if there’s really something to be anxious about.  or if it’s a mis-firing.  your brain got confused.  no bear here.

Allie: I feel much better. Thank you. The whole idea of the brain misfiring is a new way to think about anxiety for me and it makes a lot of sense. Working all day today. Keeping busy will be a really good thing. Thanks again for your help. Day 6 sober.


i’m afraid i know more than i want to about anxiety. and if anxiety is partly genetic, which i believe it is, then i’m hard-wired as i come from a long line of tightly wound wing nuts. I angst-ed my way through my undergraduate degree with gut pains. had all the tests for IBS, gall bladder, blah blah, and they never found anything. Things were better for awhile, between degrees, and then i started having panic attacks while driving. like that i’d get stuck in traffic and panic about having to go to the bathroom … “what if i get stuck here when the big poo comes?” (it never did, by the way, just anticipatory anxiety at its best).

soon after i took a flight to my hometown and the plane flew through a thunder storm and i had a super large anxiety attack. When the plane landed for a brief stopover (back in the days when you could get off the plane and walk around the departure lounge between flights), i just couldn’t get back on the plane to continue the flight. and lemme tell you, if you decide you can’t get back on a flight where you have a seat, and your luggage is loaded, and the rest of the plane is boarded — well they don’t look too fondly on this kind of behavior.

it becomes an airport ‘incident’.

[holy christ belle, you’re long-winded … yeah ok, this is going on too long and i suddenly have a lot to say so i’ll continue tomorrow]

Can you be irritated about how long it takes? If you like …

waking up every morning to a inbox full of ‘i’m sober’ messages is a bit like christmas morning. All the messages, all of the genius observations.  some people flying, some groaning.  and yes, if i follow the christmas present metaphor, then some of the presents are wrapped awkwardly, some of the gifts are good-mixed-with-grief (I’m sober but my daughter is in the hospital; i’m sober but i feel crummy). Some are tiny gifts (“sober”) others are longer, chatty versions, like this one …

Malia: The strangest thing I’m finding, now at 30 days sober, is that my desire for alcohol is like gone, GONE. Of course I’m still thinking about it a lot, because it’s constantly on my mind, but it’s different now. Before it was, “okay so would I drink right now?” I knew deep inside I wouldn’t, but I always played that dumb game, like “do I want to?” And my answer was always “Duh! Yes!”

Well this weekend it seemed like a switch went off. My husband was gone Saturday night, and normally I’d be all like Party! But it seemed so distasteful to me. This is sorta a weird thing. I guess it’s good, I mean it’s great! I won’t assume the cravings won’t come back, I’m sure they will. Just like the title of your blog, I am truly getting tired of thinking about it all the time :). I’m getting sick of myself! I guess that means I might be ready to re-enter real life again.

this email reminds me of the distinction between cravings and thinking.  in the earlier days, I watched the clock, waiting to get through the witching hour. i’d have my tonic and cranberry juice ready right at 6 pm and i’d WAIT until 8:30 or 9:00 pm when i knew i was safe for the night.  slowly, bit by lurching bit, that tight feeling starts to fade.  then — just like Malia says — the desire to drink stops being a physical thing and shifts to being a thinking game.  Am i going to drink? No. Do i want to drink? maybe. Will i drink again in the future? Perhaps. Am i drinking today? No.

I remember, though, that when i got to around 30 days i just wanted it ALL to be done and over — the cravings AND the thinking.  On day 31 I wrote “are we there yet?” like it was a long car ride and i just wanted to be to the end of it.

thankfully, yes, the cyclic thinking loops do ease off. and yes, it’s possible to get to a place where crappy things happen and booze doesn’t even enter your mind as an option. Does it all happen in the first 30 days? No. Does it happen? Yes. Can you be irritated about how long it takes? If you like, but getting too irritated might wake up wolfie and then you’d have to start on day 1 again.  and that’s even more super irritating.  Instead, how about we be kind to ourselves during our impatience 🙂  We go for a run, declutter the drawers, scrub the floor. we drink homemade lemonade with rosemary, run ourselves a bath, climb into bed early, and we wait.

Team 100 update: Happy days to KT (30 days), Anathu (10), & Lawyer Anne (50).

dear lurker

Belle, what do you tell a young divorced mom of two kids, who knows inside her drinking is not normal?  The mom who has been reading your blog for a while now, after finding your blog from reading other blogs about woman and their drive to stay sober. Who knows a 100 day challenge will be, in fact a challenge? The past few years have been getting worse, she never drank daily.  Now its 1-2 bottles a day, most often passing out and not remembering going to bed.  Who has hidden bottles in the trash, cabinets, and finds glasses in strange places the next day. Tell her she will survive and still have fun at parties, gatherings without drinking when everyone else is?  Tell her that her relationship with her bf won’t change b/c he will be drinking and she will not.  Who is a daughter of an alcoholic mom who quit drinking more than 30 years ago. Who no longer can get up and workout daily @ 5am b/c she is hungover.  Who is scared to tell the world she has a problem or to tell her kids she is a failure b/c she can’t handle her alcohol consumption.  How do you tell her that it isn’t just a phase she is going thru? So what do you tell a lurker of your blog to convince her it’s time to sign up for the challenge when I am already thinking I will fail and never make it 100 days???? ~ thanks, lurker.

i have to say first that i love the way Lurker refers to herself in third-person: “what would you tell a woman who …” cuz don’t we all do that – consciously or unconsciously? We distance ourselves, talk about ‘someone else’.  it’s the stereotype of going to the doctor and saying “i have a friend who has a problem…”  But frankly, it’s a safer way to ask a question. Imagine how brave Lurker is to even ask this question, to type it up and email it to a complete stranger, and say “can i be helped or am i beyond helping” (which is what i think she’s really asking).

here’s my answer:

my dear, I would tell her that she is much stronger than she thinks she is, and that the booze itself can make her feel like she can’t do it. and that once the booze is removed, the self-esteem and the will and the determination come back, too.  and why would I lie about that 🙂  us sober girls are not some secret club. we have removed the booze and found something really cool inside.

of course you feel like you might fail. but some things would be different this time. you’d have some sober penpals to talk to. me and others if you want them.  you’ll have blogs to read and comment on. you’ll have support.

and man-oh-man I think we can move mountains with support 🙂  alone? you’ve tried that already … with support? a whole new adventure 🙂

but really, I’d tell her that if she has tried other shit that hasn’t worked, it might be a time to try some new shit – like some continuous days of sobriety – to see how she feels when the booze is gone 🙂  She’s going to like it.  double your money back 🙂

love, belle xo

ps/ there’s a woman in the group who’s been in and out of treatment, marriage in jeopardy, who found it hard to commit to 4 hrs at a time, let alone days.  she emailed me every 4 hours during her first days. Today she emailed me this: “10 days, double digits!  Holy shit. Well, I have been here before. Here in the sense of 10 days sober (not many times). But I’ve never been HERE. Never with this strength and energy. Never with the resolve I feel.” Another woman, once she got about 14 days sober, turned a corner and emails every now and then to say she’s fine, but isn’t feeling scared anymore.  Someone else is on day 118.  And me, personally, i’m in no way permanently ‘safe’ but I am on day 3xx today.

edit: here’s her response:

Reading your email, I cried b/c a complete stranger has faith in me when I don’t myself. THANK YOU for responding. Everything I have done worthwhile or excelled at, I had support.  I often can’t make big or sometimes even small decisions (which I never noticed until recently) without support. I’m thinking it’s time to ask for a little support.  Funny, my oldest son who is almost 14 said to me last week, “Mom, why not let someone help you once in a while”  and that was about something so little, taking up an offer [for a drive] b/c I had to go into work early. Even my son knows I am not one to ask for help. Thanks, Lurker.

Team 100 update: 90 members, welcome to Rebecca (65), Sara (9), and Suzanne (2).  Happy days to Jen & Debra (5 months today!), Lynda (and Mr. Lynda) (70), Ellen (40 yesterday), DDG (70), Brandy (20), Lane (50 yesterday), Mr. Belle (40), Katie (7), Debbie (14), Allison (30 yesterday), Allie (7), Chelsie, Anna & Erika (21 yesterday), Helene, Mae, Leah & Elle (14 yesterday), Sam (10), Mel & Zenmeg (7 yesterday).

letter to the husband

M. emailed and said that while her husband is supportive, he might be missing his weekend-drinking-pal. And it’s nearly the weekend. So I wrote this letter for her.

Dear Husband,

I know you love me a ton. I know you do. But there’s something weird going on in my head that I can’t quite explain to do with booze.  I know you don’t have this same weird thinking that I do.  And it’s hard to show you the inside of my head.  Lemme just say this: I’m going to try, for now, a period of time without any alcohol at all, just to see how I do.  I know you’ll want to be supportive of me, even if it doesn’t quite make sense to you.  [Just like monster trucks, fishing, and stupid male sports don’t really make sense to me.]  I know you want me to be happy and to sleep through the night, and I know that if you could see inside my head, you’d agree that it would be great if we could get this fucking noise in my head to shut up.  Anyhow, this is how I’m trying to do it – with a period of time without alcohol. It might be 100 days, it might be longer.  I promise I will still be hilariously fun but this is something I’m doing for me. I know that if I wanted to run a marathon, let’s say, that you’d be on the sidelines cheering even if you thought it was fucking retarded to run 42 kms.  Well, this is the same but different. And I’ll promise lots more sex cuz I won’t fall asleep early anymore or wake up hung over.  Remember morning sex?

Love, your wife

Team 100: 87 members (i had someone registered twice).  Happy days to Lilly (21), MG (10), Carrie (75), Sunny Sue (80), Paula (20), Sam (7).  Happy flying day to Simpson Sister (35).

It’ll take more than icing …

Bracelet update: So when i put up the bracelet picture yesterday, i didn’t really expect that the 10 available would get scooped up in about 4 hours …  If you’d like an email when there are more available, you can sign up here.  All going well, i should know mid-next-week.  Monday is a holiday in the US so things are moving slowly in anticipation …

i’ve had a weirdly long day, spent hours learning how to frost a birthday cake, with about 30 minutes to spare before the client picked it up.  i made the mistake of telling her the frosting was ‘butter, icing sugar + vanilla’ because that left out a bit of food coloring which would have made putting light frosting on dark cake easier. i also told her no shortening (again, what do you think is in the icing at the grocery store?). yes, i’m doing catering from scratch, with real food. and yes, that means sometimes that my head can nearly fly off when it doesn’t smooth, set, or behave like the store-bought-junk does.

combine frustrated fucking icing with weather that was LITERALLY hailing, a very sore throat which i know equals laryngitis coming up. oh i had a big case of the fuck-its.

so right at the end of the catering job, even before she had picked up the cakes (god, yes, there were two cakes), i toyed with two ideas: (1) having a glass of wine and calling it quits – everything – the blog, the challenge, and the catering.  fuck all of it.  (2) i figured i’d email the cake woman, tell her to come get her cakes no charge, and i’d say to her “i’m never icing another fucking birthday cake again, please get these out of my house.”

Instead. I had a bath. i remembered that my blog post from only DAYS ago, I was writing to me, telling me that when i’m tired/overwhelmed, that i often feel like quitting everything. catering included.

After my bath I got an email from the woman about the cake:

Cake overdose… we loved it! The flavor was wonderful! The cake subtle lemon flavor n the frosting came out very good, bravo coz it was a success. I’ve given my friend n neighbor ur website because she n her kids had some cake too n they will definitely be ordering. She is half English n liked the that you make pies too. Thanks for the fairy dust, i’ll put some on the larger cake tmrw!! :)) Thank you again… So happy to find someone close by for homemade treats. the last lady who made cakes for me moved to TX. So it’s good to know you are here and not moving anytime soon 🙂

and i wrote this to colleen the day before yesterday, and it seems perfect now:

let me tell you
it’s like
my new
and this looks like
a poem
it’s not.

and now it’s 11:34 pm and i’m going to sleep. Let it save me from myself 🙂  let me wake up with a better attitude, good hair, and frosting that covers dark layers. let it fucking be sunny, or else.

oh, i can’t go to sleep before I do this:

Team 100 update: 89 members, welcome to Zenmeg (4), Mel (4), and Cam (15).  Celebrations for: Lilly (20), Emily (22), Victoria (62), Grace (11), Lawyer Anne (45), Lauren (60), Roxanne (30), Debbie (10), Erin (32), LilyUK (20), JG (20), Colleen (21), Em (15), and Jenna (12).  Me, i’m on day 327. and tomorrow i’ll be on day 328.  It’ll take more than icing to make me get out of my sober car …