Hopeful62 is worried that her relationship with her husband will change if she is longer-term sober. She emailed me about having defined roles in a relationship, and how being sober might changes things (presumably in a bad way).
So my reply? Well it includes a bit of: What if the changes are positive? What if we evolve into a better version of ourselves? Slightly less irritated, slightly less anxious. You may have better boundaries and speak up for yourself more. These aren’t bad things 🙂
And then I say this quote, but you'll have to listen to the audio to find out why... “I don’t give a shit for a millisecond what my husband thinks of croissants.”
i will continue to share stories of simple gifts, simple kindness, and simple holidays so long as my inbox continues to look like this …
Ma: “Hello Belle, I heard about you from Catherine Gray’s book, she said she found great solace from you and your writing and I can see why. My best Christmas memory is of me putting my four year old daughter to bed and Mum pretending to be a reindeeroutside, some bells and snorting, my daughter was delighted that the reindeer had come.”
Pa: “We were a family of five back in 1963. We didn’t have a ton of money … and never spent money on elaborate decorations for the home. We just had some simple old coloured lights and one green flood light. Back in the olden days, the flood lights seamed to last forever, you would plug it in and without fail it beamed bright year after year. In those days we could always count on another thing too: tons and tons of snow. One year I got a super idea to create a subject for the flood light, on our front lawn. So I worked tirelessly with my wet mittens at sculpting a simple Snoopy, then the next year I took things up a notch and created Frosty the Snowman holding ET’s hand and pointing up at the night sky. I had even got out my water colour paints to glorify the sculpture. It became a big hit. Many cars would creep slowly by our home or even stop for a while so they could get a good look at the characters in the spot light. It made people smile. And that is what Christmas is all about to me, it’s in the heart. The little things…”
We: “One year when my children were their early teens, we celebrated the solstice with a candle lit walk with friends in their woods. there was snow that year and we had a beautiful walk with fresh home made donuts after. We have continued the tradition of gathering for the solstice (with donuts), but that was the only year there was deep snow and a trek through the woods (my girls are now 28 and 26 and it is still a simple celebration that we all look forward to (I don’t make the donuts, friend does!)” [me: now i’m craving donuts, am i right?]
mr.belle has painted some cardstock that he’d usually use for magnets. but he’s done them on the diagonal, and double-sided! and with a little hole punched in the top, and some hemp cord, we have a christmas ornament (perhaps) or you can hang it from your cork board, or your car’s rearview mirror…
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
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.
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.
[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
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
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.
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.
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.