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
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
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.
when I was on day 12:
alcohol is like a place. it’s where I go after dinner. it’s where I go on vacation. it takes me to a tunnel of fuzzy numbness. it takes me away from here. it’s a place I go in my mind.
if alcohol was a place, I want to say now that I DON’T GO THERE ANYMORE.
i don’t go to the fuzzy, hiding, numb place. I don’t go to the artificially loud, thinking all of my jokes are hilarious, place. I don’t go to the place where i feel crummy the next day – both physically and emotionally.
I’m not sure all the time where i’m going instead, but not knowing — and occasionally feeling completely lost — has to be better than going THERE.
belle. selling hope since 2012. the Selling Hope paintings are now on the sober art page here > www.artsober.com
email from Bud: “Day 2. Sober. Feeling ok, a bit irritable but otherwise not too bad. Got a decent night sleep and just have been trying to keep myself busy; my mind occupied so that I don’t think about drinking. I agree, those repetitive slips (some which become longer relapsed than others) are worrisome and proof that more focus needs to be put on my sobriety. It’s a big holiday next week (july 4th), I want to enjoy it like everyone else – and I can. It’s just about being conscious of what I can do and what I cannot do, like drink alcohol. I cannot drink like my peers. I can’t! Admitting that sucks sometimes, but it’s the absolute truth and there is no other way around it. So, despite the fact we have a little bit of a larger celebration in Philadelphia for july 4th than most cities here in the US, I will try to take it all in without a drink. But I’ll worry about that when it comes. Until then, perhaps a meeting tonight. I feel good, albeit a tad uncomfortable. But I’d take this over being drunk any day.”
shameless commercial link. gaah. i was asked ‘where can i see YOUR paintings’ and i’m like i’m not the artist, he is. and i don’t want to take away from him. the page on the site is for his stuff. this sounds like false modesty. but i legitimately feel weird about painting (at all), and about sharing it (ever), and then to show the ones that have been purchased?
i know. even when i read this over, it sounds smarmy. ok. here’s the absolute truth. i’ve posted my hope paintings to the sober art page, but i will probably take them down again. and i can’t figure out how to organize the page (available, sold, his, mine). i tried something this morning (www.artsober.com) but will probably change my mind in an hour 🙁
and i will bristle at comments like ‘but you ARE an artist’, so be warned.[i’m trying to show honest awkwardness but (again) when i read this over, i think it isn’t coming across right. fuck.]
from my inbox:
AJ (day 116): “Belle, I got an email today from one of the sober organizations I subscribed to on sober attempt #1 last year (Club Soda or Hello Monday Morning, already can’t remember which). They shared a story about “successful moderation” … and against my gut, I clicked on the story …
It told the story of a woman who drank too much, then cut back … She just forced herself to drink less! … Wolfie woke up IMMEDIATELY, and said ”… You only tried moderation once, really …”
But as I read along in her story, what struck me next—and thank fuck this even managed to strike me in my article-reading-pity-party—was how much she had to *think about drinking* … I felt sorry for how hard she has to work to moderate. Then suddenly, like lightning, your ENTIRE PLATFORM made such clear sense on a different level than ever before—you…Belle…another real woman who exists in the world…got fucking tired of THINKING about drinking. I guess I always knew what you meant by that phrase, but this article about another woman who has set up her entire life around THINKING about drinking, analyzing her drinking, struggling against herself…it showed me the reverse side of your writings, the ugly opposite image. She took a path you *could* have chosen, after all…to struggle forever…but I’m gonna stay Team Belle on this one. It feels like such an easy choice. Compared to the alternative, being sober IS the “easy way out”…and then the Exit paintings made even more sense…I basically had like 30 straight minutes of my mind being blown. Sobriety IS sort of the easy way out?? Maybe not all days, but more and more, most days. (The bad days still suck lots, of course.)
And so more thought vomit…I’m not only sober from a substance now…I’m also mercifully abstaining from having to measure my wine in a measuring cup(that is NOT a cool thing to do at a party…plain tonic is way cooler than that!), and always feeling slighted…always wanting more…always making the same fucking hard decisions every day.
The poor woman in that story is an absolute slave to her obsessive alcohol measuring rituals and her thoughts, counting drinks, desires for more…clamping down on the mental and physical cravings just as they show their ugly faces after a couple drinks.
NO THANKS to that.
That said, when I know an article will likely shake me up, I probably should not open it…but I’m glad I did today… Thanks for reading that heap of thoughts…my next email will be much more respectfully concise…AJ”[update: she’s on day 251 today]
Feedback from subscribers:
sobersparkles (day 197): “I wish these organisations would pull their head out of their proverbial and realise how irresponsible, and unhelpful, it is to share and email like that with their audience.”
me: it turns out the people running these organizations aren’t actually sober people 🙁
many thanks to the Exit paintings, to my husband, to you for offering to bring the paintings into your home. To say that the Exit paintings ‘saved’ us after a very bad run-in with the french visa people last year, would be the truth. someone asked mr.belle this direct question at the tennessee art show: did the paintings ‘save’ you? and he said yes.
this one can be personalized with whatever word you’d like. s’elever, grace, Exit.
We have two choices. We either have slow, incremental progress, or we’re going down the elevator. We’re either slowly improving bit by bit, or we’re going backwards and going down. There’s no fast progress, so you can remove the option of fast progress. Not an option. It doesn’t exist. And that you push-push-push and try to get it, is sort of like a fast track to going backwards, having a u-turn, having a new day one.
So here’s where you’re sitting. Look at it. You have the option of going forward — slowly. Improving incrementally slowly. Or you have the option of fucking it up, adding on too many goals, pushing too hard, having a new day one, finding it difficult to get off the booze elevator, having the elevator go down.
As far as I can see, those are the only two choices and so I pick slow. I pick slow. It’s either slow or no. There’s no fast. There’s no over-pushing. There’s no overdoing it.
There’s either slow or no.
painting 459, ready for personalization.
what word would you like?
Exit, Hope, Open, Potential … s’élever, Sortie, Grace …
email from E: “I think my biggest fear about being long-term sober is that as long as I’m drinking, I won’t ever have the life I really want or deserve. But I’m not trying to get that life, so I don’t need to feel bad about not having it.
What if I quit drinking, and work hard, and focus and really try! What if after all that I still don’t have the life I want and deserve. Despite everything I still might not be enough. And that is the scariest, saddest thought I have ever had.
I haven’t committed to being sober yet. But I will. Soon. I love your emails, they really help me to feel less alone.”
me: And what if you quit drinking and your life is improved … You’re not obliged to live in the sunshine and roses of sobriety if you get there and decide you don’t like feeling relieved and happy. I know that the sunshine looks impossible. Instead, though, you can go to the sunshine and THEN decide if it’s worth it. Decide from the place of sunshine. hugs
disclaimer: i know jack shit. i have written a sober book which is even more hilarious because i can only write about my experience and that’s a pretty weird thing. we think our drinking stories are unique (well, i do), and then in the telling we realize that we have more the same than we do different. Quote from the book:
It starts at 3 a.m., wake up, roll over, not too quickly or the nausea will start. Try to be still, flat on your back. Hot. Thirsty. Headache. Take a small sip of water as a trial, to see how this is going to go. Not well. Shift in the bed again. Why is it so hot in here. Then cold. One foot out from under the blanket — oh it’s no use, the room has started to move.
shameless commercial link. written by SouthernMagnolia1013:
“I have been sober for 270 days. That’s 270 days of still getting excited about reading your emails that come in. In the beginning I subscribed to your sober podcast-lesson thingy. I loved the podcasts. They were my go-to for certain nights before I went to bed. It was part of my routine. Then my momentum was going so well and I thought I would take a break from the podcasts and I unsubscribed.
You know, I ended up missing listening to those podcasts where I got to hear really encouraging words and thoughts and stories that related exactly to ME. It’s like you were making the podcast lessons just for me. So I decided to resubscribe and am so glad that I did. I am still learning new things about sobriety that I never realized before. I also like that it’s my little way of hitting up that tiny gift button. You deserve a fat paycheck for ALL of the time you spend helping others. So when that day comes when my bank account is overflowing and I am fortunate enough to give out yearly contributions to my favorite charity or organization, I am putting your name at the top of my list. In the meantime I’ll just have to thank you by subscribing to the weekly podcasts :)”[update: she’s on day 1664]
things you may have missed
(you should click every one of these links):