“do you struggle with the possibility of moderation?”

Here’s a quick email exchange between Marie (day 24) and me. 

Marie: Do you still struggle A LOT with the possibility of going back to drinking, yet just in moderation?  Or did you come to that profound realization that drinking in moderation just doesn’t work for you?  I love, love, love your blog and I think I know the answer to this but what I’m wondering is whether that torment gets easier in time.  Maybe it’s just me that feels a terrible amount of frustration and shame even with the fact that I cannot control myself as I’d like to around alcohol.  I feel like I should be able to control myself and that it’s ridiculous that I’m so in love with my red wine.

Me: About moderation, I haven’t ever settled on anything.  I think thinking too hard is part of the problem. Sometimes I think I’ll try moderation LATER, but for now I’m happy with this.  Later is later. It’s over there. It’s not today. Today I’m doing this 🙂 I originally thought I was quitting for 30 days, or 60, or 90.  Now I’m on day 319.  I haven’t made any big statements of anything.  I’m trying very hard to NOT be black and white about anything because that tends to make me feel nervous. Instead, I am just stating the truth:  I feel better now than I did when drinking.  The rest I’ll figure out later … Later is later.  It’s over there. It’s not today. Today I’m doing this.

Marie: Your thoughts on moderation and quitting really hit home with me.  I have committed to 100 days and whether or not I stay alcohol-free forever or not, I know, without a doubt at this point, that my relationship with alcohol will be different. When I quit smoking over 4 years ago, it was only for a year because I couldn’t imagine my life without a smoke every now and then.  I realized after a year that my relationship with cigarettes was really fucked up and that I didn’t want to go back to that place of longing and addiction.  At this point, even when my asshole friend makes me smell the sweet tobacco smell of a freshly unwrapped cigar (knowing full well I won’t even cheat on a small puff of a cigar because of my poor relationship with tobacco) I can still confidently say no and move on.  I may very well one day have the same relationship with a glass of Merlot.  For now, one day at a time, right?  🙂

… although I must say, i used to think that i’d try moderation (really? would i really?) at one year sober, the closer i get to it, the less likely it seems. I’d miss out on message like this one from Lily UK this morning:  “… Anyway Belle, even if I have to stay in [on Friday night] (also fabulous) and knit … I ain’t going to a pub, I ain’t going to drink. I’m never, ever, ever, going back there again. Wolf can scream, cry, kick, cajole, whisper sweet nothings in my ear, tell me all day long how boring life will be without alcohol how amazing life will be with it. Fuck off wolf Im not listening, I’m never going back. Sobriety rocks, it’s totally cool & trendy to be sober x love me, empowered lilyuk x.”

Team 100 update: 83 members. Welcome to new members: Em (7), Megan (4), Mary (4), Erika (10), Workerbeesc (4), Nancy (3), Helene (3), Elle (3), Jenna (4), Mae (3), Jackie (33), Diane (39).

Celebrations for: Amy (160), Emily (14), J (180), Sober Journalist (40), Mr. Belle (28), Katie (40), Roxanne (22), Chelsie (10).

“cosmic reason?”

I received this email from A. today.

She writes:  “I  am usually suspicious of the type of thinking that subscribes to the notion that things always happen for some cosmic reason. I believe that most of the time, crap just happens.

However, I just had a hell of a shitty day yesterday… and I drank (please reset me to Day 1 in the challenge.) My husband and daughter forgot that it was Mother’s Day and I got very upset. (I know, I’m an adult. I should realize that people don’t do things like that on purpose and just GROW UP, but yesterday it really hurt.)

I used my upset as an excuse — a fuck everything and everybody excuse. And I spiraled into the very typical alcoholic thinking that I suck, I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad wife, no one appreciates me, blah, blah, blah. I drank because I felt I deserved to be able to drink since everything else was so sucky.

So when I was lying awake in bed this morning and beating myself up some more, I figured that I better close this email account and stop pretending that I could ever quit drinking because everyone else seems to get in their sober car and never look back — and I keep turning the fucking car around. I felt I ought to just tattoo a big L on my forehead for loser and go crawl in a hole.

Then I logged onto the computer and saw your post from yesterday…

“You may stop and start a bit, while you figure out how to get your sober car on the road. It doesn’t matter.”

 Wow — talking directly to what I was feeling (is there a cosmic reason at work?) Maybe I’m not such a gigantic loser… (although, I do have to own the fact that I failed yesterday.) I can’t say that I’m feeling confident — I’m not sure how to get there in my mind. But certainly more hopeful that I felt earlier.

And you can quote me because today, you got me back in the car.

~ from A.

My response:

I ‘do’ believe in signs, but more in the way that when you’re ready to hear something, then the message makes sense.  You might have read the same thing a month ago, but today it makes sense to you…

PS/ And those little shits for forgetting Mother’s Day! Really.  If it was me, though, I’d have been reminding them for weeks.  I announce my birthday for one full month in advance.  I also post a list of gifts on the fridge that would suit me.  Nobody fucking forgets my birthday, I assure you. Those shits…

Here are some Mother’s Day flowers for A.:

Source: Diane Turner
Source: Diane Turner, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcdlttx/132626781/


musical bits for Monday

I have three musical bits — hip hop, Aerosmith, and Plumb — sent to me by Lane (37), Jen (106), and MG (6)…

Lane sent me a link to this video, gotta love the chorus!



When Jen recently celebrated 100 days, I asked her if she could describe how it felt to be 100 days sober.

When I walked into rehab three months ago, this day of course wasn’t even on my radar. Back then, getting through the next 24 hours was all I could handle. I can’t really say when I was finally able to believe that things were going to be ok again. I’m still hesitant to jump into that fire. I had failed myself so many times before that hope seemed a dangerous indulgence for me…

They tell you in rehab never get too comfortable in your recovery success. It’s that “I got this” attitude that can whack you at the knees at any time. So, as the days pile up, and life gets better little by little, I’m starting to feel comfortable saying I think I’m going to be ok now. Of course, I’ll always either be in recovery or be addiction for the rest of my life. And right now, I’m in recovery and hope to stay here until I take my last breath on earth.  I carry no shame about being an alcoholic anymore. There, see? I said it out loud! I’m an alcoholic and I can’t drink responsibly. BUT, I can live my life responsibly and that means recovery work, keeping my eyes on my own paper, and not living in the past, but never forgetting it.

… There isn’t enough being said or celebrated about “making it through”. All of us out here need examples of real life people who carry messages of hope, people like yourself and your blog about your journey. This thing you do is courageous, and needed, and appreciated. Keep doing it, Belle! Really. I know I will do what I can to help erase the stigma surrounding addiction so that there is less fear for those who suffer.

My favorite recovery song right now is Amazing by Aerosmith. The chorus sums it all up beautifully:

It’s amazing
in the blink of an eye, you finally see the light
Oh, it’s amazing
when the moment arrives and you KNOW you’ll be alright
Yeah it’s amazing
and I’m saying a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight



And this song sent to me by MG:


No matter what you believe, no matter what kind of music you think you like, you might want to give these ‘sober’ songs a listen 🙂

rose colored glasses

Let there be no mistake. Getting sober is not a walk in the park. It’s not easy.

On this blog, I tend to be positive. That’s my way. Yes, at times — particularly if you’re having a shitty day — my tone will be irritating. It might look like my sober life is a fucking bowl of European chocolate covered cherries trimmed with rose petals. And that your sober life is hard and scary and freaky and soaked in dog shit.

Me: In case there is any misunderstanding, my sobriety might look ‘pretty and rosy and divine and twinkling’. But it isn’t. Your sobriety might look heinous and difficult and shitty and not worth it.  But it isn’t. We’re both doing the same thing. Trying to get and stay sober. And we’re doing the same thing in our own way.

Not all of my sober penpals are having an easy time.  Yes, I post the good numbers:  “Hooray for A, she’s on day 157!”

Maybe you can understand, but I don’t post “XXX had a drink yesterday and asked that her number be reset to day 1.” But it happens.

Me: You may stop and start a bit, while you figure out how to get your sober car on the road. It doesn’t matter. There is no right way. There is only your way.”

If you are having a terrible sober day, or you’re having a low-motivation sober week, or if you really wish you could drink today — please don’t think that that means you’re alone. You aren’t.

Those of us who are cheerleader-y by nature are also real people.

Some things you may not know:

While I usually can find a way to focus on the positive — both in my sobriety and in my life — I’m also a big crier. I cried at least twice this week about the tiny-gift-button, AND i even thought about saying fuck-it and that wine would be a good alternative to wading into a sober internet quagmire.

I bet you also didn’t know that I thought about drinking today. Not in a concrete:  “i am going to drink” way, but in a “this would be a good time for a glass of wine” way.  Then I switched channels in my head, and thought about something else.  The feeling didn’t last very long, but it was there. I think that in coming up to my one year anniversary soon, wolfie is starting to say things to me like “well, certainly one year is long enough and since you never really gave moderation a try, you should at least give it a go.”

When i say something (or when I share a quote from a penpal) that is along the lines of “we feel better sober than we did while drinking,” that does NOT mean that we’re always happy about every single moment of every single day.  There are some days that fucking suck. Some sober days it seems to you like everyone has a glass of wine in their hands, and that everyone can drink responsibly so why can’t you, and it makes you want to throw something at the TV screen.  There are days where you’ve said NO to everything and everyrone,  and now you want to say YES to some wine cuz this shit is hard.

I can tell you what I do when this happens to me, when i feel like wine would be a good idea.  These techniques have been working for me up to know, and i hope to fuck they continues to work especially as my one year anniversary approaches.

Over time, thankfully, I learn to see wolfie coming from further away, and I make changes quickly and definitively to avoid collision.  If i have a series of low days, or if I feel the irritated ‘I want to drink’ idea starting up, then I blog about it. I tell someone — even my husband. I take some action and do something proactive, like pour out the booze in the house (or move its location), or whatever.  I start running every day until I’m sure the feeling has passed. Then I go back to normal.  Sometimes wolfie is silenced with one email, sometimes it takes a few blogs and a few long runs and a couple of good crying spells.

Whatever it takes.

Please don’t misinterpret the happy tone of my blogs.  It is not all sunshine. But the good sober days are very very good, and the bad days when drinking were horrid. I’m choosing to live in the good days. Sometimes i have my rose colored glasses on.

Yes, it sucks for all of us sometimes. For example, today is only 50% good day for me. I feel a bit sick, my chest still hurts from my fall 2 weeks ago (so i alternatively think it’s a heart attack or cancer rather than bruised ribs), the weather is a bit cold, it’s sunday and my weekend is over and i’m not looking forward to this week, i think I’m getting a cold (again).

But — here’s the shiny positive shit that you hate — having a 50% good day is still better than if I was drinking/boozing/hiding.  And I count on tomorrow being an 85% good day. That’s where i’m headed. if tomorrow still sucks — and i usually know as soon as I wake up what kind of day it’s going to be — then I will take action and go for a longer run before i even turn on my computer. I’ll have a very healthy breakfast, I’ll skip sugar for a day, I’ll blog more, i’ll say something to my husband about how i’m feeling. and I’ll wait.

To drink now would mean to start again at day 1.  and no matter how today feels, i never want to have a day 1 again. Maybe you don’t either. That’s worth putting on some rose-colored glasses for, yes?

I don’t walk in dog shit (Sunday Want Ad #2)

Did you just roll out of bed after a hellish night and you feel like a bag of shit?

Are you literally, right now at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning, searching online for sober help?

Yes, you. Yes I can see you through the computer screen.


There’s a small bunch of us. We’re doing 100 days sober. Yes, in a row.

Benefits include great sleep, return of self-esteem, elimination of hangovers. Lots of support. Save $400 to $1000 a month by not drinking. Limited quantities available.

And this week, the first 9 people who sign up will receive a fast-action bonus: SECRET HOMEWORK to help with the first few days.

[Anath writes: I love the [secret homework], I feel excited and motivated by it. Genius!]

[MG writes: YES – the [secret homework] is pure brilliance.  The whole *** is amazing.  Why didn’t I ever think about that? …  I am quickly gaining resolve and determination as we speak.  I was sad and depressed a few days ago, but I’m not any longer.  I’m proud of myself.”] –yes, this is an actual email 🙂

Double your money back guarantee. Operators are standing by.


Are you the type to feel rebellious, and say “Why can’t I drink? Other people can drink. I feel so pissed off that I have to give up drinking. I should be ALLOWED…”

Is that you?  (yeah, me too!)

Well, the pouting, the “why can’t I drink,” comes from focusing on not being ABLE to.
But when you flip it on its head, and you turn it into a decision, then you get to say:

“I don’t drink because it’s not good for me.
I don’t do cocaine either.
There’s a whole list of things I don’t ingest
just because other people do.
I do what’s best for me.
I also don’t drive without a seatbelt
and I don’t walk in dog shit.
I am taking care of me.”

[Team 100 has had 71 people in it. You can join now – no matter what day of sobriety you’re on. Happy Day #7 to Allie, Paula & Dawn. Happy Day #8 to Lily UK, PP & Lilly. Happy Day #20 to Marie. It’s Day #21 for Kriss, and Day #18 for Laura.]

This is my best, my friends. And it is good enough.

i guess i want to say that i am feel awkward about the Awkward post. Yes, i did spend days trying to figure out what to do. Yes, i did consider a bunch of alternatives. Yes i looked into a post office box. Yes, i really did try to think this all the way through from a bunch of different angles.  Yes, I considered just saying “sorry no gifts allowed.”

I was asked if I could receive some thank yous, and I didn’t know what to do with this. I fretted for several days and then i figured that in the world of the internet, that paypal was the simplest solution.

This is new to me. There are no manuals. There are no models to follow. There’s no book written called “sober blogging and how not to get caught in a shit-storm if you mention money.”

Yes, ok, I am trying to meet everyone’s needs.  Of course, you can have an opinion about how i do that, but please know that i have already tried to consider this from all sides.  I’m a thoughtful and careful person. But if you want to buy me a coffee, I have no intentions of hurting your  feelings either by saying “no, really, I don’t need anything in return” or “well, ok, sure,….but I really don’t want it.”

I did get a number of private emails that were very supportive about my Awkward post 🙂  But in general i have to say that I really don’t want to take any shit about someone sending me $4 to buy a latte 🙂

Yes, we get weird when money enters a conversation. Well, tough.

I think this is worth talking about head-on because we’re dealing with big fucking issues here, like sobriety.  for some people that can be life and death. I am not dramatizing my role in this, i’m talking about the people who are reaching out for help. I hear this: “I didn’t want to email you again because i’ve already had two relapses and you’ve wasted enough time on me already. How can i repay you?” And i keep saying “really, you being sober is enough.”

what i’ve learned is that some people, with where they are in their addiction, have so much shame and pain that they can’t easily take any help without feeling guilty.

You can judge that if you want. You can tell me i should say “get over it.”

Those of us who have been sober for awhile can engage in long conversations about how ‘they shouldn’t feel that way,’ but after I’ve heard it for the 8th time from 8 different newly sober people, I feel like I have to do something. Please don’t judge how i’m trying to handle this. I really am doing my best.  Yes i’ve tried to think of all of the sides to this.  But to suggest that i should donate 2 hrs of my time per day and refuse the offer of a coffee in return is saddening. If someone is truly not reaching out because they feel like they’re a burden, I want to address that.  I certainly didn’t put up the tiny gift button to ‘get rich’.

And here’s the truth and it won’t come as any big surprise. I’m not great fan of this. I really am trying to do my best. You may think i’m a blowhard shit.  That’s fine. You may squirm when i put up the tiny-gift-button.  I may not be doing this well enough or good enough for you. I’m sorry. I really am.

so that’s what I’m feeling.  protective. and i hope i’ve already cried enough about this.

This is my best, my friends.

And it is good enough.

It’s not how often you drink or how much…

More quotes from the spectacular Roger Ebert’s 2009 post about alcoholism (and AA):

Ebert: It’s not how often you drink or how much. It’s what happens. If you drink until drunk, as the doc says in the old joke, “Don’t do that no more.”

Bill: I have to say (IMHO) that individuals who attack the program for use of the “G Word” probably have some other agenda or obstacles, and are using god (sic) as an excuse. … Because nothing is ever so bad, that alcohol, drugs, or gambling can’t make it worse.

Ebert: Gaming as an addiction. Why not? When I sit in front of a slot machine, some demonic obsession forces me to continue long past the length of time I had intended, staring at spinning fruit and pushing the button. It’s not even a matter of winning. I choose cheaper machines, so even if I won, I wouldn’t win big (unless I won the Cadillac hanging from the ceiling). There is no sensual value or entertainment factor involved in sitting before the machine. I am simply disinclined to stop.

Josh: Computer games of this type have many similar characteristics to alcohol and drugs – they initially provide instant rewards, there are rituals and camaraderie that enforce each others’ playing, and even a sort of ‘tolerance’ in that milestones the game take longer and longer to achieve the longer one plays. These games are worse than drugs and alcohol, in fact, because you can buy them from any Target or Wal-Mart and they are promoted as being safe for children. You won’t get the DTs from quitting WoW abruptly, but you will think that you will lose all of your friends, which might actually be a worse negative reinforcer.

John: It would seem to me that the goal of A.A. is not to maintain its traditions, but to help people stop drinking.

Team 100 update for May 8th: 71 members. Welcome: Colleen (6), and Anna (3). Celebrations: Lawyer Anne (30 days), Sober Kat (7 months today!), Jenni was 100 days yesterday, Grace (14), Erica (99!), Mr. Belle (21), Roxanne (15), Laura (15) & Debra (101)


this is weird, and awkward. (Yes, i’m sober. It’s another kind of weird.) i’m struggling to write this. i’ve been thinking for days about how to start this post. whether to write it all. I talked to Mr. Belle and to Lawyer Anne. i can’t come up with a good solution. so i’m going to try this.


Some of the people in the Sober Challenge have said things like “how can i thank you” or “i feel like i’m a burden to you” or “i don’t want to email too often because I know you have a lot of people on your list.”

And i’ve tried before to write about how GREAT it is to be your sober penpal. But there don’t seem to be enough words, or reassurances, or hugs i can give you that convey: yes, email me, i’m glad to hear from you.

I woke this morning to a message from Colleen (day 6), she writes: “I don’t know why you are doing this amazing thing for me and others but I appreciate you so much and hope you are getting something out of all this.”

And here’s my answer to her:

“it’s hard to explain, but really, to read your email [that you’re sober and doing well], it just lights up my day.  I know that drinking sucks us into a pit of despair.  You can’t believe how super fabulous it is to witness people fighting their way out of the pit.  It’s really truthfully impressive. I get to witness your strength and that’s just such an amazing thing to watch.  Cuz this shit ain’t easy!  And I get built-in-sobriety-insurance.  How could I possibly drink now? You’re doing the hard shit.  Me, all i have to do these days is bat away a few ideas now and then. I couldn’t give in to wolfie now when others are fighting much harder …

You inspire me.  How’s that? And all you have to do is get up, run, be honest, send an email, and you’re an inspiration 🙂

… would it make you feel better if you could give me something in return? does it really feel so unbalanced? maybe I’ll go and take out an anonymous post-office box with a really glamorous address, so people can mail me chocolates… not that I need any more, I assure you. Can you mail donuts? Probably not! Too bad, I can’t get donuts here…

So after i send that email, i make a cup of tea, i go for a run in the rain, and i talk to my husband again.

please hear this.  i know that some people are feeling weird about ‘taking’ from me. and they’re not reaching out as much as they want to cuz they’re feeling guilty or ashamed or something that can’t quite be articulated.

I got this message from Lawyer Anne who is Day 30 today: “…many thanks to you!! I don’t think words can express my appreciation. I wish I could mail you a cake 🙂 Thank you, thank you, thank you – you have helped me save my life. I will be eternally grateful I stumbled upon you on the internet and sent you that first email.”


Here’s what i’m going to do. I’ve put in a little button here that links to paypal. It’s a gift button, you fill in the amount. You don’t have to have a paypal acct to use it (link on bottom left after you click for non-paypal-users).

click here > tiny-gift-button

I will use any gift money to buy treats (i.e. I will not use it to pay the hydro bill!) i will buy cake with it. Or new oven mitts, or tea, or fuzzy socks. If you give $1 that’s fine.   There is no link between you making a gift and me emailing you.

and, to be accountable and transparent, i’ll post pictures of the treats that i purchase with the gift money.


I had an antsy feeling that I could only sum up with these words: “I want wine”

today is a good day but some days are rotten. Some days when we were drinking were rotten, and some days when we are sober are rotten.

DDG (49 days / 7 weeks!) sent me an email last week about feeling rotten, bored, antsy, irritated with the world. nothing to look forward to. and she said “being sober can be SO boring.”

as i was writing back to her (yes, some days suck. they just do), towards the end of the email i wrote out something i’d never really heard before. but once i wrote it i knew it was true.

oh I have lots of completely down days, had several this week.  just have so much to do and can’t get motivated to do any of it. right in the middle of catering on Wednesday I thought “I’m so done with this I never want to do it again.” then sometimes it think “I need a new project” and then other times I think “I should finish some of the projects I have going, like I haven’t filed my taxes yet …” There are whole afternoons lost to the internet and/or cooking tv shows.  And then there are days when I wake up, I feel better, I go for a run, I have a cup of coffee and everything seems fucking perfect.

my only miracle cures for days in the ‘dumps’ are sleep + running + cake.  oh and a bit of tea. and some sunshine …
and then when I have a good day, I’m all like super-analyzing trying to figure out WHY it’s a good day so that I can do it again tomorrow …

[last week on Thursday, on a particularly crappy day] i said to my husband “I’m going out to the store for boxes for mailing stuff and I’m going to get some wine. It feels like a good day for wine.” and Mr. Belle said it probably wasn’t.

Then I went to the store to buy boxes.  I wasn’t really even really really thinking of buying wine.

but I had an antsy feeling that I could only sum up with those words.  after I bought the boxes, I cleaned out my inbox, had tea … the moment of “wine” was really a half-formed-thought-in-a-moment. at 10 months sober, I guess I know that I won’t actually drink.

but some blah days it seems like “this would be a good time for wine” is my go-to response to ‘cover up the day and hide from all of this, are we there yet, is this over yet’ feelings.  Instead, I go to bed early, get up and go for a long run, make a new recipe.

I’m not going to drink because of other disappointing other people. Because I never want to be on Day 1 again. Because I’m afraid if I restart drinking that I won’t be able to find the door into sobriety again and I’ll get stuck out there … I’m afraid because I’m not even sure that the antsy shit I feel is even wolfie at all.  he’s probably asleep and all that’s left is vestiges, worn neural pathways, patterns, habits.  and I am NOT going to drink because of a worn pathway.

and that, she says, is a grand commiseration for bored, blah, this day has no meaning. Knowing that tomorrow will be better.  because it always is. AND THANK FUCKING GOD FOR THAT!

(well, not god, per se …) but you know what i mean

hugs, Belle xoxo

Team 100 update: welcome to new members Lily UK (day 3), Moonbeam (2), JMM (6), Dawn (2), Paula (2), Clare, Allison (10), Allie (2), JG (3), TheDryCork (1), Colleen (4), Chelsie (1).

Celebrations today for: Jenni (day 99!), Sunflower (45), Lynda (49), Ellen/Whineless (20), Victoria (45), Kate (31), Lawyer Anne (28), Brandy (21), Lane (30), Katie (21).