Tired of Thinking About Drinking

Archive for the tag “online support for sobriety”

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Sober tools: what helps, and what doesn’t

originally published on Medium

Sober tools: what helps, and what doesn’t

(Stop fucking around with houses built out of straw)

M (day 1 sober) writes: Belle, I keep trying all these things to help me be sober and nothing works. I just spent $100 on vitamins. I’ve been to the one-day, quit-drinking workshop. I signed up for a French class. You see, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris and with all the money I’m not spending on booze, I could buy a plane ticket.

You can hear M’s thinking, you can totally see what she’s saying, and it seems logical, doesn’t it. And my reply would be: “If you are continuously sober, then yes, whatever you’re doing is working. Keep doing it.”

But if you are not continuously sober — and I mean if you reset after 2 days, or 20 days, or 200 days — then what you’re doing isn’t quite enough to keep you sober. So you add in more sober tools.

Argh, I’m on Day 1 again. I’m enrolled in French class. Why isn’t that enough?

French class is something you can hang in the space that booze used to occupy. But taking a French class is not a sober tool.

Sober tools are things that help you to be sober.

Imagine this. You’re one of the three little piggies who is building a sober house, and wolfie comes to blow your sober house down.

You build your sober house out of straw or sticks or tarps or wood, and wolfie blows it over. Maybe not right away, maybe not tomorrow, but as soon as there’s a strong wind, as soon as there’s a death or a celebration or a runaway teenager or Sheila in accounting pulls her shit again and refuses to do the cheque run before end of day on Friday.

Doesn’t take much, then wolfie is at the door. Blowing. Sober house falls down.

But let’s be real, wolfie only has to knock on the door of your house made of straw to knock it over. To the house of wood, he’ll knock, and when that doesn’t work, he’ll add in lung full of hot air and a bit of whining. Doesn’t take long.

(And really, you built a sober house out of straw? You were wishi. You’re were hoping you could do the minimum. You knew it wasn’t going to be enough.)

To the house of stone, though, the house built out of sober stones set careful on a sober cement foundation — yeah, that house — well, wolfie will knock on your door. And when that doesn’t work, he’ll try to blow you over with convincing arguments as to why you need to Drink Right Now. You’ll add in a bit more cement and wave to him through the window. He’ll look for cracks, but you’ve got double-paned glass and a bug screen.

Now this sober stone house, this is your life.

Your life is worth more than the minimum. It’s worth more than straw and tarps.

The soul of you, the essence of you, the real you that isn’t anesthetized, the real you that is empathetic and helpful and has good boundaries — that you gets deserves to be guarded in a solid stone structure.

What helps to build a wolfie-proof, stone sober house?

Advice from an architect. Talking to the girl at Home Depot about the length of the nails and what’s worked on similar projects.

Pouring a cement foundation. Going as slowly as required to not have to pour the foundation, dig it up, pour it again, and dig it up again. What a waste of time that is. Do the sober foundation, yes, but if you do it too quickly, do it too rashly, try to do it with inadequate cement, or do it while doing too many other things at the same time — well, you know what happens.

You can see this example clearly when we’re talking about cement.

The colour of the paint, and the carefully selected tri-season-blooming flowers, the stony garden walks, and the breeding fruit trees do not build a strong house.

The French classes and spin classes and yoga classes and pottery classes and vitamins don’t help you change your behaviour. They’re wonderful (and necessary and lovely) things to add to your life. They are.

But they’re not sober tools.

A sober tool is something that helps you to be sober. Not paint colour.

You want to paint the room, but you haven’t built the room. You want to choose the light fixture, but the wiring isn’t in yet. You want to focus on the details all around THE THING.

The thing you want is to be sober. And so you’re online spending hours choosing the right French class?

You just spent $100 on multivitamins because that should help you be sober?

What if you’d spent that time and that $100 on actual sober supports. You don’t though, because wolfie is a sly fucker, taunting perfectly nice people with bullshit logic like vitamins and French classes.

OK. So sober tools. They’re things that help you be sober. That would include anything that directly makes it more likely that you (a) remember that being sober is a good idea, (b) soothes irritation, (c) helps you be accountable, (d) checks in on you, (e) reminds you what you’re doing when you forget, (f) reinforces the idea of the sober foundation and why you need it because you forgot again, (g) makes it possible for you to not drink.

A French class isn’t a sober tool. Just like your drinking husband isn’t a sober support.

What works?

Treats and rewards work for being sober. Accountability works. Actual sober support works. Planning replacement drinks works. Listening to sober audios works. Reaching out works.

(Do you think you can read books about pouring cement foundations and have the book be enough? Is a one-day workshop enough? How about a forum of other people on day 1 of cement pouring? Why are you walking around outside THIS THING acting like you don’t know what to do? You know what to do. You know that if you ask for support from people who can actually support you, you can get this done. You know that if you turn and face the resources and education and accountability that sober support provides, that you’ll learn from people who’ve done it 2,593 times that you’ll save time, feel better, and have your cement poured sooner.)

And don’t get me wrong.

If you’ve built a house out of straw AND IT’S WORKING FOR YOU then keep doing what you’re doing.

But if the wind keeps blowing you over, you’ve gotta look at having some new tools.

And paint isn’t a tool.

Neither is a French class.

Audio: Group Call

I recently recorded a one hour LIVE group call as a special bonus for book owners. And what a great call.

I spoke for the first half hour, and then opened up the line for Q&A. Questions included: how long until you feel better, when is a good time to become a vegetarian, is being long-term sober a burden, and how many bottles of wine have I not consumed since quitting drinking.

But the best part of this call perhaps is the ending.

The full audio is 60-minutes long and it is included for free for all book owners. If you have ordered a paperback copy, an e-book, or the audio version (or the bundle!), then I have already added this 60-minute audio to your library.

Comments:

Freedom: “What an amazing call! Thank you! SO lovely to hear SoberP too – it’s nice to put a voice to a name 🙂 … Thank you again for everything. For being you. For doing this whole sober online community thing. For the audios. For (you and SoberP) being an amazing penpal. And for constantly and tirelessly reminding me (and really not seeming to mind that you have to tell me the same thing over and over) that I need to keep plugging at my supports. I was so pleased that I had this call to log on to tonight. It was like a holy grail at the end of the day. I knew if I drank I’d be asleep on the sofa and miss it. And I’m here and sober and feeling much better than I did earlier.”

No More Donuts: “The book call was exactly what I needed at this point … the idea of the battery needing recharging and checking is very apt as I’m approaching 100 days. One thing I need to do more of is email you. Knowing there is someone at the other end that ‘gets it’ has been the key ingredient for my success this time round. Huge hugs Belle, you’re amazing. The magnitude at which you help people is enormous, and it really takes courage to do what you’re doing. Massive respect to you.”

Poppy: “Thank you belle. That was truly awesome. I didn’t speak but listened for the hour. I’ve never done anything like that. It did feel good. This whole exercise has taught me a few lessons. This while taking a risk, a chance, putting yourself out there, trying something new – it’s the opposite of being stuck. It’s exciting.”

~

Below i’ve posted a 3-minute extract from this longer audio.

You can listen to this extract now 🙂 And leave a comment – what do you hear in this audio? Can you rephrase it in your own words? hugs from me

 

(ps, my blog allows for anonymous comments – so you don’t have to fill in a name or an email address to post your comment below).

Over the next 24 hrs, I’ll select 2 blog comments and each person will get access to a podcast of their choice from the archives.

every minute feels like forever

from me:
a couple of days ago, i invited you to send me an email if you’d never emailed before, or never posted a comment on my blog. i specifically wanted to invite lurkers, silent-readers, keep-to-yourself types, and non-reaching-out-ers to … well, to reach out.  I said i’d pick two emails, and would send personalized audio replies from me. Here’s one of the messages i replied to:

Lis: “Belle, I’m one of those “lurkers”… I’m 16 days sober and was sitting in my office crying when your email arrived. My longest period of sobriety was 76 days — this past summer and every minute of it felt like forever. I love lemon meringue pie…”

>> listen to my audio reply here <<


Wanted.
My goal for 2017 is to send out 50 copies of my book to sympathetic doctors
, helpful therapists, open-minded social workers, and kind psychiatrists. I’d like to share this idea of support for quitting drinking (for ‘high bottom’ drinkers/for those of us who don’t go to AA). I know that most doctors don’t know anything about us. They don’t know what to say when we admit we’re over-drinking, and they don’t know what resources are available outside of AA or rehab. So I want to send 50 copies of my book out to people who help others.
There are two ways for you to be involved:

  • Sponsor a book for me to mail out [can someone sponsor 20 books?]
  • Send me the name and address of a doctor, therapist, specialist, counsellor, treatment facility — any health care professional who you know would be open to hearing about idea of online support for quitting drinking. I’ve sent out two books this week already … 48 more to go 🙂 hugs from me.

day 1: don’t toss it away

from my inbox

E (not yet a penpal): “Hi, My day 1 feels like a long time ago now. but it’s only been 146 days. and each one is easier than day 1 was. they’re not all perfect, some are hard, and on some of them, I wish I could crawl into a hole or a bottle. or a hole with a bottle. but it gets easier to resist that temptation.
My day 1 I was hungover. I had told my mom the night before that I had to quit drinking. On the way home from there, I wanted to throw myself out of the car because I had no idea how I was going to stop drinking. I thought it was too hard and I couldn’t picture my life without alcohol to help me.
so day 1 I woke up and went to work hungover…. I knew this change was happening. I was quitting. for real. and I was terrified. I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it. I called a counselling service. I wrote a message to my family telling them I was done with alcohol. I was honest with them for the first time about my drinking. I don’t really remember what I did the rest of the day. it was blurry. I know I cried a lot. I felt sad, lost, confused, scared, but deep inside there was some hope. some tiny hidden part of me believed I could do this. even though the loudest parts of me and my addiction were screaming “don’t do it! you can’t do this!”. I did it anyway …
Those first few days for me were about holding on. So I tell you now, on day 1: hold on to sobriety. even though it feels weird, and like it’s not yours, hold it. don’t toss it away for the comfort of a glass of wine. be uncomfortable, be an emotional wreck, eat a ton of sugar, hide in your room but hold on to that sobriety and soon, sooner than you think, it will feel better. soon it will feel almost normal. soon you will own that sobriety you will feel proud and confident. but you won’t for the first little while. you may feel scared and wrong and doubtful and weak. but you’re not. just hold on to sobriety until it starts to feel right. and it will.”


missing links. (get it?) you know, links you might have missed in the last few daily emails.  

  • discount link where you can get the pdf of year 1 of my blog (500+ pages). you can also read it online, it’s just easier to read it in the PDF when it’s in chronological order and all in one place.
  • the one minute message about julie
  • discount link to podcasts about prelapse. that’s my word for the time that comes before relapse. and when you know what it is, you can learn to identify it and hopefully avoid it …
  • sober is the new black is back. back in black.

 

Audio: Do I Tell People I’ve Quit?

This is Sober Podcast Episode #175 for my weekly sober podcast series.

Thanks to listener ‘Out-of-the-Cab’ for submitting today’s question. She asks how to explain to people that we’ve quit drinking. So in my reply, I talk about who to tell, what to say, when to say it, and how to get support.

Do you tell your best drinking friend what you’re up to, and try to get her to understand? Do you tell everyone at family dinner that you’re going to the She Recovers conference?

Below i’ve posted a 2-minute extract from this longer audio (the complete podcast is about 20 minutes long).

You can listen to this extract now 🙂 And leave a comment – what do you hear in this audio? Can you rephrase it in your own words? hugs from me

 

Download the audio podcast episode 175

Sign up for the monthly podcast subscription
(1-2 new audios per week, you can cancel whenever you like … but you won’t. more sober tools = good)

(ps, my blog allows for anonymous comments – so you don’t have to fill in a name or an email address to post your comment below).

Over the next 24 hrs, I’ll select 4 blog comments and each person will get access to a podcast of their choice from the archives.

this makes me feel better

today, let’s talk about things that make you feel better. one of the challenges of sobriety is dealing with uncomfortable feelings.

and when we feel crappy, it’s sometimes hard to remember what to DO to feel better.

For today, I would like you to put a comment on this blog post of something that you know that – when you do it – you feel better (about life, about yourself, about being sober). What one thing can you try the next time you’re having a frustrated, irritated, uncomfortable moment.

OK, I’ll begin. One thing I can do to ‘change the channel’ in my head when i’m feeling crappy is listen to music, turn it up loud, and sing along. Bonus points for singing out loud on public transit.

My blog allows anonymous comments, so you don’t have to fill in your name/email address if you don’t want to.

And to bribe you to participate, to support your sobriety, and encourage you to speak up, I will RANDOMLY select ONE comment from this blog post about 24 hrs from now, and that person will receive a sober Elevator bracelet for free.

hugs, me

Audio: Top 3 Factors that contribute to successful long-term sobriety

This is Sober Podcast Episode #174 for my weekly sober podcast series.

Gem64 sent me an audio question, asking what are the top 3 things that make it more likely that someone will be long-term sober.

Of course, I started trying to keep the numbers straight in my head but it turned into a bit of a mish-mash. Well anyway, the concepts are all there, but i’m not sure there are “3” things.

Thankfully podcast subscriber Ana Maria sent me this summary: “Belle, the 3 factors I understood were: (1) Do not drift from your sober supports. (2) Do prepare for potentially dangerous situations by having your tool kit with you. The key being “prepared in advance”. (3) Accept shitty days as part of life. Accept that they will come and you can get through them without alcohol.”

Below i’ve posted an extract of the first few minutes from this longer audio (the complete podcast is 19 minutes long).

You can listen to this extract now 🙂 And leave a comment – what do you hear in this audio? Can you rephrase it in your own words? hugs from me

 

Download the audio podcast episode 174

Sign up for the monthly podcast subscription
(1-2 new audios per week, you can cancel whenever you like … but you won’t. more sober tools = good)

 

re-entry

written december 30th:

home from trip to australia, all seems well on re-entry thus far. though i do have a full inbox that’ll take 1-2 days to fully answer 🙂 it’s also very cold here (like below freezing) while sydney is having a heat wave.

sober travel. here’s what it means: remember everything. no missed afternoons. no hungover mornings. spend less money (more money for treats; more money for vacations!).

travelling sober means we sleep better, even in strange beds. travelling sober means that even with a spontaneous head cold developed hrs before the flight, even with head/ear pain, you still don’t drink. you sleep instead — you know, that thing you said you never did (sleep on flights), yeah that thing. that’s what you do.

and you eat the food they give you (thumbs down for qantas, hooray for emirates). you take pictures from the window while flying near zurich (no kidding!).

you come home, nap for a few hours, get up and have a regular evening, then you — wait for it — go to bed and sleep all night and are spontaneously adjusted to the time change. yes. sober travelling. no booze to slam me into neutral. no booze to ‘make the time pass’. no booze to ‘celebrate’ or ‘soothe’ the ear ache (which ended as soon as the plane began its descent).

true, i’m home now to 4 loads of laundry (must my husband wash everything in his suitcase? i mean, we did laundry in melbourne and sydney along the way …). i’m home to pledge to eat better (ha. croissants + the best ham/cheese baguette last night). i’m home to sleep in  my own bed (there may not be any better reward for a 25 hr flight than your own bed. the king-sized one. with the right pillow.).

it’s cold outside. the christmas decorations shine and remind us that we weren’t here for christmas. well, we had christmas on the beach, does that count? we had an alternate-reality christmas complete with corn on the cob (hey, i know the last time i had corn on the cob now! it was christmas day).

my husband has (literally) put the map for Portugal into the bathroom as of last night, so he can scope out ideas while in the tubbie for a trip in the spring…

sober travel means that re-entry, transitions are just plain easier.

cuz really, life is plain easier when sober. all of it. the sleep is easier, the travelling, the flying, the thinking.

it’s just easier to be sober. who knew.
love and hugs from me 🙂

p.s. obligatory link you click to indicate engagement (the linked blog post was written april 2013 and is the 3rd most popular on the blog). (i will one day learn to write without parentheticals. (perhaps.))

Audio: New Years Greetings 2017

Well this is a first. A new year’s day greeting compiled from YOUR voice clips, sent in from all over the world. No kidding, how great is this! I’m going to send this out to my sober podcast subscribers, but wanted you to hear it too.

There’s something for you in here. I guarantee it. And if you don’t laugh and feel touched at the same time, i’ll be surprised. Thanks to everyone who submitted an audio clip. Really. So great to hear the voices from everywhere together in one sober place.

hugs from me

(click little white arrow below to PLAY audio)

 

Download the audio podcast episode N17

Sign up for the monthly podcast subscription
(1-2 new audios per week, you can cancel whenever you like … but you won’t. more sober tools = good)

 

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