Tired of Thinking About Drinking

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coffee taste test treat (thank you)

Thanks to the Tiny Gift Button

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.

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.

 

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

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.))

day 16. scholarship

as part of you re-engaging with sober supports, i thought today – boxing day – a day of reflecting on ‘what next’ – well, i thought today would be a good day for me to give away a scholarship pass to the sober jumpstart class. if you’ve thought about doing this class before but you haven’t – for whatever reason – then this might be a good time to apply.

part 1. First i want to hear from people who have taken the class before, and you can share a comment here to help people applying for the scholarship understand how the class might help them. you can share a bit about why you took the class, and what parts you found most useful. happy you do the jumpstart class? post a comment here.

part 2. Now, if you would like to be considered for a free scholarship to do the jumpstart class, then send me an email (don’t post here), and tell me a bit about you. I will read through the applications and will chose 4 people for scholarships (one audio-only, one regular version of the class, one lovely, and one kick-ass – total value $1,075). The scholarships will be awarded based on a combination of your story, how you describe what you want your next steps to be, and your financial situation (which might be based on need, or perhaps based on the fact that you can’t easily spend common family money).  my email address is tiredofdrinking@gmail.com

ok, got it? if you’ve taken the class before, post a comment and share with new or nervous people why you took the class and how it helped you. and if you haven’t taken the class – for whatever reason – and you’d like to be considered for one of 4 available scholarships, you can send me an email and follow the instructions in part 2 above.  my email address is tiredofdrinking@gmail.com

  • small print. if you are awarded a scholarship for the class and you have done the class before (and paid for it in the last 3 months), then we’ll work out some kind of bonus for you.

happy boxing day to you. happy leftovers day to you.

hugs, me

oh, ps. thanks to donors, there are nine free copies of the little chick audio available here.

 

Day 4: what can i give up

day 4 of the re-engage with sobriety campaign.

you know that overwhelm is something to avoid. at the risk of being a pretentious shit, let me quote from my own book (says every pretentious shit, ever):

(page 88): One of the most important things you will do [in early sobriety] is learn to strategically avoid ‘overwhelm’—I use this word as a noun, it’s a thing on the horizon, like fog.
Your life is like a video game. You can see potential bombs, things advancing, that could blow up and throw you off course. Your job is to navigate them. You don’t walk right into a bomb and hope for the best. You don’t test yourself by repeatedly doing difficult or stressful things. Instead, you ask someone to carpool, you decline social activities, and you simplify meals.
Your job is to reduce overwhelm. All around you, there are lists of things to do and when you first quit drinking you are going to take it easy. You will shower once a day, try not to get fired, and skip everything else.
Thinking that you need to push or force yourself to do things is a holdover from your drinking time, when you were hungover and you made yourself do things to prove that you didn’t have a problem. You wanted to make yourself look normal. You took on more than you could reasonably do, so that you looked high-functioning, so that nobody knew how much you were drinking, and so no one could detect how you felt about yourself.

For today, I would like you to put a comment on this blog post of something that you are NOT going to do today. What one thing can you give up, in order to help you feel less overwhelmed. You don’t have to be clever or original, you just have to be real. If you can’t think of anything, then copy this: “Today, to help myself avoid overwhelm – which is a boozer’s biggest trigger – i’m going to skip making dinner tonight and order take out or have grilled cheese sandwiches.”

(that said, i’m having canned soup for dinner tonight.)

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

… as seen in Good Housekeeping magazine

Did having a sober penpal help Amy to be sober?
She told her story to Good Housekeeping Magazine …
goodhousekeeping

haha. OK, to be fair, this happened a couple of years ago, back when i had ONE sober penpal and her name was Amy and she was interviewed by Good Housekeeping and she told her sober story which included the fact that i was her sober penpal. fast forward 3ish years and i’ve just welcomed sober penpals #2523 (say hi to Eleutheria).

but once upon a time, there was Amy. she emailed and asked questions on her day 6. and we emailed back and forth. and then someone else joined, and then another. and now we’re here.

want to learn more about Amy’s story? you can see TOTAD mentioned in Good Housekeeping here. and then also go and check out Amy’s amazing writing on her blog: http://sober-bia.blogspot.com

quote from the Good Housekeeping article:

Amy: Right then, I knew I had to quit. I thought, If I keep doing this, in 10 years they’ll feel ashamed to be my children. I stopped cold. I told Jonathan I was quitting and needed his help. He supported me 100%. “Whatever you need to do, we’ll do,” he said. But I didn’t know what I needed to do. I Googled “How to quit drinking” and came across one blog after another. Then I found one — called Tired of Thinking About Drinking, by a blogger who went by Belle — that really hit home. I e-mailed Belle; she wrote back and said to contact her whenever I needed to. I began writing to her every day. I still do. It was crucial to have someone who could share my “This is hard! This sucks! What do I do?” struggles. … keep reading on Good Housekeeping website

[update: Amy is on day 1447 today]

fancy food treats (thank you )

returned to the expensive catering take-out places, for more food research …

my ideas: it’s very expensive, which works for that one neighbourhood, but it is still on the very top end of acceptable in terms of expense (and might even be OVER that threshold), the food is homemade and fresh, it is very very good food, better than most of the restaurant food.

the downsides of this particular place (things i would improve): the food is the same day-to-day, week-to-week and in the same location in the chiller. no variety. it could be: this week mustard meatballs, next week it’s chinese meatballs. even the pastries are identical week to week. it’s dull for the cook and perhaps too much the same for clients. i would also have some food in the window. it makes people want to come in if they can see the food from the outside… even better if you can see someone PREPARING the food from the outside …

fancy sparkling water, 3 meatballs with veggies, beet and walnut salad, chicken and artichoke salad with tomatoes, two desserts: chocolate mousse with fruit and creme-anglais, and blackberries and cream on top of chocolate tart on shortbread crust

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Thanks to the Tiny Gift Button

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