Tired of Thinking About Drinking

Archive for the tag “sober thinking”

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.

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.))

Sober Solstice

From Sober in Richmond (The Solstice Guy): “I started my 100 Day challenge on Winter Solstice [and is celebrating 2 years sober today] … If there is anyone out there who needs some motivation to start – perhaps they can do the Solstice to Solstice. It really helped me to have the power of the whole darn earth behind me rather than a day or date on a calendar. I like Winter to Summer because the days get longer, and each day brings about more promise and more hope. It’s an incredibly magical thing, the Solstice to Solstice!”

Imagine it’s the shortest day of the year (tomorrow in the northern hemisphere). Imagine you’re sober starting tomorrow, December 21st. It can be your Day 1 or maybe it’s your Day 50. Or 400. Doesn’t matter. Can you see yourself sober on June 21st? Summer Solstice. Stand here. Look ahead 180 days. Because if you think the view from day 100 is great, wait until you see 180 days.

  • If you’d like to be sober from Solstice to Solstice, you can put a comment below.
  • Sober for 180 days? Sign up to receive one archived podcast every 2 days for 180 days. That’s 90 audios in total, starting with SP001 Accepting Help all the way to SP090 Magical Time. Audios discounted 40%.

I like the idea of having the ‘whole darn earth behind me’ – how about you?

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

fullsizerender-3

Thanks to the Tiny Gift Button

transparency

originally sent this out as today’s micro-email, but i am (surprisingly) getting a lot of responses, so i’m going to re-post it here, so i can share the responses with you. 

 

from me:

when our brain is overwhelmed, the short answer to “is this forever” is to say: do it for now. for some fixed length of time. for 100 days. for a year. then reassess.

we start off on a goal. things happen as we go on. we never end up quite where we think we’re going. life’s like that.

but if we don’t have a goal then we’re not moving.

and if we’re not moving, then we’re waiting to move.
and then we feel like happiness is something ‘we just don’t have access to’ (I read that in my inbox twice this week from two people on day 0).

yesterday i found out some holy-good-news about me having a bakery here, that makes my original timeline of that dream move from ‘some time later’ to maybe within 2 years.

so as of yesterday afternoon, i mentally moved down that path (to open a bakery). because enough with the sitting and waiting to move. (enough with waiting to be sober, time to head off in that direction and see what happens when you get to 100 days.)

and now i’d like to use this space to ask the universe for what i’d like. i know it won’t arrive quite like this, in this exact format. but i’m heading in this direction to see what happens. because sitting still with no plan is not an option (whether you’re talking about a bakery or quitting drinking).

dear universe, i’d like to be sober long-term. ongoing. i’d like to move job #1 from the diverse stuff i’m doing to just be doing page layout for books for print, annual reports, documents.

dear universe, i’d like to be sober long-term. ongoing. i’d like to have my catering go in a new direction that will eventually lead to having a storefront. not just delivery but actually seeing and interacting with clients. i need some face-to-face work in my life.

dear universe, i’d like to be sober long-term. ongoing. i’d like to continue doing the empathic work of emailing sober penpals, writing, recording audios, and doing sober meetups.

i need a combination of competency (desktop publishing), feeding people face-to-face, and empathic sober stuff.

to focus on any one of these to the exclusion of others would be suffocating (to me, this is me writing about me, your mileage will vary).

i share this thinking, because i continue to bristle when people mention that the sober stuff seems to be my primary job now or that it’s my empire or my destiny or my legacy or my business.
whereas i feel that it’s part of who i am.
being sober is the part that LETS me be other things.
it’s the foundation on which i build other things.
it’s the thing that allows me to even fantasize about a storefront.

for me, to go down the rabbit hole of “sober is my life, it’s my business, it’s who i am, i’m the poster child for sober, i talk and write sober” is a bit narcissistic. (that’s just me. other people do it (successfully?) but i think it’s inauthentic. to say “i got sober then i turned it into a business” just sounds shallow and weird to me.)

I’m sober so i turn it into a business?
no.
I’m sober so i use it to grow and build the kind of life that i want to have. and that live includes emailing and listening and writing in the sober world 🙂 and it includes other stuff too.

(the critic will say: but maybe it’s easier to earn $ selling audios than selling dutch apple pie with two kinds of apples and a lard/butter crust photographed on a blue check dishtowel.
maybe.
it’s not about what’s easy.
it’s about what’s authentic to me.)

transparency.
when we share the real stuff and have the real conversations.

So here’s the sunday question of the day. what are you sober FOR? what can you do / be / have in your life that you can only do if sober?

What is your sober = bakery?

transparency? here’s the pie.
apple-pie-small

hugs from me

i’m using tiny gift button donations today to go to the expensive catering place across town that is doing things that i admire. i’m going to eat a bunch of his food. and i’m going to ask him about doing a ‘stage’ with him (like an internship, but short). i have $70 to spend today (63€) which is a ton. thank you. really. it’s a big deal.

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