image courtesy of Newtown grafitti

I’ve stopped pushing. This is living sober.

I write about how being sober is like a little car, and about how important it is to get some sober momentum (get the car rolling) and don’t let it stall.

But I don’t want you to confuse that with pushing yourself to do things.

We have some holdover mentality from our drinking days, to do more than we should, to take on too much. As a group, we have crappy boundaries. We have a very hard time saying no.

AND we’re so used to functioning at sub-par (hungover, regret, lack of sleep, stomach-swirling ill), that when we stop drinking, we are stuck in a gear where we continue to push to get things done, to look productive, just like we did when we were drinking. So that no one can detect how much we drink.

So when we stop drinking, then what?

We forget that we don’t have to PUSH so hard. We have to learn to stop taking on too much — like when you try to combine early sobriety with Whole 30, a three week juice cleanse, or a complete home decluttering.

What happens when you stop pushing? What happens if you let the route reveal itself?

If you drive along the road, and see what comes next.

(I know, right? Feels tense. All that used-to-it-being-so-hard.)

I get this email from my penpals all the time: What are you going to do next? And I always say the same thing: I don’t know. It’s just happening.

Yes, I’m driving my sober car. Yes, I have momentum. Yes, I make sure my sober car stays on the road. Yes, I make sure that I don’t drift from my sober supports.

But the rest of things? I don’t know. I’m not directing all those details in my life any more. I’ve given up pushing things to be right, or to go this way, or to happen on this avenue.

Instead, I am doing the next right thing.

I didn’t plan to write a book. I didn’t plan to be sober penpals with 2,436 people. I didn’t plan to (last week) mail out 1,100 printed case studies, each one with a tea bag glued to the front page (should have seen me in the store buying 44 boxes of teabags, 25 individually wrapped sachets in each — and the cashier, what could she say, she didn’t even ask me what I was doing, it was just too strange).

From the beginning, ever since I first got sober, I heard this: What are you doing when you get to Day 30? (I don’t know, just keep going.) What’s your plan for this penpal thing, like what will you do when you have more than 10 penpals? (I don’t know. Now I have 2,400+ and it’s fine.) What you’re doing now, this sober support thing, it isn’t scalable. (Who says? And anyway, it’s working for now.) What will you do if you’re on CBC Radio next week and get a bunch of new subscribers? (I don’t know.)

I could ruminate, which is a ferocious wolfie trick. I could worry and hand-wring. I could NOT start things because I don’t know how they might END. I could NOT start sending out personalized audio replies because: What happens if 100 people want this?

I don’t know. I’m not there yet.

What are your plans with your catering job, Belle? You can’t continue to do both things, you’ll have to choose if you want to ‘help the sober world’ or make bagels.

I don’t know. I’m not there yet. I’m doing what I’m doing, and so far I’m fine. I like the novelty and the variety. I’m not overtired. I’m not relapsing. For whatever reason, I seem to have good boundaries about not being on-call 24/7. So for now, I just shrug. No plan. Not pushing this thing. Don’t know where it’s going.

What will you do when you need to hire an assistant? (I don’t know.)

What will you to ensure you stay sober? (Everything I’ve done up to now.)

What about the rest of it?

I don’t know.

BUT. Being sober means that I have a clear enough head to take advantage of opportunities as they come up. Being a non-drinker allows me the clarity to figure out what to do next when I need to.

This part is for you:

Stop pushing. Stop trying to make your external life go the way you want. Stop worrying about what happens next. If you’re sober, that’s enough for now. You don’t know what’s happening next. You can’t know.

But you CAN be sober, go forward with clarity, with your head held high, and with a good night’s sleep you can make decisions about what’s best for you as things come up.

And you know what? That’ll put you ahead of 95% of the population. You’ll be awake, sober, facing forward, making decisions when required. Not fretting when they aren’t.


Note: I don’t usually publish with so many external links, because I usually write only for people who already know me. So if you don’t know me, or you’re new to this sober thing, then the links are to help provide context. If you hate links, then ignore them :)


Thanks for reading. Can you click on the little ‘clap’ picture? 👏🏼 Helps people find the stuff I write. Merci.

Belle Robertson, sober 5+ years, blogs and writes and records free sober audios. She has supported 2,760 people, individually, as a one-on-one sober penpal, as they work on being sober. She works as a text designer, a baker & caterer, and as a sober coach. She thinks that pineapple upside-down cake rocks. This blurb updated April 2018.