Living Sober on the Other Side of the World…

One of the things that has been wonderful about getting sober, is meeting new people online from around the planet. I have readers in 32 countries. Isn’t it incredible, when you think about the reach of the internet?


I think of myself as a student of the world. I’ve been around. And when my friend Lotta Dann, who runs the Living Sober NZ website, was looking for someone three years sober or more, to answer some questions for her readers, I jumped at the chance. I’ve never been to New Zealand.


Living Sober…

Lotta, who is also Mrs. D is Going Without is someone I admire and read regularly. And her Living Sober website is full of fun activities and information for recovering people all over the globe. I have traveled in person to that side of the world a few years ago, and it took fourteen hours and the day changed. I had to spend the night in Hawaii. These days, with a little lag, Mrs. D. and I are able to communicate real time. Awesome.


Take a look at my interview and join the Living Sober NZ community if you like – it’s free. Leave a comment!  Click below. Oh and I had to tell my age… I guess you knew I wasn’t an ingénue, with all this experience under my belt, right? I’m actually proud to be reinventing myself at this late date.



And I’m proud to be Living Sober all over the damn place!



A community website designed to support people who wish to free themselves from the clutches of alcohol. Living Sober is not for profit, nor is it concerned with alcohol reform or public policy. It is about self-education and empowerment, based firmly around the concept of community.


Today I’m not drinking because I’m living LARGE (and sober)…


How come you’re not drinking?

Excuse Me Madam, There’s a Monkey on Your Back…

monkey addiction

Nice monkey…


I think it’s universal that people who are in active addiction feel a sense of urgency. There is always the need for “more”. It’s why we hide wine bottles in winter boots. It’s why we look around sheepishly, and polish off the dregs of other people’s drinks while they are in the bathroom. There is an emptiness that needs filling. The necessity of finding the next fix is all.


Monkeys Don’t Make Great Pets…

The analogy of the monkey on your back is an apt one. Addiction is like a hungry, messy, unwieldy primate playing piggyback. And if you’ve ever known anyone with a pet monkey, you know they throw poop. They are not charming companions. They climb humans like trees and dig through their hair for bugs with sharp claws…


I had someone write to me yesterday who had just been on a sober vacation. She said it was the first time in years she had been to the beach without a giant sippy-cup filled with iced wine. And she didn’t stub her toes or act a fool or have that continuous, lowgrade worry she’d run out of liquor on a remote island.


That’s it in an oyster shell. She was not carrying the need for more like a portable cooler (or a hairy beast). How freeing!


Hiding, Lying and Monkey Business…

And it’s not just vacation. I hear from people all the time who take a sippy-cup roadie while they walk their baby in a stroller. Or hide liquor in a coffee cup so the “kids won’t know”. They leave bottles in the wheelwells of cars, or tuck shooters in the side pockets of purses. Stash a pint in the desk drawer, just in case. It’s exhausting to be this devious and dependent.


One of the greatest things about sobriety is the reduction of stress. There is no more need for lies, excuses or the hiding of vodka in golf bags in the basement. Gone are the machinations – I’d better make sure I stash an opened bottle in my closet, behind the heavy coats. I don’t want anyone at the party to know I fill my wine glass every time I take a pee, but I don’t want to have to wait till they all leave to get good and drunk.


You know the old saying, “No one is smart enough to lie”? Add drunk to the mix and you forget where you hid the booze, because you were in the bag when you hid it. It’s horrible – lie upon lie upon lie. Just like carrying something heavy on your back.


When we get sober, the bad monkey is gone. Everyone thinks they want a pet monkey.


Until they have a pet monkey…


Today I’m not drinking because I am going to the zoo – to see the monkeys…


How come you’re not drinking?


No More Sippy-Cup Full of Booze on the Beach Hike

I was speaking with someone new to recovery the other day. Per usual, I was telling her that being out in nature and getting physical exercise was a great way to stay sober. I went on to say that hiking or kayaking or even going for a long stroll on the beach was an excellent way to ensure that you would not be using alcohol or other drugs. I barely took a breath before I expounded on the benefits of fresh air and comradery.


She waited for a pause in the monologue and said, “You know, I don’t think that’s going to work for me. I drank while I was exercising for years.”


Exercise as a Trigger?

I am ashamed to say, with all my bravado, I did not have a good response. I think I said, “Oh my.” I was flummoxed when she listed the things she did while in her cups. She said, “Cross country skiing, hiking, biking – I carried a sippy-cup or a thermos. There are drink holders on bikes and pocket flasks to keep you warm while snowshoeing and there is nothing like pausing at the top of a hill for a rest and the reward of a slug of wine. I kept it in my backpack.”


I’ve been thinking of this conversation ever since. And what I should have said.


First of all, in recovery we are developing those practices that improve quality of life. You may say a belt of booze at the top or a mountain is refreshing, but what about the trip back down? And a “warming” guzzle of brandy in the middle of the winter woods, is actually dangerous. Let’s be practical. If getting on your bike gives you a yen for iced wine in your water bottle, shake things up.


Change it Up!

If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have given the following advice. Because moving your body and filling your hands with something like ski poles, is still the best way I know to sideline the cravings early in recovery.

  • Find some sober friends – This may be a time when you need to make new friends. I have found that sober people do not understand the need to anesthetize when gazing at vistas.
  • Develop new interests – If skiing was the place you always had a few red wines at lunch, try ice-skating. And hot chocolate.
  • Get on the bike with a bottle of water – The little metal holder on the frame is actually for water. Not a rum and coke. Force yourself to start on the ride with water in your sippy-cup. For the duration of the ride you will not have an opportunity to drink.
  • Which reminds me: stop calling it a sippy-cup – You are not a toddler. Stop acting like one.
  • Start being the designated photographer – I have found that filling one’s hands with a camera or a racket or canoe paddles keeps one’s hands busy. Busy hands are sober hands. In the photo above, not only am I navigating a slippery dock in 3 inch flip-flops, but I am waiting for the perfect, breaking wave…
  • Up your game – If you are able to drink a split of champers and hike back along the trail, you need to increase the difficulty. No one who is a real hiker or mountain climber would even think of drinking (or smoking or using) while on the trail.



Worth waiting for… Lake Michigan, a dock, my hands full of camera phone…

Thinking on My Feet…

It’s like those arguments where later you think, “Damn, I should have reminded him about the time he left me to clean up the trash the raccoons had spread all over the neighborhood…” I really do wish I had been better at thinking on my feet. The good news is that I write a blog. I always get the last word and I will print this and hand it to little Miss Sippy. She means well, and this was no argument. She was asking for advice…


Today I’m not drinking because I have a water bottle, not a “sippy-cup”…


How come you’re not drinking?


The Days of Wine and Contusions…

Brenda responded to one of my blog posts by saying, “I always drink club soda, because I like staying in control at all times.” That’s not something you hear every day on a sobriety blog. I think most heavy drinkers love the feeling of being out of control. The photo above is how I saw the world for several years. And how the world saw me. Out of focus. Out of control. Uncomfortably numb…


I have to admit, looking back on the days of wine and contusions, I liked the feeling of getting drunk. Emphasis on the word “getting”. There was that fuzzy half hour when all my troubles slipped away and I felt release. But, I drank so fast, and so much, the “tipsy phase” didn’t last long. I was in the “drunk phase” within an hour.


Bruises, Contusions and Chipped Teeth

After that, it was a calamity of overturned chairs and pratfalls. The long tumble from a barstool (three strong men to hoist me up)… I hear from readers all the time, about their prior, drunken falls down flights of stairs. It’s a wonder we lived to tell the tales: collapsing in gravel driveways, cutting off important body parts while cooking, operating heavy machinery badly… all that broken glass.


What in the world were we thinking? A friend of mine says, “The reason we were able to withstand the catastrophic accidents, was because we were loose and anesthetized.” That is probably true, but I walked around with black and blue shins for a number of years. The “frequent flyer” discounts at my cosmetic dentist were a direct result of passing out face first onto granite countertops. I felt too pooped to participate most of the time. The only thing I cultivated was thirst, lies and excuses.


No Laughing Matter

I can laugh now at some of the fine messes I got myself into while drunk. It’s sort of like watching that silent movie, where the guy hangs from the face of a clock. My life was death defying and slapstick. But it’s no laughing matter. Drinking plays a big role in reduced work productivity, emergency room visits and avoidable death.


  • 13% – 60% of accidental falls are alcohol related
  • Drowning accidents involve alcohol one-third of the time
  • 8% of all ER visits each year for illness or injuries are associated with alcohol.
  • Evidence links a high proportion of deaths from fires and burns to drinking.
  • 1 in 3 cases of violet crime involve alcohol
  • half of traffic fatalities are alcohol related
  • trauma deaths involve alcohol 50% of the time


Taking Better Care of Yourself…

I still have no feeling in the middle finger of my right hand. I basically cut the tip off while chopping veggies for a salad at a dinner party. My guests didn’t know I was bleeding, because I took another swig of wine, wrapped my finger with a towel and ignored it. I didn’t feel the pain until the next morning. I cannot imagine that scenario now, but it was typical of the ill regard I showed myself when I was in my active addiction. That is no way to entertain. That is no way to live.


These days I am bruise free. I can’t remember the last time I missed a dining room chair, or toppled onto a marble sink in the ladies toilet. My teeth are in my mouth. My life is in focus… and in technicolor.



What? Look at those shins!!!


I tout the reasons for quitting drinking all the time. Stop it for your good looks. Quit for your blood pressure. Get sober so you don’t have to wear long pants, long sleeves and dark glasses. Do it so you can look back on all those crazy, dangerous times and laugh, like it happened to someone else…




Today I’m not drinking because I like my life in focus.


How come you’re not drinking?


A Van, A Thunderstorm, An Orchard,Ten Women in Recovery…

First of all, the concept of me driving a big van in the rain with actual people inside, is a stretch for most of my friends and family. And second, I’m not sure folks would picture me as a farm hand. Or even a hobbyist, with a bucket, a sheaf of wheat sticking out of my mouth and a hoe…


Why then did I find myself driving ten women to an orchard to pick blackberries? My intern Monica and I decided it was the perfect outing for the gaggle (to use a farm term) of newly recovering residents, currently at Sanford House. Getting them into the van was a challenge. “It’s like herding cats,” one of our residents said.


Not to be deterred by an impending electrical storm, we made the trek to the orchard. I had to wrestle buckets out of the hands of the farmer. She was worried we were going to get caught in the rain (or worse). The sky was rumbling ominously, but troopers all, we hit the fields.


Berry picking is a great outing for so many reasons: fresh air, comradery, exercise and the bountiful benefits of the earth. Read all about it below…


Women Farming

Why is Picking Blackberries in a Thunderstorm Good for Recovery?


Today I’m not drinking because I am enjoying the time spent with all those sober women, picking berries like a boss…


How come you’re not drinking?

Midnight at the coffee bar...

Odd Woman In – Drinking in a Late Night Coffee Bar…

I am aware I whine a bit about being the only person not drinking. In a bar, at a party, at a wedding, on a boat – sometimes I feel like Dr. Seuss.  I do not drink it, Mare I am. But I am also ready to stand up and shout when I experience the wonders of recovery.


Coffee Bar Chanteuse…

Flint gets a bad rap. I was there last night to see my friend Annie sing in a bar. It was a bit disorienting, because I was in the heart of downtown and it was cool and artsy and sophisticated. Nothing you read about in the news. Carrie and I found the venue, Good Beans Café on a Flint backstreet, nestled among partially gentrified storefronts and green space. It was housed in a turn of the century building, with a-rose-in-Spanish-Harlem sort of cutting garden skirting the periphery.


We were in a bar, so I ignored the name and assumed it would be another setting where I was the odd woman out. I sidled up to the barkeep to order a gassy water. Low and behold, in place of the usual top shelf no-nos, there was an array of herbal tea options and coffee flavorings with pumps. What?


In the three years I have been in recovery, I have never been to a late night coffee bar. Even after all I have read about dry pubs in London, non-alcoholic dance clubs and college town poetry-slams at dry bars. What a revelation!


It was a great night. I was buzzed on too much caffeine and Annie’s talent. She was in her element. A smoky voiced chanteuse, doing “Mack the Knife” old school. And I was in my element. Great entertainment, good friends and art hung salon style on cracked plaster walls.


penny lane

On the wall (I WANT this) “Penny Lane” by Jennie Lynn


And no alcohol to tiptoe around.


Odd woman in…


Today I’m not drinking because I am exploring the late night, alcohol-free options…

Annie sober bar

Annie in her element – doing “My Way”…

How come you’re not drinking?



The Four Hour Benchmark – Partying Sober


I was always a good four hour drinker. If I had a glass of wine or two getting ready and a roadie for liquid courage, I’d arrive at the party with a little buzz and about four hours until the witching hour, when I sneaked out the back door. I was famous for ghosting. I’d hit that benchmark where things were starting to get fuzzy and I’d think, “I had better get out of here now, or I am going to do something I’d regret if I could remember it in the morning…”


There were occasions I didn’t listen to my own good advice, but those were the times I blush to think about (it takes four guys to lift me off the floor when I’m in my cups). It was always better to get the phone call saying, “What happened to you last night? You disappeared.” The alternative usually involved ice packs or police lights…


Anyway, it occurred to me this weekend, that I am a good, four hour sober partier too. If the get-together does not involve sack races or watching back to back pirated movies in a viewing room, I am frankly bored. After four hours of teetotalling, I’m ready to politely thank my host and hightail it out of there or crawl out of my own skin.


Here’s Why:

Hour One: There is parity in the first hour. Even if your friends had a cocktail while perfecting their vogue looks, they are usually not tipsy in hour one. They might have a glass of wine or a beer to break the ice. Anyone who is doing keg stands or shots in hour one is not your friend anyway, so they are to be ignored. You grab a gassy water in a wine glass and mingle. For me, this is always awkward – one of the big reasons I used to drink as much a I did was because I felt uncomfortable in a social setting.


Hour Two: In the line up at the open bar, you notice people are getting a bit friendlier. Your second and third club soda (lemon in one, lime in the other!) goes down the hatch smooth as silk. You’ve talked to some folks you know and a few others, emboldened by their beer, come to talk to you. You’ve only looked at your watch once. You are still having fun, especially if there is a boat ride or antique cars or a performance. At this point, I begin to realize there is a bit of a disconnect. It might just be me.


Hour Three: The volume has increased in hour three and you have switched to soda with “a splash of orange juice”. How much gassy water can one person consume? Dancing has begun, even if it isn’t a dance party. You check your watch surreptitiously – twice. People are cozier still. A friend who is also in recovery asks, “So, how far in would you be if you were still drinking?” and you laugh and say, “Oh God – eight wines?” You nod at each other, stand and watch the proceedings and it goes without saying that you are better guests now that you are sober…


Hour Four: The witching hour happens whether your friends are big drinkers or not. It is just not the same to be at a party without a glass of wine. At hour four, drinkers are repeating their stories and draping their arms over your shoulders. If there is going to be drama, it will happen now. You are beginning to think about your exit strategy and you are back to plain club soda – no bloody citrus wedge, okay? It crosses your mind just once that it would be nice to feel a glow and then you remind yourself that your “glow” was a conflagration…



A “glow” would be nice… the street theater in my mind…


Street Theater in My Mind

No one understands the little, street theater that goes on in the head of a person in recovery. Except another person in recovery. I do not want a drink. But the longer I am at this sober “thing” the more I realize the occasional challenge I face. As I sit at a party, I am bombarded with mental images. I see the face of a therapist, there is a flashback of a time I was drunk, a warning aphorism blinks like neon, I watch someone swallow, I play a drinking scenario through to its natural conclusion, I tell myself I am strong, I tell myself to get out there and make new friends


You get the picture. It’s tiring. And I think it’s fair, that after a few hours of earnest, well behaving I can go home. I can protect myself. Out the front door – no ghosting. The perfect guest. A lovely party. But please – no more than four hours…


Today I’m not drinking because I am looking at my watch…


How come you’re not drinking?