New Level, New Devil

If you are a regular listener to The Bubble Hour podcast, you will have heard me speak many times about the beautiful rituals and routines that support my sobriety: grinding good coffee beans, steaming milk to the perfect froth, using beautiful mugs. You’ll have heard how “Dibbs” ice cream nuggets became my pacifier in early sobriety. You’ll know I order O’Douls in a wineglass at restaurants, and sip tonic water with a dash of grapefruit juice at parties.

If you’ve ever ridden in my car or peeked into my (enormous, iphone-swallowing, key-vaporizing) purse, you’ll recognize the smattering of gold-foil balls as the remains of Ferraro Roche chocolates.  I buy them in sleeves of three, saving the last one for The Mr. as an act of self-control. The cleaners at our office could tweet scandalous photos of the empty 100-calorie packs of chocolate covered pretzels they remove from my garbage can each week (they don’t, I hope). Occassionally, when I think maybe the chocolate thing has gone too far, I’ll buy a bag of oranges and convince myself that they are yummy treats, too.

Yes friends, I owe my sobriety to coffee, tea with one milk and two sugars, ice cream, chocolate, fizzie drinks, and citrus fruit. For 3 years and 3 months this perfect magic formula has kept me strong and sober.

hotel essentials

My “essentials” for business travel – sweet snacks and evening drinks, coffee with proper milk for morning. (The can opener is for the milk, but I know you noticed the corkscrew! Wino radar!)

I have everything figured out, thank you very much. Don’t drink and work on the shit. No problem. Tickety boo. I even called a counselor to help me start working on the super-tricky shit that I can’t seem to get past on my own. Yep. I am goooood at recovery.

Until….what is this new agonizing pain?

Excuse me? An ulcer? Ohhh-kay. There’s a pill for that, right?

A what? A special diet? A special diet that requires no coffee, caffeinated tea, dairy, chocolate, carbonated beverages, or citrus? You’re kidding, right? RIGHT? You’re KIDDING, RIGHT??!

Oh My Lanta. Kill me now.

As the Evangelical preachers say “New level, new devil”.  Sometimes when we get strong and become better people, the “devil” will come at us with a vengeance to tempt us back to failure and despair.

That’s how this feels, but I know it isn’t the case.  I am not happy, mind you.  I feel right rotten and all of my favourite things make me feel even worse. But you know what? I can handle it.

I think this is a little nudge from above, telling me it is time to drop the crutches. An opportunity to become (even) stronger, not an evil curse.

Compared to the heroics involved in setting down the wine glass bottle box, this should be a cinch. I bought a bamboo whisk for my green tea and two peacock mugs from Pier 1. You just friggin watch me drink my tea by the campfire this summer.

We can do hard things. Right?

teacups and whisk

It’s all about tools and pretty things. I will survive!


About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on May 14, 2014, in Getting Sober and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. Hi Jean- this is a bit late of a comment as you posted this well over year ago, but thought you may fine it useful. I gave up caffeine to help out my poor, over worked liver. I swapped coffee for dandelion root tea, and I don’t even miss the coffee. I think it might be because it has the same bitterness of coffee, and has the same color and ‘texture’. Anyway it’s worked for me! Wonderful blog keep up the good work.


  2. Hi Unpickled, i have no words to express how you changed my life! Literally, bcs I’m not a native English speaker, so my vocabulary is very limited hahaha
    your blog has been part of my everyday routine for 3 months. Every night I go to bed, spend my 5 lives on candy crush then read your blog until i fall asleep 🙂
    after all this time reading your posts and your followers comments, I felt like sharing an experience that was important for my recovery and might be for others.
    One year ago I started a new job… I became a forensic analist. I don’t know how you see this job in your country, but I live in a quite violent place, so seeing corpses is like a routine for me. Here we basically classify the deaths in two categories: the violent deaths (murders) and the non-violent deaths (suicides, “home deaths” etc). What impressed me most was that, among the non-violent deaths, I ‘d say 90% were alcoholics… Alcohol addicts that killed themselves or drank til death in their homes, or on the streets, or even drouned in a 30 cm deep pond bcs they were too drunk to “swim”. I had been fighting for a while against my addiction, but the images I saw since i started this job, and the suffering I saw in these peoples families really helped me see the future that was waiting for me if I didn’t stop. I woudn’t want this for my worst enemy… Neither for me or my family…


  3. After i got sober I realized I have a really sensitive stomach, sugar makes me sick, eggs, dairy, wheat. I’m pretty much stuck with fresh, whole foods. But as long as I don’t abuse myself and eat the ‘yummy’ stuff anyways I feel better than ever! It has been one thing after another in my recovery, but they have all been annoyances that bring strength. Good Luck!


  4. Noooooooooo…..I live for my fizzy sparkling water with berries and my chocolate!!!! BOOOOOO…. to ulcers!!!!


  5. You are handling the new challenge with such grace and style, as always! I am crazy about the cups and just hope I can find them at our local store!


  6. Okay…please give me some strength here. The day I have been dreading since I quit drinking, I thought I would be okay, but I am feeling very anxious. I have a big wedding tons of people I know, it is going to be fun ( I hope and think!) Just an hour to go and feeling very overwhelmed. Just got my hair done, dress is great, I look great but I am feeling pretty weak. I know I won’t actually do it, but am I going to have a good time without drinking and is that all I am going to be thinking of, how I CANT do what everyone else is DOING!? I have been sooo strong for the past month and I can’t lose all that for just one night of partying. I know this all, and again I know I won’t do it, it is just the anticipation that is killing me. Okay thanks for listening, going to do my makeup and hopefully chill a bit. I will be back with the ending of this saga…LOL! Stay tuned : )


    • Stay strong! I know you can do it! Annie x


    • I hope you feel the strength of so many of us cheering for you! May you ENJOY the occasion and still remain true to your pledge to be alcohol free. It is absolutely possible!


      • Thank you so much for all your support : ) I did it!!!! I laughed, enjoyed myself and woke up feeling wonderful and sooo damn proud of myself! I have to say it wasn’t that easy… the anxiety was what really affected me, the unknown, but I am learning to not pre-judge how I will feel. Once I got there, it seemed to be easier. There was no way I would ruin all my hard work for one night : ) Thanks again and hopefully things will get easier as it goes on


        • How are you doing today, SG?


          • Hey there!!! I am feeling GREAT..thanks for asking : ) I have been sooo busy with my kids and life and have been meaning to update. It has been 43 days since my last drink and I haven’t felt better in a long time : ) I finally just started telling some friends that I haven’t already told that I quit drinking and everyone seems to be so supportive. I don’t let them know the extreme details that pushed me to quit, I really am trying to be private and do this privately(this blog totally helps! Thx), I just mention that it wasn’t working for me anymore and that I was getting sick from drinking (jeas, it took me only 30 plus years to figure this out!)
            My husband said he hasn’t been this happy with me in a long time, my mother said she is so proud of me and I feel so proud of myself and I haven’t been this happy with myself in a long time either. It truly is a new way of life…unreal : ) You don’t realize it unless you do it.
            I know this journey has just begun and many things will try to throw me off track but as for now, there is no way I am going back. I just can’t…I am super determined. Don’t get me wrong I always wonder why I can’t have a social drink and be like plenty of others I see…why do I have to drink to get drunk? Why do I have to endure this journey? I am trying to stop myself with these questions and slowly am letting them go. They are not me and I need to worry only about me : ) Taking care of me is #1 and I have been doing that plenty lately. All the time I would have been spent drinking I have been reading, exercising, playing with my girls or even pampering myself. It is amazing how much more time I have for myself now. I am notice a true change in myself, mind, body and soul : )
            I really can’t thank you enough for this blog, it has been and will continue to be a tool in my recovery…a very important one. Hugs, Sara


            • I really understand wanting to keep some things private ( sharing candidly is for the blogosphere! 😉 I just have been saying I’m trying to lose weight. Not a lie! But for those of us early in recovery, it seems so fragile, telling anybody but my husband feels like it could break into a thousand pieces. I am so afraid someone would peer-pressure me. And I’m forty! But with a diet, people just shrug and move on. It feels safer, for now. So I have so much love for you all, my soul sister and brothers I’ve never met. Thank you all. You are all amazing!


  7. Hey unpicked! I found ur blog a week ago and I just want to say thank you for ur blog. I have been trying to quit on and off for longer than I can remember. I am a nurse and I see the negative effects of alcohol on a weekly basis with my patients. I love not drinking but something keeps pulling me back to it. I can’t imagine my relationship without date nights and alcohol. The ridiculous part is that we just started going to therapy six months ago and every session seems to be “who got drunk this week and hurt the other person.” So even my thought that I need to drink to keep my relationship is a ridiculously flawed. I just want to be ‘normal’ and be able to have a drink every now and then but it always turns into a problem. I need help. I tried AA and it wasn’t for me. I’m happy to find that there are other professional mothers who are facing the same struggles I am, I thought I was alone in this! Any advice on starting a blog? I need accountability and it can’t keep telling my close circle that I am done drinking because they have watched me fail countless times and they no longer take it seriously.


    • Thanks for your sweet words – I am happy to be helping people with my story. We are really all so much alike that there is nothing all that different about me or anyone, just that I am willing to put it all out there and hopefully it is a good, informative read. I think you should consider joining the BFB yahoo board ( as there is incredible support and accountability there. Starting a blog is super easy ( will walk you through it). We all wish we could be “normal” drinkers, but the thing is that normies can quit easily, can moderate, don’t black out, don’t lose control, etc. So if you can’t “be” normal, well that could very well be because you “aren’t” normal when it comes to alcohol – or let’s say that normal for you might be better off without it!


  8. I feel your pain!

    When I quit drinking I developed an addiction to sugar. Strangely, I didn’t realise it at the time, and neither did I really put any weight behind the thoughts surrounding my decision to eat/drink so much sugar. I fell into the same trap as I did with drinking – everybody else does it so it must be ok?

    Then I read two books that sent me on a different path. Perhaps, they can help you also.

    1. The Liver Cleanse Diet by Sandra Cabot.

    This helped me understand how important it is to take care of your liver. It made me realise that giving up drinking and then filling that void with sugar was a little bit hypocritical (In my case). I did a 8-week liver cleanse and today I eat that way 90% of my life.

    2. Fat Chance by Robert Lustig.

    If watching Blackfish stops people from going to SeaWorld, then reading Fat Chance will severely reduce your sugar intake. It’s tough, because sugary things taste so damn good, but understanding the harm that it causes as really helped me reduce to intake to a trickle.

    So what’s life like without sugar?

    It’s a struggle, but an interesting one. I go to the Farmer’s Market on a Sunday and there is this guy who sells Vegan desserts. They are nearly sugar free (a drop of agave, honey or natural sugars), and they taste relish. It’s also fun making my own. Fruit also replaces my chocolate bars, and the natural fibre contained within them makes for a nice balance.

    I realised that it wasn’t just alcohol that was reading my sense, but food too.

    Hope this helps, and if you do carry out the 8-week liver cleanse you may need a buddy to help you along and I can be there for you if you like.

    Take care



    • I quit drinking a little over 3 years ago. I completely owe my success to a traditional recovery program. BUT, No one ever told me that there were other things that I needed to recover from!!
      First of all, I seriously thought that it was okay to wait around for other people to act like I though they should. Then life would be great. Well that didn’t happen. So I got involved in a program for that. (Two actually.)
      Then I realized that I am hopelessly addicted to sugar. So I got into a program for that, too. Then I fell off that food program.
      All these programs are addressing the same issue. Just like my drinking I though these other habits would make me feel better. I am grateful though that I went through enough pain to realize that these habits are dysfunctional as well.
      I recently started a blog myself about recovering from (insert damaging behavior here). I am blogging about my journey to living the life of my dreams.
      It is brand, brand new check it out here if you are interested.


  9. nomoregrapegirl

    I recently stumbled upon your site and OMG, you and I are mental twins…separated at birth.
    I too needed to get off wine. I did. (day one….if it’s day one are we allowed to speak in the past tense about drinking? screw it. just did. 🙂 I am also going to blog my journey for accountability…..because I know I NEED it. Love it if you could follow me.
    Here we go! Shit.


  10. Give yourself some gentle love and you will get through this transition too. Time to nurture your body and respond to its needs. God will help you. I wish you well. Your words in your blog have really held me these last few months and I am loving my sober life. I believe in you! Green tea is wonderful stuff! Take care and God bless xx


  11. LearningSelfControl

    Wow – I am so pleased to have discovered your blog. I recently ‘gave up’ (drastically cut down) on Sugar, which I now realise was definitely a replacement for the fact that I ‘gave up’ alcohol a year and a half ago.

    When I first attempted to kick the Sugar habit (2 months ago) – it was also all I could think about! I had to change my brand of tea because I didn’t like the taste of it without sugar. 2 months in to a life with reduced sugar and I feel pretty good. I always try to keep the end goal in mind.
    A happy, healthy mind, body and life. (Though its’ easier said than done!)

    Keep up the good work 🙂 xx


  12. I’ve been trying to post a comment, but it hasn’t worked, so I am sorry if 3 similar comments suddenly appear later! I’m having a really bad day. The party last night which I was so dreading turned out to be fine, and I was pleased with myself that I had managed not to drink. But today, I have plunged back into the doubts and am really questioning whether I can continue to do this. I feel as though I have thought of nothing else for 22 days and I am exhausted.


    • Hi Annie. It is all consuming in the early days, like you can think of nothing else. There is another site I use,, which is a big help too. Try not to think of the long term, just today. I will not drink today. It’s a bit easier to ‘swallow’ 🙂


    • Hello Annie! Thinking of you and wishing you strength on your journey.


  13. I’m on Day 21 and in a couple of hours I’m heading out to my first big party since I started my journey. And I’m SO WORRIED that I’m going to crumple under pressure. Help!


    • Annie, you can do it! Think about tomorrow morning. You will be so proud of yourself and happy when you wake up and remember you did not drink. I am realizing this response will be likely after your event starts. Good luck Annie!


      • I made it! Thank you so much for your supportive comment. I was literally the ONLY person not drinking at this party. Oddly, I didn’t find it particularly hard that everyone was drinking champagne while I had lemonade; what was difficult was that within a short time, no one made any sense, and I had to sit next to people who breathed alcohol fumes on me. But I did enjoy myself! And I’m so thrilled that I managed it, and I’ve woken up really happy on Day 22!


        • I am so happy for you, Annie! We both made it to 22 days! The alcohol fumes thing is something I understand – when I was at a function, my colleague was drinking red wine – I nearly passed out from the chemical trail! I think I am hyper-aware of the smell, right now. I am so glad you not only attended, you had a great time! Mares


        • So glad you made it through the party and weekend. I did too! I am on Day 8. You are on Day 25 now I think! Keep it up one day at a time. That is the way I am approaching this time. As Mo said above – don’t worry too much about the future, take it one day at a time – today I will not drink.


          • I sincerely can’t believe the things I’m reading here! What on earth is the matter with you folks? This blog is reading like a twilight episode! It does not appear that curing yourselves of an alcohol dependency is what you are truly looking to do, rather, you have found others with mental issues like your own and you keep feeding and nurturing that. Go ahead, blame parties, your willpower, your past, whatever. If any of you really are alcohol addicts, then you would move heaven and earth to make it go away. What a joke. Where and how did you come to believe that “one day at a time” is how to handle this type of thing? If you are able to spend that much time and energy feeding that type of mental BS that was told to you, then you should be willing to spend that same amount of time and energy getting your butts on “Ibogaine”! You people don’t want to be cured, you want attention, in any way you can get it. Good grief people, do some research and save yourselves if that’s what you truly want, if not, at least be honest about it! Don’t worry, I’m out of here, I’ll never read or post here again. You people can get cured, or keep looking at your “pretty mugs and things one day at a time”!


            • Fascinating perspective – sorry you won’t be able to read this follow up message. There is a variety of medicinal solutions to help stop drinking. Glad you found one you are so passionate about. Recovery is about more than that, though. Recovery is discovering why we drink, what we need to change, and how we can move forward in a stronger, more peaceful manner so that we don’t rely on booze, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex, knitting, or posting angry anonymous comments on the internet as an unhealthy, ineffective outlet for our pain. Readers, please beware of anyone who promises a magical cure. Do the work required to change from within, and don’t drink today. Peace.



            • Liz – Good Bye!!


              • Unpickled: Thanks for your thoughtful response to Liz. I was stunned by her anger and impatience. You handled her comments so well for those of us in early sobriety. I posted on BFB today, Your blog was the the first I found and was so inspiring to me. I have read every post. Thank you. My thoughts are with you as you deal with a new health issue. I hope your ulcer is not too painful and your strategies for managing it are working.


                • Via, I read your post on BFB. Thank you for all your support here on this blog. I am heading into another party weekend, and today had big resolve issues. I asked a friend if she would be disappointed in me if she saw me drinking a glass of champagne at this party tomorrow. But, at 27 days sober, I think it would be me who would be most disappointed if I broke my sobriety now.


                • You are so sweet – thank you for your kind words. I am doing great and tapping into the enormous strength I have developed through my recovery journey to face this challenge and take ownership of my health and well being. It is a great feeling!


  14. A gorgeous mug will never give you an ulcer. No doctor in the world will ever tell you that pretty things are bad for your health. So enjoy your green tea. Savor every delicious drop 😉


  15. Oh, you can do this! I am no one to comment on sweet and caffeinated indulgences (though an early bout of heartburn in sobriety made me cut out iced coffee and smoking), but lately have taken a real liking to tea. I thought my timing was pretty dumb given spring and warmer weather is here. Who thinks of tea as a summer drink? Well, maybe we should. I am excited for you.


  16. Oh what a shame! But at the heart of it, you haven’t lost anything – that is, you know that the rituals and the sensory pleasures are the really important thing, irrespective of the substance. Is it a crutch? Sure, but we can’t remove all the pleasures in life just because they help us enjoy our days, right?

    The first thing I bought myself when I gave up drinking was a beautiful mug, that I promptly forbade my family to use. And some really good decaf coffee – I’m not a decaf fan, but this was to replace the 5-6pm First Glass of Wine, and I like sleeping. And it’s become such an important thing. I can see that I’ll have to travel with it. In a way, it’s not just the fact that it’s nice, and delicious, and pretty – it’s actually the fact that it’s the same each day. I don’t want to get home and have to think about what I want to eat, drink, do. I want to get home, have my particular drink in its designated glass, because that is the marker that the day is done.


  17. I’m so sorry to hear that your go to treats are now hands off! I love chocolate covered pretzels too. BIG bummer. It’s like what?! Love your sense of humor though. I can feel your strength and your this isn’t going to get me down attitude through your words. Day 175 here and your blog has helped and inspired me from day 1. Love the Bubble Hour too! Hang in there!


  18. Coming Clean

    Hi Unpickled and fellow bloggers. I still check in every two or three days and love reading all of your comments. I am now 16 months sober and going strong. I do know what you mean about other habits taking the place of alcohol. I am onto the Nespresso pods and am going through them at the rate of knots. I think it is all harmless and it makes my day! I had a family Easter with a large family reunion. There was only one night I found it difficult and it was at sundown when everyone were settling in for a long night of wine drinking. I was raw and edgy and feeling empty and irritable. It took a plateful of good food to settle me down. I think it is the low blood sugar which plays havoc with me. I love to eat fruit now that I have no wine. I particularly crave blueberries and small red delicious apples.


  19. Obviously I know nothing about tea. I pictured you whisking away, breaking open the Lipton teabag causing all of the ground leaves to go into the water. Disgusting. A quick Google trip taught me a lot. Ha. Also, Jean: Are you and Martha Stewart besties? You know a lot of good things.


  20. Have you tried Rooibos tea (South African red tea)? It’s very gentle on the tummy and it’s decaf and has more anti-oxidants than green tea. It’s got a warmer, nuttier flavor, too. I love it with a teaspoon of milk or half-and-half and a teensy bit of sugar. Hopefully it will be something you can have. Hang in there!


  21. Hi it’s my first time on here I heard something about you in passing and thought I would have a little nose… Unfortunately I appear to be the opposite I feel I have a problem knowing when to stop when I’m out.. Not always but sometimes I get the devil in me and that’s it… I have all the awful shame the following day. I love to keep fit so I suppose that’s my chocolate substitute so it doesn’t make sense to me why I go over the top

    The pretty cup idea is a really good though my mum use to always drink out of a china cup.


  22. Oh no! While I’m sure you’ll handle it beautifully with your matcha, what a bummer to have your tried-and-true tools taken from you. Evil ulcer. In terms of tea, and ritual, and pretty things, I highly recommend pu-ehr tea, which you can buy in beautiful round disks from China. It has all the richness of coffee, to me, and makes a worthy replacement. Best of luck to you.


  23. love the new mug… yes you and we can do hard things… hopefully dummy ulcer will go away and you can enjoy some of your favorite tings again soon! Wishing you a speedy recovery. Hugs!


  24. Oh the pretty things. It helps all of it. I do know that an ulcer is different than GERD but they can be triggered by the same things. My GERD happens when I eat bread. If I stay away from that, the GERD in under control. Just saying in case it would help you. Tried O’Doules and it triggered it a little as well whereas another non-alcoholic beer did not.
    Don’t you just love the new levels!? & hehe, I missed the corkscrew until you pointed it out.
    You’ve got this.
    Me, working on day 5.


  25. Oh my lanta! You still made me laugh. Sorry about the health issue, I’ve no doubt you’ll come through this with flying colors. Thanks to you I’m on day 291. I’ve heard there’s some decaf herbal coffee substitute, I haven’t tried it yet . Teecino, maybe you could try that. My best to you.


  26. That makes good send. creating good habits to substitute for bad ones.


  27. You’re so strong, and such an inspiration. I hope you feel better soon!


  28. I gave up alcohol, and need my crutches, too. I have many food allergies, and Gerd. Instead of ice cream I make a frozen banana, frozen mango and cashew nut sorbet in my Vitamix …my treat for giving up alcohol…..I also make cashew cream to use on place of cream. And, I learned to eat dark chocolate, 85%, and now find any other kind too sweet. No more sinus attacks, no more Gerd attacks, and I’m truly enjoying eating this way and feeling great.
    Good luck….you can meet and overcome your challenge….just get better


  29. Oh my goodness, your comment about the cleaners in your office tweeting scandalous pictures of your wrappers made me literally snort. I put my wrappers in my purse and throw them away in the rubbish outside the building for the very same reason. I am not fooling anyone (including myself), but do it any way. I hope your ulcer improves and admire your brave attitude! I need to cut back on sugar soon, but am using chocolate and treats as my crutch, early in sobriety. It is getting time to address the chocolate situation. You are such an inspiration. On day 19 of sobriety, I owe you a big thank you for helping me find my way and for giving me courage to do this!



  30. Don’t get me started on sugar. I really struggle with it. I either try really hard to resist… try hard to moderate.. or I go ‘fuck it’ and binge. Eerily similar to how I used to be with wine. Sigh. Not sure I’ll ever get on top of this one.. I mean.. can we eliminate sugar entirely…? I guess this is what you’re having to do… keep us posted xxxx


  31. ‘don’t drink and work on the shit’. ‘tools and pretty things’. it would appear that a side effect of the ulcer is ‘saying fabulous stuff’ 🙂

    I am sure you will not only survive, but thrive. doing hard things also leads to better things, as we recovering folks find all the time. but yes, it does suck too! I hope you find lots of new pretty and delicious things to enjoy!


  32. I’m sure you will find new treats that are equally delicious and much less painful!
    Sometimes we just need a little push to try something different.


  33. Oh dear. You of all people can do hard things but hell, man – this is a killer. I’ll be thinking of you!


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