The Secret is to Know When to Stop

I was running yesterday — yes, running, more on that in a moment — tossing around ideas for what to write. Where to start after the past few weeks? Life has served up extreme ends of the spectrum this year –  so happy, so so very sad – it’s hard to talk about one without slighting the other. (For a recap of this year’s rollercoaster, listen to the intro on last week’s Bubble Hour. Then, of course, listen to the rest of the interview after because Meaghan’s story was captivating.)

We are spending the week at our family’s lake cottage on Lac La Biche, situated in the edge of Alberta’s Boreal Forest. Sometimes there are 18 or more of us here and it’s a blur of beach towels and corn cobs and trying to remember which phone charger or coffee cup is mine. 

This week, however, there’s only  three of us and the focus is on puttering – clearing, burning, building, cleaning – and relaxing in equal measure. 

I take long walks every day, something I’ve done since first coming here in the 80s as a teen (gah!). On a recent walk, I reflected on how grateful I am to have healed so quickly and completely from my broken leg and got the idea to try running a few paces. I was dressed in jeans and flats, so I didn’t want to appear to actually be out for a run — not that there was a soul around to see me anyway. But oh my gosh!! I ran and it worked and it didn’t hurt so I just kept running. And the next day I dressed more appropriately and alternated between 100 steps running/walking. No pain! No swelling!

I was so excited that I didn’t turn around at the usual spot, I kept going until our little side road joined the highway and then without thinking I stepped onto the skinny shoulder of the busy logging/oil route. Every minute or two a rig would rumble past but I didn’t care. I felt reckless and free and powerful. I could run! (And then walk, and run, and walk, and RUN!). 

When I got back to the cabin, I burst through the door with sweaty jubilation, eager to share my achievement with anyone who’d listen. When it came out that my route had taken me onto the highway, my family was understandably horrified. 

“That is so dangerous – don’t do that again!”

So yesterday I set off for another run, mostly motivated by the fact that I’d forgotten to pack milk and had been substituting whipping cream in my coffee since arriving. The events of this year have contributed so a 15 lb weight gain as it is, and something should be done. Clearly that something does not involve black coffee, so running it is. 

I found myself on the route towards the highway, debating whether to turn back at the stop sign or (secretly) run the forbidden loop. Sure, I had promised I wouldn’t, but there it was. 

Stop sign
As the red sign got closer and closer, and my mind bounced from blogging ideas to sneaking onto the highway like a naughty child, I suddenly felt an accountability to YOU, dear reader, to “do the next right thing” – just as I’m always telling others to do, even though this time it had nothing to do with alcohol. 

Or did it?

Who do I hurt when I indulge the part of me that says it’s okay to do something risky as long as I keep it quiet? Who do I slight when I think “no one knows”? Myself, that’s who. If I know, someone knows. Secret behaviours can be just as dangerous as running on the highway. 

I decided to capture this moment of awareness to post here, to show you that you’re with me, to remind us all to just keep going and do the next right thing. 

UnPickled running

Tom Cochran was right: the secret IS to know when to stop – be it drinking or withholding truth or putting heavy cream in coffee or not writing. 


  1. I am starting my own recovery blog so i had to check yours out to see how its done. as an alcoholic a half marathon runner and a coffee afficianado i appreciated this blog. I am Danny W and I am an alcoholic and if you wish my blog is at


  2. Hi, I am on Day 11 alcohol free and I found your blog through searching for some support and encouragement in this new journey. I read your first several entries in the beginning because the first several days have been so hard on me (and my husband!). It was a relief to find this type of anonymous support as I’m trying to figure out what I am actually trying to accomplish and committing myself to. Reading some of these type of blogs by women I relate to has encouraged me to start journaling my own thoughts on this journey, to get them out in words and to hopefully find some support online as I am still just in the beginning stages. Would love to have you visit my first entry . Thank you for putting your journey out there for women like me to find.


  3. Hi Jean hope this message finds you well. Today I was reminded of this post while reading bell hook’s “all about love”. Such a good read that I highly recommend. I started it yesterday and am half way done. Such a powerful statement, both in this post and the book. It is among the many new foundational building blocks as I continue to build and strengthen my sobriety and recovery journey. I have just about 2 weeks shy of 8 months sober! The days both crawled and flew by. Here’s to another day sober, onward!


      • Please do, I think you’ll love it. Thanks for the congrats, without finding your blog during those dark days (both physically and spiritually speaking) this past winter, 2 weeks shy of 8 months would not have been possible. You gave me hope, but most importantly you shared with me (and all of us here) the generosity of your love. Now I get to share my love with others without shame and guilt draining my well.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I listened to Shania Twain’s new song – Life’s About To Get Good. I know it’s about her ex husband but it spoke very loudly to me about my past relationship with prescription medication. I found the will to walk away. 😊


  5. Today I celebrate 100 days sober and I know, I KNOW, that I would not be doing so without you. I thank you with all of my being. I am so incredibly grateful for the peace that surrounds me now that I no longer go through the daily cycle of “Ugh, I drank again last night. I am not going to drink this evening. I can’t give it up, I don’t want to give it up, so I’ll just have a glass of wine while making dinner. Oh heck, fill it up again. I’m just going to have a little cordial/brandy now while I clean up. It’s 3:30 a.m. and I am awake and petrified. Ugh, I drank again last night …”

    In this 100 days, I’ve made it through a great number of firsts. I am a professional fundraiser in higher education whose job involves a great deal of socializing with alcohol so I’ve made it through my first reunion weekend, my first meeting over drinks, my first dinner with donors, and my first solo week in a hotel a thousand miles from home. In my personal life, I made it through my first Friday evening, weekend, dinner party, summer holidays, family vacation, late afternoon house and garden projects, and beautiful evenings on my front porch.

    The crazy and wonderful thing is that when I really said, out loud to my husband, that I had to stop and I was DONE, it really wasn’t *that* hard. (The worst for me was the transition between work and the weekend when I used to feel free to indulge all I wanted without too-much self-recrimination.)

    What was hard was the decade leading up to that moment, knowing that my drinking had become problematic and that it was getting worse; but not having any sense that I could stop. I remember about six years ago a life coach encouraging me to take a break for two weeks to see if it helped me sleep, and I couldn’t even fathom it. Like you, I knew that AA wasn’t the way that I wanted to go (with all due respect for the program). It was a simple search for “women and sobriety” that led me to your blog and I was transfixed. I read everything you wrote and started listening to the Bubble Hour. I devoured the blogs that you followed and I found that there is a whole world of women out there who are Down to the little details. (Your comment on a Bubble Hour interview about clicking around the grocery store in your heels and feeling on top of the world and then sinking as you made your way into the adjacent liquor store really resonated with me.)

    I am so incredibly grateful to you and the other women to whom you’ve introduced me for showing me how to do this and for surrounding me with support. I never, ever thought that I would live a sober life after 30+ years of being pickled myself. It’s amazing. Thank you again.


    • Thank you for sharing all that. I relate to so much of what you said. I am just beginning my journey, Day 11, and it has been a big surprise and comfort to find women and are ahead of me in this journey but started out right where I am today and feeling/thinking/experiencing so many of the same things that I am feeling/thinking/experiencing. I am seeking some support and encouragement as I get started, if you feel inclined to visit me at my new blog journal. Thanks for sharing some of your story above.


  6. Hi, Jean! Happy to read that your legs are functional:) I recall being down and/or slow for 1/2 a year due to a foot problem, and how long it took me to feel normal again, to lose the weight I gained, to get back to fitness, to regain the confidence like you describe here. Way to identify your “edgy” behavior before you started to push yourself too hard. Also you are doing the right thing regarding the coffee!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m going to start following your blog. I decided to quit alcohol this Friday, partly because I’ve been getting drunk every Friday and hiding it from my husband, and also cause I’ve been wanting to for a long time. It looks like you know all about this. Thank you for being here.


  8. Good on you for running and keeping going. It’s hard after an injury, been there. Keep doing it, it’s great for the bum! πŸ˜‚. Go slow though, don’t go too fast or too far too soon; don’t want another injury xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey…Sweden here. Remember answering my plea for help a few years back!? You helped me so much with just answering me at a time I needed to be heard. I was alone. But from across the sea you answered me. You got this….you said. And I did….with your support.
    Years later. I now get this blog updateb from you as I hide my stash. Secrets. I’m reminded again in my relapse and
    struggle who I hurting. Myself, my family. You inspire me. I’m being risky. Right now, at this moment, I’m going to stop and do the next right thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m glad you are recovering well and got to enjoy some running excercise. Running does the body good. But keep it safe. If you’re able to run in nature, why would you go on a highway, right?


  11. I absolutely loathe running, but admire anyone for doing what they like.
    Make sure you are wearing new, supportive shoes. You don’t need stress fractures in your feet (lol. I sound like an old lady).

    Enjoy your time. I wish it was just a little closer….



  12. Fantastic running is a wonderful mix of exercise and at same time mental time out for one self. I read your post with closer inersion as I too started running a week ago and with day as you yourself experienced I became more bold and adventurous.
    It was invigorating to read your post and I wish that your strides are longer and you continue to enjoy it


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