The Great, Woo-Woo Crusade

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“The Year of Happiness.”

I know. Just reading it makes me want to barf a little bit, too. But, this is how it starts? Right?

As someone who has been perpetually on the dark side of things, the mere mention of Happiness is like being dragged out from a dark cellar into the light of a blazing sun and being screamed at in Chinese. Which is to say — I have no idea what’s happening.

But, it’s happening.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a self-help junkie. Books. Movies. Workbooks. Day planners. Online lectures and seminars. You name it — I’m into it. I’m not ashamed. Not to toot my own horn here, but, seriously, I’m post-doctorate-level-well-read in this genre. From the critically acclaimed to the absolute-worst-ever dreck, my self-helping skill spans oceans and continents. And yes, sometimes, I watch Oprah.

I’ve had many people poo-poo my love of the woo-woo. I’ve been slighted, both on social media and by “real life” peeps. I don’t care. Honestly, I’ve learned heaps about myself, and others, by burying myself in this kind of material. I’ve implemented changes in my own life, and, I’ve seen results.

So, the idea to devote the year to  “Choosing Happiness” didn’t just appear out of the ether. I figured out, long ago, there’s got to be something to this deliberate Happiness thing. But, until now, I didn’t see any way to implement it. Pure, unadulterated Happiness never made it into my self-help arsenal.

If I were so motivated, I could sink my whole life into analyzing my clinical depression. I could unpack the roots and effects of my alcoholism. I could self-help my way through a few more decades with all the crap I’ve stowed on deck. But, there’s an inherent dishonesty in avoiding it. — Happiness. — I kinda know that’s where the answers I’ve been seeking live. Yet, I’ve never really committed myself to getting there. I haven’t really made an effort to sell myself on the concept. And, if Happiness really is the Holy Grail of all this self-help questing, then — I guess it’s time for a Crusade.

That’s right. When I say I’m committing to a Year Of Happiness, I fucking mean it you guys.

That said, I realize, especially for a person like me, this endeavor is going to take organization and planning. Strategery. That’s where this blog steps in. This is the place where I’m going to splay Happiness out in my very own, Dexter-style kill-room and take it apart piece by piece. I’m going to figure out how everything works, and then, by God — I’m going to make it work for me.

Each of the next 12 months will examine a theme — not unlike the 12 Steps. (Apropos, I know.) And, each week, I plan on unpacking said themes and examining how they play into the Happy Factor.

More than anything else, I plan on using this space to eradicate all my well-rehearsed excuses.

*               *               *

Before I sobered up, I was convinced Happiness and sobriety were synonymous. I figured if I could just stop using, I’d finally arrive at Happiness. But, with 3 1/2+ years of sobriety — I know that isn’t true. However, I am sure both require the same caliber of commitment.

In that vein, April’s theme is Surrender. Is it cheesy? Maybe. But, it’s one of the most difficult and complex things you can do in your life. We surrender to people, places, concepts, laws, governments, feelings, faith, and ourselves — every single day. But, surrendering with intention is extremely difficult.

Surrender means starting where you are — details be damned.

And, surrendering to Happiness? For many of us, that means forfeiting all the baggage we’ve been lugging around. That’s hard. Surrendering to sobriety meant giving up an addiction — a torrid love affair. So too is the trade off (up) for Happiness. We get the good door prizes for our sacrifice.

This week, surrender feels like a lot of effort. Quieting the gloomy voice that’s constantly speaking to me is difficult — and, at times, it’s impossible. But, that’s what The Year of Happiness is all about. Being willing. Surrendering old stories and giving voice to new ones.

It’s crusade time. You in?

 

Photo courtesy of Ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/GRAIL-CAT-spoof-funny-T-Shirt-Mens-6-sizes-8-colours-crusade-kitty-joke-/151276415654

 

 

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The Great Squirrel Chase

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This weekend, I evicted a squirrel from my apartment.

I first saw his ratty, grey tail peeking out from under my enormous television set. First, I panicked. Next, I reached for my yoga mat. Which, obviously, I proceeded to wield as an unruly weapon.

Even in my hysteria, it seemed simple enough. — I just had to lock the cat in the back bedroom, open the front door, and then usher my squirrel guest out, with gusto, flopping my yoga mat this way and that.

As it turned out, we were both quite terrified. So, I called my friend Tony who lives across from me in our apartment complex. No answer. Then, I tried my landlord. No answer. Then, I called my father — in New York City. Though separated by five thousand miles, he was the one who did not fail me. And while he did laugh at me like a hyena for five minutes, he also remained on the line for my intense, steady, and, dare-I-say-it — hunter-like — progression of profanity. Which, progressed as follows:

“Holy shit! Oh my God he’s in the closet now! Fuck! He’s making noises! Holy fucking shit, I can’t see him! What if he fucking bites me, Dad? Dad — Stop laughing! That stupid fucker just ran into the kitchen. God, that asshole’s a stupid motherfucker. THE FRONT DOOR IS OPEN YOU ASSHOLE!!! Jesus fucking Christ, he just ran out the front door. He was, like, fuckin’ airborne Dad. He’s out. Holy shit. He’s out! Fuck.”

My heart was beating like rapid fire. — And, there I was, yoga mat in hand. — Alive.

In truth, I’m rarely present. I run over the past in my mind, I plan the future, I design escapes and intrigue. But, I’m not here. It’s tough to get me in the moment.

One evening, my ex, after hearing me spout off about this or that, asked me how it came to be that Ram Dass was my hero — my guru — if I was constantly struggling to “Be Here Now.” — “Why didn’t I try harder to live in the present?” He wondered. I didn’t have an answer. It’s hard to explain to someone else how you can love a person that has the one, intangible thing that you want most, but, can never seem to grasp. It’s not coveting. It’s reverence. And, it’s nearly impossible to describe to someone who cannot comprehend any spirit that’s bigger than their own.

It’s funny, because that very same ex got me a framed “Be Here Now” poster as a gift. — A reminder I guess. It’s purple with a white lotus flower in the center. And, even though my ex is gone, the poster remains, situated happily on my mantle. So, after I had called, texted, emailed, and tweeted to everyone I knew — I plopped down on my couch to draw in my breath and stare at my purple-poster. I smiled with my teeth for the first time in months.

Excitement. Joy. Suspense. Hilarity. A SQUIRREL. Here. Now. IN MY APARTMENT.

That squirrel was my gift. Maybe from Baba himself. The moment where I was reminded: I am a real, breathing creature, wielding a yoga mat and taming wild — albeit tiny — beasts. Even when the moment had passed — the tiny creature bounding out over my two-step stoop, the feeling he awakened in me remained. — A feeling that will not escape me so quickly.

Sometimes, we can only love those that are present — without us. We can bask in their light. Their awareness. Their true presence. We can read the words that they have spilled across thousands of pages in countless books, we can watch their YouTube channels, we can sing chants along with Krishna Das. We seek out the presence.

But, sometimes, it will come to you: A squirrel who shits all over your house —while you chase it wildly with a yoga mat — while your father laughs in your ear — while your heart pumps in your chest. At the end of it all, you watch something leap to freedom. — And, it’s you.

I thank the purple poster and, for old time’s sake, I text my ex.

Because, I need to tell someone — I’m here. Now.

“Now is now. Are you going to be here, or not?” — Baba Ram Das

Start Here.

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Don’t think. Just start.

While scrolling down my Facebook feed recently, I saw a post from an old pub acquaintance. He announced that he’s been sober for a year now. Back when I first got clean, he’d sent me a message asking me how I did it. I replied: “I have no fuckin’ idea — Just start. That’s all I did. I just started.” I never heard from him again.

It’s a tall order. — Just waking up one day and deciding to do something that’s hard. It takes guile and gumption. And, it takes a certain level of positivity — which is perhaps the most difficult thing for any addict/alkie to cultivate.

Greeting the day warmly has taken lots of practice. I’ve never once woken up and thought to myself: “The world is my oyster!” I was an awkward, chubby kid and I remain an awkward, not-so-chubby adult. Despite my best efforts, those feelings of childhood inadequacy still follow me around like a stray cat. For much of my adult life, I’ve written things off. I learned, a long time ago, I might as well give up before starting, because, really — what’s the point?

Even after getting sober, I still wasted time and effort, highlighting my own failings. It’s hard to find the good in things when you’ve become accustomed to looking for the crap. And, after years of defeat, I considered throwing in the towel, but, even though it took me until the 11th hour to lace up my bootstraps — I did.

Fast forward a few years and I’m finishing up my last week of work at my current job before transitioning to an exciting, new one. I still have to remind myself that starting over is a good thing. But, sober or not — experience or none — change is hard.

The longer I’m off the sauce, the more I see how preparing for the worst all those years has informed my world view. It’s halted my progress and it’s put the kibosh on some of my dreams. While I was looking for all the potential missteps and failures I might encounter, I missed all the things at which I absolutely kick-ass. And, as it happens, there are quite a few of those. Back then, as an active addict, I was sure that all that could go wrong — would go wrong. So, I never started anything. I held tight and waited for change.

Not this time around.

I printed out the manual for my new job and I sat on my couch, geeking out, as I poured over forms and procedures. I caught myself thinking — “Oh shit. This is gonna be good.” I forgot — getting genuinely excited is a crazy high. So, I allow myself these positive thoughts like an evening nightcap, even if my mind is still at work, pulling me toward the rabbit-hole of self-doubt. I have to remember: We can earn our place in the sun, but, to stay there, we have to stop searching for the dark places.

Sometimes, a retrospective is in order. I try to remember that I arrived at my current work position, just shy of nine months sober, fresh out of rehab. A darkness was draped over my shoulders for months. I felt like a failure. But, I kept telling myself: This is it. You have to start over. This is what it takes. Just start here.

Yes. Start here. Even if the odds are stacked against you. If nothing else — do it for the buzz. There is something incredibly intoxicating about it — starting over. There is something wild and reckless about feeling your fear and choosing to move forward anyway.

After all, things do change. One day sober can turn into a year. And, a lousy job can turn into a bitchin’ career.

So, just start. That’s all I did. I just started. But, really, I have no fuckin’ idea.

 

Speed Bumps

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Go fast enough and something or someone will slow you down.

The past few months, I’ve found that detaching from my chaos comes with it’s own discomfort. Without mayhem to cling to, I find that I’m helplessly lost. I’m unaccustomed to ease. And, letting go of heartache is, in itself, a melancholy practice. My mind goes static. I forget why I’m here. I long for whiskey. So, seeking solace, I return to my war stories — reminders that ease is a gift, not a punishment.

A year before I got sober, I sat across from Kevin, a friend and fellow drunk. We passed a 1.5 liter bottle of shitty chardonnay back and forth. It was a wet, cold night. The wine was warm. I remember the black and yellow label, peeling up from the bottle at its edges. Kevin’s apartment felt eerie — haunted. The air was musty and stale. Every table, counter, and bookshelf was littered with wine bottles, beer cans, and children’s toys.

We sat there, without pretense, miserable in our cups. I mourned my failed relationship, and he, the collapse of his family. The sorrow was palpable.  There was nothing to say to each other. So, we drank.

When the wine was gone, we sulked out into the rain. We walked to a local bar that had Friday night karaoke and found a table with some fair-weather friends. We drank whiskey until we couldn’t see. I remember belting out Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” at the top of my lungs, doubling over after the the final note, unsure if I was going to cry or be sick.

When the bartender announced last call, Kevin and I shared a familiar glance — the well was dry. We shuffled with sunken shoulders to the door, too drunk to walk. I tripped over my own soggy boots. Kevin stumbled beside me, in an attempt to keep me upright. The rain fell hard on us both and I remember my jacket felt heavier with each clumsy step.

Half way home, I tripped and fell over a raised speed bump in the middle of a quiet street. My hands hit the asphalt hard. I rolled onto my back and let my spine arch over the raised curve in the road. The rain fell down in fat drops, each one drawing a straight line from the sky to my face. Kevin, now feet ahead, doubled back to help me.

“Just leave me here. I want to die.” — I remember how the words felt inside my mouth before they escaped my lips like black vapor. I had been too drunk to be dramatic — I meant it.

“Come on Sarah, get up.” Kevin’s voice echoed in my head as if we were inside a tunnel. He pulled at my arms. No use — I was dead weight. The world slowed, and then, it went dark.

The next morning I woke, strewn across my bed. My hands were bloody and scraped. My jeans clung to my legs, filthy and wet. In the mirror, my arms were freckled with red and purple bruises. Kevin had dragged me home. I walked into my living room, every bone and muscle — pulled and sore. Kevin slept, with a peaceful expression, on the couch under my blue afghan. His face was soft and still and, for a moment I likened him to an angel — then, I walked into my bathroom to find he had vomited in my sink, on my floor, and in my bathtub.

When I first got sober, I thought about Kevin a lot. Before I went to rehab, we’d grown apart. Our messes were too big to coexist together. I worried for him. I often entertained the idea of leaving a 12-Step pamphlet in his mailbox. But, I never did.

A few months back, while flicking through photos on Instagram, I was greeted by Kevin’s face. Bright eyes replaced his sunken ones. His skin shone bright and pink, not the sickly, sallow yellow I remembered. He smiled, an honest smile, unlike any we’d exchanged between chugs of wine. He held his beautiful, blonde son close to his chest. Content. Happy. In the next photo — his “6 Month” 12-Step sobriety chip was proudly displayed.

Sometimes, I see Kevin in the supermarket with his son. We don’t say hello — we just smile. There were no words back then, and so it remains. It is unspoken. We both know something now that we hadn’t back then — Ease.

There will always be speed bumps. Sometimes you will trip, sometimes you will get up on your own, and sometimes you will be dragged home by the arms. But, there is a lesson in the delay. A chance to lay there with your back on the asphalt and your eyes to the sky.

It is on our darkest road that we are called to order. Listen for it. On the hard days, I can still hear him  — “Come on Sarah. Get up.”

Stay saucy,

Sarah

 

Finding Yourself(ie)

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When I first got sober, I thought I knew who I was. But, I wasn’t going to tell you.

Even just a few, short months ago I wasn’t interested in broadcasting my sobriety, at all. It’s never been something I’ve tried to hide, but I haven’t been especially open about it either. For a long time, it was information I distributed on a need-to-know-basis. The people in my life who needed to know, knew. I left everyone else to wonder.

Yet, here I am. Locked and loaded. Fully equipped with a fucking dot com, selling my alchie-soul to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. How does this happen?

Simply put, I found myself(ie). That little voice I’d been shhhhushing for so long, well, it turns out, she actually had something to say. It took some time for me to decipher what was divulging too much. I asked myself: How much of my story did I really want to tell? Tough call. Historically, I’ve been a pretty private person. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that sobriety wasn’t the Girl Scout badge I wanted to showcase. For a long time, to me, sobriety equated alcoholism–one required the other. I wasn’t ready to out myself.

It’s not that I don’t have pride in the work I’ve done or the person I’ve become, I sure as fuck do. But, somewhere along the line, I decided that I wasn’t going to let sobriety be the thing that defined me. Promptly following that decision the inevitable question arose: If sobriety doesn’t define me, what does?

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OK, so, I’m no longer shitfaced and miserable. Now what? What makes me tick? What do I want to do now that I’m not glued to a bar stool? I batted ideas around like a kitten for 18 months. I had no idea. I couldn’t decide. And, I wasn’t alone.

The wonderful world of 12-Step provided me with a host of littermates that were similarly phased by their new found freedom from being constantly intoxicated. I started to see a theme. My former-drunk-y pals had either started to run with their sobriety, acting on their goals and dreams, or, their asses were glued to folding chairs in church basements 24/7, clinging to paper coffee cups to keep them from floating off into lunar orbit. I didn’t know which category I fell into. Was I goal oriented? Or, was I just hangin’ on to my cup of Folger’s for dear life?  I came to realize that I wasn’t either. More importantly, I didn’t have to be. I started making my own plans. The 12-Step Kool-Aid is delicious, but, it’s not going to take me to my spaceship.

After much hunting and soul searching I came to discover that: You are my spaceship. Yes, you. Since you’re reading this, I assume you care about what I have to say, or, at the very least, you are so judgmental that you’ve taken the time to note how craptastic I am!

But seriously, this is where my heart is: Writing my experience. I open my mouth, I speak, and I hope someone is listening. And yes, it’s true, I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing with my life, but, I will always desire to be heard.

And so, Saucy Sobriety was born: An unabashed look at my sober-life, not my sober-alcoholism. In this blog, it’s me you’re getting–not the alcoholic. Though, I do happen to be one. For me, sobriety isn’t about alcoholism. It’s about freedom.

Finding yourself(ie) is an ongoing process. (So, you may find your iPhone handy-dandy for last-minute edits…)

My mistake was making recovery my life. When I made my life about living, the story wrote itself.

 

My adviceDon’t wait until you have a plan. You don’t need one. Put pen to paper and write.

Stay saucy,

Sarah