Hand Signals

Shadow-puppets-with-hands

I’m laying in Shavasana on the living room floor.

My head is uncomfortably quiet. In the gold plated fixture on the ceiling where a lamp used to be, I see my own reflection. I’m wearing black, and, I stare at my corpse. Palms open. Hands signalling to myself — the crow above.

Since returning to New York, I’ve revisited many things. Most of which, are very different than the way I left them. People. Places. Feelings. While I was gone, I wasn’t the only one reinventing myself. Losing myself. Rebuilding myself. It was all happening here, without me.

The world spins madly on. But, this evening, after returning home from a 12-Step meeting, the only thing spinning inside me is an immense gratitude. — A gratitude so big that it quiets everything else.

In Portland, I’d all but lost my 12-Step program. I crumbled after meeting an unstable and dangerous person, and, it almost took me out of the game that made me. I forgot who I was and how I had arrived at my own sobriety. I connected confused feelings to 12-Step that were better left isolated, and, as a result, I returned to the angry and bitter woman I had worked so hard to leave behind. But, here, back home, I’m peeking through the crack in the door. I am revisiting the program that once saved me — with a childlike caution. There is comfort returning to this thing that never truly left me, though, I tried to tell myself it was gone. Things I once let frighten me, return and become my beacons. My reminders. — We are here. — And, none of us is safe, but, unified, we are all alive and trying.

Change, so incredibly painful, — ushers us forward.

In a church basement, things I had forgotten return to me. My ears, once again, are opened and humbled by someone else’s pain. And, in a strange moment where I feel loss and gain simultaneously, I remember how it feels to have a profound understanding of someone else without knowing them at all — the power just one voice can wield.

In quiet stillness, our hands reach out for each other. I am truly home again.

Nothing is the same. No one is the same.

Visibly shaken, our hands make quick work of signaling our stories. Dark shadows on a bright wall. And, in our shared state of despondent confusion, we are united in possibility.

And gratitude. — Immense and compelling gratitude. — The kind that quiets you for days. — Until you hear your own words leave another man’s mouth.

And, without making a sound, you have returned. To this beautiful, and changed, universe. — Brooklyn.

 

 

The Red Room

change

I spent my lunch break in the self-help section at Powell’s City of Books.

And, I know. It’s bad. But, it’s how I roll when I’m in a rut.

In sobriety, I’ve learned pain is predictable. I know when it’s coming. And, I know what to expect. There are levels of rut. In 12-Step, when you’re still sweating alcohol and amphetamines, they tell you, “It will always be peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys.” — It’s mostly valleys.

So, back to the self-help section. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up there. I know I started in the Red Room — the travel writing section. I was reading David W. McFadden’s An Innocent In Ireland. It was really good, too. I was totally planning on buying it.

But, I was standing there next to this intellectual-type-guy with horn-rimmed glasses. He was paging through some book on Greece, and I found myself getting pissed off. Like, really pissed off. And, I had no reason to hate this guy. Absolutely. None. But, I absolutely did. He was breathing too loudly and he was turning the pages too recklessly. One moment, I’m in this pub in Ireland, and the next, I’m about to lose my shit — thinking, “Screw this fuckin’ guy, and, screw Mykonos!” At that point, I just couldn’t take it any longer. McFadden went back on the shelf. I’d come back for him later.

Next thing I knew, I was two rooms over — in the thick of it — Self-Help: General. I’m standing there reading Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. And, fuuuuuuuucccckkk. It’s good. It’s Mykonos beaches good.

I’m on page twenty. And, I seriously I have to get back to work. But, with those twenty pages under my belt, I’m walking out of the store, then onto Eleventh Avenue, then up Flanders Street and — I’ve totally bought into it — Goddammit! — I CAN heal my life!

I can see it. This hysteria. It’s just the rut. A big, long valley. It’s the same place where I always get stuck. Post-break-up and pre-break-through. And, when I’m here — I read a self-help book. And, it’s bad. It’s awful. It’s a waste of ink and trees. And, as I’m reading it, I’m thinking, “God, I hate myself.” Because, I kinda do. — That’s how you end up in the self-help section.

But, then, it happens. — I help myself.

The thing is, there comes a point where we completely detach. Someone has to talk us into changing. And yes, sometimes it ends up being a hack who’s spiritual abundance is superseded by monetary gain. But, sometimes, hacks can make good points. I should know.

So, I do the rut-thing. I’m in bed, with the blinds closed, for days. I watch terrible rom-coms until I start to smell and the cat begins to pity me. Eventually, I convince myself to shower and take a walk. And, that’s when it happens.

I get back to dreaming. The sun kisses my vampire skin. I see the hot-pink flowers that don’t exist on the East Coast. There’s a calico cat rolling in a patch of long grass by the hippie-guy’s house. And — I’m here and I’m alive and I can change.

And, that’s how it happens.

Go to the Red Room. Meet McFadden for a pint. Escape the horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing- Grecian-jerk. Lose your place in time and space. And, return to consciousness with Louise Hay.

Twenty pages later. — No, I haven’t healed my life. But, I’ve helped myself.

And, that’s the hardest part. Helping your heart. Convincing yourself that you’re close.

That it’s coming. — A peak. — Change.

 

Bitter(s).

AngosturaBittersAd

I sit at a bar shaped like a horseshoe and I order soda with Angostura bitters.

My 12-Step friends will hold the bitters against me — the same way they do when I lick the side of the vanilla extract bottle while I’m baking. I decide I don’t care.

I’ve been waiting for this.

I sit across from a hipster-geek in a wool, skull cap. The weather’s too warm for that, but, in Portland, no one cares. The bartender showcases a tequila bottle I don’t recognize for two drunk women at the end of the bar. They snack on fried food and chew with their mouths open and they don’t realize how old they look, bat-bat-batting their eyelashes and laugh-laugh-laughing at something the bartender says, but, everyone knows without hearing — it isn’t funny. Their husbands are outside smirking and smoking cigarettes. They turn to gawk at a group of three, tall twenty-somethings who walk by in patterned leggings that hug their perky, little asses.

I hammer my straw down into the ice, like I’m breaking something up. I stir — like there’s whiskey at the bottom of my glass. There isn’t. But, I continue eyeballing the good shit on the shelf.

I pass this bar every day. I look in its big, rectangular windows. Behind my own reflection, I see smiling lips that leave blots of red lipstick on the edges of tumblers and the tips of little, black straws. I wanted this — to sit here. To feel it. Soft leather. My purse dangling from a hook at my knees. I wanted to breathe out. — A release. A homecoming. My heels drawn up against the sides of a bar stool. — I’ve waited.

The perfect conditions. The right amount of cloud cover. The slice of evening right before the Saturday crowds filter in through the angled, double doors. A hum, a quiet energy — like something might happen. But it doesn’t.

I can’t explain it. — It’s not what I wanted.

The hipster-geek doesn’t look up from his smart phone, even when his hand searches along the bar for his drink, which, I am certain, is an old fashioned. The older women, who think they’re young, wave their hands back and forth. Pinot gris sloshing at the sides of their glasses, just barely contained. The bartender reaches for his bar rag, but, in the end — doesn’t need it.

I ask for my bill.

“All you had was soda. Right? We don’t charge for soda.” The bartender walks away from me. So, I thank his back. This is what being castrated feels like — I imagine. Suddenly, I’m worth even less than the dollar it cost for me to keep the seat warm.

Whatever it was I was hoping I’d feel — I know now — I can’t anymore.

The chewing, cackling hags. The lechers with cigarettes that dangle from their lips. The bartender’s display of insincerity and faded tattoos. The smell of spilled beer and dirty mop water. It’s hardly a return to the days I used to live for. — His hand grabbing for mine, while we poured over menus, the sun sinking into another river. Here, I’m lonely. And, the wood of this bar is scratched.

At home, I crawl into bed and I lay very still. I bury a feeling I didn’t know I still had.

I just wanted a moment in the bar. But, the moment’s gone.

Rain taps the window and the cat swats the venetian blind and I miss things I haven’t missed in a long time. Adam. And New York. And our railroad apartment. And they way the sun spilled over Nassau Avenue in the summer when I was twenty-five.

The Woman Behind The Curtain

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I make it to Oz.

I pull back the curtain. And, there she is — the Wizard.

It’s fucking weird. — Finding the truth. Getting back home. Realizing you’ve survived. Knowing you’ve found something worthwhile.

Behind my curtain? — An unexpected love. A great, new job. Stability. — Benchmarks of a life that, a few, short years ago, I never thought I’d be living. But, here I am. And instead of sitting back and drinking it all in like a nice, Jameson 18 year — I find myself peering down the yellow brick road again.

Because, if 3 clicks of my heels brought me here — where will 10 clicks take me? What’s left that still needs fixing? How can I be better? I need it. More happiness. More success. Brains. Heart. Courage! Just, more.

I make calculations. When will the next tornado hit? And, I wonder, is this how I’ll keep my life in Technicolor? By chasing storms?

It’s an obsession. The relentless quest to repair all my broken bits. — There’s no rest for the weary. The moment I reach a milestone — it’s back to the drawing board. Don’t you know?! If you’re happy, you’ve missed something. There are flying monkeys everywhere!

It’s tiring: Finding new flaws, failings, and apologies that need making. I’m all for self-discovery, but, I can’t have my life be an unending Mea Culpa. I don’t want to walk around with an oil can for the rest of my days.

Sometimes, you have to let go. Of everything. Even the things that, at one point, held you together. I’ve learned to be wary of the places where I’ve bled.

The cardinal rule of 12-Step: If you want to keep it, you’ve got to give it away. It’s part of the deal — returning the favor. And, I’ve learned that everyone gives back differently. We all come out from behind our own, different curtains. We all reveal something unique. Some of us talk. Some of us listen. Some of us write. Some of us usher our friends and family into safe places when things go south. Every path you can choose is a worthy one. So, you don’t need a map. You just have to see what’s right there in front of you. It’s not going to be perfect. But, it gets us home.

How many clicks of our heels will it take?

Depends on who’s behind the curtain.

 

 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

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Good shit is happening.

I’m here, standing at the helm of my happy-boat, but, I’m starting to realize — I have no idea how to steer this thing.

I’m fighting my instinct to return to it: Survival mode. It’s not my fault. It’s built into my most intricate hardware. My skills have been honed and they’re ready and waiting to save me from imminent disaster. For years, I’ve just kept rowing. I never thought I’d know the day when I’d be able to slow down and sit tight. But, I’ve never really seen calm water.

I’ve heard about this place, but, I didn’t think I would actually end up here. And, for the first time in recorded history, it appears that my boat is not taking on water. Could this be the moment when I get to ease up and let the current pull me where it pleases? Because, if it is, I’ve gotta say, it’s strange not having any kind of game plan. And, what’s even more bizarre, is to think that — for me to get here — a game plan of mine actually worked.

It feels like a miracle. What is this place? Is it real? Do they have dark chocolate? They must.

I shift my weight and find my balance. I start to trust the water that keeps me afloat. Suddenly destination-less, I learn that there isn’t a finish line to race toward — and there never was. I breathe out a sigh I’ve been holding onto for ten years and I’ve never felt so still. I notice my own, small movements in ways I never have before.

In 12-Step meetings they’ll tell you to slow down. — Just stop. — Stop drinking. Stop drugging. Stop talking. Stop squirming. Stop planning. Stop apologizing. Just be. And, when you do — it’ll all fall into place. Maybe it’s true, and maybe it isn’t. I don’t know if everything fell into place because I got sober. But, I see now how rowing against the wind has made my arms strong. In sobriety, one thing’s certain — I’ve taken responsibility. — For my life. For the things I’ve done. For who I’ve been. For what I’m becoming. And, most importantly, for who I am.

I have learned to keep myself afloat under fire.

Addiction has always been my escape plan. A justification. An excuse. A short-term gain. A way of bending time that wasn’t mine to bend. For a long time, I was rowing in someone else’s boat. And, truthfully, I couldn’t tell you whose it was. But, it always had leaks I could not repair. Because, when you’re in someone else’s boat, you’ll never have the tools to fix all the damage. A good sailor knows her own boat best. Sobriety built my boat’s skeleton. But it was me who spent years sanding plywood and plugging holes. And, while I floundered off shore — I learned to steer.

Clear skies and smooth waters — it still feels wrong. From my happy-boat, I cast my eyes to the horizon, looking for the next storm. It’s not pessimism — it’s boat-smarts. Just the remnants of a survival mode that was once my default. But, with every new ship we build, we dismantle another.

So, I steady myself. I let the current pull me where it would have me go. Because, one way or another, it all falls into place.

Like the weathered paint on my happy-boat’s bow, my fear dissolves into the lapping water. And, I pull up my oars.

 

 

 

 

A Year Of Beautiful Mistakes

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Tomorrow — it will be the New Year. And, traditionally, that has meant absolutely nothing.

As an adult, I’ve never devoted too much time to pondering what the New Year will hold in store. I’ve always returned to my track record: Which is to say — It’s going to be bad.

In years past, it meant fancy dinners, donning little black dresses and the clink-clink-clanking of champagne glasses — almost always followed by blacking out in cabs, or at bars, or on my couch — my black, open-toed heels still strapped to my blistered feet.

To my own credit, I sometimes have made attempts to kick off the New Year with a few, tiny shreds of hope and optimism, only to be thwarted later, and reminded that, no — No-Siree-Bob — this year isn’t going to be my year either.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions or to scribe an epic list of the things I hope to change and improve. That’s never been my style. And, I have always surrounded myself with people who were equally disillusioned. I mean, why bother? A kiss at midnight and a fifth of whiskey always seemed like more than enough. Until — it became too much. And, even in letting the bottle go, I have still managed to get lost in my unrealistic expectations.

In 12-Step meetings they’ll tell you that expectations are future disappointments. And, in some cases, that’s very true. I’ve spent most of my life waiting for something or someone that will never show up. I’ve tried to resurrect things that were cold and dead in the hopes that I could make them breathe again. I’ve wanted to fix everything, picking up the jagged pieces of my life like a broken wine glass from the floor, my fingers bleeding, never thinking to cut my losses and start over. Even in sobriety, I’ve made the same mistakes, over and over, expecting some different outcome. — The very definition of insanity.

But, as much as I’ve lost to my own expectations, in my sober adventures, I’ve also found that there is much to be gained by being present, and expecting good things in the moments for which I am truly there. Sober, I’ve made myself open to possibility — more than ever before. I’ve found gratitude for small things. I’ve learned that, sometimes, the same mistake can take you somewhere new — somewhere magical. But it won’t always happen on the first try. Or the second. Or even the third.

Now — more than ever — I have to be careful without cowardice. I cannot roll in and out with every tide, nor can I plant my feet in the sand. I have to remind myself that I’ve spent too much of my life writing off my own expectations. And as a result, I’ve tolerated the shittiest of situations for far too long and I’ve let myself off the hook when I should have remained accountable. But, this year, something is different.

For the first time in years, it’s looming. — Big change. — Like watching a storm cloud break over the ocean and seeing the sun spill out over the dark waves. Good things — they’re coming. And, for some strange reason, in this new year, 2015, all my dreams seem plausible.

My wish for us — whatever this New Year may bring — is that we be present for all our days. That we live in the moments that raise us up and in those that leave us wanting. Because, like Baba Ram Dass has told us from the very start, to Be Here, Now, is to truly live.

And so, it is with some relief and a twinge of sadness that I bid farewell to 2014. My year of beautiful mistakes. Not the least of which has brought me to this moment — one where I stand most presently.

On this New Year’s Eve, I hope that you find yourself as I do — In love.

For, where there is love — all things are possible.

 

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

Wanderlust

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The need to flee. Maybe you know the feeling.

That sudden and visceral desire to reinvent yourself — become something new. Someone new. Somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

In 12-Step meetings, it’s called a “Geographic.” But, for me, it’s simply: “Get me the fuck outta here.”

Some mornings, I wake up an Oregonian. I breathe in damp, green air and when I get home from work I kick my soggy, brown, cowboy boots off at the door. I take long walks at 4:45AM where I feel like I might be the last human alive on Earth. I stand under impossibly tall pine trees and feel, actually feel — real as any human touch — my own smallness. This place makes me right sized. I have lost everything here. And, I have picked up all my broken pieces and assembled a mosaic that even I can admire. In Oregon, my alone-ness crowns me a true pioneer woman.

Other mornings, I wake up, and I’m still a wild New Yorker. Blood pumps hot and fast through my veins, all of which wind through my Brooklyn-girl-body like Subway tracks. Most days, I swear, my car starts to drive toward the airport without any help from my hands. I’m ready to max out, not one — but all, of my credit cards. I’m ready to fly. To disappear into some vast unknown — one that I’m sure will envelop me, cradle me, shower me with all the love and fulfillment that seems to elude me here. I write imaginary letters to all my friends living abroad: “Do you need a butler? I’m available.”

Please. Someone. Anyone. — Get me the fuck outta here.

I’m pretty certain that, in some ways, sobriety has made me loonier than I’d been at the onset. Now that I’m free of the drugs and the booze — I want to be free of everything else too. I want to start over where no one knows me. I want to leave behind all these conceptions of myself that have been fostered for too many years. I want to call my mother from somewhere in Bumblefuck, France and tell her that everything was worth it. — The taxing phone calls. The pain. The tears. The broken hearts. The unrealized dreams. I want to tell her that the foreign skies have washed me with their rain. I want to tell her that I’m standing, soaked, in front of some ancient monument — smiling. Everything smells different. Everything feels different. I am young again in a place that’s too old to care. I yearn to choke on some other language, only to wake up one morning, breathing big, clean breaths — erupting — singing a song I barely understand to a sun I’ve never seen before.

But, instead, I text message my mother from the floor of my apartment in SE Portland, where I sit cross-legged in front of the tall, white heater. I wipe tears from the corners of my American eyes. And I think, maybe, it is better to run toward something than it is to run away from it.

“Mom, can I come home for Christmas?”

 

 

 

 

 

Peripheral Visions

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I don’t worry about the obvious things.

When I enter a state of worried-panicked-frenzy, I know better than to examine what’s right in front of my nose. I have always managed to keep those details well tended. The thing I am wary of: The periphery.

I, like many alkies and addicts, am very good at keeping up appearances. I know what to say and how to say it — even to myself. I mastered that skill long, long ago. Back while I was still drinking, I had to convince myself, and you, that I was not only OK, but, better than OK. — Great. Stellar. Perfect.

These days, I often find myself painfully sober. So, I keep up other appearances. Without the booze, emotions and feelings become a special-kind-of-complicated — communicating them, containing them, and sometimes hiding them — even more so. I feel it, the hair on my arms stands up as the pub turns on it’s magical-magnetic-tracking-device. I fight the pull. But, I keep quiet, because I’m OK. — I think.

But, that’s how it happens. Or, so I’m told. Seasoned, sober old-timers will tell you that it starts, first, with that teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, little thought — You’re OK. The second thought becomes — well, a bourbon might end up being OK too. And, the third thought — there’s no time for that — because you’re already seated on a bar stool. Struck drunk.

It isn’t obvious. All these little things appear innocuous. The fucking periphery.

So, I tread lightly. I can’t see where or how all the shit starts to pile up. But, I’m starting to notice my own cracks and how they’ve widened. I’m no fortune teller. I can’t say when or how, or even if, it will collapse. Yeah. Maybe, it won’t collapse. But, it’s there — the little voice that tells me — It. Just. Might. Collapse.

The not-so-obvious feeling. That’s the one that worries me.

On a Friday night, I stay in as a precaution. I sit at the dining room table and I write it down in Sharpie marker on a little, maroon notepad — the most obvious thing I can think of: Don’t fuck it up.

I pour myself another cup of coffee.

It’s tenuous and tenacious — my sobriety. In this moment I respect it’s power. I allow my unwise inclinations to dissolve. I let them go. I don’t judge them.

Lots of things can happen, the good and the bad. So, I decide to open my eyes a little bit wider. I monitor the periphery closely.

In a still moment, my little feelings subside. My coffee mug is still warm in my hands. I’m here. Now. And — I’m OK.

Better than OK. — I’m Great. Stellar. Perfect.

 

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

 

Meaning & Memory

Friday the 13th: I lost my sobriety ring.

FLASHBACK: The night I left my restaurant management job, before going to rehab, my co-workers threw me a party. And, it was one of the best parties ever. I got sloppy drunk, of course, but everyone knew — it was my last-hurrah. I felt so loved that night and I was genuinely hopeful. Amidst all my drinks and all my fun, I was secretly relieved to be so close to freedom.

onering<<<—— Sauced at my goodbye party!

The sous chef pulled me aside and handed me a gift. She was relatively new in the kitchen and I didn’t know her very well, so I was surprised by the gesture. I opened my little package at the bar, whilst sipping my cocktails. It was a thin, wiry, sterling silver ring. Simple. Small. Understated. There was a little note inside too — to the effect of: When you wear this ring, remember why you quit. It seemed so appropriate as I sat there, throwing back drinks, hugging my staff goodbye, letting go of my life as I knew it. Remember why you quit.

I wore the shit out of that ring. My first day sober, I put that thing on my thumb and there it stayed. I turned it around-and-around on my finger nervously in my first days of rehab and at 12-Step meetings. I popped it on and off during awkward moments that you only experience as a newly sober person. And, every time I looked at it, I remembered. I remembered sitting at my restaurant bar, wasted, wanting to be DONE.

When I realized my ring was missing Friday, I figured I’d forgotten to put it back on after my shower. But, it wasn’t in my little, glass, ring dish. Or on the floor. Or on my nightstand. Or by the kitchen sink. Gone.

I had this moment of panic. If my “sobriety” ring is gone…. Am I going to drink now?

A ring — something so inconsequential, however symbolic, had made me question my own ability to stay sober. That’s alcoholism. And, I have enough sobriety, at the moment anyway, to know that the thoughts, where I make it OK, reasonable even, to drink — are just a symptom. A symptom that dresses up the elephant in the room.

My Elephant: I lost something else this week too, not just the ring. It was big. Something I won’t find in-between the couch cushions next time I vacuum. And, sometimes, when I lose big things, I start assigning meaning to smaller things in an attempt to lighten my load. I let my little stuff take over my big stuff. I compartmentalize. I attempt to organize all the meaning. Then, overwhelmed by meaning — I give meaning to meaningless things.

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Losing my ring was just a reminder: Honor your losses. Know, that some things have so much meaning, we’ll never actually make sense of them being gone. There is nothing that can replace this, so, don’t try. Let go, step into the void, stop looking. Just remember. Remember.

Today, I thumb the spot where my ring used to be. I remember what I had, and what it felt like when I had it. I acknowledge that, today, it’s gone.

Life can change as easily as a ring slips off a finger. It doesn’t mean anything. But, looking back, retracing my steps, remembering where I once stood —it means everything.

Stay saucy,

Sarah