Pardoning The Turkey-Bird

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If you’re in the mood for a sentimental Thanksgiving retrospective — you’re shit outta luck.

There will be no jovial, light hearted fluff piece where I wax poetic on my many, zany family characters nor will I dramatize the hilarious-pseudo-tragedy of some overcooked turkey disaster. Because, this year, my family was in New York and I’m a vegan.

The one thing I must note, after the events of this Thanksgiving weekend, is the serendipitous nature of life — the law of attraction, fate, God’s will — call it what you want. Sometimes the universe will fork something over that’s too good for telling. The kind of holiday story that can be tied up with a big, red bow and stuck under our existential Christmas trees like a present for each one of us to open with glee, whilst sipping peppermint hot cocoa. The kind of story that does best living in our hearts. A holiday tale that sounds better between our ears than it does between periods, dashes, and commas.

Thanksgiving Day, I drove to a friend’s house with three huge bags full of frozen Tofurky pizzas, guacamole, and coconut ice cream. I slowed on Belmont Street. As I approached the Horse Brass Pub, I felt it — the cosmic pull. I felt my foot pulse on the brake. And, truly, I considered it — stopping there for just one drink. I could feel my fingers wrapped around a rocks glass. I could hear the scratched, smokey laughter of the three, old men sitting next to me. I felt the vibration of that solemn energy which always hangs in the air of bars on holidays. You can feel it — the nights where everyone who’s ponied up to the bar knows — they should be somewhere else. I recall the permission that just one drink could afford me — how I could forgive myself for a lifetime of letting my love and my joy escape me.

I’m not sure what moved me. Maybe it was the the thawing pizza and melting ice cream, or, maybe it was the thought of my friend sitting alone in his house, but, I decided to accelerate. I decided to forgo the one drink that would have turned into my entire holiday. As I drove past the bar, casting my gaze out of the passenger window, I saw them — locked gates. The bar windows were dark, their neon signs coiled and black. THANKSGIVING. Suddenly I became  aware — stopping here — was never my decision.

Give thanks. It’s so much bigger than we are — this life. I’ve chosen to be sober in an attempt, however feeble, to have the best life possible — the life that I was meant to be living before I lost myself. But, more often than not, being sober is hard, and staying sober is harder. When I decide how to walk the path, too many times, I end up stranded. I watch my imagined life and how it continues to fall short of my expectations. I wander down the “safe” path when, all along, the universe has been calling me to travel the uncharted road.

So, this Thanksgiving, I decide that I am no longer going to decide. Right there on Belmont, I learned to forgive — I pardoned my inner-Turkey-bird.

During the holidays, I tap into the childish wonder I once possessed. I listen and I watch for magic. And, when I do that — the path finds me. The world falls into place, however haphazardly. And, I keep driving.

Because, the gate is locked, friends are waiting, and the bag of frozen groceries is melting.

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.


The Other Shoe


Imagine it: Everything works out.

It’s a fantasy that every alcoholic/addict has at some point. Each of us has been tied to the pendulum on the downswing, and, almost always,  we have learned to travel at high velocities — hurtling ourselves toward impending disaster. Catastrophe has been bequeathed to us in perpetuity.  So, these days, I find myself wondering — what is the meaning of this? This uncharted feeling. Is it — happiness?

No. It can’t be.

For a drunk, it’s expected that, with sobriety, the release from some amount of psychic pain is imminent. Certain issues — more often than not — resolve automatically as a result of the whiskey-fueled-inferno being extinguished. But, do not mistake a temporary resolution for normalcy. No. — It has been my long standing belief that Alkies, such as myself, never graduate to “hunky-dory status.” There is no way to truly leave behind the murky half-memories of a crazed existence — those spells of insanity made possible only by excessive quantities of bourbon, angst, and the constant threat of emotional squalor. This “hunky-dory”? — A myth. I’m certain of it. Or, am I?

I tap my foot nervously while I sit, comfortably, at my kitchen table. I’ve been living here, in this apartment, for almost three years. Even with nothing hanging on my walls, there is a sense of permanence. A stability. A reassuring goodness that, today, is decidedly — off. I woke up this morning  grappling with an unsettling feeling that — I do not feel unsettled. A notion so foreign that, in its ease, lies its own inexplicable difficulty.

When does the other shoe drop?

Is this faith? — Moving in and out of my own equilibrium? I hang tight to some invisible force that tethers me.  A strong and strange pull that’s enough to carry the full weight of me. I’m moving into an upswing — I think. I feel my feet release from gravity.

This is it — a new feeling — an uncomfortably good one too.

On the way out the door, I lace up my sneakers, real tight — just in case.


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,



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.


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,




Relief is one of those charged words.

You have to know how to feel relief before you can say it. Its meaning is implicitly assigned.


It’s letting go. It’s breathing. It’s getting home after a shitty day. It’s the TEXACO station in the middle of bumble-fuck Texas when your gas light’s been on for 35 miles. It’s a check in the mail. It’s hearing someone you care about is OK. It’s discovering you’re going to be OK. It’s a sigh. It’s pain — subsiding.

The thing about relief: It requires waiting.

We would never be rewarded with that moment where we let the air escape from our lungs, feel our muscles relax, and allow ourselves to breathe into the deepest part of our stomach if we didn’t have to suffer, even minimally, just waiting for it.

I have decided that relief is biology’s coerced version of gratitude. When we can’t be grateful mentally, our bodies tell us what we’re thankful for and we can literally feel it. The first time I realized that I was physically designed to feel gratitude I was, in fact, grateful for the ability to experience this phenomena. Sobriety enabled and allowed me this tool, I’m sure. Because, in my “blue period,” AKA stark-raving-wasted,  gratitude did not exist for anything or anyone other than the someone-next-to-me at the bar who offered to buy my next round.

For a long time, my relief was served in a rocks glass. The air that I allowed myself to breathe was filtered through my liver, not my lungs. Everything ended up drunk. Everything.

When we don’t listen to our body’s language, its warnings, its instructions…it stops talking. Consult over. It just starts wreaking havoc. And, in that case, much like a case of the insane, we start talking to ourselves. In tongues mostly. We then enlist a whole team of bottles to sort out what’s trapped in our skulls. My most hired translator: Jim Beam. Though, there were nights I preferred the roll of José Cuervo’s “R”s. — “RRRrrrrelief!”

These days, relief comes and goes. But, I feel it. My body knows itself again. A translator is no longer necessary to fully appreciate my own suffering and joy. I’ve come to realize that, in addition to signaling my own condition, relief notes my compassion. I feel, I breathe, I sigh for other people too; something for which Jim Beam has no words.

Like relief, sobriety has too many meanings. All thrown into another charged word that means so much more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s more than just being off the sauce. More than being right-minded. More than calm in the company of calamity. It’s hearing the alarms that you, yourself, have tripped. It’s seeing pain outside yourself that needs tending to, and then, attending to it. It’s the relief of administering aide for the first time, not because you have to, but because you are capable. The pure exhilaration, the inhale-exhale, the integrity that allows someone else’s relief to become your own. The connected, universal pain– subsiding.

Heed your body’s call –Breathe again. Sigh. Feel it all.


“RRRrrrrrelief!”  — No José required.


Stay saucy,


Carrots. Forks. Feelings.


Those of you that are of the “I’ll-never-be-sober-for-more-than-3-days-at-a-go” variety: This one’s for you.

I used to be  you.

Once upon a time, everything I did seemed impossibly difficult: Work. Sleep. Human interaction.

And perhaps, it’s because I did it all, drunk. Yes, being wasted made everything seem so much easier. So, effortless. If I wasn’t drunk already, my drinks were the carrots I dangled in front of my every errand and task. It was my only reward: Get through this shift, get through this conversation, get through this day. Then — Boom Shakalaka: Get your drink on guuurrrlll!

Well, the thing is, this type of reward system ends up failing. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually, it will collapse. It will collapse fast and hard, like: JENGA muthafuckas! There comes a time when Jim Beam’s dangling carrot is no longer enough. And when you get to that point, there’s a big ol’ fork in the road:

Path #1: Get real with your bad self.

Or, the more likely, ever-popular:

Path #2: Start drinking more, more, more!

And, much like the song, once you’ve gone down the more-more-more path, things get real shitty, real fast.

I’ll spare you the deets of my oh-so-graceful alcoholic timeline. But, suffice it to say, in the end, for me, the “getting real” option became my only option. It was an internal switch. No one flipped it for me. It’s a conclusion I had to come to alone. And, the best I can tell you is, when your compass points due North, start walking. (And, prepare for shit storms.)

Getting sober is one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. And, it continues to baffle me that, not only have I been able to maintain this lifestyle, but, I’ve managed to embrace it. Without my dangling-carrot, my anesthetic, my liquid-modus-operandi: things started to hurt. My body ached. My head felt swollen. I didn’t sleep.  Oh, and the apocalyptic, paralyzing, plutonium-reactor-grade emotional melt down. YeahThat.

Yes, there’s the initial shock-wave, but soon after, the real motivations begin to emerge. Craziness and truth start to separate like oil and water. The truth is: I didn’t give up drinking to feel good. I gave up drinking, because I didn’t know what feeling good felt like anymore. There’s a big distinction.

I realized that, this time, I was for real. I didn’t give up drinking for 30 days just to say I did. The word “sobriety”  became relevant when I finally came to terms with the fact that I gave up drinking as an acknowledgment of something larger.  Something bigger was at work. That thing I’d been putting off for over a decade…Yeah: It’s pain.

And yes, pain sucks, until that amazing moment when you realize you are experiencing something. And suddenly, it’s like: “Oooh, so this is what pain feels like…”

After a decade of avoiding it, it’s a revelation: This is ITThis is what I’ve been missing: Feelings.


My advice to you: Get the headaches, lose some sleep, have a melt down. Feel something.

Now, that is a good fucking carrot.


Stay saucy,