“The Rent is Too Damn High!”

On Saturday, February 7th, I parted ways with my former apartment on West 4th Street, where my Los Angeles neighborhood was never fully determined–not quite Downtown, not quite Historic Filipinotown, not quite mine. ¬†My heart and mind were laden with strangely peaceful misgivings about my next moves as a person who is now officially homeless. ¬†I spent a week pouring¬†all of my energy into scouring every square inch of that space to leave the place better than how I found it. ¬†I suppose that was my way of gracefully letting go of something no longer meant for me.

I made the decision to leave¬†my apartment when I watched as the financial dominoes continued to fall amidst the aftershock of my horrific accident. ¬†I knew this was coming; a person cannot possibly maintain the lifestyle she is accustomed to when a full-time job is no longer in play. ¬†I am not alone in my current state, as many of my friends and others less known adhere to the “struggling artist” lifestyle of couch-surfing. ¬†I am fortunate and blessed to have a strong enough support system wherein I do so much as sneeze and a friend or acquaintance is standing right next to me, offering a tissue–or in my case, a place to rest my head at night. ¬†I do not quite know what I would do if it were not for the bewildering kindnesses and unconditional love I experience every single day from these angelic forces for good.

This post marks the first in my brief blogging history where the writing feels more like heavy lifting for me.  I am saddened that I left a place where I discovered sobriety and where I met the cast of characters who became the authors of my laughter for nearly two years. After a very difficult struggle against my own demons to find a sense of belonging and a safe place (read: cute apartment in a fabulous city), the last thing I wanted to do was leave.  I am happy to report, however, that my sense of safety and security has returned after its brief sojourn.  Thanks to the tireless love and affection sobriety provides me through my spiritual support network, I am able to edify the home in my heart, which allows me to be mobile now more than ever.

As I reflect upon my latest and most obvious experience of complete powerlessness, I am reminded of my most favorite quote by the inimitable Muhammad Ali (and countless other wise men and women): “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”. ¬†My Higher Power has testified yet again on my account that my purpose at this time is to be spiritually fit in order to help other people to keep the focus off of self-pity and discouragement. ¬†While the rent for my former apartment was unaffordable¬†to my weakened wallet, I can rest easily knowing that I can, at the very least, afford to pay my rent here for room on Earth.

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The Moment I Wake Up, Before I Put on My Makeup…

God, I love that song. I also love Dionne Warwick, who originally sang with a group called the Drinkard Sisters…appropriate much??? At any rate, I’ve had that song in my head since last night because a curious thing started to happen: I began to see and hear prayer requests coming from my friends, friends of friends, and their friends, and so on–mostly via Facebook. I am gonna be honest here and say I am not comfortable yet being so vocal about prayer considering that A). The Higher Power I pray to wears body suits made of leather, power clashes his outfits and used to leave traces of cocaine and sparkles in his trailblazing wake; B). I do not consider myself a religious person. In fact, I identified as an atheist for a few years following my father’s death, leading straight into recovery (Okay, maybe not directly… I needed a few more iron-clad alcoholic years before my spirit broke). My spirituality and willingness to keep an open mind did not come easily for me–that is, until a powerful voice within me urged me to get sober before my life became a predictable, dramatic mess.

I have been taught in the past 10+ months that prayer is a crucial piece of recovery. My version of praying involves saying “thank you” and/or “help”. I used to cry for help for my own woes, but I have learned that praying for others is where the true gift comes. I pray on bended knee first thing when I wake up, just saying “thank you” to whatever the hell keeps me alive and loving that day. This act teaches me humility; I humble myself to whatever force is strong enough to keep me sober, to keep the world spinning and to provide love in my life and in the lives of others. All I know for sure is that when I start the day like that, I have more confidence and feel more comfortable in my own skin because I do not act on fear that I will lose control of events or people around me, as I am not the one in charge.

There is something to be said about selfless and solution-based thoughts manifesting positive things in my life. The Buddha himself taught his people about their thoughts becoming reality. I am into that for sure, though resetting my thoughts requires a lot of time, energy and patience. This is where being of service to others comes into play because the efforts of helping those in need mute the fears in my mind, if only for a few precious minutes.

The most effective type of praying I’ve found is to send positive and loving vibes to the Haters in my life. Like anyone ever in The History of the World, I have people in my life who I resent or have resented in the past for slighting me or stepping on my sensitive ego. I engage in reverse psychology by praying that these people have the same things in life I seek: unconditional love, safety, abundance, confidence, peace, success and serenity. The standard time period to actively pray like this is about two weeks. I’ve tried it twice and it worked like a charm both times. I ended up feeling love and compassion for the prayee, and my self-centered fear slipped away.

If all else fails, I put on a Bowie record to redirect my thinking to something more … fabulous.

Annnnd, of course,

 

… I say a little prayer for you.

xx

Go On, Give A Little

It took the better part of a year for me to realize that though my own orbit is speckled with all kinds of cool people and things, the world does not, in fact, revolve around me. The trouble with being overly sensitive or too hell-bent on self-improvement is that I inadvertently become the center of my own universe, and for someone with a brain wired like mine, that can only mean trouble.

The most important lesson sobriety has taught me is that the only way I stay better emotionally and spiritually is by being there for someone else. This bit annoys me to a certain degree, considering that I am not a saint and there are many people who I feel do not deserve my unique blend of kindness and generosity. This may or may not make me a betch but I have had to learn not to over commit to people who aren’t really there for anyone other than themselves. That being said, exercising discipline by calling people I might not know that well or sitting with them for coffee to actually listen to how they are doing, has eroded my ego quite a bit. It is a lesson to me that I have such an ego problem in the first place, but once I saw my fears as the real ego-culprits, I felt much better about knowing my own character defects.

When I am helping someone work through an issue, I cannot possibly focus on my own problems. It is virtually impossible to do two things at once. Though I tend to carry on full-blown conversations with myself in my mind, nine times out of ten, a conversation with someone else is almost always more interesting because it is unpredictable. I practice listening, particularly when I do not want to because it is my way of learning selflessness while donning my best attentive face.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note here how my friends and relative strangers have been incredibly generous and thoughtful to me with their time and resources. I have gotten a premier education in selflessness through these people who I would be lucky enough to even attempt to emulate. For today, at least, I’ll give in and give it a try.

Photo courtesy of Alana Jones-Mann

Humor in the Divine

I used to recoil at the thought or suggestion of meditation.¬†I never gave much credence to time spent alone because the idea of me spending more time with myself than was necessary felt unbearable. I did not see the freedom in stillness, nor did I believe I could ever find spirituality within myself. I spent my days and nights seeking meaning and happiness in the external–I relied solely on people, places and things to do my bidding for me in the world. I also secretly sought happiness in everything except following my intuition or believing in a power greater than myself.

Trust that still, small voice…have faith. You will find a way.

Diane Mariechild.

I do not know who Diane Mariechild is, but she has a really decent point. I realized tonight after speaking and meditating with other recovering alcoholics that the way I reconnect to my higher power and quiet intuition is through humor. I cannot digest such heaping doses of spirituality without laughing at the absurdity in taking myself or this life too seriously. The more sobriety I experience, the funnier things become. I have a friend who reminds me that the icy fortress that once encased my heart continues to melt through tears, and I believe even more so through humor. I feel happiest when I am around people who are intelligent and funny. In my experience, the more a person is willing to exercise rigorous honesty with themselves and the world, the more likely it is that they have a great sense of humor.

I practice meditation daily, spending anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes silent and still. Depending on my mental state, I am either completely distracted or perfectly content. When I first got sober, the thoughts and feelings that came up after 20 minutes of torturous silence were far too much for me to handle without self-given permission to relax a little. With the help of some friends who suggested I take it easy, I was able to back off from the impossible task of perfecting a lifelong practice. It turns out that spirituality has absolutely nothing to do with perfection. In fact, I believe perfection and spirituality are mutually exclusive.

My Golden Rule: If it is funny, it is probably true…and it gets funnier.

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Along Gratitudinal Lines

I will be the first to admit that riding the bus in LA brings out just about every negative or unsavory thought and emotion from deep within my psyche, where I have managed to keep them at bay for almost a year’s time. When I board the bus to find my seat, my senses are almost always immediately assaulted by one noxious odor after another. I have some real questions here, people…like why does it always smell like someone up and defecated in the middle of the isle? Is this the best place for you to pass gas, in confined corridors? Real questions.

Forgive me, my privilege is showing.

I’ve gotten on the right bus going the wrong direction; I’ve taken the bus on time and have gotten off three stops too early, having to walk a mile out of the way to my destination, and it’s only been a week. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I’d been terrified to expose my directional weaknesses to avoid the inevitable hiccups of public transportation. The truth is, I don’t have the money to spoil myself on Lyft rides, let alone car payments. I feel most challenged to pivot straight to gratitude when I am at the mercy of the public transportation system. I know myself well enough to know that when I am ungrateful, my brain starts overpowering my spirit, and that reminds me a great deal of how I justified my drinking in the first place.

One such night last week stood out to me where I needed gratitude to protect and defend my sanity. I watched myself pitch a major internal bitch fit, followed swiftly by a categorical Terrible-Two’s toddler-like meltdown. I had accidentally ridden 20 minutes in the wrong direction, which gave my brain permission to shift into self-pity that I couldn’t better my situation at that moment, not to mention disappointment in my attitude. This is where my sober brain took over to show me a split-second of reasonableness. I knew from experience what a cute couple acceptance and gratitude made. I have written at least one gratitude list a day for the better part of a year to practice for moments like these that threaten my serenity. I dried my tears, silently praying to my higher power to say “Thank you”. I continued, saying “Thank you for my health and safety. Thank you for this bus driver. Thank you for keeping me sober in this time of distress”. I witnessed the chemistry of my thoughts change. I realized after a solid 10-minutes of exercising gratitude, I felt MUCH better.

I have every reason in the world to be grateful. Everything happening in this span of 24 hours is just as temporary for me as it is for everyone else, even those who drive their very own cars. This is the time to wake up to the beauty that it is to be a 28-year-old female in the middle of Tinsel Town with the coolest people I have ever met as friends. Seeing my surroundings as they are, not as I would have them to be, makes the margin of ingratitude that much smaller. My gift as a human is to tune out all of the distractions–including my own thoughts and feelings–that fool me into thinking things are not exactly as they should be at this very moment. I once had a coworker/mentor tell me that when I got to be so dismissive of my own reality that I was “just trippin”. I laugh a little when I see how silly it is to get myself all whipped into a mental lather about how much I don’t have or how much I need to still do to be successful. I am exactly where I need to be. And so are you.

xx

 

Say Uncle

Friday, that’s what’s good. I started this morning unwittingly speaking to a group of recovering alcoholics about my process of surrender. This is my very favorite topic to discuss because in the past six months, external forces in my life have all but pistol-whipped me into a constant state of bowing (or Bowie-ing ūüĎĆ) before the Powers that Be. Never before has it been so impossibly clear to me that my reactive state to things outside of my control will not work when the universe responds better to a calmer, non-reactor. I wrote about my tussle with Fate here.

My Crash
The Toyota crash that lives on in LA infamy

It makes me cringe when I think about where I was mentally six months ago. I woke up each morning sending intentions to Bowie for good measure, then immediately ruminating over my financial messiness. Almost as if The Force heard me and decided to laugh one day, I was involved in a major head-on collision that directly insured financial meltdown and general chaos. I will forever remember the feeling of absolute certainty that this was not how I go out–whether by death or by relapse. I don’t know how or why that thought came to me, but the second before I saw the truck barrel toward me, I felt myself release control and accept that I was not going to die and I did not have to drink over this. I fully cop to the possibility that I was undergoing shock, yet my intuition tells me that I was watching myself undergo a profound shift in perception. I saw my life exactly as it was in that moment, even if it was at point-blank range.

Without disclosing too many details, I will just say that I could no longer continue at my former job without an available vehicle. Cut-to: no job, no way to afford my apartment, out by the first week of February. At this juncture in my already-storied sobriety, I see that my instinct to suit up for an arm-wrestling tournament with the Universe is futile and self-defeating. With all of the courage and support from friends I can muster, I Say Uncle. You win, magnificent unicorn of a higher power. Today, my choice is to either feel sorry for myself or to stay open to being pleasantly surprised by life. I am but a passenger.

 

A Cloud of A Different Color

My name is Lucy, and I am a recovering alcoholic. ¬†Today I made the executive decision to write my experiences as a person relatively new to sobriety because it occurred to me that my truth could quite possibly help someone–or at the very least, provide some insight into a sometimes-nebulous way of life. ¬†I pay no mind to the fears about speaking up I’ve held onto in the past; the dramatic spiritual shifts in perception I’ve experienced in the past 10+ months compel me to move forward give less f*@#s.

I run in some pretty fabulous circles. Most of my friends are sober buddies who happen to be very artistic and exceedingly intelligent. One of the common experiences some of these people have had in the first few months of their sobriety is what’s known as the “pink cloud” effect. The pink cloud describes a state of sudden blissfulness where mornings cease to include righteous hangovers or hapless attempts to figure out what was said or done the night before. I personally did not experience this state of boundless joy. My experience in the first few weeks of sobriety included gnawing anxiety, a car that stalled on the freeway twice, terrifying nightmares, a semi-permanent caffeine buzz, self-doubt and a curious desire to purchase and smoke 1,475,857,000,324 packs of cigarettes (much like my preference to not count my drinks, I refused to limit my nicotine intake…which may or may not still be the case).

While my external surroundings have grown ever-so-impermanent (more on that at a later date) the one constant I have come to rely upon is my growing faith in a power greater than myself. Before I mislead you, let me be very clear: the higher power I chose for myself is David Bowie, not any kind of G-d or religious figure. Bowie’s attitude is that of a flamboyant, outrageous, thoughtful, talented, sexualized, spiritualized, incandescent punk, one that I can only hope to internalize. I strive for such a glamorous, nonplussed way of thinking and being. In my early sobriety, I’ve needed to see God as a state of mind, not as a biblical reference. I have encountered extreme difficulties in the last few months that I could have never weathered without knowledge that some idea or some person much more powerful and fabulous than myself could keep me sober.

The overall crux of this sobriety thing is helping other people by being of service, whether that means calling other recovering alcoholics to check in, or to show up for our families when they need us. Basically, to stop being selfish pricks motivated solely by self-pity and compulsive behaviors. I continue reaching out to other people to stay out of the tangled mess that my mind sometimes becomes, but mostly I like to feel understood over feeling utterly alone in the barren wasteland of an obsessive brain.

I wish I could stay up to write more, but then I’d be lying and I’d owe someone an amends. I need to be up by 6AM to spend my time with other recovering alcoholics, swapping war stories and trading information about what we know to be true.

 

Photo courtesy of Flashbak