(500) Days of Sober

Five Oh OH!

Double O face today, my friends.

Because my math is shaky at best, I assume yours is, too. Five hundred days = 1.36 years, 11,985 hours, 16.38 months of sobriety. None of these numbers matter more than 24–my span of ruin, rapture or radiant joy in a convenient day-shaped package. Now that I have insomnia, I live 20 out of those 24 hours with a motherfucking smile, tears or a confused look on my face. Sometimes all three.

Here is how I’ve changed in 500 Days of Sober:

1. I connect to something more powerful than me. Love, acceptance of self/others, the sex powers and musical stylings of Bowie.

2. I hone my decision-making skills. I don’t cajole, manipulate or conquer choices. I ask for guidance then make my decision. I ignore self-doubt because that’s boring. Consequences happen, either way.

3. Honesty. What gets under my skin, why and what part I have in that. The truth is kinder to me these days. I don’t apologize unless I mean it.

4. I honor my intuition. These guts turn for me and me alone. I don’t obfuscate my view of the truth within me by drinking. I listen. And I cry now.

5. Authenticity or bust. I am strong in my vulnerability. I relay where I am with no filter, aside from a deep wellspring of joy. It’s my nature.

That said, I am the proud owner of multiple new (or newly discovered) character defects. What the fuck ever, I’m human. I can’t answer several million of the questions I have for my life, so I’ll stop trying. There is a greater force working on my behalf. Because my mother has cable, I caught this Oprah show about attitude. A woman she interviewed described how her life changed when she began thinking, “The world is rigged in my favor.”  Or as my sponsor likes to say, “You can have it.”

In the movie, (500) Days of Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt convinces himself he can’t live without Summer, Zooey Deschanel’s character. He gets bent out of shape that she won’t love him like he thinks she should. He sees what he wants to see. Granted, she feeds his fantasy. He throws himself headlong into a murky romantic entanglement. He controls, he cries, he crashes. Summer, like my cruel lover, booze, does not reciprocate the feelings. This is not a love story. There are no winners. Thank God booze is not a person, or I’d have wasted many hours waiting for texts and calls that would never come. Booze hits it and quits it.

Who wants angst when you can just be? I woke up this morning, happy. I get to create beauty. I write, I speak, I listen, I laugh–I laugh harder when someone knows the exact right way to make fun of me. I spend time with my mother. I work. I eat. I yoga. I listen to Joy Division and Rhye. I do not cower before my emotions.

When I untethered myself from alcohol, I created the space to change, to be. The most pressing question I will answer today is, “What do I want to create?” instead of “Will the liquor store clerk give me a discount on Bullet whiskey if I flirt hard enough?”

I am not afraid to be who I am. I am not afraid of much these days, come to think of it. Except maybe intimacy. I cop to that. But that’s where faith comes in. My relationships to friends and family teach me to be less afraid. Fear has little use for me. Action steps, doing the right thing–those replace ambivalence. Or in my case, fear of failure. Also something that bores me.

In short, it is physically impossible to follow fear when my Higher Power is David Bowie.

Bowie is Paris

xx

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The Lion, The Witch and the Warhol

I relish the nights when songs get stuck in my head. One of the reasons for this quirk is my desire to quiet a rambunctious mind. I find that songs replace thoughts I would otherwise discard. I don’t particularly mind the repetition, as I am a creature of habit if ever there was one. A familiar song is like lullaby for me, anyway. I experience insomnia every couple of nights, though it doesn’t bother me one bit because I learn more about music when I’m waiting to fall asleep. For the past few weeks, I’ve had Donovan and Louis Armstrong keeping me company. The latest addition to the nighttime collection I’ve amassed is Bowie’s Andy Warhol from his 1971 album Hunky Dory. I love me some Bowie, but this song is most def in my top three. It’s just so…weird.

As I lay down to sleep one night last week, I attempted a meditation practice. Approximately three million nonsensical thoughts crowded my consciousness until it got very quiet. I heard the murmurings of Bowie as Warhol on the track and I became instantly calm. I remembered what I had read about this song–that Bowie was all proud of himself for creating a tune that he was sure Warhol would love. Turns out, Andy was annoyed and super bitchy toward Bowie for writing it in the first place. Bowie revered Warhol, but the feelings were not exactly mutual. (Not to worry though–Bowie ended up playing Warhol in the movie Basquiat, which gave him some closure, I suppose). Ahhhh, the webs we weave.

My brain did a rather curious thing as I played the song in real time. I began to free associate during my meditation. Free association, to me, is like interpretive dance for the word-happy ones among us. On the third play through, I thought of my favorite book as a girl, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I used to love this book, especially because one of the characters shared my name (I love self-referencing, because I can). My brain then jumped to a possible title for this blog: The Lion, The Witch and the Warhol. I googled the title to make sure no one had used it yet. To my delight, I did not catch it anywhere. What I did find, however, was a collection of Warhol pieces known as The Witch Myths Series. Thanks, Universe! The Myths collection includes works of American villains and/or mythical figures of the collective consciousness, redone in a most distinctive Warhol way. I’ve seen this collection before, but I never knew its name. He believed many of the characters, like the Wicked Witch of the West and Uncle Sam, represented parts of his own personality. I think he loved self-referential things even more than I do. Just a theory.

The Witch Myths made me think about the facets of my own personality. Lately, the “character defects” motif continues to inspire me to get to know myself. Though I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Defects in my sixth step work in AA, I have only caught a glimpse of what constitutes a defect of character and what serves a higher purpose. My dad used to tell me that crazy, narcissistic or wayward people were exciting and interesting for a reason. He did not mean to tell me I should revel in these attributes, but my teenaged brain clung to his words as validation. I don’t consider myself crazy, just complicated. I have let go of judgement recently, considering how weird I am. It is way more fun to be free–it leaves room for other weirdos to come be free with you.

I am experiencing a period of self-transformation by being still. I have decided that it’s okay to discard some of my old ideas of what’s supposed to make me happy. I am open to more people, places and things because resisting the experience of being home no longer serves me. I meet new people and I see new things. This strange world in Virginia inspires me to be myself. My old beliefs float away as easily as the the little florets on a dandelion. When I was a little girl, I would pick these flowers that are actually weeds and blow on them like birthday candles to make my wishes. Being home is the flower, not the weed. I made a wish and I said a prayer for my Higher Power to help me heal and be happy. He listened. And just as my defects are open to interpretation, I will interpretive dance in words to free-associate once more: dandelions, Andy Warhol, the Dandy Warhols, Bohemian Like You. Or weird, like me.

Go be free, ya weirdos.

xo

Photo courtesy of modernartcollecting.blogspot.com

Can You Ever Just Be Whelmed?

A new friend from Richmond called me today to see how I was doing. She was surprised when I told her I had been feeling anxious for the past week. She remembered me the last time we talked–that I sounded optimistic and excited to be here. I told her it was the new anxiety meds talking. The serotonin levels struck a balance at some point this week, because my outlook has changed, definitely without my permission. My friend seemed puzzled, so I changed the subject. She didn’t give up so easily.

“You know, Lucy, when I left my husband and moved into my own house, I fell into a neutral zone. I wasn’t too excited. I didn’t react quickly. I just…was.” I laughed when she said this. It reminded me of a quote from 10 Things I Hate About You. The girl who played Alex Mack on Nickelodeon (90s, what) stars as Bianca, the vapid betch in high school who everyone wants to sleep with. The scene spans to her and her girlfriend talking. One of them says, “I know you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” The other one says, “I think you can in Europe.” I think you can in the US, too.

I am in a neutral zone. I write during the day, I watch shitty TV at night. I spend time with my mom and aunt regularly. I go to several meetings a week. I eat blizzards from Dairy Queen. I went to a free yoga class at the library. I got my nails done once. The whole thing whelms me.

My classic alcoholic move is to lean into my ambivalence about people, places and things. It is comfortable for me to weigh the pros and cons of literally everything in my life. The downside is my ability to undermine any natural sparks my intuition initiates. I know my Higher Power cleared the way for me to be here with my family. My mom is allowing me to stay, so I’m staying. I don’t think this warrants DEFCON defenses. I tend to read into my ennui as a sure sign of sanity leaving my body. Maybe everything is just okay. Maybe this is my time to just be whelmed. As if.

My friend told me that after awhile, she learned to accept that she didn’t have to shoot from the hip whenever she felt overwhelmed. Her need for emotional extremes dissipated. I think that is happening.

My isolation out here is a smokescreen for how I really feel inside: I need my people. This blog is a smoke signal to all the LA loves in my life. I miss you terribly and I know we will see each other again soon.

Thanks for keeping me the right amount of whelmed.

xo

Photo courtesy of nowverybad.com

Yes, I Accept.

Typically, whenever I utter the words, “yes, I accept,” there is a an unmistakable shit-eating grin on my face and a twinkle in my eye. ¬†The only times I have ever found these words worthy of elliciting my signature¬†response¬†apply to the following situations: A). I have been offered a badass job, B). Apple products require me to sign off on Terms and Conditions for my new iPhone, or C). Someone has asked me if I am willing to pay extra for guacamole or sour cream. ¬†These days, my acceptance threshold has reached new levels of discernment: I face (with equal enthusiasm) an undeniably¬†sobering reality, in addition to¬†an unrelenting desire to coax the joy out of myself, even if it kills me. ¬†(The “me” I reference here is Ego.)

What I have discovered in the last 48 hours–which have passed so effortlessly–is that acceptance has set me free. ¬†I have attended hundreds of meetings since March of 2014, where many of the best passages out of the appropriate alcoholic literature describe acceptance being the antidote to my life’s “recent unpleasantness” (as my grandmother Myra “Bunch” Morrisette used to say). ¬†One passage greets me with offensively bright pink highlighter each time I open my Big Book to read about how to get through the present time sober:

And acceptance is the answer to all¬†my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some¬†person, place, thing, or situation–some fact of my life–unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or¬†situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment…I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my¬†attitudes.

I find immense joy in the knowledge that resistance is futile. ¬†Sure, when my spicy Italian hot-headedness commands attention, I can spit expletives with the best of them. ¬†A friend once even referred to it as The Morrisette Charm Offensive (and offensive it was). ¬†I¬†like¬†being angry sometimes. However, the moment my Higher Power¬†nudged me toward the exotic realm of sobriety, I agreed to disarm by disengaging my anger. ¬†I made a commitment to myself and to all that is good and right in the world that I would no longer answer to the dictates of my own thoughts or emotions. ¬†I am now reaching a new stratosphere of consciousness where there exists a far greater power in humility–or as I like to call it, knowing when to just shut the fuck up–thoughts, feelings and all.

I have struggled with powerful questions about what surrender and acceptance mean for my feelings, because I am addicted¬†to feelings as much as I am addicted to my own¬†line of thinking. The best, most non-addicting thought that has crossed my mind thus far is simply,¬†“I don’t know”. ¬†I find that my higher power lives in me amidst uncertainty, as well as in the outside world, guiding me with an ever-pliant intuition. ¬†I see now that to accept how I feel at any given time requires a bit of consolidation rather than compounding. I¬†get¬†to feel angry; I don’t get to let that anger pervade all of my thoughts and actions with unconscious motivations…I am trying to stay sober, here, people.

And today, I accept that I no longer have the fight in me to resist joy. ¬†I spent the afternoon with an alarmingly irreverent friend of mine, riding the same buses that recently brought me to public tears, panic and¬†confusion…only to find that we did not stop laughing the entire 2+ hours we spent schlepping to West Hollywood, Silver Lake and onward to Glendale. ¬†I observed my anger, resentments and situational depression slowly deflate after a meditation meeting last night clear through to this afternoon, job-hunting with a friend rather than lumbering under the duress of my false ego’s stronghold.

So, yes.  Yes to less.  Less pressure, less unhappiness, less trivialities.  Yes, I accept these terms and conditions.

 

Photo courtesy of en.memory-alpha.org

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