Confessions of a Sober Alcoholic

I have a confession to make. This is especially being posted for any of my friends of all ages who are still struggling with addiction and alcoholism.

When I was 17 years old, my boyfriend bought us tickets to see my idol, Bruce Springsteen. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe we were going. It was absolutely the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my life, even more exciting than my first horseback riding lesson, or my first blue ribbon, or anything. It would only be my second rock and roll concert and it was going to be the amazing, incredible, inspiring Bruce at Madison Square Garden.

The day finally came. We boarded the train in Katonah, NY in the afternoon. Being the partier that I was, we had to have something to drink. So David (who was over 18) got us a box of wine at the liquor store by the train station. A BOX. We started drinking as soon as we sat down on the train. The ride was about an hour long. We would have landed in the city right near the Garden. Should have been easy peasy. But…I don’t know what happened. I have no idea. Because we both drank so much wine on the train that we blacked out.

I have a vague memory of stumbling down a street in NYC, with our arms around each other. The next thing that I knew, we were walking down the train tracks somewhere north of White Plains. We still had our Bruce tickets. We had never gotten to the show. Somehow we got back on the train headed north, but we had missed the last train that continued all the way to Katonah. I don’t remember how we got home. It was the worst thing in my life, when I realized that I had missed Bruce. It went from the best thing in my life, to the worst thing in my life. In a moment. Miserable, wasted, still drunk, coming out of a blackout, throwing up on the train tracks, yelling at David – I wanted to die.

It took me another 15 years or so to fully admit that I was powerless over alcohol. That’s the sign of a true alcoholic.

But the saddest part of the entire story, for me, is what I just realized today as I told all of this to my Bruce bud, Britt Nelson. It took 27 years for me to finally go to see Bruce (Oakland Coliseum, 2007). And another 6 years after that before I really let myself reconnect completely to how important he was to me.

In recent years (as most of you know), I have returned full force to my love for Bruce. But it has been a bittersweet journey for me because I’ve realized how much I missed.  Bruce has been totally amazing all these years, but I just wrote him off when Born in the USA came out. It’s only this year, during tour, that I really came to see that BITUSA is actually an incredible album. Now, four of my favorite Springsteen songs are on that album (My Hometown, No Surrender, Downbound Train, Darlington County). And as I’ve toured around, meeting people who had been following him for decades, I’ve mourned all that I missed. I’ve asked myself why I turned away from him.

Today I realized that the day I missed Bruce when I was 17 years old because I drank too much was more than a bad drunkalog story. It was a pivotal moment in my life. If I had made it to that concert, the experience of seeing him live would almost certainly have been a life changer. I would have kept seeing him. I would have given Born in the USA all the extra time it needed for me to come to see it’s wonderfulness. I would have kept listening to and buying each of his albums, instead of catching up in 2014. I would have seen him live on each tour. I would not have missed the Seeger Sessions, or Devils and Dust. I would have heard him sing This Land is Your Land live. I would have heard Tracks and Human Touch and Lucky Town when they came out. I would have followed his life and his work and his gifts. I would not have missed more than half his career.

I am grateful beyond measure that something brought me back to Bruce in time to see all these shows, in time to catch up while he (and I) are still in concert condition. But I regret so much all the time and adventures that my drinking stole from me.

If you are drinking or drugging or otherwise letting an addiction keep you from what you love, please…stop. Get the help you need. Reach out. Don’t wait. Admit you have a problem and let yourself find the solution. It’s out there. I promise.

Kauai – First Two Months

In mid-August, I (temporarily) moved to Kauai. I’m not sure I’ll be here very long, but I have not blogged in a while so I thought I’d check in. I moved here because a friend of mine was dying and I came here with him and his family. To be part of that. The invitation was there, and I responded. It was intense. The whole experience from start to finish was intense beyond my ability to describe. Perhaps some day I will try but somehow it seems right to let it remain unwritten.

I am lucky that I work remotely. So I can literally live anywhere. As long as I have internet. So, why not live on a beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

We all go on Crushing Crickets

We all go on Crushing Crickets

I am 9 again

Summer has made my skin 3 shades of darker.

They were still using pebbles in the playgrounds.

They were still trying to get kids to play nice, but not trying hard enough.

9 dollars an hour, for them, is not enough to care.

The YMCA staff half listens to the wine in our throat as we hunger for inside air.

There are a swarm of crickets

Clustering against the window sills and jumping from the roofs.

We stomp out their annoying calls and make our own kind of music.

Mom picks me up, and cries me home.

She showers off the musk.

Makes a mistake with the meal and pays with an apology.

She lost a game I have not tried to play.

There is still cricket legs mashed into my soles.

I am 9, dark and naive

I am 15 when I finally learn who made a cricket out of her.

I still wonder why she continues to be silent.

Shasparay

 

 

 

 

 

Shasparay’s Bio:  Shasparay is the 2014 #2 female youth poet in the world. In 2013 she was deemed the #2 ranking youth poet in Texas. Shasparay was born in Texas. She represented Austin Texas in an international competition, Brave New Voices, with They Speak Youth Slam’s 2013 team. She co wrote, acted, and directed “WHITEWASH”, a short film made by Queer Youth Media Project. She is a human rights activist, and volunteers with the Amala Foundation regularly. This is her first published work.

Shasparay’s first book of poetry, “Say it with your Chest” was published by Red Orchid Publishing this year. It is available for purchase here.  

She is also expecting to go on a poetry tour with her book and spoken word talent, if she can raise the funds to sustain her on this journey. Please considering donating to her Go Fund Me campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking About God

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about God.

The Beloved.

All that is, and all that animates all that is.

The One and The Way.

The fragmented fullness of your path unfolding.

The Living Map.

Trust it.

Some Pics from Houston

It is hard to believe it’s been so long since the shows. I miss the touring life. Much is changing, much too fast. More on that soon.

I finally made my way through the Houston pics and selected some to edit. This is a few of the first I’ve played around with. I shot over 700 pics that night. Being front and center really made a big difference.

Some Photos from the Following Bruce Road Trip

From Austin, TX, through Arkansas, Tennesee, North Carolina, Florida and beyond, here’s just a small selection of some of my favorite iPhone photos from the road trip. I often passed great photos by, but just as often, I pulled off if possible and jumped out to snap some good ones.

Rest stops were amazing, especially in Arkansas and Tennessee. Beautiful states!

YES, I Went to Florida!

It was the morning of April 21st and I was sitting in the room in Raleigh that I had rented through Airbnb. My new friend (Liz, from Israel) who I had not yet met in person, had just texted me that she knew someone with an extra General Admission ticket for the Sunrise, FL show on April 29th and it was mine if I wanted it.

My general plan had been to see Bruce in Nashville (4/17), Charlotte (4/19), Raleigh (4/24) and Atlanta (4/26), skip the two Florida shows  and spend a week in New Orleans exploring the city and getting caught up on work and blogging before seeing him at the New Orleans Jazz Fest (5/3) and Houston (5/6). That would have been six shows in all, which had seemed like a respectable and really enviable run when I was planning the trip from my little house in Austin.

But after seeing Bruce twice, I was feeling the juice, the soul, the fire.

I was ON fire!

I wanted more Bruce, more E Street Band, more opportunities to make it to the front of the stage. I felt a pull to dive in deep and let the adventure take me where it would.

When I got the text that there was a ticket to Sunrise if I wanted it—

I wanted it!

 

So, immediately, I wrote to my New Orleans Airbnb hosts, Greg and Betty. Would it be okay for me to change my reservation and only stay two days instead of a week? Greg wrote back almost immediately,

Far be it for us to stand between a loyal fan of Bruce’s and her sacred pilgrimage.

That was sweet. Awwww! OKAY. It’s a go! I’m going to Florida! I’m going to see 8 shows! Wooohoooooo….

And then…

BAM!!!

The volume cranked up on those damn inner naysayers and critics and practical people that live inside my head.

“What about work?”

“Your too old; your body can’t take that much driving.”

“You won’t get any work done if you go.”

“You’ll drive thousands of miles.”

That stopped my thoughts in their tracks. THOUSANDS OF MILES?

So, I googled it. Sure enough, Atlanta to Sunrise to Tampa to New Orleans – 1550 miles. 22 hours driving time.  In how long?

Saturday: Atlanta

Tuesday: Sunrise

Thursday: Tampa

Saturday: New Orleans.

Um, that would be 1550 miles of driving in ONE WEEK!

Not to mention the drive from Raleigh to Atlanta right before, or from New Orleans to Houston right after. And then, for the LOVE OF GOD, I was driving all the way to California after Houston.

That all seemed beyond possible. I was daunted. I admit it. I just gave up right then and there. Threw in the towel. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. The chains of shoulds and oughts wrapped around me and I was blindfolded and bound.

I looked up the drive from Atlanta to New Orleans: 470 miles (about 7 hours).

So much more reasonable. So much more sane.

[And, here I have to admit, I was also feeling guilty because I was changing my reservation. I’m not sure why this happens, but somehow I think that I’m responsible for, well, just about everyone and everything. Because I had made this reservation, now I had to keep it. Even though I was well within the time limit of their cancellation policy AND Greg had also been so supportive and flexible in his first email. But, still, I felt this tug somewhere in my chest or my abdomen…I was WRONG to change my reservation.]

So, I wrote back to Greg. “Never mind, I’m too old. It’s crazy. I can’t.”

Assuming that settled it, sanity had won out, I tried to turn my attention to my work. Before I could get anywhere in that endeavor, Greg wrote again.

Uma,

Good Try. We won’t accept the, . . . old boy of mine. . . ‘, schtick.

You sound like a active and energetic person. We get the sense that if you committed and commenced your drive to Florida, you’d find a way to make it a wonderful adventure – and be no worse for the wear. :-)”

It was as though he knew me, right? I mean, what the H- – -??!

I emailed him back.

Greg,

OH MY GOSH
are you kidding me?

Now, I feel like i really should do it!

If I did, it would probably mean that I actually don’t arrive until Saturday because I’d need two days to get from Tampa to New Orleans – and then I’d go right to the Festival after dropping my bags at your house. Is that still ok? Then it would only be Saturday to Monday!

[ Notice that I was making extra sure that he wasn’t going to hate me for my irresponsibility in changing the reservation. Despite the fact that he clearly was encouraging me to go.]

Okay, folks. So, here’s the kicker. Here’s the reason for this entire post. Here’s the Mystery at work in my life. Greg wrote me back:

Hi Uma,

Barring the earth being struck by a major asteroid or Elvis making an appearance, we’ll be here whether you arrive on the April 28th or on May 3rd.

So, what is really more important is your desire . . . and your dream. To that, the words of Thoreau and Whitman come to mind:

Thoreau in his work, “Walden Or Life in the Woods”:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,

and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,

to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Whitman – O Me! O Life! ‘ 
O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; 
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish; 
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) 
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d; 
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; 
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; 
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life? 

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

 So, Uma – Do you want to suck out all the marrow of life, and drive life into a corner?

And ultimately, what will your verse be?

Just let us know

Greg & Betty

 

Can you imagine? What would YOU have done if this happened to YOU? Maybe you’d do what I did.

1. Burst into tears. Sobbing, chest-heaving tears.

2. Then start laughing at the same time.

3. Through your tears write Greg back…

 

Greg,

I don’t know you and yet clearly, you have been sent from my own soul to help me out.

You could not really know how meaningful it is, that you sent me Thoreau and Whitman, but…

I am actually crying right now.

I would like to arrive on Saturday May 3rd and stay til Monday May 5th.

thank you, more than I can say

~Uma

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And this, my friends, is the root of adventure.

This is the real Mystery at work.

This is the fire and the flame and the Way that calls you always Home, to your truest self. This is the offering and the offerer, all in one.

This is your sword, this is your shield
This is the power of love revealed
Carry it with you wherever you go
And give all the love that you have in your soul

-This is Your Sword, Bruce Springsteen

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Are you willing?

Will you throw your desires to the wind and see what blows back to you?

Will you listen to the Call of a New Life?

On April 21st, I said yes.

And today, I’m saying YES again.

 

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