Better Living Through Alchemy



This is me five years ago. Yes, someone made me wear that sparkly shit. Yes, I was drunk.

How drunk was I?

I was so drunk that I can’t remember who that chick I’m dancing with is and I probably couldn’t have told you her name at the time. I probably did, however, try to make out with her. Or maybe I did make out with her. Who knows? What I do know is that my then girlfriend, now wife could not have been more than 15 feet away. (I’m sorry, Caitlin.)

Does it look like I’m happy in this picture? Because I wasn’t.

Sure, I was a good time. Sure, I knew how to have a good time. Does that equate to happy? Not even close.

IRL, I was going through a divorce, coming out to my family, and struggling financially in a pretty major way. I went from roller derby practice to roller derby party and counted the hours between as sad, but unavoidable.

I was drunk all the time. I don’t mean a little drunk. I mean that I carried a flask with me that said, “It’s motherf*ckin’ booze time!” on it. I emptied it daily. My girlfriend, Caitlin and I had a joke about how many times I puked in the front yard. As in, if I didn’t puke in the front yard, it was a good day.

Was/am I an alcoholic? I don’t know. I was sad. I didn’t know how to cope. I wanted to be happy. I thought that being happy and having fun were the same thing. I was wrong.


This is me five months ago. Not actually. But it’s something I was posting everywhere. I wrote this piece about how shitty life can be and all my Facebook posts were either posters of kittens on branches or diatribes against the commodification of yoga.

Do I look like I’m happy in that picture? Because I was.

Sure, I was dealing with buying a house, the loss of a loved one, some intense family shit, and some serious disillusionment with my community, but I was basically okay. I was feeling rebellious and disgruntled, but also totally motivated to transform.

What’s the diff between me five years ago and me five months ago? Five years of yoga and deep personal work that led to the understanding that having fun and being happy are not the same thing.

Instead of getting drunk to cope, I upped my commitment to my daily practices and read all these books.

(I actually read more books, but it seemed self indulgent to show all the amazing fiction I binge read in bed with the flu. Plus, you know, books on paper. Nerd porn. But seriously, check out Lauren Groff.)

I used these books:

  • to keep me away from internet TV
  • to keep me inspired
  • to keep me sober

It worked.

Not by itself. I think I mentioned that I rekindled my commitment to my daily practices. Yeah. Like whoa.

I started getting up a little earlier. I started meditating first thing (after hydrating, Cate Stillman). I started practicing before I went to the studio to practice for two hours of Iyengar. I started going to bed earlier. I started eating better. I cut myself off after one cocktail.

This period of dissatisfaction didn’t last long, but learning how to move out of it didn’t happen all at once.

Trial and error, friends. It took me months to figure out what works for me now, what doesn’t work, and what to prioritize. Add on top of those months nineteen years of yoga practice. Add on top of that decades of personal work. Add 50 yoga, meditation, or spiritual intensives and trainings. Add my supportive wife. Add this kitten on my lap.

Bernie Sanders for Purrsident.

Add all that together and I have spent my whole life learning to find homeostasis and how to regain it when I get knocked around. And now I am really good at it.

You know what the secret is? Alchemy.

Yeah. I’m totally serious.

Turning wine into water, books into knowledge, food into medicine, yoga into transformation…that is fucking magic. That’s alchemy.

That’s transubstantiation and it’s not for muggles.

The magic you used in the past may not work for you now. You’ve changed. You’re evolving. Me too. Whiskey doesn’t cut it anymore. I need a steady diet of weird tonal music, meditation, and 9th ward kale.

Look ma, no hair!

This is me last week. I am happy. I know what keeps me happy. I do the things that keep me happy and I don’t do things that don’t.

What do you need? Do you know? Do you need to know? Are you happy?

Do you know the difference between having fun and being happy?

If you do, please share the recipe for your special sauce in the comments.

If you don’t, then consider trying something new. You can go the path of trial and error. Or you can come hang out with other likeminded alchemists in my upcoming immersion, Embodied Alchemy.  It meets Wednesdays 7:30-9:30 pm and 9:00 am on Saturdays at Yoga Bywater starting February 8th. Yes, you can Skype in.

I want to help. That’s not some bullshit I’m spouting to get you to sign up for my class. Frankly, it’s more than half full. I really want to help. Happier people means a happier world. Win-win-win. Hit me up if I can help you.

2 thoughts on “Better Living Through Alchemy

    1. YES. Alcohol will make us happy. New phones will make us happy. Cheap plastic crap we can’t afford will make us happy. Just like “the things you own will end up owning you,” the things you CONSUME will end up consuming you. Thanks, Denise. <3

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